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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.

Finding Oscar: Massacre, Memory and Justice in Guatemala

In 1982 amid Guatemala’s brutal civil war, 20 army commandos invaded the jungle hamlet of Dos Erres disguised as rebels. The squad members, called Kaibiles, cut their way through the town, killing more than 250 people. Only a handful survived. One, a 3-year-old boy, was abducted by a Kaibil officer and raised by his family. It took 30 years for Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castañeda to learn the truth.

$10 Million Bounty for Alleged Mumbai Plotter Ups Pressure on Pakistan

Hafeez Saeed, cofounder of the militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba, remains at liberty in Pakistan, where prosecution has stalled of other alleged planners in the attacks that killed 166 people, including six U.S. citizens.

U.S. Sues To Recover $446 Million From Hezbollah-Connected Firms

The Justice Department says U.S. car buyers were sent at least $329 million to purchase used vehicles shipped to Africa, where they were sold as part of a scheme to launder drug-trafficking profits through Lebanon using security provided by Hezbollah.

Government Says Hezbollah Profits From U.S. Cocaine Market Via Link to Mexican Cartel

U.S. authorities say a Lebanese drug kingpin is at the center of a conspiracy that laundered more than $250 million in drug-related proceeds and sent at least 85 tons of Colombian cocaine through Central America and Mexico in partnership with the Zetas cartel.

Analysis: Alleged Assassination Plot Doesn't Fit Past Iranian Behavior

Plot to kill Saudi ambassador with Mexican drug cartel's help would represent a brazen, new direction for both, which have avoided direct confrontation with the U.S. The case increases concerns about growing activity by Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America.

In An Unusual Criminal Case, the U.S. Points the Finger at Pakistan's Top Spy Agency Again

In an indictment unsealed Tuesday, the FBI accused two men of funneling millions of dollars from the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, into political campaign donations and other activities meant to influence American policy on Kashmir.

Mumbai Attacks Renew Questions About Pakistan's Crackdown on Militants

Despite international pressure on Pakistan, most of the suspected masterminds behind the last major attack on Mumbai remain at large.

Prosecutor Defends Deal With Mumbai-Attacks Plotter

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald defended a plea agreement with confessed terrorist David Headley. Defense lawyers say the government got played and used a whale to catch a minnow.

Chicago Terrorism Trial: What We Learned, and Didn't, About Pakistan’s Terror Connections

Questions linger after the conviction of a Chicago-based businessman for supporting the group behind the Mumbai terror attacks.

Confessed Terrorist Tried to Help U.S. Track Down Other Terrorists

David Coleman Headley testified Tuesday that he tried to help U.S. authorities lure a suspected mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks out of Pakistan. He also said an al-Qaida-connected leader wanted to assassinate the head of Lockheed Martin.

How Do We Know Pakistan Terror Witness Is Telling the Truth?

Prosecutors knew the star witness in a U.S. federal court trial involving the 2008 Mumbai attacks had a tainted past. So FBI investigators scoured the world for evidence to corroborate his testimony.

Witness: Pakistani Intel Officer Ordered Hit on Mumbai Jews

Confessed terrorist David Coleman Headley says he met with six Pakistani intelligence officers during his years of terrorist activity. In court on Tuesday he said he was “pleased” when he learned that 166 people had been slaughtered in the Mumbai attacks.

Trial Testimony Intensifies Allegations Pakistan Is Playing Double Game

David Coleman Headley, a confessed Pakistani-American terrorist, alleges that Pakistani officers played a central role in reconnaissance and planning for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Star Witness in Terror Trial Could Heighten U.S.-Pakistan Tension

Tahawwur Rana is on trial for being an accomplice in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But the spotlight will be on the star witness, David Coleman Headley, who has pleaded guilty in the case and has said he was working for Pakistan's intelligence service as well as for the terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba.

New Details in the bin Laden Docs: Portrait of a Fugitive Micro-Manager

Al Qaeda leader’s writings discuss everything from targeting U.S. leaders to personality clashes among militants.

Pakistan's Terror Ties at Center of Upcoming Chicago Trial

Federal prosecutors have quietly charged a suspected Pakistani intelligence officer with helping to plot the murders of six Americans in the 2008 terror Mumbai attacks. The trial of a defendant in the case begins this month in Chicago.

Discovery of Bin Laden Hideout Spotlights Concerns About Pakistan's Intelligence Service

Suspicions that Bin Laden was protected by Pakistan's intelligence service reinforce longtime allegations that the ISI plays a double game.

Mumbai Case Offers Rare Picture of Ties Between Pakistan's Intelligence Service, Militants

The confession by a key operative and other evidence gathered by U.S. authorities provides a rare look at the dealings between Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group. The question remains: How much did senior officials know about the attack?

Four Alleged Masterminds of 2008 Mumbai Attacks Are Indicted in Chicago

Four alleged masterminds of the Mumbai attacks have been indicted in a U.S. federal court, including two who have been linked to Pakistan’s government, a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism.

Pakistan and the Mumbai Attacks: The Untold Story

The 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai offer a rare picture of the ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and the militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba. The trail of two key figures, an accused Pakistani mastermind and his American operative, traces the rise of a complex, international threat.

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