Bergman Introduces Legislation to Require Compliance with U.S. Law for Admission to House Press Gallery

Today, Rep. Jack Bergman introduced legislation to prevent state-sponsored media outlets from obtaining press credentials to access Capitol Hill, unless they are in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and other U.S. laws.

This legislation comes on the heels of Bergman’s recent letter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling for suspension of the Al Jazeera Media Network’s (AJMN) press credentials until the State of Qatar and its propaganda arm adhere to FARA and other U.S. laws.

"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 legislations 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.

As noted in the bill’s findings, several foreign countries with well-documented histories of spying on Americans, such as Russia, Qatar and China, own and control state-sponsored media outlets whose journalists in recent years have been credentialed by the House and Senate Media Galleries.

Yet, under current practice, foreign state-sponsored media outlets from those and other nations have no limit on the number of journalists who can receive credentials in the Congressional Gallery - which are, in effect, “all-access passes” on Capitol Hill.

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.  

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.  

The spy balloon recently launched over the continental United States was only one of many examples of Chinese government espionage and surveillance targeting Americans. Yet, as noted in the bill’s findings, more than two dozen credentials were issued in the 118th Congress to media outlets that are registered under FARA as Chinese agents and another 16 credentials were issued to media outlets owned and/or controlled by senior officials in the Chinese Communist Party.

The Associated Press has published multiple investigations recently on Qatar’s extensive track record of using its espionage forces to target Americans, including on Capitol Hill.  Qatar’s propaganda arm, Al Jazeera, was also utilized to spy on young pro-Israel activists in Washington, D.C., all to push the dangerous—and repulsive—anti-Semitic trope that Jews somehow secretly control U.S. foreign policy.  All the while, Al Jazeera has refused to register under FARA, ignoring the Department of Justice’s determination that the outlet’s parent company, the Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN) “is an agent of the Government of Qatar under FARA” because “AJMN and its affiliates are controlled and funded by the Government of Qatar.”  Despite Qatar’s brazen defiance of U.S. laws, Al Jazeera in the 118th Congress had 136 press credentials—far more than the 82 issued to the New York Times.

Russia’s track record is no secret, neither is the fact that Russia has repeatedly engaged in espionage and surveillance targeting Americans, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC).  Yet in the 118th Congress, Channel One Russian TV had three press credentials in the Congressional Press Galleries and Russian State TV and Radio (RTR) had four.

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. 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,” said Bergman. 

Stay Connected

Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.