A Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Edward Snowden, a former U.S. Intelligence Community employee and whistleblower who in 2013 released, through journalists, documents that revealed warrantless mass surveillance of Americans’ telephone records, the government’s extraordinary level of access to the data of nine giant internet companies including Google and Facebook, and U.S. surveillance of phone calls by world leaders. The revelations led to widespread public concern, accusations of treason, congressional investigations, demands for more transparency, and eventually the enactment of at least some reforms, via the USA Freedom Act of 2015. Snowden received numerous international awards for his work. He has been the subject of a documentary, Citizenfour, and Snowden, a biographical film written and directed by Oliver Stone. His autobiography Permanent Record was published in 2019.
On September 2 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the warrantless telephone dragnet revealed by Snowden violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and may well have been unconstitutional.
Past winners of Szasz awards include First Amendment journalist Nat Hentoff, Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, computer-privacy champion Phil Zimmermann, television journalist John Stossel, William Mellor and Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice, law professor Richard Epstein, development economist Peter Bauer, libertarian feminist Joan Kennedy Taylor, Cato Institute founder Ed Crane, Families Against Mandatory Minimums founder Julie Stewart, legal scholar and Szasz coauthor George J. Alexander, anti-affirmative-action activist Ward Connerly, psychotherapist Phil Barker, counselor Poppy Buchanan-Barker, economists Bryan Caplan and Donald Boudreaux, and journalist Brian Doherty.
For more than five decades, until his death in 2012, Szasz distinguished himself as the preeminent defender of individual rights in the fields of psychiatry and psychology. He remained a steadfast champion of the classical-liberal values of voluntary interaction, the rule of law, and an open society. His struggle on behalf of civil liberties was indefatigable, sustained by a lifetime of brilliant intellectual accomplishment. Long a professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center/Syracuse, Szasz was the author of some 25 books, including The Myth of Mental Illness and The Therapeutic State, and hundreds of scholarly articles. Born in Budapest in 1920, he died in Syracuse in 2012. Among Szasz’s other books are Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared; The Medicalization of Everyday Life; Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts and Pushers; Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences; and Cruel Compassion: Psychiatric Control of Society’s Unwanted.
The Thomas S. Szasz Award is a project of the Center for Independent Thought. After 30 years, this will be the last presentation of the award.