On shame and shield law

Well, well, well.

SPJ is gearing up again to fight for a federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources from unwarranted snooping by government prosecutors and other lawyers.

In case you missed it, the Obama administration suddenly decided last Wednesday that it’s a good time to get Congress to resurrect the Shield Law legislation that languished unloved in 2010 after getting Senate Judiciary Committee approval.

This came after the Justice Department revealed on May 13 that it had secretly obtained the outgoing and incoming phone-call records for 20 lines at the Associated Press offices in Washington, New York and Hartford, Conn. AP wasn’t the target of the probe; the feds were trying to determine who leaked some allegedly classified information.

A shield law probably wouldn’t have stopped the Justice Department’s fishing expedition, but it might have required the Attorney General to get a judge to approve — and maybe even narrow the scope — of the subpoena.

Regardless, late last week Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Trey Radel (R-Fla.) introduced separate bills in the Senate and the House that would create the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013. The bills are based on similar legislation that won House approval twice in 2009 and 2010 and won committee approval in the Senate in 2009.

Now, here’s where members of SPJ come in.

In the coming days, we’ll be updating our shield law page with contact information for members of the U.S. Senate. We’ll be asking SPJ leaders and members to reach out to their senators and encourage them to vote for the FFIA. We’ll be sending out suggested talking points. And we’ll be keeping track of which lawmakers stand with us on this vital issue.

So stay tuned to spj.org and watch your inboxes for further details and rallying cries.





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