Dana Priest is the national security correspondent for The Washington Post. In 2006 she won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on rendition and the secret prisons in Eastern Europe––stories she was just beginning to investigate in the film. In DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE, Priest reflects on questions of whether the press failed to adequately cover the Bush administration’s run up to war in Iraq, and her groundbreaking investigations into U.S secret prisons raised questions about acceptable practices in the war on terrorism and unprecedented secrecy within the U.S. government.
What story (or stories) have you worked on since filming wrapped on DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE?
I think all the Pulitzer entry stories [on the CIA and the War on Terror] from 2005 were written after the filming. You can find them all at the Pulitzer Web site.
Of all the stories you have covered, which has been most important, or the one you feel most proud of?
Secret prisons in Eastern Europe, which ran in November 2005, and sparked international investigations by the Council of Europe, European Parliament, ICRC and human rights groups.
What do you think of the present and future of independent journalism?
There is no more important time for an independent, aggressive media. Obviously the administration is trying to make this harder. But I am confident that the major newspapers in this country are redoubling their efforts to do accountability journalism.
How has technology influenced your job?
Mainly, it has provided my research assistant wonderful new tools to help ferret out information about people, companies and subjects.
How do you find your stories?
Years of cultivating a broad range of intelligence-related sources and other people in the national security arena.
How has the Bush Administration (or other parties) responded to your Pulitzer prize-winning reporting on the CIA and War on Terror? Has the prize made your beat harder or easier?
The CIA has launched an internal leak investigation, prominent members of the Republican House and Senate called for a bicameral investigation into the leaks (not into the subjects I wrote about), and the administration and their surrogates have used my stories in public speeches denouncing independent media. I don't know about the status of a Justice Department investigation, which is often referred to in press accounts.
It's hard for me to judge whether the Pulitzer has affected my ability to do my job. I guess it's just unclear.
Read more by and about Dana Priest and her work:
The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America's Military
by Dana Priest
(W. W. Norton & Company, 2003)
The Washington Post: Reporting by Dana Priest
PBS.org: Washington Week: Panelist Dana Priest
Read about the other journalists featured in the film >>