We should review criteria used for federal warrants

When both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last month, many lawmakers had their reservations. The House vote was 256-164. In the Senate, the tally was 65-34. Perhaps members of both houses should demand a “redo.”

A short memorandum released by the House Intelligence Committee has provoked quite a bit of discussion on allegations of political meddling by the FBI and Department of Justice. It focuses on how warrants for surveillance — spying on people — are approved.

Such warrants can be sought by the government, which must persuade special FISA Court judges surveillance is needed to safeguard U.S. national security.

The Intelligence Committee memo concerns an investigation of whether some in President Donald Trump’s election campaign had improper contacts with Russian officials. Specifically, the memo deals with a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, who had been a volunteer with the Trump campaign. In addition to the initial warrant, three renewals were sought and approved by the FISA Court.

One key aspect of the memo is an allegation that FBI and DOJ officials were not entirely forthcoming with the FISA Court judge on one of those renewals. They did not tell him a “dossier” on Trump that was an integral reason for their probe had been funded by the Democratic National Committee and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. They did not disclose that a primary source had made it known he was determined to keep Trump from winning the election.

Put politics aside for a moment. If the FBI and DOJ were willing to conceal information from the FISA judge in this situation, how many other warrants for surveillance of American citizens have been approved on what amounts to false premises?

In other words, are the FBI and the DOJ using lies in order to spy on some Americans?

It is a troubling question — one members of Congress should be asking.