Polk Awards Go To Journalists Entrusted with Snowden NSA Docs

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Common Dreams

Polk Awards Go To Journalists Entrusted with Snowden NSA Docs

Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Barton Gellman receive prestigious award for revealing extent of secret US surveillance programs

by
Jon Queally, staff writer

From left: the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill and Glenn Greenwald, and documentary-maker Laura Poitras. (Photograph: David Blishen for the Guardian)

The four journalists most responsible for a series of explosive news stories in 2013 based on National Security Agency documents leaked to them by whistleblower Edward Snowden have been awarded this year's George Polk Award, one of the nation's most prestigious and coveted for investigative reporting.

Announced late Sunday, Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras of The Guardian newspaper and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post will receive the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting, one of thirteen categories honored by the annual prizes.

According to Long Island University, which created and bestows the award, the four journalist earned the prize by conferring with Edward Snowden to negotiate the release of the sensitive documents and for using "their extensive backgrounds covering national security to explore the purloined files" and for revealing their "stunning import on the  Guardian US website, describing how the NSA gathered information on untold millions of unsuspecting — and unsuspected — Americans, plugged into the communications links of major Internet companies and coerced companies like Yahoo and Google into turning over data about their customers."

John Darnton, curator of the awards, said: “In the tradition of George Polk, many of the journalists we have recognized did more than report news. They heightened public awareness with perceptive detection and dogged pursuit of stories that otherwise would not have seen the light of day. Repercussions of the NSA stories in particular will be with us for years to come.”

Congratulating her newspaper's journalists, Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of the Guardian US, said: “We’re honored by the recognition from the Polk awards and delighted for Ewen, Glenn, Laura, Barton and their colleagues that their work has been recognized. It has been an extraordinary and occasionally menacing eight months of reporting for the Guardian and the support of our peers through this distinguished award is very much appreciated.”

On Monday morning (and taking a swipe at the U.K. government which along with the U.S. has taken a cold stance towards his NSA/GCHQ reporting and that of his colleagues), Greenwald responded to the award by tweeting:

And in this exchange, the whole team exchanges thanks and comraderie:

Greenwald, a U.S citizen who lives in Brazil, has not returned to his home country since the Snowden revelations first appeared in the spring of last year. Poitras, also a U.S. citizen, remains in Germany where she has been working on a new documentary film as well as publishing a steady stream of news reports based on the Snowden documents with various international outlets.

Speculation has surrounded whether or not both or either of them will return to the U.S. to receive the award. Greenwald has said he will not remain in a self-imposed exile despite threats from some lawmakers to treat him like a traitor or a criminal for his investigative journalism. The Polk Awards are traditionally given to their recipients in-person at an awards gala. This year, the luncheon ceremony will be held in New York CIty on April 10th.

Update (1:07 PM EST):

From The Intercept, the new media outlet co-founded by Greenwald, Poitras, journalist Jeremy Scahill, and billionaire technologist Pierre Omidyar:

Poitras and Greenwald expressed their appreciation for the award Sunday night, and said they are weighing their options on the question of return.

“I would love to accept the Polk award in person with Glenn and Ewen, but I’m not sure I feel safe to travel to the U.S.,” Poitras said in an email. “Listening to senior members of the government describe reporters working on the NSA story as ‘accomplices’ concerns me. On the other hand, receiving this award for the NSA reporting might be the perfect moment to confront this kind of intimidation.”

Greenwald added, “Given that we’ve been accused of ‘terrorism’ by the UK government and ‘accomplices’ by the U.S. government, having our colleagues recognize our work for what it is — journalism — is gratifying.”

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