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Monday, April 25, 2005

Mouth Wide Shut

by Michael Petrelis

Dear Friends:

In early July 2004 I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the agency's files on President George W. Bush and I expected two things to happen.

One, someone would step forward and tell me that another activist had already filed such a request for the FBI's file on Bush.

Or two, a friend would point out a mainstream news story about a reporter's request to obtain the file.

Neither thing happened, which surprised me because I thought surely during Bush's presidency up until that point, an effort would have been made to pressure the FBI into releasing whatever documents they could, without compromising Bush's privacy or national security.

It was easy enough to locate news accounts, blog entries and assorted other information on the web about the thousands of pages from Sen. John Kerry's FBI files, both as an individual against the Vietnam War and as a leader in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War protest group, but Googling for Bush's FBI dossier produced nothing of substance.

How it 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.

Only a handful of alternative outlets wrote about my FOIA request for the Bush file. Two gay newspapers, the San Francisco Bay Times and the Dallas Voice, along with RawStory.com ran stories about his file. That's been it so far in terms of news coverage and I thought the FBI, if it ever saw fit to release any of its files on Bush to me, would do so only after he was out of the Oval Office.

I am pleased to write I was wrong.

The FBI in mid April sent me a letter explaining that it had reviewed twenty pages on Bush and they were being released to me.

In the twenty pages is information about an email threat against the president, threatening packages sent to him, letters from the U.S. Secret Service to the FBI forensic laboratory request DNA analyses and the lab's replies.

That's it, nothing more, claims the FBI. There's nothing in their correspondence to me indicating any additional pages or documents were withheld.

Does the FBI really expect me to believe that it has only twenty pages in its files on Bush? How could it be, I wonder, given his four years as president and six years as governor of Texas, not to mention the clearances he would have needed from the FBI to walk into the White House when his father was first vice president and then president, that the agency would have less than two dozen pages to release in response to a FOIA request?

There has to be more, much more, in the FBI archives on Bush, which is why I have filed an appeal to the FBI to again search its files for records on Bush, including the archives of all FBI offices in Texas.

While I wait for the FBI to process and respond to my appeal, I hope the liberal media will look into this matter and report on the incredibly slim number of pages the FBI has released from Bush's file.

In order to help reporters with this story, I've put the twenty pages from the FBI into a PDF, which is available at http://www.annoy.com/sectionless/doc.html?DocumentID=100708

I can't fathom how anyone, much less any serious reporter looking for a good story, could read those twenty pages and say the FBI has released all it has on Bush and the agency has fully complied with my FOIA request.

If I, as a single blogger activist, can force the FBI to release anything from its vaults on Bush through FOIA, imagine what an intrepid reporter, with lawyers and other resources at his or her disposal, could pry loose from the FBI.

It's time for the press to investigate and report on Bush's FBI file.

Additional documents & resources

George W. Bush FBI File
Michael Petrelis Appeal to FBI for Additional Information
FOIA Proof
Petrelis Files - Michael's Personal Blog

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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