ATLANTA, NOV. 16 -- The saga of the Noriega tapes continued in a Keystone Kops atmosphere today as Cable News Network officials denied that the FBI had impounded anything of importance in a bizarre seizure Thursday and FBI authorities clammed up.

Officials at CNN headquarters here were trying to determine how the network's confidential material apparently went from a hotel lost-and-found office into FBI hands.

Meanwhile, CNN lawyers in Washington were preparing to continue a Supreme Court battle over a federal court order preventing CNN from broadcasting tapes that it says include jailhouse conversations between deposed Panamanian leader Manuel Antonio Noriega and his defense team.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has told lawyers for the government and Noriega to file briefs by noon Saturday in Washington.

In Miami today, Noriega spoke for the first time in a U.S. court, telling a District Court judge that he could not be given a fair trial in the United States.

With his assets frozen by the federal government, Noriega cannot pay his lawyers, and his conversations with his lawyers may have been taped by the government. Noriega said the government has "taken my money, deprived me of my lawyers, videotaped me in my cell, wire taped my telephone calls with my lawyers and even given them to the {Panamanian} government and the press."

"This is not justice. Why should we pretend it is?" the former dictator said in Spanish to U.S. District Judge William M. Hoeveler at a hearing in which his lawyers offered to withdraw from the case.

Hoeveler told Noriega that he "is not being cast adrift by the court and by the judicial system" and said he will not decide until next week how much the government should pay court-appointed defense lawyers.

Embarrassed CNN officials here called a news conference to discuss a series of unusual happenings Thursday. These resulted in the FBI obtaining material that included tapes and documents that CNN said were left by investigative reporter Marlene Fernandez in her Omni Hotel room.

Little light was shed on events. Steven Korn, CNN vice president and general counsel, said he did not know when the materials were removed from Fernandez's room; why the Omni -- owned by Turner Broadcasting System, which runs CNN -- apparently gave her room to another guest; or why Turner Security Agency guards apparently tipped the FBI that the material was in the lost-and-found office.

Fernandez, who lives and works in Washington, had been staying at the Omni under another name while working on the Noriega story and has said she was last in the room Monday evening. When she returned Wednesday, Korn said, "there was, in fact, some totally unrelated guest . . . asleep in her room." Fernandez checked into another room that night and went to CNN Thursday to report the material missing.

The Omni security staff, meanwhile, turned the material and Fernandez's clothing over to Turner Security Agency, which eventually returned the material to the hotel security staff. Korn said he does not know why the Turner guards did not give the materials, which he said included a tape clearly marked "Noriega tape," to CNN.

According to sources familiar with events, FBI agents phoned Turner Security Agency Thursday to arrange an interview about recovering "stolen government property." Turner Security Agency officials told two arriving FBI agents that hotel security had a box of materials that seemed to fit the description of what they sought.

"They said are you interested, and we said yep," said William Hinshaw, head of the Atlanta FBI office. He declined to discuss what was obtained and said the box has been sealed and stored in a safe until lawyers determine what to do with it.

Korn said the network is pressing for release of its property and that he could not describe the contents of the box because he has not seen it. "We don't believe that our ability to do the story has been compromised," he said.

Special correspondent Jon Leinwand in Miami contributed to this report.