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SPJ joins amicus brief urging Court to halt NSA telephone surveillance


For Immediate Release:

David Cuillier, SPJ President, 520-248-6242, spjdave@yahoo.com
Ellen Kobe, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, ekobe@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists has signed on to an amicus brief written by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press that encourages the Supreme Court to consider granting a preliminary injunction to the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU v. Clapper is a case in which the ACLU has filed suit against James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, arguing that the collection of telephone log records by the NSA violates the First and Fourth Amendments. The ACLU is seeking a preliminary injunction in federal court in New York to stop the NSA’s collection of all telephone log records for the NSA’s own database.

The brief is aimed at emphasizing the deleterious effect that the NSA’s program has on the media’s ability to report on highly sensitive issues that are of great interest to the public. It argues that the most meaningful stories in journalism — particularly those related to national security — have relied on confidential sources, and that constant government surveillance makes those confidential sources increasingly hesitant to provide information to journalists knowing that their identities could easily be discovered. The result is, of course, a decline in quality journalism and harm to the public’s right to know.

“Many of the most significant stories in the history of American journalism have relied heavily on confidential sources,” the brief says. “When the risk of prosecution reaches such sources, quality reporting inevitably diminishes. The widespread government surveillance at issue here makes these sources increasingly wary of contacting journalists as they try to report meaningful, informative, and accurate news stories.”

As a free press and free speech advocate, SPJ initiates and joins amicus briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases. Most recently, SPJ joined briefs discouraging courtroom restrictions and acknowledging that the NSA’s collection of American Civil Liberties Union telephone records violates the First and Fourth Amendments.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.


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