Tuesday, August 05, 2014

It's hard work

This is a report published last month by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU (PDF) about the effect of US government surveillance on democracy. The following passage is from the executive summary.
Journalists told us that officials are substantially less willing to be in contact with the press, even with regard to unclassified matters or personal opinions, than they were even a few years ago. This can create serious challenges for journalists who cover national security, intelligence and law enforcement, and who often operate in a gray area—working with information that is sensitive but not necessarily classified, and speaking with multiple sources to confirm and piece together the details of a story that may be of tremendous public interest.

In turn, journalists increasingly feel the need to adopt elaborate steps to protect sources and information, and eliminate any digital trail of their investigations—from using high-end encryption, to resorting to burner phones, to abandoning all online communication and trying exclusively to meet sources in person.

Journalists expressed concern that, rather than being treated as essential checks on government and partners in ensuring a healthy democratic debate, they now feel they may be viewed as suspect for doing their jobs. One prominent journalist summed up what many seemed to be feeling as follows: “I don’t want the government to force me to act like a spy. I’m not a spy; I’m a journalist.”
The good news for journalists dealing with the extra stress and expense that comes with doing that job in the paranoid modern environment of perpetual surveillance is that  those jobs probably won't last much longer anyway.

Pretty soon they'll all be writing commercials full time.

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