Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sen. Cornyn Claims To Support 1st Amend

Several politicians at local, state, and federal levels have announce support of measures directed at restricting the freedom of the press. These measures include setting legal definitions of journalists. Some even include licensing requirements for something that is considered a basic, natural right that is untouchable by any government.

It all goes to a premise that "the press" is a term referring only to journalists. In reality, it applies to all forms of publication, especially of the written word.

The "Free Flow of Information Act of 2013" is a nice title for a bill that is about anything but. The act contains the very measures described above. S. 987 and HR 1962 (Sponsored by TX-based Rep. Ted Poe) are conjoined bills targeting new media journalists, bloggers, US Citizens, and the freedoms of speech and press protected by the First Amendment.

      (2) COVERED PERSON- The term `covered person' means a person who, for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in journalism and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person. Such term shall not include--
        (A) any person who is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power, as such terms are defined in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801); or
        (B) any organization designated by the Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189).

In response to questions and concerns regarding Senate Bill 987, The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, Senator John Cornyn of Texas had quite a bit to say. His full response:

"Thank you for contacting me regarding the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 (S. 987).  I recognize the time and effort you are dedicating to actively participate in the democratic process, and I appreciate that you and other concerned citizens have provided me the benefit of your comments on this matter.

"As you know, S. 987 was introduced in the Senate on May 16, 2013.  This legislation would set conditions and limitations on federally compelled disclosure of information by certain individuals in the news media.  In many cases, a "media shield" would be used to protect journalists from revealing their confidential sources in federal court, even when their testimony is vital to a criminal prosecution or civil action.  I believe that this legislation is unconstitutional and unnecessarily dangerous to our national security.

"Before Congress extends a media shield privilege to journalists, it must first clearly define who is a member of the media.  S. 987 adopts a definition of “journalist” that violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  The Free Press Clause of the First Amendment protects the right of every American to publish materials that may be critical of the government—on blogs, website, social media, and in pamphlets.  But S. 987 would classify the paid and institutional media as worthy of special protections by adopting a definition of "journalist" that does not extend to all Americans participating in press activities.  By doing this, S. 987 would infringe upon our First Amendment rights and work to create an unconstitutional system of government media licensing that the Founding Fathers expressly intended to prohibit.

"Additionally, S. 987 would hinder the ability of national security officials to obtain critical information during legitimate investigations of terrorism from certain mass media organizations, including foreign press outlets.  I am also concerned this legislation would encourage leaking confidential national security information to a person defined by the bill as a journalist.  The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a criminal act, and it threatens our national security and puts the lives of those sworn to defend our country in jeopardy.  Based on these concerns, I could not vote to support S. 987 when it was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12, 2013.

"Moreover, details made public regarding the Department of Justice's (DOJ) secret investigation of the Associated Press (AP) raise serious questions about Attorney General Holder and his commitment to protecting the freedoms established in the Constitution while faithfully enforcing the law.  On May 15, 2013, I wrote to the Attorney General demanding answers about this seizure and its effect on the freedom of the press.  Shortly thereafter, it came to light that DOJ had secured a warrant in another investigation by alleging that the journalist involved was a criminal.  That is a frightening precedent on its own.  Taken together, these kinds of investigative tactics chill the work of the press and threaten the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.  We do not need a new law to protect our freedoms, we need a new Attorney General who will respect the United States Constitution.

"I am always appreciative when Texans take the time to reach out and share their concerns.  Thank you for taking the time to contact me."

United States Senator

The Franklin Center has been circulating a video in its latest round in the fight to keep the press free. In efforts to support the First Amendment, Free Speech and Free Press, MA contributed to that video. Watch  the full video from where The Franklin Center pulled cameo excerpts of MA's P-G Matuszak.