Tuesday, December 20, 2005

FISA Judge Resigns in Protest

The Washington Post is reporting that one of the eleven FISA court judges has resigned, allegedly in protest over the secretive manner in which the Bush administration decided to go around the court to conduct electronic surveillance.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John D. 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.

Clearly, it appears that members of the FISA court bench were unaware of the program to circumvent the court. This may explain why so many FISA warrant requests continued to go before the bench after President Bush signed his secret executive order. If the warrant requests had ceased, the court would have become very suspicious. So the court continued to hear - and grant - warrant requests while the NSA apparently engaged in unwarranted surveillance of hundreds and perhaps thousands of targets without court oversight.

The question remains: Who were these unwarranted targets and why did the administration feel compelled to spy on them in clear violation of the law?

Larry C. Johnson at NO QUARTER contends that the administration may have wanted to avoid bringing certain evidence before the federal court because the evidence may have implicated the U.S. in possible violations of the Geneva Conventions. This certainly would provide an interesting tie to the recent allegations of torture and secret prisons on foreign soil.

We also have learned that Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) expressed concern about the secret program back in 2003 after he first learned of it. He wrote a letter to Vice President Cheney and also locked a copy of it in safekeeping for possible future reference. Because he was sworn not to discuss with anyone what he had learned - not with his aides, not with his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee, not with his legal counsel - he therefore was severely limited at the time in what he could do to determine whether or not this program was, in fact, legal. Other members of Congress may have been in a similar, difficult situation.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, it's time to let it ALL the way out of the bag and find out what happened...and find out if any laws were broken. While the White House has acknowledged the program, it's anticipated that it will stonewall attempts to gain detailed information and documentation about the original executive order and the subsequent implementation of the surveillance. In their minds, I guess secrecy trumps legality. That should be a major red flag right there!

Lots of questions that need to be answered, for sure. Hopefully enough members of Congress (yeah, that means you, Republicans!) will be sufficiently outraged to demand accountability from the Bush White House. I know I am!


At 4:04 AM, Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Sounds like a nice dog and pony show. Wonder what they did with the useless warrants they obtained just for show. Maybe a little weenie roast in the Rose Garden.


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