British police look like they're fumbling the phone hacking investigation a little bit. "London police said Tuesday they were dropping a demand that The Guardian newspaper reveal its sources for stories about Britain's phone-hacking scandal," reports the Associated Press. "The Metropolitan Police said it 'has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders' against the paper."

The move comes after widespread criticism over threatening some basic principles of journalism ethics with their investigation, a charge that The Guardian made last week and journalists have echoed this week. Former investigative reporter Raymond Bonner wondered about the reasoning behind the police's pursuit of Guardian sources at The Atlantic on Tuesday:

It might be seen as an act of revenge as The Guardian stories forced the police to resuscitate an investigation they had effectively closed. Scotland Yard believes that some of police officials may have been The Guardian's sources.

More startling, Scotland Yard is pursuing the newspaper under the country's Official Secrets Act. The law, which is considerably more sweeping--some would say more draconian--than anything the United States has, has generally been used to prosecute government officials, often spies, who leak information considered damaging to national security.

Even though they're backing down, the whole affair puts a smear on the Met's already shaky reputation in the handling of the phone hacking investigation.