Thursday, October 01, 2009

Obama administration objects to shield-law bill

The Obama administration has told senators that it opposes the current version of the proposed news-media shield law, and does not want to require prosecutors to exhaust all available methods before subpoenaing reporters in instances the president says could cause significant harm to national security, Charlie Savage of The New York Times reports. The White House also wants judges to "be deferential to executive branch assertions about whether a leak caused or was likely to cause such harm."

“The White House’s opposition to the fundamental essence of this bill is an unexpected and significant setback. It will make it hard to pass this legislation,” said a sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

The Obama administration has taken no official, public stance on the bill, but the White House voiced its opinion to lawmakers after Obama, who co-sponsored a shield bill as a senator, met with several of his top national security advisers, Savage reports. “If the president wants to veto it, let him veto it,” co-sponsor Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., told Savage. “I think it is different for the president to veto a bill than simply to pass the word from his subordinates to my subordinates that he doesn’t like the bill.” (Read more)

UPDATE, Oct. 2: The Society of Professional Journalists voiced "outrage" at the adminstration in a press release, saying the Obama version would "offer little to no protection for reporters who refuse to disclose confidential sources. SPJ strongly encourages the administration to reconsider its position and focus on the importance of a federal shield law and how vital it is to the existence of a free press and an informed citizenry. SPJ also encourages all journalists to support the legislation by continuing to contact lawmakers and voice their support for a strong and meaningful federal shield law."

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