Leahy supports limited privilege for journalists

Tuesday July 23, 2013

MONTPELIER (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants the panel to take up legislation this week designed to provide limited protections for journalists and their sources.

The reporter shield bill includes new Justice Department guidelines for investigations that involve the media.

Leahy said his decision to place the Free Flow of Information Act on the Committee’s agenda comes after committee members met last week with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss the Justice Department’s review of its guidelines for obtaining information from the press.

"I’m not in favor of the people who leak some of these things," Leahy said Friday. "I think when a reporter reports it the question should be who leaked it, not who the reporter is who reported it."

The issue came to the fore this spring when it was revealed that the U.S. Justice Department last year had secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors of The Associated Press.

Free-press groups have raised concerns that such activities will hurt journalists’ ability to gather information from confidential sources.

The new Justice Department guidelines would make it harder for prosecutors to obtain journalists’ phone records without advance notice. The proposed legislation would also ensure reporters have the ability to protect the identity of anonymous sources, with limited exceptions.


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