Federal Shield Law Heads to Senate Committee Today

october 4, 2007  10:46 am
The Free Flow of Information Act 2007, introduced by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Richard Lugar (R-IN) last month, will be considered today by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Saying the bill "would bring the federal government in line with 49 states and the District of Columbia," the Washington Post editorializes for its passage: "The legislation has gone through many constructive changes since it was first introduced in 2005 and deserves to become law." In addition to its opinion, the Post also runs opposing op-eds about the shield law. U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald argues that the bill "poses unique obstacles to the protection of national security," and that the system isn't broken to begin with: "A compelling case has not been made for jettisoning the legal framework that has guided this process for the past 35 years," he writes. Yet former U.S. solicitor general Theodore B. Olson disagrees. "From the Valerie Plame imbroglio to the Wen Ho Lee case, it is now de rigueur to round up reporters, haul them before a court and threaten them with fines and jail sentences unless they reveal their sources," he writes. "The legislation would not give reporters special license beyond the type of common-sense protection we already accord to communications between lawyers and clients, between spouses and in other contexts where we believe some degree of confidentiality furthers societal goals. [It] is well balanced and long overdue, and it should be enacted." UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill this afternoon by a 15-2 vote.