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Judge orders secrets protected in spy case

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge issued Tuesday an order sharply limiting access to evidence and government documents in order to protect government secrets during the prosecution of accused FBI spy Robert Hanssen.

U.S. District Court Judge Claude Hilton in Alexandria, Virginia, issued the 17-page protective order requested by the government "to prevent the unauthorized disclosure or dissemination of classified national security information and documents which will be reviewed by or made available to, or are otherwise in the possession of" Hanssen and his lawyers.

The order covers all confidential and sensitive information which may arise throughout the pretrial, trial and appellate proceedings in Hanssen's case.

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Hilton's order specifies that Hanssen, who is accused of providing sensitive national security information to the Soviet Union and Russia, is still obligated not to divulge government secrets.

"It is clear that the defendant has a continuing contractual obligation to the government not to disclose classified information that he possesses as a result of his government employment to any unauthorized person," the order said. "The defendant is hereby enjoined from breaching the terms of the secrecy agreements to which he has subscribed throughout his government employment."

The court documents said the procedures will in no way limit the government from filing additional criminal charges against Hanssen. A grand jury is expected to return indictments against Hannsen in the case, possibly before the scheduled preliminary hearing set for May 21, officials said.

The protective order requires defense motions to be filed under seal to protect sensitive information from public disclosure.

Hanssen and his attorneys are also required to sign and swear to a "memorandum of understanding" before they may have access to classified national security information involved in the case.

Hilton said the government attorneys working on the case including, U.S. Attorney Helen Fahey, chief prosecutor Randy Bellows and three other Justice Department lawyers, have the necessary security clearances for access to all the documents.

The defense team will be granted access to government secrets, but limited to chief counsel Plato Cacheris and three other attorneys. Their access to the classified information, including computers, discs, tapes, films, maps and other data, will be confined to designated secure areas.

Court security officers were appointed to make the specific arrangements needed to carry out the judge's order.

Hanssen was arrested last month in a Northern Virginia park, where authorities said he had dropped off a package for his Russian contacts.



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RELATED SITES:
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Central Intelligence Agency
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of Justice
Embassy of the Russian Federation
Russian FSB (former KGB, in Russian)

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