Curious about what the US government is doing in your country? Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Martha Mendoza did a popular workshop on this topic at the 2017 Global Investigative Journalism Conference.
Her tipsheet uses links to US and international agencies to track Washington’s grants and contracts, international assistance, lobbying, military activity, and more.
Mendoza is currently based in Silicon Valley, where she provides breaking news, enterprise, and investigative reporting. She is part of the Associated Press team that exposed the use of slave labor in the Thai seafood industry.
Note: Most of the info here is free, the information that needs to be purchased is marked with the dollar symbol. Site structures are likely to change.
POLITICS AND MONEY
What is the US government spending money on in my country?
www.foreignassistance.gov → Search Data → Download
Who in my country is trying to influence US politics and on what issues?
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals to make periodic public disclosures. The Justice Department maintains the database. For an alternative search engine see Opensecrets.
Who is lobbying in the US on issues of importance to my country?
The Lobbying Disclosure Act sets standards for domestic lobbyists in the United States. Searchable databases are maintained by the US Senate and the US House of Representatives. (same information, different systems.) Also, see search engines maintained by ProPublica and OpenSecrets.
$$ What US lawmakers have visited my country on political business, why and when?
www.legistorm.com → Disclosures → Trips → Country visited →
What current laws are proposed that could impact my country?
What work is the U.S. government planning in my country?
sam.gov → Posted Date: Last 365 years → Advanced search form → Keyword or solicitation number
What are the financial assets of US officials working in my country and their spouses (i.e. Ambassadors, US AID directors, etc.)
www.oge.gov → Financial Disclosure →Presidential Appointee & Nominee Records → OGE Form 201 → Department of State →
What export restrictions and sanctions is the US imposing?
The Consolidated Screening List → Departments of Commerce, Treasury and State → Eleven searchable databases
$$ How many people from my country are currently in immigration detention in the United States, and where are they being held?
Trac.syr.edu → → All Immigration Tools → ICE Detainers, Latest Data → Pull down: Citizenship → COUNTRY NAME →
How many from my country have been ordered deported or allowed to stay in the U.S. through immigration courts this year?
Trac.syr.edu → → All Immigration Tools →Immigration Court Decisions Tool → Starting with: Nationalities → COUNTRY NAME
Where are people from my country getting jobs with working visas/green cards in the US?
www.myvisajobs.com → Green Card → Country of Citizenship
Does my country import or export nuclear technologies with the US?
www.census.gov → Topics → International Trade → International Trade Main → Data → Country/Trade Product → ATP by Country → September 2017 → (10) Nuclear Technology
What military training and assets has my country received from the US?
www.state.gov → What we do → Arms Control and International Security → Bureau of Political-Military Affairs → PM Releases → Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest → 2015-2016 →
How much money has been spent on military sales and training to my country from the US?
www.defense.gov → About → Military departments → A-Z List → Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) → Resources → Publications → DSCA Historical Facts book and Fiscal Year Series
What are some of the specific weapons systems and support sent from the US to my country?
www.defense.gov → About → Military departments → A-Z List → Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) → Resources → Publications → Excess Defense Articles Database Tool
What publicly-traded US corporations are investing or operating in my country?
www.sec.gov → search for company filings → full text past four years → Country Name
$$ How do I look at financial records of a US-based NGO, including salaries, donations, and spending?
www.guidestar.org → NGO Name → Financial Reporting → Form 990
$$ What companies in my country are exporting to the U.S., and what products?
www.panjiva.com → country name
www.importgenius.com → country name
Who from my country is being federally prosecuted in the United States and why?
www.justice.gov → Search: COUNTRY press releases (i.e. Kosovo press releases)
$$ How do I see this individual’s court files?
www.pacer.gov → Find a case → NAME → Docket Report
How do I write them a letter to arrange an interview of email communication?
www.bop.gov → inmates → Find an inmate → Ask them to fill out the Request for Visitors Form
If visiting: contact the warden and fill out news media forms.
Where are the records of US State Department activity?
https://aad.archives.gov/aad/ → Search Access to Archival Databases at the National Archives (records available into the 1970s)
https://foia.state.gov/Search/Search.aspx → Search the State Department’s “Virtual Reading Room” of documents released because of Freedom of Information Act requests.
https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/collection/crest-25-year-program-archive → Search the Central Intelligence Agency’s CREST database.