Ex-UK defense head blames ‘cozy media world’ for Pulitzer

A former British defense chief blamed a "smug, self-congratulatory" attitude in the media for the Pulitzer Prizes awarded to outlets writing about leaks from Edward Snowden.

Liam Fox declined to say whether or not the reporting at The Washington Post and The Guardian was “good journalism,” but “an award of public service for possibly the greatest betrayal of national secrets of our time strikes me as quite bizarre,” he said.

“And I do think there’s a real danger of a very cozy media world patting itself on the back without understanding the consequences of the dangers we face in a dangerous world,” he said at an event at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday.


Fox, who served as the United Kingdom's secretary of state for defense from 2010 to 2011, said that the contested National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs are essential to stopping terrorists, pedophiles and other criminal rings. Shining a spotlight on the methods that government agents use has made it easier for those groups to avoid detection, he asserted.

“The next time you get a bomb going off at a subway or a marathon ... maybe you’ll want to thank those who made it easier for those people to do those things,” he said, a day after the one-year anniversary of the Boston marathon bombing.

Snowden and other critics of the NSA have said the agency’s inability to prevent the Boston bombing last year is a sign that its operations are too broadly focused, which makes it difficult to go after actual terrorist plots. 

The Post and Guardian were honored with the Pulitzer award for public service on Monday. The vaunted award was seen as vindication for the newspapers and former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, the journalist most closely tied with the stories

Journalists should be able to broadly “discuss the extent of surveillance,” Fox said, but the Post and Guardian went too far by discussing specific methods or people involved in the spy operations.

He also criticized Greenwald for having his partner, David Miranda, act as a “mule” to transport secret documents from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro, where he and Greenwald live.

Miranda was detained for nine hours at London’s Heathrow airport last summer with documents on encrypted thumb drives that were reportedly confiscated by airport security.

By trying to sneak the documents past law enforcement and denying the government's order to return files it claimed they could not sufficiently protect, Fox said the reporters went too far.

“I really do worry about the ethics and the integrity of that, and I have real problems being able in any way as a democrat to defend that as ‘freedom of the press,’ ” he said.

Fox is a conservative member of the British Parliament first elected in 1992.