By MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The Washington Post and The Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize in public service Monday for revealing the U.S. government's sweeping surveillance efforts in a blockbuster series of stories based on secret documents handed over by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
The Pulitzer for breaking news was awarded to The Boston Globe for its "exhaustive and empathetic" coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt that followed.
The winning entries about the NSA's spy programs revealed that the government has collected information about millions of Americans' phone calls and emails to try to head off another 9/11-style terrorist attack.
The disclosures touched off a furious debate in the U.S. over privacy versus security and led President Barack Obama to impose limits on the surveillance.
Two of the nation's most distinguished newspapers, The Post and The New York Times, won two Pulitzers each.
The Pulitzer for explanatory reporting went to the Post's Eli Saslow for reporting on food stamps in America.
The New York Times won twice in photography: Tyler Hicks was honored in the breaking news category for documenting the Westgate mall terrorist attack in Kenya, and Josh Haner was cited for his essay on a Boston Marathon blast victim who lost his legs.
The NSA stories were written by Barton Gellman at The Washington Post and Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewan MacAskill, whose work was published by The Guardian US, the British newspaper's American operation, based in New York.
"I think this is amazing news," Poitras said in New York. "It's a testament to Snowden's courage, a vindication of his courage and his desire to let the public know what the government is doing."
Snowden, a former contract employee at the NSA, has been charged with espionage and other offenses in the U.S. and could get 30 years in prison if convicted. He has received asylum in Russia.
While his critics have branded him a traitor, others have celebrated the release of the documents, likening them to the Pentagon Papers, the secret Vietnam War history whose publication by The New York Times in 1971 won the newspaper a Pulitzer.
In a statement issued by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Snowden called the award vindication for "everyone who believes that the public has a role in government."
He saluted "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."
At The Boston Globe, the newsroom was closed off to outsiders, and staff members marked the announcement of the breaking-news award — coming just a day before the anniversary of the bombing — with a moment of silence for the victims.
The attack last April 15 killed three people and wounded more than 260 near the finish line of one of the world's most celebrated races, transforming a celebratory event into a scene of horror and heroics.
American journalism's highest honor, the Pulitzers are given out each year by Columbia University on the recommendation of a board of distinguished journalists and others.
The two winners of the public service award will receive gold medals. The other awards carry a $10,000 prize.
The Center for Public Integrity's Chris Hamby won the award for investigative reporting for detailing how lawyers and doctors rigged a system to deny benefits to coal miners suffering from black lung disease.
The prize for national reporting went to David Philipps of The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colo., for an investigation that found that the Army has discharged escalating numbers of traumatized combat veterans who commit crimes at home.
The Pulitzer for international reporting was awarded to Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall of Reuters for their reports on the violent persecution of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar.