The NSA whistle-blower accepted the prize for “truth-telling” Wednesday afternoon and spoke via a Web stream.

“A year ago there was no way I could have imagined being here, being honored in this room,” Snowden said in his opening remarks. “When I began this, I never expected to receive the level of support that I did from the public. Having seen what happened to the people that came before, specifically Thomas Drake, it was an intimidating thing. I’d realized that the highest likelihood, the most likely outcome of returning this information to public hands would be that I would spend the rest of my life in prison. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.”

“Now, what’s important about this is I’m not the only one who felt this way,” Snowden continued. He went on to talk about former colleagues at the NSA and its contractors who had doubts about what they were doing but who refused to do anything about it because they feared their lives would be destroyed by the people they worked for.

Snowden closed his remarks by saying that “cooperation and working together” is “the way forward.”

“Thank to the work of our free press, thanks to the work of our elected representatives, thanks to the work of our civil society, these policies, these abuses, the collect-it-all mentality, these systems that are gathering and aggregating the haystack of our human lives are changing,” he said. “And though they’re not finished yet and we haven’t won the day, we have to continue to press for reforms. We will get there so long as they try. A republic if you can keep it, as they say.”

“It’s getting government out from behind closed doors and restoring the public to its seat at the table of government. And together, we can restore the balance of our rights to what our Constitution promises and in fact guarantees.”

The prizes are described on The Nation Institute’s website like this: “The annual Ridenhour Prizes recognize acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society. These prizes memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that whistleblower and investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career. Each prize carries a $10,000 stipend.”

Mother Jones:

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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