Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan may no longer be a public editor, but her latest column for the Post carries with it a sense of her former role, responding as it does to a Washington Post editorial from the weekend which argued against giving whistleblower Edward Snowden a pardon.
The basis of the Post’s argument is that while Snowden leaked useful, necessary information about an essentially extralegal government surveillance program, (information which earned the Post a Pultizer based on its reporting off the leaks), he also leaked information on another program that the Post called “both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy,” as well as “leak[ing] details of basically defensible international intelligence operations.”
Sullivan disagrees and calls for a presidential pardon for Snowden.
In doing so, she notes criticism of the Post’s stance, but also the wall between editorial and news. “One of the beneficiaries was The Washington Post, which won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for stories made possible by Snowden’s leak of thousands of documents. (The Guardian U.S. shared in that award, given in 2014.) Some see it, then, as hypocritical for The Post’s editorial board to weigh in against a pardon, as it did in Saturday’s paper — even though the editorial-writing side is separate from the newsroom.”
But Sullivan herself “can’t help but see this through the lens of journalism,” and was invaluable as a source.
Snowden worked through journalists, rather than publish documents en masse himself, because he wanted them to be carefully handled and responsibly vetted. He has been critical, in recent weeks, of WikiLeaks because of that organization’s reckless just-publish-everything mentality.
In other words, Snowden acted carefully, responsibly and courageously — and squarely in the public interest.