Josh Gottheimer, the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District, is among the lawmakers asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to require Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent, the New York Times reported on February 9.
“The Qataris have been bad actors,” Gottheimer said.
As stated in his official biography, Gottheimer used to be a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and served as an adviser for the presidential campaigns of Wesley Clark, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. Mr. Gottheimer has also worked for the FCC, Microsoft, and Ford Motor Company.
The congressional request, which has not yet been issued, would propose a limit on Al Jazeera’s access to American officials and facilities. This, according to the New York Times, follows a recent revelation that an undercover Al Jazeera reporter secretly filmed a documentary meant to “reveal how the Israel lobby in America works.”
In October 2017, Haaretz, an Israeli media outlet, reported on the Qatari-owned international news network publicly disclosing that it had planted an undercover reporter inside D.C.-based pro-Israel organizations.
“We had an undercover operative working in tandem in Washington, D.C. With this U.K. verdict and vindication past us, we can soon reveal how the Israel lobby in America works through the eyes of an undercover reporter,” the director of investigative reporting at Al Jazeera, Clayton Swisher, told the Intercept at the time, adding that he sees no reason why the U.S. establishment, which claims to be having problems with foreign interference, doesn’t “take our (Al Jazeera’s) findings seriously, unless of course Israel is somehow off limits from that debate.”
This announcement was made after it had been revealed that another Al Jazeera reporter similarly infiltrated a pro-Israel organization in the UK.
This, Haaretz also reported, led to the resignation of an Israeli diplomat who was filmed discussing “taking down” British officials and supporters of Palestinian state.
At the time, the British government regulator Ofcom concluded that the network’s reporting was not anti-Semitic, but rather “a serious investigative documentary which explored the actions of the Israeli Embassy.”
Al Jazeera would not be the first major media organization to register as a foreign agent. In November 2017, the Russian international television network RT was required to do the same.
Is forcing RT to register as a foreign agent now being used as precedent to try to force Al Jazeera to do the same, as punishment for reporting on pro-Israel groups?
Prominent journalist and Pulitzer prize winner Glenn Greenwald thinks so. He criticized Washington’s efforts to require Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent on Twitter.
Speaking of actual threats to press freedoms (as opposed to Twitter insults): forcing RT to register as a foreign agent is now being used as precedent to try to force Al Jazeera to do so as punishment for reporting on pro-Israel groups https://t.co/dugsxOXyfj pic.twitter.com/NB3vh8weCZ— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 12, 2018
US media figures are very vocal in anger when Trump says mean things about them on Twitter (which can actually be dangerous). But they tend to be much quieter about actual abridgments of press freedoms: Pompeo threatening WL, forcing RT & Al Jazeera to register as foreign agents. https://t.co/jVo9wDIJB0— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 12, 2018
These efforts, however, might not be widely shared in the Trump administration. Qatar is, in the New York Times’ Gardiner Harris’ words, “in charm offensive,” and pushing for a comeback in Washington.
Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a rare social appearance as a guest speaker at a reception hosted for the Qatari officials.
Qatar has, Harris wrote, invested billions of dollars in the United States, but it may not fit well with Trump administration’s anti-Iran stance.
“The administration’s policy in the Middle East is moving from primarily an anti-ISIS approach to an anti-Iran one,” Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, told the New York Times.