Federal Shield Law

Please comment on this item posted on See links below for information on the bill and its sponsors.

Lawmakers first introduced the Free Flow of Information Act years ago to shield journalists from having to reveal their anonymous confidants in federal court. Under the proposed bill, federal prosecutors could only subpoena reporters if they had already tried every other avenue to discover the information in question.

Then-candidate Barack Obama reportedly supported the robust, so-called federal shield law on the campaign trail, similar versions of which a number of states have long enacted and maintained. But on Friday, the president proposed changes to the bill contrary to his original position. The new proposal would instead limit its shield to only those cases that did not present a significant threat to national security — a revision the Society of Professional Journalists quickly condemned.



  1. Personally I feel the journalists should be angry at President Obama for proposing changes to the bill. When he was running for president he supported it and now that he is making changes it is almost hypocritical of him. Other people would be angry if Obama changed his view on health care. To journalists this is very important and they should make it known that they think this is wrong. I also do not like what changes were proposed for the bill. I believe that cases of national security are more important to keep anonymous confidants secret then anything else. The people who give tips anonymously want to keep their identity hidden for a reason. Now people with important things to say will keep quite because they do not want their name to get out and possibly have terrorists come after them for saying something to the public. All in all I think this was a bad idea on President Obama’s part and that journalists should stand up and make their feelings heard.

    Comment by Beth Steele — October 5, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  2. A presidential candidate slightly altering his or her original goals during the actual term of office is not an outrageous move, nor is it uncommon. President Obama’s decision to use a national shield law only for the cases that are not a threat to national security shouldn’t cause a lot of dramatic changes to journalism. If this move is beneficial in terms of protecting the country against terrorism or any other threat, then it should be carried out. Sometimes it is better for journalists to expose their sources rather than to become the direct target for criticism from the public, especially when dealing with controversial issues. Telling the public where information is being received will also up the trust factor between news media and the people that has laready been deterred throughout the years.

    Comment by Alesha Bailey — October 5, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  3. This is extremely dissapointing news for not only journalists, but Americans. Beyond the fact that Obama is putting the safety of reporters and journalists everywhere in jeopardy, he is letting everyone down by going against his word. Now, that’s not to say that things like this haven’t happened before, but in this case, I don’t believe that changing his stance is going to do anything more to protect the country.

    Comment by Kaitlin Sullivan — October 6, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  4. The Free Flow of Information Act is fine the way it is. There was no reason for President Obama to try and change it. He was for the act before and now he is for the changes. It just doesn’t make any sense. He shouldn’t be going back on his word. It looks bad. The act protects journalists and their anonymous sources. Its not right for someone to say the act is more favored to journalists. Thats the whole point. Its supposed to protect journalists. Everyone has rights. By changing the Free Flow of Information Act, they are taking away some of our rights as journalists. This new change in the act doesn’t look good for journalists.

    Comment by slbilharz — October 6, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

  5. The Free Flow of Information Act is a great idea. Obama might have changed his mind on which cases a journalist should be able to keep their sources private, but it’s not without good intentions. When a reporter uses a private source, they know the risks that can go along with not naming their source. Therefore, a journalist chooses to put themselves in position of possibly going to jail or going to court. Public may have a right to know the story, but they also have a right to know if that source is reliable, or even part of the problem. Either way the act stills helps resolve some of the issues associated with this well known problem. There should always be an expection to a rule, otherwise people get screwed over. Even in this case, to hide a source that may pose a threat to national security is also threatening to you and your community.

    Comment by Kaitlyn Peters — October 7, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  6. The Free Flow of Information Act should be left as is. The president should not make any changes to it, even if it is for national security. Who determines when our national security is endangered anyways? Make this subtle change to the act could send us down a slippery slope, back to where we started. Journalist should not be punished for keeping their secrets private. If they president was under oath in judicial law, I hope that he would keep his confidential secrets to himself. Obama may have gone back on his word, but it’s not about that. It’s the fact that congress, even the people in the United States, doesn’t believe that journalists should have rights.

    Comment by Kristin Jording — October 7, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

  7. Journalist have every right to be upset. Not only did the President say he would support the bill, but now he wants limits on the bill. As journalist, we need protection. If we give up our sources, we could be sued. If we don’t give up the sources, we could be in jail. Journalist need protection like people need protection from the police. If we don’t get this bill pass, journalist will be in a place where they will never win. As a journalist, I want to not give up my sources if I promised them I wouldn’t, but at the same time, I don’t want to face jail time because I wouldn’t give up a name. Now depending on the situation, sometimes giving up your sources might be best, example being if someone you interviewing says if they’re going to commit suicide, going to commit a terrorist act, etc. We need support for this bill and fast because I don’t want to be that journalist who’s stuck between a rock and a hard place if it ever happens to me.

    Comment by lamarhreporter — October 7, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  8. In order for journalists to work without fear and their sources not to worry s well this law must pass. If a journalist promises to the source not to release their name the journalist can not release the name of source. Some journalists end up in prison because they will not release their sources. Anonymity is very important journalists gather a lot of information from people that don’t want to release their name. If journalists will not be able to offer anonymity to their sources journalists would not be able to write stories that the readers should know about. We might have never known about Watergate if the source didn’t not receive anonymity, we just found out couple years ago who the “Deep throat” was. The Shield Law is vital when it comes to the journalists jobs.

    Comment by Michael Stopka — October 8, 2009 @ 10:44 am

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