Now that the Obama Administration Has Alienated Most Journalists, Does the Phone Privacy Bill Have Legs?

It probably won't really help protect leaks, but it's a start


Let's set this aside as "Plan B"
Credit: Dori / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

At the White House press corps briefing this afternoon, Jay Carney steadfastly declined to comment directly about the DOJ investigation of a leak that treated Fox News correspondent James Rosen as a potential criminal because it is an "ongoing investigation." So that probably failed to comfort any journalist anywhere, even with his limp effort to invoke President Barack Obama's support for a watered-down press shield law full of all sorts of national security loopholes.

For Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), the news might help garner support for the legislation he introduced with Zoe Lofgren (D-California), Jared Polis, (D-Colorado) and Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina) to require a court order to get telephone records.

Like the proposed press shield law, the legislation probably wouldn't have stopped the federal government from getting the information it had gathered about Associated Press and Fox journalists, but at least there would have been another step involving some oversight from the judiciary. It may not have been much oversight, given the deference the judiciary gives to the executive branch in these matters, but at least it's a start.

According to Michigan Live (which seems to just now be reporting on the bill's introduction), the bill has picked up two more Republican supporters and Amash is hoping for the legislation to take off:

In a statement last week, Amash blasted federal officials for the AP case, saying the seizure "raises serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns."

"Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans," Amash said, "we deserve to know that the federal government can't seize our records without judicial review."

Because of the high-profile nature of the Justice Department's seizure, [Amash Spokesman Will] Adams said the bill stood a good chance of passing quickly in the House.

It helps, he added, that cosponsor Lofgren is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which would be the first body to take up the bill.

"We think there's a lot of momentum," Adams said.