April 7, 2022

GOOD NEWS OR A NOTHINGBURGER?: Yesterday, Rep. Raskin (D. – MD 08) announced that “the House Judiciary Committee voted to pass H.R. 4330, the Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying (PRESS) Act, legislation introduced by Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-03) and Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33) that would safeguard a free and independent press by establishing a federal statutory privilege to protect journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources and prevent federal law enforcement from abusing subpoena power.”

It sounds like a good idea. The bill has a very wide definition of journalist that ought to cover bloggers as much as anyone else. “Covered” journalists are defined as those who are involved in (whether for profit or not):

“[G]athering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.”

But wait! There’s more! The bill also requires that any agency seeking to spy on a journalist must provide a Federal court with a reason for the interception that shows by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the information is sought to prevent violence and that the journalist must be given notice and an opportunity to respond (usually filing a motion to quash). Ok, we like that. Secret warrants are bad.

But it’s always the goddam exemptions. The bill contains workarounds so wide you could drive a truck through it. First, it does not apply if the agency says the journalist is “suspected of being an agent of a foreign power.” Am I the only one who remembers Adam Schiff (D- Liarsville) calling Tucker Carlson a “Russian agent” on live TV?

Moreover, the protection from spying does not apply to anyone suspected of involvement with terrorism. That’s all well and good, but it was a scant few weeks ago that parents concerned about the curricula to which their children might be exposed were branded as “domestic terrorists” by the National School Board Association, who prompted the DOJ to “direct the FBI to investigate threats of violence at school board meetings.

Finally, the exemption does not apply if the journalist is “suspected of committing a crime.” The is the hole you can get two trucks through. Sure, David Gregory can wave an illegal-to-possess high capacity magazine around on TV without fear of being spied upon, but if James O’Keefe uses a hidden camera, well, that could be a crime.

I’ve learned a long time ago that it doesn’t matter what you call a piece of legislation. That’s for spin purposes: You could easily pass “The Happy Puppy and Blooming Flowers Act”, even if buried in the exemptions is explicit permission to drown left-handed babies. The key thing is given the extraordinary abuse of phrases like “terrorism” or “national security” and the like, this bill doesn’t really do anything.

It’s always about the definitions. And the problem is the people applying those definitions just can’t be trusted.

 

 

 

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