Will The Washington Post Give Back Its Pulitzer And Stand Trial With Snowden?

from the senseless dept

We already know that the Washington Post editorial board has some cognitive dissonance when it comes to Ed Snowden. Three years ago, right after the Washington Post itself, via reporter Barton Gellman, broke a bunch of the initial stories around the Ed Snowden documents — including the first public report on the Section 702 PRISM program — the editorial board wrote a piece condemning Snowden’s leaks. Now, it’s true (as many point out) that the editorial board is separate from the reporters who work at the paper, but it still is really quite amazing that the editorial board would not only burn a source like that but basically complain about its own journalism.

It appears that three years later, the Post’s editorial board has not changed its perspective. In response to the campaign to pardon Snowden, the Washington Post has come out with a tone deaf editorial against pardoning Snowden, calling for him to be prosecuted, and insisting that Snowden caused real harm with the revelations. Here’s the really incredible part. The Post focuses its complaint on the revelation of the PRISM program — and that is the story that the Post broke. Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian had the first story, about the Section 215 mass phone records surveillance program. But it was the Post that had the first story about PRISM. And yet, the Washington Post now says that while revealing the 215 program may have been a public service, revealing PRISM was a crime.

The complication is that Mr. Snowden did more than that. He also pilfered, and leaked, information about a separate overseas NSA Internet-monitoring program, PRISM, that was both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy. (It was also not permanent; the law authorizing it expires next year.) Worse ? far worse ? he also leaked details of basically defensible international intelligence operations: cooperation with Scandinavian services against Russia; spying on the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate; and certain offensive cyber operations in China. No specific harm, actual or attempted, to any individual American was ever shown to have resulted from the NSA telephone metadata program Mr. Snowden brought to light. In contrast, his revelations about the agency?s international operations disrupted lawful intelligence-gathering, causing possibly ?tremendous damage? to national security, according to a unanimous, bipartisan report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. What higher cause did that serve?

Except it wasn’t Ed Snowden who publicly revealed information about PRISM. It was the Washington Post. And it won a freaking Pulitzer Prize for that reporting as well. And now it says that the revelation of that program should never have happened?


Remember that, while many people falsely think that Snowden is the one who revealed these programs to the public, that’s not the case. He gave the documents to certain journalists, saying that he trusted them to sort through them and determine what was newsworthy, what was not, and what should be kept secret. It was the Washington Post that determined the PRISM program — which is still subject to legal challenges (though so far has been found to be legal) — was serious enough for news coverage. Not Ed Snowden. And yet now the Post says Snowden should be prosecuted for the journalistic decision it made, which earned it a Pulitzer.

Yes, the Post editorial board is free to make such a stupid decision, but it’s only going to harm its journalistic staff. What source is going to go to the Washington Post now, when it’s the very paper that took all the glory from publishing stories from a source — and then called for him to be thrown in jail?

Here’s what the Washington Post’s Executive Editor Marty Baron said about the Pulitzer Prize when it was announced:

Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said Monday that the reporting exposed a national policy ?with profound implications for American citizens? constitutional rights? and the rights of individuals around the world.

?Disclosing the massive expansion of the NSA?s surveillance network absolutely was a public service,? Baron said. ?In constructing a surveillance system of breathtaking scope and intrusiveness, our government also sharply eroded individual privacy. All of this was done in secret, without public debate, and with clear weaknesses in oversight.?

Baron added that without 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. As even the president has acknowledged, this is a conversation we need to have.?

Hmm. That doesn’t seem to fit with what his own editorial board is now saying about Snowden’s revelations. When asked about this now, in response to the editorial, Baron suddenly came down with a case of the “no comments.”

In an email response to Fortune, Post editor-in-chief Marty Baron said: ?I don?t comment on editorials. As you know, that department is entirely separate from the newsroom. You should contact Bart Gellman.?

Gellman, of course, is the reporter who wrote those stories for the Post and who has said he “profoundly” disagrees with the Post’s editorial.

As he should, because the editorial is not just tone deaf and ridiculous, it’s cowardly bullshit that massively harms the reputation of the Post itself, and certainly undermines its credibility with sources.

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Comments on “Will The Washington Post Give Back Its Pulitzer And Stand Trial With Snowden?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It is always good to see the post take a firm position on the front page.

I’ve been talking with some folks about how to protest the WP’s shift towards shill journalism.

The current opinion, is that we should mark one of their paper machines with urine indicator dye, and tell the city homeless that we are playing a game of wheres waldo. First one to find the dyed machine gets $50.

They support people who piss on the first amendment, the least we can do is return the favor.


Anonymous Coward says:

Epic Bullshit!!!

That’s funny… an Organization that relies 100% on the 1st Amendment to operate is saying someone else should not or does not have 1st Amendment protections?

It is damn clear that Washington Post is corrupted and runs it’s storied through some sort of Anti-American filter.

The only thing the Government should be able to do to Snowden is sue him in civil court for breach of contract. The 1st Amendment does not contain an exception that says government can criminally prosecute you if you spill its secrets.

The US Government and its Citizens have shit the bed in Epic fashion and since the Nation is full of mouth breathing cowards that are too scared or foolish to protect or fight for those rights… well lets just say.

Every Nation gets the Government it Deserves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: WP is treasonus

Treason is NEVER the right thing to do.

However, conflating the act of releasing state secrets to the press as being somehow treason is a huge problem. Had Snowden only given those documents to foreign governments, then he could be classified as a traitor, but he released them with the intention of informing American Citizens, which makes him a Patriot and a damn responsible citizen!

Unfortunately, the actual Treason being performed by several elements of the US Government are being grossly over looked.

Treason is defined in the Constitution as…
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

Here is a perfect example of treason that has been allowed to occur are Mexican waving the Mexican flag on American soil during protests. Waving another countries flag around on another countries soil in a protest is a legitimate act of war by the individuals that are doing it. Police and other government entities not responding to these people is a public display of aid and comfort to a group of people that have publicly announced in their own words… “Return sections of America to Mexico sovereignty”.

Sun Tzu wrote that being able to take over an entire country without firing a single shot is the absolute HEIGHT of military genius, but that is a paraphrase of a similart one.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

American’s are not even attempting to or appear willing to defend their own nation, we are definitely going to lose it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: WP is treasonus

You are wrong. Read the preamble to the Constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Read the BOLD you huge fucking tool!

Foreign Citizens have no rights. Only American Citizens have rights when dealing with the government. Providing aid and comfort to anyone that has actively declared that they wish to take from America IS treason as per the definition defined in the US Constitution, the most sacred law of the land! It is clear you no longer even understand what corruption or treason is when you see it. Waving a foreign flag IS a declaration that you stand against that nation as an enemy.

Go to the mirror and repeat these words! “Your are one of the reasons for America’s decline!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 WP is treasonus

9.9 times out of 10 the word troll is used because someone just did not like what was said.

Did I trigger you or something? Far too many people have forgotten or never learned, much less understood, the founding principals of America and what it stands for. I am here to try to change it. But since there are more than enough of your types around I certainly expect to go down kicking and screaming.

Truth Hurts! A Lot! Which is why no one wants to hear it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 WP is treasonus

I am not sure you look hot enough for that, but you can always post a picture along with your price and we will let you know!

Keep in mind, I quoted very well established Writings in support of my words. Sun Tzu & US Constitution. If you believe me to have mental issues, do you claim the same for those that wrote and signed these documents I quoted? It is well understood that many of our Founding Fathers would immediately arm themselves for war if they were suddenly resurrected in this day and age.

JMT says:

Re: Re: WP is treasonus

“Waving another countries flag around on another countries soil in a protest is a legitimate act of war by the individuals that are doing it.”

Poe’s law not withstanding…

A flag is a piece of colored cloth with almost zero potential to cause bodily harm when being waved. War is at an act that typically results in hundreds, thousands or even million of deaths. That you can’t seem to see a difference is quite extraordinary. You’re either demonstrating profound ignorance or just having a laugh.

Chuck says:


No, they won’t. Glad we got that settled.

That said, the Pulitzer committee (I do believe that’s a thing, but maybe the people who give out that award have a more formal name? Too lazy to look that up right now…) might consider rescinding the award.

The vast majority of the “journalism” here – reviewing the documents, ensuring proper sections were redacted, etc – was done by The Guardian in the UK, not by ANY US paper. idk if foreign papers are eligible for Pulitzer awards, but if they are, then The Guardian should’ve gotten the award in the first place. WaPo never did much more than repackage The Guardian’s work for a US Audience. None of the due diligence fell on their shoulders. All they had to do was American-ize the Brits work.

Considering how ungrateful they’re being, and assuming that foreign papers are eligible, I say just transfer the award to the people who did the real work.

Who knows, maybe it might teach reporters at US Newspapers how to be, yanno, actual Journalists again. (Hint: You have to be more detective, less author and typist.)

SirWired (profile) says:

Keeping stuff that should have been confidential secret WAS Snowden's Job

Yes, it is ridiculous the Post is calling a story that it broke a criminal violation.

But on a larger note, it is ALSO ridiculous that Snowden decided to outsource what should and should not be published to the journalists he turned over information to. As a whistleblower of classified information, that’s HIS job, not one he can pawn off to somebody else and pretend it was all somebody else’s fault.

If he had restricted the information he handed over solely to programs of dubious domestic legality, he’d be a lot more likely to earn a pardon. But since he simply turned over every intelligence program he could get his hands on, he cannot wash his hands of the consequences of this actions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Keeping stuff that should have been confidential secret WAS Snowden's Job

But on a larger note, it is ALSO ridiculous that Snowden decided to outsource what should and should not be published to the journalists he turned over information to.

This is a HUGE intellectually dissonant comment. The press decides what is and is not published, regardless of what Snowden, Government, or The People want. Snowden can no more control what the press does than he can control what the government does.

If he had restricted the information he handed over solely to programs of dubious domestic legality, he’d be a lot more likely to earn a pardon.

Whom pray tell should be the gate keeper to this definition of “dubious domestic legality” in your view? When all you have is a hammer, all problems start looking like nails… and when you get to decides what is dubious or not, then all information given to the press only contains nails.

You see where that leads? Keep your bankrupt logic to yourself. As an American Citizen he has the right to turn over anything he has or can get to the press, without any legal penalty. However, he can still be sued for breaching contracts that he has signed that required him to keep secrets.

The Constitution has NEVER provided any exceptions to our rights. But I sit here while the vast majority of fellow citizens and members of government out right REFUSE to even read, and even fewer comprehending the English fucking language enough to understand that somehow we have let the government scribble the words “Unless Government Says Otherwise” across the entire face of the US Constitution! There is not even a single Article or Amendment that has not been ignored or assaulted by EVERY branch of government!

Or I am just called a Troll because people hate the truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Keeping stuff that should have been confidential secret WAS Snowden's Job

Well, the internet is now effectively the new press. Sure that is an old term, but most understand what is meant by it.

I am just making it clear that what is and is not published and what secrets are kept hidden or set free are often far out of the control of the people that believe they have that control.

SirWired (profile) says:

Re: Re: Keeping stuff that should have been confidential secret WAS Snowden's Job

“The press decides what is and is not published, regardless of what Snowden, Government, or The People want. Snowden can no more control what the press does than he can control what the government does.”

As the one providing the classified information, Snowden was in TOTAL control as to what was published. If the information was not suitable for publication, he had to simply not provide it to the press to begin with. Since he chose to do a data dump of everything, he gets to bear the consequences.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Keeping stuff that should have been confidential secret WAS Snowden's Job

So is “Snowden should have personally read and curated every document he copied” the latest in the line of shifting the goalposts to find some new reason to blame the whistleblower instead of the NSA?

Well, at least we’ve gotten past “he should have gone through the proper channels,” I guess.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Keeping stuff that should have been confidential secret WAS Snowden's Job

Snowden was in TOTAL control as to what was published

You are just not playing with a full deck are you? Even if Snowden released only specific information he still cannot guarantee if it is published at all or without editing.

No one is EVER in TOTAL control. Control is an illusion arm chair fools entertain themselves with in dark dreary corners!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Keeping stuff that should have been confidential secret WAS Snowden's Job

Your points are well made. It was Snowden who had control over all of the documents, and it was he who made the decision to release them unconditionally and without the lawful authority to do so (and anyone who thinks he read each before sending them along to his entourage of reporters lives in a world of self-induced fantasy).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Keeping stuff that should have been confidential secret WAS Snowden's Job

without the lawful authority to do so

Great! Another person whom does not read the Constitution or does not comprehend. The LAW/Government/Courts in no capacity can Constitutionally prevent a person from going to the press.

Snowden’s problem are all entirely civil. This is one of the fundamental problems with American mindless civilians. A critical failure to even understand anything about the Constitution.

The Constitution is the defacto LAW of the Federal Government, it dictates its powers & its limits. The Federal Government does not follow it, because people like you allow the government to tell you what it does and does not mean. If you want to know the truth, go take some English lessons, attend a course on logical & critical thinking, and by all fucking means pick up a DAMN DICTIONARY! You are in serious need of enlightenment!

Whatever says:


I am sort of amazed by what appears to be pretty black and white thinking on an issue that has evolved and changed over time.

The WP did what it thought was it’s journalistic right and it’s best choice when it published the Snowden leaks. However, over time it has become clear that Snowden didn’t just want to expose PRISM or whatever, but rather that he has a much deeper motivation which appears to be long term harm to the US and it’s relationships around the world.

Snowden didn’t leak documents to prove the existence of PRISM. He data dumped. In that data is good and bad, right and wrong, and all of that dirty laundry is out there. Just like Private Manning, there may have been some sort of initial goal, but such huge data dumps have a life of their own. They have negative consequences far beyond the issues that the leaker was supposedly trying to expose.

Snowden isn’t a hero. He’s someone who took an oath to the country and then ignored that oath to try to take down the government. He continues to this day, feeding his friends in Moscow with more information and more angles to work. That’s not an American hero…

The WP has finally realized they got played. It’s nothing more than that.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 wow

See, you don’t realize the problem: Snowden didn’t just discuss monitoring Americans, rather he released all about the legal (but unsavory) world of communication spying around the world, and the people involved. That helps the enemy (and hurts the US) by outing sources, making methods well known, and generally giving the enemies of the US an advantage they did not have before.

They knew the US might be listening – now they know exactly how and to what extent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: wow

Funny, I don’t recall “realizing they got played” somehow diminishes the WP’s involvement or responsibility. They got news from a source and decided to benefit from it by publishing it. Sounds a lot like the “secondary”, “tertiary” and “accessory” you enjoy describing ISPs and search engines with regards to piracy so much.

Whatever says:

Re: Re: wow

There is no claim that it diminishes their responsibilities here – only that they finally have figured out that they were not doing ground breaking journalism, just that they were used as a conduit for a guy who had a major axe to grind, I guess.

It is sort of like a little old lady suddenly realizing that the “nice man” helping with her investments was helping her to defraud the bank. It doesn’t change the end results!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: wow

So what you’re saying is that you think the Post is also to blame for helping Snowden spread the news, more so because the Post earned a significant award from doing so? The analogy of the “little old lady” doesn’t work either, because unlike victims of confidence tricks, the Post can’t claim it didn’t know any better.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 wow

Well, first you are playing a game. It’s not a comparable situation, nice try. The Post was, well, post crime and not before it. Quite simply, there is nothing the Post could do that would have stopped the crime (where as loaning car to someone who is drunk might not be such a good idea).

Second, the Post’s involvement is different. They don’t have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight on this one. At the time, they probably thought they were doing something good to inform the public. They probably didn’t reaize at the time that Snowden was using them in the same manner that Assange has used the media to push his agenda. They thought they were doing good journalism, instead Snowden was meat puppeting them.

They were manipulated, sadly as much by their own greed and desire to “break the big story” as Snowden. But overall, it’s just a perfect victim being hit by the perfect conman.

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