Trump Defenders Should Support N.Y. Times Effort to Unseal Secret Surveillance Documents

Carter PageThe New York Times wants the goverment to do more than #ReleaseTheMemo. It's asking the federal secret surveillance court to spill much more about the information used to justify snooping on a former campaign adviser to Donald Trump.

Today the Times announced that it is asking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to unseal secret documents submitted to the court by the Justice Department. These are the documents the feds used to explain why they wanted permission to wiretap Carter Page, the adviser whose communications with Russian officials were picked up by the government and subsequently leaked.

The "Nunes Memo," written by staffers for House Intelligence Committee chief Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) claims that the FBI warrants were not in good faith and that the foundation for the surveillance request was a now-infamous dossier put together and paid for as Democratic Party opposition research. The memo, which was released on Friday, says that the potential biases of the report were concealed from the court in order to get authorization to wiretap onPage.

Democratic leaders claim that the Nunes memo gets the facts wrong and that the court was informed that there were political motivations behind the dossier, though they didn't specifically mention the Democrats or Hillary Clinton's campaign. Democratic representatives on the House Intelligence Committee have produced their own memo, and now the White House says it will consider whether to release it too.

Both Nunes (who was part of Trump's transition team) and the Democrats have reasons to spin the analysis, either to suggest the FBI's investigation was never legitimate or to downplay whether the FBI omitted information that might have caused the court to reject the application. But if we, as Americans, could see the actual underlying warrant application and intelligence, we wouldn't simply have to accept the word of politicians. And more importantly, we wouldn't simply have to accept the word of the FBI, with its troubled history.

President Trump famously feuds with the press, including The New York Times. But if Republicans' claims are true, they should want this information to be released.

The Times notes that wiretapping application contents have never been made public in the history of the surveillance court. There are regular reports from FISC that may discuss (in heavily redacted fashion) these applications and their contents, but the underlying warrant applications are not released.

Read more from the Times here.