I don't question the idea that the obtaining of what sounds like blanket telephone records of the Associated Press and many of its staffers and reporters by the Department of Justice will have had a "chilling" effect on that organization, and perhaps on other press organizations as well. Nor do I question the theory that a free, independent press is vital to any free society. What I do question, and in fact find amusing in a grim sort of way, is the way the American press has reacted over this particular caper by the DOJ, which after all does seem to have been conducted this caper legally, odious though the laws that permitted it may be, when in fact similar operations have been conducted against thousands of Americans for more than a decade and a half by now, while the American press took little if any notice.
All sorts of excuses have been invented for such currently legal intrusions into American lives, of course, at least insofar as we know right now, most of them having to do with that much-overused phrase "national security." Yet, until its own precious ox was gored in the form of AP, the American press has largely brushed such operations off. All sorts of individual Americans of political persuasions across the spectrum have had their privacy invaded, and in many cases their lives turned upside down, while the normally tame US press sat on its hands and said nothing, even which such operations were conducted for obviously political reasons. The "investigations" into ACORN, the NAACP, and the Occupy movement come most readily to mind, although there have been many more.
Of course, many members of our esteemed press will quickly point out that because they are the press, they enjoy and ought to enjoy a level of protection from government intrusion that ordinary citizens cannot necessarily claim. But if the reason that it is so "vital" that our press should be free and independent is to protect our liberties, are not the liberties of the very people supposedly being thus protected at least as important as those who are supposed to be the protectors and watchdogs?