Reporters Committee disappointed that U.S. Supreme Court found journalists, others cannot challenge wiretap law

Press Release | February 26, 2013

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press expressed disappointment that the U.S. Supreme Court majority ruled there was no evidence that secret monitoring of international communications posed an imminent danger to journalist-source and other confidentiality.

The majority decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International focused not on the constitutional merits of the warrantless wiretapping program, but on whether plaintiffs had standing to challenge the law based on their ability to show it provided concrete and imminent injury.

“The Reporters Committee agrees with Justice Breyer’s dissent, which argued that the respondents showed more than a purely speculative harm to their constitutionally protected activities and did have standing to question the law,” explained Reporters Committee Legal Defense Director Gregg P. Leslie.

“Journalists need to contact sources freely — including those overseas who may be affiliated with suspected terrorist organizations,” Leslie added. “The probability of having their calls intercepted is real and justified, and it would do irreparable harm to the reporter-source relationship if there were any doubt about confidentiality. Journalists need to tell the American people about these controversies, and to get to the truth they need to communicate with often questionable characters.”

The Reporters Committee filed a friend-of-the-court brief in September asking the Court to allow journalists to challenge the law.

"Oftentimes, a source’s willingness to provide a journalist with truthful information about significant matters of public interest and concern is wholly dependent on an assurance that the source’s identity will not be revealed, thereby exposing him or her to retaliation," the brief argued. "The amendments at issue, however, hamper the formation of these important journalist-source relationships by eliminating journalists’ ability to make good-faith promises of confidentiality to international sources."

About the Reporters Committee:

Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· Brief: Amicus brief in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA

· Release: Reporters Committee asks U.S. Supreme Court to allow journalists to challenge wiretap law