Roberts Appoints Conservative Ex-Starr Deputy to Surveillance Court

According to a new report by the Federation of American Scientists, Chief Justice John Roberts has appointed Judge John Bates to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Bates is replacing Judge James Robertson, who resigned last December to protest President Bush’s illegal domestic wiretapping program.

Bates has a “distinctly conservative cast to his resume.” From 1995 to 1997, he served as Ken Starr’s deputy in the Whitewater investigation, a glorified political witch-hunt that never managed to turn up evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons.

In 2001, Bates was appointed to district court by President Bush, where he was assigned the lawsuit seeking details about Vice President Cheney’s secret energy taskforce. In a widely criticized ruling, Bates dismissed the case:

The third Starr retread currently wielding a gavel, District Judge John Bates, played a major role in stymieing a more substantive investigation than the one he pursued under Starr. The General Accounting Office (GAO) brought the first lawsuit in its 80-plus-year existence after Dick Cheney stonewalled its attempt to obtain information about the veep’s 2001 energy task force. Bates, who provided the rationale for subpoenaing any woman to whom Clinton may have talked dirty about Whitewater, dismissed the GAO’s effort to learn with whom Cheney’s task force conferred.

Now, on the FISA court, one can only hope Bates will care as much about the privacy of ordinary Americans as he did for Dick Cheney, Ken Lay, and Big Oil executives.