Using ICIJ DataShare to sanctions-check a document leak

OpenSanctions is a resource for journalists to find leads in document stashes. But in order to use it, you need a tool that can help you search sanctioned entities inside your documents.

Imagine you're a journalist, and a source just handed you the next Panama Papers. Excitedly, you begin your research: What state leaders, oligarchs or other important figures might have been hiding their assets with Boribor, the shady law firm whose emails you now possess?

Maybe you'll use DataShare, the document search tool developed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), to index the leak on your own computer. Once the import has finished, you type in the names of the head of state of your home country, and some of their close associates. Then, the gangster you wrote your most recent story about. His brother. Cousin. You stop: Shouldn't you be going about this a bit more systematically?

Don't worry: the ICIJ developers have your back. There's a batch search functionality in the application that lets you upload a large list of names and search them all at once. You can just upload a list of all the people and companies that merit public scrutiny, search them, and watch the reporting leads fall out the other end: prime ministers, oligarchs, spies.

You don't have such a list? That's where OpenSanctions comes in. Pick a couple of the 28 datasets from our site, and run them against your own document set. In fact, you can download them in a format ready to be uploaded to DataShare: "Names-only text file". These exports contain all the names and aliases of companies and people on sanctions and PEPs lists, often in multiple alphabets and spellings. What they all have in common: they're interesting people. And if one of them shows up in your leak, the odds are you've found yourself a story - or at least a document worth your attention.

Want to get started? Check out the batch search documentation for DataShare, and maybe grab the names index of the handy CIA World Leaders dataset, a list of cabinet members from all across the world.

Yumm, data.

Like what we're writing about? Keep the conversation going! You can follow us on Twitter or join the Slack chat to bring in your own ideas and questions. Or, check out the project documentation to learn more about OpenSanctions.

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This article is part of OpenSanctions, the open database of sanctions targets and persons of interest.