Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

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  • Inside Texas' botched voter-rolls review

    The press release landed late on a Friday afternoon: State officials had found 95,000 “noncitizens” on the Texas voter rolls — and 58,000 of those people had voted. The reaction from GOP state leaders, who have long pushed unsubstantiated claims of rampant voter fraud in Texas, was swift and certain. “VOTER FRAUD ALERT,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. “Thanks to Attorney General Paxton and the Secretary of State for uncovering and investigating this illegal vote registration,” Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, adding, “I support prosecution where appropriate.” Even President Donald Trump chimed in. “58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.” The state’s claims immediately raised red flags for our voting rights reporter, Alexa Ura. Ura knew the state had used driver’s license records — where applicants must reveal their citizenship status — to cross-reference the voter rolls and flag potential illegitimate voters. She also knew that in Texas, immigrants only have to renew their driver’s license every few years — meaning many thousands of people flagged by the state’s review had almost certainly become naturalized citizens before they registered and voted. Her breaking news story on state leaders’ “voter fraud” announcement explained those flawed methods and cast serious doubts on their claims. But her follow-up reporting — dozens of explanatory and investigative stories over as many weeks — had far greater impact than merely debunking irresponsible claims.
  • The Henry Pratt Mass Shooting

    On the afternoon of Feb. 15, disgruntled warehouse employee Gary Martin opened fire during a termination hearing at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, Ill., killing five people and wounding several police officers before being fatally shot by law enforcement. Before police publicly identified Martin, the Tribune learned his name from sources and began investigating his background. One thing quickly became clear: Martin, a convicted felon who had served prison time for attempting to kill his girlfriend, never should have been allowed to purchase the gun used in the shooting. This discovery – aided by carefully worded Freedom of Information Act requests, unparalleled sourcing and a review of extensive court records – prompted the Illinois State Police to disclose hundreds of pages of documents related to Martin’s firearms license and gun purchase within days of the shooting. It was an unprecedented release of information, in terms of both expediency and subject manner. Illinois law expressly prohibits the disclosure of records related to firearm owner’s identification cards or concealed carried permits, but Tribune reporters were able to convince law-enforcement officials that Martin’s firearms history should be exempt from such protections because he fraudulently obtained his license by lying on his permit application. Upon receiving this information, reporters submitted further FOIAs in an effort to understand the depths of the state’s problem. A reporting project that started within hours of a mass shooting grew into an investigation that found 34,000 Illinois had their gun permits revoked – and that the state has no idea what happen to their guns. That meant 78 percent of people stripped of their gun licenses failed to account for their weapons. The responsive records – some of which required difficult fights and keen sourcing to obtain - exposed serious flaws in the national databases relied upon to conduct criminal background checks, as well as the state’s failure to ensure that people surrender their weapons after their Firearm Owner's Identification cards are revoked. In an analysis of data released for the first time, the Tribune found as many as 30,000 guns may still be in possession of people deemed too dangerous to own firearms. The Tribune also was able to create an online-lookup that allowed readers to look up how many people in their town had their gun permits stripped, the reason for the revocation and how many times that person had made a serious inquiry about purchasing a gun.
  • The Death of a State Trooper

    Early on a Saturday morning in late March of 2019, a man drove the wrong way down a suburban Chicago expressway and crashed into another driver, killing them both. It’s the kind of news story that – unfortunately -- we all report too often. It’s also the kind of story that NBC5 Investigates regularly checks out, to see what might be behind the breaking news. In this case, we quickly discovered a man – Dan Davies -- who should never have been on the road, because of a system that simply (and repeatedly) didn’t work, eventually resulting in that early- morning crash. The man Davies killed: An Illinois State Trooper named Gerald Ellis, who was heading home to his family after his late-night shift. One witness at the scene said Trooper Ellis saved the lives of others, by steering into Davies’ oncoming car. Nearly every day over the two weeks following that fatal crash, NBC5 Investigates uncovered new court records and police reports, blood-alcohol analyses and dash cam video, social-media posts and States Attorney documents, all adding to a damning pile of evidence showing that Davies should have been behind bars the night of the crash, save for a series of mistakes by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Yet, every day, when we tried to get answers from that State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, there was only radio silence. The lack of response was so galling – especially from a taxpayer-funded office accountable to the public -- that we documented, online and in real time, the actual reporting process of our daily phone calls and emails, which simply sought the most basic answers on what her office did and didn’t do, in a case that clearly and ultimately resulted in the unnecessary death of an Illinois State trooper. Ultimately, Foxx was forced to respond and – finally – take responsibility for the mistakes that allowed Dan Davies to be on the road that night.
  • The final days of Laura and Walton

    Laura Connell believed she was going to lose custody of her only child, Walton, despite years of abuse at the hands of her child’s father. After coming to Delaware to escape the abuse and appealing to the Delaware courts, it appeared she was still going to have to turn over her son to his father. She never did – instead killing first him and then herself on the morning of her family court hearing. Hundreds of pages of court documents, medical records and other records provided both by Laura herself and the courts detail the abuse and claims Laura said never reached a judge or were taken seriously. The story explains why mothers kill their children and what can drive parents to commit murder- suicide in a world in which we often lack those answers.
  • A Dangerous Delay

    In November 2018, Olivia Paregol’s father frantically called the University of Maryland from the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The 18-year-old freshman, who had lived in a mold-infested dorm, was fighting for her life and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was there anything else on campus making students sick? The director of the student health center knew of severe cases of adenovirus on campus but the public had no clue. Less than a week later, Olivia was dead from the virus and the outbreak would sicken dozens of students. It was only after her death that school officials informed the campus about the virus. Ian Paregol had more questions than answers: How long had the university known? Why didn’t they tell Olivia or other students when they showed up sick at the student health center? Washington Post reporters Jenn Abelson, Amy Brittain and Sarah Larimer interviewed more than 100 people and obtained thousands of pages of medical records, hundreds of emails, text messages, voicemails and other documents to reconstruct the events that led to Olivia’s death and threatened the health and safety of thousands of students at the University of Maryland campus. College officials said it would cost $63,000 to disclose internal emails about the outbreak, so reporters obtained many of those records from state and county agencies. In May, the Washington Post published “A Dangerous Delay,” a detailed investigation examining the outbreak of mold and adenovirus at the University of Maryland. The reporters revealed that the school waited 18 days to inform students about the virus and officials discussed — but decided against — notifying students with compromised immune systems, like Olivia, and those living in mold-infested dorms.
  • Pentagon secretly struck back against Iranian cyberspies targeting U.S. ships

    In the middle of June, tensions were rising between the United States and Iran. Iran had attacked oil tankers traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, and then downed an expensive, high-tech Navy RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone flying over the Strait, upping the ante of the conflict. Given previous rhetoric from Trump administration officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against the Iranian regime, the decision to exit the Iran deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the increasingly heavy sanctions on Iran, the Yahoo News team was monitoring for chances to report in more depth on specific Iranian capabilities as well as U.S. plans to counter them. Following the attack on the U.S. drone, Yahoo News began communicating with sources who had extensive detail on a specific unit within the Iranian military in the cross-hairs of the U.S. military, a unit that had advanced its cyber capabilities to the point that it was able to track nearly all ships traveling through the Strait through both social engineering, or pretending to be attractive women engaging with service members traveling on the ships, to actually compromising ship GPS data websites in order to digitally monitor their paths. In the course of reporting, Yahoo News discovered a key, news breaking event—that just hours prior, the U.S. Cyber Command had launched a retaliatory strike aimed at limiting the capabilities of the specific Iranian cyber group the team had already been investigating. Yahoo was the first to break the news of the retaliatory strike, leading dozens of major news outlets to race to match the story. However, given the fact Yahoo News was investigating details into the cyber unit, our story was not only first but best and most detailed. The story demonstrates our ability to jump into the news cycle, provide key breaking news to our readers, as well as dig deep into illuminating new details. The story also revealed that Iranian capabilities to intercept and down drones to study them for espionage purposes was highly advanced, a fact previously unknown. Given President Trump’s recent decision to authorize a strike to kill IRGC Commander Qasem Suleimani, our reporting will continue to provide value to readers, analysts, and other interested parties hoping to better understand Iranian capabilities and how the U.S. might respond to them.
  • "Healthy Holly" and University of Maryland Medical System Investigation

    The “Healthy Holly” scandal began with a suggestion from a source, a state legislator who told Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater she thought there might be some irregular contracting practices going on at the University of Maryland Medical System. Broadwater, busy covering the General Assembly session, filed a public records request. The documents showed that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and other members of the hospital network’s board of directors had no-bid contracts with the medical system -- though the extent of those contracts, especially Pugh's, were not fully described. Broadwater's story -- written quickly as a daily as soon as he received the documents -- was breaking news that got the attention of Maryland's political establishment: University of Maryland Medical System pays members of volunteer board hundreds of thousands in business deals. Immediately, Broadwater and other Baltimore Sun reporters followed their instincts and tips that were coming in -- including that Pugh had failed to print many of the books she’d been paid to produce, while thousands of others were sitting unread in a Baltimore school system warehouse. Meanwhile, Sun reporters pulled ethics forms, poured over tax records, filed public information requests and worked sources, breaking story after story that exposed a widening scandal that rocked the state of Maryland, perhaps more than any other series of articles in decades. Their work led to the resignation of the mayor, the UMMS CEO and other top officials, including every member of the medical system's board of directors.
  • In the hot seat

    When reporters at NBC News began probing OSHA severe injury data in February 2019, an interesting takeaway emerged: UPS had a higher rate of heat injuries than any other company. At least 107 UPS workers in 23 states had been hospitalized for heat illnesses since 2015. In severe cases, heat can lead to organ failure and death. But regulators have little enforcement ability on this issue because there is no OSHA standard protecting workers from heat--even as climate change brings record-breaking temperatures. NBC News filed more than two dozen public records requests for state-level data -- to supplement the federal OSHA data -- and hundreds of pages of incident reports, and spoke with dozens of UPS employees, uncovering a corporate culture that exacerbated the problem. Long hours, heavy routes, fear of retaliation and sweltering trucks and warehouses pushed workers workers past their limits. Managers pushing workers to continue working when sick, and employees too intimidated to report their injuries. UPS claimed that their iconic brown trucks do not get dangerously hot, but NBC News sent five temperature loggers in packages across the country, during one of the hottest weeks of the summer. The results showed that each package exceeded 100 degrees while on a truck, with one hitting nearly 115 degrees. Drivers around the country also sent us images of temperature readings they took in their own trucks -- the hottest clocked in at 158 degrees. Between rising temperatures and the growing demands of the two-day delivery economy, dozens of UPS drivers said conditions are getting worse. Follow up stories uncovered additional injuries and more examples of UPS poorly protecting its workers from the heat. Following our story, OSHA fined UPS for a heat injury for the first time in nearly a decade.
  • Tainted Water

    Canadians have every reason to believe that the water that runs from their taps is beyond reproach: abundant, clean and safe. But the “Tainted Water” investigation, an unprecedented national collaboration of universities and news organizations, exposed the risks faced by millions of Canadians whose drinking water contains elevated levels of lead, a powerful, insidious neurotoxin, and other contaminants. Coordinated by the staff at the Institute for Investigative Journalism (IIJ), “Tainted Water” is the largest project of its kind in Canadian history, and possibly the largest student-led project worldwide. The consortium brought together more than 120 journalists, student journalists and faculty members from nine post-secondary institutions and six news organizations and their bureaus over a period of 18 months to report the series. Journalism students and reporters combined their findings and produced local, regional and national investigative features, released as a series of print, digital and TV stories, making international headlines.
  • Northwest Jails' Mounting Death Toll

    Since 2008, at least 306 people across the Northwest have died after being taken to a county jail. Until now, that number was unknown, in part because Oregon and Washington have not comprehensively tracked those deaths in county jails. If they did, they would find a crisis of rising death rates in overburdened jails that have been set up to fail the inmates they are tasked with keeping safe. Key findings: - Over the past 10 years, the rate of jail deaths has trended upward in Oregon and Washington. In 2008, county jails in Washington had a mortality rate of about 123 deaths for every 100,000 inmates. By 2017, that rate was 162. Jail population data for 2018 were not yet available at the time of publication, but reported deaths spiked that year. A conservative estimate puts the 2018 mortality rate closer to 200 deaths per 100,000 inmates. - In 2018, police shot and killed 39 people between Oregon and Washington, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. For that same year, our investigation found 39 deaths in Oregon and Washington county jails. - At least 70 percent of Northwest inmates who died in the past decade were awaiting trial at the time of their deaths, still considered innocent under the law. - More than 40 percent of deaths happened within an inmate’s first week in jail. A third of all inmates who died never made it past three days. - Suicide, by far the leading cause of jail deaths in the Pacific Northwest, accounted for nearly half of all cases with a known cause of death.