My work with PBS FRONTLINE, Al Jazeera, and BuzzFeed Investigations has taken me to Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other conflict zones, and earned the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting on South Asia; the Deadline Club Award for Independent Digital Reporting; a Livingston Award nomination in International Reporting; shared an Emmy nomination in New Approaches to Documentary Film; the Online News Association award for “General Excellence in Online Journalism” (small); and the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovative Investigative Journalism.
Here's a sampling of my investigations and major projects.
"The American effort to educate Afghanistan’s children was hollowed out by corruption and by short-term political and military goals that, time and again, took precedence over building a viable school system. And the U.S. government has known for years that it has been peddling hype. ... 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."
Throughout America’s long, bloody, and frustrating war in Afghanistan, the U.S. government has trumpeted one shining victory: education. I set out across Afghanistan — starting in the birthplace of the Taliban — and worked my way around battlefield provinces to investigate those claims, the first time any member of the media had done so. Based on visits to schools across the country, internal U.S. and Afghan databases and documents, and more than 150 interviews, I found that in the areas where most U.S. funding was concentrated — territories that were key to winning the war — American efforts have fallen woefully short of the grand claims the government made, claims that it knew were false.
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, SAJA's 2016 Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting on South Asia, recognized as a Livingston Award finalist in International Reporting and by ProPublica as one of the best investigations of 2015. It was also translated & published in Japanese.
What does it look like when a government drops bombs on its own people?
For PBS FRONTLINE, I produced this 36-minute immersive film taking viewers inside in the village of Al Bara as Syrian jets drop bombs on homes 300 meters away from filmmaker Olly Lambert. You'll witness the chaos on the ground as villagers try to rescue family and friends trapped under the rubble, the bombing’s effect on ordinary civilians whose lives literally have just been blown apart, the palpable fear when the government jets return for a second bombing run, and the ensuing calls for revenge that illustrate the country’s descent into chaos.
The film was nominated for a 2014 Emmy Award in New Approaches to Documentary Film.
I uncover the least visible victim's in Detroit's bankruptcy, a group of creditors who stand to become casualties of the city twice-over, through no fault of their own, and with little means to do anything about it. At its core, this is a story about power and high-stakes dealing, with dramatic consequences for the lives of ordinary people.
In January 2011, millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest Hosni Mubarak's regime. On the ground for PBS FRONTLINE, I field produced a context-rich investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood's underreported role in this revolution, and its profound social influence in the country. Our resulting film, The Brothers, and its related digital coverage, 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.
As Yemen emerged as the breeding grounds for some of the most high-profile plans to attack the U.S. homeland, FRONTLINE journeyed to the south of the country for the film Al Qaeda In Yemen to explore how Al Qaeda and affiliated militants had seized control of territory there — and were winning popular support. My reporting also included:
Few understand how Yemen became an Al Qaeda stronghold, or how America’s escalating war in the country is playing out on the ground. Turning to 11 Yemen experts across a variety of disciplines, I created the definitive primer that lays bare the rise of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the central debates surrounding its ascent.
Since 2009, the U.S. ramped up a campaign of air strikes in Yemen. In this interactive map, I plotted every single U.S. strike in Yemen over the last decade, visualizing important trends the program's escalation.
Every day headlines highlight Yemen’s growing Al Qaeda threat, the terror plots to attack the U.S. homeland hatched from within its borders and America’s escalating campaign of air strikes in the country. But some of Yemen’s biggest challenges — many of which helped spark its democracy protests in 2011 — are largely absent from Western media. More conventional domestic and economic issues may define Yemen’s stability, and in doing so define regional and global security. From severe droughts to secessionist movements and proxy war, I explored four of Yemen’s biggest problems few Americans ever hear about.
From new surveillance programs and suspicious activity reporting initiatives, to law enforcement "Muslim outreach" and Mosque-building backlash, here is a selection of my reporting.
"Suspicious Activity"—Really? | Boston Airport Tests ‘Chat Downs’ to Detect Suspicious Activity | Mall of America Shoppers Find Themselves Ensnared in the War on Terror | Senate Report: Massive Post-9/11 Surveillance Apparatus A “Waste" | “Top Secret America” Price Tag at Record High | The Anthrax Investigation | The FBI Files: 10 Years Later, A Lens on a Changing Agency | “Top Secret America” After the Boston Bombings | ACLU Pushes for Info on Digital Tracking | FBI Criticized for Collecting Racial and Ethnic Data | Docs Reveal FBI Used Muslim Outreach As Guise to Collect Intel | AP Documents Expansion of NYPD into “Domestic CIA” | New Evidence of NYPD’s Controversial Spy Unit | NYPD Eyed Shia Muslims Based on Religion | NYPD Secretly Monitored City’s Muslim “Partners” | FBI Training Materials: Mainstream Muslims Are Violent, Radical | Who Is the Man Behind the Mosque? | Proposed NYC Islamic Center to Open Temporary Space | Rent Dispute Threatens Plans for Controversial NY Mosque and Community Center | America and Muslims: By the Numbers | Ashura, the Unique Face of Shia Islam
Under the unprecedented spotlight on campus assault, there has been virtually no public attention on how universities handle reports of sexual violence from the millions of students with disabilities. I spent months investigating the issue to reveal important gaps in how colleges respond.
The investigation gained significant traction within disability communities, and was re-printed in Deaf Life Magazine as the July 2015 cover story. It also sparked a broader national conversation, becoming a staple resource regularly cited by government agencies, universities, and disability and Title IX rights organizations.
An estimated 5 million Brazilian women under the age of 40 have had at least one abortion. Because abortion is only allowed legally in select circumstances, an overwhelming majority of these women terminate their pregnancies illegally — risking prison, serious health consequences, social stigma and even death. But in a desperate attempt to get a safe abortion, Juliana did something different: She falsely reported rape. Her chilling saga is a rare window into some of the difficult choices Brazilian women are forced to make when trying to end a pregnancy in the country with the largest Roman Catholic population in the world.
In August 2011, 28-year-old Iranian-American and former Marine Amir Hekmati disappeared in Tehran. Months later he appeared on Iranian state television confessing to be a CIA spy. This is the story of how a boy from born in Flagstaff, Ariz., who was raised in Nebraska and Michigan, and who served his country for four years wound up in Iran’s notorious Evin prison -- and his family's intense struggle to bring him home.
I also reported and produced a series of written, video, and interactive projects for half a dozen FRONTLINE films investigating the Syrian war, including:
In the Orontes river valley, Alawite and Sunni neighbors who lived together peacefully for generations have turned on one another. In this interactive map — the first ever to plot the sectarian makeup of the valley — I tell the story of the people who live and fight on both sides of the frontline, neighbors now divided by religion, ideology and the river that runs between them.
The Alawites: Syria's Secretive Ruling Minority Sect | What Is Al Qaeda Doing In Syria? | Syria's Engame | How The World Stacks Up On Syria | A Guide To Sanctions On Syria | Syria's Shocking Civilian Death Toll | Syria's Fragmented Opposition
And find more of my reporting for the following FRONTLINE films: