Many legal experts argue, however, that the information available about the AP investigation thus far — while incomplete — does not show any violation of legal protections for the press.

Constitutionally, the Supreme Court has never found a reporter’s privilege within the First Amendment. The closest it came was a 1972 ruling in Branzburg v. Hayes, in which it held 5-4 that reporters are not exempt from testifying in a criminal grand jury, even if it means identifying their confidential sources.

In that ruling, the court declined “to grant newsmen a testimonial privilege that other citizens do not enjoy.” Lawmakers who argue that the Justice Department infringed on First Amendment guarantees of a free press, in other words, are taking a view that the Supreme Court has never accepted.

Statutorily, lawmakers have all but acknowledged that the DOJ did not break existing free-press laws because they instead are suggesting new laws be passed in response to the AP scandal.