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Snowden wins whistleblower award in Germany

Published time: August 31, 2013 15:20
Edited time: September 03, 2013 19:37

Demonstrators hold up a placard in support of former US agent of the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden in front of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate as they take part in a protest against the US National Security Agency (AFP Photo / John Macdougall)

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Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been awarded the biennial “whistleblower prize” in Germany, worth some $3,900, in recognition of his “bold efforts” to expose the monitoring of communications data by his former employer.

In Snowden’s address on the presentation of the 2013 Whistleblower Award - channeled by internet activist and journalist Jacob Appelbaum - the former CIA employee said “it is a great honor to be recognized for the public good created by this act of whistleblowing.”

However, he acknowledged that “it is not [him], but the public who has affected this powerful change to abrogation of basic constitutional rights by secret agencies.”

In his statement, he said that “speaking truth to power has caused whistleblowers their freedom, family, or country” in the US due to the country’s “weak legal protections” and “bad laws that provide no public interest defense.”

“This results in a situation that associates an unreasonably high price with maintaining the necessary foundation of our liberal democracy – our informed citizenry,” Snowden said.

“The society that falls into the deterrent trap known in cultural wisdom as ‘shooting the messenger’ will quickly find that not only is it without messengers but it no longer enjoys messages at all.”

The prize, last awarded in 2011, was officially bestowed upon the 30-year-old at a ceremony in Berlin which took place Friday, prompting a nine-minute congratulatory video message from Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald on Saturday.

“If I ran the committee, making the choice of who was to receive this award, it would take me probably one and a half seconds at most to have come to the conclusion that he is the only person deserving of the award this year,” said Greenwald, who published Snowden's leaks, in the honorific speech released in response to the news.

“He told me in good conscience that he could not sit by quietly and allow privacy and Internet freedom to be destroyed while doing nothing about it.”

The organizers of the prize commended Snowden’s work, stating that he had uncovered “massive and unsuspecting monitoring and storage of communication data, which cannot be accepted in democratic societies.”

The whistleblower award was first awarded in 1999 under the auspices of the Association of German Scientists and the German chapter of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA).

Snowden is credited with releasing details of mass surveillance operations by US and British intelligence agencies through his prior connection with the NSA.

It was revealed in June that for seven years, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been using PRISM, a warrantless web surveillance system with a near-limitless ability to spy on anyone’s phone calls, e-mails, video chats, search history and more, with major Internet giants Google, Apple and Facebook being complicit in the scheme.