On Sunday, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) announced that he has formed a new Gang of Eight in the Senate to work on a bill to protect journalists from revealing their sources and documents. The renewed push for a so-called “media shield” law comes in the aftermath of revelations that the Department of Justice obtained information about Associated Press reporters and a Fox News journalist as part of its investigations into leaks of classified intelligence.
“I’ve proposed, along with Lindsey Graham, and we’ll be announcing that we have four Democrats and four Republicans, and another Gang of Eight,” Schumer said on CBS’ Face The Nation.
The bill would set up rules under which the government has to “exhaust other methods for finding the source of the information before subpoenaing a reporter,” inform the news agency about its intention to subpoena records, and prove to a judge that the information sought outweighs journalistic freedoms.
The legislation is supported by the White House, a Schumer spokesperson confirmed to ThinkProgress, and builds on a 2009 compromise that prohibits judges, in national security cases, from denying subpoenas into journalists’ records if the government could prove that the information might help prevent a future terrorist attack or “other acts likely to harm national security.” Journalists would have greater protections in civil and criminal cases, as the government would have to “show why their need for the information outweighed the public’s interest in unfettered news gathering.”
Schumer argued that any media shield build must strike a balance between national security and freedom of the press. “We have the right of the government to protect certain information from becoming public,” he explained. “At the same time we want a robust and full freedom of the press and the only people who make the rules in this case are the government side.” “If we can set up these rule his think we’ll avoid the morass. You always need set rules and an independent arbiter.”
Lawmakers in the House have expressed support for shield legislation and passed similar bill in 2007 and 2009 that did not advance in the Senate. On Wednesday, the White House asked Schumer to re-introduce his 2009 bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has pledged to hold a vote on the measure, telling reporters on Tuesday, “I wish the Republicans hadn’t blocked the shield law previously, so we’ll bring it up again, and I hope they won’t block it again.”