- By Tyler Beaston
- Published: February 25th, 2014
Though Americans have the right to freedom of the press, some instances may require government intervention
The U.S. has recently fallen 13 places in the World Press Freedom Index 2014, which ranks 180 countries based on restrictions and liberties regarding journalism, according to a NY Daily News article by Leslie Larson.
The country is now ranked 46 — not horrible, but certainly not superb, particularly for a free society. Reporters Without Borders, the organization that produces the Freedom Index, lowered the U.S. ranking for a number of reasons, including the infamous Edward Snowden case.
“America’s bad ranking was based on the conviction of WikiLeaks’ informant Bradley (Chelsea) Manning and the treatment of … whistleblower Edward Snowden,” Larson said in her article.
Another influential factor in the drop was the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) examination of Associated Press reporters’ phone logs, Larson’s article said.
I struggle with where I think the government should draw the line between risk management and invasion of privacy. Both perspectives have valid arguments, but I believe the security of the entire nation is most important.
Concerning Snowden and Manning, I consider both as culpable and deserving of punishment for publicly releasing sensitive government data. Certainly some information rightly brought to light government misdeeds, but the necessity of such “whistleblowing” is questionable at best.
You will not often find me agreeing with President Barack Obama, but he made an exceptionally well-reasoned statement in his Jan. 17 speech regarding National Security Agency (NSA) reforms.
“I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets,” Obama said. “If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe or conduct foreign policy.”
Obama continued to explain how the leaks could affect future U.S. intelligence operations.
“Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we might not fully understand for years to come,” Obama said.
Conversely, I see a problem when intelligence agencies, such as the NSA, arbitrarily monitor the communications of American citizens. There is a certain measure of privacy that the Constitution grants people, and that guideline should be respected. Further, the DOJ had no business looking into phone records of reporters.
I think the government has become too expansive and paranoid when its leaders feel the need to randomly investigate citizens and journalists. Once leaders travel down this road, it will be a very difficult slog back to privacy. Citizens should be able to trust government intelligence agencies to protect the country, and those agencies must operate in ways that do not abuse power.
However, I find nothing wrong with keeping tabs on suspicious individuals. In Snowden’s case, he disseminated information that was potentially harmful to U.S. security. Yes, he revealed a few governmental breaches of power, but at the risk of compromising the country’s well-being.
Consequently, he should sooner be classified as a felon than as a champion of freedom.
Ask yourself this: How have we really been affected by any of these revelations? What significant lifestyle changes have we personally made in light of Snowden’s information leak about the NSA? None.
I agree with Reporters Without Borders when they decreased the U.S. rank based on the actions of the DOJ. But Snowden and Manning should not have been influential factors in that reduction.
Government workers should not release information to the public that could backfire and harm the U.S. In other words, the government has some secrets that should be kept. We do not need to know everything.