07/12/2013 10:34 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

The FISA Judge Who Singlehandedly Approved Massive NSA Spying on Every American

The Washington Post has a new article out, "Secret-court judges upset at portrayal of "collaboration' with government."

And the article does report that the judge was annoyed that the idea of collaborating with the government was an inaccurate portrayal.

But it seems that the bigger story is that this judge is THE judge, who, all alone, decided that it was okay for the NSA and whoever else had access, to spy on ALL Americans. Her name is Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

Here's the excerpt from the WaPo article that is most significant:

On July 14, 2004, the surveillance court for the first time approved the gathering of information by the NSA, which created the equivalent of a digital vault to hold Internet metadata. Kollar-Kotelly's order authorized the metadata program under a FISA provision known as the "pen register/trap and trace," or PRTT.

The ruling was a secret not just to the public and most of Congress, but to all of Kollar-Kotelly's surveillance court colleagues. Under orders from the president, none of the court's other 10 members could be told about the Internet metadata program, which was one prong of a larger and highly classified data-gathering effort known as the President's Surveillance Program, or PSP.

But the importance of her order -- which approved the collection based on a 1986 law typically used for phone records -- was hard to overstate.

"The order essentially gave NSA the same authority to collect bulk Internet metadata that it had under the PSP," the inspector general's report said, with some minor caveats including reducing the number of people who could access the records.

On May 24, 2006, Kollar-Kotelly signed another order, this one authorizing the bulk collection of phone metadata from U.S. phone companies, under a FISA provision known as Section 215, or the "business records provision," of the USA Patriot Act. "

A 2006 Washington Post article also mentions Kollar-Kotelly, so the news is not a first time revelation of her tie to the authorization. The older article also refers to her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth and suggests that they had serious concerns about the legality of the program, instituted when George W. Bush was president;

"Both judges expressed concern to senior officials that the president's program, if ever made public and challenged in court, ran a significant risk of being declared unconstitutional, according to sources familiar with their actions. Yet the judges believed they did not have the authority to rule on the president's power to order the eavesdropping, government sources said, and focused instead on protecting the integrity of the FISA process.
It was an odd position for the presiding judges of the FISA court, the secret panel created in 1978 in response to a public outcry over warrantless domestic spying by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. The court's appointees, chosen by then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, were generally veteran jurists with a pro-government bent, and their classified work is considered a powerful tool for catching spies and terrorists."

Perhaps this judge has been portrayed unfairly, as collaborating with the government. But more important, it seems to put a face -- THE face -- on the American who decided it was okay to spy on every other American.

Regardless of her raising of concerns, she went ahead and, with her unique power, as head of the secretive FISA Court, made an even more secret decision to approve the worse spying in the history of America. In spite of evidence of abuses, that the 2006 WaPo article reported, she went ahead and approved further, more egregious and aggressive spying. It looks like she never said no, when asked.

She should be called before Congress and questioned. And she should be more worried about what she DID than what is said about her so far. There is no question that she did approve the horrific level of spying we now know the NSA engages in.

The question is, how did any protector of the citizens-- the duty of every elected and appointed government official, ever allow a single person to make such an important decision -- and who decided to keep it secret? Because they violated their oath and should be punished to the full extent of the law.