USIA General Counsel


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), 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 U.S. 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, (usually) non-profit exchange organizations to operate under our auspices to bring foreign visitors to the U.S. and to send U.S. visitors to foreign countries. This office operates the Au Pair program and the Government-sponsored Fulbright Program. 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 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 employment while still an employee and post-employment conflicts of interest are important topics of concern under revised ethics law and regulations.