Walter Haskell Pincus (born December 24, 1932) is a national security journalist for The Washington Post. He has won several prizes including a Polk Award in 1977, a television Emmy in 1981, the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in association with 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.1
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 1954.2 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.3
In September 1954 he married Betty Meskin, with whom he has a son, and 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.2
After his discharge from the Army, Pincus spied on American students abroad for the Central Intelligence Agency, writing an article which appeared in the San Jose Mercury News on February 18, 1967, the headline, "How I Traveled Abroad on C.I.A. Subsidy. "I had been briefed in Washington on each of them," he wrote "None was remotely aware of CIA's interest." (See "Dark Alliance" by Gary Webb, p. 464-466 if you are interested in more than the tip of the iceberg.)
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 a 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.3
In 1973 Pincus tried to establish a newspaper, aiming at university towns with bad local newspapers, but without success.4 Believing that he would later buy the magazine,5 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,6 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.3
At the Washington Post, Pincus reports on intelligence, defense and foreign policy.7 He has written about a variety of news subjects ranging from nuclear weapons and arms control to political campaigns 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.3
Pincus attended Georgetown Law School part-time beginning in 1995 and graduated in 2001, at the age of sixty-eight.8 He has been a visiting lecturer at Yale University and since 2002 has taught a seminar at Stanford University's Stanford-in-Washington program.citation needed
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.9 In a public statement afterward, Pincus said that the special prosecutor had dropped his demand that Pincus reveal his source.citation needed 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.10 Pincus was interviewed about his involvement in the Plame affair, and his refusal to identify his source, in the first episode of Frontline's "News War".6
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 Snowden11 prompting Guardian 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." 12
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. 13
Following sustained pressure from Greenwald and others the Washington Post eventually published a lengthy correction to the article.14
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.15
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,16 and in 2010 the Arthur Ross Media Award from the American Academy for Diplomacy.17
- "Walter Pincus". American Academy in Berlin.
- "Walter Pincus". NNDB Profile. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- "Walter Pincus". Nieman Watchdog. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- Seibel, Andrea (March 7, 2009). "Der Online-Journalismus wird überschätzt". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- Sherrill, Robert (March/April 1976, Vol. 14 Issue 6). "The new regime at The New Republic". Columbia Journalism Review. p. 23.
- "Interview Walter Pincus". Frontline. July 14, 2006. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- "Walter Pincus". The Washington Post.
- "Georgetown Law Establishes Degree Program for Journalists". Georgetown University. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- "Profile: Walter Pincus". History Commons. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- Sniffen, Michael J. (February 12, 2007). "Journalists Name Additional Leak Sources". Associated Press.
- Pincus, Walter (July 8, 2013). "Questions for Snowdown". The Washington Post. Washington Post.
- Greenwald, Glenn (July 10, 2013). "The journalistic practices of the Washington Post and Walter Pincus". London. The Guardian.
- Wemple, Erik (July 10, 2013). "Pincus responds to Greenwald blast". The Washington Post. Washington Post.
- . Twitter https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/354789314934214657. Retrieved July 11, 2013. Missing or empty
- "The Protest that knows no name". College Park, MD. American Journalism Review.
- "The 2002 Pulitzer Prize Winners: National Reporting (Citation)". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
- "Arthur Ross Award for Distinguished Reporting & Analysis on Foreign Affairs". The American Academy of Diplomacy. Retrieved October 27, 2011.