Rep. Trey Radel was stunned to hear that the Department of Justice had seized two months of phone records from reporters and editors at the Associated Press. But he wasn't just thinking like a Congressman; Radel had a long career as a journalist, working first as a television reporter and then buying and selling a small newspaper in Florida.
"As a journalist there's only one thing you need to earn and keep as a network or as an individual journalist and that's trust. It's what keeps people coming back to you, it keeps people talking to you and that's the key component that separates the solid journalists that are able to do their job and everyone else," Radel told BuzzFeed in an interview. "This compromises that trust between a journalist and anyone from a whistleblower to an off the record source."
"It's appalling, it's the most disgusting use of authority we've seen in a while," Radel said. "For me, it's just scary."
Radel, a freshman Republican from Florida, argued the AP phone records scandal is only the latest in a series of events demonstrating a pattern of abuse of government authority and resources by the Obama administration for political gain.
Pointing to revelations that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny and allegations that the State Department sought to cover up terrorist involvement in an attack in Libya, Radel argued the administration has "developed a culture of protecting this administration politically at any and all cost."
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who once worked as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and served as a speechwriter and special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, said he "wasn't surprised" by the actions of the DOJ but it could have lingering consequences.
"The journalists are the first ones who get stung whenever there is an abuse of power. If the DOJ is violating the confidentiality of journalists, which hurts them from doing their job, than there are problems for the rest of us because they've neutered their accountability," Rohrabacher said.