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Russ Baker

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Baker at the Coalition on Political Assassination in 2013

Russ Baker (born 1958[1]) is an American author and investigative journalist. Baker is the editor-in-chief and founder of the nonprofit news website WhoWhatWhy. Earlier in his career he wrote for a variety of publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, The Guardian, Wired, and The Village Voice.[2][3][4]

Baker is the author of the nearly 600 page 2008 investigative history book Family of Secrets that reports a little-known backhistory to the Bush political dynasty, asserts that a young future president George H.W. Bush served secretly in the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s and probes his network and activities in Dallas at the time of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and later in Washington during the Watergate scandal.[3][5][6]



Baker grew up in California, received a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA and a master’s degree in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.[6][2] After graduation, Baker worked as a metro reporter with Newsday in New York City.[2][6] He then reported on tribal genocide in Burundi for the largest circulation newspaper in the Netherlands and for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the fall of the Berlin Wall for CBS Radio and The Christian Science Monitor, and, for a variety of publications, the fall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.[2][7]

In 1989, he became a New York correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. He also wrote for the Village Voice.[8][9][10]

His articles included a report on the efforts of the controversial Church of Scientology to recruit Michael Jackson,[6] produced an early critique of New York Times journalist Judith Miller’s claims that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” (which became a factor in the US’s subsequent invasion of that country), and on the West’s indifference to capturing accused Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic.[2] An article in The Nation[11] on George W. Bush's disappearance from his US-based military unit during the Vietnam War received a 2005 award from the Deadline Club, the New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, for a web-exclusive article.[12]

Baker has been on the adjunct faculty of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism[13] and was a contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review.[14]

Following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Baker and his team at WhoWhatWhy published dozens of articles and podcasts about inconsistencies in government statements regarding the alleged perpetrators. Among other things, they noted that the FBI had visited with the Tamerlan Tsarnaev in years prior to the bombings he was accused of, noted ties between the Tsarnaev family and people in the US national security apparatus, and pointed out that US government itself had said that the brothers were themselves unable to make the types of sophisticated bombs used at the marathon.[6][15]



At the time that Family of Secrets was released, Baker founded an independent, nonprofit news organization, WhoWhatWhy.[16] Board members and advisory board members have included journalism figures, among them Alicia Patterson Foundation director Margaret Engel, former Village Voice editor Jonathan Larsen, Pulitzer Prize winner Sydney Schanberg and Salon founder David Talbot.[6][2] WhoWhatWhy relies on reader contributions and the work of "a mix of paid journalists and skilled volunteers."[17] Its donors have included Joan Konner, a former dean of the Columbia Journalism School, the Larsen Fund, and TV producer and activist Norman Lear.[2] The site claims to explore "deep politics", covering stories the establishment media will not touch, and has used the slogan "We don't cover the news. We uncover the truth."[2][18]

In a January 2015 Boston magazine profile, journalist Ben Schreckinger said that over the previous decade, "Baker has abandoned the mainstream media and become a key player on the fringe, walking that murky line between conventional investigative journalist and wild-eyed conspiracy theorist."[6] Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather told Schreckinger Baker was "an indefatigable reporter who has made a specialty of digging deep into stories when most other people have left the story. And he's very good at raising the right questions."[6] Schreckinger said "it would be a lot easier to dismiss Baker as a nut and move on if it weren't for his three decades of award-winning investigative-reporting experience", noting that Baker was among the first to raise concerns about Colin Powell's now-infamous presentation on Iraq at the United Nations at a time when The New York Times and The Washington Post were still praising Powell.[6]

In a 2016 Columbia Journalism Review profile, Neal Gabler reported that journalist Bill Moyers, who does not know Baker personally, called him an "indefatigable researcher from whom I could learn something about a subject that I hadn't known because he so often looked under the next rock, rounded the next corner, asked the next question after everyone else had gone home or to the local bar", adding that Baker seemed "unimpressed with conventional wisdom, quickly spotted and dismissed spin, and wasn't intimidated by the powers-that-be."[2]

Baker told Gabler that in journalism, "everyone has been taught: Don't go too far. Don't dig too deep." Gabler reported that Baker's critics reject that claim, and say that "reporters are warned not to go farther than the evidence warrants, and they say that what Baker sees as audacity is just a cover for sloppy reporting."[2] Los Angeles Times media critic Tim Rutten said that Baker once may have been a serious and talented journalist but became "mesmerized by the idea of secrets and the Great Seduction. It causes you to lose your perspective and balance."[2]

Baker speaking at the Porcupine Freedom Festival in 2015 on "American Deep Power Structures"

Family of Secrets


Baker's 2008 book Family of Secrets outlines historical connections of members of the Bush political dynasty, including Prescott Bush, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush, to individuals in the Central Intelligence Agency, military-industrial complex and global financial system.[2][19][3] Baker asserts that George H. W. Bush was linked to the Watergate scandal and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.[6] Family of Secrets contends that the first President Bush became an intelligence agent in his teenage years and was later at the center of a plot to assassinate Kennedy that included his father, Prescott Bush, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, CIA Director Allen Dulles, Cuban and Russian exiles and emigrants, and various Texas oilmen.[19] It asserts that Bob Woodward of The Washington Post was an intelligence agent who conspired with John Dean to remove President Richard Nixon from office for opposing the oil depletion allowance.[19]

In his 2015 profile of Baker, Schreckinger observed that the book was "trounced by the mainstream media".[6] Lev Grossman of Time magazine said that Baker "connects the dots between the Bushes and Watergate, which he far-fetchedly describes not as a ham-handed act of political espionage but as a carefully orchestrated farce designed to take down President Richard Nixon."[5] Washington Post reviewer Jamie Malanowski contended that Baker "overplayed his hand" and "stretches evidence," using rhetorical devices to do so. Malanowski opined that "there are more crutches in these pages than in the grotto at Lourdes.[3] In a Los Angeles Times review, Rutten called the book "preposterous" and said that it was "singularly offensive" because it "recklessly impugns, in the most disgusting possible way," the reputations of living and dead people.[19]

Salon published excerpts from the book in 2018 upon the occasion of Bush's death.[20][21] A 2019 Salon article by Jefferson Morley noted that a "handful of declassified records suggest that Bush’s relationship to the agency might have run deeper than his overt roles as director, vice president, and president. The records, which I believe were first reported in Russ Baker’s 2009 book, 'Family of Secrets,' went unmentioned in the recent media coverage of Bush’s death."[22]

Personal life


Baker says that because of his work as an investigative journalist, he prefers not to discuss his family or details on his location.[6][2]


  1. ^ Library of Congress (December 5, 2023). Family of secrets : the Bush dynasty, the powerful forces that put it ... Library of Congress. ISBN 9781596915572. LCCN 2008037433. Retrieved March 12, 2023. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Gabler, Neal (March 1, 2016). "The world according to Russ Baker". Columbia Journalism Review. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Malanowski, Jamie (January 11, 2009). "Behind Every Rock, a Bush". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  4. ^ "WhoWhatWhy". Business Insider. November 21, 2012. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Family of Secrets", review by Lev Grossman, Time Magazine, December 17, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Schreckinger, Ben (January 2015). "Boston Isn't Strong. Boston Is Scared Sh*tless". Boston Magazine. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  7. ^ Baker, Russ (May 6, 2002). "I'm The Other Guy". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Baker, Russ (December 7, 1993). "The rogue police union". Village Voice. New York, NY.
  9. ^ Baker, Russ (September 10, 1991). "CIA: Out of control". ire.org. Investigative Reporters & Editors. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  10. ^ Baker, Russ (September 10, 1991). "CIA: Out of control". Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  11. ^ Baker, Russ (June 23, 2003), ""Scoops" and Truth at the Times", The Nation, retrieved July 5, 2016
  12. ^ "2005 Deadline Club Awards". Archived from the original on April 20, 2006.
  13. ^ "Arena Profile: Russ Baker". Politico. Archived from the original on November 3, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  14. ^ Ladhani, Caroline (November 15, 2001). "Columbia Journalism Review Marks 40th Anniversary with Special Issue". Columbia Journalism Review. Columbia University/Columbia Journalism School. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  15. ^ "Behind the News/ Numerology & 2014". Coast to Coast with George Noory. May 21, 2014. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  16. ^ "WhoWhatWhy". Business Insider. November 21, 2012.
  17. ^ "About Us". WhoWhatWhy. March 19, 2009. Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  18. ^ Baker, Russ. "Our story". whowhatwhy.org. The Real News Project. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  19. ^ a b c d Rutten, Tim (January 7, 2009). "'Family of Secrets' by Russ Baker". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  20. ^ Baker, Russ (December 9, 2018). "George H.W. Bush shaped history — but not the way we're told". Salon. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  21. ^ Baker, Russ (December 9, 2018). "Elite secret society tied Bush to circles of power". Salon. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  22. ^ Morley, Jefferson (January 25, 2019). "The real reason the CIA loved George H.W. Bush". Salon. Retrieved March 21, 2023.