The Ridenhour prize for truth-telling will be given to Edward J. Snowden and Laura Poitras, the filmmaker and journalist who helped Mr. Snowden disclose his trove of documents on government surveillance.The Ridenhour Prize is validation for Snowden from the U.S. First Amendment, transparency and open government community.
The award, named for the Vietnam veteran who helped expose the My Lai massacre and later became an investigative journalist, is expected to be announced on Monday morning.
While he has received some 25 international awards, the Ridenhour is only his second major U.S. award. (Snowden received the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in October 2013). Snowden joins winners like Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, and fellow NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake.
Laura Poitras, a key journalist and documentary filmmaker who received Snowden's revelations will receive the Truth-Telling prize with Snowden, a deserving recognition of her courageous effort to report Snowden's revelations. Poitras, along with Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Barton Gellman will receive the prestigious Polk Award for their reporting later this week.
Without Snowden, the NSA's mass surveillance apparatus would remain secret and unaccountable. Snowden and Poitras receiving the Ridenhour Prize should be a wake-up call in the US. Instead of calling Snowden "fugitive" or "leaker," the U.S. media should refer to him as "winner of Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling" and the term that has always been most accurate "whistleblower."
This is the second time in three years an NSA whistleblower has been recognized for Truth-Telling - Thomas Drake won the prize in 2011. The need to protect and encourage intelligence community whistleblowers has never been stronger, and the retaliation they are facing has never been more severe. Three years ago Drake accepted the Ridenhour Prize in the midst of defending himself against Espionage charges. (The government's criminal case against Drake collapsed under the weight of the truth in spectacular fashion months later.) Snowden receives the award under threat of Espionage Act charges and as an aslyee in Russia, unable to return home.
The Ridenhour Prize establishes that the U.S. First Amendment, journalist, and open government communities view Snowden as a truth-teller deserving recognition. Yet, as with Drake, the government seeks to imprison Snowden, or worse, considering the threats to Snowden's life from high-level U.S. government officials.
Snowden's recognition as a Ridenhour Prize-winner diminishes the government's false caricature of him, and provides an opportunity to turn the public's gaze appropriately to Snowden's revelations. The Ridenhour Prize validates Snowden as a truth-teller in the U.S. Thanks to Snowden, we know the truth about NSA, and the public can focus its attention on finally rolling back the surveillance state.