NEFAC, Media Groups: Long-Term Government Surveillance Chills First Amendment Freedoms

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined a group of media organizations to argue against long-term pole camera government surveillance.

Such monitoring, the groups argued in a Dec. 21 amicus brief, threatens First Amendment freedoms and the right to gather news.

“Under the rule that still governs in the First Circuit, investigators could station a permanent, never-blinking eye with an indefinite memory outside any sensitive location on bare curiosity — on the off-chance, say, of catching the next Neil Sheehan visiting the next Daniel Ellsberg’s apartment,” explained NEFAC and fellow amici, referencing the late New York Times reporter and Pentagon Papers whistleblower.

The amicus brief — drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is considering a petition to hear Moore v. United States of America, a case that divided the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and mirrors similar divisions in lower courts about the constitutionality of unflagging surveillance.

“The technology at issue in this case poses an untenable threat to confidential association, and with it the freedom to gather news,” according to the brief. “Too many lower courts have acquiesced in a framework that would give the government discretion to surveil citizens in the most constitutionally sensitive of locations without a quantum of suspicion — to keep, among other predictable targets, inquisitive reporters and suspected sources under constant supervision. The press could not, under that scrutiny, provide the vigorous check on government that the Constitution recognizes and protects.”

NEFAC recently joined a similar amicus brief in Tuggle v. United States which addresses the same issue.

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. The coalition regularly drafts and joins amicus briefs in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, Connecticut Public and GBH-Boston.