I'm Trevor Aaronson part of Al Jazeera's investigative unit, info about me below and Al Jazeera America's exclusive report.

Here is my bio: Trevor Aaronson is an investigative reporter with Al Jazeera Media Network and author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism (Ig Publishing, January 2013). Aaronson has won more than two dozen national and regional awards, including the Molly Prize, the international Data Journalism Award and the John Jay College/H.F. Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award.

Info on the Story

The target of the undercover operation was California state senator Ron Calderon, whose family has been heavily involved in state politics for 30 years.

For an in-depth look at the details of the FBI sting and background info read my article and watch the video of the sting itself.

Proof here

I will also be appearing live on The Stream this evening at 7:30 PM ET and will answer some of your questions live on air as well, and will be back here after being on air to answer more questions.

Comments: 66 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

TrevorAJAM6 karma

Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining me in this Reddit AMA. I'm happy to discuss the reporting behind the story Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit ran last night about state Sen. Ronald Calderon, who is the subject of an FBI sting operation in which undercover agents posed as independent movie executives.

KittyA3 karma

This story is huge ... something this big means a lot of people knew about it and were in on it. How many other politicians, leaders, ppl involved? What real movie studios are involved? Who tipped off FBI ... why? I'm sure many are running scared & trying to distance themselves ... are you getting threats from anyone?

TrevorAJAM2 karma

The Calderon investigation is certainly the story of the day in California. There hasn't been a sting case like this in Sacramento since "Shrimpscam" -- an FBI undercover operation that resulted in the conviction of four elected officials and 10 staff members. In our story on the Calderon investigation, we interviewed James Wedick, a former FBI agent who supervised the Shrimpscam case. And, no, we have not received any threats.

ryanjreillyHP3 karma

Hey Trevor, nice story. Any sense of why he hasn't been indicted yet? I investigated a sort of similar FBI sting in Arizona http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/from-behind-fake-company-fbi-set-arizona-corruption-sting and was amazed at the resources they put into the investigation even though they didn't come up with much. Still waiting for other shoe to drop. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/ben-arredondo_n_2542250.html Do you get the sense they are holding off in this case because they have more people on the hook? Did the FBI ask you to hold off on publishing?

TrevorAJAM4 karma

Hey, Ryan. I'm a fan of your work. Thanks for joining me here. Cases like these can be delayed for a variety reasons. Sometimes, the FBI is investigating other people based on information obtained through searches, such as the one that occurred at Calderon's office. Other times, there are disputes between the FBI and prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office. Or it's possible that the grand jury process is just taking a long time. We did ask the FBI to comment before our story, and specifically asked if the Calderon case had been referred for prosecution. The FBI in Washington and Los Angeles declined to comment.

Dyspyryte2 karma

What do you think of Marwan Bishara's recent AMA?

TrevorAJAM1 karma

I'm a fan of Marwan Bishara's work at Al Jazeera, but I'm afraid I haven't read his recent AMA. Will put that on my to-do list.

havfrue132 karma

Hi Trevor - in the course of your investigation, did you see suspicious behavior in other officials? Are you planning to expand your investigation? I find it hard to believe this all went unnoticed by Calderon's colleagues.

TrevorAJAM1 karma

I can't comment on our future reporting. But it's worth pointing out in reply to this that Ronald Calderon is not the only official named in the FBI affidavit, which you can read in its entirety here: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/30/sealed-fbi-affidavitsupportingsearchofcalderonoffices.html

RJags2 karma

How long were you working on this story?

TrevorAJAM1 karma

We spent about six weeks working on this story, with reporting done throughout California.

cleantoe2 karma

Are there any indications that this could be part or something larger? How common do you think corruption is among California government officials and parliamentarians?

TrevorAJAM1 karma

In any investigation, the FBI is looking to bring in as many targets as possible. Sometimes, sting operations result in only one person being indicted. But in other cases, particularly in public corruption probes, it's not uncommon for multiple people to be indicted. A corruption probe in Nashville and Memphis, called Operation Tennessee Waltz, led to the conviction of a dozen state officials. My colleague Katie Lannigan wrote a story about the history of public corruption stings similar to what's going on in California: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/30/fbi-undercover-stingscatchingpoliticiansredhanded.html

latticusnon2 karma

Problem: corruption

Solution: Wait for the FBI to handle it? What can we do on an individual level, as voters?

TrevorAJAM3 karma

I'd like to open this question up to others: What can individual voters do to curb political corruption?

shutdownstudiocity2 karma

Ron Calderon is a state senator, why not investigate the family involvement of Dianne Feinstein & her husband Richard Blum or Nancy & Paul Pelosi? Look into the military contracts that Blum received.

TrevorAJAM2 karma

We're always interested in tips if you have specific information. You can send it to me privately at [email protected].

fgirardot1 karma

Trevor, do you have a follow up planned?

TrevorAJAM1 karma

Please say tuned on that one. If you follow @trevoraaronson, I'll announce any follow-up stories there.

L2Forest1 karma


TrevorAJAM1 karma

My understanding is that agreements with cable companies in the United States prevent Al Jazeera from streaming Al Jazeera English (or, for that matter, Al Jazeera America) in the United States. The live streaming service for Al Jazeera English is still available outside of the United States.

sami_gallegos1 karma

How did your network get the affidavit? And how long ago?

TrevorAJAM1 karma

I can't discuss how the affidavit was obtained or how long ago. I'm happy to discuss other aspects of our reporting, however.

markalt1 karma

I just watched the part one video. Pretty interesting.

As a journalist, do you ever feel like you've put yourself into a dangerous situation?

TrevorAJAM2 karma

Thanks for watching, markalt. In this particular story, we weren't in any danger, other than having to battle LA traffic as we chased Sen. Ronald Calderon through the city.

markalt1 karma

What about for other news stories? Ever felt like you're in danger?

TrevorAJAM1 karma

Of course. It's not unusual for journalists to be put in situations they feel unsafe, in the United States and abroad. I've reported in Asia, Africa and South America, and during some of those trips, I was given reasons to be nervous. But, knock on wood, nothing horrible has ever happened.

grant01 karma

Okay, so I'm not American and don't really know much about US politics. How important is a state senator, really?

TrevorAJAM5 karma

In California, a state senator has tremendous influence over policy. It's also important to note that California is unique, given the size of its economy. On its own, California has the eighth-largest economy in the world. That's why we believed a public corruption case of a California state senator was so significant and had national resonance.

RJags1 karma

Does your story put the FBI's investigation at risk since the investigation is still ongoing?

TrevorAJAM2 karma

After the raid of Ronald Calderon's office, the FBI's cover in this sting operation would have been blown. That raid occurred in June.

TrevorAJAM1 karma

Anyone here from California? Thoughts on our story about the FBI investigation of Ronald Calderon?

grant01 karma

Trevor, could you tweet a link to this post please? Thanks!

thefoolofemmaus0 karma

Trevor, what do you have to say about the consistent criticism your network gets for it's pattern of anti-Semitism?

TrevorAJAM5 karma

Well, to be frank, I don't agree with the premise of your question that Al Jazeera is anti-Semitic. I think Al Jazeera has an admirable track record of covering stories around the world, with a particular emphasis in telling the stories of people left behind, displaced or otherwise disadvantaged.