While the United States has always touted itself as a "beacon of democracy," critics this year have blasted Washington for its massive domestic and global spying program, accusing President Barack Obama's administration of hypocrisy.
The story began earlier this year, when it was revealed that the U.S. Justice Department was snooping on the Associated Press (AP), obtaining months worth of phone records for 20 separate phone lines in what AP CEO Gary Pruitt called "unconstitutional."
Soon after, more news was uncovered, including reports that the government collected phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen and seized his personal emails.
Then came the biggest story of all, when Edward Snowden revealed a massive National Security Agency (NSA) program that allows analysts to sift through databases that contain emails from millions of Americans, according to documents made public by Snowden. Snowden also uncovered a secret program whereby the government has collected millions of phone records of Verizon customers.
The news grabbed headlines worldwide, and was followed by reports of the U.S. spying on its allies, including accusations of tapping the private cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which the White House denied.
"I think it's damaged the U.S. in terms of world opinion, but I don't know that it's damaged it with respect to doing business and defense (cooperation) with other nations," Republican Strategist Ford O' Connell told Xinhua.