Schumer: No protection for Wikileaks in media-shield bill

Thursday, August 5, 2010

WASHINGTON — The sponsor of a bill to protect journalists' confidential sources in federal courts says he will make certain the Wikileaks website will not be shielded.

Wikileaks posted more than 75,000 classified Afghanistan war records on its website last month.

Sen. Charles Schumer said yesterday that the existing media-shield bill includes language that would exempt Wikileaks from the protection. But the New York Democrat says he will write new language in the Free Flow of Information Act as an extra safeguard.

“Neither WikiLeaks, nor its original source for these materials, should be spared in any way from the fullest prosecution possible under the law,” Schumer said in an Aug. 4 statement. “Although the bill in no way shields anyone who broke the law from prosecution, we are going the extra mile to remove even a scintilla of doubt.”

Schumer says he and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are working with the newspaper industry in crafting the new language. Schumer added that the new language “will explicitly exclude organizations like Wikileaks — whose sole or primary purpose is to publish unauthorized disclosures of documents — from possible protection.”

Paul J. Boyle, senior vice president for public policy at the Newspaper Association of America, was quoted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press as saying: “Senate sponsors want to shore this up by stating it is not their intention to cover WikiLeaks-type websites that simply publish raw data without editorial oversight.”

Boyle told The New York Times that Wikileaks’ recent document releases might prompt more support for the shield bill. According to the newspaper, Boyle “contended that the increasing use of subpoenas to pressure reporters to identify sources created incentive for would-be leakers to send material to a group like WikiLeaks rather than to a traditional news organization subject to American law and having editorial controls and experience in news judgment.”

The media-shield proposal was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2009 and is pending before the full Senate.

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