Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest

U.S. District Judge James Robertson

Some more news on the illegal wiretapping. This is from the Washington Post:

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

The illegal wiretaps may have tainted the FISA court's work. The NSA starts wiretapping American citizens on domestic soil--and they pick up some choice bits of intelligence information regarding "suspected" terrorist activities. So what does the Bush White House do? How about go to FISA with this information to get the subpoenas for legally wiretapping these American citizens. Gather suspected evidence illegally, then clean it up to present to the FISA court as neat and legal.

Continuing with the Post story:

Robertson indicated privately to colleagues in recent conversations that he was concerned that information gained from warrantless NSA surveillance could have then been used to obtain FISA warrants. FISA court Presiding Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who had been briefed on the spying program by the administration, raised the same concern in 2004 and insisted that the Justice Department certify in writing that it was not occurring.

"They just don't know if the product of wiretaps were used for FISA warrants -- to kind of cleanse the information," said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the FISA warrants. "What I've heard some of the judges say is they feel they've participated in a Potemkin court."

Robertson is considered a liberal judge who has often ruled against the Bush administration's assertions of broad powers in the terrorism fight, most notably in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld . Robertson held in that case that the Pentagon's military commissions for prosecuting terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were illegal and stacked against the detainees.

Incredible. So who is going to replace Robertson? A conservative hard-liner who has no qualms about this NSA illegal end-run around the FISA "Potemkin Court?"

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