Hi, I’m Russ Kick — writer, anthologist, investigative archivist, and transparency activist — and I’ve been making government documents more available to people since 2002, mainly by filing non-stop Freedom of Information Act requests and posting the documents I get. I also dig through archives (online and in university libraries), repost deleted documents, and make non-FOIA requests in certain cases.
I do this to force transparency and hold those in power accountable. My primary outlet for this for years was The Memory Hole (1 and 2), and now it’s AltGov2. My work has been covered on the New York Times front page, all the news channels, Los Angeles Times, CBS Evening News, Daily Beast, ProPublica, and elsewhere.
In February 2017, the main federal agency in charge of animal welfare suddenly pulled tens of thousands of documents offline. I immediately started reposting them. Luckily, 1) I had a bunch already on my computer from earlier research and 2) activists started sending me what they had collected. Within days I had put 5,000 records back online. This got a lot of media attention — Rachel Maddow, Time, Politico, National Geographic, and others covered my reposting crusade.
That planted a seed that has now bloomed: a website that’s all animal documents, all the time. Why?
• To find out how animals are being treated at zoos, laboratories, racetracks, slaughterhouses, shelters, K-9 units, etc.
• To see how they’re being treated by humans in the wild, whether that means “trophy” hunting in Africa, round-ups of wild horses in the American West, or ships smashing into whales at sea.
• To keep tabs on the government agencies that are supposed to be protecting animals: APHIS, OLAW, FWS, NOAA Fisheries, state racing commissions, local animal control agencies, and many others. How do they go about their mission, and are they doing it well?
• To provide oversight of the agencies whose role is to mistreat animals. This mainly means government and military laboratories, as well as Wildlife Services, which kills well over 2 million animals per year.
I do this several ways:
• Prying loose and posting lots of documents through hundreds of groundbreaking Freedom of Information Act requests, city/state-level requests, and requests to other countries.
• Safeguarding what’s already available by mirroring it, so that it can’t disappear again.
• Giving a permanent, prominent home to documents that I dig up in obscure government databases, which often aren’t indexed by Google or other search engines.