How to avoid legal trouble over sources and secrets


The battle between media organizations and the government over access to information – especially about national security – has existed for centuries. It has intensified exponentially in the post-9/11 era, especially in recent years due to WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, an aggressive anti-leak campaign by the Obama administration and other developments.

Many of these conflicts came to a head in the summer of 2013 after it became clear that the Obama Justice Department had made unprecedented intrusions into reporters’ efforts to gather information and obtain government documents.

By using this guide, you can become familiar with these news developments and with the applicable regulations and laws – established by Congress or legal precedent – so that you can avoid getting your sources, and yourself, in legal trouble.

Among the topics this primer covers:
• Use of the Espionage Act and other statutes to go after reporters’ sources.
• Erosion of the reporter’s privilege in defending against subpoenas and other demands for information.
• Leak investigations aimed at national security journalists and their sources.
• Justice Department guidelines on subpoenas, including recent revisions.
• Relevant provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.

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