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Former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Bristles At Government Collaboration Claims

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The former chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is pushing back against the suggestion that she and her colleagues collaborated with the executive branch in approving the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance programs.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who served as the chief judge on the special panel from 2002 to 2006, told the Washington Post Friday that a 2009 draft inspector general report detailing interactions between the court and the NSA was not complete or entirely accurate.

“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.

The draft report, published by the Guardian last week, details how the NSA's bulk collection of U.S. citizens' emails records began in George W. Bush's administration and continued for two years under President Barack Obama. According to the report, Bush briefly put the email collection program on hold after several senior figures in the administration balked at the mass collection of Internet metadata.

The Guardian reported:

As soon as the NSA lost the blessing under the president's directive for collecting bulk internet metadata, the NSA IG report reads, "DoJ [the Department of Justice] and NSA immediately began efforts to recreate this authority."

The DoJ quickly convinced the Fisa court to authorize ongoing bulk collection of email metadata records. On 14 July 2004, barely two months after Bush stopped the collection, Fisa court chief judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly legally blessed it under a new order – the first time the surveillance court exercised its authority over a two-and-a-half-year-old surveillance program.

Kollar-Kotelly's order "essentially gave NSA the same authority to collect bulk internet metadata that it had under the PSP [Bush's program], except that it specified the datalinks from which NSA could collect, and it limited the number of people that could access the data".

Kollar-Kotelly denied to the Post any "coordination" with the surveillance agency.

“That is incorrect,” she said. “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.”

The court, established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, was located inside the Department of Justice's Washington headquarters until 2009. It is now located in the District of Columbia's federal courthouse.

Click here to read the Washington Post's full story on the FISC.

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