Republican state attorneys general urge GOP senators to support federal reporter shield
OLYMPIA--Attorney General Rob McKenna and 12 other Republican state attorneys general this week applied a little peer pressure to Republican senators, urging them to support a law that limits the federal government’s ability to force reporters to reveal their confidential sources.
“As our states’ chief law enforcement officers, we are in a unique position to confirm that our shield laws have not resulted in any degradation in our ability to protect our citizens,” say the attorneys general letter sent earlier this week. “Still, important provisions have been added to this legislation to carefully and thoroughly protect national security and public safety.”
The letter addresses concerns expressed by conservative lawmakers, including the law’s potential impact on fighting terrorism, securing classified information and investigating and prosecuting crimes. It points out that Republican senators with strong records of promoting national security all support the bill. These include Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Richard Lugar (Ind.) and John McCain (Ariz.).
“As attorneys general previously argued, 49 states and the District of Columbia already have reporter shield laws in place,” McKenna said. “Failure to approve a federal standard jeopardizes the strength of those laws and chills candid disclosure by legitimate confidential sources. Federal legislation is crucial if our state laws are to provide any meaningful protection.”
McKenna has consistently supported shield protections for the media. He proposed and supported a state reporter shield law in Washington and signed on to a 2005 “friend of the court” brief to the United States Supreme Court urging it to recognize privilege under federal rules.
The Free Flow of Information Act (S. 2035) is written to protect the role of the press as a check on government, allowing reporters to investigate controversial, important subjects without fear of being inappropriately called into court to reveal secret sources.
A House version of the bill was overwhelmingly approved on October 16, 2007, by a vote of 398-21. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill on October 4, 2007, by a vote of 15-4.
Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725