Reveal

The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

Reveal’s investigations will inspire, infuriate and inform you. Host Al Letson and an award-winning team of reporters deliver gripping stories about caregivers, advocates for the unhoused, immigrant families, warehouse workers and formerly incarcerated people, fighting to hold the powerful accountable. The New Yorker described Reveal as “a knockout … a pleasure to listen to, even as we seethe.” A winner of multiple Peabody, duPont, Emmy and Murrow awards, Reveal is produced by the nation’s first investigative journalism nonprofit, The Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX. From unearthing exploitative working conditions to exposing the nation’s racial disparities, there’s always more to the story. Learn more at revealnews.org/learn.


Locked Up: The Prison Labor That Built Business Empires
Sep 17 2022
Locked Up: The Prison Labor That Built Business Empires
After the Civil War, a new form of slavery took hold in the US and lasted more than 60 years. Associated Press reporters Margie Mason and Robin McDowell investigate the chilling history of how Southern states imprisoned mainly Black men, often for minor crimes, and then leased them out to private companies – for years, even decades, at a time. The team talks with the descendant of a man imprisoned in the Lone Rock stockade in Tennessee nearly 140 years ago, where people as young as 12 worked under subhuman conditions in coal mines and inferno-like ovens used to produce iron. This system of forced prison labor enriched the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad company – at the cost of prisoners’ lives.  At the state park that sits on the former site of the Lone Rock stockade, relics from the hellish prison are buried beneath the soil. Archeologist Camille Westmont has found thousands of artifacts, such as utensils and the plates prisoners ate off. She has also created a database listing the names of those sent to Lone Rock. A team of volunteers are helping her, including a woman reckoning with her own ancestor’s involvement in this corrupt system and the wealth her family benefited from.    The United States Steel Corporation helped build bridges, railroads and towering skyscrapers across America. But the company also relied on forced prison labor. After U.S. Steel took over Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad in 1907, the industrial giant used prison labor for at least five years. During that time, more than 100 men died while working in their massive coal mining operation in Alabama. U.S. Steel has misrepresented this dark chapter of its history. And it has never apologized for its use of forced labor or the lives lost.The reporters push the company to answer questions about its past and engage with communities near the former mines.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/weeklyConnect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
The Big Grift Behind the Big Lie
Sep 10 2022
The Big Grift Behind the Big Lie
This episode explores two stories of fights over the right to vote.  Texas-based nonprofit True the Vote claims to have evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election—an idea Trump loudly echoes as part of “the big lie.” But True the Vote has never shown any proof. The lack of evidence hasn’t stopped the group from netting millions of dollars in donations. As reporter Cassandra Jaramillo explains, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht and board member Gregg Phillips took home hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal loans and payments to companies they’re associated with. Despite this grift, True the Vote’s influence is still expanding. The group provided “research” for a new film called 2000 Mules that promises to expose widespread voter fraud—with no evidence to back it up.  The big lie sparked the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, an event that is now part of the nation’s election history. But this was not the first time that a violent mob tried to challenge election results. In 1898, a group of armed white supremacists carried out a coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, and seized power from legally elected Black leaders. The Wilmington coup created a blueprint for taking voting rights away from people of color—a legacy of voter suppression that the country is still grappling with today. Host Al Letson pieces together the story with help from the grandson of a prominent member of the Black community in Wilmington.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletterConnect with us onTwitter, Facebook and Instagram
Afghanistan's Recognition Problem
Aug 13 2022
Afghanistan's Recognition Problem
There isn’t a single country in the world that recognizes the Taliban as a legitimate government. And neither do many Afghans. One year after the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan, reporter Najib Aminy checks back in with a teacher from Kabul named Aysha, who fled to the U.K. She was one of the 120,000 people airlifted out of the country as the Taliban took control. Like many other Afghan refugees, she’s frustrated that the Taliban’s leadership has resulted in having to leave her home country behind. While the Biden administration has claimed to welcome refugees from both Afghanistan and Ukraine, the process for people fleeing the two countries has been unequal. To gain temporary entry to the United States, more than 66,000 Afghans applied through a process called humanitarian parole. But the hurdles for Afghans are huge, including monthslong wait times, piles of paperwork and a steep cost ($575 per person). In contrast, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States created a special humanitarian parole process for Ukrainians caught in the conflict – it can be filed online and has no application fee. Government records reveal that only 123 Afghan humanitarian parole applicants have been approved, compared with 68,000 Ukrainian applicants. Guest host Ike Sriskandarajah and Aminy then head to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where $7 billion in assets belonging to Afghanistan has sat frozen since the Taliban took control of the country last year. Aminy talks with Shah Mehrabi, an economist who sits on the governing board of the Afghan central bank, who says that without access to those assets, the country’s economy is headed toward collapse. The Biden administration is in a complicated position as it considers whether to release the money – and how to do it without aiding the Taliban. Obaidullah Baheer is a lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan who is trying to bring the Taliban and its critics together to chart a future for the country. For Baheer, Afghan politics is personal – his grandfather served as prime minister of the country and is accused of committing war crimes that killed thousands of civilians. With that weight of personal history, Baheer is organizing Afghans to figure out how to resolve the conflicts at the heart of the country today. Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletterConnect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
My Neighbor, the Suspected War Criminal
Aug 6 2022
My Neighbor, the Suspected War Criminal
In July, a popular uprising in Sri Lanka forced the country’s president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to step down and flee the country. Rajapaksa is accused of carrying out massive atrocities more than a decade ago.  Reveal reporter and host Ike Sriskandarajah looks into why powerful people suspected of committing war crimes often walk free. Sriskandarajah spent six months investigating the U.S. government's failure to charge accused perpetrators of the worst crimes in the world. The federal government says it is pursuing leads and cases against nearly 1700 alleged human rights violators and war criminals. Victims of international atrocities sometimes even describe running into them at their local coffee shop or in line at Walgreens.   After the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war, families seeking accountability for state-sanctioned violence filed a suit against a man they say is a war criminal. A private eye was tasked with hunting down Gota, Sri Lanka’s former defense minister. The P.I.  found the alleged war criminal in Southern California, shopping at Trader Joe’s.  At the close of World War II, dozens of former Nazi leaders came to the United States. After decades of inaction, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter created a special unit within the Department of Justice dedicated to hunting down Nazi war criminals. Decades after passing the first substantive human rights statutes that make it possible to prosecute war criminals for crimes like torture and genocide, the U.S. has successfully prosecuted only one person under the laws. Sriskandrajah talks to experts about why prosecutors often take an “Al Capone” strategy to going after war criminals, pursuing them on lesser charges like immigration violations rather than human rights abuses.  With little action from the government to prosecute war criminals, victims of violence are instead using civil lawsuits to try to seek accountability. Lawyers at the Center for Justice & Accountability have brought two dozen cases against alleged war criminals and human rights violators – and never lost at trial. But when the lawyers share their evidence with the federal government, it often feels like the information disappears into a black box.  This is a rebroadcast of an episode originally released on April 22, 2022.
No Retreat: The Dangers of Stand Your Ground
Jul 30 2022
No Retreat: The Dangers of Stand Your Ground
The killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 marked the beginning of a new chapter of the struggle for civil rights in America. A mostly White jury acquitted George Zimmerman of the teen’s murder, in part because Florida’s stand your ground law permits a person to use deadly force in self-defense – even if that person could have safely retreated. Nationwide protests after the trial called for stand your ground laws to be repealed and reformed. But instead, stand your ground laws have expanded to 38 states.  Reveal reporter Jonathan Jones talks with Byron Castillo, a maintenance worker in North Carolina who was shot in the chest after mistakenly trying to get into the wrong apartment for a repair. While Castillo wound up out of work and deep in debt, police and prosecutors declined to pursue charges against the shooter, who said he was afraid someone was trying to break into his apartment. Researchers have found that states that enacted stand your ground laws have seen an increase in homicides – one study estimated that roughly 700 more people die in the U.S. every year because of stand your ground laws.  Opponents of stand your ground laws call them by a different name: “kill at will” laws. Jones speaks to lawmakers like Stephanie Howse, who fought against stand your ground legislation as an Ohio state representative, saying such laws put Black people's lives at risk. Howse and other Democratic lawmakers faced off against Republican politicians, backed by pro-gun lobbyists, intent on passing a stand your ground bill despite widespread opposition from civil rights groups and law enforcement. Modern-day stand your ground laws started in Florida. Reveal reporter Nadia Hamdan explores a 2011 road rage incident that wound up leading to an expansion of the law. She looks at how one case led Florida lawmakers, backed by the National Rifle Association, to enact a law that spells out that prosecutors, not defendants, have the burden of proof when claiming someone was not acting in self-defense when committing an act of violence against another individual.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletterConnect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Inside the Global Fight for White Power
Jul 23 2022
Inside the Global Fight for White Power
From Russia to Sweden and the United States, there’s a growing network of White nationalist groups that stretches around the world. The reporting team at Verified: The Next Threat investigates how these militant groups are helping each other create propaganda, recruit new members and share paramilitary skills. We start with a group called the Russian Imperial Movement, or RIM. Its members are taking up arms in Russia’s war against Ukraine, which they say is a battle in a much larger “holy war” for White power. Newsy senior investigative reporter Mark Greenblatt interviews a leader of the group who says RIM’s goal is to unite White nationalists around the world. The group even runs training camps where White supremacists from around the world can learn paramilitary tactics. Russia’s White nationalists are making connections with extremists in the United States. Greenblatt talks with a neo-Nazi named Matt Heimbach, who was a major promoter of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Soon after Charlottesville, Heimbach invited members of RIM to the U.S. and connected them to his network of American White power extremists. We end with a visit by Greenblatt to the State Department in Washington, where he interviews two top counterterrorism officials. They say they’re aware of the growing international network of White supremacists, but explain that White power groups are now forming political parties, which makes it more difficult for the agency to use its most powerful counterterrorism tools. Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletterConnect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
All the President’s Pardons
Jul 16 2022
All the President’s Pardons
When he was president, Donald Trump used the pardon power to help friends and political allies. Now we’ve learned from the Jan. 6 committee hearings that members of his inner circle asked for pardons to shield themselves from prosecution, before they were even charged with a crime. But what about the people who applied for pardons through the official process and are still waiting for answers? We go beyond the headlines and tell the story of a pardons system that’s completely broken down.  We begin our show by looking at the rarest of pardons: when the person receiving a pardon is the president. When in office, Trump tweeted that he had the authority to pardon himself, a concept that first was discussed during the Nixon administration. In that case, former President Richard Nixon eventually was pardoned by the next president, Gerald Ford. In this story, we hear some rare archival tape in which Ford explains in his own words why he decided to pardon his predecessor. In the next story, we look at the case of Charles “Duke” Tanner, a boxer who was sentenced to life in federal prison after being convicted of drug trafficking. His arrest came during the war on drugs, which started in the 1980s, disproportionately putting tens of thousands of Black men in prison for decades. Tanner applied for clemency twice; his application was just one among 13,000 others waiting for a decision at the federal Office of the Pardon Attorney when this show first aired in 2019. That number has grown to nearly 17,000 as of today. We end with a heartwarming update in the Tanner story. Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletter Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Can Our Climate Survive Bitcoin?
Jul 9 2022
Can Our Climate Survive Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a novel form of currency that bypasses banks, credit card companies and governments. But as Elizabeth Shogren reports, the process of creating bitcoin is extremely energy intensive, and it’s setting back efforts to address climate change. Already, bitcoin has used enough power to erase all the energy savings from electric cars, according to one study. Still, towns across the United States are scrambling to attract bitcoin-mining operations by selling them power at a deep discount.  Bitcoin’s demand for electricity is so great that it’s giving new life to the dirtiest type of power plants: ones that burn coal. In Hardin, Montana, the coal-fired power plant was on the verge of shutting down until bitcoin came to town. The coal that fuels the bitcoin operation is owned by the Crow Nation, so some of the tribe’s leaders support it. But in just one year, the amount of carbon dioxide the plant puts into the air jumped nearly tenfold. After our story first aired, the company that owns the computers that mine bitcoin in Hardin announced that it would move them to a cleaner source of power. The generating station is negotiating with other companies to take its place.  Bitcoin’s huge carbon footprint has people asking whether  cryptocurrency can go green. Bitcoin advocates say it can switch to renewable energy. Others are instead developing entirely new types of cryptocurrency that are less energy hungry. Guest host Shereen Marisol Meraji talks with Ludwig Siegele, technology editor at The Economist, who gives his assessment of the challenges of making cryptocurrency environmentally friendly.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenow Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletter Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Lost in Transplantation
Jul 2 2022
Lost in Transplantation
Quickly delivering donated organs to patients waiting for a transplant is a matter of life and death. Yet transportation errors are leading to delays in surgeries, putting patients in danger and making some organs unusable. This week, we look at weaknesses in the nation’s system for transporting organs and solutions for making it work better.  More than any other organ, donated kidneys are put on commercial flights so they can get to waiting patients. In collaboration with Kaiser Health News, we look at the system for transporting kidneys and how a lack of tracking and accountability can result in waylaid or misplaced kidneys. We then look at the broader issues affecting organ procurement in the U.S. with Jennifer Erickson, who worked at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama administration. She says one of the system’s weaknesses is that not enough organs are recovered from deceased people – not nearly as many as there could be. We end with an audio postcard about honor walks, a new ritual that hospitals are adopting to honor the gift of life that dying people are giving to patients who will receive their organs. We follow the story of one young man who was killed in a car accident. This episode originally was broadcast Feb. 8, 2020.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletter Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
The Religious Right Mobilized to End Roe. Now What?
Jun 25 2022
The Religious Right Mobilized to End Roe. Now What?
Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that gave women in the U.S. the legal right to an abortion, has now been officially overturned. The Supreme Court rarely reverses itself. The ruling means states can set their own laws around abortion. Many plan to ban it outright. How did we get to this point?  For decades, mostly White Evangelicals and Catholics joined forces to put political pressure on Republicans to oppose abortion access – which has serious implications for communities of color. Reporter Anayansi Diaz-Cortes talks with Jennifer Holland, a history professor and author of the book “Tiny You: A Western History of the Anti-Abortion Movement,” and Khiara Bridges, a reproductive justice scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, about the racial dynamics of the fight over abortion.  Most abortions now happen with pills rather than a surgical procedure at a clinic. The ability to get the pills via mail and telehealth appointments has helped expand access to abortions. Now, religious anti-abortion activists are promoting the unproven idea that medication abortions can be reversed. Reporters Amy Littlefield and Sofia Resnick investigate the science and history of this controversial treatment called abortion pill reversal. But there’s another religious voice that often gets drowned out by the anti-abortion movement. Reveal's Grace Oldham visits the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, which back in the late ’60s was part of a national hotline for people seeking an abortion. Callers could be connected with clergy members who would counsel them and give a referral to a trusted doctor who would safely perform abortions. We hear how the church is continuing its legacy of supporting abortion access today, helping people in Texas who want abortions get them out of state. Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletter Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Baseball Strikes Out
Jun 11 2022
Baseball Strikes Out
In the early 2000s, rampant steroid use across Major League Baseball became the biggest scandal in the sport’s history. But fans didn’t want to hear the difficult truth about their heroes – and the league didn’t want to intervene and clean up a mess it helped make. We look back at how the scandal unraveled with our colleagues from the podcast Crushed from Religion of Sports and PRX. Their show revisits the steroid era to untangle its truth from the many myths, examine the legacy of baseball’s so-called steroid era and explore what it tells us about sports culture in America. We start during the 1998 MLB season, when the home run race was on. Superstar sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled to set a new single-season record, and McGwire, the St. Louis Cardinals first baseman, was portrayed as the hero baseball needed: part humble, wholesome, working man and part action hero, with his brawny build and enormous biceps. So when a reporter spotted a suspicious bottle of pills in his locker in the middle of the season, most fans plugged their ears and refused to acknowledge that baseball might be hooked on steroids. Joan Niesen, a sportswriter and host of the podcast Crushed, takes us on a deep dive into an era that dethroned a generation of superstars, left fans disillusioned and turned baseball’s record book on its head. The story takes us from ballparks and clubhouses to the halls of Congress to explain how baseball was finally forced to reckon with its drug problem. This is a rebroadcast of an episode that originally aired in July 2021.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletter Connect with us onTwitter, Facebook and Instagram
Fighting Fire with Fire
Jun 4 2022
Fighting Fire with Fire
Year after year, wildfires have swept through Northern California’s wine and dairy country, threatening the region’s famed agricultural businesses. . Evacuation orders have become a way of life in places like Sonoma County, and so too have exemptions to those orders. Officials in the county created a special program allowing agricultural employers to bring farmworkers into areas that are under evacuation and keep them working, even as wildfires rage. It’s generally known as the ag pass program. Reporter Teresa Cotsirilos investigates whether the policy puts low-wage farmworkers at risk from smoke and flames. This story is a partnership with the nonprofit newsroom the Food & Environment Reporting Network and the podcast and radio show World Affairs. Then KQED’s Danielle Venton introduces us to Bill Tripp, a member of the Karuk Tribe. Tripp grew up along the Klamath River, where his great-grandmother taught him how controlled burns could make the land more productive and protect villages from dangerous fires. But in the 1800s, authorities outlawed traditional burning practices. Today, the impact of that policy is clear: The land is overgrown, and there has been a major fire in the region every year for the past decade, including one that destroyed half the homes in the Karuk’s largest town, Happy Camp, and killed two people. Tripp has spent 30 years trying to restore “good fire” to the region but has faced resistance from the U.S. Forest Service and others. Twelve years ago, the Forest Service officially changed its policy to expand the use of prescribed burns, one of the most effective tools to mitigate massive, deadly wildfires. But Reveal’s Elizabeth Shogren reports that even though the agency committed to doing controlled burns, it hasn’t actually increased how much fire it’s using to fight fire. The Forest Service also has been slow to embrace another kind of good fire that experts say the West desperately needs: managed wildfires, in which fires are allowed to burn in a controlled manner to reduce overgrowth. To protect the future of the land and people – especially with climate change making forests drier and hotter – the Forest Service needs to embrace the idea of good fire.   This is a rebroadcast of an episode that originally aired in September 2021.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/weekly  Connect with us onTwitter,Facebook andInstagram
Shooting in the Dark: Why Gun Reform Keeps Failing
May 28 2022
Shooting in the Dark: Why Gun Reform Keeps Failing
As the nation reels from the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, we look at why efforts to enact comprehensive laws to reduce gun violence are failing.  Reveal’s Najib Aminy tells the story of a former lobbyist for the NRA, who explains how another school shooting years ago polarized the political debate about guns and all but eliminated the chances for compromise. Then, host Al Letson speaks with reporter Alain Stephens from The Trace. Stephens has been tracking how technology is making guns more lethal and says one of the most troubling inventions is something called an auto sear. These tiny devices can turn pistols and rifles into machine guns. He also brings us up to date on his effort to force the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to share data about police guns that end up being used in crimes. Reveal sued the ATF on his behalf, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently came down with a decision.   We end with a discussion with Reveal’s Jennifer Gollan, who last fall completed a groundbreaking investigation about homicides by intimate partners convicted of domestic abuse. Her reporting led to a rare moment of consensus on Capitol Hill and new provisions in the recently reauthorized Violence Against Women Act.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Revealnews.org/donatenowSubscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Revealnews.org/newsletterConnect with us on Twitter,Facebook and Instagram