I read that there's a law forbidding U.S. citizens from discussing foreign relations with foreign public officials. Can anyone tell me if this is true and, if so, what is the name of this law?

I've tracked down a Logan Act, which prohibits NEGOTIATION with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States. It's possible this is what the reference I read was referring to.

However, the item I read said U.S. citizens aren't allowed to even discuss foreign affairs with foreign public officials. So I just wanted to verify if this is true. If it is true, I'm anxious to learn the details. Could a U.S. citizen be prosecuted for simply telling a Latin American official "I don't like the way the U.S. continues to exploit your country"?

  • 1
    I think the item you read was referring to the Logan Act--and that same item grossly overstated the reach of Logan. @Panda's answer properly represents the Logan Act. – Paulb Mar 19 '17 at 11:21

There needs to be an "intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government" as quoted from the Logan Act. The main purpose of the Act is to forbid private citizens from "doing diplomacy" with foreign governments and to not prohibit discussion or sharing of opinions.

Otherwise, merely talking to an official in an embassy would get one prosecuted which doesn't make sense.

Text of the Logan Act:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

Also, no one has been prosecuted under this act. So, merely discussing or "simply telling a Latin American official" something doesn't violate the act.

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