Adam Klasfeld | Investigative Journalism
Filing Freedom of Information Act requests, petitioning federal judges, swinging open the record of closed-door proceedings from an international trade tribunal, and threading a legal yarn from Kazakhstan to New York to California to New Zealand, I have used many journalistic tools to get to the bottom of a story. Just a few examples are below.
CLEANING THE DATA BEHIND NEW YORK'S GREEN NEW DEAL
Digging into the data of what New York City's Green New Deal, billed as the municipal bellwether of the more-publicized national analogue, I discovered that the data underlying the city's marquee buildings program had been self-reported and contained serious errors. This deep-dive analyzes the city's enormous data set—11,000 buildings larger than 50,000 square feet—to explore how obtaining reliable information about the carbon footprint of the city's famous skyline is crucial to the program's success. For a story heavy in numbers, this article opens with a human story: a gated community in Queens powered by its private gas power plant, whose numbers were grossly inflated in the city's data.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his presidential run on the week of this program's rollout, announcing that President Donald Trump's carbon-guzzling glass towers could face heavy fines if they do not become more eco-friendly. My investigation found that the mayor's office underestimated the footprint of Trump's New York real estate portfolio by omitting some of his most greenhouse gas-spewing skyscrapers.
Those properties are listed in the chart on the right.
Chased From Kazakhstan, Hounded in U.S. Courts
Fourteen years have passed since the newsroom Irina Petrushova ran in Kazakhstan was firebombed - shortly after she found the corpse of a decapitated dog at the office and its head outside her house - but threats against the journalist remain ongoing.
In this report, I trace how the Kazakh government's persecution of Respublika editor Petrushova migrated from her home country into U.S. courts, in a legal drama with stops in Moscow, London, New York, California, Washington and New Zealand. An interactive feature accompanying the article maps out the story, and clarifies the dazzlingly complicated litigation through user-friendly multimedia.
On the Trail of the Accused NYC Muslim Stabber
Shortly after Queens resident Bernhard Laufer threatened to kill a Muslim civil rights leader, he allegedly stabbed a halal food vendor in front of a mosque near his home. A Brooklyn federal judge's decision to sentence Laufer with time-served for death threats against the Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Nihad Awad drew criticism that the sentence was too lenient. Successfully petitioning the judge to unseal the case's sentencing memos, I revealed that prosecutors supported what many viewed to be a slap on the wrist because of Laufer's bipolar and schizoaffective disorder. I later discovered the online pseudonym that Laufer used to brag about his crime, and revealed that he claimed to feign mental illness to escape punishment.
Storming the Secret Trade Tribunal
The Permanent Court of Arbitration had been prepared to conduct a closed door hearing to determine whether the Ecuadorean government would have to pay for a $9.5 billion judgment its country's judiciary issued against Chevron, when I submitted a request to open the proceedings to the press and the public.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the premiere Washington-based media advocacy group, supported my maneuver.
Chevron and the Ecuadorean government both resisted transparency, but the tribunal ultimately granted our request in part in the form of redacted transcripts that produced groundbreaking revelations about the case.