November 16, 2010; Source: Huffington Post | Peter Scheer of the First Amendment Coalition is weighing in on an interesting proposal for de-energizing Wikileaks, the online publisher of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous sources.
The Senate, Scheer says, should pass a federal shield law, already passed by the House, which would provide more complete protection for journalists’ confidential sources. Right now, journalists cannot promise complete anonymity to their sources because a federal judge can order them to disclose or be jailed. Instances of this are described more fully here and include the high profile Valerie Plame case.
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Scheer contends that the need for Wikileaks would be greatly diminished if journalists were able to offer greater assurances to potential sources. Says Scheer, “The Supreme Court’s inaction fundamentally altered the relationship between journalists and sources. Journalists could no longer credibly promise anonymity to a source. And whistle blowers came to realize that federal judges enforcing grand jury subpoenas could, and would, force journalists, despite their intentions to the contrary, to identify confidential sources.”
Scheer claims that Wikileaks is simply a convenient technological solution to the problem caused by inadequate confidentiality protections for journalists and suggests it may lose steam were better protections assured. We aren’t so sure the wild horse is not permanently out of the barn.—Ruth McCambridge