January 21, 2009
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Freedom of Information Act
A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.
The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.
April 26, 2010
Averill P. Graham
Chief, Disclosure Division
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
Department of Justice
Suite 1E400, 99 New York Avenue, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20226
Dear Mr. Graham:
This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. You should know that I am a representative of the press and this request is made to gather news and is not for commercial use. I request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to a more informed public understanding of the operations and activities of the government of the United States.
I request that a copy of the following documents be provided to me:
1. All correspondence between ATF employees and contracted personnel including but not limited to Scot L. Thomasson, Chief, Public Affairs Division; Drew J. Wade, Deputy Chief, Public Affairs Division; Agent John Ciccone; Agent Darrin P. Kozlowski; Agent John Carr; Agent Eric Harden; Agent John Torres; Agent Stephen K. Martin; Agent Jay Dobyns; Agent Blake Boteler; Agent Joseph Slatalla; Agent William Queen; Agent Gregory Gaioni and Agent Jimmy Packard and the following:
2. Kerrie Droban; Julian Sher; Alex Caine; Yves Lavigne; William Marsden; Nils Johnson-Shelton; John Walsh; Alan Nevins; Tony Scott; Mel Gibson; Douglas Century and any person associated with or employed in any way by Gangland Productions LLC; America’s Most Wanted; Icon Films; Discovery Networks; The History Channel; the National Geographic Channel; HBO and all of its affiliates including HBO Films; The Lyons Press; Harper Collins and all its imprints including but not limited to William Morrow; Vintage Books; Random House and all of its imprints; Crown Publishers and all of its imprints; 20th Century Fox Studios and all of its subdivisions; the Renaissance Talent Agency in Beverly Hills California;
3. and all correspondence between ATF employees and contracted personnel and any other production company, network, studio, literary agency, talent agency or publishing company.
4. Any correspondence, reports, memos or transcripts in the possession of the ATF pertaining to or mentioning the Book Expo Celebrity Dinner at Restaurant 208 in Beverly Hills, California on May 30, 2008.
5. Any correspondence, reports, memos or transcripts in the possession of the ATF pertaining to or mentioning Kerrie Droban; Julian Sher; Alex Caine; Yves Lavigne; William Marsden; Nils Johnson-Shelton; John Walsh; Alan Nevins; Tony Scott; Mel Gibson and Douglas Century.
6. Any correspondence, reports, memos or transcripts in the possession of the ATF pertaining to or mentioning any proposed or completed journalistic or entertainment project by Gangland Productions; America’s Most Wanted; Icon Films; Discovery Networks; The History Channel; the National Geographic Channel; HBO and all of its affiliates including HBO Films; The Lyons Press; Harper Collins and all its imprints including but not limited to William Morrow; Vintage Books; Random House and all of its imprints; Crown Publishers and all of its imprints; 20th Century Fox Studios and any other production company, network, studio, literary agency, talent agency or publishing company.
June 1, 2010
Dear Mr. Graham,
I faxed a signed request to you on April 28. I realize this is a fairly involved and unique request. How is it going? If I can provide you with any additional information to help you help me please let me know. The basis for most of this request is already in the public record.
I hope you had a tranquil and pleasant Memorial Day.
June 2, 2010
I have forwarded your email to the person who is processing your FOIA for response
June 17, 2010
Dear Special Agent Ciccone,
I am working on a book about Operation Black Rain. I have been told that you can speak authoritatively about this undercover operation and if possible I would like to talk to you.
If you would prefer, you can remain anonymous. If you would prefer that I not contact you directly maybe I can submit some questions to you through W. Larry Ford. I promise not to take up too much of your time and we can handle the interview any way you would like. I can buy you lunch and we can sit down and talk with or without a tape recorder. I can submit a set of written questions and you can reply in writing or we can talk on the phone. However you would feel most at ease and in whatever way would waste the least amount of your time is fine with me.
I realize that getting interviewed by some writer is most normal people’s least favorite thing but your name will appear in the book. I would like to portray in the most sympathetic possible light and it is easiest to do that if I have chance to talk to you. Most of the questions will be soft balls anyway, like did you play any sports in college and are you related to Madonna.
Thank you for your time.
June 20, 2010
William Morrow Imprint Publicity Contact
Dear Mr. Ballenger,
I am writing a book about the Mongols Motorcycle Club case. For about twenty-one months I have been digging up bones, exhuming things the ATF does not want known. Among the many details that shines and stinks is the way Ruben “Doc” Cavazos became such a public person just before his arrest.
I know in general how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arranged Doc’s television appearances – through the office of Assistant Director W. Larry Ford. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the ATF to try to find out more but the answer to that request has not yet been completed – information being just another word like truth or bullshit.
I do know in greater or lesser detail how the ATF has arranged some book deals – Jay Dobyns No Angel, for example and William Queen’s Under and Alone. I don’t know how they arranged Doc’s or even who actually wrote the thing. All due respect, it is a really bad book. Doc’s literary agent, Alan Nevins, seems as mystified as I. None of the Mongols know. Obviously the idea for the book was suggested to Doc by an employee of the ATF: Either an undercover agent or a confidential informant, and it was probably an undercover named Darrin Kozlowski who is an old friend of both Dobyns and Queen. Possibly you can shed some light on the publication of Honor Few Fear None.
I realize, and regret that many fine and polite people find me to be very rude. Excuse me. I apologize. You may not know that the book you published has been used to ruin the lives of men who are mostly guilty only of being mentioned in your book or having their photographs appear in it. Believe me, they are not so very different from you. What would you do if you were thrown in prison, lost everything, were never tried and could never get out until you pled guilty? Would you mind if I asked some rude questions then?
Is there anybody there to whom I can talk or with whom I can correspond? Can I get either some answers or no comments from you? Please don’t just ignore me. Please tell me if you intend to close your eyes and sing to yourself and pretend I am not really talking to you. It will save me the follow up emails.
June 21, 2010
Christian M. Hoffman
I received your information from Special Agent Ciccone and the information you are requesting about Black Rain. I am the current Public Information Officer/Media Relations for ATF-Los Angeles Field Division and would like to help you with your questions/requests. If you could please provide any information about your work, (i.e. biography of your work, prior books or investigative research, and websites), plus the questions you intend to ask Agent Ciccone so that we can insure that operations security is not compromised. Be advised I need you to be thorough with your information to me due to the numerous request we get concerning this subject and I need to verify who the people are that are getting this information.
Please feel free to contact me at the below numbers should you need further clarification.
June 22, 2010
Dear Special Agent Hoffman,
I have been a working writer since 1979. That includes work for daily newspapers, trade journals, scholarly books, training films and manuals, television and a couple of optioned but unproduced screenplays. For the last couple of years I have also written a blog of biker journalism called The Aging Rebel which is at: www.agingrebel.com It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The name of the book I am completing is Out Bad.
Sources for the book include about 12,000 pages of court filings in four criminal and two civil cases. The criminal cases are US versus Cavazos et al.; US versus Maestas et al; US versus Christopher Bryan Ablett; and United States versus Barbeito et al. The civil cases are what is currently called Jay Anthony Dobyns, Plaintiff, versus United States of America, Defendant and, what is now being called (these suits tend to change names as months go by) Ramon Rivera, Plaintiff versus Ronnie A. Carter, Etc., et al., Defendants. In addition to the court filings there are about 11,000 pages of discovery and at least 400 hours of electronic surveillance connected to Cavazos et al. I have legally obtained knowledge of some of this discovery. I have also developed a fair amount of rapport with several defense attorneys in three of the cases named above.
A large portion of what I know I have learned from talking to members of the Hells Angels, Vagos, Mongols, Sons of Silence, Pagans, Loners and other clubs who have first hand knowledge and in some cases witnessed events described in the book.
I have also spoken to or corresponded with numerous mass media sources in order to try to better comprehend how the ATF manipulates coverage of motorcycle club cases.
Special Agent Ciccone’s name will be mentioned in the book and I would like to portray him as compassionately as possible. The following is what I want to know. I would prefer that question 16 be answered on the record. All other questions will either be anonymously attributed (to, for example, an informed source, an ATF Agent with knowledge of the investigation, etc.) or will be treated as deep background without any direct quotes or attribution.
Questions for John Ciccone
1. How do you pronounce your last name? Northern or southern? Suh-cone, Chu-cone, Suh-coney or Chu-coney?
2. Are you related to Madonna?
3. Where did you go to college? Michigan? State?
4. Play any sports? Wrestle?
5. Military Service?
6. Have you ever read The Friends of Eddie Coyle? I was going to send you a copy but I thought it might unnerve you if I sent it to your home address so I did not. It is still sitting here. Let me know. If you have read the book, do you have any opinions about Dave Foley, the cynical and pragmatic ATF Agent?
7. How did you become an ATF Agent?
8. Is it fair to say that you specialize in motorcycle outlaws? If that is fair to say, then why do you do that? Was there some particular outrage that touched you or set you off?
9. Based on your experience, why do Undercover ATF Agents want to infiltrate motorcycle clubs?
10. Do you know what the “Enterprise Theory of Investigation” is and do you have any opinions about it?
11. If I could appoint you King right now, and you could do what you think would best preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, would you prosecute the Mongols Motorcycle Club under state laws or under the RICO and VICAR statutes?
12. Your affidavits and statements are very carefully worded. They sound like a lawyer. What is the process in drafting them? How do they come into existence? Are these wholly your words or are they suggested to you? Hypothetically, who might suggest them?
13. Was it your idea to appear on America’s Most Wanted? W. Larry Ford’s? Somebody else? Were any Mongols actually apprehended as a result of being profiled on that television show or were they apprehended as a result of more routine investigative methods? What “special access” was given to AMW?
14. Have you thought about writing a book? To your knowledge, is anyone at ATF thinking about writing a book about Operation Black Rain? Do you know Tony Scott?
15. Please say something kind about Julian Sher. I’m stumped.
16. Why should the Mongols Motorcycle Club be disbanded? How will this be a better world without the Mongols in it? Can you think of anything about the Mongols that redeems them from their misdeeds?
17. It seems to me that the attempted civil forfeiture of the Mongols trademarks was either very shrewd or very half-assed. If it was shrewd I think it was an attempted end-run around US v. Rubio. Do you have any opinions about the attempted civil forfeiture of the Mongols trademarks?
18. How much did Operation Black Rain cost? Was it a success? How?
19. I have been told several, sometimes conflicting stories, about the production of the Gangland episode “Mongols Nation.” In one story, you object to the filming of that episode because you thought it potentially compromised Operation Black Rain and potentially endangered Kozlowski, Gaioni, D’Angelo and Carr. What part of that story, if any part, is true? Do you have any stories about the manner in which Ruben “Doc” Cavazos became such a public person before his arrest?
20. The grand jury returned an indictment in the matter of US v Cavazos et al. on October 9th, 2008. The Undercover Agents remained in the field and continued to try to make new cases after that date. Why? When did you know that the indictment had been returned?
21. One Undercover Agent was actually expelled from the Mongols after the indictment was returned. Do you have any comment on that?
22. Almost two years after the putative conclusion of Operation Black Rain, the names of the four male undercover agents have not yet been made public and they have never been introduced to the press. Why?
23. I am unaware of any attack by any outlaw motorcycle club member on any federal police officer in the last thirty years. Recently, Jay Dobyns has maintained that he was threatened by the Hells Angels but the only actual “attack” was an arson at Dobyns home and even he will not say that fire was set by the Hells Angels. Please make the case that revealing more details about Operation Black Rain would endanger people’s lives. If no one is in danger, why the secrecy?
24. If you could no longer be an ATF Agent what would you do? Do you have a plan B?
25. Is there anything else I should know? Am I missing anything? In what way do you think I might be off base, unfair or misinformed? What do I need to know that you think I probably do not know? What is most important for me to know before I finish the book?
Thank you very much for your time. I know you are busy and I appreciate any comments you decide to make.
June 25, 2010
Dear Mr. Graham,
Just a brief reminder. Much of the material I seek would have passed through the office of Assistant Director W. Larry Ford. If the person processing this request needs me to more specifically tell him where to look, I don’t mind doing that. The request is based in part in public documents as well as information that has been reported to me in interviews.
Thanks for you time. Enjoy your weekend.
June 26, 2010
The search has gone to the appropriate office.
June 27, 2010
Dear Mr. Sher,
For the last couple of years I have been working on a book about the ongoing Mongols Motorcycle Club case in Los Angeles and you will be mentioned in the book.
Do you have any comments about your contacts with and through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when you wrote Angels of Death? I read that ATF’s Office of Public and Governmental Affairs “approved, promoted and arranged for” agents “to cooperate with Sher through interviews.” Any impressions of or anecdotes about those interviews? Did you meet Darrin Kozlowski? John Ciccone?
Do you know anything about or have any impressions of the Mongols or of motorcycle outlaws in general? For attribution?
Thank you very much for your time. Keep the faith. Enjoy your weekends.
June 28, 2010
Sorry, I’d have to know more about you, your credentials and the nature of your project before I go any further.
But in any case, I let my published work stand for itself. You can read all the interviews I did with various people in the book, plus there is more on my website at www.juliansher.com
June 28, 2010
Dear Julian Sher,
Sure. The book is titled Out Bad and, if I get my choice, I would like to see it subtitled “Dispatches from the Motorcycle Outlaw Frontier” although I shopped it as, “An Absolutely True, Never Before Told Tale of Motorcycle Outlaws, Life, Death, Murder, Mayhem, Drugs, Guns, Justice, Honor, Betrayal, Television, Publishing, News, the Waning Frontier and the American Secret Police.”
I also have a website so we share that in common. Mine is at www.agingrebel.com. I am Rebel. And, I am also a journalist, too, although not so professional at it as you. I fell into journalism, basically. Long ago, I showed up at a newspaper looking for a job on a loading dock and after a couple hours of slapstick they hired me as a reporter. I never found out what happened to that kid from Columbia J School. I am writing about Operation Black Rain, its prelude and its aftermath. For reasons incidental to my biography I often get along with motorcycle outlaws. I have spoken to numerous men with knowledge of incidents described in my book including many Mongols. Including defendants. Including men who have gone or are about to go to the penitentiary.
None of them were afraid to talk to me but you are.
I will tell you bluntly and frankly, you seem to me to be a guy who knows nothing about the motorcycle outlaw subculture, who has no insight into what is going on, who ingratiated himself to the ATF, wrote the version of the story the ATF wished him to write and then went about saying what the ATF told him to say. And personally, I have no problem with that. I really don’t. I have had a lot of crappy writing jobs, too. I get it. I once wrote training films for Saudi doctors. Never get sick in Saudi Arabia. Okay? I once argued with all my might for safe and sane nuclear power. I have no shame. I wrote you because I prefer not to embarrass you. I prefer that my villains be faceless abstractions and misguided ideas.
I know what I know and I am going to write what I write. Personally I don’t think journalists should be working as propagandists for the police. Okay? Maybe you can make a case for why they should be. What I really wrote you to find out was, do I like you? Do I like you as I like so many of the defendants in the Mongols case? Do I sympathize with you as I sympathize with the children and wives of those defendants? The least I can do for anybody whose name I write is to try to stand in his shoes.
So far, you have made a really shitty start. This is your chance to influence what I write about you. Suit yourself. Obviously, I can’t write persuasively so you can just be a rude, little prick to me with impunity.
June 29, 2010
Actually, in re-reading your email, I have a couple of questions for you, too.
You state, “I need you to be thorough with your information to me due to the numerous requests we get concerning this subject and I need to verify who the people are that are getting this information.”
How many requests have you received for information about Operation Black Rain? Have these been from independent journalists? Private detectives? Newspapers? America’s Most Wanted? Gangland? TMZ? About how many have you allowed and how many have you denied? To your knowledge is any one else working on a book about Black Rain right now? Have his questions been answered? Would you, and the bureau, be more comfortable if you asked the questions for me and then you answered those?
That is fine. I would like to hear what questions you would ask.
Speaking for yourself but not for the bureau, just your own personal opinion, do you think Operation Black Rain is the public’s business? Do the citizen’s of the United States have a right to know about it? Do the people of the United States have a right to know about any of the operations and activities of the government of the United States? Which ones?
Please take your time. I gather you are more swamped with requests than I initially realized. And, I know these questions are numerous and difficult.