When the Justice Department launched its investigation of alleged leaks of national security information by the Obama administration a year ago, we were skeptical. The history of such probes is mainly a tale of dead ends and unintended negative consequences. That this effort to criminalize a leak was launched amid an election-year uproar seemed especially inauspicious.

Our forebodings have been borne out with the revelation that federal prosecutors have undertaken a broad sweep of the Associated Press’s phone records. Whatever national-security enhancement this was intended to achieve seems likely to be outweighed by the damage to press freedom and governmental transparency.

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