GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Marcy Wheeler has built her career on uncovering secrets that she said were never meant to be found. She’s a respected blogger that’s dug into the trenches of Washington D.C. but lives and writes in West Michigan.
her work has been published several times, and she writes for her loyal readers on her website, emptywheel.net.
FOX 17 had a chance to visit with the writer to talk about her career, how she gets her information, and why she chooses to do so from West Michigan.
Wheeler doesn’t put too much stock into titles. “Investigative blogger, journalist,” she said. “I get called a lot of things.”
She found her biggest scoop by doing what she always does: Wheeler concentrates on the footnotes of the documents that she pores over. She is credited with discovering that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks, was interrogated by questionable methods in 2007.
“You always start at the footnotes,” said Wheeler about her method. “I kept reading and I was like, what? Did we really waterboard him 183 times?”
Her career path started in Michigan with the auto industry. She would pour over documents looking for trade secrets.
“The way in which they try and massage language and try to hide things” interested her, she said.
She soon realized that her skill set works with other documents as well. She turned her attention to matters of national security, uncovering secrets that would come to light years later.
“As soon as the Edward Snowden documents dropped I immediately said ‘Oh yeah, this makes sense.’ We knew this back in 2009. We had hints of this back in 2009. That’s because I spent three grueling months pouring over the Patriot Act.”
Early in her career she realized some of the advantages of being an unaffiliated journalist, for one thing she has time.
“You have to read these things closely, and partly it’s schedule,” she said. “I’m not on the phone with 50 people all day so I sit down there in the quiet with my documents and they are the people I’m talking to.”
There are certain advantages to where she lives as well. Grand Rapids affords her a little perspective on what’s important to her.
“It helps too that I’m not in D.C.,” she said. “I think it would be hard to, especially in national security reporting. You get close to people that share secrets with you and then I think it’s harder for people to assess whether they are being told the truth.”
As her work gains exposure, the advantages give way to obligations. Something she’s learning to embrace.
“In some degree I feel obligated to continue with my work just because I don’t think there are a lot of people that do what I do. So I think if I weren’t doing it, it wouldn’t get done,” she said.