Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 19, 2018

Contact:  Kierán Suckling, (520) 275-5960,

In Wake of Bizarre Bishop Letters, Congressional Hearing Sought on Okinawa Dugong

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and the House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday requesting that the full committee hold an oversight hearing on the protection and conservation of the Okinawa dugong, a critically endangered marine mammal threatened by the construction of a new U.S. military base on Okinawa. 

In June Rep. Bishop requested information regarding the Center’s compliance with FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Although the Center has provided information sufficient to fully demonstrate compliance with the law, Bishop and his staff have continued to send burdensome document requests regarding the Center’s work on the dugong and compliance with the Act.

“If Rob Bishop is so concerned about our work to save the Okinawa dugong, we’d love to have a full public hearing about it,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “Instead he seems far more interested in trying to bully and harass us with the kind of tactics that would’ve made Joe McCarthy proud.”

Over the past four months, Bishop has sent letters to the Center and several other environmental organizations alleging that they are somehow working as a “foreign agents” of China or some other foreign entity because of their work on environmental-protection issues overseas.

The letter from the Center requests a hearing on the dugong and informs Bishop that the Center will provide additional documents only as part of a public hearing.  It states: “The attempts to mislead the public through vague insinuations and innuendo about the Center and its staff do not serve the public interest. Instead, they represent an abuse of power that is designed to do nothing more than harass our staff and to stifle important public interest work to protect our environment — both at home and abroad — while distracting the public from the actual violations of FARA by personnel within the Trump administration and Trump campaign.”

The letter notes dangerous parallels to an earlier era where FARA was misused by Congress to defame and intimidate civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, who was charged by the government for violating FARA as part of his work to ban nuclear weapons. Du Bois refused to accept a plea deal, and his trial exposed the government’s political motivations. His case was ultimately dismissed for the lack of evidence.

The letter from the Center also makes clear that, under the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, legitimate congressional oversight of the FARA is the responsibility of the House Committee on the Judiciary, not the Natural Resources Committee.

Read the Center’s October 17, 2018 letter requesting a public hearing on the dugong.

Read the Center’s Aug. 2, 2018 follow up letter providing additional information regarding FARA.

Read the Center’s June 26, 2018 initial response letter providing information regarding FARA.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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