Commentary: Journalists need a shield law

One month ago, Senate sponsors of a federal shield law for journalists reached a breakthrough compromise with the Obama administration that satisfies the government's concerns over safeguarding national security yet allows reporters to protect confidential news sources.

Essentially, it provides a "balancing test" that lets a federal court quash subpoenas demanding testimony or information if the judge decides that the public interest outweighs the need to find the source of a leak.

No protection is offered for reporters required to disclose the identity of terrorism suspects. In all criminal cases, the burden would be on reporters to show why the public interest should prevail.

For the news media, the protections in this version are weaker than those in a bill approved by the House, but the compromise was agreed to in hopes that the Senate Judiciary Committee would finally move the bill to the floor.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.