America's Promise Ministry

Emma Best filed this request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.

It is a clone of this request.

Tracking #


Est. Completion None
Awaiting Appeal


From: Michael Best

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

Records relating to or mentioning America's Promise Ministry AKA America's Promise Ministries. Located in a section of the Pacific Northwest that was a notorious hotbed of white supremacist activity in the 1990s, America's Promise Ministry is both a Christian Identity church and a major publisher and distributor of right-wing extremist tracts. Its current leader, Dave Barley, peddles a "soft" version of Christian Identity, one that promotes white separatism and contempt for Jews and non-whites, but that stops short of openly advocating bloodshed. Nevertheless, several of Barley's congregants have committed serious violent crimes, including bank robberies and terrorist bombings.

Founded in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1967 by Christian Identity preacher Sheldon Emry, America's Promise Ministries is a family operation spanning two generations. In the early years, Emry grew the church's reach by purchasing airtime on as many as 30 radio stations nationwide.

Upon his death in 1985, leadership passed to Emry's son-in-law, Dave Barley, who in 1988 moved the ministry to the northern Idaho town of Sandpoint, where it quickly became an important part of a thriving but informal local network of neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups, "lone wolf" white separatists and Christian Identity congregations. Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam were just two of the prominent figures on the racist right who regularly spoke at America's Promise gatherings.

Based in a converted restaurant, America's Promise Ministries distributed mail-order copies of Emry's seminal Christian Identity book Who Killed Jesus? (answer: the Jews), as well as other popular works of radical-right literature, including The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Holocaust denial work Did Six Million Really Die?

In 1995, two wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Vincent Bertollini and Carl E. Story, moved to Sandpoint with a mission of helping to create a whites-only homeland. They quickly developed ties with both the Aryan Nations (whose members practice a hard-line version of Christian Identity) and America's Promise Ministries, donating money to both organizations. They also boosted the publication and distribution of Barley and Emry's Christian Identity pamphlets as part of Bertollini and Story's 11th Hour Remnant Messenger, a propaganda mill that distributed white supremacist propaganda to thousands of Idaho residents.

In 1996, three men who had recently attended Barley's church detonated pipe bombs at an abortion clinic and a newspaper building in the state of Washington, and committed a string of bank robberies that netted more than $100,000. The leader of the gang, Jay Merrell, was a protégé of Barley's. Merrell regularly preached at America's Promise Bible camps, and Barley sold tapes of Merrell's sermons through his ministry's mail-order publishing operation.

Merrell and his cohorts described themselves as members of the Phineas Priesthood, a secret society of Christian Identity holy warriors that is not a membership organization — people are considered inducted once they have committed acts of violence on behalf of the Identity cause. The concept of the priesthood was first articulated in the 1990 book, Vigilantes of Christendom, by Richard Kelly Hoskins. (Hoskins' concept was based on a twisted interpretation of a passage in the Book of Numbers, in which the grandson of a priest kills a prince of Israel for cohabiting with a woman outside his tribe.) Vigilantes of Christendom was then a popular America's Promise Ministries mail-order title. To this day, it's available for purchase via the church's website.

Another member of Barley's congregation, former Aryan Nations security official Buford O. Furrow, Jr., went on a shooting rampage in 1999 at the Los Angeles Jewish Community Center, seriously wounding three children and a receptionist and then going on to murder a Filipino-American mail carrier before being arrested. Numerous pieces of Christian Identity literature, including a book by Richard Kelly Hoskins, were discovered inside a van belonging to Furrow.

Barley has repeatedly denied any connection between the Christian Identity theology he preaches and the violent acts of his former parishioners. "Lots of people come through these doors. Am I supposed to ask each one, ‘Will you ever participate in a bombing or terrorist act in the next few years?' That's ridiculous. This is a church," he said after Merrell's arrest and conviction.

America's Promise Ministries is now one of the few remaining outposts of white supremacy in the Idaho Panhandle. The Aryan Nations, except for a few stragglers, is long gone from the area, as are Beam, Bertollini and Story.

Though attendance at its services rarely exceeds 40 congregants, America's Promise Ministries continues to have a widespread impact in the Identity world through its publishing business. Its summertime family retreats, held in locations from Florida to New Mexico, are popular events in the Christian Identity world, drawing pastors and adherents from throughout the United States.

Please conduct a search of the Central Records System, including but not limited to the Electronic Surveillance (ELSUR) Indices, the Microphone Surveillance (MISUR) Indices, the Physical Surveillance (FISUR) Indices, and the Technical Surveillance (TESUR) Indices, for both main-file records and cross-reference records of both HQ and all field offices for all relevant names, agencies, organizations, companies and events including but not limited to those cited in the previous paragraphs and/or links. My request includes but is not limited to 137, 157, 176, 177, 183, 184, 188, and 214 files. If previously released records are available, then I request a rolling release consisting of those records while additional records are located and processed for release.

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.

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 20 business days, as the statute requires.


Michael Best

From: FOIPARequest

Good morning,

The FBI has received your Freedom of Information Act/Privacy (FOIPA) request and it will be forwarded to Initial Processing for review. Your request will be processed under the provisions of FOIPA and a response will be mailed to you at a later date.

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From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A no responsive documents response.

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A no responsive documents response.

From: Michael Best

I am appealing the integrity of the search, based on but not limited to the failure to perform searches for ALL indices specified, the failure to search field offices as specified and the failure to perform the cross-reference searches requested using the ample information I provided in the original request.


02/15/2017 10:15 AM FOIA Request: DOJ-AP-2017-002304


DOJ-AP-2017-002304 has been processed with the following final disposition: Completely reversed/remanded.

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.