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FISC judge resigns in protest over NSA domestic surveillance

[JURIST] US District Judge James Robertson [official profile], one of 11 members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [constituitive statute], has resigned in protest over the National Security Agency's secret domestic surveillance program [JURIST report], according to a report Wednesday in the Washington Post. Robertson submitted his resignation letter to Chief Justice John Roberts late Monday, and though he didn't provide a reason for his resignation, two sources told the Post that Robertson has expressed concern about the program authorized by President Bush to conduct warrantless wiretaps on international communications by US residents with known links to al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. The FISC was established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; FAS materials] to oversee government surveillance in intelligence cases, and Robertson is said to have expressed concern that the NSA program is legally questionable and could have tainted the work of the FISC. The New York Times reported Wednesday that despite White House denials, the NSA program has occasionally captured purely domestic communications [NYT report], though the number of such interceptions was small and was caused by a technical glitch in determining whether a communication was international. AP has more.

In another development in the domestic spying saga, the ACLU has said that documents it obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request show that the FBI has used counterterrorism resources to monitor domestic animal and environmental rights organizations without sufficient evidence [press release] that the groups are engaging in or supporting violent action. The ACLU says this FBI monitoring of advocacy groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace, who have not broken the law "has a chilling effect on the vibrant tradition of political dissent in this country." The FBI insists that it has conducted its investigations in accordance to US law and Justice Department regulations and that the ACLU has mischaracterized passing references in FBI files. AP has more.

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