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In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war in 1971.
The Pulitzer committee praised the Guardian for its "revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy".
Snowden, in a statement, said: "Today's decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. 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."
He said that his actions in leaking the documents that formed the basis of the reporting "would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers".
"We are truly honoured that our journalism has been recognised with the Pulitzer prize," said Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian. "This was a complex story, written, edited and produced by a team of wonderful journalists. We are particularly grateful for our colleagues across the world who supported the Guardian in circumstances which threatened to stifle our reporting. And we share this honour, not only with our colleagues at the Washington Post, but also with Edward Snowden, who risked so much in the cause of the public service which has today been acknowledged by the award of this prestigious prize."
Janine Gibson, the editor-in-chief of Guardian US, said: "We're extremely proud and gratified to have been honoured by the Pulitzer board. It's been an intense, exhaustive and sometimes chilling year working on this story, and we're grateful for the acknowledgement by our peers that the revelations made by Edward Snowden and the work by the journalists involved represent a high achievement in public service."