Wash Post, Guardian share Pulitzer for NSA coverage

Wash Post, Guardian share Pulitzer for NSA coverage

The Guardian and The Washington Post won a prestigious Pulitzer Prize today for reporting on secret US surveillance programs revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The British and American newspapers shared the award for public service journalism handed out by the Pulitzer committee at Columbia University in New York.

The awards came amid an unusual political climate with the newspapers earning both praise for revealing the global scope of the surveillance operations and criticism for leaking secret documents.

The US unit of the British newspaper was honored 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 committee said.

It recognised The Post for its "authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the (NSA) disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security."

The shared award went to the two newspapers credited with breaking the news about NSA surveillance programmes, without specifically citing the journalists involved.

The reporters who played key roles in the story included Glenn Greenwald, who has since left the Guardian, and colleague Ewen MacAskill. Barton Gellman, who already has two Pulitzers, was the writer of most of the Washington Post reports.

Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who was the point of contact for Snowden, had the unusual distinction of sharing bylines in both the Guardian and the Post on the topic.

In arguably the most influential story of the decade, The Guardian and Post broke sensational ground by exposing how the US government monitors the data of millions.

The NSA leaks embarrassed the government, strained relations with allies angered that Americans had been tapping into the private phone calls of leaders and sparked a debate within the United States on the merits and morality of mass surveillance.

Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes since 2002, said in announcing the winners, "Decisions are often difficult. There are many excellent finalists."

He also acknowledged that decisions were complicated "with different perspectives coming into play."

The US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, suggested that journalists reporting on the leaks had acted as "accomplices" to Snowden, who is wanted in the United States on espionage charges and has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

The Guardian said in a statement, "We're extremely proud and gratified to have been honoured by the Pulitzer board. It's been an intense, exhaustive and sometimes chilling year working on this story and we're grateful for the acknowledgment by our peers that the revelations made by Edward Snowden and the work by the journalists involved represent a high achievement in public service."

Post executive editor Martin Baron said the reporting exposed a national policy "with profound implications for American citizens' constitutional rights" and the rights of individuals around the world.

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