But a shield law wouldn’t necessarily prevent this week’s brouhaha about secret intrusions on reporter’s phone records. Reigning in Justice Department excesses such as these (and others) is what is necessary, and that will involve accountability and better judgment about legal policies at the top of the hierarchy there.

Ronald Goldfarb is an attorney, author and literary agent based in Washington, D.C., and Miami. He worked in the Kennedy Justice Department, has written extensively about press law, Crime and Publicity (with Alfred Friendly), TV or Not TV: Television, Justice, and the Courts, and In Confidence: When to Protect Secrecy and When to Require Disclosure.