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web posted May 1, 2000

Independent counsel subpoenas records in White House e-mail probe

Independent Counsel Robert Ray has subpoenaed records from the National Archives in an attempt to determine whether the White House deliberately withheld electronic mail messages in an attempt to stymie investigations pertaining to the Monica Lewinsky affair and other Clinton Administration controversies.

The subpoena was issued two weeks ago. Ray, the successor to Independent Counsel Ken Starr, is trying to determine if e-mails covered by past subpoenas were deliberately withheld from investigators who were looking into alleged presidential or administration misconduct in matters ranging from the Whitewater investigation to the Lewinsky affair.

The National Archives is the government's official record keeper and it assists the White House in its electronic mail archiving efforts.

Asked about the new subpoena, White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said: "We have always been clear about our intention to cooperate fully, and we are working hard to research the backup tapes and provide any responsive materials to the appropriate parties."

The Associated Press also reported April 24 that the Independent Counsel's office is conducting interviews of witnesses in the e-mail controversy jointly with the Justice Department's Campaign Finance Task Force for efficiency's sake.

Ray's office and the task force have been investigating whether the White House has obstructed justice in the way it has handled thousands of missing White House e-mail messages -- many of them involving Vice President Al Gore -- that may have escaped the reach of subpoenas issued by Congress, by the Independent Counsel's office, and by the Justice Department's task force .

The subpoena comes as Ray's office is trying to complete the six-year investigation into various Clinton Administration matters. Ray also is attempting to decide whether the president should be indicted when he leaves office.

A spokeswoman for the archives said it will comply with Ray's subpoena.

"The National Archives received a grand jury subpoena from the Independent Counsel relating to record keeping practices in the Executive Office of the President and intends to comply as required," archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said.

Judge says no firearm flashes at Waco

A preliminary review of infrared videotapes made during the final hours of the Branch Davidian siege found no firearm muzzle flashes from either federal agents or sect members, a judge said at pretrial hearing on April 24.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith described the court experts' findings for attorneys for the plaintiffs and the government at the beginning of a pretrial hearing to determine whether key evidence gathered after the fiery raid was mishandled.

Davidian leader David Koresh and some 80 followers died during the April 19, 1993, fire that occurred several hours into an FBI tear-gassing operation intended to end the sect's 51-day standoff.

The government contends their deaths, whether from fire or gunshot wounds, came by their own hands.

The plaintiffs argue in their wrongful death lawsuit that government gunfire cut off the Davidians' only avenue of escape from the fire. They also contend the FBI's on-scene commanders did little to prepare for the possibility of fire despite Attorney General Janet Reno's order that they be ready for all emergencies.

The judge told the lawyers that the review of the infrared videotape detected about 57 ''thermal events,'' defined as flashes of light signifying heat. There ''were no muzzle blasts either from Branch Davidians or government agents,'' Smith told attorneys.

He added that the only person detected on the tape was a Branch Davidian who was on a roof.

''You get good news. You get bad news .... This is not going to result in a dismissal of the case,'' Michael Caddell, lead attorney for the Branch Davidians, said about the preliminary findings.

Caddell also said there was ''a suspicious pattern'' in the audio portion of the infrared videotape. Several portions of the tape are missing audio, and on one section of the tape someone is heard asking that the audio be turned off, the lawyer said.

Smith cautioned that he does not consider the report to be incontrovertible evidence.

Preliminary results from a recent court-ordered simulation of the siege showed that flashes caught on the original infrared videotape were most likely sunlight reflecting off debris, not government gunfire as plaintiffs claim. Experts expect to submit their analysis of that simulation to the court by May 8.

Smith also was expected to review the plaintiffs' complaint that the government withheld, destroyed or tampered with crucial evidence in their wrongful-death lawsuit.

The plaintiffs' attorneys filed a motion in March that accuses the government of:

--Never returning a roll of film confiscated from the Texas Rangers showing bodies and weapons found inside a concrete bunker. ''The absence of these photographs makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to determine if any of these persons were shot outside of that room and moved into it prior to or after the fire,'' the motion said.

--Representing as originals audio recordings made from listening devices planted inside the compound during the siege. An analysis the plaintiffs commissioned suggests the tapes are copies. The tapes -- which the government has relied on for proof that the Davidians spread fuel and started the fire -- also bear signs of being recorded with multiple recorders, the plaintiffs' tape expert concluded.

The government has called the allegations baseless and says the accusations relied on incomplete, illogical or scientifically invalid analyses.

But in a response filed one week before, the government acknowledged it is missing 30 original negatives from the first of at least seven rolls of film shot by an FBI photographer who circled 1,000 feet above the complex in a surveillance aircraft.

The government, however, has prints of the missing negatives and the original contact sheet of the negatives.

The trial on the lawsuit is set to begin June 19.

Miami's Cubans strike in Elian protest

Shops and businesses owned by Cuban-Americans in Miami were closed April 25 to protest the government's armed seizure of Elian Gonzalez. Congressional Republicans, critical of the tactics used -- and asking why a negotiated solution wasn't possible -- called Attorney General Janet Reno to Capitol Hill for questioning.

Cuban-American exile leaders, who called their protest "Dead Tuesday," asked residents of greater Miami to stay away from work and for businesses to shut their doors from 6 a.m. to midnight to back a demand for a federal probe into the lightning raid Saturday that led to Elian's reunion with his father.

"We are trying to do an act of what we term passive noncooperation that will produce a dead city," said Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the exile group Democracy Movement. "We want to send a strong message that we want an investigation of the outrageous act of violence committed by federal authorities when they raided the Gonzalez home."

Sam Aladdin, who is of Indian descent, closed his laundromat in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood in support of his Cuban-American customers. "We are losing money, but what are you going to do?" he told CNN. "You have to make sacrifices somewhere along the line to gain victory. That is the only way you can do it."

Enrique Diaz, president of the Popular Discount drug store chain in Miami, said he was giving all 450 of his employees the day off with pay. "What we want to do is just be a peaceful people and stay home, calm," he said.

Four Florida Marlins baseball players and several coaches announced they would miss that night's home game against San Francisco to honor the protest. Marlins manager John Boles said they would be excused with pay for the day.

"This is in solidarity," said Rudy Quant, public relations director of Goya Foods. The Hispanic food distributor's 150 employees and 40 trucks in Miami would stay put, he said.

Giuliani diagnosed with prostate cancer

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced April 27 that he has been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, and that he "has no idea" how it may affect his expected Senate race with first lady Hillary Rodman Clinton.

"It is a treatable form of prostate cancer, it was diagnosed at an early stage," Giuliani told reporters at a hastily assembled Gracie Mansion press conference that morning. "It came about as a result of taking a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test about two weeks ago," said Giuliani, 55.

The New York mayor was spotted by a reporter as he entered the Guggenheim Pavilion of Mount Sinai Medical Center the previous morning. He left some three hours later.

"I went in for a biopsy yesterday, and the biopsy revealed that several of the (PSA) samples ... had indications of cancer. It's at very, very early stage of the disease and also at a very early stage of determining what to do about it."

"Over the next week ... maybe three weeks, I'll figure out with my doctors and other doctors what the best and optimum form of treatment will be," Giuliani said. "Obviously the bad news is that there is cancer, but the good news is that there are lots of possible options."

The second-term mayor cited his father's death from prostate cancer as the main reason the PSA test was included as part of his annual physical. He added that his father was much older, 73, when he was diagnosed with a later stage of the disease.

Asked how the diagnosis and treatment would affect his run for the U.S. Senate against Mrs. Clinton, he replied, "I have no idea. ... I hope that I'd be able to run, but the choice that I'm going to make is going to be based on the treatment that's going to give me the best chance to have a complete cure."

After another inquiry about the impact of his diagnosis on the Senate race, Giuliani replied: "I don't think it's fair to answer questions about the Senate race right now. My focus has to be how to figure out the best form of treatment."

The mayor smiled frequently and joked with reporters during the 15-minute press conference. When asked whether he would be nicer to members of the press, he grinned and replied, "No way."

Campaigning in upstate New York, the first lady responded to news of the diagnosis by wishing Giuliani "a full and speedy recovery."

"Like all New Yorkers, my prayers and best wishes are with the mayor for a full and speedy recovery, and I hope that everyone joins me in wishing him well," Mrs. Clinton said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, the White House released a similar statement in which both President Bill Clinton and the first lady said their "thoughts and prayers are with the mayor and his family."

One of Giuliani's harshest city critics, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, said he regrets that the mayor has prostate cancer, and hopes he gets the appropriate treatment.

Sharpton said that while he certainly has political differences with the mayor, he "wishes him no ill will or ill health."

"I would hope that he would do what he needs to do to stabilize his health and move forward," Sharpton said.

Reno explains timing of Elian raid

Despite days of negotiations right up to the time federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez , Attorney General Janet Reno said April 27 that the possibility of resistance from the boy's Miami relatives and their supporters made it necessary for her to end talks and immediately order the armed raid.

Reno said the Miami relatives were refusing to turn over the boy peacefully, even if they lost all their legal appeals.

"They, at one point said, 'If you come (for Elian), we will just stand aside and let you take the child' ... but the family then started talking in the last days about, 'You're going to have to use force to take the child,'" Reno said.

The predawn raid at the home of Elian's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez , followed overnight negotiations with Miami intermediaries who were in telephone contact with Reno in Washington.

The mediators have said that a deal for arranging a family reunion and transferring custody of Elian to his Cuban father could have been reached if Reno had just given them more time. Some members of Congress also have criticized the attorney general's timing.

Reno defended her decision, saying of the negotiations: "It wasn't going to get any better."

At that point, she said, safety concerns entered the picture.

"We had a situation where there were very few people outside the house that morning. We had the situation where, if we did not go, people were sure to find out that we were prepared to go, and the crowd would gather and keep a vigil and make it more difficult for the future," Reno told reporters at her weekly news briefing.

"This seemed to be the safest time possible" to carry out the transfer, she said.

Reno repeated that in the final minutes of negotiations she believed that the Miami relatives were "moving the goalposts again" when they refused to meet with Elian's father outside of Florida.

A mediator told the attorney general that such a condition was a "deal-breaker," Reno said.

Nova Scotia to elect school boards by race

Black Nova Scotians will be guaranteed a seat on each of the province's elected school boards under legislation tabled on April 27 that is unprecedented in Canada.

Jane Purves, the Education Minister, said the amendments to the Education Act are needed to repair historic wrongs suffered by the province's black minority. "They've arguably been the most discriminated against group of people in our province," she told reporters.

"This will help ensure the perspectives and concerns of African Nova Scotians are considered in the educational decisions affecting their children," she added.

The change, to be in effect for province-wide school board elections this fall, answers a longstanding demand of black leaders in the province who say the school system is failing their children.

"I think you need the folks who are intimately aware of the history of African people, and what the educational challenges are, to be able to voice what it is that those students need," said Delvina Bernard, executive director of the Halifax-based Council on African Canadian Education. "Not only that, I think as a disenfranchised people, those sitting members will be able to offer something to the school board that I think will be a benefit to all students."

She said racial barriers have prevented all but a handful of blacks from winning election to school boards. In the 1997 elections, only two of the 82 seats up for grabs were won by blacks, and both black candidates who ran for the Halifax regional board, the province's largest, were defeated.

"Unfortunately, society is still quite racialized, and people do cast their votes based on the colour of one's skin instead of the content of their campaign and what they can deliver," Ms. Bernard said.

The new black seats will be in addition to existing seats. School boards now have between 10 and 18 members, depending on the area. Only people who identify themselves as African Nova Scotians at the polling booth will be eligible to vote for the black candidate, and people who vote in the black election will not be eligible to vote in other school board races.

There are about 30 black communities scattered across Nova Scotia, many settled originally by black Loyalists fleeing the United States. The 1996 census identified 18,105 blacks among the province's 900,000 inhabitants, which represents 2 per cent of the population.

Black community leaders say the census is inaccurate and the real black population is closer to 30,000. About two-thirds of the blacks live in metropolitan Halifax.

The new system will inevitably lead to situations in rural Nova Scotia where blacks will enjoy a disproportionately large representation on school boards. But Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University and former director of the province's human rights commission, noted that black members will still be a minority on the boards.

"It's not reverse discrimination, it's reversing discrimination," he said. "There have been in Nova Scotia and elsewhere significant barriers for blacks and under-representation of blacks historically, and this is just one small step in the direction of trying to counteract that."

It is not the first effort by the province to address discrimination suffered by blacks. Electoral boundaries were redrawn for the 1993 provincial election to group several black communities outside Halifax in the riding of Preston. The move resulted in the election of the province's first black MLA.

Last year, the former Liberal government of Russell MacLellan announced that it would deny government legal work to firms that did not have black or aboriginal lawyers on staff. John Hamm's Tory government has not said whether it will follow through on that proposal.

Mi'kmaq in the province already have some members appointed to public boards, as well as their own self-administered school systems in some areas. There is also a French-language board representing the province's Acadians.

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