Barton David Gellman (born in 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.
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. He is writing a book for Penguin Press on the rise of the surveillance-industrial state.
Gellman is based at the Century Foundation, 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.
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. 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.
Legendary 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 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.
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.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Gellman wrote an eyewitness account from the scene of the World Trade Center. He spent the next two years tracking the war with Al Qaeda. Gellman broke stories on the history of the "Global War on Terror" before 9/11 under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; the activation of a secret "shadow government" 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.
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. In Iraq, traveling with weapons hunters, he was the first to show that the search for WMD was failing. When Gellman reported that U.S. and allied teams had exhausted their leads on a "reconstituted" Iraqi nuclear weapons program, the CIA issued a strong rebuttal. In testimony before the U.S. Senate, less 3 months later, Kay acknowledged that The Post's account had been correct. 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. 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 and of Bush's efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
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. 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. The Justice Department mounted a fierce campaign to discredit that story, but eventually was obliged to retract many of its accusations. 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.
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. 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."
Between 2010 and 2013, Gellman was Contributing Editor at Large of Time magazine, where his work included cover stories on extremist domestic militias, on FBI Director Robert Mueller. 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.
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. 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. He spoke of the biblical roots of surveillance in a lecture at St. John's Church (the "church of the presidents") and participated in panel discussions at Princeton, Yale and Harvard. Gellman has twice debated former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden about the Snowden revelations, first at Duke University and then at American University. “The government tries to keep secrets and we try to find them out," Gellman said in the second debate. "There are tradeoffs.”
In 2008, Penguin Press published Gellman's bestselling Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. Gellman helped adapt the book for a screenplay, initially optioned for an HBO miniseries. Screenwriter Deborah Cahn reworked the story as a feature film, and her script was voted among the top 5 unproduced movies of 2013 in Hollywood's annual "Black List." 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 1985 study of the post-World War II "containment" doctrine and its architect 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. 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. 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." Previously, Gellman was a jury-nominated Pulitzer finalist in 1999  and 2004.
Other professional honors include Harvard's Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, two Overseas Press Club awards, two George Polk Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Gerald Ford Foundation Prize for reporting on national defense, the SAIS-Novartis International Journalism Award  and the Jesse Laventhol Award for deadline writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
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 as a Rhodes Scholar.
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".
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.
Since 2011, Gellman has twice taught a course called "Secrecy, Accountability and the National Security State".
The son of Stuart Gellman of Tucson, Arizona, and Marcia Jacobs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He lives with partner Dafna Linzer in New York City. A previous marriage to Tracy Ellen Sivitz ended in divorce in 2007. He is the father of four children: Abigail, Michael, Lily, and Benjamin Gellman.
- 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.]
- Washington Post wins Pulitzer Prize for NSA spying revelations; Guardian also honored
- Reporter Had To Decide If Snowden Leaks Were 'The Real Thing'
- "Pulitzer-winner Gellman writing book on rise of spy state". Reuters. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
- Princeton faculty listing
- Student Press Law Center Report, Fall 1979
- Selected Newspaper Stories, BartonGellman.com
- Following Rules, Finding Advantage: Bradley Chose Reserves After Advice
- Driven Scholar-Athlete Paid a Price to Meet Demands
- A Religious Journey With Twists and Turns
- A Private Journey Comes Full Circle
- DEATH WATCH: The Global Response to AIDS in Africa: World Shunned Signs of the Coming Plague
- 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
- A Turning Point That Left Millions Behind: Drug Discounts Benefit Few While Protecting Pharmaceutical Companies' Profits
- 'I Saw Bodies Falling Out -- Oh, God, Jumping, Falling'
- Shadow Government Is at Work in Secret: After Attacks, Bush Ordered 100 Officials to Bunkers Away From Capital to Ensure Federal Survival
- U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations: 'Stress and Duress' Tactics Used on Terrorism Suspects Held in Secret Overseas Facilities
- 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.
- Frustrated, U.S. Arms Team to Leave Iraq: Task Force Unable To Find Any Weapons
- Odyssey of Frustration: In Search for Weapons, Army Team Finds Vacuum Cleaners
- Search in Iraq Fails to Find Nuclear Threat: No Evidence Uncovered Of Reconstituted Program
- 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")
- Transcript: David Kay at Senate hearing ("We were almost all wrong")
- Iraq's Arsenal Was Only on Paper: Since Gulf War, Nonconventional Weapons Never Got Past the Planning Stage
- War on Terrorism: Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide
- Nuclear Security: Unprecedented Peril Forces Tough Calls: President Faces a Multi-Front Battle Against Threats Known, Unknown
- Secret Unit Expands Rumsfeld's Domain: New Espionage Branch Delving Into CIA Territory
- The FBI's Secret Scrutiny: In Hunt for Terrorists, Bureau Examines Records of Ordinary Americans
- DOJ Letter and Washington Post response, 2005
- Richard Hertling to Arlen Specter, 2007
- DOJ Inspector General report on NSLs (PDF)
- Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency
- Biography, BartonGellman.com
- Poynter Institute
- "The Secret World of Extreme Militias", Time
- The Counterterrorist
- CounterSpy blog
- Michael Calderone (November 21, 2013). "Barton Gellman Hits Back at Bob Woodward for 'Insult' about Snowden Coverage". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
- Barton Gellman. "Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 December 2013. "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."
- The Forum: Barton Gellman “The Tension Between Liberty and Security”, St John’s Church, September 29, 2013
- Barton Gellman and Daniel Kurtzer, Woodrow Wilson School, 9/17/13
- Yale Law School panel, 9/19/13
- “The Snowden Effect: Leaks and Consequences at the NSA”, Harvard Kennedy School, 10/15/13
- Debate with Michael Hayden “Leakers or Whistleblowers? National Security Reporting in the Digital Age”, Sanford School of Public Policy, 11/11/13
- Debate with Michael Hayden "The NSA and Privacy," American University, April 3, 2014
- Warren, James (4 April 2014). "The Spy Vs. The Reporter: A Snowden Debate between two who know more than most". NY Daily News. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
- "New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction Best Sellers", New York Times, 5 October 2008.
- Hollywood Reporter
- Inside Movies, December 2013 ("The Special Program," by Deborah Cahn)
- NYT Review of Contending with Kennan
- Pulitzer Prize Announcement
- 1999 Pulitzer Prize Finalists
- 2004 Pulitzer Prize Finalists
- Goldsmith Prize Announcement
- Overseas Press Club
- Overseas Press Club
- Society of Professional Journalists
- Gerald Ford Foundation
- SAIS-Novartis Intl Journalism Award
- American Society of Newspaper Editors
- Los Angeles Times Book Prize
- New York Times Best Books of 2008
- "Bart Gellman" biography at the Washington Post, February 11, 2005, accessed July 29, 2007.
- Secrecy, Security and Self-Government: An Argument For Unauthorized Disclosures
- Secrecy, Security and Self-Government: How I Learn Secrets and Why I Print Them
- "Barton Gellman to Marry Tracy Sivitz in September", New York Times, July 22, 1990, accessed July 29, 2007.
- Gellman Official Website
- "Bart Gellman" biography at The Washington Post. February 11, 2005. Accessed July 29, 2007.
- Contending with Kennan: Toward a Philosophy of American Power book description at Greenwood Publishing Group. Accessed July 29, 2007. (Paperback ed.)
- "Interview: Barton Gellman". Conducted on January 29, 2003 for The War Behind Closed Doors. Program first broadcast on Frontline, Public Broadcasting Service, February 20, 2003. Accessed July 29, 2007.
- "Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist to Discuss U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts Pre-September 11". Press Release announcing lecture by Gellman at Princeton University in 2004. Accessed July 29, 2007.
- "National Security Beat: Barton Gellman". 2006 Washington Post biography. Accessed July 29, 2007.
- Recent Washington Post articles written by Barton Gellman. Accessed July 29, 2007.
- Barton Gellman's interview with The Young Turks.