WASHINGTON – Facing questions about the Justice Department’s secret seizure of reporters’ phone records, the White House said that it will renew its push for legislation that would offer federal protections to journalists and their sources.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the White House has asked Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to reintroduce the so-called media shield bill.

Schumer’s last attempt to pass the bill faltered nearly four years ago with little aid from the White House. But news that the government had secretly subpoenaed two months of phone records from more than 20 Associated Press telephone lines appears to have sparked new interest in the effort.

The White House has said the president did not know about the subpoenas and has not been involved in the criminal investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. also said he was not involved in the decision.

The White House this week has sought to use the president’s past support for a federal shield law to quiet the criticism over the AP subpoenas, which were issued as part of a leak investigation. Holder and Carney on Wednesday cited that record as evidence of the administration’s respect for unfettered investigative reporting.

But the president’s views on how best to protect journalists from prosecution and intimidation, while balancing national security concerns, appear to have evolved in office. As a senator and candidate in 2008, Obama said he supported a shield law and specifically noted that he believed a court, not the executive branch, should determine whether a confidential source should be protected.

But as president, Obama sought to curb the role of the courts and broaden the executive branch power.


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