Today, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore). proposes a new law, called the Law Protects Journalists from the Suppression of Excessive Status (PRESS), which would protect journalists ’data records from being seized by the government. This comes several months after the Justice Department admitted to having acquired phone and email records from journalists to In the Washington Post, CNN and u New York Times to identify sources.
Wyden said in a statement that there needs to be rules “that protect journalists from government surveillance” and that they should be “written in black letter law.” He said, “The Trump administration has spied on journalists suspected of not having crimes in its pursuit to identify its sources and prevent the American people from learning the truth about Trump’s illegality and corruption.”
Although Biden’s DOJ had initially defended the use of citations, the president soon said he was wrong, ending the practice. Attorney General Merrick Garland had also called for the implementation of new rules around cases with journalists. He also met with leaders of the three news organizations mentioned above to discuss the situation.
While most states have some form of shield law for journalists, the federal government does not. One of the problems with previous evidence of this legislation had to do with how to define a journalist more than what type of activity should be protected. A federal law, for example, should understand how to safeguard the privacy of journalists while also protecting national security interests.
Wyden’s bill proposes that journalists be protected from the disclosure of court-ordered sources, but allows exceptions if the information prevents terrorism, identifies terrorists, or prevents violence or death.
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