Operation Ghost Stories (Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General)

Emma North-Best filed this request with the Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General of the United States of America.
Tracking #


Due Feb. 7, 2017
Est. Completion None
Awaiting Response


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.

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.


Michael Best

From: OIP-NoReply@usdoj.gov

This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (https://foiaonline.regulations.gov:443/foia/action/public/view/request?objectId=090004d2810f23ae)
* Tracking Number: DOJ-2017-001614
* Requester Name: Michael Best
* Date Submitted: 01/10/2017
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description: FOIA request

From: OIP-NoReply@usdoj.gov

Attached is this Office's acknowledgement of the above-referenced request.

From: Michael Best

Thank you for informing me of the delay and your inability to process the request in the time frame legally required. I look forward to receiving up to thousands of pages of documents without being charged any duplication fees in addition to my not being charged any search fees.

Have a great day!

From: Muckrock Staff

To Whom It May Concern:
I wanted to follow up on the following request, copied below. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response.
Thanks for your help, and let me know if further clarification is needed.

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

From: Emma North-Best

Yes, I am still interested in this and all other FOIA requests, from here until the end of time, in this and all other dimensions, universes, timelines, and realities both discovered and undiscovered.