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Justice Department criticizes proposed federal shield law for reporters

[JURIST] A federal shield law for reporters introduced [press release] by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Rep. Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) [official websites] was called "bad public policy" by US Deputy Attorney General James Comey in written remarks submitted at a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on reporters' privilege legislation [witness list and statements]. Comey was scheduled to testify in person but was called to a House hearing about the Patriot Act instead. The bill comes in response to the Valerie Plame leak scandal [JURIST report], where New York Times reporter Judith Miller was found in contempt of court and sent to jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury in order to protect a source. Thirty-one states and Washington DC have so-called "shield laws", but none apply to the federal courts. The proposed federal bill would allow reporters to protect sources as long as national security interests were not threatened. Lugar testified, "Compelling reporters to testify and, in particular, forcing them to reveal the identity of their confidential sources without extraordinary circumstances, hurts the public interest." Subpoenaed TIME magazine reporter Matthew Cooper also testified [text] in favor of the legislation at Wednesday's hearing. AP has more.

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