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Home > SPJ News > Proposed 'Leaks' Legislation Threatens Public Access and Must be Stopped, Says SPJ

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Proposed 'Leaks' Legislation Threatens Public Access and Must be Stopped, Says SPJ

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
8/22/2001


Contacts: Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323 or rmarcano@spj.org; Bruce Brown, SPJ First Amendment legal counsel, 202/861-1660 or bbrown@baker-hostetler.com; Ian Marquand, SPJ FOI Committee chairman, 406/542-4449 or ian@kpax.com

INDIANAPOLIS — The plan to re-introduce so-called federal "leaks" legislation would tighten the public's access to important policy and national security information and fly in the face of First Amendment rights of the public and the press, says the Society of Professional Journalists.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., is preparing to re-introduce legislation that would put in place a broad prohibition on the disclosure of classified information, with strict penalties for government employees who violate provisions.

Government officials who break restrictions on classified information would face up to three years in jail and a fine of $10,000.

"This bill has already failed once because lawmakers saw it for what it is: a vicious assault on the free press," said SPJ President Ray Marcano, an assistant managing editor at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. "I hope our current lawmakers and the Bush administration have the same wisdom and stop a bill that threatens the free flow of information in a society that values a free press."

The bill passed both the House and the Senate last fall and seemingly has large support from the Department of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency. President Clinton vetoed the measure in 2000, preventing it from becoming law.

If passed, the bill would limit the information to which the public is privy and could pose many legal entanglements for journalists, such as grand jury subpoenas.

"This kind of legislation essentially makes a journalist who receives classified information an accessory to a felony," said Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information chairman and special projects editor at KPAX-TV in Missoula, Mont. "That means if some future Daniel Ellsberg passes on classified information to a journalist as a matter of conscience, and the journalist writes a story about that information, the journalist is subject to interrogation, federal charges, even jail time. I can't think of a more chilling scenario for journalists."

The Society last fall joined a large campaign against the first attempt to pass this legislation. SPJ, along with 13 other organizations, signed a letter drafted by OMB Watch that was sent to the White House. The letter asked President Clinton to block the legislation because of its threat to the First Amendment and the public's right to know.

The new legislation is scheduled for a Senate hearing Sept. 5. The hearing is expected to include one government panel and one media panel. A mark up will follow the next day.

"Journalists and news organizations have to speak out against the Shelby amendment before it's too late," said Bruce Brown, SPJ First Amendment legal counsel at Baker & Hostetler in Washington, D.C. "After Sept. 5, this thing could be sailing toward passage and implementation."

SPJ is encouraging all media professionals and other First Amendment advocates to send letters of opposition to members of both legislative bodies' intelligence committees. Lists of these members and their contact information can be found below.

Letters of opposition also should be sent to individuals’ congressmen and congresswomen. A state-by-state listing of these legislators may be found online:

U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Senate



HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE

Republicans
Rep. Porter J. Goss
Vice Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence
U.S. House of Representatives
108 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: 202/225-2536
Fax: 202/225-6820

Rep. Jerry Lewis
Vice Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence
U.S. House of Representatives
2112 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: 202/225-5861
Fax: 202/225-6498

Rep. Michael N. Castle
U.S. House of Representatives
1233 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202/225-4165
Fax: 202/225-2291
E-mail: delaware@mail.house.gov

Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert
U.S. House of Representatives
2246 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-3223
Phone: 202/225-3665
Fax: 202/225-1891
E-mail: rep.boehlert@mail.house.gov

Rep. Charles F. Bass
U.S. House of Representatives
218 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: 202/225-5206
Fax: 202/225-2946
E-mail: cbass@mail.house.gov

Rep. Jim Gibbons
U.S. House of Representatives
100 Cannon House Office Building
Washington D.C. 20515
Phone: 202/225-6155
Fax: 202/225-5679
E-mail: mail.gibbons@mail.house.gov

Rep. Ray LaHood
U.S. House of Representatives
1424 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202/225-6201
Fax: 202/225-9249

Rep. Heather Wilson
U.S. House of Representatives
318 Cannon House Office Building,
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202/225-6316
Fax: 202/225-4975

Democrats
Rep. Nancy C. Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives
2457 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202/225-4965
Fax: 202/225-8259
E-mail: sf.nancy@mail.house.gov

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr.
U.S. House of Representatives
2429 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202/225-3631
Fax: 202/225-2203
E-mail: bishop.email@mail.house.gov

Rep. Gary Condit
U.S. House of Representatives
2234 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington D.C. 20515
Phone: 202/225-6131
Fax: 202/225-0819

Rep. Tim Roemer
U.S. House of Representatives
2352 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202/225-3915
Fax: 202/225-6798

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings
U.S. House of Representatives
2235 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0923
Phone: 202/225-1313
Fax: 202/225-1171
E-mail: alcee.pubhastings@mail.house.gov


SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE

Democrats
Sen. Bob Graham
Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
U.S. Senate
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202/224-3041
Fax: 202/224-2237

Sen. Carl Levin
U.S. Senate
SR-269, Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-6221
Fax: 202/224-1388

Sen. John Rockefeller
U.S. Senate
531 Hart Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202/224-6472
Fax: 202/224-7665
E-mail: senator@rockefeller.senate.gov

Sen. Dianne Feinstein
U.S. Senate
331 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-3841
Fax: 202/228-3954

Sen. Ron Wyden
U.S. Senate
516 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-5244
Fax: 202/228-2717

Sen. Richard Durbin
U.S. Senate
332 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-2152
Fax: 202/228-0400

Sen. Evan Bayh
U.S. Senate
463 Russell Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-5623
Fax: 202/228-1377

Sen. John Edwards
U.S. Senate
225 Dirksen Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-3154
Fax: 202/228-1374

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski
U.S. Senate
Suite 709
Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202/224-4654
Fax: 202/224-8858

Republicans
Sen. Richard Shelby
Ranking Member, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
United States Senate
110 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-5744
Fax: 202/224-3416

Sen. John Kyl
U.S. Senate
730 Hart Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202/224-4521
Fax: 202/224-2207

Sen. James M. Inhofe
U.S. Senate
453 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3603
Phone: 202/224-4721
Fax: 202/228-0380

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch
U.S. Senate
104 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-5251
Fax: 202/224-6331

Sen. Pat Roberts
U.S. Senate
302 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-4774
Fax: 202/224-3514

Sen. Mike DeWine
140 Russell Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-2315
Fax: 202/224-6519

Sen. Fred Thompson
511 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202/224-4944
Fax: 202/228-3679

Sen. Richard Lugar
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1401
Phone: 202/224-4814
Fax: 202/228-0360
E-mail: senator_lugar@lugar.senate.gov

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