Watchdog Q&A

Published — September 6, 2019

Q&A: Hamed Aleaziz on the connection between the DOJ and a white nationalist blog

Introduction

We’re continuing our Q&A series with investigative reporters. This week we have immigration reporter Hamed Aleaziz from BuzzFeed News who wrote about how the DOJ sent immigration judges a white nationalist blog post. It turns out, this wasn’t a one time thing. The DOJ was doing this for two years. 

How did you get the story? 

Last week, I got a tip from an immigration court source who told me that people within the agency were talking about an extremist blog that showed up in their daily newsletter sent by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the country’s immigration courts. Not only that, but the blog post attacked a few of the immigration judges on the bench. I knew about the newsletter and had been told when my stories showed up in it. I also knew, through some previous stories, that the newsletter had recently included some less traditional news outlets. But this tip caught my eye. 

I read the email with the agency newsletter and saw the link to the blog. I confirmed with another source that it had been sent to all employees. 

I contacted a source who led me to my story: the judge’s union had in fact sent a detailed letter about the blog’s inclusion to the head of the immigration court. The source provided the letter and I later confirmed with the union that it had been sent. 

What were the biggest challenges of reporting on this story?  

I think the biggest challenge was getting the letter. It took a little while to get it. It would’ve been a story regardless — the link to the blog post. But the letter was what took the story over the top, it not only gave us the perspective of the judges but it also brought us into this back and forth between the court leadership and the judges’ union. 

The hardest part, however, came before all of this — like it does in so many stories. It has taken a long time for me to develop sources who are plugged into what’s happening at the court — that has taken persistence and some luck. Without my sources, there would be no story, so I’m very grateful they trust me.

Takeaway: Building trust with your sources is essential to getting scoops. 

You can follow Hamed Aleaziz here.

Read more in Inside Public Integrity

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