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GOP Rep Jack Bergman Introduces Bill To Crack Down On Foreign State Media Operating On Capitol Hill

  Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) introduced new legislation on Wednesday that would force state-sponsored   media   organizations operating on Cap...

 Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) introduced new legislation on Wednesday that would force state-sponsored media organizations operating on Capitol Hill to comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act and other relevant U.S. laws.

The legislation from Bergman, a retired Marine Corps Lt. General who now serves as the Chairman of the House Armed Services Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee, comes after he wrote a letter to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) last month specifically targeting Qatar’s Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN).

Bergman, along with two other Republican lawmakers, called for the “immediate suspension of press credentials for the Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN), and for that suspension to remain in place until the State of Qatar and its propaganda arm agree to adhere to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and other U.S. laws.”

For example, the letter noted that Al Jazeera has 136 employees who have press credentials while The New York Times only has 82 employees with the same access.

“Credentialed members of the House and Senate galleries enjoy unparalleled access to the U.S. Capitol, as well as to Senators, Members of Congress, and staffers,” the letter noted. “While this access is necessary for the media to provide accurate reporting to the American public, it is also the kind of access coveted by foreign powers seeking sensitive information from inside Congress.”

In addition to requiring compliance with FARA, Bergman’s legislation also:

  • Sets a limit of ten total press credentials for any qualifying foreign state-sponsored media outlet and its affiliates, and;
  • Requires FBI background checks for all individuals applying for credentials to the House Press Gallery through a qualifying foreign state-sponsored media outlet.

Bergman’s bill highlights several foreign adversaries that have well-documented histories of spying on Americans — such as Russia, Qatar, and China — and that own powerful state-controlled propaganda organizations that have virtually unlimited access to U.S. lawmakers, making espionage easier.

“Troublingly, state-sponsored media outlets are not subjected to background checks prior to acquiring credentials, even if the outlet is owned or controlled by a state that is known to have conducted espionage operations targeting U.S. government officials or other Americans,” Bergman said in a statement. “Over the past decade, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, and the State of Qatar have aggressively deployed their espionage forces against United States Government agencies and government officials, as well as targeting thousands of United States businesses and Americans perceived to be opponents or dissidents of their regimes.”

Bergman’s office noted numerous examples of China, Russia, and Qatar spying on Americans on U.S. soil, thus highlighting the importance of the legislation.

“Unless and until state-sponsored media outlets respect our laws by registering under FARA, we cannot allow their employees almost unfettered access to the halls of Congress—especially if the FBI has never conducted background checks on those given ‘all-access passes’ for Capitol Hill,” Bergman said. “If foreign state-sponsored media outlets from countries such as China, Qatar and Russia will not respect FARA and our laws protecting Americans from surveillance, the possibility is all too real that foreign intelligence services could use their propaganda arms to hide intelligence operatives in plain sight in the U.S. Capitol.”

“It is difficult to see how anyone could stand in opposition to legislation that merely requires foreign state-sponsored media outlets to comply with U.S. law in order to receive Congressional press credentials,” he concluded.

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