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FBI locates 780 pages of Vice President's 'FBI file,' but hasn't released after nearly two years

John Byrne
Published: February 17, 2006

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Updated to include Friday response from FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has responded to a request from a San Francisco-based blogger for Vice President Dick Cheney’s FBI file—but has been withholding its release since September 2005, RAW STORY has learned.

In a letter to blogger Michael Petrelis, of PetrelisFiles.com, the section chief for the FBI’s records management division acknowledged in August 2005 that the bureau had located some 780 pages on the vice president. Petrelis then agreed to pay for all copying costs.

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To date, Petrelis hasn’t received a single page on Cheney.

Petrelis made the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2004 along with a request for files relating to President George W. Bush. He requested that the files be expedited in Sept. 2004, a month before the presidential election, citing the fact that myriad pages of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) FBI files had already been released. He received 20 pages on President Bush in April 2005.

The FBI public affairs unit referred calls to the FOIA office. An aide in the FOIA office said that 783 pages had been approved for release but that the case had not been closed. Loren Shaver, listed as the contact on the FBI letters, did not return a call seeking comment.

After publication of this article, RAW STORY was able to reach Shaver, who explained that the files were "still undergoing declassification review."

"We have a lot of cases," Shaver added.

Petrelis’ letters show that the FBI found substantially more releasable material on Cheney than they did on Bush. In addition, a letter from the FBI in September 2005 references an additional file.

“Mr. Shaver advised you that we had located on additional file, concerning the Vice President’s travel plans,” bureau section chief David Hardy wrote.

In the letter, Hardy also indicated the records would be released soon—when he wrote Petrelis in September of last year.

“We anticipate that a disclosure of responsive materials will be made in the near future,” Hardy wrote.

In conversations with RAW STORY over several months, Petrelis said the FOIA office had told him that the delays were due to the declassification process. After the office locates files relevant to a request, they must then be examined by government censors to expunge any information believed to jeopardize national security. Such information may include, but not be limited to, information of a personal nature or information that may compromise ongoing law enforcement investigations.

Petrelis had requested the files be expedited in September 2004, which the FBI rejected. Thousands of pages were released on Democratic nominee John Kerry, who had participated in anti-Vietnam war groups, as late as June of 2004. Kerry had agreed to their release, and many of them were obtained through historical information act requests about specific protest groups.

"I requested these files because the American public must know what's in the dossiers on Bush and Cheney," Petrelis said at the time. "Democrat John Kerry's voluminous FBI files were scrutinized by reporters and the subject of hundreds of news accounts in March of this year. Less than sixty days before the November election, the FBI has a responsibility to treat Bush and Cheney's files equal to those on Kerry, which means releasing their files forthwith."

Petrelis was denied expedited processing for the records’ release. A later appeal was also denied.

When the twenty pages were released on Bush, Petrelis raised concerns that the FBI was withholding files. The FBI responded, saying that most of the president’s records are protected by privacy laws. Information act requests can be rejected if the individual is still living and the records are considered to infringe on personal privacy, or if the individual is not considered enough of a public figure for their release.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson told RAW STORY last year that much of the president’s records are protected by privacy provisions in the law. He also stated that the FOIA laws are complex, and include many exemptions. On such exemption, he said, is if “an individual who made a threat made multiple threats and are currently the target of ongoing cases.”

The Bush records, which contained information about two alleged threats against the President in 2001 and 2003, were scant; comprising letters from the U.S. Secret Service to the FBI forensic laboratory requesting DNA analyses and the lab’s replies. But there was no information about the president’s background.

Debbie Beatty, who works in the Historical and Executive Review Unit at the FBI and spoke for the FOIA office, told RAW STORY in October of 2004 that--to her knowledge--no other media organization had requested Bush’s file in 2004.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Beatty said. “I supervise all incoming mail.”

Petrelis, who filed the Bush request in July of 2004, later wrote at his blog, "How could it be that during the most important election of the past half century, the supposed liberal media could devote resources, ink and airtime to the FBI files of only one of the two major contenders for the White House, and totally ignore what the agency may have on the other candidate?"

"To their shame, no mainstream news outlet, liberal or conservative, bothered to investigate what the FBI has in its archives on Bush or efforts to obtain his file," he added.

The letters Petrelis received from the FBI follow.

Read RAW STORY's article on the Bush FBI file fight here, or check out Petrelis' site.



 


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