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Barton Gellman

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Barton Gellman

Barton David Gellman (born November 3, 1960) is an American journalist and bestselling author known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning reports on the September 11 attacks, on Dick Cheney's powerful vice presidency and on the global surveillance disclosure.[1]

Since June 2013 he has led The Washington Post‍ '​s coverage of the U.S. National Security Agency, based on top secret documents provided to him by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.[2] He is writing a book for Penguin Press on the rise of the surveillance-industrial state.[3]

Gellman is based at the Century Foundation,[4] where he is a senior fellow, and also holds an appointment as Visiting Lecturer and Author in Residence at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.[5] From 2015-2017, Gellman is also a fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton.[6]


Newspaper and magazine writing

Gellman began his journalism career at George Washington High School in Philadelphia, where he was editor of the school newspaper. When Principal Carol Wacker seized and destroyed all copies of his first issue and fired him as editor, he sued her and the School District of Philadelphia in U.S. District Court.[7] He won a favorable settlement nearly a year after graduation, but the articles were never published. Gellman became chairman, or editor in chief, of The Daily Princetonian in his junior year of college, and interned at The New Republic, The Miami Herald and The Washington Post.

Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee hired Gellman as a full-time staff writer in 1988 to cover Washington, D.C. courts, including the trial of former D.C. mayor Marion Barry. Gellman went on to become Pentagon correspondent during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the U.S. intervention in Somalia and the social upheavals relating to the status of gays in the military and the assignment of women to combat roles. In 1994, he moved to Jerusalem as bureau chief, covering peace negotiations, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and the ascent of Benjamin Netanyahu. He returned to Washington as diplomatic correspondent in late 1997, covering Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the collapse of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) effort to disarm Iraq.

Gellman moved to New York in 1999 to take up a role as special projects reporter, focusing on long-term investigative stories. Among his early projects[8] in the new role was a series on the early life of Sen. Bill Bradley, with partner Dale Russakoff, during Bradley's run for the 2000 Democratic nomination for president.[9][10][11][12]

In 2000, he led a team of reporters in an award-winning series on the rise of the global AIDS pandemic and the failure of governments, pharmaceutical companies and the World Health Organization to act on clear warnings that the disease was on a path to killing tens of millions of people.[13][14][15]

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Gellman wrote an eyewitness account from the scene of the World Trade Center.[16] He spent the next two years tracking the war with [17] and the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora. In late 2002, he and fellow reporter Dana Priest disclosed that the U.S. government was holding terrorism suspects in secret prisons overseas and subjecting them to abusive interrogation techniques.[18]

Gellman broke important stories about the use of and misuse of intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before and after the war in Iraq, including the first public reporting on the secretive White House Iraq Group.[19] In Iraq, traveling with weapons hunters, he was the first to show that the search for WMD was failing.[20][21] When Gellman reported that U.S. and allied teams had exhausted their leads on a "reconstituted" Iraqi nuclear weapons program,[22] the CIA issued a strong rebuttal.[23] In testimony before the U.S. Senate, less than 3 months later, Kay acknowledged that The Post's account had been correct.[24] By January 2004, Gellman used independent interviews on the ground with Iraqi scientists and engineers, U.S. and United Nations officials to tell a comprehensive story about how the prewar allegations fell apart.[25] During the presidential election campaign of 2004, Gellman and partner Dafna Linzer wrote a series on the Bush administration's national security record, offering behind-the-scenes narratives of the war with al Qaeda[26] and of Bush's efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.[27]

In 2005, Gellman discovered that the Defense Department under Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was building a clandestine human intelligence service to rival the CIA's, and that the commander had a controversial past.[28] Later that year he uncovered classified details about the FBI's abuse of National Security Letters under the new powers granted by the USA Patriot Act, revealing as well that the bureau issued tens of thousands of those letters every year.[29] The Justice Department mounted a fierce campaign to discredit that story,[30] but eventually was obliged to retract many of its accusations.[31] Congress responded to the story by asking the Justice Department Inspector General to investigate the use of NSLs. The Inspector General's blistering report, nearly two years later, led to substantial reforms.[32]

In 2007, Gellman and Jo Becker wrote a four-part series on Vice President Dick Cheney, persuading many of his allies and opponents to speak on the record for the first time.[33] The widely honored series pierced the secrecy protecting the most powerful Number Two in White House history, demonstrating Cheney's dominance of the "iron issues" of national security, economic and legal policy. Gellman took an extended book leave in 2008 to expand the newspaper series into a book for Penguin Press called "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency."

After 21 years on the staff of the Washington Post, Gellman resigned in February 2010 to concentrate full-time on book and magazine writing.[34]

Between 2010 and 2013, Gellman was Contributing Editor at Large of Time magazine,[35] where his work included cover stories on extremist domestic militias,[36] on FBI Director Robert Mueller.[37] and on the early influences in the life of Republican Party Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney. He also wrote Time's CounterSpy blog on digital privacy and security.[38]

Global surveillance disclosure

Gellman returned to the Washington Post on temporary contract in May 2013 to lead the paper's coverage of the 2013 and 2014 Global surveillance disclosure, based on top-secret documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.[39] In December 2013, after interviewing Snowden in Moscow, Gellman summarized 6 months of reporting in The Post as follows:

"Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations."

Gellman has spoken about the revelations in numerous broadcasts and public appearances. Among the most widely cited is an interview on NPR's Fresh Air with host Terry Gross.[2] He spoke of the biblical roots of surveillance in a lecture at St. John's Church (the "church of the presidents")[41] and participated in panel discussions at Princeton,[42] Yale[43] and Harvard.[44] Gellman has twice debated former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden about the Snowden revelations, first at Duke University[45] and then at American University.[46] “The government tries to keep secrets and we try to find them out," Gellman said in the second debate. "There are tradeoffs.”[47]

In February 2014, Gellman stated during an event at [48]

Nonfiction books

In 2008, Penguin Press published Gellman's bestselling[49] Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. Gellman helped adapt the book for a screenplay, initially optioned for an HBO miniseries.[50] Screenwriter Debora Cahn reworked the story as a feature film, and her script was voted among the top five unproduced movies of 2013 in Hollywood's annual "Black List."[51] It has since been optioned by independent producer Harvey Weinstein.

In addition to the Cheney book, Gellman is author of Contending with Kennan: Toward a Philosophy of American Power, a well-received[52] 1985 study of the post-World War II "George F. Kennan.

Honors and awards

Gellman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, honored as an individual, team member and team leader. In 2002, he was a member of the Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting on the September 11 attacks.[53] He won the same award in 2008 for "a lucid exploration of Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful yet sometimes disguised influence on national policy.[54] In 2014, Gellman led the Washington Post team that shared the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service with the Guardian newspaper. The Post was cited "for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security."[1][55] Previously, Gellman was a jury-nominated Pulitzer finalist in 1999 [56] and 2004.[57]

Other professional honors include Harvard's [61][62] the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists,[63] the Gerald Ford Foundation Prize for reporting on national defense,[64] the SAIS-Novartis International Journalism Award [65] and the Jesse Laventhol Award for deadline writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.[66]

"Angler," Gellman's book on Dick Cheney, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize[67] and was named among the 100 Notable Books of 2008 by the New York Times.[68]

Education and teaching

Gellman graduated summa cum laude from Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He earned a master's degree in politics from University College, Oxford[69] as a Rhodes Scholar.[70]

He returned to Princeton for two semesters as Ferris Professor of Journalism in 2002 and 2009, teaching courses called "The Literature of Fact" and "Investigative Reporting".[71]

In 2003 and 2004, Gellman organized a lecture series on national security secrecy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He delivered two of the lectures himself, making arguments that prefigured the debate about the disclosure of secrets obtained ten years later from Edward Snowden.[72][73]

Since 2011, Gellman has twice taught a course called "Secrecy, Accountability and the National Security State".[74]

Personal life

The son of Stuart Gellman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Marcia Jacobs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He lives with partner Dafna Linzer in New York City.[75] A previous marriage to Tracy Ellen Sivitz ended in divorce in 2007.[76] He is the father of four children: Abigail, Michael, Lily, and Benjamin Gellman.[77]


  • Contending with Kennan: Toward a Philosophy of American Power. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985. ISBN 0-275-91737-1 (10). ISBN 978-0-275-91737-1 (13). [Hardcover ed.] New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1985. ISBN 0-275-91805-X (10). ISBN 978-0-275-91805-7 (13). [Paperback ed.]
  • Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. ISBN 1-59420-186-2 (10). ISBN 978-1-59420-186-8 (13). [Hardcover ed.]


  1. ^ a b Washington Post wins Pulitzer Prize for NSA spying revelations; Guardian also honored
  2. ^ a b Reporter Had To Decide If Snowden Leaks Were 'The Real Thing'
  3. ^
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Princeton faculty listing
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ Student Press Law Center Report, Fall 1979
  8. ^ Selected Newspaper Stories,
  9. ^ Following Rules, Finding Advantage: Bradley Chose Reserves After Advice
  10. ^ Driven Scholar-Athlete Paid a Price to Meet Demands
  11. ^ A Religious Journey With Twists and Turns
  12. ^ A Private Journey Comes Full Circle
  13. ^ DEATH WATCH: The Global Response to AIDS in Africa: World Shunned Signs of the Coming Plague
  14. ^ An Unequal Calculus of Life and Death: As Millions Perished in Pandemic, Firms Debated Access to Drugs; Players in the Debate Over Drug Availability and Pricing
  15. ^ A Turning Point That Left Millions Behind: Drug Discounts Benefit Few While Protecting Pharmaceutical Companies' Profits
  16. ^ 'I Saw Bodies Falling Out -- Oh, God, Jumping, Falling'
  17. ^ Shadow Government Is at Work in Secret: After Attacks, Bush Ordered 100 Officials to Bunkers Away From Capital to Ensure Federal Survival
  18. ^ U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations: 'Stress and Duress' Tactics Used on Terrorism Suspects Held in Secret Overseas Facilities
  19. ^ Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, "Iraq's Nuclear File: Inside the Prewar Debate Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence", Washington Post, August 10, 2003: A01, accessed July 29, 2007.
  20. ^ Frustrated, U.S. Arms Team to Leave Iraq: Task Force Unable To Find Any Weapons
  21. ^ Odyssey of Frustration: In Search for Weapons, Army Team Finds Vacuum Cleaners
  22. ^ Search in Iraq Fails to Find Nuclear Threat: No Evidence Uncovered Of Reconstituted Program
  23. ^ Statement by Dr. David Kay, Special Advisor to the DCI ("The article is replete with simple factual errors that could have and should have been avoided")
  24. ^ Transcript: David Kay at Senate hearing ("We were almost all wrong")
  25. ^ Iraq's Arsenal Was Only on Paper: Since Gulf War, Nonconventional Weapons Never Got Past the Planning Stage
  26. ^ War on Terrorism: Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide
  27. ^ Nuclear Security: Unprecedented Peril Forces Tough Calls: President Faces a Multi-Front Battle Against Threats Known, Unknown
  28. ^ Secret Unit Expands Rumsfeld's Domain: New Espionage Branch Delving Into CIA Territory
  29. ^ The FBI's Secret Scrutiny: In Hunt for Terrorists, Bureau Examines Records of Ordinary Americans
  30. ^ DOJ Letter and Washington Post response, 2005
  31. ^ Richard Hertling to Arlen Specter, 2007
  32. ^ DOJ Inspector General report on NSLs (PDF)
  33. ^ Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency
  34. ^ Biography,
  35. ^ Poynter Institute
  36. ^ "The Secret World of Extreme Militias", Time
  37. ^ The Counterterrorist
  38. ^ CounterSpy blog
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ The Forum: Barton Gellman “The Tension Between Liberty and Security”, St John’s Church, September 29, 2013
  42. ^ Barton Gellman and Daniel Kurtzer, Woodrow Wilson School, 9/17/13
  43. ^ Yale Law School panel, 9/19/13
  44. ^ “The Snowden Effect: Leaks and Consequences at the NSA”, Harvard Kennedy School, 10/15/13
  45. ^ Debate with Michael Hayden “Leakers or Whistleblowers? National Security Reporting in the Digital Age”, Sanford School of Public Policy, 11/11/13
  46. ^ Debate with Michael Hayden "The NSA and Privacy," American University, April 3, 2014
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ " Hardcover Nonfiction Best SellersNew York Times", New York Times, 5 October 2008.
  50. ^ Hollywood Reporter
  51. ^ Inside Movies, December 2013 ("The Special Program," by Deborah Cahn)
  52. ^ NYT Review of Contending with Kennan
  53. ^ Pulitzer Prize Announcement
  54. ^ [3]
  55. ^ [4]
  56. ^ 1999 Pulitzer Prize Finalists
  57. ^ 2004 Pulitzer Prize Finalists
  58. ^ Goldsmith Prize Announcement
  59. ^ Overseas Press Club
  60. ^ Overseas Press Club
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^ Society of Professional Journalists
  64. ^ Gerald Ford Foundation
  65. ^ SAIS-Novartis Intl Journalism Award
  66. ^ American Society of Newspaper Editors
  67. ^ Book PrizeLos Angeles Times
  68. ^ Best Books of 2008New York Times
  69. ^ "Bart Gellman" biography at the Washington Post, February 11, 2005, accessed July 29, 2007.
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^ Secrecy, Security and Self-Government: An Argument For Unauthorized Disclosures
  73. ^ Secrecy, Security and Self-Government: How I Learn Secrets and Why I Print Them
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^ "Barton Gellman to Marry Tracy Sivitz in September", New York Times, July 22, 1990, accessed July 29, 2007.
  77. ^ Gellman Official Website

External links

  • Official site
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