The Free Flow of Information Act, essentially the long sought federal shield which protects the right of journalists to protect their sources has made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Earlier attempts to pass such a law have failed.
The bill won by a convincing 13-5 vote.
An amendment that defined the term journalist also passed by the exact same margin, according to the Associated Press.
The definition is considered too broad by some on the committee; AP mentioned Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in particular.
An employee, independent contractor or agent of an organization that disseminates news and information is eligible for the shield’s protections. The term of the journalistic assignment is appears to favor the journalist – they have only to have practiced the art for one of the last 20 years, or for three months of the last five years.
The bill also incorporate additions that came from the Obama administration. In particular, it includes a recommendation from Attorney General Eric Holder that the media be notified in advance of any subpoena of reporter phone records unless the government can show cause to make an exception. It also bars other intrusions into a reporters records unless the reported is under criminal investigation not related to journalistic activities.
RBR-TVBR observation: The last time this came up we thought it was a mortal lock to become law. It had more than just broad bipartisan support. It also had broad ideological support. Then the nitpicking and stalling began and eventually the bill died. It just goes to show that in Washington, you just never know.