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No shield needed: The First Amendment works just fine

EDITORIAL
August 08. 2017 11:36PM


Jeff Sessions is going to be a plumber.

The U.S. attorney general has been tasked by President Trump with stopping the leaks, which have plagued Trump’s dysfunctional White House.

Sessions says that he is reviewing the Justice Department’s policies on media subpoenas. This has renewed calls for a “shield law” to protect reporters from having to reveal the source of classified information.

In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the government may not prevent the publication of classified information, under the doctrine of prior restraint. But that does not mean reporters are above the law.

Most of the Trump leaks are embarrassing, not illegal. But some, such as the leaked transcript of a private conversation between Trump and his Mexican counterpart, can damage national security. World leaders will be less likely to have frank conversations with future U.S. Presidents.

If reporters are given special protection under the First Amendment not available to everyone else, who gets to decide who qualifies as a real reporter? Would you trust the Trump administration to make such a decision? How about Eric Holder’s Justice Department?

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein says the Justice Department is after the leakers, not the journalists.

Sessions should proceed with caution. He must not harass reporters for covering the President. But he has a responsibility to track down those who compromise our national security to score political points.


Politics Editorial