Dana Priest is an investigative reporter for the Washington Post with a specialization in national security, United States intelligence agencies and military operations. She has won two Pulitzer Prizes for her work.
“I keep gravitating towards the hardest things to write about,” Priest said. “I like to write about national security because it’s not right there on the surface for you to have, it’s something that you have to establish relationships for. You have to figure out how the bureaucracy works. You have to take a lot of time to win people’s trust.”
Priest’s most recent endeavor was the Pegasus Project, centering on military-grade spyware licensed by the Israeli firm NSO Group. It was discovered that the spyware had infected the cell phone of Jamal Khashoggi’s wife. Khashoggi was a dissident journalist murdered and dismembered by the Saudi regime in 2018.
“They were in constant communication and she was a flight attendant. They were obviously trying to follow him through her. The spyware could listen to your phone conversations, look at all your social media, your videos, your deleted photos,” Priest said.
Priest and a team of Washington Post reporters worked in an international consortium with 24 partners from around the world. The project took over a year and a half to complete and received the George Polk Award in technology reporting.
Priest enjoys the challenge of uncovering stories that may not have been told without her research.
“The kidnapping off the streets in Afghanistan of suspected terrorists, interrogating and torturing them in secret prisons that the U.S. had set up, were some of the most rewarding stories I’ve done because they were so hard,” Priest said.
Priest is a Knight Chair in public affairs journalism and a professor at the University of Maryland. She founded Press Uncuffed in 2014, a program where each of her students is assigned a journalist imprisoned overseas.
“Students figure out how to do an in-depth profile of their journalist, including the bilateral relations with the U.S. and that country, what the State Department has or has not done, what the human rights record is and what embassies overseas do,” Priest said.
By selling bracelets with the names of nine incarcerated journalists, the program raised $40,000 for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Priest has taught classes on investigative reporting, imprisoned journalists and the rise of global disinformation and censorship since the 2000’s. A board member of the Fauqier Times in Warrenton, VA, Priest will begin teaching a course on the importance of local journalism next semester.