Former ISOO Director Again Asks Court to Release NSA Documents
Last May, J. William Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, asked a federal court for permission to disclose and discuss declassified National Security Agency documents that had been cited in the prosecution of former NSA official Thomas Drake. The documents represented a particularly “egregious” and “willful” case of overclassification, Mr. Leonard said, that needed to be publicly addressed.
Last month, government attorneys said there was no basis for action by the Court, and they suggested that Mr. Leonard could submit a Freedom of Information Act request to NSA for the documents instead.
Yesterday, Mr. Drake’s attorneys fired back in support of Mr. Leonard, who served as an expert for the Drake defense. They said Mr. Leonard is properly seeking relief from the Court because it was the Court that issued the Protective Order that limits his ability to discuss the issue.
“The Protective Order remains in effect today. It was not voided or mooted when judgment was entered last year. It has not expired,” wrote public defenders James Wyda and Deborah L. Boardman, Mr. Drake’s attorneys. “Although the United States may not take the terms of its own Protective Order seriously, Mr. Leonard does.”
The government’s suggestion that Mr. Drake file a FOIA request is unsatisfactory in two ways, Mr. Wyda and Ms. Boardman wrote. First, NSA has failed to release these documents in response to previous FOIA requests, including one filed by me last year.
“Given NSA’s track record and its failure to respond to prior requests […], Mr. Leonard had no reason to believe his FOIA request for the same document would have been successful.”
But even if NSA did release the documents under FOIA, that would not solve Mr. Leonard’s problem, the defense attorneys explained.
“Even if Mr. Leonard had received the documents pursuant to a FOIA request, he would still be bound by the terms of the Protective Order that prohibit him from disclosing and discussing the documents. It would do Mr. Leonard no good to merely receive the documents pursuant to a FOIA request if he cannot discuss the documents because he is bound by a Court Order that prohibits such discussion.”
The good news, they said, is that NSA has already prepared lightly redacted versions of the documents that are suitable for public release. “These redacted versions are acceptable to Mr. Leonard,” Mr. Wyda and Ms. Boardman wrote.
Now it will be up to the Court to rule.
The deeper question raised by Mr. Leonard’s action — how to respond to “egregiously” mistaken classification actions — remains open.
The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons, and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
On 14 April 2023, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence released a short video of a Su-25 pilot explaining his new role in delivering “special [nuclear] munitions” following his training in Russia. The features seen in the video, as well as several other open-source clues, suggest that Lida Air Base––located only 40 kilometers from the Lithuanian border and the […]
A photo in a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) student briefing from 2022 shows four people inspecting what appears to be a damaged B61 nuclear bomb.
In early-February 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) had informed Congress that China now has more launchers for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) than the United States. The report is the latest in a serious of revelations over the past four years about China’s growing nuclear weapons arsenal and the deepening […]