Barton Gellman

Barton Gellman Biography, Family, Career, Quotes, Books, and The Washington Post

Barton Gellman is an American journalist and bestselling author. He is best known for his coverage of the September 11 attacks; Dick Cheney’s vice presidency, and the global surveillance disclosure. Barton is based at the Century Foundation as a senior fellow.

Barton Gellman Biography

Barton Gellman is an American journalist and bestselling author. He is best known for his coverage of the September 11 attacks; Dick Cheney’s vice presidency, and the global surveillance disclosure. Barton is based at the Century Foundation as a senior fellow. In addition, he also holds an appointment as Visiting lecturer and Author in Residence at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Barton Gellman

He has also been a fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy located in Princeton from 2015-17.

Barton Gellman Early life

Barton Gellman was born in 1960 to Stuart Gellman and his mother Marcia Jacobs of Philadelphia. He graduated with summa cum laude from Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Later, he got his master’s degree in politics from the University College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford located in England. He got his masters as a Rhodes scholar.

Barton Gellman Family

Barton Gellman is married to Dafna Linzer, a fellow journalist. Previously, he was married to Tracy Ellen Sivitz. He divorced his previous wife in 2007. He currently lives in New York City with his wife and children: Abigail, Micah, Lily, and Benjamin Gellman.

Barton Gellman Career

Writing Newspapers and Magazines:

Early Career

He started writing in newspapers while in high school. One of his first roles as an editor was with a legal battle. He was tasked with killing a package of stories about teenage pregnancy by his principal at the George Washington High School in Philadelphia. When he declined to perform the task, he was fired as editor and his first issue burnt. Soon after, he filed a First Amendment challenge in U.S. District Court against the principal and the School District of Philadelphia.

He managed to win a favorable settlement almost a year after his graduation although his articles were never published. As he was in his junior year of college, he managed to become a chairman, or editor in chief, of The Daily Princetonian, the award-winning daily independent student newspaper of Princeton University. During the summers, he worked as a summer intern at The New Republic, National Journal, The Miami Herald and The Washington Post.

Barton Gellman

The Washington Post

In 1988, he was hired as a full-time staff writer of The Washington Post by its editor Ben Bradlee. He was to cover Washington, D.C. courts, including the trial of former D.C. mayor Marion Barry. Over time, Barton rose through the ranks and became the Pentagon Correspondent. Barton moved to Jerusalem in 1994 as a bureau chief. He covered peace negotiations, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and the uprising of Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1997, he returned to Washington to serve as a diplomatic correspondent. In 1999, he moved to New York to play a role as a special projects reporter. He focused on long-term investigative stories. The year after, he led a team in an award-winning series on the rise of the global AIDS pandemic. On the 11th of September 2001, Barton Gellman wrote an eyewitness account from the scene that occurred at the World Trade Center around that time.

The next two years after writing his eyewitness account were spent tracking the Al Qaeda. Before the 9/11 incident, Barton broke stories on the history of the “Global War on Terror”. In 2002, he revealed that the government was holding terrorism suspects. He further went on to accuse the government of placing the suspects in secret prisons overseas and subjecting them to abusive interrogation methods.

By January 2004, he had used independent interviews on site with Iraqi scientists and engineers, U.S. and United Nations officials to give a comprehensive story about how the prewar allegations fell apart. During the US presidential election campaign of 2004, he and Dafna Linzer, his partner, wrote a series on the Bush administration’s national security record. The series also offered behind-the-scenes narratives of the war with al Qaeda as well as George Bush’s efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

In 2005, he found out that the Defense Department under Donald Rumsfeld was creating a human intelligence service that would rival the CIA’s. Along with this, he also uncovered that the commander had a controversial past. Later, he uncovered classified details about the FBI’s abuse of National Security Letters. These letters were issued in large amounts each year. The FBI made elaborate attempts to dismiss his claims but eventually was obliged to retract many of its accusations.

Congress responded to the story by asking the Justice Department Inspector General to investigate the use of NSLs. The conclusion made by the Inspector general almost two years later led to substantial reforms in the FBI. In 2007, Barton and Jo Becker, a fellow journalist and author, wrote a 4-part series on Vice President Dick Cheney. The series persuaded many of his allies to speak on record for their first time.

Later, in 2008, he took a leave to publish the newspaper series as a book for Penguin Press called “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.” In 2010, he resigned from the Washington Post. He did this so that he could focus more on book and magazine writing. After this, he became a Contributing Editor at Large of Time magazine.

Global surveillance disclosure

In May 2013, Barton returned to The Washington Post for a temporary contract to lead the paper’s coverage of the 2013 and 2014 Global surveillance disclosure. The coverage was based on top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. In December of that year, he summarized his report as follows:

Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations.
Quoted from The Washington Post

After his report, he continued to talk a lot about his findings in a number of broadcasts and public appearances. In February, the years after, he revealed that the full story about his contact with Snowden had not yet been revealed during a public event held at the Georgetown University.


Barton Gellman was a lecturer at Princeton University. He held the position of Ferris Professor of Journalism in 2002 and 2009 and taught such courses as “The Literature of Fact” and “Investigative Reporting”. In 2003 and 2004 he organized a lecture series on the national security secrecy at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Since 2011, Gellman has twice taught a course called “Secrecy, Accountability and the National Security State”.

Barton Gellman’s Books

  • Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (2008)
  • Contending with Kennan: Toward a Philosophy of American Power

Barton Gellman’s Quotes

  • In the field of biological weapons, there is almost no prospect of detecting a pathogen until it has been used in an attack.
  • Privacy is relational. It depends on the audience. You don’t want your employer to know you’re job hunting. You don’t spill all about your love life to your mom or your kids. You don’t tell trade secrets to your rivals.
  • Everyone and his Big Brother want to log your browsing habits, the better to build a profile of who you are and how you live your life – online and off. Search engine companies offer a benefit in return: more relevant search results. The more they know about you, the better they can tailor information to your needs.

Barton Gellman Twitter

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