Free Speach Advocates Fear "Chilling Effect" After NSA Phone Records Revelation
Published June 8th, 2013
GAINESVILLE - It's a story that struck a nerve with many Americans: the National Security Agency collecting and storing the phone records of millions.
While officials with prior knowledge of the program say it's only being done in order to keep Americans safe, at least one First Amendment expert says this may end up having an even greater effect on our right to free speech.
"I think Americans should be worried to some extent, simply given the vast scope and nature of this," said Clay Calvert, the director of the Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida.
While the government has not gone so far as to monitor the actual substance of phone conversations, Calvert says the sheer number of Americans affected should be worrisome.
"I think that after September 11, 2001, we've always faced this tension of balancing national security on the one hand, and privacy and freedom of speech of telephone communications on the other," said Calvert.
In fact, this phone records revelation has divided many of the original supporters of the Patriot Act, over whether the law was ever designed to justify a program of this scope and size.
But what's even more concerning, according to Calvert, is the impact this revelation will have on every American's First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
"The danger here is a chilling effect on the freedom of speech," said Calvert. "People might not be willing to place telephone calls to others, because they fear the government is eavesdropping on those conversations."
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