Pruning The Fourth Estate: Feinstein Seeks To Limit Who Can Claim To Be A Journalist

225px-dianne_feinstein_official_senate_photoI have previously discussed the curiosity of California’s Democratic leaders in Congress leading the fight for massive warrantless surveillance and attacks on privacy. California Senator Dianne Feinstein has long been viewed as hazard to civil liberties from her knowledge of the torture program to consistent support for the expansion of a security state system. Feinstein is now back in that ignoble role this week, fighting to limit the meaning of journalist to prevent bloggers and others from being able to claim protections from surveillance or compelled testimony. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has joined Feinstein in seeking to define most people out of protections for media.

The irony is the Feinstein wants to add the limiting language to a Media Shield Law that has already been riddled with exceptions and holes by the Obama Administration. Feinstein is again serving as the agent for those who want to expand government powers — in this case under the guise of a bill purportedly limiting such powers.

Feinstein came out last week by insisting that bloggers and Internet writers are not “real reporters” despite the fact that most Americans now get their news from such sites. She wants to limit the term to people who are “a salaried agent” of a media company like the New York Times or ABC News. Thus, students in media graduate programs and bloggers would not qualify. She is concerned that the law could be used by whistleblowers and others to expose unlawful conduct and then claim protections from government investigations or attacks.

She does not of course define what constitutes a salary. Would this include freelancers? I am paid by USA Today per column. Is that a salary? Is a media professor salaried as a journalist when he is paid by his school but writes in a university publication?

This blog is ranked as one of the top most visited legal blogs in the world. We have a larger audience than columns associated with various newspapers, including the Legal Times. We produce five to seven new stores each weekday. We run new stories over the weekend. We reach millions of readers each year. Most local newspapers have circulations of less than 15,000. Does it not matter how large your readership is but rather whether you receive money for the work? If so, we would have to add advertising to generate revenue to qualify while a small town newspaper with a fraction of our readership would automatically qualify. There are legitimate questions about what constitutes a journalist for constitutional or statutory protections, but Feinstein is adopting a criteria clearly designed to exclude most writers today on politics and government.

As we have discussed, this effort is part of an overall effort to strip whistleblowers and journalists of status as the Administration seeks to prosecute them. Assange is the best example. He is not a journalist but rather just an Assange.

Feinstein’s limit would be added to litany of exceptions and holes in the bill. For example, the law would allow Justice Department officials to delay notice for a period of 45 days and then ask for an extension of an additional 45 days. That would mean almost 100 days of surveillance of reporters like the controversial cases of the Obama Administration.

Feinstein would add to these limits by excluding writers for outfits like Wikileaks or even recognized reporters who are writing for blogs without direct compensation. It is part of the continued effort to distract the public with measures meant to look like reforms but actually reaffirm the power of the government like President Obama’s highly criticized “reforms” announced last Friday. Rather than limit the government, it would now become a formal exclusion of the vast majority of people covering the government from protections. This is particularly a concern with the rising criticism of mainstream media in yielding to demands of the White House in covering stories like the Snowden affair or actively mocking critics of the government. We are often informed of these programs or developments by the foreign media or the bloggers that Feinstein wants to strip of protections. It is particularly ironic coming from the Senator representing the state with the largest number of bloggers in the country. Instead of their interests, Feinstein is representing the interests of the ever-expanding system of security state offices and officials.

The government is most concerned not with traditional media, but the power of sites like Wikileaks or bloggers cover every aspect of their work. This is one reason why mainstream media is losing market share to the blogs. Readers are increasingly seeking alternatives to the source of their information. That certainly comes with a risk. There are many unreliable Internet sites and there is a great deal of bias on such sites. However, if one is to define a journalist, it would seem obvious that you would base the define on what they are actually doing as opposed to the arbitrary criteria of whether anyone is paying them directly for the work.

The problem is that the mainstream media views this emerging new media as a threat and many may privately welcome the exclusion of the competition. That would leave no one to advocate for bloggers on the Hill or in the main press. For that you would have to go to Internet and the very blogs that Feinstein is targeting in this legislation.

The most effective shield under this law will be for the government in stripping claims of protection and allowing long periods of surveillance of reporters. These exceptions and Feinstein’s effort (with Durbin) make the shield law a Trojan horse bill. To paraphrase an ancient adage for civil libertarians today, beware of Democratic leaders bearing gifts.

143 thoughts on “Pruning The Fourth Estate: Feinstein Seeks To Limit Who Can Claim To Be A Journalist”

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  2. “The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.”- James Madison

  3. **

    Does that mean we are subject to more fools like Jones than reliable journalists like Greenwald? Sure. …………….. or that the Reptilian Overlords of Planet Smersh were taking over the country by corrupting our precious bodily fluids with fluoride in the water.

    Here you go Gene H:

    Israel Court Rules to Stop Water Fluoridation in 2014 Due to Health Concerns

    Mike Barrett
    Prison Planet
    August 15, 2013

    Citing health concerns, the Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that the nation will stop fluoridating its water supplies in 2014. It’s ironic that as one of the most developed nations in the world, the United States is slow to follow suit of other nations that recognize the dangers of feeding the population various foods and substances – like genetically modified foods and fluoride.

    Since 1974, fluoridated water supplies was mandatory in Israel. It seems the nation, like the U.S., thought (or pretended to think) that fluoride offered enough benefit to risk the populations health. Hoowever, Izun Hozer Association for Dissemination of Health Education and Yaacov Gurman petitioned Israel’s highest court on November 12, 2012, demanding that water fluoridation come to a halt due to not only potential health concerns, but also because fluoride provides virtually no benefit. In April 2013, the Minister of Health, Yael German, created a new regulation removing mandatory water fluoridation.

    Interestingly, ruling not only puts an end to not just mandatory fluoridation in Israe, but all fluoridation — mandatory or voluntary. Here’s a translation of the court ruling.

    Paul Connett, PhD, FAN Executive Director, says:

    “Zealous fluoridation promoters try to convince the American public that ‘everyone drinks fluoridated water.’ But the opposite is true. An overwhelming number of countries do not fluoridate, including 97% of the European population. In fact, over half the people in the world drinking fluoridated water live in the US. We are the odd ones out. Fluoridation is an outdated, unscientific, failed public health blunder. What I find remarkable here is that Health Minister German has been able to escape the unscientific belief system on fluoridation that traps so many public health bureaucracies in fluoridated countries.”

    A controversial substance not utilized by many developed nations, including Japan and 97% of western Europe, fluoride is without question destroying people’s health, all under the guise of protecting the teeth.

    In 1977, it was shown that fluoridation caused about 10,000 cancer deaths in epidemiological studies by Dr. Dean Burk, former head of the Cytochemistry Section at the National Cancer Institute and Yiamouyiannis. The findings weren’t released until 1989.

    Other research highlights the fact that mass fluoride exposure may be to blame for the cardiovascular disease epidemic that takes more lives each year than cancer. In 2008, cardiovascular disease killed 17 million people.

    Perhaps most notably, fluoride has been shown to reduce people’s IQ. In a telling review of a variety of studies that have demonstrated just how significantly fluoride can lower IQ and damage the brain, Harvard University scientists stated ”our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children’s

    While people in the U.S. may not realize it, many nations are opposed to water fluoridation for the health-concerning reasons above and more. It’s extremely important to practice fluoride treatment protocols, detoxing the substance from your body. Here is a simple fluoride detox to get the poison out of your body.

    Additional Sources:


    This post originally appeared at Natural Society

    Related posts:

    Fluoridation Contributes To $2 Billion Annual Health Cost
    Water Fluoridation Persists Despite Being Unhealthy for Infants
    Eight reasons why water fluoridation has failed modern civilization
    Albuquerque, New Mexico Halts Water Fluoridation
    Health freedom victory! Fairbanks, AK, city council votes to end water fluoridation

    This article was posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 4:53 am

  4. **Ozzie 1, August 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm


    You are a bloody fool.

    Ozzie , “bloody fool”, I have to assume you’re not even an American, but that you’re a British Red Coat.

    Though I’m not a lawyer many here on this one of America’s leading legal blogs,, are USA Lawyers & as such are officers of the courts.

    As such they are bound by duties, I believe.

    When you or I attempt to direct their attention to what we laymen perceive as maybe a crime in our opinion I would think they would/should pass the info along to the appropriate authorities to who’s jurisdiction it falls to.

    A fool, maybe, but at least I attempt to put forward a positive effort to correct injustices I believe I see here in the states.

  5. So bottom line, we don’t need a statute enacted by Congress to protect those who posit free speech or assemble or attempt to petition our government for redress of grievances. We have the First Amendment and federal laws in place to sue the igPays who violate our rights. The media statute now lets Congress decide the parameters of our rights when the Framers of the Constitution set them forth real straight in the First Amendment. We don’t need no 80 year old lady redefining our rights in some statute. She and Durbin can go share a turbin.

  6. The word “media” is similar in its overbroad useage to the word “data”. Both words are used with contempt and by contempt I mean for the word itself. With the word “data” it was formerly pronounced with a ATA like ate a dog biscuit sound Now they say data like DA Tuh. Folks drop the word “information” or “the facts”. Now its: the data suggests. Then lately we have “metadata” or Metadata. This suggests a conglomeration of data that is not threatening. Yet in fact it is more threatening.
    So when the sainted, licensed Media tell us that Snowden is a Traitor and the Metadata which he released was classified, secret, and of high intelligence then we must follow the lead of the sainted Media. So we are supposed to listen to the likes of Jeffrey Toobin on CNN when he calls Snowden a Clown and a Traitor. But, if Snowden just released a bunch of Metadata then it must be innocuous. The government has a Complaint against Snowden on file in the Federal Court in Virginia but the facts are clumped into a Sealed Affidavit. Kind of like Navy Seal. We are not told who the enemy or enema is or what secrets he gave the enemy. It was not the Atomic Bomb secrets, we know that two immigrants with last name Rosenberg did that seventy years ago. No Snowden told them what they had told each other. So enemy number one tells enemy number two that Obama has a fat arse then that is what we derived from the Metadata. Then Snowden tells one or more of those enemas what they told each other. Ya get the picture.

  7. “We are in a media of sorts right here on this blog.”

    media /ˈmēdēə/


    2; (usually the media) [treated as singular or plural] the main means of mass communication (especially television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet) regarded collectively:

    I think therein lies your answer, Ozzie. The Internet has given everyone a mass communications voice. And that is what the Founders were protecting when they specifically protected the press: mass communication concerning events of public interest. One no longer need be an employee of a magazine, newspaper, radio or television to mass communicate. Just as the Internet has changed forever the music publication industry and is changing other fields as we speak, it has opened the once exclusive club of journalism. Who decides who is and isn’t a serious reliable journalist? Who decides who is a hack? Their degree? Their employer? No. It’s the quality of the information they convey. The veracity of their what, where, when, who and (sometimes) how. Those are the objective standards. The subjective standard? Is the audience. Just as it always has been.

    That once exclusive club has been changed forever by technology. Just as newspapers are dying, what defines good journalism isn’t changing but how it is delivered is changing. Feinstein is seeking to narrowly define what is and isn’t a journalist based on monied interests and that isn’t what the Founders were protecting: media company profits or exclusivity. They were protecting public discourse and the flow of information that keeps it alive. Being a member of the press no longer needs you have to own huge printing presses or a radio or television broadcast facility to get your message out. Does that mean we are subject to more fools like Jones than reliable journalists like Greenwald? Sure. But even when we had Murrows and Lippmans we had clowns getting it wrong and/or wasting their (and their audience’s) time talking about which celebrity is banging which celebrity or that the Reptilian Overlords of Planet Smersh were taking over the country by corrupting our precious bodily fluids with fluoride in the water.

    An audience is a strange beast. Some are sharp as razors, some are dull as stones. Ours at RIL is particularly of above average intelligence due in no small part to our host’s own clear and intelligent voice in the media beyond this space. Like attracts like. The same as it ever was.

    But I think you’re looking at this sideways. We aren’t in the process of making journalism as a profession less special somehow. We are democratizing it through technology. The true arbiter of what constitutes a serious reliable journalist? Is now skill. Not their degree. Not who employs them. But rather the quality and the content of their work and how well it is received by the audience as being serious and reliable information.

  8. I tried to post a comment and it went into wordpress. This Media Shield Law is a mistake. It diminishes the protections afforded by the First Amendment. Now the likes of Feinstein are narrowing the scope of protection. Litigants should ignore it and ground their lawsuits on the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

    We are in a media of sorts right here on this blog. If they mess with me, I am filing suit under the First Amendment.

  9. basically, the idea of omitting nonsalaried press including nearly all bloggers from protection is because they are less “accountable” to the agenda of “justifying the lying” for the press. These “unruly” press are more likely to exercise freedom of speech, something the government seeks the mere APPEARANCE of protecting while doing everything to suppress

  10. This Journalist with a capital J on the front is a puzzle. All people have free expression and the rights delineated in the First Amendment. Here is what the First Amendment says:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    “or of the press” is not an after thought, but it is not the end all of a speaker’s rights. We can all speak without the tag of Journalist. We can all assemble, like we do on this blog. We can all freely speak and write. We can all petition our government for redress of grievances. Snowden did not claim to be a journalist and no person or organization has to obtain some license from some schmuck state like California to exercise First Amendment rights.

    Bloggers. Start getting past the free press apCray and focus on all the protections of the First Amendment.

  11. ** It gives us millions(?) of thinkers like Oky, school boards like those found in Texas, state governments like SC, and about 50% of the House of Representatives. That’s what scares me about “leaving it up to the readers”. **


    Freedom & Liberty make some uncomfortable & they prefer a father figure authoritarian dictatorship instead.

    If an authoritarian dictatorship is what you are seeking I’d suggest you & others move to North Korea, England, Mexico, Saudi Arabia.

    When it comes to “Individual Rights of Americans”, which was the sole reason/purpose for this nation’s founding, if the State/Fed govt’s are not expanding those freedoms I demand they keep their damn hands off our Rights!

  12. When you post your comment on this blog you are entitled to protection under the First Amendment for exercising your Right to Free Speech and Expression; for exercising your Right to Petition Your Government for Redress of Grievances; your right To Assemble with others here on the blog to do the above. The journalist label is without importance. There is no license for journalist. The reason for that is no one knows what the qualifications should be. Read, write, listen, record, repeat, repeat after me. Write an Editorial. Write an obit. Write an obit on the First Amendment if schmucks like Feinstein keep getting elected to the Senate. She is worse than the McCarthy guy in the 50’s.. Shame on California. Old biddy needs to go home and count her money.

  13. Ozzie,

    The USA, our country, currently has 101 million Americans on direct/indirect food aid welfare.

    Rumors I’m hearing is that number is going to around 140 million by the end of 2013.

    Further most every other person, farmer & corporation is receiving direct/indirect govt. welfare/subsidies.

    Just at what point will you finally admit this country is currently in full meltdown collapse & that what the old dying media/govt agencies told you in the past was lies?

    The old “Gate Keepers” of info & their lies have been over run!

  14. I have no answer for what or who should qualify as a journalist. But when Alex Jones passes as one, we’ve got a problem. It gives us millions(?) of thinkers like Oky, school boards like those found in Texas, state governments like SC, and about 50% of the House of Representatives. That’s what scares me about “leaving it up to the readers”.

  15. The first poster is right. Lady Difi is an evil old multimillionaire who wants to be even richer and more powerful. The only good thing she can do is go away.

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