But just as Watergate changed the ethos of political journalism, the Snowden leaks appear to have upended the way many journalists approach national security reporting. While substantial portions of Snowden’s massive cache of information has been withheld, Americans have been treated to a seemingly endless wave of articles since the first stories landed in June — leaving Obama administration officials and members of Congress fuming and even some veteran journalists concerned that the bar to publish has fallen too low.
Snowden has prompted a free-for-all among journalists itching to tell America’s surveillance secrets, an important generational shift as the nation faces years of growing debate about privacy in an increasingly wired world. The litany of stories come not just from the handful of reporters with access to the former NSA contractor’s treasure-trove of documents but also from competitors eagerly searching for scoops to move the dial on what has become one of the biggest stories of the decade.
“For years … it was like the number of articles to come out on NSA you could count on the fingers on one hand,” said James Bamford, who has written four books on government surveillance. “Now it’s almost impossible to keep up.”
“What we’ve seen with the Snowden revelations is the impact that putting documents out there really has,” added Siobhan Gorman, a national security reporter for The Wall Street Journal, during a recent panel discussion hosted by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.