WASHINGTON More than two-thirds of state attorneys general now back the right of reporters to withhold the identity of their sources in most federal court cases.
The Newspaper Association of America said yesterday that 37 attorneys general have signed a letter to Senate leaders in support of a media shield bill.
"By affording some degree of protection against the compelled disclosure of a reporter's confidential sources, these state laws advance a public policy favoring the free flow of information to the public," the attorneys general wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
A media shield bill won passage overwhelmingly in the House in October, after a similar measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Yet it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where there is strong opposition from some Republicans. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, arguing it would encourage leaks of classified information.
The Bush administration says the measure would make it virtually impossible to enforce federal laws governing leaks and that the bill's definition of a journalist is too broad.
Media advocates are seeking a shield law because of several high-profile cases, including one in which reporters were subpoenaed to testify about the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for 85 days in 2005 for refusing to identify which Bush administration officials had talked with her about Plame.
The legislation's backers argue confidentiality has been crucial in stories such as the treatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq, clandestine CIA prisons overseas and shoddy conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.