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Corruption at FBI threatens everyone

It is more than unfortunate that virtually everything seems to be colored by politics these days. It also may be hazardous to our freedoms.

More and more, it is becoming apparent that a few powerful people in the government broke the law in spying on a candidate for president in 2016. Just for a moment, put aside the fact that candidate was Donald J. Trump. What happened to his campaign could just as easily be done to a Democrat instead of a Republican — or to a private citizen instead of a prominent politician.

Last week, a former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, pleaded guilty in federal court to altering an email used by some in the agency to obtain a court order allowing them to spy on Carter Page, who had been a Trump campaign aide.

In 2017, after Trump won the presidential election, a few FBI personnel launched an investigation into whether Page and others in the campaign had colluded with the Russian government. Part of that probe required permission from a federal judge to spy on Page through electronic eavesdropping. Such clearance can be obtained through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

FISA powers are disturbingly broad even when agencies such as the FBI tell judges the truth. In this case, Clinesmith lied. He altered an email he received from another government, possibly the CIA, to claim that Page was “not a source” for another agency. But the email stated just the opposite — and had the FISA judge seen to unaltered original, he or she might well have refused to grant eavesdropping permission.

But that authority was granted — on false pretenses. Now, as a result of a Justice Department probe into spying on the Trump campaign, Clinesmith has been found out and has pleaded guilty to a crime.

What if some in the FBI decide your favorite candidate ought to be spied upon? What if they decided for one reason or another to target you?

Clinesmith’s behavior is a threat to the liberties of all Americans — Democrat, Republican or independent. It cannot be permitted to ever happen again.

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