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

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

Mr. Chairman, I want to echo Sen. Lee’s concerns about this amendment. The underlying bill is a bill right now in which I’m undecided.

I think this is a difficult balance of very important values.

On the one hand, I think we need to vigorously protect the bill of rights, especially the First Amendment. And I salute Sen. [Chuck] Schumer for his serious effort to do so.

On the other hand, I think the concerns about law enforcement, about national security, are significant. I know Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein is genuinely concerned about those and that Sen. [Jeff] Sessions and others have those concerns.

And I think the balance on this underlying bill – I have been looking forward to this mark-up because I very much want to listen to the debate and hear the arguments on both sides as to where Congress should appropriately draw the line and protect both important interests.

That being said, this specific amendment, I have real concerns about.

The original statutory text provided that a covered person was someone who had the primary intent to investigate events and procure material. And it went on to say who regularly gathers and prepares, collects photographs and reports such material.

I think that was a good effort to define someone who is engaged in the activity that is intended to be protected by the freedom of the press in the First Amendment.

The difference as I understand in the proposed amendment is that in addition to gathering news with the primary intent of reporting it, in order to be protected by this, someone needs to be an employee, an independent contractor or agent of an entity or service.

Essentially, as I understand this amendment, it protects what I would characterize as the corporate media. If you’re a reporter for CBS, you’re protected. But it leaves out citizen bloggers and one of the tremendous developments I think of modern day is that the citizenry has engaged in reporting in a very direct way and I think that’s good for our democracy.

And so while I remain undecided on the underlying bill, I will vote against this amendment because I don’t think any protection should treat citizen bloggers who are meeting the underlying test of being primarily engaged in gathering news to report it, I don’t think they should be excluded because they don’t happen to work for a media corporation.

I don’t disagree with Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse that the First Amendment does not compel this.

But it strikes me that we’re on dangerous territory if we are drawing distinctions that are treating some engaged in the process of reporting and journalism better than others, if we are advantaging those who happen to receive a paycheck from a corporate media entity over those who happen to be citizens.

And I would point out that citizen journalism is not a new phenomenon. I mean, indeed you could go back – one I think could fairly characterize Madison and Hamilton and Jay writing…in the Federalist Papers as not employees of a journalistic endeavor but nonetheless engaging in that process.

And I, for one, would have deep troubles with legislation from Congress saying, “We will grant special privileges if you happen to work for a corporate media interest.” But if you’re simply a citizen engaging in the same activity, it seems to me the First Amendment protects the activity not the employment status of the person engaging it.

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