Basically since President Obama took office, the prospect for a Federal Shield Law protecting journalists and whistleblowers has seemed like virtually a sure thing. President Obama has come out in favor of it, and Attorney General Eric Holder expressed support for “the concept of such a law.”
But now it seems that the bill is being stalled in the Senate, chiefly as a result of vigorous campaigning by Holder’s Justice Department, which is cautioning that any effort to include a “balancing test,” forcing judges to consider the publics right to know information, would be a “threat to national security.”
Senators seem to be warming up to the idea of weakening the bill, with Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) fretting about the “constant drumbeat” of leaks and the possibility that the shield law will make it more difficult to prosecute leakers. Which is, of course, the whole point of having such a law to begin with.
Several media outlets have come out in favor of the law, but it seems like more and more delays are inevitable. In the end it is just another example of then-Senator Obama’s campaign pledges of openness falling victim to now-President Obama’s desire to keep the powers and secrecy claimed by the Bush Administration as intact as possible.