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Ex-FISA Court judge disputes inspector general report

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone,Executive Branch,Judicial Branch,National Security,NSA,Surveillance,Analysis,Inspectors General

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has disputed parts of the National Security Agency inspector general’s draft report charging that as chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance report she collaborated with the Executive Branch, according to a story in Sunday's Washington Post. Excerpts:

“'In my view, that draft report contains major omissions, and some inaccuracies, regarding the actions I took as Presiding Judge of the FISC and my interactions with Executive Branch officials,’” she said in a statement ...

"'I participated in a process of adjudication, not “coordination” with the executive branch. The discussions I had with executive branch officials were in most respects typical of how I and other district court judges entertain applications for criminal wiretaps under Title III, where issues are discussed ex parte.’”

Kollar-Kotelly was appointed to the District of Columbia Superior Court by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by Bill Clinton in 1997. Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed her to the FISA court in 2002, on which she served until 2009. Before serving as a judge, she was a career government lawyer. Her career path suggests that she is not a strong partisan and that she has been highly regarded by both the Clinton Justice Department and by Rehnquist, who I am sure would have sought advice from a wide range of those with knowledge of her work before appointing her.

As it happens, I served on a jury in Kollar-Kotelly’s courtroom. She struck me as an intelligent, knowledgeable, fair judge. On the basis of that experience, I take her comments seriously. She makes the point that a FISA court judge can shape government policies not just by rejecting applications for surveillance but also by indicating what she finds possibly objectionable in them. This court was set up, for good reasons, to operate in secret, and I think the process Kollar-Kotelly describes or at least suggests is how we should expect such a court to operate.

 

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