The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post)

The Dec. 23 editorial "The importance of foreign intelligence" got its conclusion exactly backward. Congress must not provide President Trump (or any president) the legal authority to spy on journalists, minorities and political opponents without first obtaining a court warrant, as the Constitution requires.

No less a newspaperman than Benjamin Franklin criticized the editorial board's perspective: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Forty-two organizations, from the ACLU and NAACP to FreedomWorks and the Campaign for Liberty, endorsed the bipartisan USA Rights Act — the bill the editorial board dismissed — which requires a warrant (except in emergencies) before the government can use its foreign intelligence authorities to read Americans' emails, eavesdrop on our phone calls and access our online information. The House's USA Liberty Act draws a miragelike distinction between domestically gathered "foreign intelligence" and "criminal" information, a line unrecognized by the Constitution and blurred by the intelligence agencies.

Federal courts are an essential check on surveillance that must not be bypassed for any reason.

Daniel Schuman, Alexandria

The writer is the policy director for Demand Progress and Demand Progress Action.