FOIA/PA Request: David Bowie

Joshua Eaton filed this request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.
Tracking #


Est. Completion None
No Responsive Documents


From: Joshua Eaton

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter constitutes a request under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (collectively, “FOIA/PA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 552, 552a, and the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) implementing regulations, 28 C.F.R. § 16, by independent journalist Joshua Eaton. For purposes of this request, the definition of “records” includes, but is not limited to, documents, letters, faxes, memoranda, notes, reports, e-mail messages (including e-mails to and from personal e-mail accounts), other correspondence, orders, policy statements, data, technical evaluations or analysis, and studies. The definition of “records” expressly refers to materials already in existence, whether in physical or electronic form, and does not imply any need for DOJ to create new records.

A. Request for disclosure

I seek disclosure of any and all records or communications created from Jan. 8, 1947, to the date your office processes this request, inclusive, that were prepared, received, transmitted, collected, and/or maintained by the FBI relating or referring to David Robert Jones a/k/a David Bowie (born Jan. 8, 1947, in Brixton, London, U.K, and died Jan. 10, 2016, in New York City, N.Y., U.S.A.).

I request these records pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 16.3(a)(4) ("Where a request for records pertains to a third party, a requester may receive greater access by ... submitting proof that the individual is deceased (e.g., a copy of a death certificate or an obituary)"). Mr. Jones died on Jan. 10. 2016, as reported in the New York Times and other media outlets. See John Pareles, "David Bowie dies at 69; he transcended music, art and fashion," New York Times (Jan. 11, 2016),; Tara Bahrampour, "David Bowie dies at 69; mesmerizing performer and restless innovator," Washington Post (Jan. 11, 2016),

B. Search parameters

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.

C. Request for limitation of processing fees

I request a limitation of processing fees pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii)(II) (“fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document duplication when records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by ... a representative of the news media”) and 28 C.F.R. §§ 16.11(c)(1)(i) and 16.11(d)(1) (“Search fees shall be charged for all requests — other than requests made by … representatives of the news media,” and “No search fee will be charged for requests by … representatives of the news media”). As a “representative of the news media,” I fit within this statutory and regulatory exemption. Fees associated with the processing of this request should, therefore, be limited accordingly.

I meet the definition of a “representative of the news media” because I am “an entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience.” See National Security Archive v. Department of Defense, 880 F.2d 1381, 1387 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

I am a full-time, professional journalist who reports on issues related to national security, cybersecurity, human rights and religion. My reporting on these topics has appeared in the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera English, Public Radio International (PRI), Salon, GlobalPost, and other publications. In addition, I am a former digital producer at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and the former editor-in-chief of Spare Change News, both located in Boston, Mass. A complete list of my publications and my full résumé are available online at

Although I am a freelance journalist, my ongoing professional relationship with editors at a number of outlets ensures any articles I write based on these documents will be published, demonstrating “a solid basis for expecting publication through that organization,” as required by the definition of “representative of the news media” in C.F.R. § 16.11 (b)(6). Under that same regulation, “components shall also look to the past publication record of a requester in making this determination.” Id.

This request is made as part of the news-gathering process and not for commercial purposes. As such, I am entitled to a limitation of processing fees.

In the event that processing fees cannot be limited, please inform me of the anticipated total charges in advance of fulfilling my request.

D. Request for fee waiver

I additionally request a waiver of all costs pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) (“Documents shall be furnished without any charge ... if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester”) and C.F.R. § 16.11(k)(1) (“Records responsive to a request will be furnished without charge or at a charge reduced below that established … where a component determines, based on all available information, that the requester has demonstrated that … Disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, and … Disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester”). This request is made as part of the news-gathering process and not for commercial purposes. As such, I am entitled to a fee waiver.

Disclosure in this case meets the statutory criteria, and a fee waiver would fulfill Congress’s legislative intent in amending FOIA. See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Rossotti, 326 F.3d 1309, 1312 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (“Congress amended FOIA to ensure that it be ‘liberally construed in favor of waivers for noncommercial requesters.’”).

Disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest. This request will further public understanding of government conduct; specifically, the FBI’s monitoring, surveillance, and infiltration of organizations on the basis of organizational membership, political views or affiliation, or participation in protest activities or demonstrations. This type of government activity concretely affects many individuals and groups and implicates basic privacy, free speech, and associational rights protected by the Constitution.

Moreover, disclosure of the requested information will aid public understanding of the implications of the Department of Justice’s decision to relax guidelines that previously restricted the FBI’s ability to spy on organizations without a threshold showing of suspected criminal activity. These restrictions were created in response to the Hoover-era FBI’s surveillance of politically active individuals and organizations, despite the lack of evidence that such individuals and organizations had been involved in any unlawful behavior. Understanding the scope of the FBI’s surveillance and infiltration of law-abiding organizations is, therefore, crucial to the public’s interest in understanding the consequences of the Department of Justice’s important change in policy.

As a “representative of the news media,” supra Section C, I am well-situated to disseminate the information I gain from this request to the general public, to targeted communities, and to groups that protect constitutional rights. Because I meet the test for a fee waiver, fees associated with responding to my FOIA/PA requests should be – and regularly are – waived.

The records requested are not sought for commercial use. I plan to disseminate the information disclosed as a result of this FOIA/PA request through the channels

In the event that fees cannot be waived, please inform me of the anticipated total charges in advance of fulfilling my request.

E. Miscellany

Pursuant to applicable regulations and statute, I expect the determination of this request for documents within 20 days of your receipt of this request. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i) and 28 C.F.R. § 16.5(d)(4).

If this request is denied, in whole or in part, please justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions to FOIA/PA. DOJ must also release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. I reserve the right to appeal any decision to withhold any information in whole or in part, to deny the request to limit processing fees, or to deny the request for a fee waiver.

I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Joshua Eaton

From: Sobonya, David P. (RMD) (FBI)

Dear Mr. Eaton,

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.

Requests for fee waivers and expedited processing will be addressed once your request has been assigned an FOIPA request number. You will receive written notification of the FBI’s decision.

Information regarding the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy is available at<>/, or If you require additional assistance please contact the Public Information Officer.

Thank you

David P. Sobonya
Public Information Officer/GIS
Record/Information Dissemination Section (RIDS)
FBI-Records Management Division
170 Marcel Drive, Winchester, VA 22602-4843
PIO: (540) 868-4593
Direct: (540) 868-4286
Fax: (540) 868-4391/4997

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A no responsive documents response.