Operation Ghost Stories (Office of the Attorney General - New York)

Emma Best filed this request with the Office of the Attorney General - New York of New York.
Status
Awaiting Acknowledgement

Communications

From: Michael Best

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the New York State Freedom of Information Law (1977 N.Y. Laws ch. 933), I hereby request the following records:

Any and all records relating to Operation Ghost Stories, AKA the Illegals Program. Please see below for more details, as simply searching blindly for those words only would constitute a search carefully conducted to locate the minimum number of records possible, if not none. Please also note that I am NOT limiting my request to previously released materials.

According to the FBI (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/operation-ghost-stories-inside-the-russian-spy-case) Operation Ghost Stories was an operation that went on for over a decade, targeting Russian operatives in the United States. These have included but are not limited to Anna Chapman, Mikhail Anatolyevich Vasenkov (Juan Lazaro) and Vicky Peláez, Andrey Bezrukov and Yelena Vavilova (Donald Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley), Vladimir and Lidiya Guryev (Richard and Cynthia Murphy), Mikhail Kutsik and Nataliya Pereverzeva (Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills), Mikhail Semenko, "Christopher Metsos" (Pavel Kapustin) and Alexey Karetnikov. Note that their identities have been widely reported not only by the mainstream media, but by the government itself in various court filings (http://documents.nytimes.com/criminal-complaints-from-the-justice-department), press releases (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/ten-alleged-secret-agents-arrested-united-states), website postings (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/operation-ghost-stories-inside-the-russian-spy-case), FOIA releases (https://vault.fbi.gov/ghost-stories-russian-foreign-intelligence-service-illegals/documents), photographs (https://vault.fbi.gov/ghost-stories-russian-foreign-intelligence-service-illegals/images) and videos (https://vault.fbi.gov/ghost-stories-russian-foreign-intelligence-service-illegals/videos).

Please include all correspondence relating to this case, including negotiations relating to the associated prisoner swaps, plea deals, etc.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities for AND Magazine, MuckRock and Glomar Disclosure and have an open arrangement with each. My articles have been widely read, with some reaching over 100,000 readers. As such, as I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. In addition, I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through the non-profit Internet Archive, disseminating them to a large audience. While my research is not limited to this, a great deal of it, including this, focuses on the activities and attitudes of the government itself. As such, it is not necessary for me to demonstrate the relevance of this particular subject in advance. Additionally, case law states that “proof of the ability to disseminate the released information to a broad cross-section of the public is not required.” Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep’t of Justice, 365 F.3d 1108, 1126 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see Carney v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 19 F.3d 807, 814-15 (2d Cir. 1994). Further, courts have held that "qualified because it also had “firm” plans to “publish a number of . . . ‘document sets’” concerning United States foreign and national security policy." Under this criteria, as well, I qualify as a member of the news media. Additionally, courts have held that the news media status "focuses on the nature of the requester, not its request. The provision requires that the request be “made by” a representative of the news media. Id. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii)(II). A newspaper reporter, for example, is a representative of the news media regardless of how much interest there is in the story for which he or she is requesting information." As such, the details of the request itself are moot for the purposes of determining the appropriate fee category. As such, my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available and I therefore request that fees be waived. Per DOJ guidance, I meet all three standards for fee waivers.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Michael Best

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