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Pen Raises Alarm Over Government Surveillance

PEN American Center | October 13 2006

has joined more than 1,100 writers and free expression advocates in the United States to raise grave concerns over government surveillance and threats against the press, saying authorities are intruding too much on privacy in the name of national security.

PEN recently delivered a petition to congressional representatives and senators in Washington, D.C., and held a panel discussion at the National Press Club that revealed how far the government is reaching into the lives and work of journalists, writers, and librarians.

The panel featured eight speakers who PEN said faced great risk and government reprisals for prying loose information from the government. They included James Risen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York Times" reporter who broke major stories on how President George W. Bush authorised the National Security Agency to spy on Americans and others inside the United States without a court order.

Risen has been threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act for his reporting. He said targeting journalists for prosecution is a back-door way of silencing the press and bypassing constitutional protections on free speech.

ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross found out he and his colleague Richard Esposito were being spied on while reporting on the Central Intelligence Agency's programme of secret prisons and rendition. "A short while after we did our stories, Rich got word through a source, [who said] 'They know who you're talking to. They've got your phone records.'"

"We are finding aggressive efforts to go after us, and it does have a chilling effect," said Ross.

Visit these links:
- PEN: http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/838
- Committee to Protect Journalists: http://www.cpj.org/attacks05/americas05/usa_05.html
- Reporters Without Borders: http://www.rsf.org/country-47.php3?id_mot=246

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