We now know that the FBI considered the evidence of ties between Russia and the Trump team to be credible enough to investigate. Julian Borger reports on where this led:
The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.
The Twitter reaction to this has mostly been: Oh, so now the FISA court finally turns down a warrant request. Yeesh.
And sure, this is sort of ironic considering the FISA court’s 99 percent rate of approving warrants. But there’s also a serious point to be made here. This was a warrant targeting four specific people, so the court treated it like a normal warrant. That meant rejecting it if it didn’t provide enough evidence to form probable cause. However, when a warrant is broad-based and applies to thousands or millions of people, the FISA court seems to adopt an entirely different standard. Just demonstrate a vague national security need and you’re good to go.
That’s the irony. The more people that are targeted in a warrant, the less seriously the FISA court seems to take it.
And while we’re on the topic of Trump and Russia, it’s worth pointing out that the original reporting of the dossier on Russian ties to Trump noted that there were some errors in it. Since then, we’ve learned of at least one more error. That’s perfectly normal. This is very, very raw human intelligence, and even if it comes from a reliable source it wouldn’t be surprising if two-thirds of it was wrong. That’s why raw intel is never released publicly. The job of the intelligence community is to figure out which third of it—if any—is right, and then to pursue it further.
So don’t worry about the fact that several parts of the report have been debunked and more will be in the future. What we’re waiting for is to find out if any parts of the report are true. It’s probably going to be a good long time before we know that for sure.