Contrary to the uninformed hysteria that has developed in some quarters, the Justice Department is not censoring any film in this country. Nor is it trying to curtail the dissemination of any movie. Nor does it seek to intimidate anyone who watches a movie. We are simply enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act as passed by Congress.
We have no other choice if we are to honor our oath that the laws be faithfully executed. The act has been on the books--and has been enforced as we are enforcing it--for many years.
The statute requires that when an agent of a foreign country distributes material referred to in the statute as "political propaganda," the identity of the agent be disclosed to the public. This term is defined in the act as any communication "reasonably adapted to . . . influence a recipient or any section of the public within the United States with reference to the political or public interests, policies, or relations of a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party or with reference to the foreign policies of the United States . . ." The films being disseminated clearly fall within this definition. This decision was made solely by career personnel who are charged with the responsibility of enforcing FARA and have been doing so for years and through many administrations.
Moreover, the label required to be placed on the film by the act does not use the words "political propaganda," despite reports by the media. The label is neutral, and reads as follows:
"This material is prepared, edited, issued or circulated by (name and address of registrant) which is registered with the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as an agent of (name and address of foreign principal). Dissemination reports on this film are filed with the Department of Justice where the required registration statement is available for public inspection. Registration does not indicate approval of the contents of this material by the United States Government."
Thus, the label states only that "this material" is being disseminated by an agent of a foreign principal registered under the act. The purpose of the label is to notify viewers that the material is being disseminated by a foreign agent. It does not comment on the positions advocated by the film. The label is a disclosure, not unlike the disclosures that are required on almost all political advertisements and commercials, or on packages sold in supermarkets complying with the "truth in packaging" laws mandated by Congress.
The media also reported that the names of persons who viewed the film must be given to the Department of Justice. That is untrue. The foreign agent must file a dissemination report in which he registers the number, not the name, of groups that have received the film. If the material transmitted was a film, radio, or television script the following information must be furnished by the foreign agent (not by the recipient): the name of the station, organization or theater using the film, the dates the film was shown and the estimated attendance. This data is kept on record in Washington for public viewing.
The agent involved here, the National Film Board of Canada, is an agency of the Canadian government and has been registered as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act since February 1947. It has complied without complaint with the act in the past; moreover, in an exchange of at least six letters between the Justice Department and the film board about these movies in particular, at no time did the film board raise any complaint about compliance with the filing and labeling requirements of the act.