Operation Ghost Stories

Michael Best filed this request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.
Tracking # 1364872-000, DOJ-AP-2017-002414
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Appeal

Communications

From: Michael Best

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. 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. 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. 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. 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 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Michael Best

From: FOIPARequest

Good morning Mr. Best,

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 http://www.fbi.gov<http://www.fbi.gov>/ or http://www.fbi.gov/foia/<http://www.fbi.goiv/foia/>. If you require additional assistance please contact the Public Information Officer.

Thank you,

Leanna Ramsey
Public Information Officer
Record/Information Dissemination Section (RIDS) FBI-Records Management Division
170 Marcel Drive, Winchester, VA 22602-4843
PIO: (540) 868-4593
Direct: (540) 868-4854
Fax: (540) 868-4391/4997
Questions E-mail: foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov<mailto:foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov>

PLEASE REPLY DIRECTLY TO FOIPAREQUESTS@IC.FBI.GOV

Do you have further questions about the FOI/PA process? Visit us at http://www.fbi.gov/foia

Please check the status of your request online at https://vault.fbi.gov/fdps-1/@@search-fdps. Status updates are performed on a weekly basis.

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A copy of documents responsive to the request.

From: Michael Best

I am appealing the integrity of the search as no search was performed. I specifically stated that "Please also note that I am NOT limiting my request to previously released materials."

Further, I am appealing the Bureau's decision to provide the materials only through a web link. The Bureau's policy is that web links are not sufficient, as they refuse to accept obituaries and proof of death by providing the URL that would allow them to look this up. This has been explained by the Bureau's inability to always access these pages, despite their wide availability on the web. If it is reasonable that the Bureau is unable to access the New York Times website, then it not reasonable to expect me to retrieve the information from their website.

From: OIP-NoReply@usdoj.gov

02/15/2017 10:11 AM FOIA Request: DOJ-AP-2017-002310

From: OIP-NoReply@usdoj.gov

02/17/2017 05:09 PM FOIA Request: DOJ-AP-2017-002414

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