There were other worthy contenders for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for public service, announced this week. But no reporting was more deserving than the revelations about the National Security Agency’s widespread secret surveillance program at home and abroad.
The Pulitzer committee awarded journalism’s highest honor to the Washington Post and the American office of The Guardian, a British newspaper. They published NSA documents and explained the agency’s activities to a public that found its extensive snooping on the communications of ordinary Americans hard to fathom.
When Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked thousands of classified documents last year detailing the spy agency’s mass surveillance, many elected officials denounced him as a traitor. The Obama Administration said it would arrest him at the first opportunity and charged him under the federal Espionage Act. Mr. Snowden, however, was given asylum in Russia.
The Post and the Guardian U.S. deserved the Pulitzer for the difficult decisions they made about how to handle the sensitive material, balancing the government’s demand for secrecy and the public’s right to know. The Guardian even faced threats of a shutdown by British authorities, who claimed that its revelations endangered national security.
By showing their readers the extent of NSA surveillance and sparking a debate over national security and personal privacy, these news media epitomized the best practices of modern journalism. Americans are far better informed as a result.