By Ben Wolfgang
With journalists now justifiably fearful that the federal government could examine their telephone logs and dig up other information, support is growing in Congress for a measure to help reporters keep their sources confidential.
Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California on Thursday morning said she supports the so-called "shield law."
"We need legislation to address that. I think it's time we put that back on the table and that we talk about that," she said during an appearance on C-Span's "Washington Journal" program, adding that she finds the Justice Department's snooping on The Associated Press to be "terrible."
The DOJ has admitted it sought telephone records from at least 20 AP reporters and editors in an attempt to track down the source of national security leaks related to a terrorist plot. The collection of those logs was done without the AP's knowledge and has caused a firestorm on Capitol Hill with critics accusing the White House of trampling the First Amendment.
During an appearance before Congress on Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder pleaded ignorance on the issue and said that, because he recused himself from the AP investigation shortly after it began last year, he has very limited knowledge of what transpired.
But he did seem to offer his support for a shield law, saying that the focus of these government inquiries should be finding the sources of leaks, not on the journalists who report on classified information.
Members of Congress increasingly agree that there need to be more limits on when the government can infringe on the rights of the Fourth Estate.
"This kind of law would balance national security needs against the public's right to the free flow of information. At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case," said Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, in an ABC News report.
Mr. Schumer on Wednesday reintroduced the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, which would establish very limited circumstances under which courts could compel a reporter to disclose the identities of his sources.
The measure also was brought up in 2009 but failed to clear the Senate.