Paper Calls For Snowden's Prosecution After Using Information To Win Pulitzer
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SNOWDEN")
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: (As Edward Snowden) There's something going on inside the government that's really wrong, and I can't ignore it. I just want to get this data to the world.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
That's a line from Oliver Stone's new film about Edward Snowden. He's the man who exposed surveillance programs at the National Security Agency, and the movie has intensified debate about him. The Washington Post editorial page offered its view the other day. It called for Snowden to return from Russia and face prosecution. That was a much-noticed editorial because The Post was one of the very same papers that published Snowden's information. It won a Pulitzer Prize for its revelations that editors want Snowden prosecuted for providing. The Post opinion reveals a divide in the media and within The Post. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been talking with people on both sides.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Edward Snowden is clearly one of the most important sources for The Post's news side in its entire existence. You can put him up there with Daniel Ellsberg, who provided The Washington Post with the Pentagon Papers after doing so to The New York Times. You can put him up there with Mark Felt, who was revealed a few years ago as being Deep Throat, the famous source from Watergate. What Snowden provided to The Washington Post and to The Guardian's reporters served as the backbone for extraordinary revelations about what the NSA was doing in secret in our name.
INSKEEP: OK. So how does The Post justify this stance, that the guy who got them the information that they published ought to be prosecuted?
FOLKENFLIK: They acknowledged that complication. But what The Post's editorial page says is that this is a guy who broke the law. If he is truly presenting himself as a whistleblower or as somebody acting out of conscience, then he needs to face the music. And they seemingly allude in some ways to, you know, what you think of major civil rights figures and protesters, including Martin Luther King, Jr., which is to say when protesting a law that he saw as unjust, he nonetheless submitted to civil authority. You know, that letter Martin Luther King sent was sent from jail. I think The Washington Post thinks that Snowden should face civil authorities and see what consequences emerge.
INSKEEP: Let me ask you about something in this editorial, though. The Post says, well, Snowden's defenders can say he did a noble thing. He exposed this collection of telephone metadata, including information about Americans. But he also exposed other classified programs that gathered intelligence around the world and did not target Americans. That seems to be the thing that they don't like. But here's my question, David - didn't The Washington Post report on all of it, even the stuff that they are now saying should never have been published?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, certainly some of the stuff that The Post's editorial page seems to suggest is worthy of prosecuting for the disclosures of were things that appeared on the front page of The Washington Post and disclosed by Barton Gellman and his colleagues at that paper. And so...
INSKEEP: That was the reporter, yeah.
FOLKENFLIK: This has exposed a real clash in imperatives and in outlook between the editorial page, a fairly center right sort of hawkish place under the editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, and the the newsroom, run by Marty Baron. It's important to note that Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor, does not answer to Marty Baron. He answers to the publisher, Fred Ryan, and of course to the ultimate owner, Jeff Bezos, the creator of Amazon.
Marty Baron said to me that, you know, if ever you needed evidence that news-side decisions are made separately from editorial-side decisions, here it is. Barton Gellman sent me a statement that said, quote, "I suppose it sets a milestone of some kind for its passive aggressive critique of the paper's own journalism." And then he went on to say it's a good thing for The Post and for journalism that the opinion staff has no say in what counts as news.
INSKEEP: David Folkenflik, NPR's media correspondent, thanks very much.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.