CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Four Associated Press reporters won the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting on Tuesday for a series of stories about the New York Police Department's widespread surveillance of Muslims after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Chris Hawley and Eileen Sullivan won the $25,000 prize for their extensive reporting on the spying programs that monitored and recorded life in Muslim communities.
Alex S. Jones, director of the center that gives out the prize, the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, said the Goldsmith judges "found that the AP had shown great courage and fortitude in pursuing what they knew would be a very sensitive story, but it was one that needed to be told."
The four reported that police monitored mosques and Muslims around the New York metropolitan area and kept tabs on Muslim student groups at universities in upstate New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The police also sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip with college students.
The tactics have stirred debate over whether the NYPD is trampling on the civil rights of Muslims and illegally engaging in religious and ethnic profiling. The U.S. Justice Department has said it is undertaking a review of the NYPD's surveillance efforts.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have maintained that the NYPD's actions are legal and necessary in a city under constant threat of another terrorist attack and that police have the right to travel beyond the city limits to do their job.
Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, said that until last August "only a handful of people knew that New York City police were secretly gathering intelligence on American citizens who happen to be Muslim."
"Today, everyone knows, and the value of that intelligence gathering can be freely discussed," Carroll said. "We are extremely proud of this work by Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Chris Hawley and Eileen Sullivan and the reporting that continues to this day."
The award, which has been given out since 1991, was announced at a ceremony at Harvard. Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, gave the keynote speech.
The same series of stories won a George Polk Award in Journalism earlier this year.
The other Goldsmith finalists, who each won $10,000, were:
— ABC News' "20/20," for an investigation that uncovered a failure to protect Peace Corps volunteers who fell victim to sex abuse and that prompted a new law.
— The Center for Public Integrity and National Public Radio, for revealing a government watch list of the nation's worst air polluters that sparked enforcement action in two states.
— The CBS affiliate in Houston, KHOU-TV, for uncovering extreme contamination in Texas drinking water and finding that radiation lab test results were lowered wrongfully.
— The New York Times, for an effort revealing state workers who beat or sexually abused developmentally disabled people kept their jobs, leading New York's governor to force out two top state officials.
— ProPublica and The Washington Post, for an analysis of the Justice Department's presidential pardon recommendations during George W. Bush's administration that showed racial bias and other problems.
The judges also recognized Bloomberg News with a citation for an effort that revealed how the Federal Reserve gave a trillion dollars in bailout loans to Wall Street's biggest banks.
Highlights of AP's probe can be found here: http://www.ap.org/nypd/