This is Behind the Blog, where we share our behind-the-scenes thoughts about how a few of our top stories of the week came together. This week, we discuss uncovering government defense contracts, revealing fake "auto-generated" female speakers, and thoughts on FOIA.
JOSEPH: Beyond FOIA and court records, I have another, perhaps even bigger, obsession: U.S. procurement databases. There are a few sites for this (my favourite is FPDS.gov, just because I am very used to the UI) and they absolutely rule for finding new stories. I used one today to reveal the mystery customer that bought Anduril’s new autonomous aircraft.
First, I saw Palmer Luckey’s tweet about the new Roadrunner aircraft. I then saw a bunch of coverage, including from Bloomberg and defense trade publication Defense One. Because these articles included in-depth interviews with Luckey and other people from Anduril, it was a safe bet the outlets had learned of this news under embargo. That is, they were told about it by Anduril beforehand, performed interviews and took photos, with the understanding they would only publish it once Anduril publicly announced the new product. This is all very normal and standard.