Journalists slam bill to plug leaks


Legislation to prevent leaks of classified federal information would "fly in the face" of First Amendment rights, the Society of Professional Journalists said Thursday.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he will re-introduce legislation that would impose broad prohibitions on disclosure of classified data, including up to three years in jail and $10,000 in fines for government employees who violate the restrictions. A previous version of the bill, which has support from the Justice Department and the CIA, was vetoed by President Clinton after Congress passed it last fall.

"I hope our current lawmakers and the Bush administration have the same wisdom and stop a bill that threatens the free flow of information in a society that values a free press," said SPJ President Ray Marcano.

If enacted, SPJ says Shelby's plan would limit information to which the public is entitled and could pose many legal problems for journalists, such as grand jury subpoenas. A Senate hearing on the plan is scheduled for Sept. 5.
- Bill McConnell