The Guardian and The Washington Post were each awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday for their reporting based on classified documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. This will no doubt annoy many in the intelligence community who believe that Snowden, The Guardian, and the Post have done serious damage to the national security of the United States.
Unlike most disclosures of classified information, this reporting has not raised any central issues about the legitimacy or value of a journalist-source privilege, because Snowden chose to make no secret of his identity. Nonetheless, the bestowal of the Pulitzer Prize presents a good moment to reflect on the appropriate relationship between the government, the press, and source.
The issue is particularly timely at the moment because Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former adviser to presidential candidate Mitt Romney, recently published an article in the journal National Affairs in which he concludes that for Congress to enact a federal journalist-source privilege would be “a bad idea.” Although I admire and respect Schoenfeld, in this, he is wrong.
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