Edward Snowden’s mantle must be getting crowded with the awards he has received for blowing the whistle on NSA surveillance. His latest is the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, which he received at a ceremony in Washington on Wednesday. Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker and journalist, was, along with Snowden, the co-recipient of this year’s award. She was the first to establish encrypted contact with Snowden and helped to initiate safe lines of communications with other journalists.
The Ridenhour Prizes have been presented to whistleblowers, journalists and the like since 2004. They are named after Ron Ridenhour, a Vietnam War veteran-turned-journalist who exposed the 1968 My Lai Massacre in Vietnam.
The awards committee stated that they gave this year’s Truth-Telling prize to Snowden and Poitras because “[t]heir act of courage was undertaken at great personal risk and has sparked a critical and transformative debate about mass surveillance in a country where privacy is considered a constitutional right.” The committee gave special accolades to Poitras, noting that “[w]e particularly wanted to salute the role that Poitras has played in this story, as we feel that her contribution has not been adequately recognized by the American media.”
Snowden appeared at the ceremony from Russia over a video link and spoke to the roomful of supporters. He took the opportunity to discuss his current situation, noting that “[a] year ago there was no way I could have imagined being honored in this room…I realized the most likely outcome of returning this information to public hands would be that I would spend the rest of my life in prison.” Snowden reiterated that he did it “because [he] thought it was the right thing to do.”
Snowden also provided advice to his supporters and whistleblower advocates, arguing that the best route forward is to “work with Congress in advance to try to make sure that we have reformed laws, better protection…so next time we have an American whistleblower who has something the public needs to know, they can go to their lawyer’s office instead of the airport.”
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