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Reporters Committee exec director warns of chilling effect as government tracks reporters' sources without subpoenas

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Federal subpoenas of reporters could wane as the administration finds other ways to track down their confidential sources, writes Reporters…

Federal subpoenas of reporters could wane as the administration finds other ways to track down their confidential sources, writes Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Lucy Dalglish in the latest edition of The News Media & The Law.

Dalglish’s observation came after attending an Aspen Institute meeting of national security reporters, lawyers, staff members from intelligence-related congressional committees and senior representatives from agencies involved with national security.

“Whereas previously some agency representatives had grudgingly acknowledged that the public had been served by some reporting of classified information furnished secretly by government employees, the Obama administration folks were having none of it. The administration’s continued prosecution of government employees who some transparency activists consider to be bona fide whistleblowers makes this clear,” Dalglish writes.

Noting the technological advances that have widened the government’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, Dalglish says she got “chills down my spine” when recalling a comment from one national security representative at the meeting: “We’re not going to subpoena reporters in the future. We don’t need to. We know who you’re talking to.”

The cover story of the latest The News Media & The Law is “Journalists, Whistleblowers and National Security,” which looks at the most recent subpoena against New York Times reporter James Risen, as well as the legal history of and standards for quashing subpoenas.

Current and past issues of The News Media & The Law can be read in their entirety on the Reporters Committee website.

About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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.