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Administration officials speak out against shield law

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Four prominent Bush administration officials sent letters this week to Senate leadership speaking out against the proposed Free Flow of…

Four prominent Bush administration officials sent letters this week to Senate leadership speaking out against the proposed Free Flow of Information Act, a bill that would provide journalists protection from federal subpoenas.

The Justice Department released letters on Thursday from Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that turned to the now-familiar warning that the proposed shield law could harm national security.

In his letter, Chertoff said that, if passed, the law “would be disastrous to the Federal Government’s ability to detect, investigate, and ultimately stop criminals, terrorists, and others who want to harm this Nation.”

Those sentiments seemed to ignore an exception in the bill that would allow for subpoenas where the information sought would assist in preventing “a specific act of terrorism against the United States” or “significant harm to national security that would outweigh the public interest in newsgathering and maintaining a free flow of information to citizens.”

Gates expressed concern that the bill would make it more difficult to investigate leaks from within government agencies, threatening that such "unauthorized disclosures . . . would only multiply."

The letters could indicate that the full Senate may finally be gearing up to address the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly voted to send the bill to the floor in early October, but no further action has been taken.