Sebastian Rotella


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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.

In 2020, Sebastian was part of the ProPublica team whose coverage of the pandemic and the CDC was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for public service. The Association of Health Care Journalists gave that coverage the Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism in the investigative category.

In 2016, he was co-writer and correspondent for Terror in Europe, a 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: Rip Crew (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.

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.

Mumbai: The Plot Unfolds, Lashkar Strikes and Investigators Scramble

Sajid Mir, a mysterious Lashkar chief with close ties to Pakistani security forces, American David Coleman Headley to scout hotels and other targets in Mumbai where foreigners are likely to be found. During the attack, Mir's voice is heard on intercepted phone calls urging the gunmen to kill.

The Man Behind Mumbai

U.S. authorities identify a mastermind of plot that killed 166. Whether he will be brought to justice remains uncertain.

Newly Discovered Warnings About Headley Reveal a Troubling Timeline in Mumbai Case

Federal inquiry suggests flawed information-sharing and an overwhelming flow of intelligence kept U.S. investigators from identifying the threat posed by an American terrorist.

Intelligence Chief to Review Handling of Mumbai Tips

The Director of National Intelligence will review the handling of David Coleman Headley, the former U.S. informant and confessed plotter of the Mumbai attacks in 2008

U.S. Embassy Didn’t Pass Along Tip About Headley’s Ties to Mumbai Terrorists

More questions are being raised about how federal law enforcement officials handled two tips they received about David Coleman Headley, the U.S. businessman and former DEA informant who has confessed to helping plot the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

Feds Confirm Mumbai Plotter Trained With Terrorists While Working for DEA

Federal officials confirm that David Coleman Headley, who has confessed to helping terrorists plot the 2008 Mumbai attack, was working as a DEA informant while he trained with terrorists.

FBI Was Warned Years in Advance of Mumbai Attacker's Terror Ties

Three years before the Mumbai attack, the U.S. was warned that a key figure in the plot had terror ties.

Times Square Bombing Investigation Focuses on Suspected Role of Pakistani Army Major

U.S. investigators are looking into whether a major in Pakistan’s army knew of Faisal Shahzad’s plans to attack U.S. targets months before Shahzad tried to ignite a car bomb in the heart of New York City. Pakistani officials have arrested the major.

Pakistani Taliban Link to Times Square Bombing Attempt Would Have Troubling Implications

If the failed Times Square bombing is linked to the Pakistani Taliban, it could mean that a group with hardened fighters, previously intent on created an Islamic regime at home, is turning its sights on the U.S.

U.S. Terror Targets Unprotected, According to Former CIA Official

In a new book, a former CIA counterterrorism operative says little has been done to make America safer since Sept. 11. Charles S. Faddis says that while observing potential U.S. targets, he encountered systemically outmoded defenses and poorly trained personnel.

Iran's Efforts to Buy Embargoed Arms Revealed in Italian Case

Court documents in an Italian guns-running case highlight how Iranian buyers seek embargoed military goods, and how difficult it is for the trade to be stemmed.

Map: U.S. and Mexico Patrol the Border

Border Patrol and Mexican Police Make History at Arizona Border

For the first time, Border Patrol agents and Mexican federal police officers are training together, sharing intelligence and coordinating patrols. It is a joint attack on northbound flows of drugs and migrants, and southbound shipments of guns and cash.

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