The press and public will be barred from attending former PresidentRonald Reagan's videotaped Iran-Contra testimony today in Los Angeles, a federal judge ruled Thursday. An edited version will be released later, he said.
Reagan is to be questioned in connection with the trial of former national security adviser John Poindexter, who contends the former president authorized his activities in the affair.
U.S. District Court Judge Harold Greene said he would "order the release of the tape" within a few days, after it is edited to remove material that touches on classified matters.
In a separate development Thursday, the Bush administration joined Reagan in asserting executive privilege supporting his attempt to avoid turning over diary excerpts to Poindexter.
The Justice Department said the information is available elsewhere, "most specifically from the oral testimony of the former president himself."
The judge in the case rejected a request by news organizations to attend Reagan's deposition in the federal courthouse in Los Angeles, but he granted their motion for swift release as soon as editing is completed.
"In the absence of extraordinary disputes between the parties regarding classified materials," editing "will not consume more than two or three working days," the judge said in a 13-page opinion and order.
Reagan could undergo the toughest questioning he has faced in the
Iran-Contra affair when he is asked 154 questions plus follow-ups by
Poindexter's lawyers. They are trying to depict Reagan as a president who approved of all the activities undertaken by his national security adviser.
Iran-Contra prosecutors then will cross-examine the former president.
Poindexter faces trial March 5 on charges of conspiracy, obstructing Congress and making false statements.
The news organizations had suggested that Greene close a portion of Reagan's deposition so that questions dealing with classified matters could be answered in private. Greene said, however, "there is no assurance" that classified matters could be limited to the closed part.
Also, there may be discussions at the deposition by Reagan and Bush administration lawyers about invoking executive privilege. Greene said he doesn't intend such consultations and decisions to occur in front of the news media.