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NSA scandal damages freedom of the press

The controversy that took place between National Security Agency and whistleblower Edward Snowden in the spring of 2013 had global implications that have been in nearly every area of American society. Whether it's the general public's attitudes and level of trust toward major governmental bodies or the financial impact felt by companies that have partnered with the NSA in past years, the full historical weight of the action has yet to be felt.

An area not frequently addressed, however, is how the scandal has affected the way we receive information in the U.S. With a media industry that's notorious for being oversaturated and often resorting to clickability over quality in the age of the social media news consumer, reporters are speaking out about their own concerns on the ability to speak without fear of reprimand from the government. From the least qualified tabloid writer to Pulitzer Prize winners, the question of free speech has been taken to task as Snowden remains in Russia.

New report from journalism's most trusted voices

According to Yahoo News contributor Rob Lever, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch released the results of a study of domestic media this month have indicated that governmental surveillance efforts have curbed the press' willingness to speak freely, as well as their ability to seek legal counsel. Titled "With Liberty To Monitor All" and clocking in at an impressive 120 pages, the document has already attracted a fair amount of attention from uninvolved media outlets and the public alike. Its message boils down to a simple but shocking idea: we now live in a culture where the story is never being fully reported and qualified opinions are not being expressed out of fear, not exactly the press image typically painted in the U.S.

The report's conclusions were drawn as the result of 92 separate interviews with journalists, lawyers and government officials in the country from a wide array of news companies and regions of the country. Judging from the data provided in the study, Lever speculated that much of the press's hesitation stems from what would be considered a leak versus a report, and the concern that doing their job would arise unnecessary, unwanted suspicion from the NSA or other bodies.

"It is not lost on us, or on our sources, that there have been eight criminal cases against sources (under the current administration) versus three before" said Charlie Savage, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist in the report. Evidence presented in the document supports that there have been more cases reported than in the past three administrations combined, in fact.

"With Liberty to Monitor All" and the power to change press stigma
While there's no indication that the report has been addressed by the NSA or any other governmental body as of yet, it features American journalism at its best with the uncommon goal to talk about what's going on in their own industry as opposed to business as usual. News blog The Week indicated in their report that "With Liberty to Monitor All" appears to have been written with the intention of being the inciting incident in a larger discussion about freedom of speech. Perhaps most interesting of all, the government will need to face statements made within the document made by former employees with knowledge of exactly how deep the surveillance machine digs into the press.

However the conversation plays out, bringing the public's attention to the limited stories that are reported for fear of governmental reprimand is an important revelation that is likely to start a great deal of internal analysis from American media consumers. 

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