Last week, the US Department of State released its human rights report for 2013, which offers up an assessment of human rights compliance and non-compliance in countries around the world. Secretary of State, John Kerry, had this to say about this year’s report:
Governments that protect human rights and are accountable to their citizens are more secure, bolster international peace and security, and enjoy shared prosperity with stable democratic countries around the world. Countries that fail to uphold human rights can face economic deprivation and international isolation. Despite that simple truth, these reports show that too many governments continue to tighten their grasp on free expression, association, and assembly, using increasingly repressive laws, politically motivated prosecutions and even new technologies to deny citizens their universal human rights, in the public square, and in virtual space.
The irony here, of course, is that our nation’s credibility is questionable at best on many of these measures. The NSA’s eavesdropping activities alone, as revealed by the Snowden leaks, have made it clear that our own government is willing to engage in legally questionable practices that have a chilling effect on free speech, freedom of expression, and the willingness of citizens to lawfully disagree with their own government. Eavesdropping, of the type that the government claims is legal and necessary, also erodes press freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution that are fundamental to the maintenance of a free and vibrant democracy.