Amendment to Privacy Protection Act Becomes Law
WASHINGTON, D.C.–A bill that will weaken protection against newsroom searches was tacked on to the federal omnibus spending bill in the final days of Congress and signed into law in late September. Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) bill amends the Privacy Protection Act, a law that protects journalists from search or seizure of materials, to permit searches relating to alleged child pornography and child exploitation offenses.
Since the Privacy Protection Act became effective in January 1981, the law has permitted officials to search for or seize materials when the receipt, possession or communication of them is a crime only if the offense involves national security or classified information. Law enforcement officials who violate the Privacy Protection Act can be sued for civil damages by the journalist or news organization involved.
At a committee hearing in early June, Senator Orrin Hatch, the bill’s sponsor, said that the Privacy Protection Act needed to be amended to protect government and law enforcement officials from being sued under the act.
(Child Pornography Prevention Act (Omnibus Appropriations Bill, Section 121))