The eleventh annual Ridenhour Prizes were held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on April 30. This year Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras were jointly awarded the 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling for exposing the US government's vast warrantless surveillance operation. Their revelations sparked a debate on the constitutionality of mass surveillance, and how technology has transformed the parameters of individual privacy. Journalist and NSA expert James Bamford presented the award and Poitras and Snowden accepted via live video. Accepting the awards for each winner in person were Edward Snowden's father, Lon Snowden; Government Accountability Project attorney and Snowden's co-counsel, Jesselyn Radack; and NSA whistleblower William Binney.
"I have spent many years in war zones documenting, and I have not experienced the kind of fear and intimidation that I have doing the reporting on the NSA," Poitras said as she accepted the award.
Laura Poitras accepts The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. All photos by: NATHAN MITCHELL
"At this point, the responsibility lies in the hands of citizens [about] how to move forward with this information," she said.
"A year ago," Snowden said as he accepted The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, "there was no way I could have imagined that I would end up here, being honored in this room. When I began this I never expected to receive the level of support that I did from the public." As for why he decided to expose the NSA's mass surveillance operation, Snowden said, "I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do."
Edward Snowden accepts The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling All photos by: NATHAN MITCHELL
Frederick (Fritz) A.O. Schwarz, Jr. was awarded The Ridenhour Courage Prize for his life-long commitment to strengthening democracy and rule of law. As Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel said as she presented him the award, "Since the dawn of his professional life, Fritz has demonstrated a remarkable and consistent commitment to public service. He's always sought out the hard issues."
Katrina vanden Heuvel and Fritz Schwarz after the ceremony. All photos by: NATHAN MITCHELL
"I'm deeply honored to be here with the other winners; I'm deeply honored to win this award," said Schwarz. Schwarz served as the Chief Counsel of the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, engaging in the most wide-ranging, effective, and famous investigation of the intelligence community that the nation has seen. "It's harder to keep things secret today than it was during the era that we looked at in the Church Committee," he said. At the end of his speech, Schwarz noted, "In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said [that] a just government depends upon the 'consent of the governed.' Well, the consent of the governed is not meaningful unless the governed are informed."
Sheri Fink accepts The Ridenhour Book Prize. All photos by: NATHAN MITCHELL
Sheri Fink, author of Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, received the 2014 Ridenhour Book Prize. In this book, Fink reconstructs the events at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005 and the struggle to preserve life amidst chaos. Journalist Eyal Press presented the award, calling the book "a superb piece of narrative journalism and investigative reporting."
Eyal Press presents The Ridenhour Book Prize. All photos by: NATHAN MITCHELL
Filmmaker Dawn Porter accepted The Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize for Gideon's Army, a film that follows three young public defenders in the Deep South as they struggle with staggering caseloads, long hours, and low pay, trying to balance their commitment to public service with a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point.
Dawn Porter accepts The Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize from Jonathan Rapping, founder of Gideon's Promise. All photos by: NATHAN MITCHELL
"I am so thrilled that Gideon's Army is not only being recognized in criminal justice circles but also for what I hoped it would do, which is truth-telling," said Porter. "Common to the awardees, I think, is a desire to tell the truth, not only about injustice or wrongdoing, but to tell the truth about things that I think many of us would rather not see."
To learn more about The Ridenhour Prizes, click here.