updated 6/1/2007 10:46:10 AM ET 2007-06-01T14:46:10

The Justice Department has launched a searchable online database that tracks the activities of foreign governments and companies lobbying the U.S. government.

Previously, people seeking this information had to phone the Justice Department or visit its office in person to get public disclosure documents, which representatives of foreign entities are required to provide under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.

Passed in 1938, FARA requires all individuals acting as agents of foreign entities in a political or quasi-political capacity to disclose their relationship, activities, receipts and payments supporting the activities.

Under a federal law enacted in 1995, Congress also requires lobbyists working for American companies, associations and other entities to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches. Those public documents are available online through a Senate Web site.

The new Justice Department site, fara.com, also provides links to lobbying statutes, semiannual reports to Congress and access to registration forms for filing purposes.

“This Web site is a significant step in the effort to ensure transparency in the world of foreign-influenced lobbying,” Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.

The agency said some documents are still unavailable online due to potential privacy issues. However, they can still be accessed at the FARA public office.

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