The Washington Post and The Guardian newspapers won the Pulitzer Prize for public service on Monday for their reporting on documents leaked by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, which exposed the U.S. government’s massive surveillance programs against American citizens and foreign allies.
28 Post reporters, including chief Snowden contact Barton Gellman, shared the prize with journalists from the British-based The Guardian newspaper, where former reporter Glenn Greenwald was the primary beneficiary of Snowden’s revelations.
Though both papers were lauded for their ”revelations of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency,” the Columbia University-based Pulitzer board gave slightly different reasons for awarding the prestigious public-service medal to the two publications.
The Guardian, who broke the initial story on Snowden’s theft of documents relating to the NSA’s metadata collection program against American citizens, earned its prize for “helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.”
The Washington Post, which was given many of the same secret documents as The Guardian but reported on them more cautiously, was commended for its “authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.”
The prize — along with the Pulitzer’s board assessment that the reports constituted a public service — are unlikely to sit well with those who view Snowden as a traitor and his journalistic colleagues as accessories to treason.
The UK government raided The Guardian’s London offices last summer to destroy hard drives suspected of containing secret surveillance information. They also detained Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow Airport for nine hours under an anti-terrorism law.
And in the United States, Republican lawmaker Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper both labelled the reporters criminal accomplices to Snowden. New York Republican congressman Peter King even called for the journalists involved to be prosecuted.
King wasted no time weighing in on the prize, tweeting Monday afternoon that “awarding the Pulitzer to Snowden enablers is a disgrace.”
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