With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy

Read the 'With Liberty to Monitor All' Human Rights Watch and ACLU Report

For much of its history, the United States has held itself out as a model of freedom, democracy, and open, accountable government. Freedoms of expression and association, as well as rights to a fair trial, are protected by the Constitution, and U.S. officials speak with pride of the freedom of the media to report on matters of public concern and hold government to account for its actions.

Yet today those freedoms are very much under threat due to the government’s large-scale surveillance programs, along with its own policies concerning secrecy, leak prevention, and officials’ contact with the media. As a new Human Rights Watch-ACLU report makes clear, journalists and their sources, as well as lawyers and their clients, are changing their behavior in ways that undermine basic rights and corrode democratic processes.

If the U.S, fails to address these concerns promptly and effectively, it could do serious, long-term damage to the fabric of democracy in the country.

 

"If I can't report a story without keeping a source safe, I'm not going to report the story"

Large-scale U.S. surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work. Surveillance is undermining media freedom and the right to counsel, and ultimately obstructing the American people's ability to hold their government to account.

A new ACLU-Human Rights Watch report documents the new lengths journalists and lawyers must go to in order to protect their sources and clients, along with the resulting harms to work that is critical for a healthy democracy.

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How Surveillance is Changing Journalism and the Law

Surveillance is placing essential democratic processes in danger.

Journalists are struggling to find ways to protect their data and sources, adopting new and sometimes elaborate techniques. Lawyers need to modify their practices, as well.

Effective representation demands confidentiality and attorney-client trust, which are cornerstones of fairness in the justice system. And when press freedom is harmed, it is much harder to hold our government to account when it missteps or overreaches. 

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National Security Agency building in Ft. Meade, Maryland
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