Journalism in the Public Interest


Sebastian Rotella

Sebastian Rotella
Read Sebastian Rotella's e-book, Finding Oscar: Massacre, Memory and Justice in Guatemala, on your Kindle or mobile device.

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Sebastian Rotella is a senior reporter at ProPublica. An award-winning foreign correspondent and investigative reporter, Sebastian worked for almost 23 years for the Los Angeles Times, covering everything from terrorism to arts to the Mexican border. He served most recently as a national security correspondent in Washington, D.C., and his previous posts include international investigative correspondent and bureau chief in Paris and Buenos Aires, with assignments in the Middle East and North Africa.

Rotella has been honored with numerous journalism awards throughout his career. In 2013, his multi-faceted "Finding Oscar" investigation won a Peabody Award, Dart Center Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, and was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Ernie Pyle Award. He was recognized with an Urbino Press Award in 2012 for excellence in journalism. His "A Perfect Terrorist" investigation of the Mumbai attacks (in conjunction with Frontline) was nominated for an Emmy and the online version of the story resulted in his third Overseas Press Club Award in 2011.

In 2006, he was named a Pulitzer finalist for international reporting for his coverage of terrorism and Muslim communities in Europe. He won the German Marshall Fund's senior award for excellence in European reporting the same year. He was part of a team whose coverage of al-Qaida received an award from the Overseas Press Club and finalist honors for Harvard University's Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting in 2002. In 2001, he won Columbia University's Maria Moors Cabot Prize for his career coverage of Latin America. His work in Latin America also won honors from the Overseas Press Club, the Inter-American Press Association and the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

He is the author of two books: Twilight on the Line: Underworlds and Politics at the U.S.-Mexico Border, which was named a New York Times Notable Book in 1998; and the novel, Triple Crossing, published by Little, Brown/Mulholland Books in August, 2011. He speaks Spanish, French and Italian. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and was born in Chicago.


A Commander of the Dos Erres Massacre Squad Gets 10 Years in Prison

A federal judge sentences Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes to the maximum term for lying on immigration forms about his role in the deaths of 250 people during the Guatemalan civil war.

Ex-Guatemalan Commando Guilty of Concealing Role in Massacre

Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, who obtained U.S. and Canadian citizenship, is the highest-ranking soldier convicted on charges related to the slaughter of 250 villagers during the country’s civil war.

‘Nos Ordenaron que Matáramos a Toda la Gente’

En un proceso histórico en Estados Unidos, excomandos del ejército guatemalteco dieron testimonio sobre la masacre de 250 residentes en la aldea selvática de Dos Erres durante la guerra civil.

‘They Ordered Us To Kill All The People’

At a historic U.S. trial, former Guatemalan army commandos testify about the massacre of 250 villagers in the jungle hamlet of Dos Erres during the country’s civil war.

In U.S. Trial of Massacre Suspect, a Rare Chance for Guatemalan Justice

A survivor of the 1982 Dos Erres massacre and former Guatemalan commandos who carried it out will testify against a former army lieutenant, a U.S. citizen who prosecutors say lied about his involvement.

Syria’s Jihadi Migration Emerges as Top Terror Threat in Europe, Beyond

Western support for the opposition in Syria’s bloody civil war raises fears of a blowback from the European extremists who’ve flocked to new land of jihad.

The Terror Threat and Iran’s Inroads in Latin America

As some in Congress question a State Department report downplaying Iranian influence, intelligence officials say covert Iranian cooperation with Venezuela has been a gateway for hostile activities in the region.

How the NSA’s High-Tech Surveillance Helped Europeans Catch Terrorists

The debate about National Security Agency eavesdropping has left European investigators bemused. U.S. technology collects mountains of data that often aids their cases, they say. But there's no substitute for real human spying.

Defenders of NSA Surveillance Omit Most of Mumbai Plotter’s Story

Officials say National Security Agency intercepts stopped David Coleman Headley's planned attack in Denmark, but sources say a tip from the British led to his capture after the U.S. failed for years to connect multiple reports of terror ties.

How Hezbollah Trained an Operative to Spy on Israeli Tourists

Sophisticated lessons in spycraft, explosives and arms detailed in a Cyprus court case that is forcing the European Union to consider designating the Lebanese-based group as a terrorist organization.

Boston Bombing Suspects Echo Home-Grown Terrorists in Madrid, London Attacks

Counterterror officials say the emerging portrait suggests the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev slipped into Islamic extremism under the influence of Internet propaganda.

Terror Group Recruits From Pakistan’s ‘Best and Brightest’

A new study of 917 fallen Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters documents the group's extensive integration in Pakistani society and helps explain its impunity for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Four Disturbing Questions About the Mumbai Terror Attack

Despite extensive evidence and a U.S. indictment, Pakistani authorities haven't moved to arrest accused masterminds in the 2008 massacre or explain the alleged involvement of officers in Pakistan's spy agency.

Shadow War: Hezbollah’s Hand Seen In Bombing of Israeli Bus

Bulgarian Investigators say the July 18 explosion that killed six appears to be part of a continuing covert offensive by Iran and Hezbollah to retaliate against Israel and the West.

Judge Gives American 35 Years for Plotting Deadly Mumbai Terror Attack

Although David Coleman Headley avoided the death penalty, Judge Harry Leinenweber said he hopes the sentence "will keep him under lock and key for the rest of his natural life."

The American Behind India’s 9/11—And How U.S. Botched Chances to Stop Him

Officials say David Coleman Headley slipped through the cracks despite repeated warnings to U.S. law enforcement. Indian authorities think the U.S. knew more than it has revealed about the ex-informant’s activities before the 2008 siege that killed 166 people, including six U.S. citizens.

Support for Mumbai Terror Group Lands Chicagoan 14-Year Prison Term

Tahawwur Rana, 52, had been convicted in 2011 on two counts of material support of terrorism for aiding Pakistan’s Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group and of a plot to attack a Danish newspaper.

Although a Fugitive, Accused Guatemalan War Criminal Hasn’t Run Far

ProPublica’s reporting last year about the search for perpetrators of the Dos Erres masscare led to the discovery that an ex-colonel who is a leading suspect had lived openly in an upscale Guatemala City neighborhood.

The New Border: Illegal Immigration’s Shifting Frontier

As the net flow of immigrants from Mexico nears zero, violent and impoverished Central American countries have emerged as the fastest-rising source of illegal immigrants to the U.S. Mexico's southern border with Guatemala highlights the challenges of managing immigration in the years ahead.

How an Accused Guatemalan War Criminal Won U.S., Canadian Citizenship

Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes denies any role in the slaughter of 250 villagers at Dos Erres in 1982, but investigators say he concealed his background as an army commando and manipulated the immigration system.
Sebastian Rotella
Read Sebastian Rotella's e-book, Finding Oscar: Massacre, Memory and Justice in Guatemala, on your Kindle or mobile device.

Contact Info

Get Updates

Stay on top of what we’re working on by subscribing to our email digest.