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[Why are these articles about alleged "shield" laws always so vague? It never seems to reflect what the bill really says.]

Vote on shield law for reporters delayed

Web Posted: 07/25/2007 01:27 AM CDT

Gary Martin
Express-News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON ? A House panel Tuesday postponed until next week a vote on a bill creating a national shield law for journalists that supporters say protects the public's right to information.
The legislation, opposed by the Bush administration and the Justice Department, would set standards for issuing federal subpoenas to reporters.

The measure has bipartisan support in the House and Senate after the conviction of former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby of perjury in the investigation of the leak of information that identified CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson.

During the investigation, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald issued subpoenas to reporters seeking the sources for stories they wrote about the case.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, asked that a vote on the bill be postponed until next week to address Justice Department concerns.

Smith said his support of the bill would hinge on how those issues are resolved, "so my position will depend on that."

The bill was filed in the House by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va.

Spence, a former radio talk-show host and a free-market conservative, said the bill is not about protecting reporters but protecting the public's right to know and the ability to expose corruption.

"There has been an alarming trend in the last decade of reporters faced with the threat of subpoena or jail time. That tears at the fabric of the First Amendment," Pence said.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is a co-sponsor of the bill. The panel is expected to consider the legislation next week.

Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., is the sponsor of similar legislation in the Senate. It has bipartisan support that includes Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

The Justice Department says the shield law is too vague about who is protected as a journalist and imposes restrictions on federal agents and prosecutors in investigating crimes, including threats to national security.

Pence said lawmakers have changed the bill to address Justice Department concerns, but he doubts that career prosecutors will ever sign off on legislation that places barriers to their gathering of evidence.

Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia have shield laws; 17 other states recognize a reporter's right to protect sources.

[This message was edited by JB on 07-31-07 at .]
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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All I know about the proposed federal shield law is that it is LESS expansive than the one being pushed here in Texas. That bill came within a heartbeat of passing before being killed on a parliamentary point of order. You can expect it to be resurrected for 2009.
Posts: 2404 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Wouldn't that federal law apply only to federal investigations?
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Investigations of federal crimes, yes. Congress cannot impose a shield law upon Texas courts (although the existence of a federal law will be proferred as yet another reason to have such a law in this state, no doubt).
Posts: 2404 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Congress must shield public's right to know
EDITORIAL BOARD [Austin American Statesman]
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Congress has another opportunity this week to protect insiders who blow the whistle on government inefficiency and corruption � and the journalists who report it.

Naturally, many people in government don't like the idea of protecting whistle-blowers, so the legislation being considered in the U.S. House and Senate faces an uphill course. A similar bill offering a qualified privilege for Texas journalists to protect the names of undisclosed sources fought its way through the Legislature last session only to be killed at the last minute by state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball.

[Gee, it all sounds so reasonable. Only the Texas bill was not "qualified" or "similar". The Texas bill was expansive and offered every possible way for a reporter to avoid following the same duties required of doctors, lawyers and bankers, who arguably have access to far more confidential material than reporters. When will the media report their legislative agenda with as much detail and accuracy as they report the latest corruption investigation?]
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The bill is still moving in the House but seems stalled in the Senate.

WASHINGTON--A congressional panel on Wednesday voted, against the Bush administration's wishes, to shield journalists including advertising-supported bloggers from having to reveal their confidential sources in many situations.

Full story:
Posts: 689 | Registered: March 01, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Usually editorial boards are big cheerleaders for civic-mindedness and the virtues of good citizenship. And then they come up with the Journalist's Exemption From the Human Race Act, for usually the same reasons that low-lifes always give for not wanting to give a statement to police: "I don't want to get involved."

Sure they never say that. It's always said they desperately need this shield law to protect their heroic whistleblowers and confidential informants. You would think the Texas media is loaded with swashbucking muckrakers, meeting in the shadows with these informants, to bring scandle to the light of day.

Which, especially in Texas, is a big laugh! When was the last time you read an article that made use of such sources? The fact is, papers run lots of canned stories sent to them as news releases. When they do write their own stuff, they often don't bother to take the time to understand all the issues, because they can't be bothered to call enough witnesses. But even in those cases where the press actually does have a real whistleblower, how often is such information subpoenaed, and if so, how often is the whisleblower upset at being subpoenaed? If he's being subpoenaed, it means someone is taking his complaint seriously, and moving to correct the situation.

I think most of the media wants this shield law because they don't want to be bothered complying with a subpoena, and because having such a shield law gives them a great sense of status. Smile
Posts: 686 | Location: Beeville, Texas, U.S.A. | Registered: March 22, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Journalism we see in Texas daily newspapers. It tends to be really pitiable.

For the reasons you so forcefully expressed, I don't think a reasonably drafted shield law will necessarily have much effect on solving crimes or prosecuting accused, when claimed by reporters for the mainstream daily press.

The problem I have with what may be the potential practice if we have a shield law, is with the lunatic fringe press using it not as a shield, but as a sword.

A newspaper which supports or is the mouth-piece for, as an exmple, an extreme group dedicated to burning abortion clinics and killing doctors who perform abortions, could easily become the method by which cells within that group communicate with each other. If the violent wing of such an organization is composed of cells consisting of only two or three people, a newspaper reporter writing "stories" about the cells could transmit plans between those cells for some sort of violent action.

Groups such as this are generally busted by law enforcement placing an informer in the organization. I think it likely that many of the prosecutions are based upon conspiracy counts. It will be hard for law enforcement to infiltrate a cell structure consisting of two or three people who may have known each other for years. It will be extremely hard to put together a conspiracy case if those cells actually never do talk to each other.

I hope a Texas shield law, if there ever is one, will be crafted to meet these possibilities.
Posts: 25 | Registered: May 29, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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