Snowden’s Journalist Friends Win Pulitzer for NSA Reporting

Is a Nobel Peace Prize next for the leaker-in-chief?

Investigative reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who worked with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, hug before accepting the George Polk Award along side Ewan MacAskill and Barton Gellman, for National Security Reporting on April 11, 2014 in New York City. Greenwald, Poitras and MacAskill reported on the story for The Guardian; Gellman wrote for The Washington Post. This is the first time Greenwald and Poitras have returned to the United States since the story broke.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
April 14, 2014, 11:04 a.m.

The cadre of journ­al­ists who last year blew the lid off the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s top-secret sur­veil­lance ap­par­at­us and ig­nited a roil­ing in­ter­na­tion­al de­bate over the prop­er scope of gov­ern­ment spy­ing have net­ted their pa­pers the Pulitzer Prize for Pub­lic Ser­vice, the awards com­mit­tee an­nounced Monday.

The Guard­i­an and The Wash­ing­ton Post shared journ­al­ism’s most coveted hon­or Monday for their re­port­ing, which ex­posed clas­si­fied de­tails of the gov­ern­ment’s vast data-col­lec­tion pro­grams.

The award bol­sters the grow­ing trophy chest be­ing ac­quired by the journ­al­ists and their doc­u­ment-steal­ing source, former NSA con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden, who has also been nom­in­ated for a No­bel Peace Prize, the win­ner of which will be an­nounced in Oc­to­ber.

Snowden called the award “a vin­dic­a­tion for every­one who be­lieves that the pub­lic has a role in gov­ern­ment.”

“We owe it to the ef­forts of the brave re­port­ers and their col­leagues who kept work­ing in the face of ex­traordin­ary in­tim­id­a­tion, in­clud­ing the forced de­struc­tion of journ­al­ist­ic ma­ter­i­als, the in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of ter­ror­ism laws, and so many oth­er means of pres­sure to get them to stop what the world now re­cog­nises was work of vi­tal pub­lic im­port­ance,” the fu­git­ive said in a state­ment. He ad­ded that his leaks “would have been mean­ing­less without the ded­ic­a­tion, pas­sion, and skill of these news­pa­pers.”

The im­port of the “Snowden files” was made im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent last sum­mer after the two pa­pers pub­lished the first in what be­came a seem­ingly end­less cas­cade of stor­ies ex­pos­ing in­tim­ate de­tails of the NSA’s spy pro­grams. Ewen MacAskill and Glenn Gre­en­wald led much of the cov­er­age for The Guard­i­an, while Bar­ton Gell­man did so for The Post. Doc­u­ment­ary film­maker Laura Poitras also has been closely in­volved with the re­port­ing and, along with Gre­en­wald, is be­lieved to be one of only two people in pos­ses­sion of the en­tire trove of Snowden files.

Snowden, a 30-year-old com­puter tech­ni­cian, im­me­di­ately achieved overnight in­ter­na­tion­al no­tori­ety as a res­ult of the stor­ies. He met with Gre­en­wald and Poitras in Hong Kong after down­load­ing an es­tim­ated 1.7 mil­lion secret NSA files while work­ing for gov­ern­ment con­tract Booz Al­len Hamilton in Hawaii. The dis­clos­ures have been widely cred­ited with for­cing Pres­id­ent Obama and Con­gress to con­sider and im­ple­ment still-pending re­forms to the NSA’s spy pro­grams.

The first NSA bomb­shell, pub­lished by The Guard­i­an on June 5, re­vealed that Ve­r­i­zon “on an on­go­ing, daily basis” provides the NSA in­form­a­tion on tele­phone calls with­in the United States. A day later, The Post ex­posed a top-secret pro­gram known as PRISM that col­lects for­eign com­mu­nic­a­tions traffic from the serv­ers of nine lead­ing U.S. In­ter­net com­pan­ies, in­clud­ing Google, Ya­hoo, and Face­book.

Snowden’s de­tract­ors have tire­lessly claimed that his leaks have harmed na­tion­al se­cur­ity and that the journ­al­ists who pub­lished the clas­si­fied gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments ac­ted ir­re­spons­ibly. House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mike Ro­gers has per­haps been Snowden’s most vo­cal crit­ic, hav­ing fre­quently de­rided him as a “trait­or.” The Michigan Re­pub­lic­an has also sug­ges­ted that Snowden’s cur­rent res­id­ence in Mo­scow in­dic­ates he could be op­er­at­ing as a spy for Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin.

In a tweet, Rep. Peter King, a New York Re­pub­lic­an, called the Pulitzer se­lec­tion a “dis­grace.” 

The Pulitzer is just the latest in a string of ac­col­ades that Snowden and his con­fid­ants have earned re­cently. Last week Gre­en­wald and Poitras were jointly awar­ded the George Polk Award for na­tion­al se­cur­ity re­port­ing, a sim­il­arly pres­ti­gi­ous mer­it. Their at­tend­ance at the awards ce­re­mony in New York City marked the first time either had set foot in the U.S. since their ini­tial NSA stor­ies were pub­lished last June.

Earli­er this month, Snowden and Poitras were jointly re­cog­nized as win­ners of the left-lean­ing Riden­hour Truth-Telling Prize.

The Pulitzers are giv­en an­nu­ally by Columbia Uni­versity and chosen at the re­com­mend­a­tion of a 19-mem­ber board of journ­al­ists.

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