Stormfront

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 # 1363882-000
Due Jan. 25, 2017
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

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:

Records relating to or mentioning Stormfront. Created by former Alabama Klan boss and long-time white supremacist Don Black in 1995, Stormfront was the first major hate site on the Internet. Claiming more than 300,000 registered members as of May 2015 (though far fewer remain active), the site has been a very popular online forum for white nationalists and other racial extremists.

Don Black, a former Klan leader who served three years in prison for plotting to overthrow a Caribbean island government, was the first hate propagandist to fully appreciate the potential of the Internet. After learning to operate and program computers in prison, he emerged to set up Stormfront in March 1995, just a month before the Oklahoma City bombing. Being the first of its kind helped Stormfront win enormous publicity. Black and his site, run out of his Florida home, were written up in newspapers around the country and the world. He also frequently appeared on major network news shows like ABC's "Nightline," where, clad in suit and tie, he talked politely about allowing people access to information not filtered by the "media monopoly." Though he undoubtedly turned off many viewers, each major TV appearance led to a spike in visitors to Stormfront.

Stormfront has since grown into what may be the Western world's most popular forum for so called "white nationalists" to post articles, engage in discussions, and share news of upcoming racist events. One of the secrets to Stormfront's success is its focus on community building. Whereas typical hate sites function as one-way transfers of information — rather like a brochure that can be read but not responded to — Stormfront has always been organized as a message board. Members can post opinions, listen to others respond, then post more feedback for all to read. The potential for dialogues to develop was built in — and, therefore, so was the potential to develop a genuine white supremacist cyber-community.

Below the Stormfront motto, "White Pride World Wide," are links to racially charged news stories like "Mestizo Rapes White Woman in Elevator" and "Negro Man Stabs Elderly Woman, Shoots Detective, Negroes Screaming ‘Police Brutality." Members of Stormfront's various forums can also post comments to discussion threads with titles like "What do you want done with the Jews?", "Aryan Storm Rising" and "To Hate or Not to Hate." But one thing you won't usually find of late on Stormfront are racial slurs, which, though they sometimes get through, are banned in recent guidelines: "No profanity. Avoid racial epithets." New members are explicitly warned not to use such language, and also not to post violent threats or anything describing illegal activity. It's not that Stormfront is about moderation or rational discussion. The talk is all about the evils of African Americans, LGBT people, non-white immigrants, and, above all, Jews, who are blamed for most of what's wrong in the world. But Black clearly has modeled his site on some of the tactics used by David Duke, who famously urged his Klan followers to "get out of the cow pasture and into hotel meeting rooms." As Black once told a reporter, "We don't use the ‘nigger, nigger' type of approaches."

The ideal of creating an online community was expanded upon in 2002, when Jamie Kelso joined Stormfront. He successfully began to push leading radical-right movement writers — men like Sam Dickson, a leader of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, and Willis Carto, publisher of the Holocaust-denying journal The Barnes Review — to start posting. That was just part of an effort to make the site more inclusive. Although some posts are censored on the site (several posts critical of the National Alliance — a major neo-Nazi group — were deleted after the group's founder, William Pierce, died, and an internal war of succession broke out), it generally has tried to maintain a relatively nonsectarian stance, making people from different sectors of the radical right feel welcome to join in. As Black once told a reporter for Newhouse News Service: "Anyone can work to promote our ideas without being a member of any organization. I used to be annoyed by people who didn't join my organization, but I see the advantage now."

Black and Kelso have taken care to avoid appearing dictatorial. One result is that the forum, within the bounds of the radical right, feels relatively democratic — a gathering of people with similar interests in what increasingly looks like a real community. Every member can choose a graphic to accompany their postings.

Little smiley faces and other signs abound (Nazi symbology was common until it was banned, along with slurs like "nigger," in the spring of 2008). It's not unusual to spot two members using an animation where the faces toast with mugs of beer. There is a list of birthdays of members on the main page. Birthday greetings are frequently exchanged, along with notes of consolation or encouragement. There are essay contests and $2,000 scholarships for white kids.

In the fall of 2008, a private “sustaining members” section was added to the forum, specifically for those who have supported the site financially. The exclusive enclave of Stormfront’s most influential users eliminated much of the ‘noise’ found in the more popular and openly available sections such as “Newslinks & Articles.” It is also home to the majority of Don Black’s infrequent postings.

The results have been fairly spectacular. In January 2002, Stormfront had a mere 5,000 members. A year later, membership reached 11,000; and a year after that, in early 2004, it had 23,000. By 2008, membership had topped 133,000 registered users, although only about 20,000 were believed to be active posters. That doesn't include the large numbers of those who simply read Stormfront postings without joining up (becoming a member allows one to post messages and also to view personal information posted by other members).

But Stormfront may have been weakened in the summer of 2008, when the Intelligence Report reported that Black's wife Chloe worked for Emilia Fanjul, wife of Florida sugar baron Jose "Pepe" Fanjul, as an executive assistant. Part of Chloe's duties involved serving as a publicist for Glades Academy, a charter school created by Emilia Fanjul to help poor minority children — an irony picked up on by many major media outlets. Despite having a long movement history of her own and having attended an event put on a month earlier by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, Chloe Black told The Palm Beach Post that she was "not involved with the Web site and do not agree with extremist or racially prejudiced views." White supremacists were not happy. In racist Web forums, they ripped both Don and Chloe as less than true-blue racists, denouncing them for caring more about money, through Chloe's job, than their beliefs.

In 2010, Black, his son Derek, who has since renounced white nationalism, and Duke took up residence on a South Florida news and talk radio station with a large Haitian audience. This bi-weekly program, hosted by the far right-wing Rense Radio Network, was the predecessor for Stormfront Radio, which now reaches North America, as well as over 100 million homes in Europe and the Middle East, daily via satellite.

Later that same year, Stormfront introduced its now annual “Smoky Mountain Summit” near Knoxville, Tenn. Past speakers have included David Duke, Sam Dickson, a CCC member and well known Klan lawyer, Paul Fromm, Matthew Parrott, of the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN), Matthew Heimbach, also of TYN, Timothy Murchoch, also known as ‘Horace the Avenger’ of White Rabbit Radio, and Freeland Roy Dunscombe, also known as ‘Truck Roy,’ Don Black’s co-host on Stormfront radio. Plans have already been announced to continue the summit in 2015.

In April of 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a white paper entitled “White Homicide Worldwide” documenting the nearly 100 murders committed by members of Stormfront.

Stormfront had accumulated nearly 300,000 members as of its 20th anniversary as of March 2015. Two months later, that benchmark was officially passed. This growth in membership seems poised to continue, despite declining Alexa Internet traffic ratings (which measure all visitors, not just registered members), as the majority of the radical right continues to use the Internet as its primary means of activism.

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 as well as a cross-reference with the Southern Poverty Law Center to include any information provided by the SPLC. My request includes but is not limited to 137, 157, 176, 177, 183, 184, 188, 214 and 266 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.

Sincerely,

Michael Best

From: FOIPARequest

Dear 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 https://www.fbi.gov<http://www.fbi.gov>/, by clicking on the SERVICES link at the top of the homepage and then click on the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy picture, or the direct link is: https://www.fbi.gov/services/records-management/foia, or by accessing the U. S. Department of Justice at https://www.justice.gov/oip. If you require additional assistance please contact us at foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov.

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
Ofc: (540) 868-4593
Direct: (540) 868-4286
Fax: (540) 868-4391/4997

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.

From: Michael Best

I am appealing the decision to not perform the cross-reference searches and field office searches explicitly requested.

From: OIP-NoReply@usdoj.gov

02/15/2017 12:17 PM FOIA Request: DOJ-AP-2017-002300

From: OIP-NoReply@usdoj.gov

DOJ-AP-2017-002300 has been processed with the following final disposition: Closed for other reasons -- Other -- No Component Response to Adjudicate.

  • Best, Michael, DOJ-AP-2017-002300, FBI-Close search not ripe

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