- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a gathering of newspaper editors yesterday that her chamber will vote on a bill to shield reporters from being forced to reveal their sources in federal court by the end of year, despite opposition from the Bush administration.

“Freedom of the press is fundamental to our democracy,” said the California Democrat during a speech at the Associated Press Managing Editors annual conference at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington.

“I have long supported a federal media shield law, without which freedom of the press is threatened.”

Mrs. Pelosi’s comments came minutes after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 15-2 to send the bill to the Senate floor.

The administration says the measure would compromise national security by making it more difficult to trace the source of information leaks.

“We don’t believe [the legislation] is necessary,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. “The Department of Justice holds reporters to a different standard — a standard that they have appropriately applied in regard to national security issues.”

But Mrs. Pelosi said forcing journalists to reveal sources would stifle free speech and would do little to improve national security.

“The federal government’s policies and actions should protect and preserve your ability to speak truth to power,” she said. “And I know we can do this with appropriate national security safeguards.”

The bill includes exemptions for cases in which investigators are tracking acts of terrorism in the United States and other countries. An amendment by Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, would keep accused spies, agents of foreign countries and terrorists from claiming the same protections extended to journalists.

Mrs. Pelosi also criticized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, calling many of the law’s provisions “unacceptable infringements on the civil liberties” of Americans.

“As we protect and defend the American people, we must also protect and defend our Constitution — that is our oath of office,” she said “As we fight the war on terrorism, we must carefully strike the balance between liberty and security.”

Congress in August passed a temporary extension of FISA, which gives the government leeway to intercept, without warrants, communications between foreigners that are routed through equipment in United States, provided that “foreign intelligence information” is at stake.

Capitol Hill Democrats initially opposed the rules but eventually agreed to a six-month extension, vowing to fight many of the restrictions when the law comes up for renewal in February.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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