At the hearing, Gesell said he thinks the issues raised by 10 news organizations seeking access to the document are "very, very broad."
"If you prevail in this matter," Gesell told a lawyer for the 10 news organizations, "one possibility is I must discharge the jury."
At issue is a stipulation summarizing highly secret intelligence intercepts that tracked a CIA-assisted November 1985 shipment of Hawk missiles to Iran. The intercepts were gathered by the National Security Agency.
North's lawyers used the document in his defense, referring to it in open court. In a highly unusual move, the document was given to the jury for its deliberations, but Gesell has kept it under seal from the public. Ten news organizations went to court April 21 in an attempt to force its release.
The Justice Department, acting on behalf of the U.S. intelligence community, says release of the information would jeoparidize national security.
Timothy B. Dyk, representing the 10 news organizations, said the issues raised by the matter are narrow ones and pointed out that "only one document" is involved.
Gesell replied that "it's the only document I treated this way after 14 months of dealing with over a million documents."
The document shows that top U.S. officials knew at the time of the November 1985 shipment that Hawk missiles were aboard the aircraft. On April 22, Gesell rejected the disclosure motion, saying the stipulation "is a classified document."
The news organizations appealed. An appeals court panel Friday sent the matter back to Gesell, calling for a hearing on national security issues involved, saying it cannot make a decision without having such a record.
North is charged with creating a false chronology that says no one in the U.S. government knew until January 1986 that Hawks were aboard the November 1985 shipment.
Part of North's defense was to show that CIA Director William Casey and national security adviser John Poindexter were aware at the time from the intercepts what was aboard, yet arranged the false story that no one knew.
North is accused of lying to Congress to cover up his role in secretly assisting the Nicaraguan Contra reb-els and lying to the attorney general about the diversion of funds to the Contras from the Reagan administration's secret arms sales to Iran.