New Senate Bill Defines Journalist – Independent Media Excluded
September 13, 2013
Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) was thrilled that the group approved a new proposal for consideration that would create a federal media shield (FMS) that could provide security to media journalists that do not want to reveal their confidential sources.
Called the Free Flow of Information Act (FFIA), the 13-5 vote secured that there would be a FMS for 1st Amendment rights of the press.
Leahy said: “I was brought up in a family that thought the First Amendment was probably the most important part of the Constitution. My parents owned a printing business. The First Amendment was a touchstone to them, and it is to me.
This bill carefully balances the need to protect confidential source information with the need to protect law enforcement and national security interests, so that we can better protect the American people’s right to know.”
According to the text of the bill: “Conditions for Compelled Disclosure- In any proceeding or in connection with any issue arising under Federal law, a Federal entity may not compel a covered person to comply with a subpoena, court order, or other compulsory legal process seeking to compel the disclosure of protected information, unless a Federal court in the jurisdiction where the subpoena, court order, or other compulsory legal process has been or would be issued determines, after providing notice and an opportunity to be heard to such covered person.”
There is a stipulation that the governmental “party seeking to compel disclosure of the protected information [must have] exhausted all reasonable alternative sources (other than a covered person) of the protected information.”
The definition of what a journalist is is included in the text: “[The committee defined] a “covered journalist” as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years. It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years. A federal judge also would have the discretion to declare an individual a ‘covered journalist,’ who would be granted the privileges of the law.”
The definition does not “include any person or entity whose principal function, as demonstrated by the totality of such person or entity’s work, is to publish primary source documents that have been disclosed to such person or entity without authorization”; meaning that journalists within the alternative and independent media are now not considered “covered journalists” or even journalists at all.
Senator Charles Schumer, champion of the FFIA commented : “We’re closer than we’ve ever been before to passing a strong and tough media shield bill. Thanks to important bipartisan compromises, we’ve put together a strong bill that balances the need for national security with that of a free press. This legislation ensures that the tough investigative journalism that holds government accountable will be able to thrive. I’m hopeful that both parties can come together and pass it quickly on the Senate floor.”
Inspiration for this legislation comes from a story published by AP regarded how last spring the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was conducting an operation in Yemen to stop al-Qaeda from successfully obtaining a bomb and detonating it on an airplane in the US. AP apparently knew more about the operation than they should have.
In a written statement, the Department of Justice (DoJ) explained: “Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media. We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation. Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws.”
Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Judicial Committee last week to explain the decision of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to subpoena journalist’s records that were tied to an investigation leak.
Holder said: “I do not know with regard to this particular case why that was or was not done….I am not familiar with the reasons why the email was disrupted in the way that it was. I have faith in the people who would actually be responsible for this case they were aware of the rules and they followed them. But I don’t have a factual basis to answer the question because I was recused.”
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Convention (RNC) stated that Obama has “built up an atmosphere of guerilla warfare” and “this is the problem with the entire situation [with the AP], with the IRS, with Benghazi: you have all these situations — all these unprecedented scandals — yet the president knows nothing about it.”
FoxNews is the latest mainstream media outlet to have been invaded by a seizure of information conducted by the DoJ.
James Rosen, correspondent for FoxNews, is accused of being part of an information leak regarding a story from 2009 involving the UN and North Korea.
Rosen was tracked through security-badge information swiped at the State Department. Stephen Jim-Woo Kim, adviser at the State Department, was also tracked the same way as Rosen.
Surprisingly, mainstream media is defaming FoxNews for not being real news; as if corporate-controlled media on any level is unbiased and objective.
The point of scrutiny should be the Obama administration’s obvious disregard for the 1st Amendment and the right of the press to expose governmental corruption.
Ken Auletta, journalist for the New Yorker, explained that: “The framers had in mind the First Amendment, basically. … They gave the First Amendment as a way of giving a fourth branch of government — in fact, the press — an ability to question those in power in any of those three branches of government.”
In November of 2012, Obama issued a presidential memorandum entitled “National Insider Threat Policy and Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs” that outlines the provision “and guidance to promote the development of effective insider threat programs within departments and agencies to deter, detect, and mitigate actions by employees who may represent a threat to national security.”
This presidential memorandum clearly defines Obama’s desire to quash any intelligence leaks that may occur under his watch. Regardless of the future treatment of federal whistleblowers, this executive-created extension of cybersecurity compliments the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) that is being redefined for 2013.
The National Insider Threat Policy (NITP) is still classified, yet the referenced document describes “minimum standards” for stifling federal information leaks that would indicate the release of intelligence considered secret for the protection of national security. Federal employees that are privy to such information would be monitored by this directive.
The Insider Threat Task Force, an interagency created to minimize the dangers to national security posed by “unauthorized disclosures” of intelligence, will be empowered to unilaterally prevent information sharing. Sensitive data as collected by the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other federal agencies tasked with obtaining information have measures in place to protect employee’s ability to have access to such data; as well as having to gain chain-of-command permission with an ever present need-to-know parameter.
Obama further defines this safety measure by stating: “Our nation’s security requires classified information to be shared immediately with authorized users around the world but also requires sophisticated and vigilant means to ensure it is shared securely.”
The Obama administration has been posturing themselves behind the scenes to establish “adequate protections to our classified information while at the same time sharing the information with all who reasonably need it to do their jobs.”