Critics say federal shield law welcome but insufficient

Critics of the Obama administration actions against leakers of classified information are saying that the proposed national shield law will not be enough to undo the damage to the free press. Leonard Downie of The Washington Post, May 23, 2013, argues that the seizure of two months of Associated Press telephone records is “especially chilling for journalists and their sources.”

While conceding a federal shield law is long overdue and would be helpful to working journalists, the Chicago Tribune said in an editorial on May 28 that the administration’s overzealous pursuit of government whistleblowers and leakers is a serious threat. The Tribune argued that government prosecutors should be required to convince a judge that a search of reporters’ records and notes is necessary. “Giving them complete discretion invites abuse — and threatens to shut off sources of information vital to the citizenry. Threatening to prosecute a reporter over a leak is even more dangerous, though, and this sort of statute would be no help,” said the Tribune. -db