FARA BY THE NUMBERS: The Justice Department’s reinvigorated focus on enforcing FARA in recent years has continued paying dividends for the department, a top DOJ official said Thursday, with the FARA office recording what could be record numbers of new registrants and foreign agents in 2021.
— The department’s 543 active FARA registrants as of Thursday is the highest number since at least 2013, Jay Bratt, who leads the department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section which oversees FARA, said in a keynote address at the American Conference Institute’s FARA forum yesterday. Bratt shied away from calling that number the largest ever at a given time because the Lobbying Disclosure Act and FARA’s LDA exemption siphoned off some registrants. “But probably post-LDA that could be the highest number that we have,” Bratt said.
— There are currently 2,772 active short-form registrants, or individual foreign agents, registered as of yesterday, which Bratt said is another high since 2013. Those agents represent 844 foreign principals. The department has recorded 121 new registrants this year, which is the second largest number, down from the peak in 2019, while the FARA unit has reviewed 5,975 documents over the last year, Bratt added. He chalked the improvement up to renewed attention on the statute since a pretty blistering 2016 inspector general report, as well as Russia’s 2016 election interference as highlighted by former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of those influence efforts.
— The turnaround for the unit, which by 2014 had seen active registrations drop by 60 percent from their peak in the 1980s, is enabling DOJ to focus on improving what FARA experts have repeatedly described as a severely outdated statute. “In essence … the department for the last four or five years has been focusing on enforcement,” Brandon Van Grack, the former head of the FARA unit now at Morrison & Foerster, told PI. “Now it's focusing on regulation and administration.”