Labor Department backs off plan forcing reporters to use government-issued computers

The Labor Department has backed off a plan to force news agencies to use government-issued computers and other equipment to report on jobless reports and other key economic data, following a GOP-led House hearing this week, according to several published reports.

Agency officials have said they want reporters who analyze, then write about economic reports inside their so-called “lock up” room to use U.S. computers, software and Internet lines so the government can further protect against such potential security breaches as hacking.

But the plan also resulted in cries about potential free-speech violations and the government now having computer access to news agencies.

“This proposal threatens the First Amendment,” Bloomberg News Executive Editor Dan Moss said during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. “The government would literally open the reporters’ notebooks.”

Carl Fillichio, a Labor Department communications specialist, told committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., at the close of the hearing Wednesday that he would provide some flexibility on the June 15 deadline.

On Friday, Fillichio issued an e-mail received by Bloomberg and several other new agencies that said the start date is being revised, according to The Washington Examiner and

Labor Department officials could not be reached Saturday.

The new date will be announced next week, according to a copy of the email obtained by the Examiner.

"Per my commitment to Chairman Issa's request, we are going to move the effective date on changes to the lock up,” Fillichio’s email purportedly states.

The Examiner also reports the delay, for more negotiations, was likely influenced by some news organizations having vowed to seek a court injunction to stop the implementations of the proposed changes.