Judge F. Dennis Saylor said in an opinion released Friday that such revelations would add to "an informed debate" on the NSA's controversial monitoring.
The opinion also said more transparency would reassure the public about the integrity of the 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which must approve requests for NSA investigations into individual targets.
Critics of the NSA surveillance program have said the court rubber-stamped such requests regardless of their merits.
Saylor's ruling was made in response to a motion from the American Civil Liberties Union seeking information about the NSA's practice of collecting telephone logs from Americans.
The New York Times said the NSA and the Obama administration had said before the massive leaks from Edward Snowden that releasing any information about the agency's operations would be a threat to national security.