Laura Poitras wins 2014 Pulitzer Prize for NSA coverage

The documentary filmmaker (pictured) is among a team of reporters to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism.
April 14, 2014

Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (pictured) is among the team of reporters to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism.

The Washington Post and The Guardian’s U.S. edition won the prestigious award for their reporting on the National Security Agency (NSA) leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden.

Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Poitras led The Guardian‘s coverage, while Barton Gellman led the coverage and at The Washington Post in cooperation with Poitras.

Poitras was among the three reporters to first meet with Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room 10 months ago. The whistleblower had approached the filmmaker because of her know-how with encryption technology. She then helped put him in touch with Greenwald and The Washington Post.

The Pulitzer Prize committee praised both media organizations for their “revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.”

“Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government,” Snowden said in a statement posted on The Guardian‘s website. “We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance.”

Poitras, who is working on a documentary feature about surveillance, was among realscreen’s Trailblazers for 2013. She is no stranger to high-profile awards. She arrived in New York City last week to accept the Polk Award for national security reporting alongside Greenwald, MacAskill, Gellman and the editorial teams at The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Last year, the International Documentary Association awarded her its Courage Under Fire Award for her reporting on the NSA story. In 2007, her Iraq War documentary My Country, My Country was nominated for an Oscar and her 2010 doc The Oath won a cinematography prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Poitras’ reporting on the U.S. war in Iraq made her the subject to airport searches and government surveillance for six years. She has been a vocal critic of the surveillance state and in 2012 she produced The Program, a short doc on NSA employee-turned-whistleblower William Binney for The New York Times‘ Op-Docs initiative.

In February, Poitras teamed up with Greenwald and reporter Jeremy Scahill to launch online news outlet The Intercept.

Check out the full list of 2014 Pultizer Prize winners here.

The Pulitzer honor comes as Johanna Hamilton’s 1971 – a documentary backed by Poitras, looking at a group of whistleblowers who took on the FBI in the early 1970s –  is to have its world premiere at Tribeca in New York this Friday (April 18).

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.