FOIA The Dead

About this project

FOIA The Dead is a long-term transparency project that uses the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request information from the FBI about the recently deceased.

That law requires certain government agencies to produce records upon a request from the public. One significant exception to that requirement is that, to protect the privacy of individuals, federal agencies may not release information about living people. But after their death, their privacy concerns are diminished, and those records can become available.

FOIA The Dead was founded to address that transition. When somebody's obituary appears in the New York Times, FOIA The Dead sends an automated request to the FBI for their (newly-available) records. In many cases, the FBI responds that it has no files on the individual. But in some cases it does, and can now release those files upon request. When FOIA The Dead receives it, the file gets published for the world to see.

From October 2017 to July 2022, FOIA The Dead was a special project of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has provided institutional support and consulted on the project's development.

Since March 2017, FOIA The Dead has used MuckRock to submit and track its requests with the FBI. Browse through MuckRock's FOIA resources or read about its API.

This project is written and maintained by Parker Higgins. You can follow it on Twitter. Source code is available on GitHub, and most of the site is available as JSON. Additional thanks to Elizabeth Yalkut for contributing some subject bios.