WASHINGTON (AP) _ Each of the four Iran-Contra defense teams will have a suite in a Washington office building rented by the federal government as a secure facility to hold thousands of classified documents.

The government is paying $24 a square foot annually for the 12,000 feet of space - $288,000 a year - which will be for the exclusive use of the defense and available 24 hours a day.

The defense may be reviewing as many as 300,000 classified documents in what is dubbed a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF.

A secure facility is required when classified documents are needed in a court case. In the past, such facilities usually were established in a government building such as the Justice Department.

The new facility is in an office building that sits among trendy stores and lawyers' offices on Connecticut Avenue, about a half-dozen blocks from the White House. The space was renovated at a cost of $200,000, according to Jerry Rubino, director of security for the Justice Department and the official responsible for the secure facility.

The office building that independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh has been using is also designated a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

In addition to the space for the defense teams' use, the government is paying for furniture, safes, locks, alarm systems, 24-hour security guards, acoustical ceilings and about nine personal computers that cost up to $6,000.

The computers are modified with a process that lets them emit a weaker signal to prevent eavesdropping. Sophisticated spy equipment can eavesdrop on computers used at normal energy levels, said Rubino, who noted the system is used by U.S. intelligence agencies.

A half-dozen offices will be provided for each of the four separate defense teams representing fired national security aide Oliver L. North, former national security adviser John M. Poindexter, and arms dealers Richard V. Secord and Albert Hakim, Rubino said.

That seems luxurious to Richard A. Hibey, a Washington attorney who represented Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former civilian Navy intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty in 1986 to spying for Israel.

Hibey's secure facility was in the Justice Department, where he had to borrow desks and equipment of department staffers during normal working hours.

On weekends, Hibey had to use the department's command center as a base, sifting through documents in the center's hallway.

''If the case came to trial, it would have been totally unworkable,'' he said.

Hibey pointed out that in Pollard and other espionage cases, ''you don't need a SCIF of the size and magnitude'' of the Iran-Contra facility because the crime was the illegal transmittal of classified documents, regardless of their content.

In the Iran-Contra case, he said, ''The content of the classified information is important to understanding the issues. To know what the intent was, you have to sit down, read them, and analyze them.

''You can't go on doing it in the hallways of the Justice Department command center,'' he said.

The Iran-Contra defendants are charged with conspiring to defraud the government in a scheme to illegally divert to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels the profits from U.S. arms sales to Iran. They also are accused of illegally covering up their actions, and - in the case of Secord, Hakim and North - personally profiting from the arms transactions.