Reality Check: Washington Post Calls for Snowden to go to Prison After Winning Pulitzer Publishing His Leaks

There is a huge push online focused on Edward Snowden. That push is for President Obama to issue a full pardon to the former NSA contractor, allowing him to come back to the United States.

But tonight one of the newspapers that published the Snowden leaks, and even won a Pulitzer Prize for them, says he deserves to go to jail.

Why? Let’s give it a Reality Check.

This past weekend something happened that has never happened before.

A major U.S. newspaper actually called for the prosecution of a source who gave them whistleblower information. Yes, the Washington Post actually called for prison time for Edward Snowden.

In case you have forgotten, NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed a number of spy programs to the American public in 2013. Snowden first revealed a massive domestic meta-data program that revealed the NSA was collecting American citizens’ phone calls, text messages and emails.

Snowden also revealed the PRISM program, an overseas program that was used to spy on possible terrorists around the world.

As for the Washington Post, the editorial board claims that for all the programs Snowden revealed, they say only one was justified to be made public: the domestic metadata program, saying that “It was a stretch, if not an outright violation, of federal surveillance law, and posed risks to privacy.”

Regarding the “corrective legislation” that followed its exposure, the Post acknowledges: “We owe these necessary reforms to Mr. Snowden.”

So the Post claims Snowden did the right thing there, but then the Post editorial board goes on to attack Snowden for revealing the PRISM program, saying “(Snowden) also pilfered, and leaked, information about a separate overseas NSA Internet-monitoring program, PRISM, that was both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy.”

That is arguable, but what is not disclosed by the Post is that it was the Washington Post that published Snowden’s revelations about PRISM on its front page.

As The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald points out: “If the Post editorial page editors really believe that PRISM was a totally legitimate program and no public interest was served by its exposure, shouldn’t they be attacking their own paper’s news editors for having chosen to make it public, apologizing to the public for harming their security, and agitating for a return of the Pulitzer?”


And that’s what’s important because what you need to know is that Edward Snowden did not edit, cut down, or control what information newspapers, TV networks and journalists were allowed to see. Instead, he handed over troves of documents which journalists and reporters, including those at the Washington Post, dug through and reported on.

We can argue that about whether Edward Snowden did the right thing, but what we can’t argue about is this: Edward Snowden did not do it alone. To say he deserves prison, and the Post deserves a Pulitzer, is a big part of what is wrong with journalism today.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about it on Twitter.