Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Selective FARA Enforcement: Pakistan's Alleged Agents Prosecuted, Israel's Ignored

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Selective FARA Enforcement: Pakistan's Alleged Agents Prosecuted, Israel's Ignored

Article excerpt

On the surface the Justice Department's (DOJ) recent criminal complaint against associates of the nonprofit Kashmiri American Council (KAC) seems like a legitimate application of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. FARA requires individuals or organizations lobbying on behalf of a foreign principal to periodically disclose their activities and programs in a publicly accessible office. The KAC indictment appears to be a form of U.S. pressure on Pakistan over its performance in the so-called "war on terror."

As Confucius might say, however, it is "interesting" to compare the Justice Department's application of FARA to Israel's foreign agents-who have caused far more damage to the U.S. than Pakistan could ever even imagine. (See chart on facing page.)

KAC was founded in 1990 as a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization chartered to raise awareness about Kashmir. India has claimed Kashmir as an "integral" part of India, while Pakistan and others have pressed for Kashmiri "self-determination." The FBI affidavit filed on July 18, 2011 charges Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai and Zaheer Ahmad with conspiring to act as "agents of a foreign principal without registering with the attorney general, and to falsify, conceal, and cover up material facts they had a duty to disclose by tricks, schemes and devices..."

The FBI used exhaustive phone and ISP intercepts along with confidential witnesses in its investigation. The criminal complaint details how Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) allegedly laundered payments to KAC's administrators through "straw donors." KAC allegedly "propagandized" on behalf of the government of Pakistan "with the goal of uniting Kashmir," according to one confidential witness in the criminal complaint. Another claimed the ISI had been "handling" Fai for at least 25 years. When interviewed by the FBI in 2007, Fai claimed not to know of any ISI presence in the U.S. Allegations in the Indian press that Fai was a Pakistani agent drove DOJ to advise Fai of his possible obligation to register under FARA in the fall of 2010. Fai refused, claiming "KAC or I have never engaged in any activities or provided any services to any foreign entity. And KAC or I have never had written or oral agreements with Pakistan or any other foreign entity. Thereafter, this report categorically denies any connection to any foreign agent including Pakistan."

Israel's long history of costly challenges to American sovereignty has only been possible through the systematized, ongoing subversion of FARA.

The indictment presents compelling FBI analysis of cash flows, intercepted phone and e-mail communications, and contributions to Congress to prove that KAC was indeed lobbying-albeit with a minuscule budget-on Kashmir. Application of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act appears to have stopped the KAC, which had little success in mustering the lobbying potential of the estimated 700,000 Pakistani Americans or concerned Muslim groups in America. The U.S., which India chides for having "no clear position" on Kashmir, does not appear to have ever tilted in Pakistan's direction over the issue.

But despite the appearance of robust enforcement, as Paul Pillar recently noted in The National Interest, FARA has never been successfully applied to a far larger and more insidious foreign interest. Pillar charges that Israel's U.S. lobby has used "institutional subterfuges and the sheer clout of the lobby itself to escape prosecution under FARA." Indeed, Israel's long history of costly challenges to American sovereignty through unregulated front groups has only been possible through the systematized, ongoing subversion of FARA.

When David Ben-Gurion visited the United States as director of the Jewish Agency in the 1940s, he convinced U.S. donors and activists to incorporate an archipelago of front companies to violate the Arms Export Control Act and other laws. The Jewish Agency, a parastatal nonprofit organization, originally was formed to promote Jewish settlement of Palestine. …

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