I'm an investigative reporter, a New York Times Magazine Contributing Writer, and a Future of War Fellow at New America.
My accountability reporting for the PBS series FRONTLINE, The New York Times Magazine, and other outlets has earned the National Magazine Award for Reporting, the Overseas Press Club Award for Magazine Reporting, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting on South Asia, the Deadline Club Award for Independent Digital Reporting, the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism, and other honors.
U.S. military officials say the anti-ISIS air war in Iraq and Syria is the most precise aerial campaign in the history of warfare. But this on-the-ground investigation by Anand Gopal and myself for the New York Times Magazine reveals that the air war has been significantly less precise than the U.S.-led coalition claims.
We visited the sites of nearly 150 airstrikes across northern Iraq, not long after ISIS was evicted from them. We toured the wreckage; we interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants and local officials; we photographed bomb fragments, scoured local news sources, identified ISIS targets in the vicinity and mapped the destruction through satellite imagery. We also visited the American air base in Qatar where the coalition directs the air campaign. There, we were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers and civilian-casualty assessment experts. We provided their analysts with the coordinates and date ranges of every airstrike — 103 in all — in three ISIS-controlled areas and examined their responses. The result is the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since this latest military action began in 2014.
One in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition. It is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history. Our reporting revealed a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all. Many of the civilian deaths we documented appeared to be the result of flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants. In this system, Iraqis are considered guilty until proved innocent. Those who survive the strikes remain marked as possible ISIS sympathizers, with no discernible path to clear their names. The investigation was also the subject of a special serialized episode of The Daily podcast. (Part I & Part II) .
The investigation was awarded the 2018 National Magazine Award for Reporting, the 2018 Overseas Press Club Award for Magazine Reporting, the 2018 Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism, and the Deadline Club Award for Magazine Investigative Reporting.
The United States trumpets education as its shining success in the war in Afghanistan. But my on-the-ground investigation—based on visits to more than 50 U.S.-funded schools in battlefield provinces, internal U.S. and Afghan databases and documents, and more than 150 interviews— revealed how American efforts have fallen woefully short of the grand claims the government made, claims that it knew were false. What went wrong is a story of overhyping in Washington, of noble intentions going astray in a society America did not understand, and of the pitfalls of using humanitarian aid and 'soft power' to support military and political goals.
After publication, reaction was swift: Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania wrote USAID officials to say he was “particularly disturbed” by the findings, and asked the agency for detailed monitoring and evaluation plans. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction cited the report in its semiannual report to Congress. And in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani appointed a nine-member commission to investigate corruption in the Ministry of Education.
The investigation was awarded the 2016 Deadline Club Award for Independent Digital Reporting, the 2016 Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting on South Asia, and a finalist for the 2016 Livingston Award in International Reporting.
For PBS FRONTLINE, I produced this immersive film taking viewers through the harrowing reality of what happens when the Syrian government bombs its own people. It is a journey through the village of Al-Bara as airstrikes fall. The film captures the chaos on the ground as villagers struggle to rescue family and friends trapped under rubble, the fear that pulses through the community when the government jets return for a second bombing run, and the haunting calls for revenge that illustrate the country’s descent into chaos. The film was nominated for a 2014 Emmy award in the category New Approaches to Documentary Film.
In January 2011, millions of Egyptians took to the streets. On the ground in Cairo for PBS FRONTLINE, I field produced an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood's role in the revolution, and its profound social influence. Our film "The Brothers," and "Revolution in Cairo," received an Emmy award for Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story in a News Magazine, as well as an Overseas Press Club citation for Best Online Coverage of Breaking News.
Watch or read my investigation uncovering the most vulnerable victim's in Detroit's bankruptcy: people with lawsuits against the city. It reveals how residents with claims of civil rights violations, police abuse, and employment discrimination have been excluded from bankruptcy negotiations. As a result, they are set to get the smallest returns of any creditors. At its core, this is a story about power and high-stakes dealing, with dramatic consequences for the lives of ordinary people.
Under the unprecedented spotlight on campus assault, there has been virtually no public attention on how universities handle reports of sexual violence from millions of students with disabilities. My investigation revealed important gaps in how colleges respond. It was also re-printed in Deaf Life Magazine as its July 2015 cover story, and became a staple resource regularly cited by government agencies, universities, and disability & Title IX rights organizations.