Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect journalists from government surveillance

Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect journalists from government surveillance
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong MORE (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on Monday aimed at protecting journalists from government surveillance, weeks after it was revealed that the Department of Justice under the Trump administration had sought the personal phone and email records of reporters from multiple major news organizations.

“The Trump Administration spied on reporters it suspected of no crimes in its hunt to identify their sources and prevent the American people from learning the truth about Trump’s lawlessness and corruption," Wyden said in a statement. "President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE and Attorney General Garland have pledged to end these surveillance abuses, but the new policies can be reversed by future administrations."

Reporters from CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times were all targeted by probes by the Trump administration. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE and William BarrBill BarrTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event MORE, who both served as attorney general under former President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE, have denied having knowledge of these probes.

ADVERTISEMENT

The bill, titled the Protect Reporters from Excessive State Suppression Act, would define the term "covered journalist" as someone who "gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns news events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public."

Under this legislation, the federal government would be prohibited from compelling electronic storage service providers to provide documents or information regarding a "covered journalist" or their personal devices. It would also require the federal government to provide reporters the opportunity to respond to demands for records.

These standards would apply to emails, telephones and third-party providers that could reveal who a journalist's source is.

The legislation has been endorsed by multiple journalist organizations including the News Media Alliance, Radio Television Digital News Association, Society of Professional Journalists, National Association of Broadcasters and News Leaders Association.

Leaders from the news media industry met with Attorney General Merrick Garland earlier this month in light of these revelations. During the meeting, the Justice Department told the leaders "that reporters were never the subject or the target of the recent investigations." The agency reportedly promised not to use “compulsory processes” to obtain information from reporters.

Apart from journalists, it was reported in June that the Trump Justice Department had also seized the data of Democratic lawmakers including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Jan. 6 panel subpoenas four ex-Trump aides Bannon, Meadows Schiff: Criminal contempt charges possible for noncooperation in Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-Calif.). The agency as well as the Senate and House judiciary committees have all subsequently launched investigations into the Trump administration's data probes.