Bipartisan Senate group pushes reporter shield law

Capital Building, Photo Credit: Zack Polack

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday pressed forward with a reporter shield bill that includes new Justice Department guidelines for investigations that involve the media.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said they hoped to have the legislation to a Senate committee as early as this week.

Schumer said Justice Department guidelines were a good start — “but our bill will ensure that any new administration will not be able to go back.”

Added Graham, “Guidelines aren’t going to cut it. I think we need a law.”

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the new Justice Department guidelines on Friday. They would make it harder for prosecutors to obtain journalists’ phone records without advance notice.

Schumer said he has not yet spoken to the White House about the new bill. Schumer said the White House has been supportive in the past, though, and that he expects that to continue.

The proposed legislation would also ensure reporters have the ability to protect the identity of anonymous sources, with limited exceptions. The bill would create a legal framework for circumstances when it was lawful to compel reporters to reveal their sources. In most cases, the government would have to argue in court as to why it needed the information.

Co-sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Roy Blount, R-Mo., and Jonny Isakson, R-Ga.

Blount said the bill had strong bipartisan support because it was common sense.

“Just because I’m not supposed to answer a question, it doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to ask it,” he said, gesturing toward reporters.

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