Shield Laws, WikiLeaks and the Public’s Right to Know

By Lawrence Davidson, Reader Supported News, 12 September 2010

Underneath the radar screen of the average American citizen, a legislative battle is going on for what is called a “Federal Shield Law.” This is legislation that would “protect journalists from having to reveal anonymous sources when challenged by prosecutors in federal court.” Actually, all but ten of the Unites States have such laws operating at the state level, but as of now there is no federal equivalent. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would establish such a law and defined the categories of cases to which it would apply, but the Senate is yet to act. Why not? The answer to that is WikiLeaks.

The WikiLeaks Affair

It will be remembered that in July 2010 WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of Defense Department documents online, along with combat videos, concerning the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was “classified” material leaked to the web site by a whistleblower within the military. The documents show that the two wars were carried on with such loose rules of engagement as to result in massive civilian casualties. Before it released the documents, WikiLeaks reviewed them as part of a “harm minimization process demanded by our source.” As a result it withheld 15,000 documents. Nonetheless, as a former FBI attorney put it, the information that was released is “embarrassing, inconvenient and gets in the way of the war effort.”…

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