Transcript: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s remarks on the Free Flow of Information Act – Sept. 12, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on the Free Flow of Information Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was held on Sept. 12, 2013:

…I think the nub of the problem was the Senator’s argument is in the statement that he just made that reporters have no privilege. Reporters have no privilege under the First Amendment. That’s right. Reporters have no privilege under the First Amendment.

So when we’re discussing adding a privilege, the issue of taking away anybody’s rights under the First Amendment simply isn’t engaged. You’re starting from zero. There is no right under the First Amendment. All we’re doing is adding privilege to existing First Amendment rights. So there is logically zero First Amendment threat out of this given the factual statement you have accurately made that reporters have no First Amendment privilege.

So Congress is free to act and is proper to act to determine where there should be a privilege.

So we can debate whether it’s the number that the definition is exactly right, whether the number of people and extent of people is broad or narrow enough. But no matter how that debate turns out, it should be clear from the record of this debate that no one will lose a First Amendment right of any name, nature, or kind.

I can understand that point and we can disagree on that point, but it does not reach the First Amendment, which is not implicated in any respect in this discussion because the First Amendment does not provide any privilege whatsoever and we are doing something that is additive to the First Amendment. So there is zero risk to any American that any First Amendment right would be denied them no matter how this debate comes out. That’s my point.


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