JoshuaPundit: 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.
Senator 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. And better yet, tell them to keep their hands off our freedoms; we already have a Bill of Rights!
Excellent Comment Below by the ColdOne from Free Republic:
A "Government-defined," sanctioned "press," made up of Senate-approved "journalists" is not what the Founders had in mind when they framed the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, as is evidenced by their words and actions.
Citizens should band together to "call out" government officials on such a blatant attack on the First Amendment, no matter what ruse is used to justify it.
Even Thomas Jefferson, who was often attacked by the press of his day, spoke out strongly in its defense. His passion, of course, was defending liberty, unlike that of the current Congress and Administration.
"The press [is] the only tocsin of a nation. [When it] is completely silenced… all means of a general effort [are] taken away." –Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, Nov 29, 1802. (*) ME 10:341
"Since truth and reason have maintained their ground against false opinions in league with false facts, the press confined to truth needs no other legal restraint. The public judgment will correct false reasoning and opinions on a full hearing of all parties, and no other definite line can be drawn between the inestimable liberty of the press and its demoralizing licentiousness. If there be still improprieties which this rule would not restrain, its supplement must be sought in the censorship of public opinion." –Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural Address, 1805. ME 3:381
"The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe." –Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384
"Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." –Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786.
And, finally, but by no means the entirety of Jefferson’s thoughts on the need for freedom of the press, no matter how critical its views:
"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."(Underlining added for emphasis) –Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804. ME 11:33
Fox should place this final Jefferson statement on its screen prior to each program as a means of educating the electorate on the role of the press in a free society.
The alphabet networks have dominated interpretation of news for so long that many citizens never have stopped to think that their opinions may have been manipulated in a manner which may not have included a search for truth.
Then, there are these numbered items from the writings of Benjamin Franklin:
"Revisions of the Pennsylvania Declaration of Rights
ms emendations of a broadside text, An Essay of a Declaration of Rights, Brought in by the Committee Appointed for That Purpose, and Now under the Consideration of the Convention of the State of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1776): Library Company of Philadelphia.
[Between July 29 and August 15, 1776]
An Essay of a Declaration of Rights, Brought in by the Committee appointed for that Purpose, and now under the Consideration of the Convention of the State of Pennsylvania.
1. That all Men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable Rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending Life and Liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting Property, and pursuing and obtaining Happiness and Safety.
2. That all Men have a natural and unalienable Right to worship almighty God according to the Dictates of their own Consciences and Understandings: And that no Man ought or of Right can be compelled to attend any place of Religious Worship, or erect or support or maintain any Worship, Place or any place of Worship or maintain any Ministry, contrary to, or against his own free will and Consent. Nor can any Man ^^who acknowledges the Being of a God be justly deprived or abridged of any Civil Right as a Citizen, on account of his ^^Religious Sentiments or peculiar Mode of religious Worship. And that no Authority can or ought to be vested in, or assumed by, any Power whatever that shall in any Case interfere with, or in any Manner control, the Right of Conscience in the free Exercise of religious Worship.
3. That the People of this State have the sole exclusive and inherent Right of governing and regulating the internal Police of the same.
4. That all Power being originally inherent in, and consequently derived from, the People, therefore all Officers of Government, whether Legislative or Executive, are their Trustees and Servants, and at all Times accountable to them.
5. That Government is or ought to be instituted for the common Benefit, Protection and Security of the People, Nation or Community,* ^^[in the margin: * And not] and that a Majority of the Community hath an indubitable, unalienable and indefeasible Right to reform, alter or abolish it ^^Government in such a Manner as shall be by that Majority Community judged most conducive to the Public Weal.
6. That those who are employed in the Legislative and Executive Business of the State may be restrained from Oppression, by feeling and participating the common Brethren, the People have a Right, at such Periods as they may think proper, to reduce their Public Officers to a private Station, return them into that Body from which they were originally taken, and supply the Vacancies by certain and regular Elections: But that the having served in any Office, out not in all Cases to disqualify the Person from being re-elected. truth.
"12. That the People have a Right to Freedom of Speech, and of writing and publishing their Sentiments, therefore the Freedom of the Press ought not to be restrained.
13. That the People have a Right to bear Arms for the Defense of themselves and the State, and as standing Armies in the Time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, they ought not to be kept up: And that the Military should be kept under strict Subordination to, and governed by, the Civil Power.
14. That a frequent Recurrence to fundamental Principles, and a firm Adherence to Justice, Moderation, Temperance Industry and Frugality are absolutely necessary to preserve the Blessings of Liberty, and keep a Government free, the People have therefore a Right to exact a due and constant Regard to these Points from their Legislators or Officers and Representatives in the making and Executing such Laws as are necessary for the good Govt. of the State."