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web posted March 6, 2000

Former FBI leader questioned tactics during Branch Davidian siege

A former top FBI official wrote in March 1993 that he was concerned with the tactics used during the Branch Davidian siege by the FBI's hostage rescue team commander, who also had a key role in the deadly 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

The Dallas Morning News obtained documents that show senior FBI officials at first were very skeptical of their on-scene commander's insistence that tear gas was the only safe way to end the Waco standoff.

The memo, from the bureau's most experienced tactical expert, said hostage rescue team commander Richard Rogers had prompted similar concerns in Ruby Ridge standoff. In that incident, an FBI sniper under Rogers' command killed the wife of white supremacist Randy Weaver after Rogers relaxed bureau rules of engagement and pushed for an all-out tank and tear-gas assault on the Weavers' cabin.

"A lot of pressure is coming from Rogers," deputy assistant FBI director Danny O. Coulson wrote in an internal FBI memo during the Waco siege on March 23, 1993.

"We had similar problems in Idaho with him and he argued and convinced the SACs (local FBI special agents in charge of the incident) that Weaver would not come out. That proved to be wrong. I believe he is a significant part of the problem here."

Coulson would not comment for the newspaper's February 28 editions, and both Rogers and Jeffrey Jamar, the FBI's special agent in charge of the Waco operation, have declined interview requests.

Coulson's memo and other records The News obtained provide new details of the FBI's internal struggles as Waco commanders pushed to use gas against the embattled sect after a 51-day standoff.

Attorney General Janet Reno approved a plan to gas the compound on April 19, 1993. They began with a gradual tear-gas insertion but escalated immediately to an all-out tear gas assault after the sect began shooting at FBI tanks.

Six hours later, after agents increased pressure by sending tanks deep into the building, the compound burned with sect leader David Koresh and more than 80 followers inside. Some died from fire, others from gunshots.

The government has maintained that the Davidians were responsible for their own deaths. But several of the religious group's survivors and their relatives have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the government, claiming members of the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms fired into the compound.

The trial is set for May 14 in Waco federal court.

Austria's Haider resigns as party leader

Austrian rightist leader Joerg Haider quit his leadership of the Freedom Party on February 28, a move that could ease the international condemnation that followed the party's inclusion in the country's government.

Haider made the announcement at a party leadership conference in Vienna, less than a month after the party's participation in Austria's government sparked international protests. He holds no post in the national government, but will remain as governor of the Austrian province of Carinthia.

Haider has led the Freedom Party since 1986. He is best known for controversial comments praising some of the policies of the Nazi Party -- remarks for which he has apologized many times.

Haider told party officials at the meeting that he was stepping down because he did not want "to stand in the way" of the work of the new government, the Austria Press Agency reported. It was not known who would succeed him.

He was expected to make a public statement on his resignation later Monday.

The son of a lower-level Nazi Party official, Haider was forced to quit an earlier term as Carinthia's governor in 1991, after saying that Adolf Hitler had "sound employment policies." He also once called veterans of the Nazi Waffen SS "men of character."

Party associates said Haider stepped down to deflect some of the international criticism that came after his party joined the ruling coalition, led by the conservative People's Party. The move prompted Israel to recall its ambassador to Vienna, and European Union members to freeze bilateral ties with Austria.

Peter Sichrovsky, a Freedom Party officeholder, said Haider hinted at quitting over the weekend.

"I would be in favor," said Sichrovsky, a European Parliament member. "I believe he has a right to do this because he has already achieved more than anybody else. If that is his decision, we must all respect it and support him."

Under Haider's leadership, the party had its best showing in Austrian parliamentary elections since its founding in 1945. It took 27 percent of the vote, edging out the People's Party.

During the parliamentary campaign, the party emphasized tax cuts and stirred voter concern about immigration from former eastern bloc communist countries. Haider has warned Austrians that they could be in for another flood of immigrants if the European Union, which Austria joined in 1995, extends its membership to the east.

The number of immigrants in the prosperous Austria has more than doubled in a decade, from 350,000 to 750,000 -- about 9 percent of the entire population. Under an EU treaty, Austria's borders must be opened to immigrants from other EU nations.

But Haider's own popularity has slipped since Austria's new government took office February 4, Austrian journalist Annelaese Rohrer said.

"After the government came into power, everyone expected Joerg Haider to shut up, so to speak," Rohrer said. "There was a growing move in the press and in the polls that he should be quiet. The public, I must say, has become a little bit impatient with him."

McCain assails religious right on Pat Robertson's home turf

Arizona Sen. John McCain travelled to the home turf of Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson on February 28 and delivered a stinging critique of some religious conservatives who are supporting GOP presidential rival George W. Bush.

The targeted evangelists have "turned good causes into businesses," McCain said.

"I am a pro-life, pro-family fiscal conservative and advocate of a strong defense, and yet, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate," McCain said in speech to some 1,500 people at Cox High School in Virginia Beach.

"They distort my pro-life positions and smear the reputations of my supporters because I don't pander to them, I don't ascribe to their failed philosophy that money is our message."

Robertson sponsored automated phone calls to voters prior to the Michigan Republican primary the week before criticizing McCain's record on abortion, and calling key campaign aide Warren Rudman a "bigot" for criticizing Christian conservatives.

McCain was careful to focus the brunt of his sharp message on Robertson and Falwell -- founder of the Virginia-based Moral Majority -- along with other "self-appointed leaders" he said had "lost confidence in the Republican Party."

"Let me be clear, evangelical leaders our changing America for the better," McCain said, citing the efforts of Chuck Colson, a former Nixon aide who runs a Christian outreach program for prison inmates. He also paid homage to Dr. James Dobson, the founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian group, Focus on the Family.

Dobson does not support McCain.

McCain also brought along former presidential rival Gary Bauer, a conservative activist who endorsed him last month. "If this were an attack on Christian conservative voters, I wouldn't be here." Bauer told reporters before the speech.

Nonetheless, McCain was unrelenting in his assault on Robertson -- whose Christian Broadcasting Network is based in Virginia Beach -- likening Robertson and Falwell to controversial African-American leaders "Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton on the left."

He said Robertson in particular was no better than union bosses he accused of neglecting the needs of American families to better themselves.

"The union bosses who have subordinated the interests of working families to their own ambitions -- to their desire to preserve their own political power at all costs -- are mirror images of Pat Robertson."

McCain's remarks come just one day after Bush sent a letter to New York Catholics saying he "regretted" that he did not speak out against the anti-Catholic views of Bob Jones University during his appearance at the South Carolina Christian college earlier this month.

McCain, whose campaign also sponsored phone calls in Michigan that painted Bush as an anti-Catholic, continued to jab at Bush for the Bob Jones appearance.

"I'm a Reagan Republican who will defeat Al Gore, Gov. Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore," said McCain, who again stressed his GOP credentials on abortion, taxes and defense while continuing to preach his reform message.

"It's conservative to pay down the national debt, to save Social Security and Medicare, to insist on local control of our children's education. It's conservative to expose the pork barrel spending practices of both political parties."

"Those who purport to be defenders of our party, who in reality have lost confidence in the Republican message, are attacking me. Their are people who have turned good causes into businesses."

McCain also said he was proud of the fact that his victories in New Hampshire and Michigan came largely because of the support of independents and Democrats who were allowed to vote in the Republican contests in those states.

"The essence of evangelism is to seek converts," said McCain. "My campaign is bringing new people into the Republican party every day." He said he was offering GOP leaders a blunt choice, declaring: "I don't believe it's logical to suggest the Republican establishment is more important than to save the Republican majority."

Bush's top strategist, Karl Rove, accused McCain of using the Bob Jones controversy to portray Bush as a bigot and divide voters by religion. "This is a reprehensible attempt to bring religion into American politics in a very ugly way," Rove said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

In California, a poll found Bush leading McCain by 20 percentage points among the Republican voters who will choose delegates in the March 7 primary, but tied with McCain for the non-binding popular vote that includes Democrats and independents.

Canada's Martin unveils huge tax reform budget

Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin announced sweeping tax cuts and tax reform totaling at least $58 billion over the next five years in a watershed federal budget on February 28 that addresses years of criticism of Canada's staggering tax burden.

Martin, who balanced Canada's books in 1998 after nearly three decades of chronic budget deficits, stunned analysts with his seventh budget by promising to immediately re-index the tax system to inflation. The move will eliminate the "bracket creep" that since 1986 has caused Canadians to be pushed into higher tax brackets by inflation.

"Canadians know that taxes cannot start to come down in earnest until they stop going up with inflation," Martin said in notes to his annual budget speech to Parliament. "Therefore, we will make the most important change to the Canadian tax system in more than a decade. We will restore full indexation to the personal income tax system, and we ... will do so retroactively - to January 1, 2000."

The budget is the first real move by the Liberal government, re-elected to a second majority in 1997, to reduce Canada's crushing taxes, which are among the highest in the developed world.

The fiscal plan, which assumes balanced budgets "or better" for the next three years, is a far cry from the $42 billion deficit inherited by the Liberals in 1993.

Martin, considered the heir apparent to Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, attacked the personal income tax system in the budget, promising to reduce taxes by $39.5 billion -- or an average of 15 per cent annually -- by 2004-05.

Under the five-year plan, the tax rate on the middle of Canada's three tax brackets will fall to 23 per cent from 26 per cent, starting with a 2-per centage point reduction in July 2000. The income level at which the middle bracket takes effect will rise to $35,000 from the current $29,590, while the top tax rate of 29 per cent will kick in at $70,000, up from the current $59,180.

In addition, the basic personal exemption will increase by about $1,000 to $8,000, and the 5 per cent surtax on middle-income Canadians earning up to $85,000 will be eliminated as of July 1, 2000, and eliminated for all Canadians by 2004.

Martin also pledged to raise the foreign content limit on tax-sheltered Registered Retirement Savings Plans to 25 per cent in 2000 and 30 per cent in 2001, up from the current 20 per cent limit.

The finance minister also tackled the corporate income tax system, which has been blasted for hindering the competitiveness of Canadian companies, promising to slash taxes by $4.0 billion by 2004-05. Under the plan, corporate tax rates would drop to 21 per cent from 28 per cent within five years.

The remainder of the $58.3 billion in tax cuts comes from $14.8 billion in employment insurance premium reductions over five years.

Sherry Cooper, chief economist at Nesbitt Burns brokerage - long one of the Liberal government's most vocal critics for its failure to cut taxes -- said she was pleasantly surprised by Martin's plan.

"I'm particularly heartened by the full indexation of the tax system to inflation - which is a big, big factor for everyone. It gives a very strong signal that the government is serious about meaningful tax reduction," Cooper told Reuters.

She said the budget will a very strong positive for Canada's dollar and stock markets, and will stimulate the country's already booming economy. After seeing the budget, Cooper raised Nesbitt's forecast for 2000 gross domestic product growth to 4.0 per cent, from her previous 3.6 per cent forecast.

Canada's economy surged 4.2 per cent in 1999, according to figures released the day of the budget.

The tax cuts announced by Martin dwarfed new spending and debt reduction.

The budget laid out $13.4 billion in new spending by 2002-03, including $4.5 billion to be charged against this year's books - a dubious accounting practice often employed by Martin and which has been criticized by the federal auditor general.

The new spending included a $2.5 billion transfer to provinces for health care and education - far beneath the investment hoped for by health care advocates struggling to preserve Canada's universal Medicare system, which has been crumbling since drastic budget cuts were imposed by Martin in 1995.

Another $2.5 billion a year by 2004 was allocated to increase the child tax benefit, while $4.1 billion was earmarked for innovation, including university and hospital research, environmental measures, and infrastructure spending.

The finance minister stuck to his traditional modest debt-reduction strategy, setting aside a $3 billion contingency reserve every year that will be used to reduce Canada whopping $566 billion national debt. Under Martin's plan, the nation's debt-to-GDP ratio should drop below 50 per cent by the year 2004, down from the unhealthy 71 per cent ratio in 1995.

Trie apologizes to Clinton over fund-raising scandal

Former Democratic fund-raiser Charlie Trie, agreeing to tell his story publicly for the first time, said on March 1 he is sorry for the trouble he caused longtime friend Bill Clinton.

"I ... would like to apologize for any harm I caused President Clinton," the former Little Rock, Arkansas, restaurant owner told the House Government Reform Committee. "Let me say ... that all of my mistakes were of my own doing and not encouraged by President Clinton or anyone else."

In his written testimony, Trie described how he parlayed his long-standing acquaintance with Clinton into overseas business contacts that brought hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions into the United States. Trie did not read the statement to the committee because he speaks English poorly.

Trie's appearance long has been sought by the committee's chairman, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indiana, who spearheaded the House investigation into allegations of fund-raising abuses by the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign.

"We want to know about his contacts with the Chinese government and about the origins of the large amounts of foreign money that he funneled" to the Democratic Party," Burton said.

Trie denied that he spied for the Chinese government, an assertion he called "the biggest lie that has been told about me throughout this investigation."

"I have never committed any form of espionage," he said.

Trie brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal donations when he became partners with wealthy Macau businessmen such as Ng Lap Seng, also known as Woo, and Jakarta telecommunications magnate Tomy Winata.

Winata, who wanted a private meeting with Clinton, sent Trie $200,000 in travelers checks, some of it ending up as donations to the Democratic Party. When Clinton friend Richard Mays told Trie that a $100,000 contribution to a fund-raiser would get him two seats at the president's table and another entire table for several guests, "Woo either wire transferred or brought the money to the U.S.," said an FBI interview summary of Trie released by Burton's committee a month ago.

"It occurred to Trie that people at the DNC might start to wonder where he was getting his money. Knowing it was not his money, Trie felt uncomfortable," the FBI summary said. "He started giving friends cash in return for their checks to the DNC."

Alternately defiant and contrite, Trie in his prepared remarks said that "at no time ... did I want or attempt to obtain anything improper for the interests of others. He and his business associates "just wanted to go to events with important people and to get the opportunity to have our pictures taken with the president of the United States."

Trie outlined his involvement in White House coffees with Clinton that resulted in millions of dollars flowing to the Democratic Party.

The White House has always maintained the events weren't fund-raisers, but Trie said, "It was ... well known that it cost $50,000 to attend a coffee."

Trie said he paid $50,000 to get businessman Winston Wang into a coffee, with Trie asserting he was reimbursed later by three wire transfers from associates of Wang.

Trie described his role in bringing a Chinese arms dealer to another White House coffee, saying Trie's business partner at the time "was ... excited about the prospect of doing business" in areas other than arms.

"In my mind" the arms dealer's company "was the General Electric of China," said Trie.

According to the FBI interview summary of Trie, his fund-raising got off to a shaky start. When Clinton, then the Arkansas governor, told Trie he was going to run for president, Trie phoned the Taiwanese consulate and the Chinese Embassy to spread the word.

"Because of the negative FBI and CIA attention this call generated, Trie avoided becoming politically involved at that time in spite of his pro-Clinton enthusiasm," the FBI interview summary said.

Trie is serving a four-month home detention sentence after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws.

Bush goes three for three

Texas Gov. George W. Bush did quite well last Tuesday evening, dealing John McCain a serious blow.

Bush's win made him three for three in a busy GOP election night, adding to earlier victories in Virginia's primary and North Dakota's caucuses. Gore's win dashes the hopes of rival Bill Bradley, who had hoped for a victory to boost his campaign going into this week's Super Tuesday primaries.

"Obviously I'm pleased with the victory in Virginia, pleased with victory in North Dakota," Bush said to reporters aboard his plane traveling from Ohio to Georgia.

Bush won by a comfortable margin in Virginia, receiving all 56 of the state's Republican primary delegates. And he picked up 14 of North Dakota's 19 delegates.

"I've got some good news from the Commonwealth of Virginia," Bush told supporters earlier that night at a rally in Cincinnati. "Tonight, the people of that state sent a message that they want George W. Bush to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States."

CNN exit polls showed that Bush won the support of Republicans, conservatives, women and broke even with his chief rival -- Arizona Sen. John McCain -- among veterans in Virginia, which was one of three states holding GOP contests Tuesday. Old Dominion voters also overwhelmingly said Bush would be more likely than McCain to win a November matchup against Vice President Al Gore.

"This campaign is winning and we're doing it the right way. We are uniting our party without compromising principle. We are expanding our base without destroying our foundations," Bush added. His Virginia and North Dakota victories put his delegate tally at 201.

"I'm happy about this fight. This is a wonderful challenge and there is so much at stake," McCain told supporters at a rally in Bakersfield, California. He had called Bush to concede the Virginia contest earlier in the evening. "This has been a campaign of insurgency, a campaign of principle, and has been conducted honorably."

CNN exit polls showed that Bush won over voters who considered themselves part of the so-called religious right by a margin of eight to one. While that group of voters comprised only 19 percent of the electorate, over 80 percent of them chose Bush over McCain. Among voters who were not members of the religious right, the vote was split nearly evenly: 48 percent went to Bush and 49 percent voted for McCain.

Fully 63 percent of voters were Republicans, the majority of whom chose Bush. And Bush's numbers among independent voters continue to rise, potentially dashing McCain's hopes of establishing a broad voter coalition of Republicans, Democrats and independents that will carry him to the White House in November.

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