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But he said he never would have known about it if Butler had not opened up the sealed records.

In one high-profile case, authorities a month after the attacks detained a waiter in Florida named Mohamed K.

But Soto said many of those same issues exist in state courts, which do not close hearings of defendants to protect ongoing investigations.

"If you tried that in state courts, they'd look at you and say, 'Well, then don't start the prosecution,'" he said.

Publicizing an indictment in such cases could not only hurt the chances of arresting co-conspirators but endanger people's lives as well, he said.

"Crime is taking on a completely different posture today as opposed to 40 years ago, when the feds were basically chasing moonshiners," he said.

Although less than 2 percent of all documents filed in federal court still are sealed, legal experts said far more information is unavailable about federal cases than those in state courts.The rest, according to court officials, have been sealed to protect ongoing investigations.More common is the practice of sealing certain documents in cases that otherwise are open to the public.Allowing defendants to plead guilty behind closed doors might protect them from retribution, she said. However, it's creating a completely secret system of justice," Dalglish said."That means that there are people sitting in prisons and there is no public track record of how they got there. that the men have cooperated with investigators and therefore deserved shorter prison sentences than called for under advisory sentencing guidelines.

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