A federal appeals court panel in Richmond, Va., held a closed hearing to protect secrets during arguments about an Iran-Contra criminal case against Joseph F. Fernandez, former CIA station chief in Costa Rica. Judge Robert F. Chapman said federal law required him to close the hearing after Edward Dennis, acting deputy attorney general, said the panel would hear information relating to national security. Timothy Dyk, an attorney for several media outlets, had objected to the closing on constitutional grounds but the court refused to hear his arguments. The Justice Department wants to appeal a federal judge's ruling that Fernandez may disclose as part of his defense secret information that the department says would jeopardize national security. However, independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh's office says an appeal is a prosecutorial function granted specifically to the independent counsel's office.
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