2,500 Photos of Betsy Devos Attending Functions, Nov-Dec 2017




One of my many subprojects here at AltGov2 involves requesting photos of Cabinet Secretaries. Specifically, filing FOIAs for every official photo taking during a certain time period. (“Official” meaning that agency money was spent — the photos were taken by an agency photographer or a contractor or taken with agency-owned equipment, etc.) Not only should all such photos be released on general principle of transparency, they can also give us otherwise unavailable info on who these high-level officials are meeting.

The first to respond was the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which directed me to their Flickr account. I wrote to HUD’s public FOIA liaison to confirm that Flickr does indeed contain every single photo that gets taken of Secretary Ben Carson, and they replied that this is the case.

Next to respond was the Department of Education. I requested all official photos of Secretary Betsy DeVos taken during November and December 2017. They sent me a CD with 2,509 photos. (These are all from public or private functions that she attended, and she’s not in every photo.)

I’ve posted each set of photos to a separate page on the Internet Archive, and the links above will take you there. (I’ve used the exact names that the folders containing the photos were given by the Education Department’s FOIA office.) For each set, you can navigate through the photos onscreen or, if this is really your cup of tea, download them all as a torrent.

As an example of the unexpected things that can turn up because of these requests, we see 220 photos of a Federal Marshals luncheon that apparently took place at the Education Department. I’m assuming this soirée was thrown because, in a highly unusual situation, DeVos is being guarded by the US Marshals Service (at a cost of $34,000 a day). Whatever the reason, we now have this little glimpse into a federal law enforcement agency that manages to stay under the radar.

As photos of more Cabinet officials come in, I’ll be posting them using the tag Cabinet photos.

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