Pence Disappointed In Obama Administration Shift on Shield Law

Troubled by the reports the administration has called for deep revisions as it moves through the Senate

Indiana Republican Mike Pence said Friday he was disappointed in the Obama administration's "shift" on a federal shield law.

Pence co-sponsored a version of the bill that passed the House, but he said he was troubled by the reports the administration has called for "deep revisions as it moves through the Senate," or doesn't move through the Senate, as the case may be. Both the House and a Senate version were scheduled to be debated this week, but were again pushed off the agenda for the third week, this time due to action on the PATRIOT Act, according to a committee spokesperson.

“The question now," said Pence in a statement,"is whether President Obama will fulfill his campaign promise and support a federal media shield with a measured balancing test, or if he will continue to shift away from greater government transparency and accountability by pushing for a federal media shield bill that is so weakened as to be inconsequential."

The shield law would prevent journalists or their sources from being compelled to testify in federal courts, with carve-outs for national security, cases of imminent harm, and leaks of personal, medical or information related to trade secrets. Though even in those cases a judge would have to balance those interests against the public interest in revealing the information.

The administration has signaled that any bill should have less restrictive exceptions and not apply to leaks deemed to cause “significant” harm to national security. Judges also would not decide what constitutes “significant” harm but would instead be instructed to accept executive-branch assertions.

Marisa Guthrie contributed to this report.

“It is time for the President to rediscover his passion for transparency in government and use the power of the Oval Office to support, rather than block, strong media shield legislation that will ensure the First Amendment freedom of the press for generations to come," said Pence.