Policy and News Updates for October 2, 2007

In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]

I. Shield bill for reporters stalls
II. Respected Director of Information Security Oversight Office to resign

I. Shield bill for reporters stalls

Legislation to give reporters limited protection for their confidential sources was held up last week in the Senate by Sen. John Kyl [R-AZ], who used Justice Department talking points to object to the bill. The Justice Department argues that the bill is unnecessary.

The Senate bill, the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 2035), is a compromise bill which updates S. 1267, introduced in May by Sens. Richard Lugar [R-IN] and Christopher Dodd [D-CT]. A comparison of the bills is available here.

S. 2035
would protect reporters’ confidential sources while allowing for exceptions in cases of national security. For example, a confidential source’s identity can be compelled if
disclosure is necessary to prevent “a specific case of terrorism against
the United States or significant harm to national security that outweighs
the public interest in newsgathering and maintaining a free flow of
information to citizens.” There is only a qualified privilege for leaks of
properly classified information. Talking points and a fact sheet were produced by a coalition of media companies and organizations, including members of OpenTheGovernment.org, who support the bill.

In early August, the House version of the bill (H.R. 2102) passed
out of the House Judiciary Committee by voice vote without objection.

According to the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have shield laws on the books, and all the other states, except for one, recognize some form of a privilege for journalists.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet on Thursday, October 4 to address the bill again.

II. Respected Director of Information Security Oversight Office to resign

J. William Leonard, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), is resigning from that position effective January 2008, Secrecy News reported last week. ISOO is a component of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Mr. Leonard is considered a respected expert on classification policy and his announcement came as a surprise to many. Secrecy News provides access to the resignation announcement, Mr. Leonard’s letter of resignation, and more on Mr. Leonard’s importance to the classification system.

News from Coalition Partners and Others

News from the National Security Archive

Several news items from the National Security Archive:

  • On October 1, a District Court in the District of Columbia ruled that an Executive Order issued by President George W. Bush in 2001, which severely slowed or prevented the release of historic presidential papers is, in part, invalid. The underlying lawsuit was filed in November 2001 by the National Security Archive and other plaintiffs.

  • The Archive published a collection of documents concerning U.S. policy with regard to acknowledging the “fact of” U.S. satellite reconnaissance operations – particularly satellite photoreconnaissance.

  • The Archive launched a new web page on Mexico’s Freedom of Information Program.

    Visit the Policy and News Updates Archive here