Ian Cobain (born 1960) is a British journalist. Cobain is best known for his investigative journalism into human rights abuses committed by the British government post-9/11,[1] the secrecy surrounding the British state[2] and the legacy of the Northern Ireland's Troubles.[3][4][5][6]

Early lifeEdit

Ian Cobain was born in 1960 in Liverpool and lives with his wife and two children in London.[1]


A journalist since the early 1980s, Cobain was the senior investigative reporter for British newspaper The Guardian until August 2018.[citation needed]

He has reported on six wars,[7] including the war in the Gulf, and the wars in Afghanistan[8] and Iraq.[9] In September 2005, he revealed that the British government had been supporting the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme.[10] In 2006, he joined the BNP as part of an undercover investigation, he ended up being appointed central London organiser for the party, a position he swiftly resigned.[11][12]

Cobain published a book in 2012, Cruel Britannia, which documented the British government's use of torture in the last 70 years.[13][14][15][16][17] David Hare described it as "one of the most shocking and persuasive books of the year", Peter Oborne in The Spectator said, "Carefully researched and well-written… [Cobain] should be congratulated for addressing a subject which much of the rest of Fleet Street has been determined to ignore",[18] and the Sunday Times identified it as a "must-read" and declared it, "a fine study of the role Britain has played in the business of torture". The book won the Paddy Power/Total Politics Debut Political Book of the Year award.[19]

Throughout his journalistic career, Cobain has taken a close interest in the Troubles and the legacy of the conflict. As a result, in 2012, he was retained as an expert witness by lawyers seeking to overturn the murder conviction of Liam Holden, who had been the last man to be sentenced to hang in Britain before his sentence was commuted to life.[20] Also in 2012, Cobain investigated allegations of collusion between Northern Irish police and Loyalist paramilitary gunmen who had shot dead six men in a bar in the village of Loughinisland in 1994. A subsequent report by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Al Hutchinson, confirmed the findings of Cobain. In 2014, Cobain drew upon contemporary police records, witness statements and pathologists' reports to reconstruct the events of the Ballymurphy shootings in west Belfast in August 1971.[1] A fresh inquest into the deaths was held between late 2018 and early 2020, and verdicts are pending release.[citation needed]

As of 2019, Cobain was a journalist at the Middle East Eye.[21]

Rejection from the DSEIEdit

Cobain was rejected from attending the 2019 DSEI international arms sales fair in London Docklands, on the grounds that he tweeted messages unfavourable to the arms trade and DSEI, and because it was "[suspected that] he [would] not write anything positive about DSEI".[21]


Cobain has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for journalism and won the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism, as well as two Amnesty International journalism awards,[22] and, with fellow Guardian journalist, Richard Norton-Taylor, a Human Rights Campaign of the Year Award from Liberty, for their "investigation into Britain's complicity in the use of torture".[23]


  • Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture, Portobello Books, 2012. ISBN 184627334X
  • The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation, Portobello Books, 2016. ISBN 1846275830
  • Anatomy of a Killing: Life and Death on a Divided Island, Granta Books, 2020. ISBN 9781846276408


  1. ^ a b "Ian Cobain". Granta. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  2. ^ "The History Thieves by Ian Cobain review – how Britain covered up its imperial crimes". The Guardian. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Anatomy of a Killing by Ian Cobain review – a death that casts new light on the Troubles". The Guardian. 25 October 2020. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  4. ^ Cobain, Ian (6 October 2013). "Ministry of Defence holds 66,000 files in breach of 30-year rule". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  5. ^ Cobain, Ian (18 October 2013). "Foreign Office hoarding 1m historic files in secret archive". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  6. ^ Cobain, Ian (26 March 2015). "Why is the crux of the Incedal case a secret? You're not allowed to know". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Ian Cobain". www.nctj.com. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  8. ^ "KK-FORUM: The Times: American will take no prisoners". The Times. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  9. ^ Cobain, Ian (20 December 2013). "Who in Whitehall approved 'gloves-off' interrogation after 9/11?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  10. ^ Cobain, Ian; Grey, Stephen; Norton-Taylor, Richard (11 September 2005). "Destination Cairo: human rights fears over CIA flights". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  11. ^ Cobain, Ian (21 December 2006). "Exclusive: inside the secret and sinister world of the BNP". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  12. ^ "The Guardian journalist who became central London organiser for the BNP". The Guardian. 21 December 2006. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  13. ^ Kampfner, John (4 November 2012). "Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain – review". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  14. ^ Brooke, Heather (31 January 2013). "The closed circle: Britain's culture of secrecy". New Statesman.
  15. ^ Stafford Smith, Clive (23 November 2012). "Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain - review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  16. ^ Smith, Clive Stafford (23 November 2012). "Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain - review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  17. ^ Howe, Stephen (24 November 2012). "This admirable investigation into torture in the fraying empire will overturn myths". The Independent.
  18. ^ Oborne, Peter (24 November 2012). "Shameful home truths". The Spectator.
  19. ^ Total Politics, Paddy Power & Total Politics Political Book Awards
  20. ^ "Army 'waterboarding victim' who spent 17 years in jail is cleared of murder". 21 June 2012.
  21. ^ a b Akkad, Dania (7 November 2019). "'See if he chases': Why Ian Cobain was actually banned from covering UK arms fair". Middle East Eye. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  22. ^ "Sivia Casale, Ian Cobain and Malcolm Evans". Archived from the original on 20 June 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  23. ^ Liberty, List of previous winners

External linksEdit