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White House objects to journalist shield proposal on national security grounds

[JURIST] The Obama administration on Wednesday informed Congress that it objects to a proposed journalist shield law that would protect journalists who refuse to disclose sources that leak national security information. Under changes proposed by the administration, a reporter who provides leaked information that is deemed relevant to national security [NYT report] would not be protected by the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009 [HR 985 materials]. The administration also asked for insertion of language that would be deferential to the executive office with regards to what qualifies as national security. These changes would further weaken protections that were previously reduced by an amendment proposed last month by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website]. Schumer's amendment [text, PDF] lessens protection for bloggers who may be forced to reveal confidential sources, restricting protections to individuals working as a "salaried employee" or "independent contractor." The Senate version of the bill [S 448 materials] has not been voted out of the Judiciary Committee, and it is unclear when a vote will be scheduled.

The US House of Representatives passed the Free Flow of Information Act in late March, days after it was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee [JURIST reports]. The House passed a similar bill in 2007, but it was never voted on by the full Senate, despite passing the Judiciary Committee by a 15-2 vote [JURIST reports]. The bill was first proposed in response to the jail sentence given to Judith Miller, a journalist who would not reveal who provided her with the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame [JURIST news archive].

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