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What if someone in FBI decided to spy on you?

Behavior like that of former agency lawyer a threat to our freedom

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 the 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.

If you are a Trump supporter, your reaction probably is positive. If you are not, it is possible your dislike for the president will blind you to the implications of Clinesmith’s plea.

Understand this: Because Clinesmith and others in the FBI decided that regardless of the facts, they intended to find evidence of collusion, they obtained permission to eavesdrop dishonesty and illegally.

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

Clinesmith should be sentenced to the harshest punishment available. Others involved in the plot should be unmasked and punished.

This sort of behavior is a threat to the liberties cherished by all Americans — Democrat, Republican or Independent.

It cannot be permitted.

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