ACLU Slams Administration Attempts to Curb First Amendment

April 4, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today reiterated the need for a strong federal shield law for journalists in light of letters sent to the Senate by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, outlining administration concerns about the “The Free Flow of Information Act.” This legislation, introduced by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), is designed to protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources. It was marked up earlier this year by the Senate Judiciary Committee but has not been voted on by the full Senate. The House passed its version of the bill in 2007 by a wide bipartisan supermajority.

The following can be attributed Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“Reporters’ shield legislation stands on the verge of passage with strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The administration’s reliance on fear mongering to try to quash this admirable legislative effort is just one more example of an executive branch that cares more about protecting itself from embarrassment than preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution. A free press has a duty to fulfill — informing the public about its government – and that principle resides at the very heart of a vibrant democracy.

“The ACLU strongly urges the Senate to bring the House version of ‘The Free Flow of Information Act‘ to the floor for a vote. Though we strongly prefer the House bill, the ACLU also applauds Senator Specter and his bipartisan group of Senate co-sponsors for their efforts on the Senate legislation. The need for a comprehensive federal reporters’ shield law has grown increasingly apparent in the last several years. The administration has never been a fan of judicial oversight or enforcing the statutes it does not agree with, but when it comes to freedom of the press there is no middle ground. The Bill of Rights is not a starting point for negotiations . The public’s right to know is not up for debate and cannot be conditioned by the government.”

To read the ACLU’s report on the need for a federal reporters’ shield law, go to:

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