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Shield Law: Mr. Smith Came to Washington

Society of Professional Journalists President Kevin Smith was in the nation's capital last week to push

legislators to allow a final vote on a federal shield law in this Congress.

In letters delivered to key senators, according to SPJ, he says that after concessions and compromises on the

definition of journalist and national security carve-outs, the bill (Senate bill 448, the Free Flow of information

Act) now has the backing of "the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, the House and we know the majority of the Senate. It is ready to go to the Senate floor."

If so, it will have to be in a lame duck session after the election.

At a national journalist conference in Las Vegas this week, he warned that if a vote does not come by December,

the law could be stalled for another half-decade.

The bill would give reporters limited immunity from federal subpoenas when they decline to identify sources. But 

whether they get that immunity would be up to a judge, there would be limits on who qualifies and under what


After much
negotiation with Republicans and the Obama administration, bill backers
secured passage of the Free Flow of Information Act in the House and the
Senate Judiciary Committee, but it was stalled
by questions over the defintion of journalists, whether bloggers should
qualify, for instance.

groups have been trying for decades to get a shield law through
Congress, but this was thought to have been the best chance yet of
finally pushing it over the finish line.