US surveillance programs are making it more difficult for government officials to speak to the press anonymously, two rights groups said on Monday.

Large-scale surveillance, on top of the Obama administration’s crackdown on national security leaks, threatens the freedom of the press and the right to legal counsel, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint report.

The National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, which include the collection of telephone “metadata,” have heightened government officials’ concerns about dealing with the media, as “any interaction – any email, any phone call – risks leaving a digital trace that could subsequently be used against them,” the report said.

The groups interviewed more than 90 journalists, lawyers, and current or former senior US government officials for the report.

“Journalists told us that officials are substantially less willing to be in contact with the press, even with regard to unclassified matters or personal opinions, than they were even a few years ago,” the report said.

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