“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
Welcome to this terrible (and terribly old) site. I’m a journalist based in Washington, DC, formerly of Chicago. Here’s a resume.
I used to say I do “investigative journalism.” But is non-investigative journalism really journalism?
Now I say I do “accountability reporting” with a focus on FOIA and working with whistleblowers.
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.
I’ve written for The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Chicago Reader, In These Times magazine, and the Better Government Association. My most likely publishers going forward include Washington Post and The Nation magazine.
Please see my Twitter account, @muckrakery, for my thoughts of the moment, and the main page of this site for occasional updates.
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 investigated the Chicago Police Department’s patterns and practices in what it called its largest investigation to date. (While Jeff Sessions refuses to enter into a consent decree, the Illinois Attorney General is suing to enact the reforms itself.) As a result of my work, Chicago’s police chief, the “superintendent,” was fired, as well as the head of the office of police review and the head detective. 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, lost her bid for re-election. For my work here, I was named a recipient of the I.F. Stone award for independent journalism.
For several years I independently reported stories about science and technology, digital privacy, and egregious violations of social justice. I’ve been a proud worker in restaurant kitchens. As of April 2018, I cook for “A Rake’s Progress” in Washington, DC. Formerly I cooked with Cellar Door Provisions, Mott Street, and Ruxbin Kitchen, among others. For four years I was on the full-time writing staff of three 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.]