H.R. 4250 would exempt journalists and third-party service providers, such as telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers, from being compelled to identify a source or disclose other information that was gathered or created as part of newsgathering activities unless such information is necessary to prevent an act of terrorism or a threat of imminent violence. Federal courts would make that determination based on the preponderance of the evidence after the journalist or service provider has had notice and an opportunity to respond.
For matters related to federal cases, the Department of Justice (DOJ) typically files subpoena requests that seek information from journalists. Under existing regulations, federal prosecutors may request a subpoena of a journalist or a third-party service provider only in limited circumstances after an internal review. According to DOJ, only a small number of subpoenas seeking information from journalists are approved each year.
Based on information from DOJ, CBO expects that H.R. 4250 would apply to more people than the existing regulations. However, CBO estimates that the increase in the number of subpoenas subject to the bill’s requirements would be small. In addition, CBO expects that the bill’s preponderance of evidence standard would increase the amount of work required by federal prosecutors to obtain those subpoenas. In total, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 4250 would cost less than $500,000 over the 2024-2028 period. Such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.