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Lawmakers chide attorney general for opposition to shield bill

By The Associated Press
07.24.08

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers chided Attorney General Michael Mukasey yesterday for claiming national security concerns in opposing legislation that would allow reporters to protect the identities of confidential sources.

"Ten angels swearing on Bibles that that bill is harmless would not change the provisions that are in it," Mukasey told the House Judiciary Committee.

A few minutes later, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., defended the bill he said was carefully written to discourage leaks of classified or other sensitive information that could risk security. Without it, he said, long-standing press freedoms would be threatened.

"If 10 angels swearing on Bibles wouldn't change your view of this bill, would 40 American journalists subpoenaed, questioned or held in contempt do it?" Pence asked.

"This is a constitutional statutory response to a rising erosion of our First Amendment freedom of the press," Pence added.

Mukasey, who once successfully represented the New York Daily News in a libel case, said he was open to considering compromises. But he said current laws limiting the government's ability to force reporters to reveal their sources are adequate.

"I'm not willing to take steps that will essentially do more to protect the leakers than it does to protect journalists," he said.


Previous
Bush officials mount campaign against media shield bill
In letters to senators, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, others say measure could harm national security, would encourage more leaks of classified data. 04.04.08

Related

Attorneys general back federal media shield (news)
37 state officials sign on to letter; measure faces uncertain future in Senate as some Republicans strongly oppose bill allowing reporters to protect sources. 06.20.08

Journalist ‘shield’ – balancing openness, security (commentary)
By Gene Policinski Under a Senate bill, journalists would be protected from having to reveal confidential sources — but not if they witnessed a crime or if there were an imminent threat to life or national security. 10.07.07

Libby’s legacy: The conservative case for a national shield law (commentary)
By Michael Berry Prosecutors aren't just subpoenaing reporters in cases where national security might be compromised — they're going after reporters’ sources for stories on athletes’ steroid use and street protests. 01.18.08

Shield laws



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