In a joint statement, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch released a 120 page report documenting how mass surveillance by the US is undermining constitutional rights to freedom of the press and legal council
The 120-page report, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy,” is based on extensive interviews with dozens of journalists, lawyers, and senior US government officials. It documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented US government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions. The report finds that government surveillance and secrecy are undermining press freedom, the public’s right to information, and the right to counsel, all human rights essential to a healthy democracy.
Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate sat down with Alex Sinha, Aryeh Neier fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, and Jeremy Scahill, staff reporter with The Intercept to discuss the threat to Americans’ liberties.
In a new report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union warn that “large-scale surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work.” The report is based on interviews with dozens of reporters and lawyers. They describe a media climate where journalists take cumbersome security steps that slows down their reporting. Sources are afraid of talking, as aggressive prosecutions scare government officials into staying silent, even about issues that are unclassified. For lawyers, the threat of surveillance is stoking fears they will be unable to protect a client’s right to privacy. Some defendants are afraid of speaking openly to their own counsel, undermining a lawyer’s ability provide the best possible defense.
Transcript can be read here
Journalism under fire: America’s freedom of the press is in danger
By Heather Digby Parton, Salon
If there’s one thing that civil libertarians across the American political spectrum tend to agree upon, it’s that the Bill of Rights is a guiding document. It doesn’t say everything but it says a lot. The various political factions do sometimes differ in their emphasis and interpretation, with the right’s civil libertarians often tending to focus more closely on the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause and the 2nd Amendment while the left-leaning civil libertarians take a harder line on freedom of speech and the 4th amendment. This is of course a sweeping generalization which can be disproved in dozens of individual cases, but for the sake of argument, it can probably be stipulated that those who concern themselves with the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution all agree on the Bill of Rights’ importance to our constitutional order. And they tend to agree across the board, with equal fervor, on the necessity of a free press to a functioning democracy. [..]
Considering the reaction of many people in the government toward reporters involved in the NSA revelation, it’s clear they have reason to be paranoid. There are government officials awho consider them to be spies and have said they should be punished as such. Even fellow journalists have brought up the question of “aiding and abetting” as if it’s a legitimate line of inquiry.
The atmosphere of mistrust is also rampant within the government, as with the administration having cracked down on contacts between the intelligence community and issuing threats of legal action even before the Snowden revelations. The institutionalized, government-wide initiative called the Insider Threat Program could have any federal employee looking over his shoulder and worrying that his innocent behavior might be construed as suspicious. [..]
And it’s not just national security agencies that are subject to this program. They are in effect in departments as disparate as the Department of Education and the Peace Corps.
Top Journalists and Lawyers: NSA Surveillance Threatens Press Freedom and Right to Counsel
By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept
Not even the strongest versions of NSA reform being considered in Congress come anywhere close to addressing the chilling effects on basic freedoms that the new survey describes.
“If the US fails to address these concerns promptly and effectively,” report author G. Alex Sinha writes, “it could do serious, long-term damage to the fabric of democracy in the country.”
Even before the Snowden revelations, reporters trying to cover important defense, intelligence and counter-terrorism issues were reeling from the effects of unprecedented secrecy and attacks on whistleblowers.
But newfound awareness of the numerous ways the government can follow electronic trails – previously considered the stuff of paranoid fantasy – has led sources to grow considerably more fearful.