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High Point Enterprise Newspaper Archives Jan 6 1974, Page 46

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High Point Enterprise (Newspaper) - January 6, 1974, High Point, North Carolina Congress considers Laws to prevent Security leaks newsmen object Washington a if legislation now pending in Congress had been Law five years ago the american people might not know about the Pentagon papers. Or about the my Lai massacre. Or overruns on government weapons con tracts. The legislation is included in a series of measures proposed by president Nixon last year As part of an overhaul of the . Legal code. The administration has argued that the measures Are necessary to prevent Security leaks. One measure would establish an official secrets act. Making it a crime to publish any Nat i o n a i defense information about the a military capability of the United states or an associate opponents contend that this Bill would have enabled the government to prosecute the news Media for almost every important news Story reported from the Penta gon or the defense department w i thou t government authorization. Another pending Bill would redefine the espionage act to prohibit publication of any information which May be used to the prejudice of interests of the United states. The existing legislation makes it a crime to publish such information Only if the government can prove it was obtained with intent to harm the country. A third key proposal would make it a crime to receive unauthorized government information and opponents say such a measure would enable the Justice department to prosecute a newsman for obtaining or publishing any government report without official authorization. A a legislation is becoming More important because the courts Are becoming More hostile a says Jack Landau of the reporters committee for Freedom of the press a news Media group based in Washington. Do. Landau who covers the supreme court for new House newspapers says that under the proposed legislation news that justifiably comes under the classification of harmful to National Security would be put into vaguely defined categories that limits All sorts of other stories As Well. Lawyers for the reporters committee which is supported by contributions from several major newspapers and broadcast networks argue that the code revisions could apply to any government report in any Agency a from banking policy to nutrition studies. Supporters of the proposals argue that they Are not that different from existing Law. Sen. Roman l. Hruska. R-neb., a cosponsor of one of the measures said that the revised codes restrictions on National defense information a do not appear to be a Radical departure from what i consider to be present and Ronald gainer a Justice department attorney argued that even under existing Laws a reporter could be prosecuted for receiving stolen property if he used unauthorized information. Gainer also said a if there is going to be abuse of criminal Laws and process thus is not going to be limited under what the Laws sen. Alan Cranston d-calif., said that the code makes it a felony to disclose or print information that should be free. Testifying at Senate hearings on the proposals William h. Hornby executive editor of the Denver Post speaking for the american society of newspaper editors said the proposals demonstrated the governments a stubborn penchant for the reporters committee says that under the redefined espionage act making it a crime to publish information that May be used to the detriment of the United states the Justice department a would appear to have a Strong cases for prosecuting reporter Neil Sheehan and the new York times for releasing the Pentagon papers. A under the existing act a the committee said a it would be difficult a if not impossible a for the Justice department to prove that or. Sheehan and the times published the Pentagon papers with a intent to cause a injury to the United a Daniel Rezneck a lawyer for the reporters committee also criticized the official information Section of the Bill which he said would allow any government Agency to withhold virtually any embarrassing information in a trial. He referred to sections of the proposals that would give the government Power to refuse to disclose to the press or Public evidence in Federal trials that the government claims involves secrets of state or a other official the revisions Are still in subcommittees in both houses of Congress and there is Little Prospect of action until later this year. Several substitute measures also have been introduced. Rep. Robert Kastenmeier a wis. A member of the House unit considering the criminal code overhaul said a frankly in a not sanguine about completing that task. We have a Long Way to go. The administration Bill is wholly on a related Issue mean while a subcommittee headed by Kastenmeier and representatives of news Media reached general agreement last week on a Bill to protect newsmen from having to disclose their sources. The House judiciary subcommittee approved one version of such a Bill last june but Kastenmeier delayed further action on the measure in an Effort to seek the support of the Media. As agreed to by a majority of the Media representatives led by the american newspaper publishers association and subcommittee members the amended Bill would provide that no newsman could be required to disclose confidential information or its source to a Federal or state grand jury or in any pretrial proceeding. The pretrial provision was a key addition to the original Bill. The amended measure provides that in an actual trial disclosure could be required Only if the court ruled that the information was indispensable to the prosecution or defense in the Case that it could not be obtained from any other source and that there was a compelling Public interest in disclosure. 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