Washington • A former federal judge who served on a secret court overseeing the National Security Agency's secret surveillance programs said Tuesday the panel is independent but flawed because only the government's side is represented effectively in its deliberations.
"Anyone who has been a judge will tell you a judge needs to hear both sides of a case," said James Robertson, a former federal district judge based in Washington who served on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for three years between 2002 and 2005. Robertson spoke during a Tuesday hearing of a federal oversight board directed by President Barack Obama to scrutinize government spying.
Robertson questioned whether the secret FISA court should provide overall legal approval for the surveillance programs, saying the court "has turned into something like an administrative agency." He is one of several judges with FISA experience who have spoken out recently to affirm the court's independence. But Robertson is the first to publicly air concerns about how the court grapples with the government's vast secret data collection programs.