United States Seizes 27 Additional Domain Names Used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Further a Global, Covert Influence Campaign

The United States has seized 27 domain names that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unlawfully used to further a global covert influence campaign.

As described in the seizure documents, all 27 domains were being used in violation of U.S. sanctions targeting both the Government of Iran and the IRGC. Four of the domains purported to be genuine news outlets but were actually controlled by the IRGC and targeted audiences in the United States, to covertly influence United States policy and public opinion, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The remainder targeted audiences in other parts of the world.  This seizure warrant follows an earlier seizure of 92 domains used by the IRGC for similar purposes.

“Within the last month we have announced seizures of Iran’s weapons, fuel, and covert influence infrastructure,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.  “As long as Iran’s leaders are trying to destabilize the world through the state-sponsorship of terrorism and the taking of hostages, we will continue to enforce U.S. sanctions and take other legal steps to counter them.”

“Today’s 29 seizures are another important step against Iran’s worldwide disinformation campaign,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson.  “This work will continue.  We cannot allow Iran’s attachment to fake news to overtake our commitment to the rule of law.”

“The FBI is aggressively investigating any evidence of foreign influence and the unlawful spread of disinformation by hostile nations.  Today, we seized 27 additional domains that Iran’s IRGC was illegally using in attempt to manipulate public opinion in other countries, including the United States,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair.  “Thanks to our ongoing collaboration with Google, Facebook, and Twitter, the FBI was able to disrupt this Iranian propaganda campaign and we will continue to pursue any attempts by foreign actors to spread disinformation in our country.” 

The seizure warrant, issued on Nov. 3, 2020, describes how the 27 seized domain names were being operated in violation of federal law.  Control of the domains by the IRGC violated the International Emergency and Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR), which prohibit U.S. persons from providing services to the Government of Iran without a license.  Further, the United States has found that the IRGC has provided material support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hizballah, Hamas, and the Taliban.  As such, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added the IRGC to its list of Specially Designated Nationals, imposing additional licensing requirements.  As described in the seizure documents, the 27 domains were registered with U.S.-based domain registrars and used top-level domains owned by U.S.-based registries.  Neither the IRGC nor the Government of Iran obtained a license from OFAC prior to using the domain names and obtaining services from the U.S. providers. 

In addition, four of the 27 domain names, “rpfront.com,” “ahtribune.com,” “awdnews.com,” and “criticalstudies.org,” were also seized pursuant to FARA.  FARA establishes a registration, reporting, and disclosure regime for agents of foreign principals (including foreign governments and their agencies) so that the U.S. government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and law. 

FARA requires, among other things, that persons subject to its requirements submit periodic registration statements containing truthful information about their activities and the income earned from them.  Disclosure of the required information allows the federal government and the American people to evaluate the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.  Here, the four domains purported to be independent news outlets, but they were actually operated by or on behalf of the IRGC to target the United States with pro-Iranian propaganda in an attempt to covertly influence the American people to change United States policy concerning Iran and the Middle East. 

These domains targeted a United States audience without proper registration pursuant to FARA and without notifying the American public with a conspicuous label that the content of the domains was being published on behalf of foreign principals, the IRGC and the Government of Iran.

Visitors to the sites received the following message:

Notice of Seizure

This seizure was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Special Prosecutions Section and Asset Forfeiture Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, and the Counterespionage Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, are prosecuting the seizure. 

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    The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Liberty Latin America Ltd. (Liberty), its subsidiary, Liberty Communications of Puerto Rico LLC (LCPR), and AT&T Inc. (AT&T) to divest certain fiber-based telecommunications assets and customer accounts in Puerto Rico, in order for Liberty to proceed with its proposed acquisition of AT&T’s wireline and wireless telecommunications operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The department has approved WorldNet Telecommunications, Inc. (WorldNet) as the acquirer. 
    [Read More…]
  • Former Owners of Telemarketing Company Agree to Pay At Least $4 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
    In Crime News
    Two Florida men have agreed collectively to pay at least $4 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by engaging in schemes to generate prescriptions for compounded drugs and refer those prescriptions to pharmacies in exchange for illegal kickbacks. Many of those prescriptions were billed to TRICARE, the federal health care program providing insurance for active duty military personnel, military retirees, and military dependents.
    [Read More…]
  • Texas Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Facilitate Adoptions from Uganda Through Bribery and Fraud
    In Crime Control and Security News
    U.S. Department of [Read More…]
  • Louisiana Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Filing Fraudulent Returns
    In Crime News
    A Louisiana tax return preparer was sentenced to 24 months in prison today for conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Announces Investigation of the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government and Louisville Metro Police Department
    In Crime News
    Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced today that the Department of Justice has opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (Louisville Metro) and the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD).
    [Read More…]
  • Public Designation of Albanian Sali Berisha Due to Involvement in Significant Corruption
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Iranian Intelligence Officials Indicted on Kidnapping Conspiracy Charges
    In Crime News
    A New York federal court unsealed an indictment today charging four Iranian nationals with conspiracies related to kidnapping, sanctions violations, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering. A co-conspirator and California resident, also of Iran, faces additional structuring charges.
    [Read More…]
  • Remarks at World Sustainable Development Summit 2021
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
    John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
  • Imposter sent to prison after claiming to be federal immigration officer
    In Justice News
    A 53-year-old Laredoan [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Files Civil Action to Shut Down Mississippi Tax Return Preparer
    In Crime News
    The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi seeking to bar a Senatobia, Mississippi, tax return preparer from preparing federal income tax returns for others.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Meet and Greet with Embassy San Jose Staff
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Botswana Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Al Sabah
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Virtual Discussion with Students on Ice
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • American Contractor Sentenced for Theft of Government Equipment on U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan
    In Crime News
    An American military contractor was sentenced today to 51 months in prison for her role in a theft ring on a military installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
    [Read More…]