High visibility FOIAs

Emma North-Best filed this request with the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America.
Tracking #


Due Dec. 6, 2018
Est. Completion None
Awaiting Response


From: Emma North-Best

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

Emails, letters, memos, notes and other communications or documents regarding high visibility FOIAs, which are FOIA requests expected to cause a reaction in the media, the public, and/or other parts of the government. This request may be limited to materials produced on or after January 1, 2001.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities, with some reaching over 100,000 readers in outlets such as MuckRock, Motherboard, Property of the People, AND Magazine, Unicorn Riot, and more. 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 non-profits such as the library Internet Archive and and the journalist non-profit, MuckRock, 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 “frm” 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 my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available, I 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.


Emma Best

From: Central Intelligence Agency

A letter stating the requester must agree to or prepay assessed or estimated fees in order for the agency to continue processing the request.

From: Emma North-Best

Please perform the search, for which you are not required to charge me, then provide me with an estimate for the page count and cost of duplication. Any demand of hte agency to the contrary is inconsistent with the statute and case law. If you refuse to do this, I will limit the scope of the request so that you are forbidden from charging me for it and file a separate request to interrogate the method of your calculating the fee estimate, a methodology I will gladly attack and oppose in the future, especially since agencies have in the past estimated over 10,000 responsive pages, charged hundreds of dollars for the duplication, and then recanted and said there were only 40 responsive pages. Given this history from the government, it's hard for me to see these demands as anything other than a transparent (pun intended) attempt to undermine FOIA and skirt your responsibilities.

From: Emma North-Best

I am appealing the denial of the fee waiver on the basis that the release does not serve the public interest, as the memoranda themselves concern matters that are, by the government's own definition, of public interest.

From: Central Intelligence Agency

A fix is required to perfect the request.

From: Emma North-Best

That'll be fine, thank you.