Obama Administration: Shield Law Should Only Protect Journalists If We Don't Care About The Story
from the um...-wait-a-second... dept
We already found it quite troubling that the Senate committee, working on a federal “shield law” that would help protect journalists from having to reveal their sources, switched from language that was pretty inclusive, to a bill that would greatly limit the definition of a journalist to only those who work for big time journalistic endeavors. Lots of smaller, independent or amateur journalists would get no protection at all. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a sponsor of the bill, was apparently responsible for kicking out all those independent journalists. In looking into why, Jason Linkins, was told that the Justice Department was apparently worried that everyone would just start claiming shield protection, and it would greatly limit their ability to investigate certain issues. That’s a stretch, however. The law clearly could have been written in a way that would enable investigations, without removing protections over legitimate journalistic activity.
Either way, it might not matter at all. Apparently, even after all this, the Obama administration is asking for more concessions, such as not allowing any shield protection on any instance where the administration declares that the matter involves “significant” harm to national security. Now, you can understand why the administration would want that, but there’s absolutely no oversight. Basically, under the administration’s proposal, if the administration simply said there was such harm, the judge would immediately wipe out the shield.
If you want to create a chilling effect against any sort of whistleblowing on gov’t corruption, that’s what this proposal does. It basically lets the gov’t say that the shield law only applies to whistleblowing that doesn’t make the administration look bad. But, in any case where the administration isn’t happy, it gets to wipe out the shield. Apparently, freedom of the press only applies to situations in which the administration is not embarrassed.