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Editorial: The Shield

Broad seizure of the telephone records of AP reporters and editors a troubling issue 5/20/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

The Justice Department’s invocation of national security notwithstanding,
its broad seizure of the telephone records of Associated
Press reporters and editors is a troubling, overbroad effort and
an opportunity to renew our call for a federal shield law.

Such a law would have a carve-out for national
security, but it would also buttress protections from
overzealous government officials’ subpoenas. The
late Sen. Arlen Specter was a tireless advocate for
the shield. Rep. John Conyers has taken up that
standard. White House spokesman Jay Carney said
last week that President Obama supports a federal
shield, as does Attorney General Eric Holder. If so,
the administration has a curious way of showing it.

According to AP, it was not notified of the
phone record grab, and thus not given a chance
to argue against it or for a more narrow collection.

“We are seriously concerned about the actions
taken by the Department of Justice, which could
have a chilling effect on the U.S. media and its
ability to report on sensitive issues,” Committee
to Protect Journalists program coordinator Carlos
Lauría said last week. Lauría is in charge of a
program targeting threats to press freedom in the
Americas, a threat that includes the administration.
“We call on [Holder] to provide a full explanation
of the Department of Justice’s decision and
comply with the request from the AP to return
all telephone records,” Lauría said. So do we.

September
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