Born on March 10, 1970, Jim Sciutto earned a bachelor's degree in Chinese history from Yale University in 1992. After serving as a Fulbright Fellow in Hong Kong during 1993-94, he began his broadcasting career as a moderator and producer of the weekly PBS show The Student Press.
In 1997 Sciutto was hired as the Hong Kong Correspondent for Asia Business News, where he reported on events in China, Mongolia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, and South Korea. The following year, he went to work for ABC News—first in Chicago and then in Washington, where he covered stories involving the Pentagon.
In 2002 Sciutto was selected as a term member of the Council of Foreign Relations, and was appointed an Associate Fellow of Pierson College at Yale University.
In 2006 Sciutto became a Senior Foreign Correspondent and lead reporter on ABC News, a position that had him covering stories in approximately 50 countries throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In 2006 as well, he married ABC News Correspondent Gloria Riviera.
In 2008 Sciutto was selected as a life member of the Council of Foreign Relations. That same year, he published Against Us: The New Face of America's Enemies in the Muslim World. According to a Publishers Weekly review, this book “examines and explains the increasingly negative attitudes toward the United States among citizens of Muslim and Arab countries.” Sciutto and his publisher, meanwhile, describe Against Us as “an urgent wake-up call for all Americans—and in particular those charged with formulating U.S. foreign policy—to rebuild relations with the Arab world and restore confidence in American values.”
Sciutto worked at the Obama State Department from 2011-13, serving as Chief of Staff for the U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke. When Sciutto was first hired for this post, he proudly told TV Newser that his duties as a government official would inevitably overlap, to some degree, with his work as a journalist: “It’s a chance to be inside the premiere superpower relationship of our time…. I’ll see how foreign policy is made and help execute it. We often don’t get that chance as journalists to get that view from the inside. It was too unique and too special [an opportunity] to turn down.” Further, Sciutto said that he had consulted with George Stephanopoulos, a onetime Clinton administration operative who subsequently became an ABC newsman, for advice on how to properly blend the roles of reporter and political insider.
In September 2013 Sciutto became the Chief National Security Correspondent for CNN, reporting and providing analysis on matters related to American national security, foreign policy, the military, terrorism, and intelligence.
In April 2017, Sciutto sparked controversy with his handling of a blockbuster Bloomberg News report indicating that Susan Rice, former President Obama's National Security Adviser, had requested or directed that the identities of a number of individuals involved with Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign be “unmasked” in raw intelligence reports that would then be widely distributed throughout the federal government—a massive and unprecedented violation of standard policy. Sciutto—without informing his CNN audience that he had worked for the Obama White House at the same time as Susan Rice, or that he had previously been a colleague of Rice's husband (Ian Cameron) at ABC—dismissed Bloomberg's scoop on Rice as something that had been “largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from this larger investigation” into Trump's alleged ties to Russia. Sciutto also said that “someone close to Ambassador Rice” had told him that “there is nothing unusual about [Rice] making these requests when serving as a senior national security official.” And, paraphrasing the opinions of unidentified senior intelligence officials “who served both Republican and Democratic administrations,” Sciutto added: “[W]hen you are briefed on intelligence, communications like this, sometimes senior national security officials can ask the intelligence community to identify the Americans either mentioned in those conversations or on the other side of those phone calls.... It’s then up to the intelligence agencies, the NSA, they decide what’s appropriate to unmask for that senior official. It is legal.”
By contrast, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew C. McCarthy asserted that Rice's actions constituted a “monumental abuse of power.” McCarthy then proceeded to thoroughly debunk Sciutto's claims, writing: “The thing to bear in mind is that the White House does not do investigations. Not criminal investigations, not intelligence investigations.... In general, it is the FBI that conducts investigations that bear on American citizens suspected of committing crimes or of acting as agents of foreign powers. In the matter of alleged Russian meddling, the investigative camp also includes the CIA and the NSA.... There would have been no intelligence need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. If there had been a real need to reveal the identities — an intelligence need based on American interests — the unmasking would have been done by the investigating agencies. The national-security adviser is not an investigator. She is a White House staffer. The president’s staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it. If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests; it was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic-party interests.” (Emphasis in original)