David Ignatius

David Ignatius
David Ignatius
Born May 26, 1950 (1950-05-26) (age 61)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Occupation Novelist, Journalist, Analyst
Language English
Nationality American
Education St. Albans School
Harvard College
Kings College, Cambridge
Genres Suspense, Espionage fiction, Thriller
Notable work(s) Body of Lies, Agents of Innocence, The Increment
Spouse(s) Dr. Eve Thornberg Ignatius

David R. Ignatius (May 26, 1950), is an American journalist and novelist. He is an associate editor and columnist for The Washington Post. He also co-hosts PostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues at Washingtonpost.com, with Newsweek 's Fareed Zakaria. He has written seven novels, including "Penetration" which was renamed Body of Lies, during production when director Ridley Scott adapted it into a film.


Personal life

Ignatius was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[1] His parents are Nancy Sharpless (née Weiser) and Paul Robert Ignatius, a former Secretary of the Navy (1967–69), president of The Washington Post, and former president of the Air Transport Association.[2][3]He is of Armenian descent on his father's side, with ancestors from Harput, Elazığ, Turkey;[4][5] his mother, a descendant of Puritan minister Cotton Mather, is of German and English descent.[6]

Ignatius was raised in Washington, D.C., where he attended St. Albans School. He then attended Harvard College, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1973. Ignatius was awarded a Frank Knox Fellowship from Harvard University and studied at Kings College, Cambridge University, where he received a diploma in economics.[7]

He is married to Dr. Eve Thornberg Ignatius, with whom he has three daughters.[7]



After completing his education, Ignatius was an editor at the Washington Monthly before moving to the Wall Street Journal, where he spent 10 years as a reporter. At the Journal, Ignatius first covered the steel industry in Pittsburgh. He then moved to Washington where he covered the Justice Department, the CIA, and the Senate. Ignatius was the Journal’s Middle East correspondent between 1980 and 1983, during which time he covered the wars in Lebanon and Iraq. He returned to Washington in 1984, becoming the Journal's chief diplomatic correspondent. In 1985 he received the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting.

In 1986, Ignatius left the Journal for the Washington Post. From 1986 to 1990, he was the editor of the “Outlook” section of the Post . From 1990 to 1992 he was the paper’s foreign editor, and oversaw the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. From 1993 to 1999, he served as the Post’s assistant managing editor in charge of business news. In 1999, he began writing a twice-weekly column in the Post on global politics, economics and international affairs.

In 2000, he became the executive editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He returned to the Post in 2002 when the Post sold its interest in the Herald Tribune. Ignatius continued to write his column once a week during his tenure at the Herald Tribune, resuming twice-weekly columns after his return to the Post. His column is syndicated worldwide by The Washington Post Writers Group. The column won the 2000 Gerald Loeb Award for Commentary and a 2004 Edward Weintal Prize. In writing his column, Ignatius frequently travels to the Middle East and interviews leaders such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Lebanese military organization Hezbollah.

Ignatius’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Talk Magazine and The Washington Monthly.

Ignatius's coverage of the CIA has been criticized as being defensive and overly positive. Melvin Goodman, a 42-year CIA veteran, Johns Hopkins professor, and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy has called Ignatius "the mainstream media’s apologist for the Central Intelligence Agency." Goodman cites[8][9] as examples of this alleged apologism Ignatius's criticism of the Obama administration for investigating the CIA's role in the use of torture in interrogations during the Iraq War,[10] and his charitable defense of the agency's motivations for outsourcing such activities to private contractors.[10] Columnist Glenn Greenwald has levied similar criticism against Ignatius[11] and has dubbed him "the CIA's spokesman at The Washington Post".[12]


In addition to his career as a journalist, Ignatius is also a successful novelist. He has written six novels in the suspense/espionage fiction genre, which draw on his experience and interest in foreign affairs and his knowledge of intelligence operations. Reviewers have compared Ignatius to classic spy novelists such as Graham Greene. Ignatius’s novels have also been praised for their realism; his first novel, Agents of Innocence, was at one point described by the CIA on its website as "a novel but not fiction."[13] His 1999 novel The Sun King, a re-working of The Great Gatsby set in late-20th-century Washington, is his only departure from the espionage genre.[citation needed]

His 2007 novel Body of Lies was adapted into a film by director Ridley Scott. It starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has acquired the rights to Ignatius’s seventh novel, The Increment.[citation needed]

"BloodMoney," a spy thriller set in Pakistan, is his latest novel.


In 2006, he wrote a foreword to the American edition of Moazzam Begg’s Enemy Combatant, a book about the author’s experiences as a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. In 2008, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Ignatius published America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy, a book that collected conversations, moderated by Ignatius, between Brzezinski and Scowcroft. Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times named it one of the ten best books of 2008.[14]

Ignatius has been trustee of the German Marshall Fund since 2000. He is a member of the Council of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London and has been a director of its U.S. affiliate since 2006. He has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations since 1984. From 1984 to 1990, he was a member of the Governing Board of St. Albans School.[citation needed]

In 2011, Ignatius held a contest for Washington Post readers to write a spy novel. Ignatius wrote the first chapter and challenged fans to continue the story. Over eight weeks, readers sent in their versions of what befalls CIA agents Alex Kassem and Sarah Mancini and voted for their favorite entries. Ignatius chose the winning entry for each round, resulting in a six-chapter Web serial. Winners of the subsequent chapters included: Chapter 2 "Sweets for the Sweet" by Colin Flaherty; Chapter 3: "Abu Talib" by Jill Borak; Chapter 4. "Go Hard or Go Home" by Vineet Daga; Chapter 5: "Inside Out" by Colin Flaherty; and Chapter 6: "Onward!" by Gina 'Miel' Ard. [15]


2009 Davos incident

At the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ignatius moderated a discussion including Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Israeli President Shimon Peres, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa. As the December '08-January '09 conflict in Gaza was still fresh in memory, the tone of the discussion was lively.[16] Ignatius gave Erdoğan 12 minutes to speak, and gave the Israeli President the final 25 minutes to respond.[16] Erdoğan objected to Peres' tone and raised voice during the Israeli President's impassioned defense of his nation's actions. Ignatius gave Erdoğan a minute to respond, and when Erdoğan went over his allocated minute, Ignatius repeatedly cut the Turkish Prime Minister off, telling him and the audience that they were out of time and that they had to get to a dinner.[17] Erdoğan seemed visibly frustrated as he said to the President of Israel, "When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill."[16] Ignatius put his arm on Erdoğan's shoulder and kept telling him that his time was up. Erdoğan then gathered his papers and said, "I do not think I will be coming back to Davos after this because you do not let me speak."[17] Erdoğan then got up from his chair and walked off the stage while the other discussion panelists were still seated, but Amr Moussa stood up to shake his hand as he left. At that point the discussion ended.

Five minutes after the discussion ended, Peres called Erdoğan to apologize for any misunderstanding.[16] Erdoğan later told reporters that he was not upset with Peres, rather he was upset with Ignatius for failing to moderate the discussion impartially, by giving Peres 25 minutes to speak while earlier giving Erdoğan only 12 minutes and then just another minute to respond to Peres.[16] Erdoğan returned to Istanbul a day later to a hero's welcome at the airport.[18]

Writing about the incident, Ignatius said that he found himself “in the middle of a fight where there was no longer a middle.” Because the Israel-Palestinian conflict provokes such heated emotions on both sides of the debate, Ignatius concluded, it was impossible for anyone to be seen as an impartial mediator. Ignatius wrote that his experience elucidated a larger truth about failure of the United States’ attempt to serve as an impartial mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “American leaders must give up the notion that they can transform the Middle East and its culture through military force,” Ignatius wrote, and instead “get out of the elusive middle, step across the threshold of anger, and sit down and talk” with the Middle Eastern leaders.[19]

Prosecution of Mubarak

In May 2011, Ignatius said: "What’s needed in Egypt and the other Arab countries that have suffered from dictatorship is a sense that the rule of law will prevail, with safeguards against vindictive prosecution".[20]


  • Agents of Innocence: A Novel. W. W. Norton & Company. 1987. ISBN 0393024865. 
  • Siro. Farrar Straus Giroux. 1991. ISBN 0374265062. 
  • The Bank of Fear. Avon Books (Mm). 1995. ISBN 0380722801. 
  • A Firing Offense. Random House Value Publishing. 1999. ISBN 0517368390. 
  • The Sun King. Random House Value Publishing. 1999. ISBN 0812992431. 
  • Body of Lies: A Novel. W. W. Norton & Company. 2008. ISBN 039333158X. 
  • America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy. Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition. 2009. ISBN 0465018017. 
  • The Increment: A Novel. W. W. Norton & Company. 2010. ISBN 0393338312. 
  • Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage. W. W. Norton & Company. 2011. ISBN 9780393078114. 


  1. ^ http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/david-ignatius/agents-of-innocence/_/R-400000000000000345795
  2. ^ "Paul R. Ignatius". AbrilBooks. http://www.abrilbooks.com/artists/11409.html. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  3. ^ (AP) (2 Sep 1967). "Secretary of Navy Sworn Into Office". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=9jkgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_WUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5173,242354&dq=nancy+sharpless+weiser&hl=en. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "AZG Armenian Daily". AZG Daily. http://www.azgdaily.com/EN/2008121701. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Ignatius, David (2007-10-14). "The Dignity Agenda". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR2007101202147.html. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  6. ^ Ignatius, Paul R. (2006). On board: my life in the Navy, government, and business. Naval Institute Press. pp. 38. ISBN 1591143810, 9781591143819. http://books.google.com/books?id=DOwZCw2xW44C&pg=PR11&dq=nancy+weiser+ignatius&hl=en#v=snippet&q=cotton&f=false. 
  7. ^ a b "The Post Writers Group". The Washington Post. http://www.postwritersgroup.com/ignatius.htm. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  8. ^ Goodman, Melvin A.. "David Ignatius: The Mainstream Media’s Chief Apologist for CIA Crimes". The Public Record. http://pubrecord.org/commentary/2366/david-ignatius-mainstream/. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Goodman, Melvin A.. "WPost’s Ignatius Forgives the CIA Again and Again". The Public Record. http://www.noquarterusa.net/blog/45617/david-ignatius-cias-senior-apologist-strikes-again/. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Ignatius, David (26 August 2009). "A Sigh of Relief From the CIA". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/25/AR2009082502642.html. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Greenwald, Glenn. "Establishment Washington unifies against prosecutions". Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/01/15/ignatius. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  12. ^ Greenwald, Glenn. "Obama administration takes tough stance on banks". Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/index.html. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  13. ^ Spooked! How betrayal, inertia, and disaster felled the CIA
  14. ^ Holiday Gift Guide - Michiko Kakutani’s 10 Favorite Books of 2008
  15. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/conversations/summer-spy-serial/
  16. ^ a b c d e "Leaders of Turkey and Israel clash at Davos panel". International Herald Tribune. 2009-01-30. http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/30/europe/30clash.php?WT.mc_id=rssmostemailed. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  17. ^ a b "Turkish PM storms off in Gaza row". BBC News. 2009-01-29. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/davos/7859417.stm. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  18. ^ "Turkish PM given hero's welcome". BBC News. 2009-01-30. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/davos/7859815.stm. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  19. ^ Ignatius, David (15 April 2009). "Caught In the Middle". Foreign Policy. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/04/15/caught_in_the_middle. 
  20. ^ David Ingatius (May 29, 2011). "The whiff of revenge taints the Arab Spring". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-whiff-of-revenge-taints-the-arab-spring/2011/05/26/AGqytyCH_story.html. 

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