Spring Cleaning at the FBI

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The FBI maintains a total of 300,000 cubic feet of historical documents and records, in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts.

But apparently, freedom of information is also subject to spring-cleaning.

Among the guidelines for determining documents worth hanging on to is the “fat file theory,” positing that heft is somehow correlated to importance.

Cases not categorized important enough for a permanent status are reevaluated at 25 years—their fates determined by the whims of internal FBI agents, not trained archivists.

As long as they’re trying to make space in cramped government buildings, maybe someone should let the FBI know that they can condense behemoth files down to merely 3 cubic feet of storage space, enough for the hard drives needed to store the data they’re deleting.

But, whoops, I guess that could mean easy public access to information.

—Joyce Tang

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate