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web posted September 25, 2000

College protests Charlton Heston visit

Charlton came to Carleton, and half of the audience wore black. It wasn't a fashion statement.

Much of the thousand-strong crowd at Carleton College was protesting the appearance by Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Association. The actor told students on September 19 to ignore political agendas in favor of freedom.

"When you call a friend and tell them to vote for freedom first, your words will echo in the spirit of Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine," he said. "They won our freedom with bullets so we could defend our freedom with ballots."

Heston spoke for fewer than 15 minutes and left without answering questions.

Protesters laid out 178 pairs of shoes to represent the number of Minnesotans killed by gun violence in 1999. A handful of demonstrators carried pro-NRA signs.

Tax dollars at work?

Seventy-eight percent of 1,716 government Web sites studied offer no services online, such as the ability to register a vehicle, file taxes or apply for a fishing license, says a survey completed by researchers and students at Brown University. Interestingly, only 7 percent of these government sites posted privacy policies. -- from The Standard's weekly Metrics Report

Judge clears government in Branch Davidian case

A federal judge has cleared the government of wrongdoing in the deaths of 80 Branch Davidians during the 1993 standoff with federal agents at the cult's compound.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith said on September 20 cult leader David Koresh, who died on the final day of the 51-day siege, was entirely to blame.

The Waco fire"The entire tragedy at Mount Carmel can be laid at the feet of this one individual," Smith said. "The adult Davidians kept the children in the compound after starting the fire rather than sending them to safety."

With this finding, Smith dismissed a $675 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by survivors and relatives of the dead, who alleged the government had caused the standoff and contributed to the fatal fire.

The judge's conclusions mirrored those reached by an advisory jury and by Special Counsel John Danforth ealier this year.

Smith said agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms acted within the limits of the law and, under the circumstances of the standoff, could not be held liable.

"No ATF agent fired any shot nor used any force against residents of the Compound and the Davidians that was unprovoked," Smith wrote in his order.

"Gunfire was directed at ATF agents by both male and female adult Davidians. No ATF agent fired any shot nor used any force against residents of the Compound and the Davidians that was indiscriminate," he wrote.

Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Louis Freeh called the decision "most gratifying," and noted that several ATF agents were killed or wounded during the raid -- and all agents had long carried "the heavy personal burdens these unfounded allegations placed upon them."

"For them and their families I am grateful this court and this judge laid the blame squarely on the Davidians," he said.

Deputy Attorney General Erich Holder said the Justice Department was pleased with the ruling.

"Like the Special Counsel before it, the court reaffirmed the fact that David Koresh, and certain Branch Davidians, were responsible for the tragedy at Waco," Holder said. "Today's decision appropriately recognizes that many law enforcement officers risked their lives to uphold our nation's laws."

The verdict was the latest defeat for Davidians in a seven-year battle with the U.S. government over responsibility for the Waco siege.

Smith upheld virtually every point of the government's account of how the Davidians defied calls to surrender, fired on federal agents with large caliber guns, and themselves set three fires that engulfed the compound.

Smith brought in the advisory panel to give its findings on whether the ATF used excessive force in the raid by provoking a gunfight and then firing indiscriminately on the compound.

The jury was also asked to decide whether the FBI acted negligently by using tanks on the final day of siege in a way that deviated from an approved plan; contributed to or caused the fire that brought the standoff to a fiery end; and acted negligently by deciding against fighting a fire if one broke out.

In July, the five-member advisory jury decided that the government did not use excessive force in its attempt to serve search and arrest warrants on Koresh on February 28, 1993. A gun battle broke out and four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed.

Jurors also decided the government's actions on the final day of the siege, April 19, 1993, were not negligent and did not contribute to the deaths of about 80 sect members.

The government said suicidal sect members started fires in the building and were responsible for their own deaths. Smith agreed, adding that they were also responsible for the deaths of 13 children.

The five-member advisory jury's finding was not binding under federal rules for civil lawsuits against the U.S. government. Instead, the judge was empowered to reach a final verdict based on the jury's decision and the evidence in a 3 1/2-week trial.

Ray: Insufficient evidence to prosecute Clintons in Whitewater probe

Independent Counsel Robert Ray, in his final report reviewing the 1970s-era Whitewater real estate partnership, said on September 20 that there was insufficient evidence that either President Clinton or first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton had engaged in any criminal wrongdoing.

In a detailed news release issued by the Office of the Independent Counsel, Ray said, "This office has determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either President or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct ... or knew of such conduct."

The White House responded to the report's filing with a brief, one-sentence statement, saying, "Robert Ray is now the latest investigator to complete an examination into the transactions related to the Whitewater Development Co., and conclude that there are no grounds for legal action."

The long-anticipated report will remain under seal for at least several weeks.

While the land deal phase of the probe is ostensibly over, Ray nonetheless criticized the White House in his statement, saying delays in the production of evidence and "unmeritorious litigation" by the president's lawyers severely impeded the investigation's progress.

Ex-White House volunteer sues Clinton, others

Kathleen Willey Schwicker, a former White House volunteer who accused President Clinton of fondling her in 1993, has sued Clinton, the first lady, various White House aides and others claiming they violated her privacy and civil rights, a conservative legal group said September 21.

Judicial Watch, which has brought a number of civil lawsuits against the Clinton White House, filed the latest case Wednesday in federal court, mainly over the White House's release of letters she had written to Clinton.

Schwicker, at the time known as Kathleen Willey, was a former White House volunteer who alleged in a 1998 national television interview that Clinton groped her near the Oval Office. Clinton has denied the allegation.

The White House released her letters the day after the interview in an effort to undermine her credibility. The allegations arose during the Monica Lewinsky sex-and-perjury investigation that led to Clinton's impeachment and acquittal.

The lawsuit accused the White House of intentionally releasing the letters and other confidential information about her, and that she has suffered "substantial damages, including but not limited to loss of reputation and emotional distress."

The suit also accused the defendants of engaging in a scheme to violate the privacy law, "destroying her good name, credibility and reputation."

Among those named in the lawsuit were Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, current White House aides Sidney Blumenthal and Bruce Lindsey, former aides Charles Ruff and Cheryl Mills, the president's lawyer, David Kendall, and "the executive office of the president."

Judicial Watch previously had raised the Schwicker allegations of privacy law violations as part of its separate civil lawsuit over the White House's gathering of hundreds of secret FBI background files on Republican appointees.

Reno says 'Lincoln Bedroom' sleepovers didn't break any laws

Attorney General Janet Reno said September 22 she saw nothing wrong with the practice of allowing people to stay overnight at the executive mansion.

Janet RenoAsked that morning if overnight stays at the White House for political donors are ever a violation of federal law, Reno replied, "If I invited you to my house, and you stayed overnight, and you gave me a contribution ... we'd look at it on the facts of that case. I don't think it would be a crime."

Reno said the Clintons had a right to have friends and supporters stay overnight.

"You've just got to look at the particular facts, and if the president of the United States wants to invite somebody to stay at what is, in effect, his home, for a four-year period or an eight-year period, he ought to be able to do it," she said.

The Lincoln Bedroom, which served Abraham Lincoln as a refuge and office, rather than a bedroom, became synonymous to some critics and observers with the lowest form of campaign politicking. High-rolling donors to the Democratic Party, many said, neither earned nor did they deserve such access to a national landmark.

Republicans and independent watchdog groups decried the "sleepover" practice -- going as far back as the months leading up to the 1996 election -- saying the president's choice to allow campaign contributors to slumber on such hallowed ground soiled the institution of the presidency, and the sanctity of the White House.

The bedroom was one of a number of related fund-raising gaffes, which many Republicans denounced as intentional and willful manipulations of campaign finance laws.

Among those: Gore's attendance at an illegal fund-raiser held in a California Buddhist temple -- Gore continues to insist he didn't know it was a fund-raiser; the infiltration of improper Chinese and Indonesian campaign donations to the Democratic National Committee; and a series of social "coffees" hosted by Clinton at the White House.

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