December 21, 2005

Judge quits amid spying debate: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge has resigned from
the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence
cases in protest of U.S. President George W. Bush's
authorization of a domestic spying program, The Washington Post
reported on Wednesday.

Citing two sources, the newspaper reported U.S. District
Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as FISA, sent his
resignation to Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday.

The Post said the resignation letter gave no explanation
for Robertson stepping down. Robertson declined comment when
reached on Tuesday, the newspaper said.

Robertson is considered a liberal judge who has often ruled
against the Bush administration's assertions of broad powers in
the terrorism fight, the Post said.

Revelation that authorized domestic spying on Americans
suspected of terrorists links without court approval spurred
considerable debate among federal judges, including some on the
FISA Court, The Washington Post said.

The Post said Robertson indicated privately to colleagues
in recent conversations that he was concerned that information
gained from warrantless National Security Agency surveillance
could have then been used to obtain FISA warrants.

FISA court Presiding Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who had
been briefed on the NSA spying program, raised the same concern
in 2004 and insisted that the Justice Department certify in
writing that it was not occurring, the Post said.

"They just don't know if the product of wiretaps were used
for FISA warrants -- to kind of cleanse the information," one
source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was quoted as

Robertson was appointed to the federal bench in Washington
by President Bill Clinton in 1994. He was later selected by
then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist to serve on the FISA
court, the Post said.