Spencer Ackerman is an American national security reporter and blogger. He began his career at The New Republic and wrote for Wired magazine's national security blog, Danger Room. From 2013 to 2017, Ackerman held the role of national security editor at the Guardian US. In 2017, Ackerman became the senior national security correspondent for The Daily Beast.
Ackerman was born to a Jewish family and graduated from Rutgers University where he was an editor for the Daily Targum student paper. In 2002, he moved to Washington, D.C. to become an intern and later an associate editor at The New Republic magazine. He initially supported the Iraq War, but became disillusioned. In 2004 he started Iraq'd, a blog on The New Republic website, which chronicled the dilemma of pro-war liberals. He also wrote, with John B. Judis, an article that started the chain of events that led to the Plame affair.
In 2006 Ackerman was fired from TNR for "insubordination" (in TNR editor Franklin Foer's account) or "irreconcilable ideological differences" (in Ackerman's). He next wrote for The American Prospect (which offered him a job within a day of his firing) and Talking Points Memo.
Ackerman also maintains a personal blog, Attackerman, which was hosted at Firedoglake from June 2008 through December 2010. On December 29, 2010, he reported that he had to move his blog, saying, "the congressional press galleries are wary of giving me permanent credentials while I’m affiliated here." In September 2011, Ackerman reported a series of articles for Wired, alleging anti-Islamic bias in FBI training materials. As a result, the FBI launched "a comprehensive review of all training and reference materials that relate in any way to religion or culture."
Ackerman was a member of the private Google Groups forum JournoList. Several JournoList comments by Ackerman on topics such as the Jeremiah Wright controversy were revealed by the Daily Caller. Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent, wrote, "I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically." James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal took issue with a particularly controversial e-mail from Ackerman: "If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares – and call them racists". A spokesman for Wired said that Ackerman would keep his job, saying "We hired Spencer Ackerman for his well-informed national security reporting and fully support it. Anyone with access to Google can discover his political leanings."
In 2013, Ackerman was forced to take down one of his Wired stories on what he claimed was a "North Korean propaganda video", after it was revealed the film was a satire video by British travel writer Alun Hill.
On March 28, 2016, writing in The Guardian, Ackerman reported that during the early 2000s, the CIA had taken photos of captives and detainees who were naked, before transporting them through extraordinary rendition to foreign countries for interrogation, often under torture. These photos are classified and are retained by the CIA. The CIA had illegally destroyed its extensive library of video tapes documenting the torture of the men and boys it had apprehended and detained through its covert "snatch teams". But it has retained these photos of naked, bruised and beaten detainees. Observers have seen some, which they describe as "gruesome". One commentator suggested it was part of a pattern of sexual abuse of prisoners. Another said that the photos were taken to show the condition of the prisoners before rendition.
Iacopino has not seen the nude photographs but raised grave concerns. “It’s cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment at a minimum and may constitute torture,” he said.
One former U.S. official familiar with the photographs described them to The Guardian as “very gruesome,” and others went as far as to suggest the practice of photographing naked detainees may constitute a violation of international law.
Also, a medical and human rights expert called the practice “sexual humiliation,” while some other human rights campaigners regard it as a potential war crime.