Snowden, Poitras to Receive ‘Truth-Telling’ Honor

2014 Ridenhour Prize given to whistleblower and journalist who first collaborated to break surveillance story

Jacob Chamberlain 
RINF Alternative News

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and one of the journalists who helped catapult his message into the mainstream press, Laura Poitras, were named recipients of The Nation Institute’s 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling on Monday.

“We have selected Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras for their work in exposing the NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional bulk collection of the communications of millions of people living in the United States,” said the Ridenhour awards committee. “Their 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. We 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.”

The award, named after Vietnam veteran Ron Ridenhour–who exposed the massacre at My Lai in a letter to Congress–is given to “a citizen, corporate or government whistleblower, investigative journalist, or organization for bringing a specific issue of social importance to the public’s attention.”

The committee also recognized the work of Glenn Greenwald, Barton Gellman, Ewen MacAskill, who have all worked on the ongoing story and have continued to release articles regarding the mass surveillance programs conducted by the U.S. agency.

Upon hearing that he had been given the award, Snowden stated:

Authority cannot be legitimate if it is not accountable. Public awareness of the NSA’s unconstitutional activities is leading to the first significant intelligence reforms in nearly four decades. These revelations remind us that there are moments in history when a free press is our last line of defense against unlawful government activities carried out in secret and in our name.

It is a privilege to be welcomed into the ranks of the Ridenhour awardees, people who have inspired us through their fearless commitment to truth-telling. I’m especially grateful to be honored alongside Laura Poitras, whose brilliant work over the last year has changed what the public thinks about living under surveillance.

Poitras was the first to “establish encrypted contact with Snowden,” the institute explains, and created lines of communication between Snowden and other journalists.

After being notified of the prize Poitras stated:

Being entrusted by Edward Snowden with disclosures he risked his life to reveal to the public has been the most profound and humbling experience of my life. Reporting on this story alongside Glenn Greenwald has been the most rewarding and mind-blowing. I share this award with Glenn. People are defined by their actions. Ron Ridenhour learned of the massacre in My Lai and revealed it. Edward Snowden saw a system of mass suspicionless surveillance and exposed it. Without their courage we would know of neither.

The award ceremony for the 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling will take place on Wednesday, April 30th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, where both Snowden and Poitras are expected to appear via video link.

Jacob Chamberlain is a writer for Common Dreams.