H.R. 985 Explained; A Journalism Shield Law

I’ve received some emails about this bill and when I originally started to read this bill, I went cross-eyed trying to figure it out until I got to the very end and started with the definitions of the parties involved.  I could be completely wrong, but if I am, then I am sure one of my readers will let me know.

There seems to be an internet surge that states this bill is about keeping Barack Obama’s birth certificate a secret and that there are provisions to keep federal employees from being compelled to release documents.  All of Bambi’s docs were permanently sealed when he signed E.O. 13489.

I’m not seeing this bill as a way to conceal federal employee’s records, and I have read and re-read this bill at least twenty times.  I want to be the voice of reason, and explain how this bill is actually a national journalist shield law, and how the National Press Club endorses this bill, congratulates the House and wants the Senate to pass it also.

So let’s start at the end with the definitions, and I will try to break it down for you.

H.R. 985:

(4) FEDERAL ENTITY- The term ‘Federal entity’ means an entity or employee of the judicial or executive branch or an administrative agency of the Federal Government with the power to issue a subpoena or issue other compulsory process.

Federal Entity = US Department of Justice (for example)

(5) JOURNALISM- The term ‘journalism’ means the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.

Journalist = Jake Tapper (for example)

Now here is the bill, H.R. 985:

Free Flow of Information Act of 2009

To maintain the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

SEC. 2. COMPELLED DISCLOSURE FROM COVERED PERSONS.

(a) Conditions for Compelled Disclosure- In any matter arising under Federal law, a Federal entity may not compel a covered person to provide testimony or produce any document related to information obtained or created by such covered person as part of engaging in journalism, unless a court determines by a preponderance of the evidence, after providing notice and an opportunity to be heard to such covered person–

I am not actually going to quote anymore from this bill as it becomes very redundant, but I will share this with you.

NPC Urges Senate to Pass Shield Law

WASHINGTON (Map) – WASHINGTON, April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Press Club commends the House for passing legislation that would protect reporters from having to reveal their anonymous sources to government officials, except under extraordinary circumstances. The Club urges the Senate to pass this legislation, so President Obama can then sign it into law.

“It is past time that reporters have a national shield against government attempts to learn the identities of anonymous sources,” said NPC President Donna Leinwand, a reporter with USA Today. “Unless reporters can withhold the names of sources on occasion, the press cannot do its job as well. If reporters cannot protect sources, it will chill their ability to shine a light on decisions and actions the government is trying to keep secret from the public — actions about which the public has a right to know.”

Shield laws exist in 34 states and the District of Columbia, but there is no national shield. In its absence, judges have increasingly forced journalists to disclose their anonymous sources.

“If allowed to continue, this trend could frighten potential sources who might otherwise provide reporters with critical information the entire society needs to know,” Leinwand said.

Once again, I do not think obtaining a long form birth certificate for the resident is actually going to help, rather obtaining his college records will tell the tale of who and what he is.

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5 Responses to “H.R. 985 Explained; A Journalism Shield Law”
  1. Horizon3 says:

    First let me say I am not trying to be critical, just offering a different interpretation. Let me fist state that this bill is unconstitutional as it violates Article 1 Section, Section 9, Clause 3 of the US Constitution. “No bill of attainder or _ex_post_facto_ law shall be passed.”, as well as the 4th Amendment.

    The first mistake you can make is trusting anything in the title text, the Congress is very adept at providing misleading titles, they do this so that a person scanning through the list of bills on the GPO web site just passes over bills that do not have a threatening or obviously negative connotations. ie. don’t expect them to put a title on the bill that says ” this may be called the bill to confiscate firearms from citizens act”, it will almost always be worded to prevent a person from readily identifying the bill as bad or counter to the Constitution.

    The wording in this particular bill is devious and misleading, you must read the whole thing and understand how one part of the bill applies to the other parts.

    Compelled disclosure from covered persons .. if you read this part alone you would think it applies only to journalists however if you read further down the
    document you find federal employees and administration officials are also included, this would of course automatically include the president. And if you take that combined with the wording in sec. 2 that says.

    (a) CONDITIONS FOR COMPELLED DISCLOSURE.—In
    7 any matter arising under Federal law, a Federal entity
    8 may not compel a covered person to provide testimony or
    9 produce any document related to information obtained or
    10 created by such covered person.

    This breaks down to include the SCOTUS the Atty General or any other alphabet soup regulatory federal entity, including lower federal courts, and since federal law trumps state law, any state or municipal courts. And includes any document of journalistic value or relevance. “In legalese these would be any document”, as there is no limit as to what documents or records may be of “journalistic value”. I would say that Zero’s documents would be “worthy of being of journalistic value”

    In another section;
    Authority to consider national security interests,
    The President can declare virtually anything a matter of National Security, via his authority under the “Patriot Act”, the “War Powers Act, or the National Security Act”, this includes by definition in this bill his “private and public records”

    Not only does this bill apply to documents, but to emails, web logs, server logs, chat room logs, phone call recordings, video tapes, and just about any other type of record you can think of including a personal diary.

    There are more “weasel words” in this bill but you should get my point by now.

    • critical is okay! I don’t take down the obot comments and I am not going to stop ongoing discussion about bills…so have at it. I still don’t see how a federal employee becomes a covered person, and I still don’t think this is about Bambi’s docs because of that EO he signed the day after he was inaugurated.

      Anywhooo, he’s is going to be impeached because of something incredibly big and stupid or the pilgrims are going to figure out that he is going off the reservation and persuade him to stop being president.

  2. DT, from your lips to god’s ears…not soon enough. I think he’s too stoned to answer that red phone at 2 AM. And that’s just for starters. He’s ignoring Israeli intel and there will be hell to pay when THAT gets out.

  3. I guess my problem here is that I don’t even see the purpose of this law. Isn’t this covered in the Constitution already? Which leads me to believe there is an ulterior motive with it being brought out right now when there are so many other more pressing issues in this nation.

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