Investigating Power Logo Investigating Power

Dana Priest

Washington Post reporter Dana Priest has spent the majority of her career focusing on national security, military operations and the U.S. intelligence industry. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and three-time finalist, Priest uncovered secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe and deplorable conditions for veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington. In 2010 her project, “Top Secret America,” with William M. Arkin, covered the buildup in top-secret intelligence organizations in the aftermath of Sept. 11. It was expanded and published as a book and a “Frontline” documentary released in September 2011.

Career Timeline

Priest graduates from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Priest begins a master’s degree program at Columbia University in international affairs and takes on a couple of internships at newspapers beginning in the local section. Having a strong desire to work as a foreign correspondent, Priest is accepted by The Washington Post as a summer intern on the foreign desk.

Editing stories on the civil war in Lebanon and conflicts in Latin America, Priest is inspired to leave school and pursue a journalism career. Unable to be hired at the Post because of a lack of reporting experience, Priest takes a job at the St. Petersburg Times as a city reporter.

Priest begins her career at The Washington Post as an assistant foreign editor, eventually transitioning to a metro reporter.

Priest investigates poor conditions within the Postal Service and overcrowding in prisons, expanding her reporting to a national scale.

One of the first reporters on the ground, Priest covers the U.S. invasion of Panama.

Priest travels to Iraq, hiding the pregnancy of her first baby, just before the start of the Persian Gulf War. She covers a group of women arguing for the release of their husbands, who were contract workers being held hostage by Saddam Hussein. A month later the war began, and while impressed with her reporting, the foreign editor wants Priest to return to Washington. But she asks to remain in the region, covering casualties.

Priest continues to report on the military and also writes about Washington regulatory issues and the 1993 Clinton White House health care initiative.

Priest covers the U.S. Army Special Forces in Asia, Africa and South America and then travels on peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan with Army infantry units, eventually covering the war in Kosovo.

Looking at how American generals, admirals and emissaries had independently shaped foreign policy, Priest writes a series called “The Proconsuls: A Four-Star Foreign Policy?” The series wins the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense and the State Department’s Excellence in Journalism Award. Priest receives a MacArthur Foundation grant and is a guest scholar in residence at the U.S. Institute of Peace. She is also a guest speaker and host of “A Conversation on Civil-Military Affairs and US Diplomacy” for the Secretary’s Open Forum.

Based on reporting from 18 countries, Priest writes “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace With America’s Military.” The book is published as the U.S. is about to embark on the Iraq War, and it examines America’s dependence on the military to manage world affairs. “The Mission” is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for General Nonfiction in 2004.

Priest is named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting for her coverage of U.S. intelligence operations. She is also a Pulitzer finalist in National Reporting for her reporting on the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In a front-page article, Priest reveals the existence of CIA secret prisons outside of American borders. This work wins the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting, the George Polk Award for National Reporting and the Overseas Press Club’s Bob Considine Award for interpretation of international affairs.

Priest works with colleague Anne Hull on the degrading conditions for Iraq war veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center. Their reporting revealed the poor treatment of wounded American soldiers and results in the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for the newspaper.

Priest becomes a regular contributor to “CBS Evening News” while continuing to report for The Washington Post.

After a two-year investigation, Priest and Post colleague William Arkin write a series of articles, accompanied by an interactive website, called “Top Secret America.” The series examines the post-Sept. 11 growth in government organizations and private companies that work on intelligence, counterterrorism and national security and how the system lacks adequate oversight.

Based on their investigation, Priest and Arkin write the book “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.” Priest also does an interview with the PBS show “Frontline.”

Addtional Information and References


  • 2001 MacArthur Foundation Research and Writing grant
  • 2001 Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense
  • 2001 State Department’s Excellence in Journalism Award
  • 2004 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for General Nonfiction
  • 2005 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Beat Reporting
  • 2005 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for National Reporting (with other Post reporters)
  • 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting
  • 2006 George Polk Award for National Reporting
  • 2006 Overseas Press Club Bob Considine Award
  • 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service to The Washington Post, for the work of Priest and others


  • “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military.” New York: W. W. Norton, 2003.
  • “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State” (with William Arkin). New York: Little, Brown, 2011.