Chuck Ross | Investigative Reporter
A group of Republican lawmakers is asking the Justice Department whether Al Jazeera Media Network should be required to register as foreign agent of Qatar.
Republicans said Al Jazeera appears to promote the goals of the Qatari government by “influenc[ing] public opinion in the United States” in a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday.
“[O]ne can reasonably infer that Al Jazeera is a messaging tool for the Qatari government, and, on its behalf, has engaged in inherently political activities and sought to influence public opinion in the United States,” reads the letter, which six senators and two members of Congress signed.
That assessment matches what a former U.S. ambassador to Qatar wrote about Al Jazeera in a diplomatic cable in 2009.
Al Jazeera “is heavily subsidized by the Qatari government and has proved itself a useful tool for the stations political masters,” Joseph LeBaron, who served as ambassador to Qatar in the Bush and Obama administrations, wrote in a July 1, 2009, diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks.
“The stations coverage of events in the Middle East is relatively free and open, though it refrains from criticizing Qatar and its government. Al Jazeeras ability to influence public opinion throughout the region is a substantial source of leverage for Qatar, one which it is unlikely to relinquish,” added LeBaron.
Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks to reporters after the Senate voted to overturn the Presidents national emergency border declaration, at the U.S. Capitol on March 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The Republican lawmakers noted the Justice Department recently required two foreign-controlled news outlets — Russia-owned RTTV America and the Chinese-owned Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network — to register as foreign agents under FARA.
One cosigner, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, recently led a push to increase FARA enforcement. In a speech on the Senate floor, Grassley noted since 1966, the Justice Department brought only 15 cases under FARA, with seven of those arising from the special counsels probe.
Along with Grassley, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Indiana Sen. Todd Young, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson and New York Rep. Lee Zeldin signed the letter to Barr.
Al Jazeera has long faced accusations of being a mouthpiece for Qatar. The oil-rich nation has also ramped up its lobbying efforts in the U.S., hiring several consultants with links to the Trump administration.
The Doha-based Al Jazeera operates bureaus across the globe, including in the U.S. The company shuttered Al Jazeera America in April 2016, but continues operating AJ+, an online news outlet with offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. (RELATED: Al-Jazeera Gets Twitter To Silence Critics Of Its Video Implying Jews Benefited From The Holocaust)