The most prestigious award for journalism in the United States, the Pulitzer Prize, went this year to reporters who covered leaked documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. This award signals official recognition of the social good that grew out of Snowden's leaks.
Snowden is the government contractor who last year revealed documents that confirmed the NSA had been illegally spying on the online activities of US citizens, as well as non-terrorist targets abroad.
The Pulitzer was for "public service," which means the stories about Snowden were being honored for their importance to society. It may also be the first sign that Snowden, currently living in exile in Russia, will be hailed eventually as a national treasure like Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Perhaps he'll even be allowed to come home.
Writing on the Freedom of the Press Foundation website, Snowden said:
I am grateful to the committee for their recognition of the efforts of those involved in the last year's reporting, and join others around the world in congratulating Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman, Ewen MacAskill, and all of the others at the Guardian and Washington Post on winning the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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.
This decision reminds us that what no individual conscience can change, a free press can. My efforts would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers, and they have my gratitude and respect for their extraordinary service to our society. Their work has given us a better future and a more accountable democracy.