Pulitzer Prize Board Faces Tough Decision Over Snowden Leaks

Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 01:15 PM

By Lisa Barron

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The Pulitzer Prize Board faces one of  its toughest decisions in years whether to honor The Washington Post and The Guardian for stories based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Two teams are being considered for their work on the NSA leaks, which gave light to the agency's secret surveillance programs, according to Politico. One includes The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, who published the first report on the NSA's collection of Verizon phone records. The other is Poitras and Barton Gellman, who reported on the wide-ranging PRISM surveillance program for The Post.

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that Snowden, who is living in Russia, faces three felony charges in a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department.

Still, the documents he leaked contributed to the most notable journalistic achievement of the year.

"The stories that came out of this completely changed the agenda on the discussion on privacy and the NSA," David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, told Politico. "There's an enormous public good in that, and it's yet to be proven at all that somehow did great damage to national security."

Among the issues the board is likely to discuss are whether honoring the NSA reporting would be seen as a political act or if passing over the stories would give the appearance of siding with the government.

"This is an institutional question for them," veteran Washington Post journalist Robert Kaiser told Politico. "This is a very good argument to have, and there are members of that Board who are going to raise these questions and want to talk about them."

Meanwhile, Snowden continues to spur the national debate over state surveillance and individual privacy from his place of asylum.

Speaking via Google Hangout at the South By Southwest Interactive conference in Austin Monday, Snowden called for better online security measures, The Post reported.

Part of an American Civil Liberties Union panel, Snowden said of the NSA, "They're setting fire to the future of the Internet. We need public advocates. We need public oversight."

The Pulitzer committee has not indicated how it will approach the reporting that stemmed from Snowden's leaks. The board will meet April 10 and 11, and the winners will be announced April 14 at a 3 p.m. eastern time news conference at Columbia's School of Journalism.

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