Blog: Shield law, PATRIOT Act on 111th agenda
As the 111th Congress begins its second session, a number of bills affecting
First Amendment freedoms are up for consideration by the full Senate in
much negotiation with the Obama administration, the so-called “news media
shield” bill passed its first hurdle in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 14-5
vote Dec. 10. The bill would prevent the federal government from compelling the
press to identify a confidential source in most cases. The House passed a
similar measure (H.R. 985) in March. Though similar to the Senate bill, the
House’s version has a narrower definition of a journalist. If the Senate version
passes, a compromise between both bills will have to be passed before a final
bill is presented to President Obama for his signature.
voting 11 to 8, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 1692 after largely
rejecting a series of proposed changes to surveillance laws sought by civil
liberties and privacy advocates. Congress extended the sunset deadline for the
sections of the USA PATRIOT Act that were set to expire on Dec. 31, 2009 —
Section 215, roving wiretaps, and lone wolf — to Feb. 28, 2010. On Dec. 16, the
House Committee on Financial Services granted an extension for further
consideration of its own version of this bill (H.R. 3845) to Jan. 29.
Section 215 is also known as the “library provision” even though it never
mentions libraries or bookstores. It allows easier access to business records in
foreign intelligence investigations. Investigators can obtain “any tangible
thing (including books, records, papers, documents and other items),” as long as
the records are sought “in connection with” a terror investigation.
The roving wiretaps provision specifically allows “roving wiretaps” against
suspected spies and terrorists, bypassing restrictions that require separate
court authorizations for each device used by the target of an investigation.
The lone-wolf provision allows intelligence investigations of suspected lone
terrorists not connected to a foreign nation or organization.
leaders urging them to open up for public viewing negotiations between the House
and Senate on any compromise bill. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., introduced
legislation in support of open debate (H. Res. 847).
See quarterly updates on more congressional legislation affecting First
Amendment freedoms, and more details on the above items, at the links