Syrian Oil Licenses

Matthew Petti filed this request with the Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control of the United States of America .
Tracking #

2020-07-187

Due Aug. 27, 2020
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Matthew Petti


To Whom It May Concern:

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

- Any and all applications or written requests made from December 21, 2019 to July 30, 2020 for OFAC licenses to engage in transactions related to petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin; and
- Any and all all active licenses to engage in transactions related to petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin as of July 30, 2020.

I am more than happy to split this into two or more requests if it is faster or more convenient for you. For example, if you feel that it is significantly easier to process the request for active licenses than the request for applications, or vice versa, please feel free to contact me about how we can modify the request.

I am seeking expedited processing of my request pursuant to 5 U.S.C.§ 552(a)(6)(E) because there is an urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.

Senator Lindsay Graham said during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 30, 2020: “I talked to General Mazloum [Abdi] yesterday, with the [Syrian Democratic Forces]. Apparently they've signed a deal with an American oil company to modernize the oil fields in northeastern Syria. Are you supportive of that?”

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo confirmed the Senator's statement, adding that the deal is now "in implementation."

Secretary Pompeo's knowledge of this deal, which had not been public knowledge before the July 30, 2020 hearing, implies U.S. government involvement in negotiating access for the unnamed "American oil company."

Furthermore, President Donald Trump stated in October and November 2019 that U.S. military forces are remain in Syria "only for the oil" and that they "may have to fight for the oil." At least two U.S. service members have died in Syria since he made these statements.

Executive Order 13582 currently blocks transactions related to petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin. If the unnamed company did not receive a license for this deal, it would be in violation of U.S. sanctions law.

Therefore, this request concerns a Federal government activity in a matter of current exigency to the American public for several reasons: because U.S. troops are risking life and limb to protect Syrian oil for currently-unknown benefactors, and because recent statements by a senior U.S. official raise the possibility that U.S. Government bodies may not be in compliance with the law.

The consequences of delaying a response would compromise the American public's interest in breaking news, which has been recognized by Federal courts. One court held that a breaking news story "conveys information the public wants quickly,” “would lose value if it were delayed" (Am. Civil Liberties Union of N. Cal., 2006 WL 1469418 at *6.), and may have an "impact" on the public's political decision-making (Id. at *7).

Syria has previously been a hot-button issue in U.S. politics. The Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria in October 2019 generated

The public has an urgent need to understand a deal in the same region of Syria, facilitated by U.S. officials, guarded by U.S. military personnel at risk to life and limb, with presently unknown benefactors, especially before the November 2020 elections.

I am a reporter for the National Interest, and I am requesting this information in that editorial capacity. In addition to expedited processing, I request that I be properly classified as a news media requester.

The National Interest is widely recognized for its reporting, publishing regular features on issues of public interest and importance. In addition, I have covered areas related to this request, and plan to use my editorial skills to analyze and produce original reporting work for millions of monthly readers at NationalInterest.org.

If you have any questions about my media status, please contact me.

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,

Matthew Petti

From: Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control

Good afternoon,

Treasury is in receipt of your recently submitted FOIA request.

Thank you,

Cawana

From: Matthew Petti

Hello,

I am writing in regards to my FOIA request, 2020-07-187. In this request, I requested expedited processing "because there is an urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity." I would like to amend to my request for expedited processing.

As I reported in the National Interest today, Syrian Kurdish officials have contradicted elements of Secretary Pompeo's statement to Congress about Syrian oil. (https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/did-mike-pompeo-mislead-congress-about-syrias-oil-166158) This raises the stakes of delaying the request significantly. The public needs information on OFAC licenses to Syria urgently to understand both the extent of U.S. Government activities with regards to Syrian oil *and* whether U.S. Government officials have attempted to mislead members of Congress about those activities.

As always, thank you for the work that you do. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my request for expedited processing or any other part of my request.

Best regards,
Matthew

From: Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control

Dear Mr. Petti,

RE: FOIA No. 2020-07-187
OASIS No.: 1135061

Attached is OFAC's acknowledgement of your FOIA request number 2020-07-187.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, you may email OFACFOIAOffice@treasury.gov<mailto:OFACFOIAOffice@treasury.gov> or contact the FOIA Requester Service Center at 202-622-2500, option 3. Please reference your FOIA No. 2020-07-187 in any future communications.
Regards,

OFAC FOIA Office

From: Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control

Dear Mr. Petti,

RE: FOIA No. 2020-07-187
OASIS No.: 1135061

Attached is OFAC's acknowledgement of your FOIA request number 2020-07-187.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, you may email OFACFOIAOffice@treasury.gov<mailto:OFACFOIAOffice@treasury.gov> or contact the FOIA Requester Service Center at 202-622-2500, option 3. Please reference your FOIA No. 2020-07-187 in any future communications.
Regards,

OFAC FOIA Office

From: Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control

Dear Mr. Petti,

Re: FOIA #: 2020-07-187
Subj: Response to Status Update

Please be advised that we are still in the search phase of your request. There are currently 266 cases ahead of your request in our queue. I will note that splitting your request in two will not speed up our processing of your request.

Please be aware that any records we may have responsive to your request will have to be processed through our submitter notice process in accordance with 31 C.F.R. §1.5. Depending the number of responsive records, this will add substantial processing time to your case.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us through our FOIA requester Service Center at 202-622-2500, option 3 or via email to: OFACFOIAOffice@treasury.gov<mailto:OFACFOIAOffice@treasury.gov>. Please reference FOIA number 2020-07-187 in all communications regarding your request.

Sincerely,

Marshall Fields
Assistant Director
Information Disclosure and Records Management
Office of Sanctions Support and Operations
Office of Foreign Assets Control

Confidentiality Notice:
This email may contain privileged, confidential and or law enforcement sensitive information which is exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you have received this communication in error, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of the communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender.

From: Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control

Dear Mr. Petti,

Please be advised that because of the negative effect of Covid-19 and the fact that OFAC is working its way through a backlog of cases we are unable to provide you with a date certain when we can provide a response to you at this time.

There are currently 260 cases ahead of your request in our queue.

Sincerely,

Marshall Fields
Assistant Director
Information Disclosure and Records Management
Office of Sanctions Support and Operations
Office of Foreign Assets Control

Confidentiality Notice:
This email may contain privileged, confidential and or law enforcement sensitive information which is exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you have received this communication in error, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of the communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender.

From: Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control

Dear Mr. Petti;

Please be advised that there are currently 250 requests in our queue ahead of your request. We cannot at this time provide you with a date certain when we can provide you with a response.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact us at our FOIA Requester Service Center at OFACFOIAOffice@teasury.gov<mailto:OFACFOIAOffice@teasury.gov>. Please reference your FOIA #: 2020-0-187 in all communications related to your request.

Sincerely,

Marshall Fields
Assistant Director
Information Disclosure and Records Management
Office of Sanctions Support and Operations
Office of Foreign Assets Control

Confidentiality Notice:
This email may contain privileged, confidential and or law enforcement sensitive information which is exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you have received this communication in error, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of the communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender.

From: Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control

Dear Mr. Petti:

Re: Response to Status Update Request: FOIA #: 2020-07-187 and 2021-FOIA-00430

Request 2020-07-087 is for:
- Any and all applications or written requests made from December 21, 2019 to July 30, 2020 for OFAC licenses to engage in transactions related to petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin; and
- Any and all active licenses to engage in transactions related to petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin as of July 30, 2020.

Request 2021-FOIA-00430 relates to emails sent to or received from Delta Crescent LLC, James Cain, James Reese, and/or John P. Dorrier Jr. by any OFAC employee between November 3, 2020 and January 20, 2021.

Please be advised that there are currently 248 requests in our queue ahead of your request 2020-07-187. There are 294 request ahead of your 2021-FOIA-00430 in our queue. Unfortunately, we cannot at this time provide you with a date certain when we can provide you with a response

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding either request, please contact us at our FOIA Requester Service Center at OFACFOIAOffice@teasury.gov. Please reference the appropriate FOIA number in all communications related to your requests.

Sincerely,

Marshall Fields
Assistant Director
Information Disclosure and Records Management
Office of Sanctions Support and Operations
Office of Foreign Assets Control

OFAC FOIA Requester Service Center
OFACFOIAOffice@treasury.gov<mailto:OFACFOIAOffice@treasury.gov>
202-622-2500, Option 3

Confidentiality Notice:
This email may contain privileged, confidential and or law enforcement sensitive information which is exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you have received this communication in error, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of the communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender.

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