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Brown signs bill protecting reporters' phone logs

  • Associated Press
  • October 3, 2013 - 8:00 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Thursday requiring state officials to give journalists five days' notice before they issue subpoenas for telephone records.

The legislation was drafted by Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance, who sought the measure to give media outlets greater protection after it was disclosed that the U.S. Department of Justice had retrieved telephone logs of Associated Press journalists.

California has a strong shield law for reporters that already requires law enforcement agencies to give five days' notice to news organizations for subpoenas served on them or their reporters. But Lieu has said the Justice Department probe shows that investigators can bypass that law by secretly subpoenaing telephone or Internet companies for journalists' personal and work-related information.

Adding the early warning requirement to California's shield law will give journalists time to fight the subpoenas in court.

The bill ensures that reporters can continue to provide "solid investigative stories about government activities without fear that officials can tiptoe around the reporters' shield law to access their sources and notes from the Cloud or cellphone providers," said Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, which sponsored the legislation.

The measure, however, would be unlikely to stop federal agencies, which could still seek the records through federal courts.

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