Bennett: Pulitzer Winners Risen, Lichtblau, Priest ‘Worthy of Jail’

By: E&P Staff

On his national radio program today, William Bennett, the former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration official and now a CNN commentator, said that three reporters who won Pulitzer Prizes yesterday were not “worthy of an award” but rather “worthy of jail.”

He identified them as Dana Priest of The Washington Post, who wrote about the CIA’s “secret prisons” in Europe, and James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times, who exposed the National Security Agency’s domestic (a.k.a. terrorist) spy program.

Scott Johnson of the popular Powerline blog also weighed in today, under the heading “The Pulitzer Prize for Treason,” declaring “Today’s Pulitzer Prize award to the Times brings a new shame to the Pulitzer Prize committee.”

According to an E&P transcript of the audio of his radio program, Bill Bennett said that the reporters “took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others, that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized it — they put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us.

“How do we know it damaged us? Well, it revealed the existence of the surveillance program, so people are going to stop making calls. Since they are now aware of this, they’re going to adjust their behavior . . . .on the secret sites, the CIA sites, we embarrassed our allies….So it hurt us there.

“As a result are they punished, are they in shame, are they embarrassed, are they arrested? No, they win Pulitzer prizes – they win Pulitzer prizes. I don’t think what they did was worthy of an award – I think what they did is worthy of jail, and I think this investigation needs to go forward. “

He urged his listeners to write the top editors of the two papers and said their addresses were posted on his Web site.

Bennett said he was not opposed to Pulitzer prizes “to liberals” or even those at The New York Times. He hailed the Pulitzer for the Times’ Nicholas Kristof. “But these people who reveal our secrets, who hurt our war effort, who hurt the effortsof our CIA, who hurt efforts of the president’s people–they shouldn’t be given prizes and awards for this, they should be looked into–the Espionage Act, the investigation of these leaks,” he advised.

“I’m telling you, I’m hot. I want you to write Bill Keller, I want you to write Len Downie. You can read Howard Kurtz at The Washington Post and decide if you want to write him.”

Kurtz wrote today: “Strikingly, the Pulitzer board honored two reports — on the secret prisons and domestic surveillance — that President Bush personally urged the editors not to publish.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Spruiell, who writes the Media Blog at National Review Online, commented that “the major journalism awards this year went to reporting based on anonymous sources who sought to damage the Bush administration or to commentary that shared the same goal. Sadly, the Pulitzers were no exception.”

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