Freedom of Information
Stop the Official
Secrets Act bill
Have no doubt. This bill would shut down any semblance of a free flow of information in Washington. It is certain to create an icy chill, if not a freeze, among sources and potential sources other than those engaged in official, sanctioned leaking.
Pete Weitzel, coordinator, Coalition of Journalists for Open Government
The Official Secrets Act bill was introduced to Congress on Aug. 2, 2006 by Sen. Kit Bond, R-MO and is sponsored by a 14 other Republican Senators. The language is identical in wording to legislation approved by the 2000 Congress and then pocket-vetoed by President Clinton after a strong lobbying effort by the media and others.
The bill criminalized the disclosure of classified information. According to the First Amendment Center, current law already criminalizes the most dangerous of leaks and Congress has rejected version of this law for more than 50 years.
The broad definition of classified information in the bill would silence important sources, including whistelblowers and elected officials, who would fear inadvertly releasing information.
The law would authorize grand jury subpoenas for journalists and search warrants for their records and notes, according to the First Amendment Center.
Contact your Senator
Every journalist should contact their Senator regarding the act. However, the bill is currently in the Committee of the Judiciary, so it's especially important to contact those leglislators. They are: Arlen Specter, Penn.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Patrick Leahy, Vt.; Charles Grassley, Iowa; Edward Kennedy, Mass.; Jon Kyl, Ariz.; Joseph Biden, Jr., Del.; Mike DeWine, Ohio; Herbert Kohl, Wisc.; Jeff Sessions, Ala.; Dianne Feinstein, Calif.; Lindsey Graham, S.C. Russell D. Feingold, Wisc.; John Cornyn, Texas; Charles E. Schumer, N.Y.; Sam Brownback, Kan.; Richard J. Durbin, Ill.; Tom Coburn, Okla.
Write a column
Newspaper reporters and editors can communicate their readers how important this issue is to preserve role as government watch dogs. Write a column on issue encouraging readers to contact Senators.