MuckRock

‘Attitude every day’ and other complaints about the CIA’s cafeteria

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – FOIA and public records requests don’t always have be serious. Ask for off-the-wall records and you can find some really fascinating stories – stories I guarantee your competitors won’t have.

The FOIA experts over at MuckRock published a fun one recently about CIA officials’ complaints about their cafeteria.

“Why can’t there be nicer food handlers? Attitude every day,” one perturbed CIA official wrote. 

Another official was annoyed that the Jazz Salad did not include grapes.

“Grapes are in the title of the salad. I asked about them, and the server pointed to the cherry tomatos [sic], said they were grapes. I said, “no, those are tomatos [sic], soooo should I just get grapes from the salad bar … I do not condone putting salad bar items into a Jazz Salad.”

Washington Post reporter Abby Phillip did a nice write-up of six of the more interesting complaints.

If you need inspiration to file your own random records request, here are some stories I and others have done:

I’d love to know what interesting public records you’ve found. Write to me at kahinchcliffe@gmail.com or on Twitter @RecordsGeek.

NYPD: Our Freedom of Information handbook is confidential

“Wait, what?” That’s what I thought when I came across this Tweet the other day.  Of all the records that should be public, wouldn’t a Freedom of Information handbook be first on the list?

Not so, says the New York City Police Department, which denied a request from MuckRock to inspect its FOI handbook. MuckRock projects editor Shawn Musgrave appealed the decision but was again denied.

“NYPD’s lead freedom of information counsel refused to release the department’s freedom of information guides, citing attorney-client privilege,” Musgrave wrote, giving a detailed explanation of how he pursued the records.

For those who aren’t familiar with MuckRock, it’s a service that helps journalists, researchers, activists, historians and others track down public records. In other words, if these guys can’t get it, good luck to everyone else.

What I appreciate about Musgrave’s blogpost is his willingness to show readers his struggle to get the records. He includes documents that show his original request, his follow up correspondence, his appeal and the rejection letters he received from police. 

Oftentimes, journalists and others fight these battles behind the scenes. Sometimes, it’s nice to know you’re not alone.