shutterstock_160304900

An Outrageous Gesture from the Pulitzer Prize Committee — John Yoo

I’m not surprised that the Pulitzer Prize committee gave the Washington Post and The Guardian US a prize for pursuing the sensationalistic story of Edward Snowden —even though the story is a disaster for the country. Unlike some on both the right and the left, I do not see Snowden as any kind of hero. He should be returned to the United States for prosecution. It is another sign of this Administration’s weakness in foreign affairs that it cannot persuade other countries to turn him over.

I don’t, however, think we need to automatically read the prize as a vindication of Snowden’s crimes. Awarding a prize to a newspaper that covered a hurricane or runs a photo of a grisly crime does not somehow justify the underlying tragedy. Yes, there is a difference here, in that the harm comes from the public release of the material. I’m not sure, however, that the distinction between the event itself and publicity is key.

It would have been different if the newspapers themselves had a hand in facilitating the violation of the law. One would hope the Pulitzer committee would not reward a newspaper for actively assisting Snowden in stealing classified information from the NSA or fleeing justice — that crosses the line from coverage of an event to abetting a violation of American law.

I don’t think, however, that there is anything you can do to stop an Edward Snowden once he steals the information and decides to make it public. If the Post didn’t publish it, someone on the internet would have. See WikiLeaks (at least the Pulitzer Committee didn’t give Julian Assange a prize. Though one now wonders why.)

This Administration, despite its effort to prosecute leakers, is now responsible for the most destructive intelligence setbacks in modern American history. This is in part because, for all the efforts it has taken after the fact, it has not done enough to secure U.S. intelligence at the source. That’s great for Snowden and the Post, but bad for the country.