The purpose of an intelligence assessment is not to include just any rumor spies might hear. It is to assess the ocean of information the national security state collects, and to provide analytical judgments about what happened.

There were good reasons to doubt the veracity of Steele’s work. Earlier this month, the Justice Department declassified a series of footnotes from the inspector general’s December report. They indicate that the FBI team investigating the Trump campaign knew in early 2017 that some of Steele’s reporting was likely deliberate Russian disinformation. The report itself also notes that even some of Steele’s sources wouldn’t stand by his reporting.

Add it all up, and it’s stunning that a team hand-picked by FBI senior leadership to investigate Trump and Russia would submit the Steele dossier to the secret surveillance court to obtain a warrant — and three subsequent renewals — or, for that matter, to the wider intelligence community as part an assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.