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Chuck Schumer, Lindsey Graham introduce new media shield law

July 18, 2013

By BURGESS EVERETT

Schumer and Graham's bill enacts recent Justice Department guidelines. | AP Photos

Schumer and Graham’s bill enacts recent Justice Department guidelines. | AP Photos

Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham have rounded up another bipartisan gang, this time to pass a media shield law that would enact recent Justice Department guidelines.

The New York and South Carolina senators have written a new shield bill that protects the media from revealing information and sources during news gathering and requires courts to “apply a balancing test before compelling disclosure” from journalists. The bill would also require reporters’ be notified within 90 days of their records being reviewed by Justice and require the courts to arbitrate Justice’s media records requests.

The bill doesn’t provide an absolute privilege to journalists and contains exceptions for when information about leaks to journalists could be used to prevent terrorism attacks and when information can help prevent deaths and kidnappings in non-national security cases. DOJ’s guidelines released last week said journalists’ records can be collected only if the reporter is the subject of a criminal investigation, which the senators want to make sure future administrations don’t reverse.

“Our bill will ensure that any administration, now or later, can’t make a U-turn and abandon these new guidelines,” Schumer said. “We are going to add new provisions to ensure that the proposals DOJ has issued aren’t simply suggestions that are followed at the whim of an attorney general, but the law of the land.”

The new bill applies to government seizure of journalists’ business and credit card records, as well as the records of phone and Internet companies written into a previous bill. The tougher media shield effort from the Senate comes on the heels of revelations that the DOJ was monitoring the Associated Press’s phone lines in the Capitol.

“When you cover political people it’s OK if we get upset, but it’s not OK if we use the power of the government unfairly against those who cover us. So having the courts involved I think is a necessary check and balance,” Graham said. “This bill makes it much harder for a political appointee to use an administrative subpoena” on the media. Read the rest of the story at Politico.

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