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The Aftermath of Snowden And Its Effect On The Free Press

Shortly after Edward Snowden released a series of exposés that revealed Internet surveillance programs such as PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora, as well as the interception of US and European telephone metadata, the Director of the NSA Gen. Keith Alexander expressed blatant contempt for our constitutional right to free speech and freedom of the press. In an interview with the Defense Department's "Armed with Science" blog he stated "I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents and are selling them and giving them out. You know it just doesn’t make sense. We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. It’s wrong to allow this to go on.”

So Mr. Alexander believes that it is fine and dandy for the government to conduct secret indiscriminant data collection on our every phone call, email and private business transaction but he wants to deny the media the freedom to report on their surveillance techniques.

Fast forward 6 months to December 2013 and we are now seeing the disastrous effects that this mass invasion of privacy has had on writers and reporters. In a research study conducted by PEN America chilling ramifications were made known.

Newspaper writers and reporters now assume that their communications are monitored. The assumption that they are under surveillance is harming freedom of expression by prompting writers to self-censor their work in multiple ways, including:

  • reluctance to write or speak about certain subjects;

  • reluctance to pursue research about certain subjects; and

  • reluctance to communicate with sources, or with friends abroad, for fear that they will endanger their counterparts by doing so.

Writers are not only overwhelmingly worried about government surveillance but are engaging in self -censorship as a result.

  • 28% have curtailed or avoided social media activities and another 12% have seriously considered doing so.

  • 24% have deliberately avoided certain topics or email conversations and another 9% have seriously considered it.

  • 16% have avoided writing about a particular topic and another 11% have seriously considered it.

The findings substantiate significant impingement on freedom of expression as a result of U.S. Government surveillance. This impact on the free flow of information should concern us all. As writers continue to restrict their research, correspondence, and writing on certain topics, the public pool of knowledge shrinks and we fall further and further down the slippery slope of totalitarianism.

The United States is quickly evolving into a high tech surveillance grid that is becoming more tyrannical with each passing day. They watch, track, monitor and record virtually everything that we do. The surveillance technologies just continue to become more and more advanced and the control web that is being constructed all around us continues to become even more inescapable.

We are slowly becoming acclimated to the idea of our privacy and even our bodies being invaded on a grand scale. The Patriot Act granted the government the right to search your home or tap your phone without a warrant and established a satellite based intelligence network that listens to your phone calls and picks out key works typed into your computer. Then more assaults to our rights; cameras at intersections, x- ray sensors at airports, all designed to get you used to the idea of your body being violated. If we continue on the path that we are currently on, we will be heading into a future where there will be absolutely no privacy of any kind. Then we can expect censorship of the Internet, martial law to take away our guns and in the ultimate show of absolute dominion, forced microchipping of human beings. This is the path that we are currently on and unless every citizen speaks up and fights for their rights before there are no rights left to fight for. Our liberties and freedoms are literally being strangled to death.

Do you know who else gets watched, tracked and monitored 24 hours a day?

Prisoners do.

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