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Federal court rebuffs newspaper's bid to open secret hearing

By The Associated Press


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ORLANDO, Fla. — A closed hearing in federal court was considered so sensitive yesterday that an entire courthouse floor was cleared of outsiders.

The hearing for an unidentified man concerned work by an out-of-state grand jury, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Turner would not say if it was part of the terrorist attack investigation.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David A. Baker rejected a request by an Orlando Sentinel attorney to open the session to the public. Turner said afterward that he could not comment on the nature of the 40-minute hearing or provide details about the man.

Joe Palmer, chief investigator for the U.S. Public Defender's Office in Orlando, declined to comment on the proceeding. "This is a real sensitive issue," he said.

Investigators arrived at the man's house Sept. 15 and he was taken into custody the next day, the Sentinel reported in yesterday's editions. FBI agents asked the man's neighbors on Sept. 17 whether they recognized pictures of any of the hijackers.

Turner would not say if the man was being detained as part of the investigation.

A federal grand jury has been convened in White Plains, N.Y., to investigate the suicide hijackings that destroyed the World Trade Center.


Judicial secrecy in terror probe 'unprecedented'
Federal authorities have detained more than 500 people without releasing paperwork that usually accompanies nearly any type of court proceeding.  10.05.01