This summer, Edward Snowden, a former government employee, leaked information about U.S. intelligence activities including widespread, warrantless surveillance of domestic and foreign telephone and Internet communications. A University of Missouri law expert says Snowden’s charges show how governments are using terrorism powers too broadly by potentially misapplying laws. The MU expert believes this could have a significant chilling effect on free speech.

Christina Wells, the Enoch N. Crowder Professor of Law in the University of Missouri School of Law and a First Amendment expert, recently published an article in Jurist discussing the Snowden affair and its relation to First Amendment rights. She argues that sections of the Espionage Act are too broadly written and allow the government to avoid charges of treason, which come with many obstacles, while still receiving similar effects in the public sphere.

Wells is concerned that if the federal government abuses laws meant to stop terrorists and spies, it could have damaging effects on First Amendment rights.