While the White House very lamely attempted to do damage control on the Department of Justice's grotesque Associated Press surveillance dragnet by unconvincingly re-animating a push for a federal shield law exempting the professional press from most non-national-security-related federal fishing expeditions, some actual civil libertarians in Washington have introduced a bill that would increase protections for all Americans against unchecked federal snooping.
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), joined by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), today introduced legislation to prevent federal agencies from seizing Americans' telephone records without a court order.
H.R. 2014, the Telephone Records Protection Act, requires court approval when the government demands telephone records from service providers. Current law allows the government to subpoena such records unilaterally, without any judicial review. The Department of Justice likely used its administrative subpoena authority to seize the Associated Press's telephone records in its recent investigation of a CIA leak.
"The Justice Department's seizure of the AP's phone records—likely without the sign-off of a single judge—raises serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns. Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans, we deserve to know that the federal government can't seize our records without judicial review," said Amash.
More at the link.
Journalists, whenever under the prosecutorial gun, spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about the First Amendment rather than the Fourth (or even the Fifth). I'm glad Amash et al are focusing on the implications outside the narrow interests of the affected guild, and it's heartening to see the continuing emergence of a bipartisan civil-liberties caucus on Capitol Hill.