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US Uses FARA to ‘Aggressively' Label Outlets With Any ‘Sort of State Funding'

A group of bipartisan lawmakers, including Republican Senator Ted Cruz, are calling for the US Justice Department to require Qatari news outlet Al-Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

This move, according to the letter addressed to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is in response to the lawmakers' claims that the publication "directly undermines American interests" and "broadcasts hateful, extremist content."

​Speaking with Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear, Peter van Buren, a former US State Department Foreign Service Officer who became a renowned whistleblower, says this is just another "bastardized use of an old law in a way that was never intended."

"FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, has been repurposed wrongly [and] nefariously in order to shut down dissenting opinions here in the United States that are promoted by foreign media sources," Van Buren told show host John Kiriakou. "FARA was designed to formally label Nazi agitators as members of the German government so that their actions could be tracked and that their influence on America could be better understood."

"Fast forward to 2018, the American government is now aggressively using FARA as a way of labeling media that has some sort of state funding… in this case we're talking about Al-Jazeera, but also about RT and others," he added; others including Sputnik, who was forced to register under FARA earlier this month.

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Van Buren explained that some of the ways the US government is exploiting the language of FARA is by labeling foreign news networks "essentially foreign propaganda agents, claiming that they are disseminating ‘anti-American,' and in the case of Al-Jazeera ‘anti-Semitic,' material and that without this nutritional warning Americans citizens would be prey to their clever propaganda."

Van Buren later told Kiriakou that after media outlets are forced into registering as a foreign agent, it ultimately destroys their credibility and in a way blacklists anyone that has any ties to the publication.

"It also labels them as propaganda and it makes it very hard for them to appear alongside media that is not so labelled… being associated in anyway with one of these foreign outlets basically makes further association with you as treasonous," he explained. "I've also experienced discrimination and some very unpleasant language because I've appeared in the past on RT."

"This is what happens in the current climate that we're in… this is sort of the 21st century, social media-driven McCarthyism. Simply labelling someone as a foreign outlet taints everyone who otherwise has a legitimatie First Amendment right to either listen to that information, be a guest on one of their shows, or even as an American citizen to legally work for them," the author pointed out. "It's a way of sending a message to that foreign outlet and it's a way of calling American citizens into looking at the government to tell them who they should and should not pay attention to."

Stand of the Sputnik news agency, news websites and radio broadcast service. File photo - Sputnik International
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With lawmakers also targeting other outlets such as RT, Sputnik, the Korean Broadcasting System and China Daily, Kiriakou asked: would the Justice Department ever go after the likes of the BBC or the CBC, which are owned by the British and Canadian governments, respectively?

In the guest's opinion, it wasn't likely.

"It would be a silly question if we lived in different times [but] the Justice Department will never go after the BBC or any other media outlet that generally supports the American government's own point of view," he stated.

"This is directed against media organization that present opposing viewpoints, dissenting viewpoints that explain things to American citizens that are not necessarily being covered in their own media and in that sense represents something of a threat."

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