David Ignatius
Ignatius at the 2018 U.S. National Book Festival
Born (1950-05-26) May 26, 1950 (age 71)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
EducationSt. Albans School
Harvard University
King's College, Cambridge
GenreSuspense, Espionage fiction, Thriller
Notable worksBody of Lies, Agents of Innocence, The Increment
SpouseDr. Eve Thornberg Ignatius
RelativesPaul Robert Ignatius (father)
Adi Ignatius (brother)

David Reynolds Ignatius (born May 26, 1950) is an American journalist and novelist. He is an associate editor and columnist for The Washington Post. He has written eleven novels, including Body of Lies, which director Ridley Scott adapted into a film. He is a former adjunct lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and currently Senior Fellow to the Future of Diplomacy Program. He has received numerous honors, including the Legion of Honor from the French Republic, the Urbino World Press Award from the Italian Republic, and a lifetime achievement award from the International Committee for Foreign Journalism.

Early life and education

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 King's College, Cambridge, where he received a diploma in economics.[7]


David Ignatius
David Ignatius


After completing his education, Ignatius was an editor at the Washington Monthly before moving to The Wall Street Journal, where he spent ten 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 from 1980 through 1983, during which time he covered the wars in Lebanon and Iraq. He returned to Washington in 1984, becoming 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. From 1990 to 1992 he was foreign editor and oversaw the paper's Pulitzer Prize–winning coverage of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. From 1993 to 1999 he served as assistant managing editor in charge of business news. In 1999 he began writing a twice-weekly column 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[8] 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 A. 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," citing as examples Ignatius's criticism of the Obama administration for investigating the CIA's role in the use of torture in interrogations during the Iraq War and his charitable defense of the agency's motivations for outsourcing such activities to private contractors.[9][10][11] Columnist Glenn Greenwald has leveled similar criticism against Ignatius.[12]

Ignatius supported the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.[13]

On a number of occasions, however, Ignatius criticized the CIA and the U.S. government's approach on intelligence.[14] He was also critical of the Bush administration's torture policies.[15]

On March 12, 2014, he wrote a two-page descriptive opinion on Putin's strengths and weaknesses that was published in the Journal and Courier soon after.[16]

On March 26, 2014, Ignatius wrote a piece in the Washington Post on the crisis in Ukraine and how the world will deal with Putin's actions. Ignatius's theory of history is that it is a chaos and that "good" things are not preordained, "decisive turns in history can result from ruthless political leaders, from weak or confused adversaries, or sometimes just from historical accident. Might doesn't make right, but it does create 'facts on the ground' that are hard to reverse." His piece mentioned four-star USAF general Philip M. Breedlove, the current NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Ukrainian foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsya. Putin, says Ignatius, "leads what by most political and economic indicators is a weak nation—a declining power, not a rising one." He places great hope in Angela Merkel.[17]


In addition to being a journalist, Ignatius is a successful novelist. He has written ten novels in the suspense/espionage fiction genre that draw on his experience and interest in foreign affairs and his knowledge of intelligence operations. Reviewers have compared Ignatius's work to classic spy novels like those by 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."[18] His 1999 novel, The Sun King, a reworking 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. Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have acquired the rights to Ignatius's seventh novel, The Increment.[19]

The Quantum Spy, published in 2017, is an espionage thriller about the race between the United States and China to build the world's first hyper-fast quantum computer. His most recent book is The Paladin: A Spy Novel (2020).


In May 2015, MSNBC's Morning Joe announced that Ignatius would be teaming up with composer Mohammed Fairouz to create a political opera called The New Prince, based on the teachings of Niccolò Machiavelli. The opera was commissioned by the Dutch National Opera.[20] Speaking with The Washington Post, Ignatius described the broad themes of the opera in terms of three chapters: "The first chapter is about revolution and disorder. Revolutions, like children, are lovable when young, and they become much less lovable as they age. The second lesson Machiavelli tells us is about sexual obsession, among leaders. And then the final chapter is basically is the story of Dick Cheney [and] bin Laden, the way in which those two ideas of what we're obliged to do as leaders converged in such a destructive way."[21]


In 2006 Ignatius 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 Guantánamo 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.[22]

Ignatius has been trustee of the German Marshall Fund since 2000. 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 The 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.[23]

In early 2012 Ignatius served as an adjunct lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, teaching an international affairs course titled Understanding the Arab Spring from the Ground Up: Events in the Middle East, their Roots and Consequences for the United States. He is currently serving as a senior fellow at the Future of Diplomacy Program at Harvard University.[24]

In 2018, he won a George Polk Award, for his coverage of the Jamal Khashoggi murder.[25][26]

According to the 2018 membership list, Ignatius is a member of the Trilateral Commission.


2009 Davos incident

At the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ignatius moderated a discussion including then 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 2008–January 2009 conflict in Gaza was still fresh in memory, the tone of the discussion was lively.[27] Ignatius gave Erdoğan 12 minutes to speak and gave the Israeli president 25 minutes to respond.[27] Erdoğan objected to Peres's tone and raised his voice during the Israeli president's impassioned defense of his nation's actions. Ignatius gave Erdoğan a minute to respond (Erdoğan repeatedly insisted "One minute,"[28] in English), 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 adjourn to a dinner.[29] Erdoğan seemed visibly frustrated as he said confrontationally to the Israeli president, "When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill."[27] Ignatius put his arm on Erdoğan's shoulder and continued to tell him that his time was up. Erdoğan then gathered his papers and walked out, saying, "I do not think I will be coming back to Davos after this because you do not let me speak."[29]

Writing about the incident later, 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," he 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.[30]

Personal life

He is married to Dr. Eve Thornberg Ignatius, with whom he has three daughters.[7] His brother, Adi Ignatius, is editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review.[31]





  1. ^ "Agents of Innocence". Archived from the original on 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
  2. ^ "Paul R. Ignatius". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. AbrilBooks. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  3. ^ (AP) (September 2, 1967). "Secretary of Navy Sworn Into Office".
  4. ^ "Turkey Should Comprehend Its Past". Azg Daily. Archived from the original on 1 February 2009.
  5. ^ Ignatius, David (October 14, 2007). "The Dignity Agenda". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  6. ^ Ignatius, Paul R. (2006). On board: my life in the Navy, government, and business. Naval Institute Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-59114-381-9. cotton.
  7. ^ a b "The Post Writers Group". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  8. ^ Lipinski, Lynn (May 23, 2000). "UCLA'S Anderson School Announces Winners of Loeb Competition and the Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award". UCLA. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
  9. ^ Goodman, Melvin A. "David Ignatius: The Mainstream Media's Chief Apologist for CIA Crimes". The Public Record. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  10. ^ Goodman, Melvin A. "WPost's Ignatius Forgives the CIA Again and Again". The Public Record. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  11. ^ Ignatius, David (August 26, 2009). "A Sigh of Relief From the CIA". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  12. ^ Greenwald, Glenn. "Establishment Washington unifies against prosecutions". Salon. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  13. ^ Merry, Robert. "Fantasies of the Iraq Hawks".
  14. ^ Ignatius, David (2 December 2010). "Is killing our only option for terrorists?". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  15. ^ Ignatius, David (June 15, 2004). "Small Comfort". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  16. ^ David Ignatius (March 12, 2014). "David Ignatius: On Ukraine, where next". Journal and Courier. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
  17. ^ David Ignatius (March 26, 2014). "Putin's actions in Crimea alter how the world will deal with him". The Washington Post. Brussels.
  18. ^ John Carlin (March 23, 1997). "Spooked! How betrayal, inertia, and disaster felled the CIA". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009.
  19. ^ Fleming, Michael (May 14, 2008). "Bruckheimer, Disney buy 'Increment'".
  20. ^ "Composer and journalist team up for opera". MSNBC.
  21. ^ The New Librettist of The New Prince
  22. ^ "Holiday Gift Guide – Michiko Kakutani's 10 Favorite Books of 2008". The New York Times. November 28, 2008. Archived from the original on April 11, 2009.
  23. ^ "Summer Spy Serial". The Washington Post.
  24. ^ "Harvard Kennedy School". Archived from the original on August 8, 2011.
  25. ^ "Karen Attiah and David Ignatius receive Special Polk Award for their writing on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi". The Washington Post. February 19, 2019.
  26. ^ "Winners | LIU". liu.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  27. ^ a b c Katrin Bennhold (January 30, 2009). "Leaders of Turkey and Israel clash at Davos panel". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  28. ^ "One minute" means "Bir dakika" in Turkish when translated literally, but also "Bir dakika" means "wait a minute". (https://tureng.com/en/turkish-english/one_minute , https://tureng.com/en/turkish-english/bir_dakika)
  29. ^ a b "Turkish PM storms off in Gaza row". BBC News Online. January 29, 2009. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009. Retrieved January 30, 2009.
  30. ^ Ignatius, David (15 April 2009). "Caught In the Middle". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009.
  31. ^ "Story Details - Alumni - Harvard Business School". www.alumni.hbs.edu. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
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