Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School, worked for nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, National Public Radio and other news organizations in Latin America, the Middle East and the Balkans. He was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of global terrorism. Hedges is a fellow at the Nation Institute and the author of numerous books, including War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.
Statement from Chris Hedges
I am no stranger to violence, conflict and acts of terror. I covered wars and terrorism as a reporter for nearly two decades, most of them with The New York Times. I was in Central America for five years covering the conflicts in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. I spent seven years in the Middle East and three years covering the war in the former Yugoslavia. I was based in Paris after the attacks of 9/11 and covered al-Qaeda in Europe and North Africa. I know the cost of terrorism and the consequences of war. I continue to communicate by phone and email with people — anonymous sources among them — in many of these regions.
Those who use fear and the specter of terrorism to justify spying on Americans are attempting to make work like mine impossible. They seek to silence reporting that does not cater to their peculiar vision of the world. I am wary of late-night, last minute briefings, of rushed legislation, and bills which strip from the law the most fundamental checks and balances upon which our democracy depends.
I joined this lawsuit because as a journalist I believe that excessive surveillance in the name of fear is the first step towards totalitarianism. When the administration brands those who stand up for the civil liberties and Constitutional protections (the very ones they say they are fighting to protect) as naïve or turncoats, liberty is in peril.
This law does away with the basic privacy protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. I often report from countries where totalitarian governments routinely violate the privacy of their citizens and where it is not safe to express political or personal opinions to any outsiders. The perception of the United States as a law abiding, rights-respecting country, in the past, often created a sense of security for my sources. They knew they did not have to worry about their rights being violated by the American government. They could speak with me freely. I rely on that sense of privacy in order to get to the truth. Without it, free speech and the freedom of the press — hallmarks of a free society — suffer incalculable harm.
When privacy and free speech are diminished, our democratic institutions crumble. I believe that the majority of my international communications will be intercepted by the government without any meaningful oversights or checks on that intrusive power because of this law. This law is using terrorism as a red herring to permit wholesale spying. It is being used to thwart reporting that shines a light on aspects of U.S. policy those in power find inconvenient and seek to keep secret. This law removes our Constitutional right, indeed our duty, to expose deceit and lies, to inform the American public and to protect democratic dissent. We cannot be paralyzed by fear. We will be stripped, if we do not resist, of our few remaining rights. To resist, while there is still time, is not only the highest form of spirituality but the highest form of patriotism. It is, if you care about what is worth protecting in this country, a moral imperative.