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House Passes Shield Law

For the first time ever, a bill establishing a qualified protection for reporters from being compelled by federal prosecutors to testify or reveal sources passed in one of the two houses of Congress.

The bill, HR 2102, passed overwhelmingly, 398-21 (with 13 not voting) -- good news for its supporters, given that President Bush may well try to veto it, and the House would need two-thirds to override if that is the case.

Passage came after the bill's backers agreed to broaden the qualifications of the privilege so that the revealing of sources could be compelled in cases of terrorism. They also tightened the definition of journalists covered to exclude casual bloggers, members of bona fide terrorist organizations and journalistic organizations backed by foreign governments.

A shield-law bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year, but it has not received a floor vote.