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Opening Arguments

Traitor's prize

So, the Pulitzer Prize was awared for the reporting based on Edward Snowden's document dump. I don't feel quite as strongly about it as Rep. King:

But today’s announcement of the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes stoked an old debate about whether a former NSA contractor who leaked details about the surveillance programs — among other leaks — is a traitor or a whistleblower. Today, he was the muse of award winners.

“Awarding the Pulitzer to Snowden enablers is a disgrace,” tweeted Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.).

But I feel more strongly about it than Ed Morissey does:

For me, Snowden and the reporting that followed from his massive theft of classified material are a mixed bag. It seems clear that abuses were occurring, and that officials like James Clapper lied about it to Congress. (Why Clapper remains as DNI is a mystery that even exceeds that of Sebelius’ longevity in the Obama administration.) Whistleblowers have channels within the US to call attention to real abuses; it’s still an open question as to whether Snowden actually tried to use those, and also a question as to whether those are safe and effective, too. Still, the scope and nature of Snowden’s actions tends to argue against him as just a mere whistleblower looking to stop abuses. The Snowden cache and exposure went far beyond that into areas that appeared deliberately designed to damage American intelligence capabilities abroad, and Snowden’s attempts at asylum in China and then Russia raise serious questions about his motivations — especially with a newly-aggressive Russia.

If you're interested in the pros and cons of the issue, here's a good piece that gives the arguments for and against giving the prize to the Post and Guardian. It properly cites the Pentagon Papers case as the precedent for giving the Pulitzer to a newspaper that profited from the work of criminal activity -- whether you call it whistleblowing or treason, leaked documents are stolen documents.

There was reportedly "unprecedented debate" before the Pulitzer was awarded in the Pentagon Papers case, and I hope there was this time, too. I hope giving out the award at least makde the Pulitzer people a little uncomfortable:

In a lengthy email to POLITICO, Cliff Kincaid, director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, criticized Snowden and Greenwald for threatening national security.

"Political figures in both political parties agree that Snowden is a traitor. So what does that make his enablers in the media? They are certainly not journalists who deserve journalism prizes," Kincaid wrote. "Journalism awards should not be given to recipients of stolen national security documents whose work has made America more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and its military personnel more likely to die at the hands of terrorists or enemy regimes."

I know I'me getting obsessive about this. It's like insider baseball. People outside the business don't really give a damn.

Morrissey again:

At least for one day, the award didn’t seem to make too many people change their minds about Snowden, or about the nature of the leaks he’s engineered over the past eleven months about US surveillance and intelligence efforts. That shows in large part how little a Pulitzer means outside of the editorial caste and to their recipients. It’s a bragging point within the industry, not a vindication, no matter how much one wants to see it as a blessing from on high. It’s simply a recognition within a peer group of perceived excellence, and few inside that peer group seemed anything but fully supportive of Snowden and his media partners from the first.

Yeah, what he said.