Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 (S. 2035), which would grant journalists limited protection from efforts to force them to reveal their sources in federal courts, the New York Times reported. The legislation is weaker than Department of Justice's guidelines on issuing subpoenas to reports as well as most state's journalist shield laws, says the New York Times, and would apply only to information obtained from confidential sources.
With regard to confidential sources, the bill carves out an exception for when "the information sought would help prevent a specific case of terrorism or 'significant harm to national security that would outweigh the public interest in news-gathering and maintaining a free flow of information to the public.'" It would allow subpoenas in other instances once criminal defense lawyers and civil litigants demonstrate they have "exhausted alternative ways to obtain the requested information, that the information sought was essential to the case, and that the public interest in disclosure outweigh that in the maintaining the free flow of information."
The legislation defines a journalist as "anyone who collects and disseminates information of public interest, including bloggers, with the requirement that the activity be conducted on a regular basis."