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July 16, 2008

George Washington University law professor Jonathon Turley was on WNYC last week giving us props for filing our FISA lawsuit. He also got into an issue that hasn’t had much play yet but certainly will – how journalists and their work will be affected. We at the ACLU already knew that as more than one of our clients is a journalist (in fact, read Chris Hedges’ fantastic piece in the Los Angeles Times from last week). Ah, the merging of two of my favorite issues – FISA and protecting the public’s right to know.

The beauty of the Turley interview, however, is the segue from the media’s role in uncovering the president’s warrantless wiretapping program (which prompted the FISA debate) to the need for a media shield law. When the host, Brooke Gladstone, asked Turley if a shield law was needed he replied:

It has never been more important. Imagine if reporters didn’t do what they’ve done in the last few years. Imagine if The New York Times didn’t reveal the domestic surveillance program. Clearly, Democrats and Republicans knew about it, and so they were not about to reveal it.

Turley also goes so far as to say this is “the golden age of investigative reporting.” Sing it!

Listen, maybe I’m preaching to the choir but it can’t be said enough that journalists play a crucial role in our country today. Especially with a Congress that takes its cues directly from an abusive and morally corrupt White House. Who will conduct the oversight when Congress fails to or is prevented from doing so? The Fourth Estate, son!

So Congress failed us (miserably, thank you) on the FISA Amendments Act. Now, for a change of pace, they have the opportunity to make up some ground by passing a reporters’ shield bill that is worthy of our country’s faltering democracy. Legislation was passed by the House last year and is currently hanging out in the Senate. Cross your fingers and watch this space.

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