The wide-scale collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency threatens the ability of journalists to gather news and protect confidential sources, and it should be stopped, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 18 news media organizations argued in a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. District Court in New York City.
The Reporters Committee brief supports a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata, but it focuses specifically on the implications for the news media’s confidential sources.
“There is a long history in this country of news media reporting that has exposed abuses of official power, and when that power is brought to bear in a way that directly threatens the ability of journalists to gather news and to promise confidentiality to their sources, it is ultimately the public that suffers,” the brief argued. “Many of the most significant stories in the history of American journalism have relied heavily on confidential sources.”
“The Reporters Committee and news organizations have been in very productive negotiations with the Justice Department over the guidelines for investigating leaks and subpoenaing journalists,” explained Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce D. Brown. “But in the face of such an overbroad telephone tracking program, that cooperation is almost rendered pointless if the government can smother routine newsgathering with ever-present surveillance.”
Joining the Reporters Committee on the ACLU v. Clapper brief were: Advance Publications, Inc.; American Society of News Editors; Bloomberg L.P.; Courthouse News Service; The Daily Beast Company LLC; The E.W. Scripps Company; Fox Television Stations, Inc.; The McClatchy Company; The National Press Club; National Press Photographers Association; National Public Radio, Inc.; The New Yorker; The Newspaper Guild – CWA; Online News Association; POLITICO LLC; Radio Television Digital News Association; Society of Professional Journalists; and Tribune Company.
About the Reporters Committee
Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.
Related Reporters Committee resources:
· Brief: ACLU v. Clapper