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May 03, 2007

CIA ordered to release court documents

[associated press]

GREENBELT --A federal judge ordered the CIA yesterday to turn over court records needed by a former National Security Agency worker to appeal his 2005 conviction for illegally holding secret documents.

A lawyer for Kenneth W. Ford Jr. said the NSA and the CIA had not given him full access to the transcripts for his appeal of Ford's conviction and six-year prison sentence. Lawyer Spencer Hecht said the spy agencies were delaying their review of potentially sensitive information.

At a hearing in U.S. District Court here, Judge Peter Messitte instructed the CIA to turn over "sanitized" transcripts of the court case and pretrial hearings within two weeks, with the secret material redacted.

But the judge also said Ford's attorney could view the classified sections only at a secure room at the Department of Justice in Washington. Any notes or information that Hecht writes there cannot leave the room.

Ford was a computer analyst at NSA, a highly secretive agency that eavesdrops on foreign communications. He had just left his job when federal agents found several boxes of classified documents in his kitchen during a 2004 search. He was not accused of spying, and no clear motive was ever established.

Ford claimed he was framed by a spurned ex-girlfriend but was convicted by a jury of unauthorized possession of classified documents and making false statements to a government agency.

At the trial, some classified records were presented to jurors but were not part of the public case file. Several pretrial hearings and off-the-record discussions between Hecht and prosecutors at trial also covered classified material. Under the Classified Information Procedures Act, that material can't be released publicly.

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