from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 61
May 24, 2006

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District Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida this month became the newest member of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.

Judge Vinson was named by the Chief Justice of the United States to a seven year term on the FISA Court, effective May 4. He replaces Judge Michael J. Davis, whose term on the Court expired this month.

The FISA Court, established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, provides judicial authorization for electronic surveillance and physical searches that are conducted within the United States for foreign intelligence and counterterrorism purposes.

Judge Vinson's appointment has not been previously reported, but it was confirmed for Secrecy News yesterday by Shelly Snook, media liaison and assistant to the chief judge of the D.C. District Court.

The current membership of the eleven-member FISA Court and of the three-member FIS Court of Review is available on the Federation of American Scientists web site here:


The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announced that it will hold a hearing on Friday May 26 on "the Media's Role and Responsibilities in Leaks of Classified Information."

There is no legislation on leaks currently before the Committee, and there are no governmental witnesses testifying at the hearing. See:

In an invited statement for the record, I attempted to put the issue into a larger context and to illustrate the fact that some leaks serve a constructive purpose.

"I believe it is an error to focus on unauthorized disclosures as if they were an isolated phenomenon, without consideration of the corrupted state of the classification system and the difficulties faced by whistleblowers who seek to comply with official procedures," I wrote.

"From my own perspective, it seems likely that the benefits of leaks in preserving constitutional values greatly outweigh their risks to national security." See:

The suggestion by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last weekend that the government might prosecute reporters who publish classified information was critiqued by Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine in "When Speech Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Speak," May 24:

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra has been an outspoken critic of classified leaks.

"Each year, countless unauthorized leaks cause severe damage to our intelligence activities and expose our capabilities," he said in a speech last year.

"The fact of the matter is, some of the worst damage done to our intelligence community has come not from penetration by spies, but from unauthorized leaks by those with access to classified information."


"On 12 November 2002, Osama Binladen issued a public statement which specifically targeted Canada for the first time for its collaboration with the United States in attempting to dismantle Al Qaida," a 2002 Canadian intelligence report noted.

With that statement in mind, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) conducted classified studies on the terrorist threat to Canadian transportation systems. Two of those classified studies have now been declassified and released in redacted form.

The declassified studies were obtained under Canada's Access to Information Act by former Canadian intelligence officer and author Stéphane Lefebvre, who provided copies to Secrecy News.

At least some of the many redactions seem silly, for example: "Surface transportation presents a [adjective deleted] degree of vulnerability to terrorist attacks," one study begins. The missing word is probably not "low" or "negligible."

See "International and National Terrorist Threats to Surface Transportation," CSIS Study #2002-3/26 (redacted) (3 MB PDF):

and "The International Terrorist Threat to Maritime Transportation," CSIS Study #2003-4/02 (redacted) (2.7 MB PDF):


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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