The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a media shield bill that would make permanent the new U.S. Department of Justice guidelines on issuing subpoenas to journalists and allow federal judges to determine who is a journalist, the National Law Journal reports. The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 passed on a 13-5 vote, with supporters saying the bill strikes the appropriate balance between protecting reporters from unwarranted intrusion and law enforcement's need for information and to protect national security.
The bill strengthens protections for journalists, requiring the Justice Department to notify reporters within 90 days when their records are being subpoenaed. The guidelines include direct oversight by the attorney general when investigations of leakers involve journalists' constitutionally protected work materials, said the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The guidelines, and a push from Attorney General Eric Holder to pass a shield law came this summer amid controversy over the Justice Department's investigations of national security leaks to news organizations.