About USIA'S Office of
the General Counsel--GC

In the world of government legal offices GC is unusual in the sense that it is home not only to the lawyers who provide legal services of all types to USIA, but also it comprises the Exchange Visitor Program Services Office, the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Office (GC-FOI/PA), the Attestation (Beirut Agreement) Office (GC-A), the USIA GC - Declassification Unit and the Agency's Ethics Program.

The Office of General Counsel (GC) provides for all legal services to USIA (except the Office of the Inspector General, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors) including its overseas USIS posts, VOA, WorldNet TV and the Fulbright Exchange Program. We also administer the Immunity from Judicial Seizure statute, which protects from judicial process: 1) objects of cultural significance, 2) imported temporarily from abroad, for 3) nonprofit exhibition in the United States. Tort claims against USIA are also handled by GC. Service of process on USIA (or its officers in their official capacity) is effected in the Office of the General Counsel.

The Exchange Visitor Program Services Office, operates the public and private sector J-visa exchange program. The Program Designation Branch designates public and private organizations to operate under our auspices to bring foreign visitors to the United States and to send Americans to foreign countries. The Waiver Branch of GC/V recommends certain waivers of the mandatory 2-year home residence rule for J-visa holders who are funded by a government, come here to receive graduate medical education or training or whose relevant skill is on a published "skills list."

The Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Office administers the FOIA AND PA for the Agency. Requests for existing Agency information, or information in an Agency "system of records" about an individual are sought through this unit.

The Declassification Unit directs, initiates, and coordinates the retrieval for declassification processing, and subsequent return, of classified information originated with or contained in USIA files, documents, electronic media, and other forms as may be reposited in the Washington National Records Center; the National Archives; other federal records centers, departments, and agencies; Presidential Libraries; and miscellaneous ancillary collections all pursuent to Presidential Executive Order 12958.

The Agency also administers the Beirut Agreement, a multilateral convention under the aegis of UNESCO, which may provide favorable tax treatment upon import into a foreign signatory (or into the U.S.) of audio-visual materials which the Attestation Officer determines to meet the definition of "educational, cultural or scientific" under the Beirut Agreement, US law and regulations.

Agency employees and former employees (and those persons or corporations dealing with them) may seek ethics opinions from the Designated Agency Ethics Official concerning a proposed transaction or concern. Seeking outside employment while still an employee and post-employment conflicts of interest are important topics of concern under revised ethics law and regulations.

NOTE: The copies of the U.S. federal statutes and regulations in the USIA GC Home Page are not official. For official copies of the U.S. statutes, see the United States Code. For official copies of the regulations, see the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations.

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