Taubman, Philip 1948-

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TAUBMAN, Philip 1948-


Born 1948; married Felicity Barringer; children: Michael, Gregory. Education: Stanford University, graduated 1971.


Office—New York Times News Bureau, 1627 I St. NW, Washington, DC 20006.


New York Times, New York, NY, journalist and editor, 1979—, Moscow correspondent and bureau chief 1985-88, deputy Washington bureau chief, 1989-92, deputy national editor, 1993-94, assistant editorial page editor, 1994-2001; editorial page foreign policy commentary coordinator, 1995—, deputy editorial page editor, 2001-2003; Washington bureau chief, 2003—. Served on Stanford University Board of Trustees, 1978-82.


George Polk Award, 1981, for a series of stories with Seymour Hersh and Jeff Gerth on rogue CIA agents, and 1983, for foreign policy reporting on Central America.


Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.


Journalist Philip Taubman has been a New York Times reporter, editor, and bureau chief since joining the paper in 1979. While serving as chief of the paper's Moscow bureau, Taubman spent time in areas once spied on by planes and satellites of the U.S. overhead reconnaissance program described in detail in his book, Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage.

United States history shows that intelligence gathering—spying—has long been a major weapon in the arsenal against threats by foreign powers. The fall of the Soviet Union brought to light many documents once thought to be permanently unavailable. U.S. security agencies entered a prolonged period of declassification after the end of the Cold War in 1991. "Many of the agencies that run or use spy satellites—the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and Naval Research Laboratory—were suddenly eager to have formerly secret stories told once their budgets were no longer guaranteed by the Soviet menace," observed Gregg Herken in the Boston Globe.

Taubman delves deeply into these newly declassified documents—along with oral histories and interviews with participants—and emerges with the in-depth story of the development of the airborne and spaceborne observation systems that have equalized the worldwide balance of power since the Cold War. In the 1950s, America had little hard knowledge about the offensive capabilities of the Soviet Union. "Bison bombers flew circles around Moscow to inflate the estimates of Western air attaches of their numbers; Nikita Krushchev rattled rockets to add to the noise," noted Frank C. Mahncke in Naval War College Review. The Soviets had atomic weapons and the means to use them, but America was uncertain of the Soviet Union's true abilities and intentions.

Determined to improve the country's knowledge and defensive position, President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the creation of the U2 spy plane. The U2 could soar high into the atmosphere and take crisply detailed photographs of objects on the ground. The U2 flew only two dozen missions before the infamous downing of pilot Francis Gary Powers in 1960, but by then the truth was clear. "It proved that the missile gap was a myth, that the dreaded Soviet Bison bombers were scarce, and that we faced no imminent threat," related Nicholas Thompson in Washington Monthly. Eisenhower also authorized the equally innovative Corona reconnaissance satellite, "designed to take photographs from orbit and then eject film canisters that would withstand atmospheric reentry and literally parachute down to an American recovery team," Thompson remarked. In use from 1960 to 1972, the Corona created a comprehensive photographic record of Soviet military power.

Taubman's tale presents detailed portraits of the scientists and engineers who brought the U2 and Corona projects into existence. "Taubman paints these men unreservedly as patriots, putting their considerable technical skills and imagination at their country's service. That they were," Mahncke commented. "More importantly, they grasped the need for hard strategic intelligence and had the perspective to see the promise of new technologies and their application to the problem of strategic reconnaissance." "This book functions marvelously as a history of science, detailing the research, engineering, and policy decisions behind the U2 and Corona, but it's also an excellent social history," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The work demonstrates Taubman's "impressive skills at writing crackling prose while juggling numerous details," noted Ed Goedeken in Library Journal. And a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that the book is "absorbing throughout, and meaty stuff for intelligence and aviation buffs."



Booklist, February 15, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage, p. 1023.

Boston Globe, April 6, 2003, Gregg Herken, "Secret Empire Details the History of U.S. Spy Planes and Satellites, as Well as the Innovators Behind Them Eyes in the Sky," p. C8.

Chicago Tribune, August 27, 2003, Ray Jenkins, "Ike and CIA: Men Who Built Our Eyes in Skies," p. 4.

International Herald Tribune, April 19, 2003, Jeff Stein, review of Secret Empire, p. 20.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, review of Secret Empire, p. 1834.

Library Journal, February 1, 2003, Ed Goedeken, review of Secret Empire, p. 103.

Naval War College Review, winter, 2004, Frank C. Mahncke, review of Secret Empire, pp. 152-153.

New York Times Book Review, March 30, 2003, review of Secret Empire, p. 18.

Nieman Reports, summer, 1997, "When Couples Work on the Same Paper," pp. 28-31.

Publishers Weekly, February 17, 2003, review of Secret Empire, p. 65.

Quill, October, 2001, pp. 41-42; September, 2003, "Philip Taubman, Deputy Editor of the Editorial Page at The New York Times, Has Been Named the Newspaper's Washington Bureau Chief," p. 58.

Science News, March 29, 2003, review of Secret Empire, p. 207.

Washington Monthly, May, 2003, Nicholas Thompson, "Space Balls," pp. 52-54.


Secret Empire Book,http://www.secretempirethebook.com/ (April 3, 2004).

Tantor Media,http://www.tantor.com/ (April 3, 2004), biography of Philip Taubman.

Washingtonian Online,http://www.washingtonian.com/ (April 6, 2003), Harry Jaffee, "Philip Taubman Named NYT's Washington Bureau Chief."*