No More Plame?

Former solicitor general of the U.S. Theodore Olson writes in the Washington Post the need to establish standards that protect reporters and their sources. “Reporters do not expect to be above the law. But they should be accorded some protection so that they can perform their public service in ensuring the free flow of information and exposing fraud, dishonesty and improper conduct without being exposed to an unanticipated jail sentence.”

Since federal and state laws differ on this, creating “a patchwork of legal standards” that no one benefits from. The Senate Judiciary Committee will soon take up a bill entitled the Free Flow of Information Act of 2006, “sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators and modeled in large part on the Justice Department guidelines.”

While Olsen explains this “does not provide an absolute privilege for confidential sources, but it does require, among other things, that a party seeking information from a journalist be able to demonstrate that the need for that information is real and that it is not available from other sources. Matters involving classified information and national security are treated differently. The current controversy over publications relative to the administration’s efforts to deter terrorists does not, therefore, provide any basis for delaying or rejecting this needed legislation.”

Without such legislation, Olsen admits that journos “cannot function effectively.”