Privacy SOS

Bad week for press freedoms in North America

It's been a bad week for press freedoms. Journalist Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison for linking to something. The lesson Brown draws from his persecution? "[Y]ou are whatever the FBI finds it convenient for you to be at any given moment. This is not the rule of law, Your Honor, it is the rule of Law Enforcement, and it is very dangerous."

Also this week, reports emerged showing that a Mexican mayor ordered a cop to kill a journalist he didn't like; the "officer said they decapitated the journalist, mutilated his body and abandoned it in a ravine." The journalist and social justice activist had been reporting about government corruption and killings. Now he's dead and so cannot report on his own death at the hands of his government.

Finally, we learned this week that Google handed over the private email accounts of three journalists to US federal law enforcement authorities in March 2012, but only disclosed the existence of the surveillance to the targets in December 2014. The investigations editor for Wikileaks, Sarah Harrison, was one target. She told the Guardian, "Knowing that the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick."

The warrants, which sought virtually everything Google held about the three Wikileaks staffers, referenced violations of the 1917 Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or CFAA.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.