The Pearl Project began in September 2007 as a journalism class at Georgetown University, taught by Asra Nomani, Daniel Pearl’s colleague at The Wall Street Journal, and Barbara Feinman Todd, Georgetown University Journalism Director. With support from the Oklahoma City-based Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Nomani and Feinman Todd ran a seminar over the course of two semesters in which students dug into the facts surrounding the murder of Pearl by militants in Pakistan during 2002.
Ultimately, the classes involved 32 student-journalists in the investigation during the 2007-2008 academic year. Upon the course’s conclusion, a small group of students continued to work with the co-directors as the Pearl Project moved from Georgetown University to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists at the Center for Public Integrity. After almost three-and-a-half years of work, the project has completed hundreds of interviews, scoured thousands of documents, and filed one lawsuit against eight government agencies, Feinman vs. CIA et. al,
Interviews included Pakistani police investigators, FBI agents, diplomatic staff, journalists, and others with first-hand knowledge of the case. In addition, the investigation relied on court documents from the Pakistan trial of those indicted for Pearl’s murder, as well as internal Pakistan police records, FBI interview reports, and State Department cables.
The project was an experiment in investigative journalism 2.0 with the use of a wiki that allowed students to collaborate in a virtual electronic newsroom. A chronology was built of the events involving Pearl’s kidnapping, murder, and police investigation, and analysis was done using link analysis software from Palantir Technologies and i2.
Good journalism is by necessity a collaborative effort; it takes reporters, editors, copy editors, fact-checkers, lawyers, and publishers. Inspired by the Arizona Project, an investigative reporting project into the 1976 murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles, the Pearl Project sought to foster a spirit of collaboration and teach students how to work as a team. The Pearl Project’s main participants were student journalists, aided by professional journalists who acted as mentors, sounding boards, and sometimes sources. Though journalism attracts individuals who are by nature intensely competitive, many professional journalists opened their hearts and their notebooks to this project. That is the sort of journalist and man that Danny was. Once, writing about a colleague he admired, Danny wrote: “I wish I could be so dedicated and generous.” In fact, he was. But, in the true nature of humility, he never acknowledged it. Pearl Project students and those who assisted them in the pursuit of the truth helped to keep Danny’s spirit alive.
In addition to those connected to the journalism profession, many people from other walks of life helped as well, some of whom are named, and others for whom association with this story could be risky – either professionally or personally. To those who remain unnamed, please know your identity remains protected but your contribution will never be forgotten.
Finally, Pearl Project directors salute Daniel Pearl: “We had 32 students. Danny was the 33rd member of our Pearl Project team. Through his emails, his last interviews, and the details that emerged from his last days, he was our guide, shining a light into a dark abyss of militancy, extremism, and terrorism. This is his last story.”
The Pearl Project Team
Senior Student Reporters
Rochelle S. Hall
Douglas J. Lane
Sean Patrick Murphy
Mark S. Zaid
Bradley P. Moss
The Center for Public Integrity
David E. Kaplan
Andrew Green, Erik Lincoln, Cole Goins
Web Site Design
Roger Black Studio
The Pearl Project also wishes to thank Palantir Technologies of Palo Alto, California, which provided generous in-kind support through its network analysis software and video production.
In addition, the Center for Public Integrity is generously supported by grants from Addesium Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Omidyar Network, the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the McCormick Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Popplestone Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, and the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation.
Three entities were our main supporters: Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Center for Public Integrity, and Georgetown University.
EEJF financed this project from beginning to end. They cheered us on and believed in what we were doing. Non-profit funding is the new model for supporting investigative reporting endeavors and every investigative reporter should be lucky enough to have in her corner EEJF’s president, Robert Ross; advisory committee member, Marian Cromley; senior program officer, Nancy Hodgkinson; and Sue Hale.
When the Pearl Project needed a new home, the Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists housed the project after the class ended. Executive Director Bill Buzenberg and ICIJ Director David Kaplan believed in this effort and made sure the project had what was necessary to succeed; Terry Atlas, editor extraordinaire, wrestled the first unwieldy 70,000 word manuscript down to the ground and helped resurrect it as a 30,000-word series. CPI Chief Operating Officer Ellen McPeake managed the money and offered support and understanding; Peter Smith, the best fact-checker in Washington, saved the Pearl Project from mistakes and redundancies; attorney Marc Miller of McLeod, Watkinson & Miller made the lawyering process fun; Julie Vorman provided editorial and logistical support at a time when it was badly needed; Regina Russell made the Project feel at home; and Francesca Craig offered enthusiasm and support.
Because of its Jesuit identity, Georgetown University has a tradition of encouraging its community members to public service and dedicating themselves to social justice, as well as to interfaith understanding. In that light, it is fitting for this project to have been undertaken by a Muslim and a Jew at a Catholic University. The Pearl Project appreciates Georgetown taking a chance on a different style of pedagogy and allowing an unconventional class to conduct an investigation. The project appreciated those colleagues and administrators who had the vision to support it along the way. In particular thanks go to Penn Szittya, Kathy Temple, Paul Greco, Robert Manuel, Leona Fisher, Jackie Buchy, Neris Fleming, Gerard Walker, Donna Even-Kesef, and Caitlin Tyler-Richards.
The Pearl Family
The Pearl Project would like thank Ruth Pearl, Judea Pearl, Tamara Pearl, Michelle Pearl, and Mariane Pearl for their support. Ruth Pearl said, “I miss Danny every minute of my life.”
The Pearl Project is grateful to a professional thorn in the side of the government, attorney Mark S. Zaid, and his young, hard-working associate, Bradley P. Moss, for fighting the good fight for us, handling our FOIA lawsuit against eight government agencies.
Thanks also to Palantir Technologies for providing the analytical software platform for the Pearl Project.
Additionally, Elijah White, formerly of i2 Inc., spent many after-work hours helping the Pearl Project sort endless amounts of data into attractive and intelligible network charts.
Pearl Project Journalist Fellows
Deborah Scroggins, former Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Anthony “Tony” Capaccio, Bloomberg
Ron Shafer, former Wall Street Journal
Alicia Shepard, National Public Radio
Estel Dillon, former NBC
Chris Chambers, author
Jill Abramson, New York Times
John Bussey, Wall Street Journal
Steve LeVine, former Wall Street Journal
Paul Steiger, ProPublica; former Wall Street Journal
Jane Mayer, New Yorker
Nick Fielding, former Sunday Times
David Rohde, The New York Times
Peter Bergen, CNN and author
Howard Yoon, Ross Yoon Literary Agency
Abigail Pesta, Marie Claire
Jesse Pesta, The Wall Street Journal
Mark Kukis, former TIME
Charles Lewis, founder, Center for Public Integrity
Shuja Nawaz, The Atlantic Council
Ed Pound, former Wall Street Journal
Susan Older, former USA Today
Adam Goldman, Associated Press
Joshua T. White, Johns Hopkins University
Moeed Yusuf, United States Institute of Peace
Hassan Abbas, Columbia University
The Pearl Project would also like to thank The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and its executive director, Bruce Shapiro; The Fund for Investigative Journalism; and Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. and its former executive director, Brant Houston.
Finally, because every good Washington investigative story is made better by a Watergate angle, the project thanks Dr. Donald Kreuzer, whose pro bono contribution came in the form of emergency dental care at his office at the Watergate, where decades ago a bungled break-in led to the birth of modern day investigative journalism. He came to the rescue early one weekend morning, opening his office after hours to two strangers with an out of town “guest” suffering from an agonizing dental problem. He asked no questions and stopped the pain so the Pearl Project’s work could continue.