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RTNDA rips anti-disclosure bill

The Radio-Television News Directors Association Tuesday urged lawmakers to oppose plans by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) to re-introduce legislation imposing criminal penalties and fines on federal employee who disclose classified information.

"The language of the legislation is sweeping," wrote RTNDA President Barbara Cochran in a letter to members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. "Its potential impact on the public's right to know would be disastrous. Not only will the provision subject news media to more subpoenas as prosecutors seek to identify leakers, but the law also will lead to the practice of classifying more information as `secret' than is legitimately necessary."

President Clinton struck a similar provision from intelligence spending legislation last fall, citing First Amendment violations. The Society of Professional Journalists has already voiced opposition to Shelby's plan.

Shelby is the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. - Bill McConnell