There are further carve-outs in the realm of classified information and information that reporters might know that could prevent harm to national security. If the government is seeking to compel testimony from a journalist and a judge determines that the protected information would prevent an act of terrorism or harm to national security, there won’t be any protection from subpoenas. In investigations surrounding the disclosure of properly classified information, the government will be able to pierce the shield only if information being sought from the journalist would prevent an act of terrorism or harm to national security. The mere fact the government might like to identify a source with access to classified information before they leak more is not, on its own, justification to break the shield under the draft law.
Paul Boyle says that the bill’s main sponsors aren’t legitimately concerned that WikiLeaks would be covered by the bill as it’s written, not only because of the way it’s drafted, but also potentially because of jurisdictional issues centered around the site’s foreign footprint.
“But as we know, there’s always fodder that’s used by opponents to bring down a bill,” says Boyle.
The precise legislative language aimed at WikiLeaks remains to be seen. But it doesn’t seem like this revision to the bill is aimed at winning new votes as much as blunting opposition.
In fact, Boyle claims the organization already has commitments to vote for the bill from a supermajority of senators.
“We have sixty. In fact, I think we have close to seventy. It’s really about devoting the time it would take to get cloture on a stand alone bill,” says Boyle. “You have to run out the clock.”
Boyle says that his organization’s members plan to press senators on the importance of the bill while they are in their districts for the August recess, adding that a vote, if scheduled, could come anytime—even as late as a post-election lame duck session.
“It’s kind of out of our hands,” says Boyle.
“There are very few legislative days in the Senate, and we are hoping to convince the leadership to take it up later in the year,” says Wimmer. “I’m cautiously optimistic the we’ll convince folks to do this in September, but there are lots and lots of pieces of legislation vying for their time.”