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posted: 3/30/2010 12:01 AM

Federal prosecutor unveils plan for terror trial

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Chicago's top federal prosecutor said Monday he hopes to use classified documents as little as possible at the trial of a businessman charged in connection with the November 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai and a planned attack in Denmark.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said investigators have gathered "a substantial amount" of classified material on Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who is charged along with an American citizen, David Coleman Headley, and two other men.

Fitzgerald told Judge Harry D. Leinenweber the government hopes to declassify much of the material to avoid extensive use of the complex Classified Information Procedures Act -- which governs how courts handle classified evidence.

Rana, 49, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorism in India and Denmark and to the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Pure.

Rana, a Canadian national born in Pakistan who has lived in Chicago for more than a dozen years, is accused of allowing Headley to use his business as a cover as he scouted Mumbai before the terrorist attacks that left 166 people dead and hundreds injured.

Both the Indian government and federal prosecutors blame the attacks on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist group at odds with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Rana also allegedly used his business as cover for Headley's scouting missions to Denmark, where a newspaper offended Muslims by publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Headley, 49, has pleaded guilty to scouting Mumbai and planning an attack on the Danish newspaper. He has pledged to help federal prosecutors in exchange for a promise he will not face the death penalty.

Rana could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney Patrick Blegen told Leinenweber a special room has been chosen in the courthouse for him to use while viewing the documents. But he hasn't been able to do that yet because he is still awaiting his security clearance.

Blegen and prosecutors agreed on a six-month schedule for carrying out provisions of the Classified Information Procedures Act, which allows prosecutors to take extraordinary steps to prevent classified information from leaking to the public.

Prosecutors most often say the reason is to protect the sources of the information.

The law has been invoked at least twice in Chicago in recent years.

At the 2007 terrorism trial of two alleged members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, two Israeli security agents were allowed to testify using aliases. The courtroom was cleared of spectators, and reporters allowed to watch on TV from a room five floors away had to pass through a metal detector under the watchful eye of an explosives sniffing Labrador retriever.

Some evidence was deemed so secret it was presented to U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve in her chambers with defense attorneys not allowed in.

Both men were acquitted of taking part in a terrorist conspiracy but convicted on other charges.

Secrecy surrounded one witness at the 2004 trial of Khaled Abdel-Latif Dumeisi, who was sentenced to 46 months in prison after being convicted of using his cover as a journalist for a small suburban paper to spy on opponents of Saddam Hussein's regime in this country.

The government's star witness was described as a top Iraqi intelligence officer who was captured as U.S. tanks rumbled into war-torn Baghdad. He testified under a pseudonym and even his specific job title was not made public for fear of reprisals when he returned to Iraq.

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