SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 54
May 24, 2007

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

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JUDGE WALTON NAMED TO FOREIGN INTEL SURVEILLANCE COURT

Judge Reggie B. Walton was appointed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by the Chief Justice of the United States effective May 19, Secrecy News has learned.

The FIS Court, established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, is composed of eleven District Court judges who are responsible for authorizing government requests for electronic surveillance and physical search of suspected foreign agents or terrorists within the United States.

Judge Walton has been a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia since 2001, having been appointed by President George W. Bush.

He replaces Judge Claude M. Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia, whose term on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court expired on May 18.

His appointment to the Court was confirmed for Secrecy News by Mr. Sheldon Snook, media liaison and assistant to the chief district judge of the D.C. District Court.

An updated list of members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court may be found here:

A biography of Judge Walton is here:

Judge Walton has gained prominence lately as the presiding judge in the trial of former Vice Presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Last year he ruled in favor of the Federation of American Scientists in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the National Reconnaissance Office.


LOS ALAMOS SAYS LAB ARCHIVES NOW AVAILABLE TO RESEARCHERS

Historians and other researchers may continue to access archival records at Los Alamos National Laboratory, officials said last week. But they also affirmed strict new limits on such access.

A story in Secrecy News (May 3) describing new restrictions on researchers was based on a misunderstanding by Lab personnel, Department of Energy and Lab officials said last week. Although there was a technical change in policy, access to the archives remains unaffected, the officials asserted.

The technical change occurred because Los Alamos National Security (LANS), the contractor that replaced the University of California as Lab manager, is not subject to the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

But "the actual practices at the [LANL] archives have not changed substantially due to this situation with CPRA," officials said, particularly since the California law did not affect federal records.

Despite the new assertions, however, the current access policy for private researchers at Los Alamos is significantly constrained compared to the recent past. And the latest statement of policy is crafted in such a way as to limit direct access to unclassified records to those that have been specifically marked for public release.

In the past, Lab archivists would assist researchers by looking for relevant materials and making them available if they were unclassified. If the materials were classified, the archivists would assist with processing the records for review. That is apparently no longer the case.

Priscilla McMillan, author of the 2005 book "The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer," recalled that she had requested and received numerous archival records from Los Alamos over a period of two decades beginning in 1983 without ever filing a Freedom of Information Act request. She also performed research in the archive itself (usually but not always under supervision), a practice that is no longer permitted.

Today, according to an official statement, only records that are "clearly marked 'Approved for Public Release' may be released by the Lab archives without a FOIA request."

"When anyone requests something from the archives that has a classification issue, FOIA has always been required," the statement said, inaccurately.

It is of course understandable that some kind of formal review would be required prior to release of any classified records. But the wording of the current policy now requires researchers to file a FOIA request for any document -- even an unclassified or previously declassified document -- that is not "clearly marked 'Approved for Public Release'."

Notwithstanding official insistence that the current restricted access policy is "not new," this is a departure from past practice that does not correspond to the recent experience of Ms. McMillan or other scholars and researchers.


AIR FORCE HANDBOOK 2007

An unclassified catalog of U.S. Air Force aircraft, weapons, and other systems -- from the A-10 Thunderbolt to the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser -- is presented in a new Air Force publication.

See The Air Force Handbook 2007 (326 pages, 17 MB PDF file):


SELECTED CRS REPORTS

Some noteworthy new (or newly acquired) reports of the Congressional Research Service include the following.

"Homeland Security Department: FY2008 Request for Appropriations," May 17, 2007:

"U.S.-Funded Assistance Programs in China," May 18, 2007:

"North Korean Provocative Actions, 1950-2007," updated April 20, 2007:

"North Korea: Terrorism List Removal?," updated April 6, 2007:

"The North Korean Economy: Overview and Policy Analysis," updated April 18, 2007:

"Presidential Directives: Background and Overview," updated April 23, 2007:

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

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