Contact: Michael Petrelis Email: Phone: 415-621-6267

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sunshine Week

March 16, 2005

Sunshine Week Coordinators
Various News Outlets

Dear Coordinator:

Thank you for organizing Sunshine Week, designed to call public and press attention to the Freedom of Information Act and ways in which citizens and reporters can use FOIA's to gain access to government documents.

I am a blogger who on July 6, 2004, filed a FOIA request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the agency's files on President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. I created a blog just for the correspondence between the FBI and myself, and news accounts of my efforts to obtain the dossiers on Bush and Cheney.

FOIA allows for expedited processing of requests when there is widespread media interest or a matter of crucial national importance, such as a presidential election, so I asked the FBI to make a speedy release of the files requested, but, my expedited appeal was denied.

The full text of the FBI's denial for expediting is attached below.

The progressive online news service reported back on October 19, 2004, that the "FBI confirmed to RAW STORY today that it had received Petrelis’ request July 28. In their letter denying an expedited release, the bureau said that the request had been placed in their regular processing queue."
RawStory discovered an interesting fact about the number of reporters who've asked for these records.

"Debbie Beatty, who works in the Historical and Executive Review Unit at the FBI and spoke for the FOIA office, stated the request was in the queue. She said that to her knowledge, no other media organization has requested Bush’s file. 'Not that I’m aware of,' Beatty said. 'I supervise all incoming mail.'"

My request to you today is to have news editors, reporters familiar with FOIA and the FBI, and news bloggers ask the FBI this question:

When will the FBI meet the full provisions of FOIA and provide its files on Bush and Cheney available to the press and public?

During this inaugural Sunshine Week, please consider writing about the president's and the vice president's FBI files, how they've not yet been released, yet thousands of pages from Sen. John Kerry's records were long ago released under FOIA.

For the history on my FBI FOIA request, please visit

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267

Monday, December 06, 2004

Dallas Voice story

Dear Friends:

As far as I know, this is the first article to appear in print about my efforts to get Bush's FBI file released through a FOIA request. It gives me tremendous pleasure that's a gay paper to put this in print, and a paper in Texas! Let's hope this story creates some pressure on the FBI to release whatever files it has on Dubya.

Michael Petrelis

December 3, 2004
The Dallas Voice

Firebrand West Coast activist glad to resume watchdog role Past legal consequences convince Petrelis to adopt less aggressive
tactics to monitor media; he still seeks release of President’s FBI file

By David Webb
Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Three years after he all but disappeared from the political scene, gay activist Michael Petrelis is back at work creating controversy.

The absence was painful for him, Petrelis said. He vowed to avoid the pitfalls that landed him in the San Francisco County Jail for 72 days in late 2001. The activist, self-described as “notorious,” said he learned the value of civility and patience while spending time behind bars for harassing public officials and members of the media.

“It’s taught me a lesson not to go over the line, and that phone calls in the middle of the night are not OK,” Petrelis said. “It also taught me to appreciate the freedom that I do have.”

The result is a “more mellow” watchdog for the GLBT community, Petrelis said.
Other than that, the activist admitted to being the same agitator he was in Nov. 2001 when San Francisco’s district attorney filed multiple felony charges against him, and a judge ordered him held on $500,000 bond. He pleaded no contest to two counts of making threats in February 2002 and was placed on three years’ probation.

For almost two years after his release from jail Petrelis attracted little attention, living a quieter existence in the Mission District of San Francisco with his partner of nearly 10 years. Then, suddenly, early this year he began attracting national attention again with his e-mails and phone calls.

Petrelis, who has long quarreled with the media and public health officials about AIDS statistics and other issues, targeted members of the media for making political contributions and not disclosing them. He exposed several reporters and editors who had contributed money to political candidates in violation of their publication’s employee policies.

Then Petrelis filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI for the release of President Bush’s file. The FBI notified Petrelis it would process the request — which is still pending. The activist flew to Washington to hold a press conference about his quest.

It would be impossible to abandon activism forever, said Petrelis, during an interview in San Francisco’s Castro district last week.

“I believe that activism is keeping me alive,” said Petrelis, who was found to have HIV in 1985. “I really believe it has given me lots of reasons to live and to keep up a good immune system.”

Petrelis said he was surprised when the media reported what he had discovered on the Internet about journalists and their political contributions.

“I thought my activist career was over when I had my legal troubles, and that no reporter anywhere would ever talk to me again,” Petrelis said. “That’s nice to still have credibility that leads to some news stories about my latest interests.”

Petrelis said he stumbled onto the information about journalists and their political contributions while surfing the Internet.

“I do have a problem with reporters and editors making donations to politicians and not disclosing they are making such donations,” Petrelis said. “It’s just that making the donations in the first place jeopardizes their impartiality as journalists.”

Petrelis said he turned his attention to President Bush’s FBI file because he has been unable to find any reference to anyone ever examining it in a news story or elsewhere.

“I think the American people should have had access to the Bush FBI file before the recent election,” Petrelis said. “I hope the FBI gives me the Bush file without everything blacked out and some attention gets paid to it.”

Petrelis said he would appeal to receive a complete copy of the file if the FBI withholds information.

So far, Petrelis said he has managed to control his temper and abide by the rules of conduct he accepted when he was placed on probation. He is limited to sending one fax or one letter per day to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Petrelis said he and another activist, who died earlier this year, got into trouble because they became enraged by what they saw as attempts by the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco health department to “demonize gay men over sexually-transmitted diseases.”

“I’ve had quite a temper over the years, and I think it comes from my ethnic background,” said Petrelis, who is of Greek and Italian heritage.

Petrelis’ boyfriend, Michael E. Merrigan, said it has been an “incredibly rewarding” experience to live with the activist. He called life with Petrelis “complicated, special and wonderful.”

“He is one of the most principled people it has ever been my privilege to know,” said Merrigan, who has been a legal secretary for the same lawyer for 22 years. “For every bit as tough and strident as he can be when hammering a conviction home to someone who doesn’t want to hear the message, he is a gentle, affectionate and thoroughly nonviolent man.

Petrelis said Merrigan, whom he met during an “anonymous sexual experience in a backroom bar,” stood by him during his legal problems.

“I have to say my partner has gone way above and beyond the call of duty for the average gay boyfriend,” Petrelis said.

Petrelis said that he and his partner decided not to get married when the city’s official briefly allowed same-sex marriages earlier this year, but he witnessed other couples’ marriages.

“It was amazing that a cynical, jaded activist like me had tears just looking at everyone waiting in line for hours to get married,” Petrelis said. “I’m so happy I was alive to see that day.”

Petrelis, who was raised in New Jersey, said he considers San Francisco the best environment for his activism and for the treatment of his HIV infection. The city’s AIDS services programs receive enough funding that they can offer alternative treatments as well as basic drug treatment and doctor visits, he said.

Although he acknowledges that his criticisms of AIDS funding often annoys the managers and clients of service agencies, the activist said he enjoys “begrudging respect” from many of the city’s gay residents.

“I love it here,” Petrelis said. “I don’t think I could live anywhere else in America.”


Friday, November 12, 2004

FOIA requests on the White House at low level

Dear Friends:

It is generally agreed upon by White House watchers that under President George W. Bush, the flow of information from the Administration and leaks to the press are tighter than under any other recent president.

One way of extracting information out of the White House is, of course, through Freedom of Information Act requests, which are tracked by the Office of Administration.

Not all components of the White House fall under the provisions of FOIA, as explained on the White House web site:

"The President's immediate personal staff and units within the EOP whose sole function is to advise and assist the President are not subject to FOIA.
"The EOP entities subject to the FOIA are:
Council on Environmental Quality
Office of Administration
Office of Management and Budget
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Office of the United States Trade Representative

"The EOP entities exempt from the provisions of the FOIA are:

White House Office
Office of the Vice President
Council of Economic Advisers
National Security Council
Office of Policy Development
Domestic Policy Council
Office of National AIDS Policy
National Economic Council
President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board"

Even with so many parts of the White House off-limits to FOIA requests, I'd think requests from the press and public for documents and data from the components that are subject to FOIA would be high, especially for the current Bush Administration.

But a look at the annual FOIA reports for the White House available on the web reveal FOIA requests are at an all-time low.

The highest number of recent FOIA requests were made during Bill Clinton's last year in office, 97.

Conversely, the lowest number of FOIA requests made on the White House were recorded in 2003, when only 38 such requests were filed.

Here are the numbers from the White House:

Number of requests received during current fiscal year: 54

Number of requests received during current fiscal year: 63

Number of requests received during current fiscal year: 97

Number of requests received during current fiscal year: 91

Number of requests received during current fiscal year: 47

Number of requests received during current fiscal year: 38

Maybe it's naive of me to think reporters, especially those for liberal publications, the public and citizen watchdogs would be using FOIA to obtain information from the George W. Bush White House, but that clearly isn't the case.

Considering this Administration is so tightlipped, I'd expect dozens, maybe hundreds, of FOIA requests made to pry loose documents and information, particularly related to the Office of Management and Budget, given the sorry shape of the economy.

As the second term begins for Dubya, I hope that by calling some attention to the incredibly low number of FOIA requests last year, just 38, more members of the press and public use FOIA to make the White House more transparent and accountable in the next four years.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

FBI denies expedited request

This letter arrived via snail mail yesterday morning. Although DOJ is denying my appeal for expedited processing for release of the FBI's file on Bush, it's good to know my regular FOIA request for the dossier is still in their normal processing queue.

Two minor points. My appeal letter was dated August 27, not undated as the DOJ co-director claims. Also, the director of public affairs for the FBI is Mark Corallo, not Carallo.

If you know of any attorneys or a public interest research group willing to assist me in gaining access to Bush's FBI file, such as filing a federal lawsuit, please put them in touch with me. It's too bad only one reporter, John Byrne of, has written about the Bush FBI, but that will change, I hope, once the dossier is released.

My phone number is 415-621-6267.

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Information and Privacy
Washington, DC 20530
Ph: 202-514-3642

November 2, 2004

Re: Appeal No. 04-2795, Request No. 1001866

Mr. Michael Petrelis
2215-R Market Street, #413
San Francisco, CA 94114

Dear Mr. Petrelis:

This responds to your undated letter received in this Office on September 7, 2004, in which you appealed the refusal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to expedite the processing of your request for records concerning President George W. Bush. I regret the delay in responding.

I am affirming the FBI's denial of your request for expedited treatment under 28 C.F.R. 16.5 (d) (iv) (2004), which allows for expedited treatment of matters of "widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exists possible questions about the government's integrity which effect the public confidence."

The decision under that standard was made by Mark Carallo, Director of the Office of Public Affairs, in accordance with 28 C.F.R. 16.5 (d) (2). I have determined that Mr. Carallo properly denied your request for expedited processing.

The FBI has already initiated regular processing of your request. You may appeal again to this office when the FBI completes its action on this particular request if any of the responsive material is denied. We will then open a new appeal and review the component's substantive action on your request.

If you are dissatisfied with my action on your request for expedited treatment of your appeal, you may seek judicial review in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552 (a) (6) (E) (iii).

Richard L. Huff

Monday, October 25, 2004

FBI stats: Racial hate crimes up, antigay reports level

Dear Friends:

The latest crime statistics for the U.S. were released today by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, showing a drop in 2003 of reported total hate crimes from 2001, but a slight increase from the 2002 figures.

The FBI recorded a total of 9,726 hate crimes in 2001, with 7,462 bias cases in 2002 and 7,489 reported hate crimes for 2003.

Broken down by percentage, reported hate crimes with a sexual orientation bias are up in the latest report from 2001 when the figure was 14.3 percent, but basically unchanged from 16.7 percent in 2002 to 16.6 percent for 2003.

Reported racially motivated hate crimes increased from 44.9 percent in 2001 up to 51.4 percent for 2003.

Excerpts from FBI press releases about these reported bias crimes are below, along with links to the full announcements.


Hate crime data were provided by 11,987 law enforcement agencies. The 9,726 hate crime incidents reported in 2001 involved 11,447 separate offenses, 12,016 victims, and 9,231 known offenders.

Of all reported single-bias incidents, 44.9 percent were motivated by racial bias, 21.6 percent were motivated by an ethnicity or national origin bias, 18.8 percent were based on a religious bias, 14.3 percent were based on a sexual-orientation bias, and 0.3 percent were based on a disability bias.



A total of 12,073 law enforcement agencies contributed hate crime data to the UCR Program in 2002. Of these agencies, 1,868 agencies (15.5 percent) submitted 7,462 hate crime incident reports that involved 8,832 separate offenses, 9,222 victims, and 7,314 known offenders.

Of the total number of single-bias crime incidents reported in 2002, 48.8 percent were motivated by racial bias, 19.1 percent were driven by religious bias, 16.7 percent were motivated by sexual-orientation bias, 14.8 percent resulted from an ethnicity/national origin bias, and 0.6 percent were motivated by disability bias.



In 2003, 11,909 agencies actively participated in the hate crime portion of the UCR Program, and 1,967 of those agencies reported 7,489 hate crime incidents involving 8,715 separate offenses, 9,100 victims, and 6,934 known offenders.

More than half (51.4 percent) of all single-bias hate crime incidents in 2003 were racially motivated. Law enforcement investigators attributed nearly 18 percent (17.9) of hate crimes to a religious bias, 16.6 percent to a sexual-orientation bias, 13.7 percent to a bias based on ethnicity/national origin, and 0.4 percent to a disability bias.

FBI omits 9/11 from bin Laden wanted poster

October 25, 2004

Robert S. Mueller lll
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001

Re: Osama bin Laden's FBI Wanted Poster

Dear Mr. Mueller:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's current wanted poster for terrorist Osama bin Laden is of grave concern to me because crucial information is missing. [Source:].

First, absolutely no mention is made of bin Laden's role masterminding the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

The poster states he is wanted for "murder of U.S. nationals outside the United States; conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals outside the United States; attack on a federal facility resulting in death ... [and] in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed over 200 people. In addition, bin Laden is a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world."

Does the FBI not recognize bin Laden's central role in the 9/11 attacks?

Second, bin Laden's poster was last revised in November 2001, two months after the tragedy of 9/11. Surely the FBI has gathered new intelligence on him since then, warranting an update of his wanted poster.

Again, does your agency not acknowledge his involvement in the 9/11 attacks? If so, then the nearly three-year-old wanted posted requires revision.

Third, the FBI spells bin Laden's first name only one way, Usama. The list of his aliases fails to inform the public that he also spells it Osama.

It seems to me immediate revisions are needed on bin Laden's FBI wanted poster, clearly stating he was behind the 9/11 attacks, with any new information regarding his suspected whereabouts, and all possible spellings of his name.

The American public deserves accurate and up-to-date information on bin Laden, which may ultimately lead to his capture and prosecution.

Michael Petrelis
Phone: 1-415-621-6267
Postal: 2215-R Market Street, #413
San Francisco, CA 94114

Article from Raw Story


Activist to press for release of Bush FBI files Wednesday in Washington;
FOIA attorney says FBI should likely expedite release

By John Byrne | RAW STORY Editor

A California activist will fly to Washington D.C. tomorrow to demand the release of President George W. Bush’s Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance file on the steps of the FBI headquarters in Washington Wednesday.

Michael Petrelis, who says he placed a Freedom of Information Act request for the President’s file July 6, says he has not received the file. He made a request that the request be expedited due to the presidential election, but it was denied.

The FBI confirmed to RAW STORY today that it had received Petrelis’ request July 28. In their letter denying an expedited release, the bureau said that the request had been placed in their regular processing queue.

The FBI would not confirm or deny whether they kept a file on Bush.

“Based on information you have provided, I have determined you have not demonstrated any particular urgency to inform the public about the subject matter of your requests beyond the public’s right to know about government activity generally,” wrote Records Management Division Section Chief David M. Hardy. “Accordingly, your request has been placed in our regular processing queue.”

The July 28 letter, in which Hardy said he thoroughly reviewed the request, did not state that the request was out of order. But a public affairs spokesman for the FBI told RAW STORY Tuesday afternoon that the bureau could not furnish a file on a living person without their consent. The FBI also states this on their FOIA website.

“You can’t put in a request for a living person,” the spokesman said.

FOIA attorney says FBI has responsibility to release, expedite files

Michael Fitzpatrick, an attorney for the advocacy group Public Citizen, calls the FBI’s statement an “oversimplification.” He notes that under the law’s exemption number six, documents are only withheld if disclosure would amount to an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

“It’s a balanacing test between the interest in personal privacy and the public interest in disclosure of government records,” Fitzpatrick said. “Certain kinds of records like medical records or the personnel file of a government employee, those are generally exempt. But information on individuals’ business activities or professional activies – those things are generally disclosed.

“When we’re dealing with a public official, the privacy interest is not as strong as it would be if we were dealing with a purely private individual,” he added.

Fitzpatrick also stated that Petrelis had a strong case for expedition of the documents’ release, but that part of the problem is that one needs to know what’s being requested before it can be expedited.

“Expedition is warranted when there is widespread media interest and the documents reflect on the integrity of the government,” he said. “I would think that most any records about the president that are not exempt from disclosure would meet that criteria.

“It is difficult to demonstrate why the documents meet the criteria before one knows what kind of documents are there, he continued. “It’s a little bit of a Catch-22.”

Petrelis said he wondered why the FBI didn’t state this in their July letter.

“Why wouldn’t the FBI explain this in their July letter?” he asked. “Why wouldn’t the FBI say that I need to get permission from the third party?”

I “believe that there still must be a public demand for his FBI file to be released,” he said. “If the White House responded to the pressure in February for his National Guard record, maybe they’ll respond to pressure if it’s created.”

Debbie Beatty, who works in the Historical and Executive Review Unit at the FBI and spoke for the FOIA office, stated the request was in the queue. She said that to her knowledge, no other media organization has requested Bush’s file.

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

Thousands of pages related to Kerry surveillance already released

Thousands of pages of FBI surveillance files relating to Sen. John Kerry’s anti-war protests when he was a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War have been released in the last decade. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI is obliged to release files on organizations, and can do so without the organization’s consent.

The FBI trailed Kerry in the early 1970s as he traveled the country, speaking out against the war and raising money.

Kerry, who obtained his personal FBI files years ago, knew of the surveillance, but the VVAW files obtained by a historian detail more extensive surveillance. Some of the files were stolen from the historian in March.

“It is almost surreal to learn the extent to which I was followed by the FBI,” Kerry said in a March statement. “The experience of having been spied on for the act of engaging in peaceful patriotic protest makes you respect civil rights and the Constitution even more.”

Petrelis has routinely championed causes that would have otherwise gotten scant media attention. He will be joined in Washington with his friend and fellow activist Wayne Turner. Both were members of the AIDS activist group ACT UP.

He organized boycotts against Miller and Marlboro because their parent company was the largest corporate donor to Senator Jesse Helms, and boycotts against Florida orange juice when growers hired Rush Limbaugh as a spokesperson, and the Coors Brewery for its donations to antigay think tanks.

In November of 2001, he and another activist were arrested for harassing the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Health Department with obscene and threatening phone calls regarding a proposed federal quarantine on people with AIDS.

All felony charges were dismissed in July 2003. Petrelis plead no contest to two charges of obscene phone calls.

Ultimately, Petrelis says he hopes Bush will agree to release his files. He noted that even candidate’s wives – Theresa Heinz Kerry – had begun releasing personal information. Heinz Kerry released her tax returns.

“The candidates have released financial and medical records to the press,” he said. “I think that’s good thing, and I think they should release their FBI files.”

“I would hope that the media scrutiny of the files would be equal to that on Kerry’s files,” he concluded.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Oct. 20 press conference at FBI headquarters

For Immediate Release
October 19, 2004
Contact: Michael Petrelis
Ph: 1-202-332-8663



Washington, DC – Gay activist Michael Petrelis will hold a press conference at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters to demand the agency release all of its files on President George W. Bush.

WHAT: Press conference

WHERE: FBI headquarters
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

WHEN: October 20

TIME: 11:00 a.m.

A Freedom of Information Act request for the Bush file was made on July 6 to the FBI by Petrelis, who invoked the expedited processing clause of the act, given the urgency of the November election. The FBI has thus far not released a single page from Bush’s file.

More than 9,000 pages of the FBI’s files on Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War group have been made available to the public and media, which has extensively scrutinized Kerry’s dossier.

At the press conference, copies of the activist’s correspondence with the FBI will be distributed.

For more information about the effort to obtain Bush’s FBI file can be found on the web at:

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