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Sebastian Rotella

Senior Reporter

Photo of Sebastian Rotella

Sebastian Rotella is a senior reporter at ProPublica. An award-winning foreign correspondent and investigative reporter, he worked for almost 23 years for the Los Angeles Times before joining ProPublica in 2010. He covers international security issues including terrorism, intelligence, organized crime, human rights and migration. His reporting has taken him across the Americas and Europe, and to the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Sebastian was co-writer and correspondent for Terror in Europe, a 2016 Frontline documentary that was a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors broadcast/video award. In 2013, his Finding Oscar investigation with This American Life won a Peabody Award, a Dart Center Award, and two awards from the Overseas Press Club. In 2012, he was recognized with Italy’s Urbino Press Award for excellence in American journalism. His A Perfect Terrorist investigation of the Mumbai attacks (with Frontline) was nominated for an Emmy, and the online version of the story got an Overseas Press Club Award in 2011.

In 2006, he was named a Pulitzer finalist for international reporting for his L.A. Times coverage of terrorism and Muslim communities in Europe, which won the German Marshall Fund’s senior award for excellence in European reporting. He was part of a team whose coverage of al-Qaida received an Overseas Press Club award 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, Inter-American Press Association and the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

At the L.A. Times, Sebastian served as a correspondent at the Mexican border, in South America and in Europe. His border reporting inspired two songs on Bruce Springsteen’s album The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995).

Sebastian is the author of three novels: the forthcoming Rip Crew (March, 2018), The Convert’s Song (2014), and Triple Crossing (2011). He is also the author of Twilight on the Line: Underworlds and Politics at the U.S.-Mexico Border (1998). He speaks Spanish, French and Italian. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, studied at the University of Barcelona, and was born in Chicago.

The U.S. Considered Declaring Russia a State Sponsor of Terror, Then Dropped It

After an attack on a former spy, the State Department pondered placing that label on Putin’s government. Instead, the Trump administration continued a longtime U.S. policy of treating Russia as a partner in fighting terrorism even as evidence of its misbehavior mounts.

John Bolton Skewed Intelligence, Say People Who Worked With Him

Former colleagues say the next national security adviser — whose job is to marshal information and present it to the president fairly — resists input that doesn’t fit his biases and retaliates against people he disagrees with.

State Department Likely to Extend Cuts to U.S. Embassy in Cuba

Six months after the State Department pulled most of its diplomats from Havana because of mysterious incidents that injured 24 Americans, the Trump administration is poised to make the reductions permanent. The decision could affect U.S. intelligence, Cuban migration and support for Cuban human rights advocates.

El sonido y la furia: Dentro del misterio de la embajada de La Habana

Más de un año después de que diplomáticos americanos empezaron a sufrir extraños síntomas en Cuba, la investigación no ha logrado determinar cómo fueron lesionados ni por quien, y el FBI y la CIA difieren sobre el caso. Una investigación de ProPublica revela las muchas capas del misterio — y las maniobras políticas que están transformando las relaciones entre EE.UU. y Cuba.

The Sound and the Fury: Inside the Mystery of the Havana Embassy

More than a year after American diplomats began to suffer strange, concussion-like symptoms in Cuba, a U.S. investigation is no closer to determining how they were hurt or by whom, and the FBI and CIA are at odds over the case. A ProPublica investigation reveals the many layers to the mystery — and the political maneuvering that is reshaping U.S.-Cuba relations.

Russian Politician Who Reportedly Sent Millions to NRA Has Long History in Spain

Spanish authorities were poised to arrest Alexander Torshin in a money-laundering case in 2013 when he mysteriously canceled his trip to Spain.

Truck Terror Attacks May Be a Sign of ISIS Weakness, But They’re Very Hard to Stop

As ISIS loses territory on the battlefield, U.S. counterterror officials have been bracing for the sort of lone-actor vehicle assault that left eight people dead yesterday in lower Manhattan. The question that lingers for all of the world’s major cities is what more can be done to protect against such attacks.

Russia’s Shadow-War in a Wary Europe

Fears of Russian meddling in a French vote reflect an overt and covert influence campaign.

Former ‘Border Czar’ Gives Real Facts About Immigration

Alan Bersin says a border wall won’t address the real challenges confronting the U.S. border enforcement system: hopelessly understaffed immigration courts and lawlessness and poverty in Central America.

Former Intelligence Official: Trump Conflict With Spy Agencies Creates ‘Dangerous Moment’

Matthew Olsen, a senior national security official in both Democratic and Republican administrations, says the ongoing conflict between President-elect Trump and the U.S. intelligence community poses grave risks.

Federal Agents Arrest a Former Guatemalan Soldier Charged With Massacring Civilians

The Maryland resident has been linked to a 1982 attack on the village of Dos Erres in Guatemala that led to the deaths of about 250 children, women and unarmed men.

U.S. Identifies ISIS Planner in Attacks on Europe

State Department sanctions a former soldier in the French Foreign Legion as a senior plotter as French authorities roll up an ISIS network said to be planning new attacks.

U.S. Identifies Key Player in ISIS Attacks on Europe

American officials say the investigation of the assaults on Paris and Brussels has led them to a shadowy Moroccan militant who was raised in Southern France and now lives in Syria.

How Europe Left Itself Open to Terrorism

The ISIS attacks on France and Belgium exposed weaknesses in Europe’s approach to borders and information sharing that counterterror officials had warned about for years. The vulnerabilities remain largely unaddressed.

ISIS via WhatsApp: ‘Blow Yourself Up, O Lion’

A trove of communications from ISIS plots and activity in Europe reveals a mix of direct control and improvisation and shows the crucial importance of encrypted messaging tools. “Detonate your belt in the crowds,” one message declared.

Un Tiroteo en Guatemala

Enrique Degenhart intentó reformar la agencia de migración de Guatemala. Su historia es parte de la extraordinaria batalla de un país contra la corrupción.

A Gunfight in Guatemala

Enrique Degenhart tried to clean up Guatemala's immigration service. His story is part of a nation's extraordinary fight against corruption.

Belgium’s Deadly Circles of Terror

Coordinated bombings in Brussels may have been in the works for some time, aided by an underworld where crime and extremism blur together.

The View From Counterterror’s Front Lines

Veteran European law enforcement officials, one of them Muslim, reflect on the roots of the Paris attacks, the tense aftermath and the debate about the effectiveness of counterterror forces.

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