This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, April 16, 2014:
Instead of supporting the Pulitzer Prize Committee’s decision to give its coveted Public Service award to the Washington Post for publishing Edward Snowden’s revelations over NSA’s spying on innocent Americans, the Left (i.e., those supporting the surveillance state) has instead rather come unglued over the matter. Rep. Peter King, the noisy center-left RINO from New York, was first out of the box:
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….
King was followed by James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence who insulted everyone’s intelligence by lying before a Congressional committee last year:
Snowden claims that he’s won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to … return … the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.
John Yoo, infamous author of his “torture memos” justifying waterboarding and his overriding of the Fourth Amendment by supporting the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans, weighed in with this:
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.
A couple of Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, chairman Mike Rogers and member Devin Nunes, called Snowden’s disclosures “real acts of betrayal,” calling him a “traitor” and adding that “What Snowden did cost us lives and billions of dollars.”
Much of this was expected, and Washington Post’s Executive Director Martin Baron said as much in celebrating the award to his paper:
Disclosing the massive expansion of the NSA’s surveillance network absolutely was a public service. In constructing 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.
One wonders, however, if Baron was prepared for the hot blast of acidic rhetoric unleashed by Liam Fox, a Member of Parliament and a former secretary of defense in the UK, published in the Wall Street Journal. His defense of the surveillance state is breathtaking:
For our intelligence services to operate effectively … they need to be able to do things in secret, secrets whose public disclosure would be damaging to our national interests….
[This] has been imperiled over the past 10 months by the slow parading of intelligence secrets stolen by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, working with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and others….
Fox said that Snowden had essentially been giving aid and comfort to the enemy, which has already begun changing their communications strategies to avoid further detection by the NSA:
We have actually seen chatter among specific terrorist groups at home and abroad, discussing how to avoid what they now perceive to be vulnerable communications methods and, consequently, now to select communications that they perceive not to be exploitable.
No doubt, these terrorist groups are extremely grateful to Messrs. Snowden and Greenwald and their accomplices for these useful tools in their war against our citizens, our armed forces and our way of life.
Fox went even further, claiming that what Snowden had done – and by implication his accomplices assisting him – was treasonous:
His labors were designed to purposely damage American diplomacy and its relations with some of its closest allies, including the United Kingdom….
All this is in line with the virulent anti-Western, and particularly anti-American, views of Messrs. Snowden, Greenwald and their malicious associates….
Let us not imbue his cowardice with higher motives. Let us not confuse his egotism with public service. Let’s not call his treachery by lesser terms. Let us be clear about the intent and impact of his actions.
Let us be clear to the American people and their allies about the threats they now face from inside and out, terrorist and criminal. For once, let’s say what we mean. Let us call treason by its name.
And yet, when the New York Times published Daniel Ellsberg’s revelations in 1971 – The Pentagon Papers – over how the Johnson Administration deliberately lied both to the American people and to the Congress over its clandestine involvement in Vietnam, it dampened further enthusiasms for a time for further foreign adventures. And Ellsberg, although charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property, never went to jail, primarily because Watergate investigators discovered President Nixon’s attempt to smear Ellsberg with the help of his “White House Plumbers.”
Michael Gartner, the former president of NBC News who spent 10 years on the Pulitzer Prize Committee, said that the issue has long been settled:
Wasn’t that precedent set with the Pentagon Papers? The nature of the theft might be different, but isn’t the journalism the same – great stories produced from documents that were leaked by an employee of a private contractor?
Such anticipated criticism failed to keep Long Island University from granting both the Washington Post and the Guardian the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting last month.
Snowden himself provided the best defense against the criticisms levied against the awarding of the Public Service prize to the Washington Post and the UK’s Guardian newspapers:
Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance….
What Snowden, the Washington Post, and the Guardian have done is to reopen the vital conversation about the proper role of government in protecting its citizens. It has expanded the debate over “knowing” and “not knowing” among the electorate.
Abraham Lincoln put the argument over secrecy and exposure this way:
I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.
To their credit, that is exactly what Snowden et al have done. The amount of vitriol poured out by those in love with or belonging to the surveillance state reveals how effective they have been.
Liam Fox in The Wall Street Journal: Snowden and His Accomplices
Politico: Edward Snowden’s prize
Statement from the Pulitzer Prize Committee: The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winners – Public Service