A large part of investigative reporting is crunching numbers and digging up source documents. Here are five websites that host digital archives of government documents, mostly acquired through Freedom of Information Act requests. Learn more about filing FOIA requests in this guide from Medill. The sites listed here are all run by private organizations. For documents and images archived by the federal government, try the National Archives.
The National Security Archive
An independent non-governmental research institute and library located at George Washington University, the Archive collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The Archive also serves as a repository of government records on a wide range of topics pertaining to the national security, foreign, intelligence, and economic policies of the United States. The Archive won the 1999 George Polk Award, one of U.S. journalism’s most prestigious prizes, for—in the words of the citation—”piercing the self-serving veils of government secrecy, guiding journalists in the search for the truth and informing us all.”
Governmentattic.org provides electronic copies of hundreds of interesting federal government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Fascinating historical documents, reports on items in the news, oddities and government bloopers.
The Memory Hole
The Memory Hole exists to preserve and spread material that is in danger of being lost, is hard to find, or is not widely known. This includes: government files, corporate memos, court documents (lawsuits and transcripts), police reports and eyewitness statements, congressional testimony, reports (governmental and non-governmental), maps, patents, Web pages, photographs, video, and sound recordings, news articles, books (and portions of books).
The Smoking Gun
Best known for their collection of celebrity mugshots, The Smoking Gun also features police reports and other material obtained from government and law enforcement sources via Freedom of Information requests and court files. In December 2000, The Smoking Gun was acquired by Court TV.
A website that publishes anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive governmental, corporate, or religious documents, while attempting to preserve the anonymity and untraceability of its contributors. Within one year of its December 2006 launch, its database had grown to more than 1.2 million documents.