“Where there is a free press the governors must live in constant awe of the opinions of the governed.” – Lord MacAuley
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair
“If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” – John Oliver
I’m a Chicago-based journalist. I’m best known for writing about the case of Laquan McDonald, whose murder by a Chicago police officer in 2014 went un-prosecuted for 13 months, until my lawsuit forced the city to release the video.
Full disclosure: it wasn’t a solo effort. Without Will Calloway, Matt Topic, Craig Futterman, Jamie Kalven, and our anonymous sources, the public would be in the dark.
Shortly following our 2015 efforts, protesters and mainstream pundits alike used our work to advocate for change. The shooting officer was charged with murder. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Chicago Police Department’s patterns and practices. Chicago’s police superintendent was fired, as well as the head of the police review authority and the head of detectives. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, amid calls for his resignation, appointed a(n arguably milquetoast) task force for police accountability, which recommended a deadline on future video releases. Fairly mainstream opinion leaders are questioning the policies of the police review authority and the legitimacy of the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. Freedom of information requests to the police department have risen dramatically. And the Cook County State’s Attorney, who failed to prosecute the shooting officer until a judge ordered the video released, is facing a tough re-election campaign.
I have written for, and maintain relationships with, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Chicago Reader, In These Times magazine, and the Better Government Association.
Please see my Twitter account, @muckrakery, for my thoughts of the moment, and the main page of this site for occasional updates.
For several years I struggled to independently report stories about science and tech, digital privacy, and social justice. I’ve been a proud worker in restaurant kitchens: Clandestino, City Provisions, Ruxbin Kitchen, Cellar Door Provisions.
Before that, I worked for small to mid-size newspapers in Ohio. I revel in “adventure” sports, strong cryptography, people with a conscience, and food produced with thought and effort.
I’ve blogged for the Chicago Tribune about tech startups; written for trade publications about building science. I support whistleblowers and a system called SecureDrop that allows them to talk to reporters anonymously.
Reach out to me at hey -at- brandonsmith -dot- com. (That’s an email address, in case that isn’t clear.) For those who wish to talk in secret, visit the page about blowing the whistle.
The site’s header image is currently a shot of a “cluster,” a set of 25 graphics cards linked together and set to a single task with the help of some software: cracking passwords at warp speed. [Photo by the builder, Jeremi Gosney, the founder and CEO of Stricture Consulting Group.]