Sunday, June 24, 2007

Judge appointed by Ronald Reagan Criticizes Bush/Cheney Wiretap Program

The New York Times
Judge Criticizes Wiretap Program

WASHINGTON, June 23 (AP) — A federal judge who used to authorize wiretaps in terrorist and espionage cases on Saturday criticized President Bush’s decision to order warrantless surveillance after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The judge, Royce C. Lamberth of federal district court in Washington, said it was proper for executive branch agencies to conduct such surveillances. “But what we have found in the history of our country is that you can’t trust the executive,” he said at a convention of the American Library Association.

Judge Lamberth, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, disagreed with letting the executive branch alone decide which people to spy on in security cases.

“The executive has to fight and win the war at all costs,” he said. “But judges understand the war has to be fought, but it can’t be at all costs.” He added: “We still have to preserve our civil liberties. Judges are the kinds of people you want to entrust that kind of judgment to more than the executive.”

Judge Lamberth was named chief of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 1995 by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. He held that post until 2002.

The court meets in secret to review applications from the F.B.I., the National Security Agency and other agencies for warrants to wiretap or search the homes of people in the United States in terrorist or espionage cases.

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said Mr. Bush believed in the program, which is classified because its purpose is to stop terrorists’ planning.

The program “is lawful, limited, safeguarded and — most importantly — effective in protecting American citizens from terrorist attacks,” Mr. Fratto said. “It’s specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans’ civil liberties.”