Thursday, September 12, 2013
Senate Panel Okays Legislation Attacking Bloggers And New Media
The senate judiciary committee just cleared the way for legislation defining who a journalist is..and thus who qualifies for protection from warrantless surveillance, having to reveal sources and secret government subpoenas of phone records, e-mails and personal information.
This emerged out of the Obama Administration scandal involving the Associated Press, when the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed almost two months of telephone records for 21 phone lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press and secretly used a warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist.
The new legislation follows closely on guidelines given to the committee by Attorney General Eric Holder, and they are designed specifically to make it a lot easier to attack bloggers and new media journalists and video makers.
Under these guidelines, a "covered journalist" is defined as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.
It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years.
'Freelance' in this case is defined as paid work.
For example, writing unpaid freelance pieces for internet outlets like American Thinker, or unpaid op-eds for other publications is not does not protect your rights.
The committee later approved the overall bill on a 13-5 vote.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a chief proponent of the medial shield legislation, worked with Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., as well as representatives from news organizations, on the compromise.
"I think journalism has a certain tradecraft. It's a profession. I recognize that everyone can think they're a journalist," Feinstein said.
The overall measure would incorporate many of the changes proposed by Attorney General Eric Holder in July. Criticism of the collection of the material without any notice to the news organizations prompted President Barack Obama to order Holder to review the department's policy.
Holder's revised guidelines called for the government to give advance notice to the news media about subpoena requests for reporters' phone records unless the attorney general determines such notice would pose a clear and substantial threat to the investigation. Search warrants for a reporter's email would only apply when the individual is the focus of a criminal investigation for conduct not connected to ordinary newsgathering.
The bill makes clear that before the government asks a news organization to divulge sources, it first must go to a judge, who would supervise any subpoenas or court orders for information. Such orders would be limited, if possible, "in purpose, subject matter and period of time covered so as to avoid compelling disclosure of peripheral, nonessential or speculative information."
Holder's revised guidelines do not call for a judge to be involved before the government asks a news organization to divulge sources. However, the guidelines call for a new standing News Media Review Committee to advise the attorney general on such requests.
These protections only apply to the new definition of 'journalist'. If you have a blog or a YouTube channel, no matter how well established or reputable and the writers or videographers are unpaid citizen journalists, it's open season.
First amendment? Huh? Wha?
Call your representatives to broaden this narrow definition if you value your freedom of speech and press.