Investigative Journalist Annie Jacobsen: War, Weaponry, and Government Secrecy


Annie Jacobson is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times bestselling author known for her expertise in national security, war, weapons, and intelligence. She has written several acclaimed books, including “Area 51,” “Operation Paperclip,” “The Pentagon’s Brain,” “Phenomena,” “Surprise, Kill, Vanish,” and “First Platoon.” Jacobson is also a television writer and producer, having worked on shows such as the Jack Ryan series and Clarice on CBS.

Episode Summary:

In this episode of the Danger Close podcast, host Jack Carr interviews Annie Jacobson, a renowned author and journalist specializing in national security and intelligence. They discuss Jacobson’s journey into journalism, her approach to research and interviewing, and the fascinating topics she has covered in her books. From the secrets of Area 51 to the development of autonomous weapons systems, Jacobson provides unique insights into the world of war, weapons, and government operations. This engaging conversation sheds light on the complex and often secretive world of national security.

Key Takeaways:

  • Annie Jacobson’s career as a journalist began later in life, but she found success by following her mentor’s advice to focus on the truth rather than making things up.

  • Jacobson’s passion lies in reporting and interviewing extraordinary individuals involved in war, weapons, and national security, as they offer unique perspectives and insights.

  • The process of writing her books involves extensive research, interviews, and weaving together the interviews with the writing to create a compelling narrative.

  • Jacobson emphasizes the importance of finding sources who are generous with their time and willing to share their knowledge and experiences.

  • She believes in following the long arc of history to understand the present and make informed decisions about the future.

Notable Quotes:

  • “Stop making shit up. It’s the truth that matters.” – Annie Jacobson’s mentor’s advice on her transition from failed novelist to journalist.

  • “I love that process. I love sitting with extraordinary people who have done extraordinary things and mining their process, their talents, their thinking, their philosophy, and ultimately their story.” – Annie Jacobson on her passion for interviewing and reporting.

  • “Go into it thinking 50% of the people like me and 50% dislike me, and I will never change that equation.” – Advice from a writer to Annie Jacobson on dealing with criticism.