Last year the
In a letter to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate, 75 media organizations — including
It isn't certain that Risen would have been protected from having to testify if the Free Flow of Information Act had been the law when he was subpoenaed, but it is a possibility. And reporters in general would benefit from the bill's requirement of robust judicial review before a confidential source can be unmasked. Reporters, like readers, wish that sources would always be willing to be identified. But sometimes — especially in cases involving public corruption — the only way to obtain information is to offer a pledge of confidentiality, and then abide by it.
The Free Flow of Information Act requires that, before ordering a journalist to reveal a source, a judge must weigh the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in "gathering and disseminating the information or news at issue and maintaining the free flow of information." Disclosure could be compelled to prevent a death or kidnapping or an act of terrorism. The privilege created by the bill is far from absolute, but it would be a significant improvement over the status quo, in which the Justice Department decides for itself whether the needs of law enforcement trump "the public's interest in the free dissemination of ideas and information."