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Closed hearing held in case of al-Qaida informant from LI

A Brooklyn federal prosecutor and judge at a closed hearing appeared to agree with a defense claim that Long Island terrorist-turned-informant Bryant Vinas was the person most responsible for the demise of al-Qaida, according to a transcript released Thursday.

Vinas, 34, of Patchogue, began cooperating after his capture in Pakistan in 2009 and is scheduled to be sentenced next week. At a pre-sentencing hearing on April 20, defense lawyer Steve Zissou claimed that information from Vinas was the “proximate cause” of the defeat of al-Qaida as a fighting force.

Afterward, in a closed session to discuss classified matters, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who will sentence Vinas, asked prosecutor Richard Tucker if he disputed Zissou’s assessment. “As a practical matter, probably not, your honor,” the prosecutor responded.

Later, the judge discussed in general terms sensitive classified information about Vinas that only he — not the defense — has been allowed to see. “Everything that Mr. Zissou said reflects what’s in this redacted material,” Garaufis said, according to the transcript.

In one passage, the judge discussed questions the defense had asked the government about the consequences of Vinas’ cooperation — including a question about whether his information had assisted in the “capture or death” of al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The government’s answer was no, Garaufis said.

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