Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron anticipated that there would be a strong backlash when those opposed to Edward Snowden’s revelations learned of the Pulitzer Prize Committee’s decision to bestow its prestigious Public Service award on his paper. But he may not have estimated the extent and vitriol of that criticism.
Disclosing the massive expansion of the NSA’s surveillance network absolutely was a public service. In constructing a surveillance system of breathtaking scope and intrusiveness, our government also sharply eroded individual privacy. All of this was done in secret, without public debate….
[Without Edward 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….
None of this would have been possible without Snowden’s release of classified information. I understand that’s a source of controversy, but without his disclosures there would be no discussion of the shift from the rights of the individual to state power, no debate about the balance between privacy and national security.
First up to blast the decision was Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, who exclaimed:
I think [giving the Pulitzer Prize to the Washington Post] is disgraceful. To be rewarding the dissemination of classified information that [jeopardizes] national security and enabling a traitor like Snowden is indefensible….
The information that he released has been extremely damaging. It enabled our enemies to know what we are capable of doing.
John Yoo, author of the infamous “torture memos” and his approval of ignoring the Fourth Amendment in NSA’s warrantless surveillance of Americans, weighed in on the matter:
I’m not surprised the Pulitzer committee gave the Washington Post a prize for pursuing a sensationalist story, even when the story is a disaster for its own country.
I don’t think we need automatically to read the prize as a vindication for Snowden’s crimes. Awarding a prize to a newspaper that covered a hurricane does not somehow vindicate the hurricane, [and] awarding a Pulitzer for a photo of a murder does not somehow vindicate the crime.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence who perjured himself in testimony before a congressional committee last year, also pushed back:
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