Contacts: Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323 or email@example.com; Bruce Brown, SPJ First Amendment legal counsel, 202/861-1660 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Ian Marquand, SPJ FOI Committee chairman, 406/542-4449 or email@example.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:
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org