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Friday, October 1, 2004

FOIA Proof

by Michael Petrelis

Where is Bush's FBI file?

Click to Send PostcardWhen it comes to the issue of FBI files on President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry, the so-called liberal media have shown unquestionable bias in only scrutinizing Kerry's dossier and ignoring the possibility of a file on Bush.

An Associated Press story on May 5 detailed how the wire service got the FBI to hand over more than 9,000 pages on Kerry's role in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, by demanding their release under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

"The FBI considered John Kerry a 'glib, cool' spokesman for Vietnam war protesters," the AP reported.

Kerry's response was succinct and laudable.

"I think it's great [the FBI pages were released]. I'm very proud of my efforts to end the war. I welcome anybody's perusal of them. I'm proud that I stood up to Richard Nixon. And you know, I personally have also requested those documents. So I'm happy to have them out there. It's terrific," Kerry said.

Using the FOIA clause for expediting processing, I requested Bush's FBI file, assuming there is one. I'd be shocked if there isn't.

I took this action because not only the AP but also every other news report on Kerry and the veterans' dossiers didn't broach the matter of a Bush file.

The FBI denied fast-tracking my request, placing it in the regular processing queue. If I'm lucky, this means the agency will likely release Bush's FBI file at the end of 2005.

There are at least three angles through which the media should look at the issue of FBI files and the two leading contenders for the White House.

First, if press organizations and their lawyers are going to request and examine one candidate's FBI files, and I think they should, the same request must be made for other contender's file, if only to treat the candidates fairly and equally.

Second, given the context of the AP's filing FOIA requests for Bush's National Guard records and Kerry's FBI dossier, the question must be raised as to why the AP, along with other media, have made no apparent effort to use FOIA to obtain the Bush FBI record.

Third, Bush and his administration could themselves make his FBI file available to the press and public, generating extensive coverage. Should that occur, Bush, like Kerry, should "welcome anybody's perusal of" his FBI files.

I've taken an interest in this issue because I'm a gay male voter and news consumer with a blog in which I have researched political donations from journalists and media executives to both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and their PACs.

What I've discovered is that among media personalities who have donated, the money has flowed overwhelmingly to Kerry and the Democratic National Committee. The contributions from journalists to Kerry lend credence to the oft-repeated charge the media are biased toward liberals.

But if this bias were genuine, then I would expect the "liberal" media to jump through high hoops to acquire the FBI file on Bush; however, this has not yet occurred.

Although the election is little more than a month away, there is still time enough for the FBI to release Bush's file before America votes, if the following provision of FOIA is invoked, allowing for expedited processing and release of files:

"[There is a] matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which effect public confidence."

It wouldn't take much effort to create the exceptional interest necessary, forcing release of the Bush FBI file, if reporters understood the democratic and journalistic importance of obtaining the file.

So c'mon, liberal media. Live up to your reputation and ask this question of the White House: Where's Bush's FBI file?

Michael Petrelis is a renowned San Francisco-based activist who has played an instrumental role in securing and disseminating information on many topics ranging from disclosure of political donations by various media organizations to demanding accountability from various health departments and agencies in San Francisco. While many decry his tactics, he is quite possibly the most diligent, tenacious and effective activist you’ll ever meet. He also, incidentally, has an impressively large FBI file all of his own. He can be reached at mpetrelis@aol.com


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