Greater protection from secret monitoring of California journalists goal of Sen. Ted W. Lieu bill

May 23, 2013
05-23-13 SB 558 LadyJustice.jgp_.jpg

Measure would require advance notice of monitoring like wiretaps

SACRAMENTO – California reporters and their news organizations would have greater protections from secret wiretaps or other invasions of their newsgathering communications under a measure announced today by Sen. Ted W. Lieu.

“All Californians should be extremely troubled by recent reports showing the U.S. Department of Justice secretly collected two months of Associated Press phone records,” Lieu, D-Torrance, said about SB 558. “A free press is necessary for a free people.  Actions that chill freedom of the press hurt the foundational core of our democracy.  My measure would help ensure what happened to AP in Washington, D.C. won’t happen in Sacramento, Los Angeles or anywhere else in the Golden State.”
The wiretaps of AP phone records included calls from several bureaus and more than 20 lines, including personal phones and AP phone numbers in New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and Washington D.C.  The records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period. 
Lieu said his measure would specifically apply to so-called ‘third-party vendors’ which, in the case of AP, would have required the Justice Department to notify AP at least five days ahead of time that the communications firm handling AP phone records would be subpoenaed. Other third-party vendors would include internet service providers.

Specifically, SB 558 would require government agencies to give five days’ notice to a journalist before issuing a subpoena to any third-party vendor.

Lieu added: “I am proud California already has a shield law, which requires law enforcement to give five days advance notice to news organizations for subpoenas served on the actual news company or reporter.  But the Department of Justice just gave a roadmap on ways to bypass the shield law by going after third-party vendors, such as telephone or communications companies, that have personal and work related information of journalists."
Lieu, who was the editor in chief of the Law Review at Georgetown University Law Center, continued: “The freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment is sacrosanct.  The people of our state and nation rely on the press to expose private and public corruption, to keep government honest, and to better inform our citizenry about the events that shape our lives.  We chill freedom of the press at our peril.”
The measure will be inserted into Senate Bill 558, which is currently in the Assembly.  As drafted, the measure defines a news organization as any publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed by a newspaper, magazine or other publication or press association or wire service or anyone connected with a radio or TV station.
The California Newspaper Publishers Association is the sponsor of SB 558. 

“This bill will ensure that reporters will be able to continue to deliver to readers solid investigative stories about government activities without fear thatofficials can tiptoe around the Reporters’ Shield law to access their sources and notes from the Cloud or cell phone providers,” said Jim Ewert, general counsel of CNPA.
No initial hearing date has yet been set.

For more, please visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below.

Ted W. Lieu represents the more than 1 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Beverly Hills, Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Torrance, West Hollywood and the Palos Verdes Peninsula as well as portions of Long Beach and Los Angeles including, Beverly Glenn, Brentwood, Cheviot Hills, Harbor City, Hollywood Hills, Marina del Rey, Mar Vista, Pacific Palisades, Playa del Rey, San Pedro, Venice, Westwood and Wilmington. See a district map HERE: For more, visit


Ray Sotero

Communications Director

Sen. Ted W. Lieu, Senate District 28

Capitol Building, Room 4061

Sacramento, Calif. 95814

(916) 651-4028 office