800.01B11 Registration/1584

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

I took up on the telephone with Mr. L. M. C. Smith24 the complaint of Tass25 that paragraph (b) of Rule 303, the Regulations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938,26 was offensive to the Soviet Government. The gist of the complaint was that foreign press services and associations were exempt from registration except where they were not “bona fide”; and that such associations, when they were owned by foreign governments, ceased to be “bona fide”.

Mr. Smith had already been apprised of the complaint of Tass. He readily agreed to the idea of redrafting section 303 (b) so as to eliminate use of the word “bona fide”. He pointed out that this would not relieve Tass from registering; and, indeed, they did not object to that. It would, however, remove any implication that they were not “bona fide”.27

The Department of Justice does not believe that the British AP,28 British UP29 and Reuters are in the same category. These are privately owned. If they are controlled by the Government, it is merely in the nature of a normal control of censorship, plus their voluntary acceptance, when they do, of the point of view of government spokesmen. The Department of Justice does not want to abrogate the distinction [Page 830] which was made under the Act between press agencies owned by a government and therefore dedicated to foreign government policy, and private press agencies presumably dedicated to gathering the news and disseminating it. They also point out they have not the slightest proof that British AP, British UP and Reuters are actually “controlled” by the British Government within the meaning of the Act.

A[dolf] A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Chief of the Special War Policies Unit, Department of Justice.
  2. Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, official communication organization of the Soviet Government. The Tass complaint in the form of a letter from Mr. Kenneth Durant, manager of Tass in New York, was presented by Mr. Lawrence Todd, representative of Tass in Washington, to Mr. Loy W. Henderson, Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs, on February 26, 1943.
  3. Approved June 8, 1938; 52 Stat. 631. Approved, as amended, April 29, 1942 (effective June 28, 1942), 56 Stat. 248. For paragraph (b) of Rule 303 of the Regulations issued on June 23, 1942, see 7 Federal Register 4720, or Department of Justice, The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 as Amended and the Rules and Regulations Prescribed by the Attorney General (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1942), p. 26.
  4. In a memorandum of February 26, 1943, to Assistant Secretary of State Berle, the Acting Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Atherton) had agreed that the wording was unfortunate and suggested that Mr. Berle might be able to prevail upon an officer of the Department of Justice to have it changed “so that the inference cannot be drawn that persons employed by press associations owned in whole by foreign governments are not acting in good faith.” (800.01B11 Registration/1583)
  5. Associated Press.
  6. United Press.