U.S. spying programs are making government sources too skittish to divulge sensitive information to reporters, especially on computer-based technology, making it difficult for journalists to hold powerful entities to account, according to a 120-page report released Monday.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch said it interviewed dozens of journalists, lawyers and senior government officials for its joint report, which found these professionals are “adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented U.S. government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions.”
Reporters said they need to get creative in light of the tense atmosphere. Some are using encrypted computers or disposable “burner” cell phones to talk to sources, while some will not communicate electronically at all.
The situation directly weakens the media’s ability to obtain information about what the government does, the organizations said.
“The U.S. holds itself out as a model of freedom and democracy, but its own surveillance programs are threatening the values it claims to represent,” report author Alex Sinha, Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, said. “The U.S. should genuinely confront the fact that its massive surveillance programs are damaging many critically important rights.”