WikiLeaks emails

Emma Best filed this request with the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America.
Tracking #

F-2018-01938, F-2019-02133


Due Aug. 31, 2018
Est. Completion None
Awaiting Response

Crowdfund Request: WikiLeaks emails

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After declaring there would be at least 5,000 pages of releasable emails on WikiLeaks, CIA has repeatedly stonewalled the FOIA request, going so far as to argue that most of their emails on WikiLeaks “will not further the public’s understanding of the operations or activities of Government.” CIA is now simply ignoring the appeal and repeated attempts to follow-up. While Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors – who represented MuckRock in the lawsuit which established the precedent making this FOIA possible – has agreed to work on the case and recover his fees from the Agency afterward, we still need to cover the actual costs associated with the request, such as filing fees, travel and other expenses.

Backed by Michael Morisy, Emma Best, Penny Allen, Dane Owen, and 10 others.

$340.00 raised out of $3,450.00.

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From: Emma Best

To Whom It May Concern:

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

Copies of all emails containing the non-case sensitive terms "WikiLeaks", "Wiki Leaks" or "". Please include the complete email exchange for each email, including any emails that are being replied to as well as any subsequent replies.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities. I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through non-profits such as the Internet Archive and MuckRock, 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 my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available, I 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.


Emma Best

From: Central Intelligence Agency

A letter stating the requester must agree to or prepay assessed or estimated fees in order for the agency to continue processing the request.

From: Emma Best

From your letter (attached), it appears that you didn't consider the fee waiver request in my original FOIA. I think that given the events of the past few years, CIA would have a hard time arguing that it isn't a matter of considerable public interest – and given CIA's confirmed interest in it (per statements by then-Director Pompeo, etc.) it would be impossible to argue that those emails, which are apparently extensive, will not illuminate government operations, specifically regarding its handling of a high profile case with significant national and international implications.

Would you consider the fee waiver, or confirm in writing that you are denying it, before I address the issues of potentially commiting to fees and/or limiting the scope.

Emma Best

From: Central Intelligence Agency

An interim response, stating the request is being processed.

From: Central Intelligence Agency

An interim response, stating the request is being processed.

From: Kel McClanahan

(To clarify, this request and appeal are being made in both MuckRock’s name and my own. When I use the first person pronouns “I,” “me,” or “my,” it should be read to refer to me in my professional capacity as a writer for MuckRock.)

I am appealing the Agency’s decision to provide only a “partial” fee waiver, as the entirety of the corpus is in the public interest and would significantly improve the public’s understanding not only of the operations and activities of the U.S. government, but non-government activities of national and international importance. The Agency’s own remarks highlight the importance of events surrounding WikiLeaks, and the Agency’s response to WikiLeaks publications and allegations.

Moreover, there is no basis in law for a demand for advance payment of fees based on a “partial” fee waiver when there is no evidence offered by the Agency that the release of any of the records would not serve the public interest other than a conclusory statement that such is the case. If the Agency wishes to provide more details about the particular records which would not meet the public interest test, I will be happy to appeal that assertion with particularity, but until then, the Agency has failed to provide any information sufficient to allow me to intelligently appeal this unsupported blanket argument that an unspecified number of records may exist in CIA records, the release of which would not be in the public interest (especially since there is informational value in knowing what information CIA is maintaining about WikiLeaks, regardless of whether the information has any additional intrinsic value to the public).

Despite the Agency’s failure to explain why the release of some records about WikiLeaks would serve the public interest while others would not, I will briefly draw your attention to some of the Agency’s statements about WikiLeaks, to highlight the point that there is a public interest in the release of any CIA records about WikiLeaks:

In his July 11, 2017, remarks at INSA, CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks an “insidious adversar[y]” and “a non-state hostile intelligence service that recruits spies, rewards people who steal legitimate secrets, and uses that information to subvert Western democracies.” (

In a message dated November 8, 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta referred to WikiLeaks’ publications as an “egregious example” of media leaks, some of which reportedly resulted in “CIA sources and methods have been compromised.” (

In Studies in Intelligence Vol. 54, No. 4 (Extracts, December 2010), published by the Agency, WikiLeaks’ publications are referred to as a “debacle.” (

In a September 14, 2017, letter, CIA Director Pompeo wrote that “WikiLeaks is an enemy of the United States, akin to a hostile intelligence service... and many intelligence and military officials believe [WikiLeaks] put the lives of the patriotic men and women at the CIA in danger. And those military and intelligence officials are right.”

CIA highlighted not only the impact of WikiLeaks, but its importance to the public. In CIA’s March 8, 2017, statement, the Agency stated that “the American public should be deeply troubled by any WikiLeaks disclosure designed to damage the Intelligence Community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries. Such disclosures not only jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.” (

In remarks made on April 13, 2017, before CSIS, CIA Director Pompeo said that the celebration of WikiLeaks is “both perplexing and deeply troubling” to CIA. The Director continued, “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It has encouraged its followers to find jobs at CIA in order to obtain intelligence. ... And it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States, while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations. It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. In January of this year, our Intelligence Community determined that Russian military intelligence—the GRU—had used WikiLeaks to release data of US victims that the GRU had obtained through cyber operations against the Democratic National Committee. And the report also found that Russia’s primary propaganda outlet, RT, has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.” (

Studies in Intelligence Vol. 55, No. 3 (Extracts, September 2011), published by the Agency, included an article which stated that WikiLeaks publications had “a chilling effect on the reporting that policy makers and analysts rely upon for interpretive perspective, cogent assessment, and informed policy formulation and implementation.” It also said that WikiLeaks’ disclosures could “serve America’s adversaries the world over,” and that they “sows mistrust and undercuts [diplomatic] relationships in whatever phase they find themselves.” (

In the January 6, 2017, DNI report (to which CIA contributed) stated that “the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks. Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity.”

The 2018 Intelligence Authorization Act, (S. 1761), states that “it is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”

The October 7, 2016, joint statement by DHS and DNI included the statement that WikiLeaks disclosures “are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” (

Given these statements and the overall importance of the government’s response to WikiLeaks, it is in the public’s interest to understand everything possible regarding what the government says and does in this respect. If the government’s actions are trivial, then this is of importance to the public because it will highlight the lack of attention being paid to this alleged “non-state hostile intelligence service.” If the government’s actions are significant, then they are obviously of importance to the public. Director Pompeo’s statement that the Agency found support for WikiLeaks to be “perplexing” further highlights the necessity of a complete picture of the government’s response and reaction to the organization and its publication. The declaration that the organization is “perplexing” emphasizes the nuanced nature of the Agency’s internal discussion and debate regarding the group. If the Director’s words are taken at face value, then the Agency’s discussion will not be a monolithic perspective repeated over and over by different people, but a deep and varied discussion of events which, according to the Director, “the American public should be deeply troubled by.”

Additionally, I appeal the Agency’s fee assessment. It appears that the Agency has assessed fees according to its $0.10/page rate for paper copies (referring in its August 1, 2018, letter to 5000 pages and $500), while I clearly requested electronic records to be released on CD or by email. According to 32 CFR 1900.13(g)(1), CIA is only allowed to charge $20 for each CD. Since a CD can hold much more than 5000 pages, CIA has not given any reason for its conclusion that there are any assessable fees, let alone more than $250 worth, and therefore the assessed fees are unreasonable.

From: Emma Best

It has been three months since the appeal was filed, and no response. Will you at least acknowledge the appeal?

From: Emma Best

It's been a month since I asked for an acknowledgment of the appeal, which was three months after I filed the appeal. Will you please acknowledge the appeal and provide a status update? This is ridiculous.

From: Emma Best

Please at least acknowledge the appeal, which was filed nearly five months ago. This is my third attempt to follow-up.

From: Emma Best

Please acknowledge the appeal. It's been five months since I filed it. This is my fourth attempt to follow-up and receive acknowledgment of the appeal.

From: Emma Best

We're nearly to six (6) months since I submitted the appeal. Care to at least acknowledge it? The longer you take to do so, the worse you'll look when I file the lawsuit.

From: Central Intelligence Agency

A letter stating the request for reduced or waived fees has been accepted.

From: Emma Best

Please update me on the status of my FOIA request. It's been nearly two years since I submitted it.