Monika Bauerlein

Monika Bauerlein

Editor in Chief

Since taking the helm at Mother Jones in 2006, Monika and her co-editor, Clara Jeffery, have won two National Magazine Awards, launched a nine-person Washington bureau, relaunched the website, given birth, and forgotten what it’s like to sleep.

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Monika Bauerlein is co-editor of Mother Jones, where, together with Clara Jeffery, she spearheaded an era of editorial growth and innovation, marked by two National Magazine Awards for general excellence, the addition of a seven-person Washington Bureau, and an overhaul of the organization’s digital strategy that tripled MotherJones.com's traffic. Previously she was Mother Jones' investigative editor, focusing on long-form projects marrying in-depth reportage, document sleuthing, and narrative appeal. She has also worked as an alternative-weekly editor (at Minneapolis/St. Paul’s City Pages), a correspondent for US and European publications in Washington, D.C. and at the United Nations, an AP stringer, corporate trainer, translator, sausage slinger and fishing-line packager. She lives in Oakland.

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Behind the Story: MoJo's Investigation of Terrorism Informants

| Sun Aug. 21, 2011 11:46 AM PDT

Maybe you've wondered, on occasion of a press conference announcing another major terrorism bust: Why does it seem as if the FBI's undercover operatives actually encouraged—even thought up—the plot? Why do the targets come off as hapless losers unable to organize so much as a poker game? How come it was the government that provided the fake conspiracy, the fake car bomb or missile, even the fake Al Qaeda oath?

Trevor Aaronson wondered, too, and because he's an investigative reporter, he decided to do something about it: look at every terrorism case the government has prosecuted since 9/11 and dig through the evidence and testimony. The result is the lead story in our new magazine cover package, "Terrorists for the FBI." 

Among the project's conclusions: 

  • Nearly half the prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violations. 
  • Sting operations resulted in prosecutions against 158 defendants. Of that total, 49 defendants participated in plots led by an agent provocateur—an FBI operative instigating terrorist action.
  • With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings.

In all, this investigation reviewed more than 500 domestic terror prosecutions (for more details, see our charts page and searchable database). How did we identify them? The federal government unwittingly helped with this research in a huge way: Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2010 testified before Congress as the Obama administration sought to put 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in Manhattan—a plan it ultimately abandoned. One of the documents submitted to Congress was a list of all successful terrorism prosecutions from 9/11 through 2009.

Aaronson took that document, then applied the DOJ's criteria for defining terrorism cases to new federal prosecutions and brought the case list up to date as of summer 2011. Together with researcher Lauren Ellis, he went through court documents for every case—tens of thousands of pages. "We wanted an understanding of what happened in each case," Aaronson says. "But we also wanted to ferret out patterns and connections between cases. This allowed us to identify some informants by name and then link multiple cases to specific informants. It also allowed us to see how sting operations have grown steadily, year after year, since 9/11."

Speedup Wonkdown

| Tue Jun. 21, 2011 2:47 PM PDT

July/August Cover of Mother Jones Magazine

The internet has been liking our "Speedup" essay about how Americans are being squeezed at work—no wonder, given that many of you probably read the piece sitting at a stoplight, on the phone to your boss, while firing off a couple of emails. "I haven't felt as 'hell yeah' about an article in a while," tweeted one reader. Commenters dug deep into census stats and the cost of childcare. And then there was a post by one of our favorite conservative bloggers, NRO's Reihan Salam, who in addition to calling the piece "a winner for the progressive mediasphere" (thanks!) and suggesting that we expand it into a book, asked a lot of smart questions including this one (about our point that all this overload merely serves to goose corporate profits):

If most of that 22 percent increase in profits accrued to the financial sector, should we reassess how we think about real economy firms? Could it be that addressing the pathologies of the financial sector is the right approach, not embracing more aggressive labor market regulations, collective bargaining, etc.?

Our answer, you won't be surprised to hear, is: We need both. But Salam is absolutely right that more data is needed on this whole topic—we were quite stunned, in researching the piece, at the lack of detailed research on worker productivity and its role in the economy. Could it have to do with the pollution of the economics profession? We'd dig into this immediately, but... we're slammed. Reihan, it's definitely going into the book (thanks, Ezra!) file.

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