Ian Cobain

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Ian Cobain (born 1960) is a British journalist, best known for his investigation into torture perpetrated by agents of the United Kingdom government, and for his reporting on the culture of secrecy[1][2] surrounding the British state, past[3] and present.[4]


Ian Cobain was born in Liverpool. A journalist since the early 1980s, he is currently an investigative reporter for The Guardian. He has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Journalism and won the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism, as well as two Amnesty International journalism awards,[5] and, with fellow Guardian journalist, Richard Norton-Taylor, a Human Rights Campaign of the Year Award from Liberty, for their "investigation into Britain’s complicity in the use of torture".[6]

He has reported on six wars,[7] including the 1991 Gulf War, and the wars in Afghanistan[8] and Iraq.[9] In September 2005, he revealed that the UK was supporting the CIA’s rendition programme[10] and in 2006, when he joined the BNP as part of an undercover investigation, he ended up being appointed central London organiser for the party, a position he swiftly resigned.[11]

Cobain's 2012 book Cruel Britannia documents a remarkable continuity of British involvement in torture over the last six decades: in Palestine, during and after World War II, in Cyprus, Kenya, Northern Ireland and in extraordinary rendition in the War on Terror.[12] Sir David Hare described it as "one of the most shocking and persuasive books of the year", Peter Oborne in the Spectator said, "Carefully researched and well-written… [Cobain] should be congratulated for addressing a subject which much of the rest of Fleet Street has been determined to ignore",[13] and the Sunday Times identified it as a "must-read" and declared it, "a fine study of the role Britain has played in the business of torture". The book won the Paddy Power/Total Politics Debut Political Book of the Year award.[14] His research into state secrecy has resulted in a second book, The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation, which will be published by Portobello Books in late 2016.[citation needed]


  • Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture, Portobello Books, 2012. ISBN 184627334X
  • The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation, Portobello Books, 2016 (forthcoming). ISBN 1846275830


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