Breaking: The Washington Post and The Guardian are sharing the Pulitzer Prize for public service following former contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations concerning the National Security Agency’s national surveillance program. Controversy is likely to abound:
The awards to The Post and Guardian for their NSA reporting are likely to generate debate, much like the Pulitzer board’s decision to award the public service medal to the New York Times in 1972 for its disclosures of the Pentagon Papers, a secret government history of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
In both the NSA and Pentagon Papers stories, the reporting was based on leaks of secret documents stolen by government contractors. Both Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg — who leaked the Pentagon Papers to Times reporter Neil Sheehan — were called traitors for their actions. And both the leakers and the news organizations that published stories were accused by critics, including members of Congress, of enabling espionage and harming national security.
But Post editor Martin Baron said Monday the reporting exposed a national policy “with profound implications for American citizens’ constitutional rights” and the rights of individuals around the world. Baron added that without Snowden’s disclosures, “We never would have known how far this country had shifted away from the rights of the individual in favor of state power. There would have been no public debate about the proper balance between privacy and national security. As even the president has acknowledged, this is a conversation we need to have.”