Thursday, November 26, 2015
Amsterdam, NY ,



Clearly defining the public good

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - Updated: 3:08 PM

The controversy over the unprecedented intrusion into the phone records of journalists at The Associated Press has sparked new interest in federal legislation that would protect journalists and their confidential sources.

Recognizing the public interest in the free flow of information, most states provide legal protections to reporters and sources. But the federal government has no such statutory protections and increasingly has violated its non-binding rules for self-restraint in the use of legal tools to compel disclosure.

The Department of Justice subpoenaed records from 20 telephone and cellular lines used by what AP says were more than 100 reporters and editors in Washington, New York and Hartford, Conn., during a two-month period. The subpoena was part of an investigation into who provided classified information for an article about a foiled al-Qaida plot.

The bill, which stalled in 2009, would protect journalists from being compelled to testify about their confidential sources unless all other avenues are exhausted and exposure is in the public interest.

As outlined by co-sponsor U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the bill would:

* Protect journalists from having to reveal information, including source identity, that a reporter obtains under a promise of confidentiality while newsgathering.

* Establish a legal framework for determining when protected information can be subject to compelled disclosure in court.

* Require the government to argue to a court its need for the information at issue;

* Require, in most cases, a court to balance the public interest in disclosure against public interest in newsgathering before compelling disclosure.

The bill would also specify situations in which journalists would have no protection against disclosure, including preventing acts of terrorism or identifying those who have committed such acts or otherwise harmed national security, among other exceptions.

Whether this legislation would have protected journalists and sources in the current AP case is not clear, as Schumer concedes.

The Justice Department has said it interviewed more than 550 people and reviewed tens of thousands of documents before seeking the phone records, which presumably means the government could satisfy a requirement that it exhaust other investigatory remedies.

Still, the government should be required to prove to a judge that the potential public good pursued by a criminal investigation outweighs the potential public good that confidential sources bring to journalism.

-- The Kingston Daily Freeman


Comments made about this article - 0 Total

Comment on this article

Subscribe to The Recorder


The Recorder Sports Schedule


The Recorder Newscast

Most Popular

    Area high school sports calendar
    Friday, November 20, 2015

    Amsterdam’s dream season comes to an end in 47-27 defeat
    Saturday, November 21, 2015

    Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame to leave for Texas
    Friday, November 20, 2015

    Tribes Hill Center scammed by website
    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    6 corrections officers disciplined
    Monday, November 23, 2015

    Amsterdam hopes to keep its momentum going into showdown
    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    Amsterdam brushes aside 0-3 start to make 2015 a special season
    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    Two corrections officers arrested after internal investigation
    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    Thanks4Giving race receives early support
    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    Gene R. Insogna
    Friday, November 20, 2015


Copyright © McClary Media, Inc.

Privacy Policies: The Recorder

Contact Us