Walter Haskell Pincus (born December 24, 1932) is a national security journalist
. He reported for ''The Washington Post
'' until the end of 2015.
He has won several prizes including a Polk Award
in 1977, a television Emmy
in 1981, and shared a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting
with five other ''Washington Post'' reporters, and the 2010 Arthur Ross Media Award from the American Academy for Diplomacy. Since 2003, he has taught at Stanford University
's Stanford in Washington program.
Pincus was born in Brooklyn, New York
, the son of Jewish
parents Jonas Pincus and Clare Glassman. He attended South Side High School
, Rockville Centre, New York and graduated from Yale University
with a B.A.
in 1954. Before being drafted into the U.S. Army
in 1955, where he served in the Counterintelligence Corps
in Washington, D.C.
from 1955–1957, he worked as a copy-boy for ''The New York Times
Pincus also attended Georgetown University Law Center, graduating in 2001 with a Juris Doctor degree.
In September 1954 he married Betty Meskin, with whom he has a son. In May 1965, he married his second wife Ann Witsell Terry, who is from Little Rock, Arkansas
, with whom he has one daughter and two sons.
After his discharge from the Army, Pincus worked at the copy desk of the ''Wall Street Journal
's'' Washington edition, leaving in 1959 to become Washington correspondent for three North Carolina
newspapers. In an 18-month sabbatical he took in 1962, he directed his first of two investigations for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
under J. William Fulbright
. The investigations into foreign government lobbying led to a revision of the Foreign Agents Registration Act
. In 1963, he joined the ''Washington Star
'', and in 1966 he moved to the ''Washington Post'', where he worked till 1969. In 1969 till 1970 he directed another investigation for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, looking into U.S. military and security commitments abroad and their effect on U.S. foreign policy, which eventually led to the McGovern-Hatfield amendment
to end the Vietnam War.
In 1973 Pincus tried to establish a newspaper, aiming at university town
s with bad local newspapers, but without success. Believing that he would later buy the magazine, he had become executive editor of ''The New Republic
'' in 1972, where he covered the Watergate Senate
hearings, the House
impeachment hearings of Richard Nixon
and the Watergate trial. In 1975, after he was fired from the ''New Republic'',
he went to work as consultant to NBC News
and later CBS News
, developing, writing or producing television segments for network evening news, magazine shows and hour documentaries, and joined the ''Washington Post'' the same year.
At the ''Washington Post'', Pincus reports on intelligence
and foreign policy
. He has written about a variety of news subjects ranging from nuclear weapon
s and arms control
to political campaign
s to the American hostages in Iran
to investigations of Congress
and the Executive Branch
. For six years he covered the Iran-contra affair
. He covered the intelligence community
and its problems arising out of the case of confessed spy Aldrich Ames
, allegations of Chinese espionage
at the nuclear weapons laboratories.
Pincus attended Georgetown Law School
part-time beginning in 1995 and graduated in 2001, at the age of sixty-eight. He has been a visiting lecturer at Yale University and since 2002 has taught a seminar at Stanford University
's Stanford-in-Washington program.
Involvement in the Plame affair
In October 2003, Pincus cowrote a story for the ''Washington Post'' which described a July 12, 2003 conversation between an unnamed administration official and an unnamed ''Washington Post'' reporter. The official told the reporter that Iraq war
critic Joe Wilson
's wife Valerie Plame
worked for the Central Intelligence Agency
's (CIA) nonproliferation division, and suggested that Plame had recommended her husband to investigate reports that Iraq
's government had tried to buy uranium in Niger
It later became clear that Pincus himself was the Post reporter in question. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald
issued a grand jury subpoena to Pincus on August 9, 2004, in an attempt to discover the identity of Pincus' secret informant. On August 20, 2004, the Post filed a motion to quash the subpoena, but after Pincus' source came forward to speak with investigators, Pincus gave a deposition
to Fitzgerald on September 15, 2004; he recounted the 2003 conversation to Fitzgerald but still did not name the administration official. In a public statement afterward, Pincus said that the special prosecutor had dropped his demand that Pincus reveal his source. On February 12, 2007, Pincus testified in court that it was then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
, swerving off topic during an interview, who had told him of Plame's identity. Pincus was interviewed about his involvement in the Plame affair, and his refusal to identify his source, in the first episode of Frontline's
Pincus has been criticised by other journalists, including colleagues at the ''Washington Post
'', for factual inaccuracies in his reporting and in particular for failing to adequately address inaccuracies, even in cases where he has seemingly acknowledged the errors himself.
In July 2013 Pincus wrote a highly speculative article about National Security Agency
(NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden
'' journalist Glenn Greenwald
(himself a subject of the article) to write an open letter to Pincus regarding what he described as "blatant, easily demonstrated falsehoods" including:
1) Pincus stated that I wrote an article about Poitras "for the WikiLeaks Press's blog" (I never wrote anything for that blog in my life; the article he referenced was written for ''Salon''); 2) Pincus claimed Assange "previewed" my first NSA scoop in a ''Democracy Now'' interview a week earlier by referencing the bulk collection of telephone calls (Assange was expressly talking about a widely reported Bush program from 8 years earlier, not the FISA court order under Obama I reported); 3) Pincus strongly implied that Snowden had worked for the NSA for less than 3 months by the time he showed up in Hong Kong with thousands of documents when, in fact, he had worked at the NSA continuously for 4 years."
Greenwald and others noted that Pincus also failed to follow standard journalistic best practice in not approaching him for comment or to fact-check his allegations which led his own colleague at the Washington Post to speculate that "Pincus was sticking up for his killer sources in the national security community" - something Pincus denied despite his widely known ties to and background in the military and intelligence communities.
Following sustained pressure from Greenwald and others the Washington Post eventually published a lengthy correction to the article.
When unionized Washington Post reporters in The Newspaper Guild withheld bylines to protest a company contract offer, Pincus refused to join his fellow reporters and allowed his byline to be published.
Honors and awards
Pincus has won several newspaper prizes including the 1961 Page One award for magazine reporting in ''The Reporter
'', the George Polk Award in 1977 for stories in the ''Washington Post'' exposing the neutron warhead
, a television Emmy for writing on the 1981 CBS News documentary series, "Defense of the United States", and in 1999 he was awarded the first Stewart Alsop Award given by the Association of Foreign Intelligence Officers for his coverage of national security affairs. In 2002 he was one of six ''Washington Post'' reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting,
and in 2010 the Arthur Ross Media Award from the American Academy for Diplomacy.
* CIA influence on public opinion
Reflections on a Life of Covering the World of Intelligence and National Security: An Interview with Walter Pincus
Category:American reporters and correspondents
Category:People from Brooklyn
Category:Yale University alumni
Category:The Washington Post people
Category:People associated with the Plame affair
Category:Jewish American writers
Category:Writers from New York City
Category:Journalists from New York City
Category:South Side High School (Rockville Centre) alumni