Ewen MacAskill

Reporter and internet privacy hero
Ewen MacAskill


Have you seen “Citizenfour,” the Oscar-winning documentary about how Edward Snowden revealed the NSA’s secret mass surveillance programs?

Then you might remember Ewen MacAskill.
Ewen MacAskill Overview ‧ read
Interview with Guardian correspondent Ewen MacAskill
He was the quieter, older Scottish reporter, who accompanied to Hong Kong to meet Snowden.

If he didn’t strike you as much of a movie star, that’s ok. MacAskill is a political journalist with a storied career, and was one of the key figures in revealing the NSA’s terrible abuses of power to the world.

From editing The Scotsman in his home country, to a stint in Washington DC, to making history at The Guardian, this seasoned journalist has had quite the journey. Here’s our biography of Ewen MacAskill, with everything you wanted to know.

Climb every mountain

There isn’t a whole lot of information on the internet about MacAskill’s early life. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, given how much he knows about how governments spy online.

MacAskill was born in 1951 in Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow . The Glasgow of his childhood was in economic decline, as its shipbuilding yards closed down one by one. But MacAskill could still enjoy the countryside, as a member of the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland. He was also an avid film fan, attending St Margaret's Film Club.

Despite the economic downturn, the city could still offer a first class education at the University of Glasgow, where MacAskill graduated with an MA in Modern History and Politics . His degree got MacAskill his first journalism gig at the Glasgow Herald newspaper , which he joined in 1974. He won ‘Scotland's Young Journalist of the Year’ the same year - the first of his many awards.

A globe-trotting reporter

MacAskill’s talent would soon take him all over the world . In 1978 he joined the National Broadcasting Commission of Papua New Guinea. And by 1980, he’d progressed to global news agency, Reuters. MacAskill worked at Edinburgh newspaper The Scotsman from 1981 to 1983. And in 1984, he joined the China Daily in Beijing. The young reporter certainly wasn’t afraid of a new challenge.

By the late 1980s and 90s, MacAskill began to focus more on political reporting . He rejoined The Scotsman, where he was Political Editor for seven years (1989-1996). And his next move was to national UK newspaper, The Guardian - which is where he would make his biggest impact.

Moving up the ranks at The Guardian

It was at The Guardian that MacAskill established himself as a heavyweight political journalist. He was Chief Political Correspondent from 1996 to 2000 and Diplomatic Editor from 2000 to 2007. MacAskill then moved to Washington DC to take the role of US Bureau Chief.

MacAskill’s role in Snowden leak reporting

When invited Glenn Greenwald to meet him in Hong Kong about the NSA files, The Guardian knew exactly who to send with him - MacAskill.

With his decades of international experience, MacAskill played a big role in breaking stories about mass surveillance by the US and UK governments. “I remember looking out the window of the hotel one night and thinking I'm one of the luckiest people in the world, looking over the harbour and being involved in what I thought was the big story of the week ,” said MacAskill . "But look at us now and we are still talking about it.”

MacAskill's Pulitzer Prize

Edward Snowden’s surveillance disclosures were much more than the story of the week. MacAskill’s role in the NSA reporting won him several major journalism prizes.

He shared a 2013 George Polk Award with Greenwald and . “Many of the journalists we have recognized did more than report news,” said curator John Darnton . “They heightened public awareness with perceptive detection and dogged pursuit of stories.”

MacAskill’s newspaper, The Guardian, shared the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service with the Washington Post. Pulitzer noted how The Guardian and MacAskill’s reporting had helped to “ spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.”

MacAskill played by Tom Wilkinson in Snowden film

As if international awards weren’t enough, MacAskill will soon be back on the big screen. But not as himself this time - he’s being played by British actor Tom Wilkinson in the new Oliver Stone-directed biopic, Snowden .

The movie is set for release in May 2016.

A pro interested in truth, not glory

Ewen MacAskill has had an incredible journalism career, even before the NSA surveillance disclosures. And we’re thankful he did. MacAskill’s professionalism and experience made him a key part of the team that brought the Snowden files to public attention.

Clearly a man driven by desire to serve the public rather than personal ego , MacAskill is exactly the kind of journalist the world needs. When the next spying scandal blows up, we’ll be glad if its Ewen MacAskill who gets the scoop again.