The Huffington Post |The Associated Press

Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, who first reported the U.S. government's massive surveillance program, received the George Polk Awards for National Security Reporting at New York's Roosevelt Hotel on Friday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras returned to the U.S. Friday and received George Polk Awards for their stories based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

While it seemed unlikely that the federal government would impede their travel through John F. Kennedy International Airport, their arrival from Germany was closely watched by the media and civil rights activists.

Their return carried "a fair amount of symbolic resonance," Jack Mirkinson of The Huffington Post wrote:

Poitras has been repeatedly detained at the American border in connection with her journalistic work, and Greenwald has been repeatedly compared to a criminal accomplice since he began working with Snowden last summer. His partner, David Miranda, was detained at London's Heathrow airport last year.

Greenwald moved to Brazil following his national security stories for The Guardian, but he had planned to return to the U.S. and "test the First Amendment," he told HuffPost Live. He has left The Guardian for The Intercept startup funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

In accepting the Polk awards for national security reporting, also awarded to Ewen MacAskill and Barton Gellman, Greenwald and Poitras said the honor was really Snowden's, The Associated Press reported:

Greenwald said, “I hope that as journalists we realize not only the importance of defending our own rights, but also those of our sources like Edward Snowden.”

Snowden has been charged with espionage and faces 30 years in prison if convicted. He lives in Russia, having been granted asylum for a year.

Greenwald and Poitras are also in the running for a Pulitzer prize. Winners will be announced Monday.