Influence Operations

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In addition to collecting information, foreign intelligence services will sometimes engage in influence activities. The objective of these activities can range from portraying a specific image, usually positive, to attempting to sway policymakers into particular courses of action. Overt contact between intelligence officers and policymakers, government officials, academics, and even average citizens can assist in shaping views of a particular country.

Of the more insidious nature, foreign intelligence services can plant disinformation or propaganda among unwitting individuals or task recruited agents to actively disseminate such information. For instance, a foreign intelligence service can draft news articles and books or create video and audio programming to disseminate a particular view to a wide audience.

Per the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was enacted in 1938, any US person acting as an agent of a foreign principal in a political or quasi-political capacity must make periodic public disclosure of his/her relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of these activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.

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