from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 38
March 24, 2006

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Judge John D. Bates was appointed last month by Chief Justice John Roberts to serve on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Judge Bates of the D.C. District is the eleventh member of the secretive Court, which processes applications for domestic intelligence search and surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

He replaces Judge James Robertson who resigned in December 2005 in what was widely viewed as a protest against the President's warrantless surveillance program.

The appointment of Judge Bates to the FISA Court has not previously been reported.

When questioned by Secrecy News earlier this week, Justice Department officials refused to divulge the name of the newest FISA Court judge. The Justice officials suggested filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

But Judge Bates himself disclosed the February 2006 appointment in his online bio at the D.C. District Courthouse (thanks to S):

Judge Bates, a Republican appointee, has a distinctly conservative cast to his resume. From 1995-1997, he served as Deputy Independent Counsel to the intensely partisan Whitewater investigation. In 2002, he dismissed (pdf) a lawsuit brought by the congressional General Accounting Office seeking disclosure of records of the Vice President's Energy Task Force.

But he has also ruled occasionally in favor of Freedom of Information Act litigants. And in 2004, he rejected the Bush Administration's argument that a U.S. citizen detained abroad under U.S. control cannot invoke habeas corpus.

"The Court concludes that a citizen cannot be so easily separated from his constitutional rights," Judge Bates memorably ruled (pdf) in Abu Ali v. John Ashcroft.

An FAS roster of FISA Court judges, now including Judge Bates, can be found here:


Judge Frederick J. Scullin, another FISA Court member, served in the Northern District of New York, not the Southern District, as mistakenly stated in Secrecy News yesterday.

Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, the new chairman of the House Committee on House Administration, is a Republican from Michigan, not from California.

(Speaking of Rep. Ehlers, his online bio notes that he "was instrumental in the effort to connect the House of Representatives with the Internet and the creation of the Library of Congress' Thomas website, which allows anyone to look up legislation being considered by Congress, laws that have been passed and other information about Congress."

For now, however, that "other information about Congress" which is available online thanks in part to Rep. Ehlers still does not encompass Congressional Research Service reports.)


The Department of Energy has released a redacted version of its twentieth report on inadvertent releases of classified nuclear weapons information found in declassified records at the National Archives. Upon examination of nearly 300,000 pages of public records, DoE reviewers found 47 pages which they said should not have been released. Those pages were embedded in over a thousand pages of documents, all of which were removed from public access. See:

The defense contractor Sikorsky Aircraft has sued the Defense Department in an effort to block disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act of what it considers to be confidential commercial information, the Project on Government Oversight reported on its blog. See:

The record of a September 2005 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "ABLE DANGER and Intelligence Information Sharing" has recently been published. See:

The U.S. military must be prepared to respond to incidents abroad that involve chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosives (CBRNE). A new Defense Department Instruction on "Foreign Consequence Management" sets DoD policy on the subject. See DoD Instruction 2000.21, March 10, 2006:


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

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