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US government surveillance programs harm freedom of speech — report

July 28, 2014, 20:12 UTC+3 NEW YORK
Barack Obama’s administration faced repeated criticism for suppressing reports in the field of national security and foreign policy
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The headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA)

The headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA)

© EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

NEW YORK, July 28. /ITAR-TASS/. Large-scale surveillance programs pursued by the US National Security Agency threatened freedom of speech in the country, goes the report compiled by two international human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and American Civil Liberties Union.

“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,” goes the joint report compiled based on the poll among more than 90 journalists, lawyers and former and current US officials.

The organizations said that officials were cautious in conversations with journalists “as any interaction-any email, any phone call-risks leaving a digital trace that could subsequently be used against them”.

Barack Obama administration faced repeated criticism for suppressing reports in the field of national security and foreign policy as well as persecution of officials who agree to cooperate with the media on condition of anonymity. Eight people have been charged with disclosing secret information in recent years under Espionage Act of 1917.

“The United States has held itself out as a model of freedom, democracy” but these values were “threatened by the current surveillance regime in the US”, said one of the report’s authors Alex Sinha.

The organizations urged Congress and Barack Obama to reform the work of special services, increase transparency for the press and not persecute officials cooperating with journalists.

In July, 38 professional journalist organizations in the US addressed Obama with a protest against politically driven suppression of the media reporting activities of the US government.

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