Aren't the ever-popular, so-called "Gang of Eight" commissions actually the places where all good ideas go to die?

Regardless, it seems to me that before any 'media shield law' can ever come to mean anything more than the paper it's written on; a clear definition of "national security" has to be agreed upon. And I'm not just talking about what the White House decides the definition is. That's how we get twisted meanings of words like "imminent." Instead, an honest, inclusive debate must occur, and I believe input from the public should be involved in the process. And for the love of pete, this new "gang of eight" should revisit the arcane Espionage Act at the same time. The way it's used now, it ranks right up there with the unsavory likes of the Patriot Act, the NDAA and the AUMF in democracy-killing ability.

That said...

On Sunday, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) announced that he has formed a new Gang of Eight in the Senate to work on a bill to protect journalists from revealing their sources and documents. The renewed push for a so-called “media shield” law comes in the aftermath of revelations that the Department of Justice obtained information about Associated Press reporters and a Fox News journalist as part of its investigations into leaks of classified intelligence.

“I’ve proposed, along with Lindsey Graham, and we’ll be announcing that we have four Democrats and four Republicans, and another Gang of Eight,” Schumer said on CBS’ Face The Nation.

I don't see much help Lindsey Graham brings to the table but this may turn out to be useful nonetheless. The new legislation will include new rules for the government to follow to...
"... exhaust other methods for finding the source of the information before subpoenaing a reporter."

The government would also have to inform the news agency it wishes to subpoena about its intentions, and also prove to a judge that the information it's seeking outweighs journalistic freedoms.  

How the government proves it has exhausted all other sources will no doubt prove interesting in itself.

The White House is said to be onboard, a spokesman for Senator Schumer confirmed to ThinkProgress. The legislation builds on a compromise in 2009 that prohibits judges in national security cased from denying subpoenas into the records of journalists if the government can prove that the information could help prevent a future terrorist attack or "other acts likely to harm national security." (of course, that's where the clear definition of "national security" comes in handy)

The new legislation would allow journalists greater protections in both civil and criminal cases because the government would need to "show why their need for the information outweighed the public's interest in unfettered news gathering."

The article comes from ThinkProgress:

Schumer argued that any media shield build must strike a balance between national security and freedom of the press. “We have the right of the government to protect certain information from becoming public,” he explained. “At the same time we want a robust and full freedom of the press and the only people who make the rules in this case are the government side.” “If we can set up these rule his think we’ll avoid the morass. You always need set rules and an independent arbiter.”
What makes this new legislative endeavor different from similar proposals in 2007 and 2009 is the fact the Senate did not advance the bills. This time the bill would start there. Of course, that doesn't mean that a John Boehner led House would bring any such bill to the floor of the House for a vote.

Lawmakers in the House have expressed support for shield legislation and passed similar bill in 2007 and 2009 that did not advance in the Senate. On Wednesday, the White House asked Schumer to re-introduce his 2009 bill. For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged to hold a vote on the bill. He told reporters on Tuesday:

“I wish the Republicans hadn’t blocked the shield law previously, so we’ll bring it up again, and I hope they won’t block it again.”
I wholeheartedly applaud this effort. But like I said at the beginning of this diary, it won't work -- it can't possibly work -- if a clear, definitive understanding of what constitutes "national security" isn't reached.

After all, how can we ever protect our national security... if we don't know what it entails?

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