Secrets, lies and a Pulitzer: a year of revelations

The US

The initial response was to launch a large-scale investigation into Snowden and try to secure his return to the US to face trial. Barack Obama pledged to scale back domestic surveillance and spying on allies, though legislation currently in Congress falls short of what reformers would like, and has largely stalled. The Guardian and Washington Post were awarded the Pulitzer prize for public service in April. In a recent interview, expected 2016 presidential runner Hillary Clinton implied she thought Snowden should have access to a public interest defence in any future case.

The UK

More sluggish to respond, despite the revelations of bulk surveillance by GCHQ. There are now several active legal challenges against the agencies, which have prompted new disclosures: Home Office official Charles Farr last month admitted policies on monitoring Facebook and other social media. This month’s emergency bill to put surveillance activities on a new legal footing contains concessions to privacy campaigners, but has prompted fears they simply boost spying capacity.


One of the most diplomatically explosive revelations was that the NSA was intercepting Angela Merkel’s phone and those of at least 34 other allied world leaders. The standoff came to a head this month when Merkel expelled the CIA’s station chief from the country, as attempts to reach a no-spy deal fell through.

The internet

Campaigners are pursuing reform of the institutions governing the internet, with different proposals attracting support from Brazil, the EU and other governments. The Snowden documents have accelerated efforts to build and fund easier-to-use tools to let even non-technical people communicate privately, including encrypted email and instant chat software.

The books, the films, the plays

In addition to thousands of articles, dozens of documentaries and Laura Poitras’s forthcoming film, Snowden has inspired a play, James Graham’s Privacy, and even a graphic novel. Oliver Stone has bought the rights to multiple Snowden books (including the Guardian’s), while Sony has bought up Glenn Greenwald’s take on events.

James Ball