A tool from Security Force Monitor

Help - Frequently Asked Questions


What is WhoWasInCommand for?

WhoWasInCommand helps make the police, military and other security forces more transparent and accountable. There is a great deal of publicly available data on security forces but it is unstructured and scattered amongst a wide variety of sources, making it prohibitively costly for those engaged in public interest work to understand the security forces of a particular country. WhoWasInCommand reduces the impact of this problem by structuring public data on security forces and presenting it in a clear and auditable way. In doing this, we aim to empower and inform journalism, human rights reporting and other public interest work.

Who makes WhoWasInCommand?

WhoWasInCommand was created and operated by Security Force Monitor. We’re a project of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School and you can read more about us here.

Is WhoWasInCommand just about who was in command?

No. WhoWasInCommand can also tell you about:

Where does all this data come from?

To create the data in WhoWasInCommand, Security Force Monitor’s researchers use material published online:

Every piece of data in WhoWasInCommand is linked to one or more these sources. We have also preserved every source possible using the Internet Archive, so you can access the sources even if the original version has disappeared from the Internet.

Our Research Handbook contains a thorough description of the method and tools used to create the data in WhoWasInCommand.

Why have you singled out particular countries?

Good question. We take into account a number of factors when choosing which countries to research:

Presently, we publish research on Mexico, Nigeria and Egypt. We are actively researching additional countries informed by feedback from civil society.

I don’t understand what I’m seeing - help!

In our Research Handbook, we’ve created some guides to the different ways that data are displayed in WhoWasInCommand.

Yes. You can download any data published on WhoWasInCommand and use it under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0. This means you’re welcome to use, share and adapt any data from WhoWasInCommand as long as you credit Security Force Monitor and promise not to place any additional restrictions on others’ ability to use the data.

Something isn’t working, what do I do?

Sorry about that. Please write in and tell us about it - it’s incredibly helpful in making WhoWasInCommand better. When you write in, try to answer the following questions:

Please include the web address you were looking at, and if possible a screenshot of the problem. You can send any error reports to technical@securityforcemonitor.org.

Can I look at the site in my own language?

At the moment, WhoWasInCommand can be used in English and Spanish. You can change the language at any time using the selector on every page of WhoWasInCommand. If you have some time to translate the application for us (it’s easy to do and we’ll help!) please get in touch.

You’ve made a mistake. Who can I tell about it?

Write to our research team at technical@securityforcemonitor.org and tell us about the mistake. We’ll investigate it further and make changes as required. You can help us speed up our investigation by sending us a link to publicly available sources that demonstrate the mistake.

The data in WhoWasInCommand mirrors information found in publicly available sources, which may not be correct and can contradict each other. This is why we grade the quality of every datapoint with a “confidence rating”. We assign ratings of “medium” and “high” to a datapoint when numerous sources from different publishers validate a datapoint. Until that happens, we our data given a rating of “low”.

I have confidential information - can I leak it to you?

No. All data published on WhoWasInCommand is drawn from published sources. Further, the threats to whistleblowers are increasingly extreme, and we are not able to offer the sort of technical and legal protection that many larger media organisations are now able to offer.

Can you help me make sense of this data I’ve downloaded?

Yes, the way that your download looks is very logical but not yet particularly easy to use. We’ve created a brief tutorial here, which should help. If you’re still stuck, write to us at technical@securityforcemonitor.org and we’ll do our best to help.

What does this word or term mean?

Our Research Handbook has detailed descriptions of all the fields and terminology used on WhoWasInCommand. If something isn’t clear, please write to us and let us know.