|Notable credit(s)||National Security Correspondent for the Washington Independent; former reporter for The New Republic; has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News; frequent guest on BloggingHeads.tv|
Spencer Ackerman is an American national security reporter and blogger. He began his career at The New Republic and wrote for Wired magazine's national security blog, Danger Room. He is now the national security editor for the The Guardian.
Life and career
Ackerman graduated from Rutgers University where he was an editor for the Daily Targum student paper. In 2002, he moved to Washington D.C. to become an intern and later an associate editor at The New Republic magazine. He initially supported the Iraq War, but became disillusioned and in 2004 started a blog on The New Republic website called Iraq'd which chronicled the dilemma of pro-war liberals. He also wrote, with John B. Judis, an article that started the chain of events that led to the Plame affair.
In 2006 Ackerman was fired from TNR for "insubordination" (in TNR editor Franklin Foer's account) or "irreconciliable ideological differences" (in Ackerman's). He subsequently wrote for The American Prospect (which offered him a job within a day of his firing) and Talking Points Memo. Ackerman blogged and reported on national security issues at the Washington Independent from the paper's creation in 2008 until 2010, when he left for Wired.
Ackerman also maintains a personal blog, Attackerman, which was hosted at Firedoglake from June 2008 through December 2010. On December 29, 2010, he reported that it was necessary for him to relocate, saying, "the congressional press galleries are wary of giving me permanent credentials while I’m affiliated here." In September 2011, Ackerman reported a series of articles for Wired alleging anti-Islamic bias in FBI training materials. As a result, the FBI launched "a comprehensive review of all training and reference materials that relate in any way to religion or culture."
Firing from The New Republic
In October 2006 he was fired by The New Republic Editor Franklin Foer. Describing it as a "painful" decision, Foer attributed the firing to Ackerman's "insubordination": disparaging the magazine on his personal blog Too Hot For TNR, saying that he would "skullfuck" a terrorist's corpse at an editorial meeting if that was required to "establish his anti-terrorist bona fides" and sending Foer an e-mail where he said—in what according to Ackerman was intended to be a joke—he would “make a niche in [his] skull” with a baseball bat.
Ackerman, by contrast, argued that the dismissal was due to “irreconcilable ideological differences”. He believed that his leftward drift as a result of the Iraq War and the actions of the Bush administration was not appreciated by the senior editorial staff. Ackerman reports having no regrets over anything he wrote or said but in retrospect believes that he should have quit well before he was fired.
Ackerman was a member of the private Google Groups forum JournoList. Incendiary JournoList comments by Ackerman on topics like the Jeremiah Wright controversy were revealed by the Daily Caller. Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent, wrote, "I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically." James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal took issue with a particularly controversial e-mail from Ackerman: "If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares – and call them racists". A spokesman for Wired said that Ackerman would keep his job, saying "We hired Spencer Ackerman for his well-informed national security reporting and fully support it. Anyone with access to Google can discover his political leanings."
Claims of North Korean "propaganda video"
In 2013 Ackerman was forced to take down one of his WIRED stories on what he claimed was a "North Korean propaganda video" after it was revealed the film was a satire video by British travel write Alun Hill.
Gruesome CIA photos
On March 28, 2016, writing in The Guardian, Ackerman broke an account of how, although the CIA had illegally destroyed its extensive library of video tapes documenting the torture of the men and boys it had apprehended through its covert "snatch teams", it still retained humiliating naked photos of bruised and beaten captives that observers described as "gruesome".
- Marx, Greg (June 23, 2010). "Spencer Ackerman to Join Wired’s Danger Room". Columbia Journalism Review.
- Beaudette, Marie (September 12, 2007). "D.C.'s New Young Blogging Elite". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
- Calderone, Michael. "Off the Record". New York Observer. Retrieved October 29, 2006.
- Aaron, Weiner (June 23, 2010). "A Bittersweet Farewell to a TWI Icon, Spencer Ackerman". Washington Independent.
- Ackerman, Spencer (December 29, 2010). "A Bittersweet Goodbye Post".
- Ackerman, Spence (September 14, 2011). "FBI Teaches Agents: 'Mainstream' Muslims Are 'Violent, Radical'".
- FBI National Press Office (September 20, 2011) "FBI Launches Comprehensive Review of Training Program"
- "The Radical Mind of Dick Cheney: An In-Depth Look at the Vice President". November 26, 2003.
- Ackerman, Spencer (July 23, 2009). "How to succeed in Hollywood without really trying". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- James Taranto, 'Call Them Racists', online.wsj.com, July 20, 2010.
- Hagey, Keach (July 20, 2010). "Unlike David Weigel, Spencer Ackerman keeps job". Politico. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- "'How Americans Live Today': Fake North Korean Propaganda Video Punks The Internet". huffingtonpost.com. Huffington Post. 3 March 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Spencer Ackerman (2016-03-28). "CIA photographed detainees naked before sending them to be tortured". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
Iacopino has not seen the nude photographs but raised grave concerns. “It’s cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment at a minimum and may constitute torture,” he said.
- Andrew Blake (2016-03-28). "CIA reportedly used nude photos to sexually humiliate terror suspects". Washington Times. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
One former U.S. official familiar with the photographs described them to The Guardian as “very gruesome,” and others went as far as to suggest the practice of photographing naked detainees may constitute a violation of international law.
- "CIA took naked photos of detainees before sending them for torture: Report". Press TV. 2016-03-29. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
Also, a medical and human rights expert called the practice “sexual humiliation,” while some other human rights campaigners regard it as a potential war crime.
- Trace William Cowen (2016-03-28). "CIA Reportedly Took "Gruesome" Nude Photos of Detainees Before They Were Tortured". Complex (magazine). Retrieved 2016-03-30.
- Danger Room – Ackerman's national security blog at Wired
- Attackerman – Ackerman's personal blog
- Attackerman – Ackerman's personal blog, at Firedoglake, from 2008 to 2010
- Too Hot For TNR – Ackerman's personal blog from 2006 to 2008
- List of video conversations with Ackerman on BloggingHeads.tv
- Articles by Ackerman at The New Republic
- Articles by Ackerman at The American Prospect
- Killing the Messenger by Ackerman in Salon, November 16, 2004
- Q&A: Spencer Ackerman 2009 interview with Ackerman at Columbia Journalism Review