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Editorial: Short takes: A victory for journalists, and UFO sightings taken seriously

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Two short takes on recent news items:

Victory for journalists and their sourcesIn an important policy shift and major victory for journalists’ First Amendment rights, the Justice Department announced a ban on the use of government subpoenas, warrants or court orders to force reporters to hand over notes, records and other communications. The policy change ends a practice used aggressively under the Trump administration to go after leakers. The policy particularly targeted The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN in an attempt to identify sources used by reporters for stories that embarrassed the administration or were deemed to endanger national security.

Attorney General Merrick Garland cemented the order as part of department policy. It would still take an act of Congress to make the policy unchangeable from one administration to the next.

Garland stated: “These regulations recognize the crucial role that a free and independent press plays in our democracy. Because freedom of the press requires that members of the news media have the freedom to investigate and report the news, the new regulations are intended to provide enhanced protection to members of the news media from certain law enforcement tools and actions that might unreasonably impair news gathering.”

The attempted seizures reached such a bizarre level that Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger was put under a court gag order in 2021 that prevented him from sharing with the newsroom why the seizures were occurring and what was being sought. But compliance was not up for negotiation.

Taking UFO

sightings seriouslyNASA has formally begun its own investigation into the sightings of unexplained flying objects that have been reported by military pilots. The Pentagon and other government agencies have already been looking into it, but the space agency presumably will bring the much-needed legitimacy of sober science to the often-controversial topic.

What are popularly known as UFOs — but which officials today call unidentified aerial phenomena — have been getting taken seriously by scientists and the government in recent years. That’s because sightings are coming not from cranks and conspiracists but from pilots and other reliable sources.

The NASA project, expected to last nine months, will bring experts from an array of scientific fields. The agency says it will be “nearly impossible” to definitively explain the sightings because the data is so limited and that the more realistic goal is for the study to “inform NASA what possible data could be collected in the future to scientifically discern the nature of UAP.”

That’s right: NASA can make even this topic sound nerdy and dull. Which is probably what’s needed.

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