MuckRock’s year in FOIA: 2015

The Olympics, Microsoft Outlook, and no snack car

Written by JPat Brown
Edited by Michael Morisy

We filed nearly as many requests in 2015 as we did in our previous five years combined, releasing over 350,000 pages of government documents. And that’s just the beginning - here’s the stories, big and small, you helped uncover this year.

  • We started off with Homeland Security social media searches, which appeared to include somebody getting a late night hankering for a Blizzard.

  • Turns out, we couldn’t find WMD.gov, either.

  • Peak FOIrony is reached when the Austin fusion center puts a “Activism is not terrorism” rally on their watch calendar.

  • Cambridge police refused to release their use of deadly force policy, so we wrote about it.

  • Cambridge police release their use of deadly force policy.

  • Meanwhile, in Connecticut, the training for Willimantic’s police new 22 ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle is a 20-page Power Point, which is not a good wight-to-understanding ratio.

  • In response to a request for her emails, Kim Davis - yes, that Kim Davis - cites the “old school” exemption as a justification for printing and fax her emails. Shawn cites “the law” in response, and - after teaching her the export function on Outlook, Davis releases her emails.

  • There’s a national park in an old nuclear missile silo, and it’s as weird as it sounds.

  • With the help of a few generous donors, Beryl got the Boston Police to release their footage of last year’s Black Lives Matter protest. It was totally a thing.

That was just standalone pieces - in regards to our ongoing investigations, thanks to the new Projects feature, this was our biggest year yet.

  • With the support of nearly a hundred different people, Beryl Lipton’s Private Prison Project was fully crowdfunded, ensuring that next year’s reporting will be even better. We really can’t thank you enough, and while there’s not enough space here to even scratch the surface of the amazing work Beryl’s been doing over the last year and a half, you’re encouraged to get caught up here, and get excited for the in-depth, investigative journalism you’ll see in 2016.

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Long stor(ies) short, it was an amazing year, and it was all thanks to our even more amazing users. Last year was better than the previous four years combined, and this year was even better than that. Moving into FOIA’s 50th year - and our sixth - we’re humbled by what you’ve made possible, and giddy at what we’re going to do together next. From all of us at MuckRock, thank you, and have a very transparent New Year.

And in closing, if nothing else, this would still be our best year ever on the merit of our new 404 page alone.


Image via National Archives Flickr