Twice in four years, a Justice Department lawyer warned the presiding judge of a secret surveillance court that information overheard in President Bush’s eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to obtain wiretap warrants in the court, the Washington Post reports. The Post said the revelations infuriated U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly — who, like her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth, had expressed serious doubts about whether the warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails was legal. Both judges had insisted that no information obtained this way be used to gain warrants from their court, and both had been assured by administration officials it would never happen.
James Baker, the counsel for intelligence policy in the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, discovered in 2004 that the government’s failure to share information about its spying program had rendered useless a screening system the judges had insisted upon to shield the court from tainted information. He alerted Kollar-Kotelly, who complained to Justice, prompting a temporary suspension of the NSA spying program. This account shows the depth of the two judges’ doubts about its legality and their behind-the-scenes efforts to protect the court from what they considered potentially tainted evidence.