Former Whitewater Prosecutor Named as New Judge for FISA Court

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates has been named to replace a judge who resigned from the secret court set up by Congress to oversee domestic spying.

Bates, a former Whitewater prosecutor, was appointed to replace U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who quit shortly after news reports about the Bush administration going around the court to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens suspected of communicating with terrorists.

The appointment, made by Chief Justice John Roberts in February, was not announced by the court. Secrecy News reported the appointment Friday after it appeared in Bates' official online biography.

"In February 2006, he was appointed by Chief Justice Roberts to serve as a judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," according to Bates' bio on the Web site maintained by the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

Bates was named to the federal bench in 2001 by President Bush. Prior to joining the court, Bates worked as a private practice attorney. From 1995 to 1997, he was an assistant U.S. attorney who wored for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr on the investigation into President Clinton's Whitewater investment deals.

The FISA court reviews applications for domestic intelligence surveillance and search warrant requests, as outlined in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

While Robertson never spoke publicly of his resignation, many believe he quit in protest over the National Security Agency's monitoring of international calls — when one party is inside the United States — without first getting court approval.

Under the program first disclosed last year, the NSA has been conducting the surveillance when calls and e-mails are thought to involve al-Qaida. President Bush authorized the program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.