Two-Faced Republicans Blocked the Bill that May Have Prevented AP Records Seizure

mitch_mcconnellLast Friday, news broke that the Department of Justice had seized Associated Press phone records, in order to determine the source of a leak of information regarding a foiled terrorist plot in Yemen last year. Now, I should start by saying that the purpose of this article is not in any way to shift blame for what happened to the Republican party. While I support the Administration on many things, I am not afraid to call them out on those I disagree with. Seizing the AP’s phone records without notifying them was wrong, ran afoul of the protected First Amendment freedom of the press, should not have occurred, and should be disconcerting to all Americans regardless of party affiliation. However, while the administration is in fact to blame for the DOJ’s actions, the fact still remains that a federal shield law proposed in 2008, which was filibustered by Republican senators, quite possibly could have prevented this from occurring.

Shield laws provide protection to news reporters. These laws allow journalists to refuse to testify in court to information they have obtained during their investigations. Essentially, they protect reporters against being forced to disclose confidential information or sources to the government during court proceedings. Currently, 49 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of protections for reporters and 40 states (plus D.C.) have passed shield laws which explicitly give reporters this privilege. However, there is no federal shield law. Thus, when it comes to the federal government, reporters have no such protection.

More importantly, in 2008, a federal shield law did make its way to the floor of Congress and received broad bipartisan support in the House. Unfortunately, it was filibustered by Republican members of the Senate in a party-line 51-43 vote. Furthermore, following yesterday’s Congressional hearings on the seizures, the White House contacted Senator Chuck Schumer and requested that he re-introduce the Free Flow of Information Act, which would create a federal shield law. This law, had it passed in 2008, would have given journalists some protections for refusing to identify confidential sources in federal proceedings, and would have enabled journalists to request that a federal judge quash subpoenas for their phone records. It is a much needed piece of legislation that would have already been law, had Senate Republicans not shamelessly blocked it in 2008.

In closing, while it is unknown whether a federal shield law definitely would have prevented the seizure of phone records, the fact still remains that the only reason the law wasn’t passed was because the Republican party didn’t want it to. Moreover, while the Obama Administration is clearly at fault for it’s transgressions; for what it’s worth, Republicans must partially share the blame for their 2008 obstruction of this preventive legislation.

CORRECTION: (5/16/2013 5:33 PM CDT)

An earlier version of this article stated that “wiretapping of phone lines” had occurred, which was incorrect. We apologize for the confusion.

Ilyssa Fuchs

Ilyssa Fuchs is an attorney, freelance writer, and activist from New York City, who holds both a juris doctor and a political science degree. She is the founder of the popular Facebook page Politically Preposterous and a blog of the same name. Follow Ilyssa on Twitter @IlyssaFuchs, and be sure to check out her archives on Forward Progressives as well!


Facebook comments

  • John Gavel

    Ahh yes gotta be the republicans fault somehow- how progressive of you to find it

    • Facts can’t be denied!

      • Bine646

        Anna, I see your avatar, interesting that you are fighting for acceptance of one group while you demonize and oust another……typical

      • BackSeatJesus

        How could facts be demonizing?

      • John Gavel

        Show me these facts you speak of? Bc i have some facts also. You cannot say that a repub filibuster is 2008 gave the DOJ the idea and the right to take phone records. Blame the people in charge please. If you commit a crime, are the police going to arrest your parents bc of something they allowed you to do acouple yrs back? Well yeah she commited the robbery, but her rents r truely to blame bc they allowed her to go to the concert so, its really their faiult, shes not responsible for her actions- americaaaaa

      • geoff

        she is saying that the bill had the ability to stop this, and it was filibustered in 08 and now that something happened where it wouldve been useful, people are looking to blame someone. while this should not have happened, the people wouldve had the power to stop it if that had gone through in 08

      • John Gavel

        The DOJ already said they confiscated phone records bc of a leak that put national security at risk. Have you heard of the patriot act? Ndaa? The repubs filibustering a law in 2008 had no bearing on the move the doj would make in 2013- you guys are grabbing at straws. Everyone needs to realize when ” national security” is at a risk- the govt will do anything to stop it. If the unwarranted searches in boston didnt show you that, this shpuld. They didnt apologize either, they do not think they are wrong, they are justifying this and thats the scary thing

    • how nice it was to have the patriot act become a law

      • Bine646

        how nice it was to have obama expand NDAA to allow americans to be detained in g-mo. Wasnt he going to close that?

      • Becker

        He ordered it closed. And is working on it again but his hands are tied by Congress. These people need to be sent elsewhere and tried elsewhere and the states with the federal penitentiaries refuse to take them or allow then to be tried in civilian court. Until those hurdles are breached, they are stuck at Gitmo.

  • Joecaber

    I thought all the JD did was obtain phone records. You wrote ‘wiretapped’. Which is it? Spin sucks, stop it.

    • Ilyssa

      I wrote in the article seizing of phone records. My editing team titled the piece. But now that you point it out the title is a bit misleading. The intro to the article has it correct and the body does not but will have it updated.

      • Joecaber

        ” I am not afraid to call them out on those I disagree with. Wiretapping the AP’s phones without notifying them was wrong,…”

        ??? who wrote that line ???

      • Ilyssa

        I acknowledged all of that, I said the body was incorrect. It is in the process of being corrected although the title cannot be changed. The government obtained records of all calls, they did not wiretap by listening in. You are correct.

      • Joecaber

        excellent. thank you.

      • Ilyssa

        All fixed, the only thing that can’t be corrected is the link URL. Thanks for pointing that out.

      • Joecaber

        In closing, while it is unknown whether a federal shield law definitely would have prevented the wiretapping, …

        I dissagree with your statement that the body of the article does not claim wiretapping occurred.

  • George Larios

    The 4th amendment reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”

    The DOJ believed they had probable cause and they also believed that their investigation could have been compromised if they gave advanced notice of their investigation. All these things are standard procedure in such cases. They also knew exactly, for the most part, where to look. They chose 20 phone numbers to do a record search on.

    Also, “wiretapping” to me is the equivalent of “assault rifles” in this context. A generic and misleading term that creates more fear than it does communicate context. The DOJ requested phone records, similar to what you see on your phone bill at the end of the month, not listening into phone calls. That part is quite simple and is misleading in the tone and usage in this article.

    I wouldn’t say that the DOJ is treading on the 1st amendment but that perhaps the AP is getting stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this case, taking the wrong intelligence from the wrong source and choosing to publish. It sounds like the government, in good faith, is trying to plug some leaks which is a bipartisan effort from some of the articles I’m reading. What is wrong with that? If the AP gets caught up in the fracas, isn’t that their own fault for accepting leaked info and choosing to publish said info?

    • Ilyssa

      The intro says seizing but the body is incorrect. It is in the process of being corrected although it doesn’t appear the title can be changed. The government obtained records of all calls, they did not wiretap by listening in. You are correct.

      • With every electronic transfer of information being recorded there is no longer need for wire taps. Having the phone records of date and time the search for the exact conversations is all that easier to obtain. You don’t have to listen in when every word is being stored.

  • Mark Strange

    I love that you admitted to a mistake and corrected yourself, this is professional journalism. Thank you for staying honest.

    • Ilyssa

      You are very welcome. I have integrity. If I make a mistake, I will correct it. More journalists should strive to do this as well.

      • Ahahahahahaha… your so full of crap its bubbling out of your ears!

        If you had an ounce of integrity wouldn’t be trying to bullshit these people.

      • Ilyssa

        Yes, stating a fact about a filibuster that actually happened is bubbling crap. Hold on let me check the bullshit meter. Oh, wait still happened. Sorry you don’t like the facts.

      • Your bullshit meter needs to be recalibrate.

      • norah

        No, yours does.

  • Dawn

    Why didn’t you give their names? Who exactly?

  • ChuckSwole

    Press receives no more protection than any individual citizen.

  • Dawn

    Since when did being liberal entail excusing governmental criminal excesses? I am done!

  • Chris

    Screw the press. You do something illegal, or have information on someone who did–it’s your legal responsibility not to obstruct justice. Quit crying.

  • Under normal circumstances I would agree with this story. This just happens to be where I differ on the basis that this story that was put out to the public and it could of done harm to the security of our country by allowing the terrorist to gather info on what we where doing to prevent them from attacking us. Apparently the terrorist where attempting to blow up a plane heading to the USA, under Homeland Security and with the Patriot Act as well as the NDAA our Government had every right to do what they did to find out who allowed this story to go forward after our Government told them to hold this story back until further notice.
    The press has gotten out of hand, they don’t seem to care how they have to get their story. During the Boston Marathon Bombing the Police had to tell the press to make sure they don’t let anyone know exactly where they were, at the time of their reports during the manhunt for Bomber #2.
    Has anyone else noticed that the real media has been acting more and more like the paparazzi?

  • Ilyssa

    I do not appreciate being called a liar over something that is clearly in the public record. If I make a mistake I correct it as I did with this article. But the fact is the filibuster, it happened, there isn’t any denying it. Look for yourself!

  • I awoke one morning to find that Tricky dickie the second and his whipping boy GWB along with congress had just Passed the patriots act, in it was the ability for our Government and local police dept to tap any ones Phone line they pleased without a warrant, and they wasted no time doing it, they were taping Our Brave men and women’s phone calls back home to their loved ones, hmmm when it broke it was reported but went away faster than a piece of flash paper, we had just lost a right as Americans, stripped away while we were all sleeping, Now the Government has attacked the press and they don’t like it, and this has been news for what the last week lol and will continue until the press gets It’s complete satisfaction and some one’s head falls because they have violate the presses rights to free press. OK but had the press and News stations perused the patriots act with the vigor that they are pursuing their own little misfortune we wouldn’t be in this place right now, the press dropped the ball big time,and now feel that they have been violated that’s rich, the press never should have let that patriots act rest they should have been out in front of that till it was repealed, the way I see it the JD has every right to go after the phone records as they feel it breached the security of the U.S. and that falls under the Patriot’s act, because the press didn’t do their job to begin with as they were perusing more irrelevant stories. This is not the republicans fault no this is what the republicans wanted and the press gave them a free ride, no this is the presses and News stations fault and now they feel violated, now the press knows how we Americans finally feel. the problem is we have news stations and papers that take sides, and that gives us opinions not facts misinformation and not truth, the news media’s job is to inform and at that they are failing.