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March 7, 2011

Washington Post’s Priest: Journalists Fail When They Don’t Go After Information

Dana Priest

Dana Priest

Award-winning investigative reporter Dana Priest discussed the evolving relationship between the media and the national security world when she addressed the _ Standing Committee on Law and National Security on March 3. The Washington Post journalist spoke about the implications of secrecy in the government, disclosures of classified information by the media and the WikiLeaks controversy.

In talking about how the post-9/11 world and the Iraq war changed national security reporting, Priest stressed the importance of reporters going after information, even if that information is being protected by the government. But she added that journalists should be mindful when using or publishing this information.

During her remarks, Priest referred to the media’s coverage of the Iraq war in 2004 and 2005 as a “shining example of the responsibility and power of media.” She opined that the media did not push hard enough in the days before the war to get accurate information about what was actually going on in Iraq. “When I don’t go after information, I’ve failed to do my job,” she expressed while discussing the constitutionally protected role the press plays in this country.

Priest has written extensively on the CIA’s covert counterterrorism operations around the world, the agency’s secret rendition and detention practices, the intelligence lapses involving the 9/11 plot and the failure of pre-war intelligence in Iraq.

Her widely acclaimed 2003 book about the military’s expanding responsibility and influence, “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military,” earned the New York Public Library Bernstein Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction.

Priest was the Post’s intelligence reporter for three years and its Pentagon correspondent for seven years prior to that. She covered the invasion of Panama (1989), reported from Iraq (1990), covered the Kosovo war (1999), and has traveled widely with Army Special Forces in Asia, Africa and South America and with Army infantry units on peacekeeping duty in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Priest spoke as part of the standing committee’s breakfast series program. Listen to her talk here.

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