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Attorneys General Push Senate on Shield Law

The vast majority of state attorneys general are asking the full Senate to follow the Senate Judiciary Committee's lead and pass a shield law, saying that it would not "unduly impair" the task of law enforcement.

The House already passed a bill giving reporters a qualified privilege, similar to the privilege extended by 49 of the 50 states (Wyoming is the exception). The Senate Judiciary Committee also approved a similar bill on that side of the aisle, which leaves it up to the Senate.

In a letter to the Senate majority and minority leaders -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) controls the calendar -- 41 attorneys general expressed their support for squaring federal law with those 49 states.

"By exposing confidences protected under state law to discovery in federal courts, the lack of a corresponding federal reporter’s privilege law frustrates the purposes of the state-recognized privileges and undercuts the benefit to the public that the states have sought to bestow through their shield laws," the attorneys argued.

They said the bill (S. 2035) strikes a sensible balance between reporter freedoms and not unduly impairing law enforcement or trials.

Journalists have been pushing for decades to pass a federal shield law, but this time the prospects look brighter given that it has bipartisan support in Congress and both Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are co-sponsors of the Senate version.