Murray Waas Biography reproduced from Wikipedia:
Murray S. Waas is an American Independent investigative journalist whose reporting has focused on the erosion of the rule of law and threats to democracy in the US.
He is perhaps best known for his coverage of the White House planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and ensuing controversies and American political scandals such as the Plame affair (also known as the "CIA leak grand jury investigation", the "CIA leak scandal", and "Plamegate"). For much of his career, Waas focused on national security reporting, but has also written about social issues and corporate malfeasance. His articles about the second Iraq war and Plame affair matters have appeared in National Journal, where he has worked as a staff correspondent and contributing editor, The Atlantic, and, earlier The American Prospect.
Waas also comments on contemporary American political controversies in his personal blogs Whatever Already! and at The Huffington Post. An "instant book", the United States v. I. Lewis Libby which he edited, with research assistance by Jeff Lomonaco, was published by Union Square Press (an imprint of Sterling Publishing) in June 2007.
Waas was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and originally hoped to have a career in law and city politics ("To be the district attorney and mayor of the City of Philadelphia"), but he dropped out of George Washington University before graduating.
In 1987, when Waas was only twenty-six years old, he learned that he had a life-threatening "advanced form" of cancer. On June 26, 2006, Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz disclosed that Waas had been told that he had an "incurable Stage C" cancer and faced a "terminal diagnosis."
Subsequently, Waas successfully sued the George Washington University Medical Center, which had negligently "failed to diagnose his cancer, winning a $650,000 judgment ... in a 1992 verdict ... upheld by the D.C. Court of Appeals." Although, according to a pathologist hired by Waas to testify in the case, "over 90% of [such] patients... are dead within two years," Waas survived and was later declared "cancer-free." His recovery and survival were later described as a "miracle" by the physicians treating him. In winning the appeal of the jury's verdict by the hospital, the appeals court devised new case law expanding the rights of cancer patients and ordinary patients to sue and seek justice because of medical mistakes.
Although he initially shied away from writing about health care because of his history as a cancer survivor, in 2009 and 2010, Waas weighed in with a series of articles for Reuters, detailing how many of the nation's largest health insurance companies, improperly, and even illegally, canceled the policies of tens of thousands of customers shortly after they were diagnosed with HIV, cancer, and other life-threatening but costly diseases. One story disclosed that the health insurer, WellPoint, using a computer algorithm, identified women recently diagnosed with breast cancer and then singled them out for cancellation of their policies. The story not only caused considerable public outrage, but led Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and President Barack Obama, to call on WellPoint to end the practice.
Pressured by the Obama administration, WellPoint and the nation's other largest health insurers agreed to immediately end the practice. Waas was credited with saving the lives of countless other cancer patients like himself, and making sure that thousands of other people did not have their insurance unfairly canceled. He won the Barlett & Steele Award for Business Investigative Reporting from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication of Arizona State University as well as other honors for the stories. 
While still attending college, Waas began working for American newspaper columnist Jack Anderson. His journalistic work has since been published in such publications and outlets as The New Yorker, The Atlantic,The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Guardian. The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, Reuters, the Associated Press, ABC News, The New York Review of Books, New York Magazine, Foreign Policy, Vox, Harper's, The New Republic, The American Prospect, The Nation, and The Village Voice.
In his twenties he was a staff writer and investigative correspondent for The Village Voice. The current masthead of the Voice lists Waas as a "Contributors Emeritus" to the newspaper, along with such other writers, critics, investigative reporters, and cartoonists who worked for the paper during the same era, as Wayne Barrett, Jack Newfield, Teresa Carpenter, Ron Rosenbaum, Norman Mailer, Mim Udovitch, Matt Groening and Mark Alan Stamaty.
Waas first worked for columnist Anderson at age 18, the summer of his freshman year of college. In his appreciation of Anderson, which Waas published in The Village Voice, after the columnist's death at the age of 83, columns he wrote for Anderson advocating that economic sanctions be imposed against the Ugandan regime of Idi Amin, likely led to the overthrow of Amin's genocidal regime.
The series of columns we [Anderson and Waas] produced regarding the role of U.S. companies doing business with Idi Amin were instrumental in leading to the imposition of U.S. economic sanctions against the Amin regime, according to the congressman who originally sponsored legislation seeking the sanctions, and other key congressional staffers who worked on the issue. Some historians in turn say the sanctions may have played an instrumental role in Amin's subsequent overthrow.
Ralph Nurnberger, a former staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and professor at Georgetown University, later concluded in a study for the African Studies Review that the economic sanctions imposed against Amin by the U.S. led to Amin's downfall. Nurnberger wrote that the congressional initiative to impose the sanctions had garnered little attention or support until "Jack Anderson assigned one of his reporters, Murray Waas to follow the issue" and write regularly about it. At the time, Anderson's columns were published in more than 1,000 newspapers, which in turn had 40 million readers. Waas was eighteen and nineteen years old at the time he wrote the columns.
Prior to his overthrow from power, Amin had been alleged to have engaged in genocide and killed between 150,000 and 300,000 of his own citizens. The late Sen. Frank Church (D-Id.), a chairman of the Senate Foreign Committee, later said the congressionally imposed boycott "contributed to the fall of Idi Amin." Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Or.), said that the sanctions caused the conditions that "would come to break Amin's seemingly invincible survivability."
During the Reagan administration, Waas was among a small group of reporters involved in breaking the story of the Iran-Contra affair. Later, he also reported on Whitewater and the Clinton impeachment for Salon.com.
Waas won an Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship in 1992 to research and write about the rights of the institutionalized and incarcerated in the U.S. For his fellowship, he investigated substandard conditions and questionable deaths at institutions for the mentally retarded, mental hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile detention centers, and jails and prisons.
As part of his work for the Alicia Patterson Foundation, Waas published a 7,912 word article in the Los Angeles Times on April 3, 1994, detailing how mentally retarded children institutionalized by the District of Columbia government had died because of abuse and neglect. The story led to renewed scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice of the city's treatment of its mentally retarded wards and spurred on the settlement of a civil suit brought against the city government by the parents of children who had died due to abuse or neglect.
Following the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, in 1993, while a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Waas, along with his Los Angeles Times colleague Douglas Frantz, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the category of national reporting for his stories detailing that administration's prewar foreign policy towards the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein That same year, Waas was also a recipient of the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, awarded by the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center on The Press, of the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, for "a series that detailed United States policy toward Iraq before the Persian Gulf war".
As part of that reporting, on March 10, 1992, Waas and Frantz disclosed that the Reagan and Bush administrations had engaged in secret intelligence sharing with Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, after falsely telling Congress and the congressional intelligence committees that it had long ago ended all such cooperation. The two reporters wrote: "The Bush Administration shared intelligence information with the regime of Saddam Hussein until at least May, 1990, three months before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, according to formerly classified documents ... even though Congress had been told Congress that such cooperation ended in 1988 when the war between Iraq and Iran ended."
Also as part of that same series, the two reporters disclosed on April 18, 1992, that "The Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations secretly allowed Saudi Arabia to provide American-made weapons to the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and other nations over a period of almost 10 years in covert operations designed to sidestep legal restrictions imposed by Congress, according to classified documents."
Regarding the significance of these various disclosures, The New York Times, columnist Anthony Lewis wrote on June 18, 1992:
- With all that was and still is at stake in Iraq ... What [were the Reagan and Bush administrations] doing while the Iraqi dictator was growing into such a menace? ... [There] is a shocking answer: The United States was feeding Saddam Hussein's war machine and his ambition.
- That is the consistent theme of reports in The New York Times in a piece by Seymour Hersh, and in a series by Murray Waas and Douglas Frantz in the Los Angeles Times . ... In 1982 the Reagan Administration, wanting to prevent Saddam Hussein's defeat in the war with Iran, decided to provide him with secret intelligence. The intelligence helped Iraq learn the disposition of Iranian forces.
- The Administration also allowed Iraq's regional allies, which at the time included Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, to send Baghdad American-made arms ...
- The United States immediately began giving Iraq guarantees for credit to buy American farm products. Farm and other credits for Iraq eventually came to $3 billion -- no doubt freeing Saddam Hussein to spend money on arms."
Also in 1992, Wass disclosed in an investigative story in The Los Angeles Times that the George H. W. Bush administration had allowed Pakistan "to buy American-made arms" from U.S. commercial firms, despite a federal law that prohibited such sales unless the President were to certify to Congress that “Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device.” (At the time, Pakistan maintained a nuclear arsenal.). The March, 1992 story led to several powerful members of Congress to assert that Bush administration was violating federal law by allowing for the arms sales. The late Senator John Glenn, Democrat of Ohio, told Waas: "They knew what the intent of the law was. The legislative history was clear." The arms ban "was signed by the President and into law. And then his [own] Administration took steps not to comply with it." Then-Senator Claiborne Pell, Republican of Rhode Island, chairman of the Senate Foreign Services Committee, said that the Bush State Department "has knowingly violated federal law by permitting" the "sales of arms to Pakistan." 
More recently, Waas worked as a national correspondent and contributing editor of National Journal.
Summarizing the stories that Waas wrote for National Journal during 2005 and 2006 about the second Bush administration's policies that led up to war with Iraq, The Washington Post online White House columnist Dan Froomkin, wrote on March 31, 2006:
- Slowly but surely, investigative reporter Murray Waas has been putting together a compelling narrative about how President Bush and his top aides contrived their bogus case for war in Iraq; how they succeeded in keeping charges of deception from becoming a major issue in the 2004 election; and how they continue to keep most of the press off the trail to this day.
- What emerges in Waas's stories is a consistent White House modus operandi: That time and time again, Bush and his aides have selectively leaked or declassified secret intelligence findings that served their political agenda -- while aggressively asserting the need to keep secret the information that would tend to discredit them.
While writing about the second Bush administration's policies that led up to war with Iraq, Waas simultaneously reported about the investigation of CIA leak prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation as to who leaked covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press—illustrating in his reporting how the two stories were inextricably linked in that the effort to damage Plame was part of a broader Bush White House effort to discredit those who were alleging that it had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war.
Plame's identity as a covert CIA agent was leaked to the media by senior Bush White House officials to discredit and retaliate against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had alleged the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Saddam Hussein. I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was later convicted on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in an attempt to conceal his own role and that of others in the Bush White House in outing Plame, although President Bush would later commute Libby's thirty-month prison sentence. (President Bush's then chief political adviser, Karl Rove, was investigated by the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, as well, but not charged.) Waas not only wrote the first story disclosing that it was Libby who had leaked Plame's identity to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, but the same story also paved the way for Miller, then in jail for more than a hundred days, to be released and testify against Libby.
On August 6, 2005, Waas disclosed for the first time that it was Libby who had provided Plame's name to Miller, writing: "I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has told federal investigators that he met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to legal sources familiar with Libby's account.
That same story also disclosed that Libby was encouraging Miller to stay in jail and not reveal that Libby was her source. A short time later, citing the Waas story, prosecutor Fitzgerald wrote Libby's attorney, alleging that "Libby had simply decided that encouraging Ms. Miller to testify was not in his best interest" and that Libby discouraging Miller to testify might be an illegal effort to obstruct his investigation. As a result, Libby then wrote and called Miller saying that it was alright for her to testify. After spending more than a hundred days in jail, Miller was released, whereupon she provided testimony and evidence to prosecutors against Libby, directly leading to Libby's indictment, and subsequent conviction, on multiple federal criminal charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz wrote on April 17, 2006, that Waas' account "set in motion the waiver springing Miller from jail on contempt charges."
Regarding these same stories on the Plame case, as well as his earlier stories on the misrepresentation of intelligence information by the Bush administration to take the U.S. to war with Iraq, New York University journalism professor and press critic Jay Rosen wrote that Waas had the promise to be his generation's ""new Bob Woodward": "Today the biggest story in town is what really went down as the Bush team drove deceptively to war, and later tried to conceal how bad the deception—and decision-making—had been." Waas, Rosen wrote, had been doing "what Woodward has a reputation for doing: finding, tracking, breaking it into reportable parts.
Writing in the American Prospect, political journalist Greg Sargent opined at the time that Waas' reporting on both the misuse of intelligence by the Bush administration to take the nation to war with Iraq, combined with his reporting on the outing of Valeire Plame, provided a framework and context for the public to finally understand the inextricable link between these two "disparate subplots". Sargent explained:
- [The] true larger significance of Waas' reporting is still crying out to be explained.
- To do this we need to step back and look at his revelations in the context of the ongoing investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame. If you do, you can see that what once were a bunch of disparate subplots -- the pre-war duplicity, the 2004 election, the Libby indictment, the continuing investigation into Karl Rove -- suddenly can be woven together into one grand narrative that makes coherent sense in a way that much of this story didn't before.
Several of Waas's later published accounts of that aspect of the Plame affair informed his Union Square Press book on the Libby trial published in June 2007, which he discusses in some detail in his interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!.
During the final days of the 2012 presidential campaign, Waas wrote a series of articles for the Boston Globe detailing how Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, had implemented policies to restrict the rights of the state's LGBT community, as a way to curry favor with conservative and evangelical voters who vote in large numbers in the Republican presidential primaries. Among those policies, Waas wrote, Romney refused to grant birth certificates to the children of same sex parents. Confidential state records obtained by Waas showed that a senior Department of Public Health lawyer warned the Romney administration that the failure to provide birth certificates to these children would constitute “'violations of existing statutes,' impair law enforcement and security efforts in a post 9/11 world, and would cause the children to encounter difficulties later in life as they tried to register for school, obtain a driver's license or a passport, enlist in the military, or even vote."
The reaction to the Waas stories on Romney, especially the one about denying birth certificates to the children of same sex parents was swift. Outraged civil rights and LGBT groups condemning Romney—in the days just prior to the election. Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights advocacy organization, said in a statement: "Mitt Romney has stood before the American people multiple times and said he does not support discrimination against LGBT people – and that is an outright lie.’’ Griffin further commented that by "denying birth certificates to children [of same sex parents]... Romney has undertaken to disenfranchise LGBT people.’’
During the Trump administration, Waas was one of the first reporters to write about efforts by the National Enquirer, its parent company, American Media, Inc., and President Trump's then-personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, to pay hush money to women with whom Trump had extramarital affairs.
Also during the Trump administration, Waas broke more than two dozen significant stories regarding special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, focusing primarily on whether President Trump obstructed justice. Those stories appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Vox, and Foreign Policy.
Waas broke the first story disclosing that former FBI Director James Comey had corroboratory witnesses when it came to Comey's allegations that President Trump ordered him to shut down an FBI investigation into whether his then National Security Advisor Micheal Flynn had lied to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat, while the two men were completely alone in the Oval Office on February 14, 2017. Special Counsel Mueller investigated Comey's allegations as a potential obstruction of justice.
Trump and his political supporters had prior to Waas' story argued that Trump would not face any serious legal jeopardy, as a result of Comey's allegations, because whatever was said or transpired between Trump and Comey, was based solely on the word of the President of the United States against the FBI Director he had only recently fired: “We have to keep in mind that is one person's record of what happened,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel said on Fox News in one typical comment repeated by Trump White House surrogates. “The only two people who know what happened in these meetings are the president and James Comey.”"
But in a June 7, 2017 report in Vox, Waas disclosed that Comey contemporaneously spoke at length with three of his top aides about the president ordering him to shut down the FBI investigation of Flynn. Waas wrote: "Those three officials, according to two people with detailed, firsthand knowledge of the matter, were Jim Rybicki, Comey's chief of staff and senior counselor; James Baker, the FBI's general counsel; and Andrew McCabe, then the bureau's deputy director, and now the acting director." Comey himself confirmed that this was case when he testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee the following day, in response to questions prompted by the Waas story.
Waas also was one of the first reporters to disclose how President Trump attempted to exploit the U.S. Department of Justice to improperly investigate his perceived political enemies. On November 9, 2018, Waas reported in Vox that then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker "privately provided advice to the president last year on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president's political adversaries"—more specifically, also disclosing for the first time, that Whitaker had "counseled the president in private on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to name a special counsel to investigate... Hillary Clinton.""
On November 20, The New York Times, citing Vox's original story, reported that the newspaper's own sources had independently confirmed that President Trump had "repeatedly pressed Justice Department officials about the status of Clinton-related investigations, including Mr. Whitaker." The Times story went even further, disclosing that Trump ordered his then-White House Counsel, Don McGahn, to prosecute two of his political adversaries", Hillary Clinton and James Comey, even if there was no real evidence that either did anything wrong. McGahn was so distressed by Trump's demands, The Times reported, that the White House Counsel warned the president in a memo that Trump might face "possible impeachment" if he persisted with such efforts.
Based on the disclosures in the Vox and The New York Times reports, Senate Majority Leader, Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, requested that the Justice Department's Inspector General investigate Whitaker's conduct. Schumer wanted the Inspector General to investigate allegations "by veteran journalist Murray Waas [in Vox, which] revealed that Whitaker, while he was serving as chief of staff to [then-Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, was counseling the White House on how the president might pressure Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to direct the Justice Department to investigate Trump's enemies." Schumer also asked the Justice Department to investigate whether, Whitaker, while Acting Attorney General "may have shared with the White House... confidential grand jury or investigative information from the Special Counsel investigation."
In 2019, Waas broke numerous exclusive stories for Vox and The New York Review of Books about the impeachment investigation of President Trump. As explained by Waas in Vox, "At the core of the impeachment inquiry is a substantial body of evidence that President Trump, both personally and through subordinates, pushed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President's Joe Biden's son, Hunter, and his business dealings in Ukraine. This pressure campaign stood to materially benefit Trump's 2020 presidential reelection effort by manufacturing dirt against a key rival. It is alleged that Trump withheld $390 million in congressionally-approved military assistance to Ukraine for months pending Zelensky's public agreement to open an investigation."
In 2019 and 2020, Waas broke a number of exclusive stories in the The New York Review of Books and The Guardian regarding the politicization and corruption of the Department of Justice during the Trump administration. 
In a rare interview about his work, on May 15, 2006, with Elizabeth Halloran, of U.S. News & World Report, when she asked whether he was "working on stories other than those involving the Fitzgerald investigation," Waas indicated that he has "been working on a long, explanatory piece about healthcare issues, the cervical cancer vaccine." Among the questions that he raised with Halloran are: "Why isn't that vaccine going to get to the people it should get to? Is it going to be locked away?"
Asked during the same interview by Halloran why Waas had chosen not only not to appear on cable television shows, but had also been known to decline to go on such shows as Nightline and Meet the Press, he responded: "There's not much of it that really enlightens us. There are journalists who don't do journalism anymore. They go on television; they're blogging; they're giving speeches; they're going to parties. And then at the end of the week they've had four or five hours devoted to journalism."
Waas also told Halloran:
- An acquaintance of mine, [Doonesbury cartoonist] Garry Trudeau, went a long time without going on TV, and we talked about having a 12-step program for people who appear on television too much. It would be a boom business in Washington. But Garry has lapses – he's been on Nightline, Charlie Rose. I also believe he did a morning show one time. But I've been steadfast. I have not been broken. I thought it was me and Garry against the world, the two amigos. He's left me hanging out there.
Waas similarly told Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz, who had nicknamed Waas "The Lone Ranger": "If my journalism has had impact, it has been because I have spent more time in county courthouses than greenrooms," Claude Lewis, a member of the editorial board of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote in a profile of the journalist that his low-key approach had proved to be effective: "His quiet and sometimes unorthodox manner is disarming. He often lulls his subjects into thinking he isn't very sharp. But he is an intelligent and intense digger, who checks and double-checks his facts."
The United States v. I. Lewis Libby, edited and with reporting by Waas, was published by Sterling Publishing's Union Square Press imprint on June 5, 2007.
The bulk of the book was an edited version of the trial transcript of the federal criminal trial of I. Lewis Libby, carefully culled from its original size of nearly a million words. The book also included an original essay written by Waas, entitled "The Last Compartment", which contained new information and reporting.
The book's editor and publisher told USA Today that the book was an attempt to be "like the published reports from the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group" in both thoroughness and accuracy, providing additional context to the original documentary record, and adding new reporting and information.
Reviewing the book in the Columbia Journalism Review, James Boylan, a contributing editor of the magazine, wrote for its November/December 2007 issue:
- Murray Waas, a disciple of Jack Anderson, the ultimate outsider, has assembled a plump volume of the trial and grand-jury records in the case of I. Lewis Libby ... convicted in March of obstruction of justice and lying in the case involving disclosure of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The transcripts make clear that Waas may have had less interest in Libby's missteps than in the foibles of a cohort of Washington's current insider journalists, among whom Tim Russert, Bob Woodward, Judith Miller (jailed for a time for refusing to testify), and Robert Novak ... were the most celebrated. Their accounts of dealing with Libby and other members of the administration constitute an encyclopedia of insiderdom—the anonymous-source-concealment dance, the sometimes transparent charade of selective source protection, the willingness to be spun in exchange for access to power.
Notable assessments of Waas's journalism
Murray Waas's reporting on the administration of George W. Bush—especially with regard to the Bush administration's misrepresentation of intelligence to take the nation to war, and the Plame affair—has been called "groundbreaking" by New York University journalism Professor Jay Rosen, who considers Waas the "new Bob Woodward": "By Woodward Now," Rosen writes of Waas: "I mean the reporter who is actually doing what Woodward has a reputation for doing: finding, tracking, breaking into reportable parts—and then publishing—the biggest story in town. The Biggest Story in Town (almost a term of art in political Washington) is the one that would cause the biggest earthquake if the facts sealed inside it started coming out now. Today the biggest story in town is what really went down as the Bush team drove deceptively to war, and later tried to conceal how bad the deception—and decision-making—had been."
On October 27, 1992, the late David Shaw, then a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism the previous year, assessed the reporting by his colleagues Murray Waas and Douglas Frantz on the first Bush administration's prewar policy towards Iraq leading up to the first Gulf War, which included "more than 100 stories, totaling more than 90,000 words": "The Times's stories—many based on previously secret papers prepared by the Bush administration—alleged that the Bush administration tried to cover up what it had done by altering documents it supplied to Congress and by attempting to obstruct official investigations of aid to Iraq," quoting the observation of Leonard Downie, executive editor of The Washington Post, that his own newspaper was "slow in getting up to speed on that story, in part because it's the kind of story involving careful work with documents ... Once you're behind, it takes a while to catch up." Downie credits the Los Angeles Times with "pav[ing] the way," saying that that is "why we began pursuing it after really not noticing it from the outset."
During the presidential administration of William Jefferson Clinton, Waas wrote some of the very first investigative stories critical of Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Some conservative media outlets, among them, the now defunct Weekly Standard and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal harshly criticized his reporting of both Starr's investigation and the resulting impeachment saga. The Journal's editorial page disparaged his stories for primarily appearing in "an Internet magazine called Salon (paid circulation zip)." Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote, however, that "what has infuriated the president's detractors is that Waas (who will reveal only that he's in his thirties) and his colleagues are starting to draw blood. The Justice Department has asked Starr to investigate the allegation of [illicit] payments to [one of Starr's own key witnesses, and the story has moved up the media food chain to The New York Times and The Washington Post." And in sharp contrast, media critics writing for the Online Journalism Review, the American Journalism Review, and The Washington Post, praised the very same reporting. In The Washington Post, columnist John Schwartz wrote that reporting by Waas and his colleagues in Salon was "one crucial element that keeps guys like me coming back: investigative reporting." Schwartz explained: "This [past] year... Salon dove into investigative reporting, the hard digging that can yield amazing things. They chose one of the biggest stories around: the continuing scandals surrounding the Clinton administration."
In June 1998, J.D. Lasica published "The Web: A New Channel for Investigative Journalism", a "sidebar" to his article entitled "Salon: The Best Pure-Play Web Publication?", published in American Journalism Review, assessing reporting on the Impeachment of Bill Clinton in Salon.com by Waas and his colleagues, observing that "Salon's coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky matter—its first sustained foray into classic investigative journalism—has served as a counterweight to the mainstream media's wolfpack mindset" and citing the view of Andrew Ross (then-managing editor of Salon); according to Lasica, "Salon's investigative journalism ... has raised old media's hackles because, Ross says, it was done the old-fashioned way: shoe leather, cultivating sources, working the phones—no new-media tricks here." Indeed, Lasica continues the 1998 account, by pointing out that Waas, who has written a dozen stories for Salon, is [at that time] a bit of a technophobe; he never signs onto the Web and has never seen his stories online. He writes for Salon, he says, because 'I like the daily rhythm and the immediacy.'" David Weir, a cofounder of the Center for Investigative Reporting and journalism professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told the journalism review that the reporting of Waas and his colleagues represented a “breakthrough” for a news site on the Web. “This is the first time we’ve seen an Internet news organization dig out an important national story that the rest of the media missed.” Waas was the winner in 1998 of the Society of Professional Journalists Award for Depth Reporting for his coverage of Whitewater and the impeachment crisis.
In the summer of 2006, writing in Nieman Reports, Jim Boyd, former deputy editorial page editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for twenty-four years, prepared an "exclusive list" of newspaper reporters whom he considered "courageous," including among them Murray Waas: "People I consider courageous are Murray Waas at the National Journal; Dan Froomkin at washingtonpost.com and niemanwatchdog.org; Warren Strobel and several of his colleagues at the Knight Ridder Washington bureau (soon to be the McClatchy Washington bureau); Walter Pincus and Dana Priest of the [Washington] Post. And, of course, Helen Thomas."
In July 2007, GQ Magazine named Waas as one of four of "The Best Reporters You Don't Know About," writing about him: "Years of groundbreaking watchdog journalism have resulted in this nickname: the new Bob Woodward. His pieces on the Plame leaks and U.S. attorney firings inadvertently provided candidates with more ammunition against the current administration than any campaign strategist could hope for."
Investigation of the U.S. health insurance industry
On the eve of the historic health reform vote in Congress, on March 17, 2010, Reuters published a story, based on a months long investigation by Waas, detailing how one of the nation's largest insurance companies, Assurant, had a "company policy of targeting policyholders with HIV" for cancelation of their policies once they were diagnosed. The story asserted: "A computer program and algorithm targeted every policyholder recently diagnosed with HIV for an automatic fraud investigation, as the company searched for any pretext to revoke their policy ... [T]heir insurance policies often were canceled on erroneous information, the flimsiest of evidence, or for no good reason at all."
The Obama administration and members of Congress cited the report as a reason health care reform was needed. In a column appearing only a few nights before the vote, following up on his own blog post on the same subject from two days earlier, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that the actions of Assurant were representative of the "vileness of our current system" and illustrated why reform was necessary."
After passage of the health reform bill, Reuters followed up, with another story by Waas on April 23, 2010, disclosing that WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurance company, had similarly targeted policyholders with breast cancer, shortly after their diagnoses. The Reuters story asserted that WellPoint utilized "a computer algorithm that automatically targeted ... every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies."
An earlier investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee had determined that WellPoint (now Anthem), Assurant, and UnitedHealth Group, had made at least $300 million by improperly rescinding more than 19,000 policyholders over one five-year period.."
The Waas story garnered immediate attention. Published not only on Reuters' website, one of the nation's most highly trafficked news sites, it also appeared on seven of the ten most highly read news sites-- those of The New York Times, The Washington Post, Yahoo News, ABC News, MSNBC, and The Huffington Post.
On April 23, 2010, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote Wellpoint's CEO, Angela Braly, to say that Wellpoint's actions were "deplorable" and "unconscionable," and called on the company to "immediately cease these practices." Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi weighed in as well after reading the story, saying: "Americans who are fighting for their lives should not have to fight for their health insurance."
President Obama, whose late mother had problems and disagreements with her own insurance carrier before she died from ovarian cancer, followed up on May 8, 2010, by severely criticizing WellPoint for the practice in his weekly radio address.
As a result of both the public reaction of the story as well as intense pressure from the Obama administration, WellPoint agreed to voluntarily end such practices. The nation's other largest health insurance companies only days later followed suit.
Praising the reform, The New York Times editorial page said in a May 2, 2010 editorial:
Americans are already starting to see the benefits of health care reform ... In recent days insurers and their trade association have rushed to announce that they will end rescissions immediately ...
The insurers decided to act quickly after they were whacked by some very bad publicity. An investigative report by Reuters said that one of the nation's biggest insurers, WellPoint, was targeting women with breast cancer for fraud investigations that could lead to rescissions.
Waas later won the Barlett & Steele Award for Business Investigative Reporting from the Walter Cronkite School at Arizona State University for his stories on WellPoint and other health insurance companies. He also won a second award by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) in the category of investigative reporting for reporting the same stories.
- Editors, The New York Times, "End to Rescission and More Good News".The New York Times. (May 2, 2010). Retrieved May 10, 2010.