The Obama administration asked Congress to revive legislation giving give stronger protections to reporters, responding to widespread criticism over the Justice Department’s broad seizure of Associated Press phone records, the Wall Street Journal reports. House Republicans, at a contentious four-hour hearing, barraged Attorney General Eric Holder with questions about the AP case and other issues, including the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups. The AP seizures were part of a Justice Department investigation into national-security leaks. The subpoenas appeared to be handled “contrary to the law and standard procedure,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), told Holder.
The White House talked to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) about reviving “media shield” legislation that would protect journalists from revealing sources as part of an investigation. Schumer has been a chief proponent of such a law, though an effort to pass it in 2009 failed. Journalism advocacy groups welcomed the renewed interest in protecting journalists, though the effectiveness of a shield law would depend on how it is written and how easily the Justice Department could override the protections, citing national-security concerns. “When you talk about a shield law, it’s often completely dependent on what they end up with,” said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “If you keep watering down certain elements [ ] you can end up with a law that doesn’t mean much.”