Ware Group

Emma North-Best filed this request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.
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From: Emma 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 the Ware group, which was a covert organization of Communist Party USA operatives within the United States government in the 1930s, run first by Harold Ware (1889–1935) and then by Whittaker Chambers (1901–1961) after Ware's accidental death on August 13, 1935. The first known meeting of the Ware Group occurred in late 1933 with eight members: John Abt, Henry Collins, Alger Hiss, Victor Perlo, Lee Pressman, Nathaniel Weyl, and Nathan Witt. Initially, Peters instructed that members make "exceptional money sacrifices" to the Party, study Marxist theory and Party doctrine, observe "strictest secrecy," and to obtain "any government documents" available to them. (Known members laters claimed that theirs was merely a "Marxist study group.)

By 1934, the group had grown to some 75 members, divided into cells. Members initially joined Marxist study groups and then into activities on behalf of the Party. They shared a belief that Marxist ideologies were the correct way to approach the problems of the ongoing Great Depression. Whittaker Chambers also stated that Ware could have been acting "pursuant to orders from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the United States". The Ware group started among young lawyers and economists hired by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). This New Deal agency reported to the Secretary of Agriculture but was operated independently of Department of Agriculture bureaucracy. All the members of the Ware Group were dues paying members of the Communist Party. J. Peters considered the Ware Group one of his major sources of income. Nathaniel Weyl felt that members of the Ware Group were acquiring "the training in the complex business of running a state that would be in high demand and short supply when the United States chose Socialism", that "in a Communist regime they would be poised to move to the head of the table."

Alleged members of the Ware Group included:

J. Peters
Harold Ware
Whittaker Chambers
John Abt
Lee Pressman
George Silverman
Victor Perlo
Alger Hiss
Charles Kramer
Nathan Witt
Henry Collins
Marion Bachrach
John Herrmann
Nathaniel Weyl
Donald Hiss
Hope Hale Davis
Harry Dexter White

To clarify, the intent of this request is for files relating to the activities of the group. At this time, there's no need to provide the full files on the group's individual alleged members.

Please conduct a search of the Central Records System, including but not limited to the ELSUR Records System, 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 for all relevant names, individuals, agencies and companies. If any potentially responsive records have been destroyed and/or transferred to NARA, then I request copies of the destruction or transfer slips as well as any other documentation relating to, mentioning or describing said transfer or destruction, to include but not be limited to confirmation that the Bureau has no other copies of said records (as the Bureau has posted copies of records that it previously said were transferred to NARA such as the Tokyo Rose file).

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I am freelance writer who has previously written about the government and its activities for MuckRock, Motherboard, Unicorn Riot, AND Magazine and Glomar Disclosure. My articles have been widely read, with some reaching over 100,000 readers. My work has been further discussed in outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and BBC. 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 FOIA guidance, "a requester should be granted a fee waiver if the requested information (1) sheds light on the activities and operations of the government; (2) is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of those operations and activities; and (3) is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester." As this FOIA meets all of those requirements (see above regarding the subject and how I will apply the information), a fee waiver is warranted.

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: Federal Bureau of Investigation

An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.

From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A fix is required to perfect the request.