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WikiLeaks Would Not Qualify to Claim Federal Reporter’s Privilege in Any Form

Jonathan Peters, University of Missouri

Abstract

This article addresses whether WikiLeaks could claim a federal reporter’s privilege if the U.S. government or a U.S. entity tried to compel one of the site’s staff members to disclose the source(s) of any documents it has released. After exploring the origins of the First Amendment-based privilege, I argue that WikiLeaks would not be able to claim it. First, the website does not engage in investigative reporting. Second, it has not taken steps consistently to minimize harm. I also discuss congressional attempts to pass a federal shield law, paying special attention to H.R. 985 and S. 448, the two most recent shield bills. I argue that WikiLeaks was an ill fit for their definitions of "covered person." For these reasons, I conclude that WikiLeaks would not qualify to claim a federal reporter’s privilege in any form.

Suggested Citation

Jonathan Peters. "WikiLeaks Would Not Qualify to Claim Federal Reporter’s Privilege in Any Form" Federal Communications Law Journal 63 (2011): 667.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jonathan_peters/2