Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Story of the Year 2013: National Security Agency Digital Spying

Newport, RI–Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes and G. Wayne Miller, director of Story in the Public Square, released a video announcing the first winner of Story of the Year today:

Ludes and Miller also released the following statement announcing Story of the Year 2013:

We are pleased to announce our pick for the first annual Story of the Year – that one narrative—or story–from the last 12 months that we believe has most significantly affected American public dialogue and policy.

There was plenty of competition: the botched rollout of Obamacare, the federal shutdown, the continuing impasse on immigration reform, the agreements on Syrian chemical weapons and Iran’s nuclear program, even the election of Pope Francis. All of these stories held our attention.

But for story of the year, 2013, we have chosen disclosure of the National Security Agency’s massive digital spying operation.

The story broke in June, when newspapers in the United States and England began publishing stories based on up to 200,000 documents stolen from the national security agency by Edward Snowden, a former contractor to the agency.

The first reports described NSA collection of phone call data from U.S. customers of Verizon. As more documents were published, it was clear that the NSA was monitoring email and other information, some obtained from Aol, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The revelations led to denials, confirmations, congressional hearings, proposed legislation, international backlash – and growing public unease that contemporary America had taken on an Orwellian mask. For their part, the president, the NSA and others defended the surveillance programs as authorized by congress, reviewed by the courts, and deemed necessary by the commander-in-chief for security in the post-9/11 world.

As 2013 draws to a close, the story is still unfolding and the debate is really just beginning. Americans are questioning their government – and pondering anew the meaning of privacy in the digital age. America’s allies are asking questions, too. And you can be sure that America’s adversaries are changing the way they operate as well.

This is a vital story that will be with us for years—and one that we believe is worthy of our pick as the Pell Center’s 2013 story of the year.

We encourage you to visit, where you can join the discussion about government spying and where you can learn more about story in the public square, a program open to all. And please visit our Facebook page, — and follows us on Twitter: @pubstory.

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