Reporters’ privilege and free speech
The laptops that Barrett was charged with obstruction for concealing contained journalistic sources and work product, including a book-in-progress. The First Amendment is understood as protecting reporters from revealing confidential information or sources, but DOJ investigations into national security leaks are eroding our constitutional values. The FBI raid which led to these charges was based on false information, and there was no crime to investigate. It was nothing more than an attempt to stifle Barrett’s reporting on the public-private partnership on surveillance concerns and inhibit his research.
Press and information freedom
We believe that Barrett is being persecuted because of his work exposing the activities of private security and intelligence companies that do the government’s dirty work and spy on the public. If citizens are not allowed to research the growing surveillance state, what will happen in the future to privacy, transparency and our civil liberties? His case is having chilling effects on those who would seek to shed light on corruption and abuse among government contractors.
We think that this case is a prime example of prosecutorial overreach. Despite Aaron Swartz’s suicide, the government is still waging an unjust war on whistleblowers, journalists, and information activists. People are being prosecuted for political acts or merely because the government doesn’t agree with them. Why is Barrett being charged when numerous other people, including established reporters, shared the same link? Moreover, why is the FBI so afraid of the speech of a 5’9″ 150lb writer as to warrant heavily armed raids on his apartment?