Before Edward Snowden revealed – or rather, confirmed – the depth of our nation's surveillance infrastructure, news broke of the Justice Department's surreptitious collection of phone records belonging to numerous Associated Press journalists.
This seizure of journalists' phone records, executed over a two-month span for a DoJ leak investigation, generated an appropriate level of outrage from many corners. Among them were journalists who feared that such an infringement on press freedom would not only reveal to the government exactly how a number of investigative journalists operated with sensitive sources, but would chill such sources from coming forward in the future.
And that is precisely what has happened, according to AP Chief Executive and President Gary Pruitt:
Some of our long-trusted sources have become nervous and anxious about talking to us -- even on stories that aren't about national security. In some cases, government employees that we once checked in with regularly will no longer speak to us by phone and some are reluctant to meet in person.And it's not just happening at the AP, according to Pruitt:
This chilling effect is not just at AP. ... Journalists from other news organizations have personally told me (the DOJ's seizing of AP's phone records) has intimidated sources from speaking to themOf course, it should come as no surprise that such a direct assault on the private operations of a news organization, once made public, is going to chill sources, as it seems to have done across the board.
What is surprising, perhaps, is just how far we've allowed some of our constitutional freedoms to be pushed under the guise of national security and safety.
The AP phone records seizure, as we've come to learn, is the tip of a very large surveillance iceberg, the depth of which we still can't discern.