The Women Who Chase Terrorists

After three years of hands-on reporting, the Pearl Project — a Georgetown journalism course devoted to tracking down the facts behind the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl — has published their full report.

pearl project class at georgetown university
(Image credit: Douglas Adesko)

Many of you have asked for updates on The Pearl Project — the Georgetown journalism course devoted to tracking down the men behind the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Since we first brought you the story of the brave young students — mostly women — two years ago, the group has doggedly continued its investigation, releasing its findings this week.

The Pearl murder shocked the world and inspired a Hollywood movie starring Angelina Jolie. But the actual investigation into the killing stagnated long ago. According to Asra Q. Nomani, a journalist and activist who taught the class alongside journalism director Barbara Feinman Todd, that's because the FBI had to move on to other priorities. The driving forces behind a murder that marked a new era of peril for reporters remained hidden from the world.

This week, after three years of hands-on reporting, the Pearl Project pulls back the curtain. The class's full investigative report has been published by the Center for Public Integrity. Among the key findings: U.S. officials used a forensic technique called "vein analysis" to confirm that the killer is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who also is suspected of masterminding the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed had confessed to killing Pearl years ago, but there had been lingering doubts.

The class also determined that 27 men were involved in kidnapping and killing Pearl, and that 14 remain free in Pakistan.

Read Marie Claire's story about the young women behind the Pearl Project.

Abigail Pesta is an award-winning investigative journalist who writes for major publications around the world. She is the author of The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.