The scary thing about the Department of Justice scandal involving its unwarranted searches into journalists, whether at the Associated Press or Fox News, is it is difficult to determine just what is actually the worst part.
Is it the fact the DOJ thought this was acceptable? Or that it seized emails from a reporter's parents? Or, that to justify the search, the DOJ labeled Fox's James Rosen a "co-conspirator?" Or that Eric Holder, the Attorney General, seemingly gave the thumbs up to search Rosen's emails, including those to his parents?
Any of these oversteps is troubling when looked at individually. Combined they represent dramatic contradictions within an administration that said it would be the most transparent in history and, instead, migrated into shadowy areas and where legality is gray.
In gray areas, lines blur between right and wrong. Not only that, who gets to determine what is right and wrong comes into question. One of the reasons why a free press is important is because of these gray areas.
Freedom of the expression is one of the foundation rights in the United States. It's not Fifth or Tenth, it's first. We believe it is first for a reason.
In a government established on a foundation of checks and balances, an inquisitive and independent journalist provides the public with information citizens need to check and balance government power.
"I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," President Obama said on Thursday. "Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs."
Maybe the president should have informed his top law enforcement officer of that. While the DOJ said in a statement that Holder has a "long-standing belief that freedom of the press is essential to our democracy," the attorney general's actions prove otherwise.
Some of the events over the past few weeks regarding three active scandals surrounding the Obama administration have scattered the outrage. Few can focus completely on Benghazi or the IRS or the AP phone records investigation. Each of them includes important issues for the administration.
We submit that if the government is allowed to constrict the flow of information -- as in intimidating and chilling sources who might speak to the Associated Press -- factual information about questionable developments like Benghazi and the IRS will be harder to discover and more difficult to understand.