It’s the end of the year and I don’t have the time to write about this is detail, but those of you who follow me on social media know I’m quite upset with Global Witness. The reasons are legitimate and just.
I spent most of last year working for them as the lead investigator on a report about Donald Trump’s very shady real estate project in Panama. It was a good report, but Global Witness bungled it, as it routinely does, by adding in a bunch of recommendations and boring stuff and making it so long no one would read it.
They also screwed up — and this was very detrimental to me — by giving the story to NBC, which screwed Global Witness out of a lot of credit by barely mentioning in their reporting that it — and that means me, I moved to Miami to do the reporting and made a long trip to Panama — had done all of the research and reporting.
It also screwed me because I wanted to write the story for VICE, and Global Witness made that impossible, for reasons too complicated to go into here. But the result was that I received almost no credit for a story that I took to Global Witness, developed, researched and wrote a key section of.
But what upset me the most was when I recently learned that Global Witness had recently put out one of it’s typically dry reports on a Trump project in the Dominican Republic. I gave them the entire idea for the story, and the framework, in about April of 2017 when I worked for them. They turned it down, saying I didn’t have time to do it — I did, because they move at the speed of molasses — and it wasn’t important enough.
But apparently it was important enough to steal it from me and do it, and not pay me for my intellectual property or offer me the opportunity to write the report or have the courtesy to tell me they had decided to do it. And that latter “oversight” is proof of guilt, that they knew they were stealing: they didn’t tell me because they wanted to hide it from me.
So when I discovered I was, understandably, upset and sent five people there an email with a link to the story; The subject line was “Rip-off,” and I wrote, “You have to be kidding. I honestly cannot believe you stole that idea. You’re going to be hearing from me and your name is going to be out.”
I then wrote about what had happened on Facebook and Twitter, because I was angry, but also because I didn’t think it should be able to get away with it. I also think other journalists and researchers should know what it did, as a warning that they might not want to work with Global Witness.
I’m not going to include here all of my social media posts, but here are a few from Facebook. I think this first one probably shook them up.
Hey, Global Witness, various people working for you openly stated that the goal of the Panama/Trump project was to impeach the president, and you took secret money from George Soros to try to do that. I told you that was delusional and my goal was to report the facts, not impeach. That is partisan and betrays your non-profit status with IRS.
This probably stung a bit, too.
One of the funniest, if that’s the word, moments in the whole Global Witness experience was around May 2017. I was living in Miami and flew to New York for a two day meeting. GW flew in people from London as well, and a number of people Amtrak-ed up from DC. Total waste of time and whole thing was arranged by Shauna Leven of London office so she could see her family. Slideshow level shit. I left morning of second day because such a complete boondoggle and tens and tens of thousands of dollars of Soros money. I went back to Miami on a Friday to interview Roger Khafif, Trump’s Panamanian business partner, on a Saturday morning at Bal Harbour mall. Shauna didn’t want me to go, thought it was more important to stay for the meeting. Naturally, I politely told her and the other GW clowns to Fuck right off. Had a great interview with Khafif. NBC couldn’t get him. To be continued. Saints-Steelers a classic.
As did this.
On an unrelated note, in my ongoing series on Global Witness, when I was lead researcher on Trump/Panama report and literally about to knock on door of alleged Russian mobster in Miami, their top staff was fretting that they might get nasty feedback on Twitter when report came out. I later laughed about this with their attorney, who was quite amused.
I received no reply to my initial emails, which merited one. and expressed my anger but in a way that was suitable, and even retrained given the circumstances. I sent a few more and Patrick Alley, one of the head honchos, finally emailed back. “We do not wish to have any further contact with you. We find these messages threatening. We are asking you to respect our wishes and not to engage in any further communication.”
There was nothing remotely threatening in my emails, by any reasonable standard, other than the threat of legal action. I replied — and posted his email and my reply on social media — “Not going to happen, shitheads. Fuck off and you will be hearing from me.”
I contacted an attorney and am considering legal action, because Global Witness stole from me, and they should pay. Then last night I got an email from a Washington, DC detective who said my name had come up in an investigation. I called immediately. He told me someone with Global Witness had asked the police to open an investigation into me for threatening their staff.
I called the detective and explained the situation. I explained everything and read him most of my emails to Global Witness. I told him I would relish the opportunity to fully cooperate with him if he decided to launch a formal investigation. I’m not worried about this and I find it hard to believe that with all of Washington’s serious crime problems, the police are going to waste time on Global Witness’s pathetic and outrageous complaint.
What’s incredible to me is that a Soros-backed group would ask the police to investigate a journalist, and on such spurious grounds. Threatening? One of the five lives in London, one in Greece, one in Spain and two in Washington. I haven’t spoken to any of them in a long time and have no desire to, because even before they stole the Dominican story I had lost all respect for the organization, and those people. (There are few good researchers there, but very few.)
I haven’t yet decided whether to pursue legal action against Global Witness, because I have better things to do with my time. But I’m seriously thinking about it, especially after they had the audacity to file a complaint with the police, and I am consulting with an attorney. I know ethically Global Witness stole from me but I’m not sure I can prevail in court, because that is unpredictable.
But I would love to subject Global Witness to the joys of the discovery process, and force them to turn over a lot of banking information and all the Proton emails we exchanged, which are quite sensitive and would be far, far more embarrassing to it than to me. In fact, I have nothing to hide and nothing to be embarrassed about, but they do. Indeed, I would say their situation is not only problematic, it is legally perilous.
I’ll keep you all posted and would welcome advice.