Cybersecurity bill would chill news reporting

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Sunshine in Government Initiative responds

A bill which will soon be considered by the Senate Intelligence Committee, is drawing sharp criticism from free press advocates, including the Sunshine in Government Initiative, of which RTDNA is a member. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA), released as a draft by Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would allow government agencies to collect, without a warrant or other traditional legal process, journalists’ phone and other records if the government considers the journalists or their sources threats to the security of information stored on computer networks.

 

In a letter sent to the Senate intelligence Committee, the Sunshine in Government Initiative called the proposal overbroad and said it would chill newsgathering based on confidential sources, remove meaningful judicial oversight, endanger the carefully-crafted federal shield bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and would place vital democratic interests in the hands of the executive branch and private industry.

 

“In sum, CISA would enable the federal government to do an end-run around the Constitution and existing privacy laws,” the letter stated.

The initiative members recognize and appreciate the government’s responsibility to secure the nation from cyber attacks, but fear the bill as proposed would inhibit newsgathering and the flow of accurate information to the public. The letter concludes by asking the committee to carefully consider how it might appropriately deal with cybersecurity issues without encroaching on First Amendment freedoms. We'll keep you posted on the bill's progress.

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