The Senate Judiciary Committee presented modifications to the bill that would create a federal shield law this morning in an ongoing effort to reach a compromise between the supporters and opponents of the proposed legislation.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who is among the Free Flow of Information Act’s bipartisan co-sponsors, outlined revisions to the proposed privilege, which included a broader exemption from coverage in cases related to terrorism and national security, and the addition of a section that would allow judges to quickly review allegedly protected information in chambers. A version of the federal shield bill passed in the House of Representatives last March.
“There are no absolutes here, and that’s what makes it difficult,” Schumer said. “Some people say the First Amendment is absolute, some people say that anything that says ‘national security’ should trump everybody else; the truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle and we’re trying to find the right balance.”
Schumer also discussed the definition of covered journalists under the bill, which was taken from a 1987 opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York (2nd Cir.), Von Bulow v. Von Bulow. That case defined a journalist as a person who had the the intent to disseminate information to the public.
The Committee plans to resume debate of the bill next week. Committee members will again submit amendments and are then expected to vote on the bill.