Welcome to the Edward Snowden-era of national security journalism — a time when no scoop is too small, no detail too minor, and revelations about government surveillance pour forth on an almost daily basis.
It’s a significant departure from the way things used to be.
After Sept. 11, reporters and editors often heeded tremendous pressure from government officials, including the president and/or national security adviser, to hold blockbuster articles concerning classified U.S. spy operations — accepting the warnings that publishing the information could put national security in danger or even lead to another catastrophe.
But just as Watergate changed the ethos of political journalism, the Snowden leaks appear to have upended the way many journalists approach national security reporting. While substantial portions of Snowden’s massive cache of information has been withheld, Americans have been treated to a seemingly endless wave of articles since the first stories landed in June — leaving Obama administration officials and members of Congress fuming and even some veteran journalists concerned that the bar to publish has fallen too low.
Snowden has prompted a free-for-all among journalists itching to tell America’s surveillance secrets, an important generational shift as the nation faces years of growing debate about privacy in an increasingly wired world. The litany of stories come not just from the handful of reporters with access to the former NSA contractor’s treasure-trove of documents but also from competitors eagerly searching for scoops to move the dial on what has become one of the biggest stories of the decade.