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web posted September 20, 1999

Edmonton summit does little to unite Canadian right

The leaders of Canada's two conservative parties signaled a significant thaw in their relations last weekend, shaking hands at a press conference and dining together earlier at a conference on parliamentary reform. Joe Clark even indicated a Tory willingness to adopt the right to recall MPs -- a bedrock Reform plank.

But while they came together to explore common ground on institutional changes to Parliament, there was ultimately no rapprochement between Clark, the Tory leader, and Preston Manning, the Reform leader, on a united front to stop conservative vote-splitting. Instead, they stuck to their separate political agendas, intent on wooing rival party members to their respective sides.

"I have never supported the idea of the United Alternative," Clark told reporters, reiterating his opposition to Manning's attempts to form a new right-wing front to defeat the Liberals. He said his purpose in attending the conference, sponsored jointly by the Reform and Conservative parties, was to not only find common ground to make Parliament more responsive to citizens, but also to win Reform supporters back to the Conservative fold.

"This is an exercise designed to demonstrate that people who felt they had good reason to leave us in the past might now come back and work with us in a party that can actually form a government."

Manning, in a speech to close the conference, continued to press for some union of Reform and Conservative forces.

"This is what I hear Canadians saying to political leaders like you and me, Joe: 'If you really believe in citizens' empowerment and restoring faith in democracy -- if that's more important to you than short-term partisan gains -- then work together with others like-minded, including those in other parties, to reform the system. And if you're not prepared to do so, then stop pretending democratic reforms are a top priority.' "

In his speech, with Clark in attendance, Manning also requested that Clark come to a United Alternative convention in January, saying, "I expect you to be there, Joe."

But at the press conference immediately following Manning's speech, Clark declined. " Manning and I disagree on the means, but we do agree on the end," he said.

Despite their continued political differences, organizers saw the two leaders' mere attendance as a breakthrough.

"All small 'c' conservatives have to work together and I think the symbolism of Joe Clark and Preston Manning breaking bread together, addressing this conference and appearing at a news conference together is exceptionally important," said Ian McClelland, a Reform MP and co-chairman of the conference with Peter MacKay, a Progressive Conservative MP .

McClelland said he was not concerned that the conference was attended by a relatively small number of 100 delegates.

"We put this together on short notice at a difficult time of year, but we wanted to get it done because we felt it was important to show Canadians that the leadership of the small 'c' conservative parties have the maturity and the grace and the wisdom to sit down together in the interests of the country. Three months ago, people were convinced these two leaders of our country couldn't even figure out how to talk to each other on the phone."

In a speech to delegates, Clark advocated parliamentary changes that appeal to Reformers, such as giving individual MPs more power to initiate legislation through all-party committees and allowing free votes in the House of Commons, saying that "party discipline is carried to ridiculous extremes." Later, he told reporters he would acquiesce on the right to recall MPs if it meant it could attract disgruntled Reformers to his party. But he did not expect that any Reformers would be wooed in one day.

"I think most of the people who are here plan to stay in the party they are in," said Clark. "I don't expect any miraculous conversions today. This is a process. People think about making a decision. They are going to come and test us and test our sincerity."

Some Reform members seemed wary. "I don't want to be unkind, but I have this cynical feeling that Clark's agenda is, 'What do I have to do to win the next election?' " said Ken Epp, an Alberta Reform MP and United Alternative supporter.

"I have a cynicism as to whether there is a sincerity on his part to make changes or a ploy to gain some electoral success. Joe Clark and people in his leadership group have a mandate to rebuild their party, that's all. I don't hear from them a genuine trustworthy statement that they are going to make changes that caused them to go into oblivion in 1993. All they want is power. Well, they had it. They misused it."

MacKay hailed the conference as a success, saying such a joint meeting could not have taken place two years ago.

"What's emerging here is that we have a lot in common," he said after morning roundtable sessions at which Reformers, Tories and NDP delegates, like MP Lorne Nystrom, exchanged ideas. But he rejected Manning's latest overture. "My opinion is still that what the United Alternative seeks to do is become more like the Progressive Conservative party."

Absent from the conference, attended by MPs, business people and academics, were noted hard-liners such as Myron Thompson, an Alberta Reform MP, and Dick Harris, a B.C. Reform MP, who both oppose United Alternative initiatives.

KGB maps showed oil, gas targets

For the Soviet Union's feared spy service, the KGB, no task was too big or too small for surveillance or sabotage, and few countries evaded its tentacles.

According to a newly released British book, a huge, detailed and expensive 12-year operation was mounted in Canada to map out all oil and gas pipelines from British Columbia to Montreal for possible sabotage.

Beginning in 1959, it was plotted by spies run from the Soviet Union's Ottawa embassy, which was making contingency plans for war with the West, or a lesser international crisis.

"Each target was photographed from several angles and its vulnerable points identified," says The Mitrokhin Archive. "The most suitable approach roads for sabotage operations, together with the best getaway routes, were fully plotted on small-scale maps."

Revelations from the book, written by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin, now a British citizen, and historian Christopher Andrew, have already rocked the United Kingdom, where an 87-year-old retired secretary was found to have handed over atomic secrets for 40 years, and a network of others contributed to the intelligence of the KGB during the Cold War.

Although Canada's role was relatively minor compared with that of the United States, it was used as a jumping-off point for Soviet spies heading south, and harbored dozens of agents as well as Canadians recruited by the KGB.

In the mid-1940s, a female spy recruited by the KGB, "Lona" Cohen, acted as a courier for nuclear secrets gleaned from Canada's Chalk River facility, which had been penetrated by Soviet agents.

Much later, in the 1960s, the Soviet agency considered using "extremist terrorists" of Quebec's FLQ for "special actions" against the U.S. but shut down the operation when its political implications became too dangerous.

But it also took stock of border crossings that could be useful for sabotage: among them areas near Lake of the Woods and International Falls in Minnesota, and parts of the Glacier National Park in Montana.

By far the biggest KGB interest in Canada was setting up spies who could penetrate important American strategic targets.

Defector Igor Gouzenko fled from the Soviet Union's Ottawa embassy in 1945 with a stack of vital documents exposing a laundry list of spies.

The shock to Moscow was considerable. Several years passed before the Ottawa KGB handlers were able to rebuild their network.

When they did, it contained such slick professionals as Dalibar and Inga Valoushek, a Czechoslovak couple who masqueraded as "Rudi and Inga Herrmann." The pair ran a Toronto cafe, schmoozed with CBC staff, and eventually began a career as filmmakers.

Dalibar Valoushek controlled the most valuable Canadian KGB asset, Hugh Hambleton, an economist who was later a storm centre of spy scandal, but escaped prosecution in Canada.

It was the Communist Party of Canada that most helped the KGB's recruiting drive, Mitrokhin said. The party was responsible not only for helping to recruit Hambleton, but obtaining documents for top flight "illegals."

Starr wishes someone else had probed Lewinsky scandal

If he had it to do over again, special counsel Kenneth Starr says he would have let another investigator delve into the messy details surrounding President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Even though Starr defended his work, he acknowledged that by the time the scandal was uncovered, his investigation of Clinton for Whitewater had already dragged on for so long that the public was growing weary and suspicious.

"I think in retrospect I made a serious mistake," he told some 550 people at a public forum here Wednesday. "I think it would have been much better for the country for the Lewinsky matter to have been handled by another independent counsel."

Starr also expressed mixed feelings about Clinton, calling him "gifted and talented" on the one hand, but adding he was disappointed with the president's personal behavior and the fact Clinton wasn't truthful with the American public when the affair was first uncovered.

"My real disappointment with our leader was when he took a poll on whether to tell the truth," Starr said.

During his speech, Starr reiterated his opinion that the congressional statute calling for the appointment of special prosecutors not be renewed.

The 21-year-old law was allowed to lapse in June amid lack of support. Starr said it was born in the post-Watergate era of good intentions but was hopelessly flawed.

"I opposed the statute when I first served in the Justice Department in 1981," he said.

"The statute," he continued, "simply does not work. The Congress was trying in effect to create a separate branch of government."

But he made it clear where he thinks the real blame in a scandal lies -- and it's not with the special counsel.

"I think the real responsibility is on our public officials to be as transparent and honest as possible," he said, "and if there is a problem, to get the problem out there and deal with it."

Rifle shell casings found in federal outpost at Waco

A report indicates guns were fired from a house used by federal agents during the siege of the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, but the FBI maintains none of its agents fired into the Davidian compound.

The report released by the Texas Rangers on September 13 stated that three dozen rifle shell casings were found in an outpost used by FBI and ATF snipers during the 1993 standoff.

The FBI said those spent rifle cartridges must have been the result of a firefight between ATF agents and the Davidians on the first day of the siege.

"Nothing's changed. We didn't fire into the compound," said FBI spokesman Bill Carter.

The ATF has acknowledged its snipers fired rounds during the February 28, 1993, gunfight when ATF agents first tried to search the compound.

The Rangers' report on Waco evidence, which was sent to Congress, said 12 .308-caliber sniper rifle shell casings and 24 .223-caliber casings were recovered from a house used by forward observers for the two agencies.

ATF spokesman Jeff Roehm said .308- and .223-caliber rifles are "standard issue" for its sharpshooters.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana), who has accused the Justice Department of covering up the use of tear gas canisters in Waco, now faces questions about why his committee overlooked evidence about the canisters that the Justice Department sent to Congress four years ago.

"Contrary to the allegations of cover-up, substantial evidence of the use of military tear gas rounds was, in fact, provided to Congress in 1995," said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the committee's top Democrat, in a letter to Danforth.

The records Waxman cited were discovered among more than 40 boxes of material compiled during the 1995 hearings by the House Government Reform Committee, which Burton helmed.

They include an FBI pilot's 1993 statement recalling a radio transmission in which agents had a conversation "relative to the utilization of some sort of military round ... on a concrete bunker."

Post-raid interview summaries also included an unnamed FBI agent's explanation that smoke captured on film "came from (an) attempt to penetrate bunker with one military and two (non-incendiary) rounds."

Burton responded by saying the Justice Department buried the committee in an avalanche of documents shortly before the 1995 hearings began, and panel investigators depended on a Justice summary to guide them.

"The Justice Department dumped 100,000 documents on the committee three days before the hearings, knowing that they (committee aides) couldn't possibly go through them," Burton said.

Clinton won't turn over Puerto Rican clemency papers

Invoking executive privilege on September 15, Bill Clinton refused to turn over to a House panel documents related to his offer of clemency to 16 members of a violent Puerto Rican nationalist group.

The clemency grants have stirred up a political firestorm, with law enforcement groups and victims of actions by the group accusing Clinton of using clemency to boost his wife's Senate ambitions. The group is known as FALN, Spanish initials for the Armed Forces of National Liberation.

"With the legal advice of the attorney general, the president is invoking executive privilege over certain documents and testimony relating to the grant of clemency," said Jim Kennedy, spokesman for the White House counsel's office.

Kennedy said the White House would be providing some 10 000 pages of documents related to the decision, including thousands of letters exhorting the president to show leniency toward the prisoners.

"But those that are directly related to the exercise of the president's constitutional authority are not being provided," Kennedy said.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, was being informed of the president's decision in a letter from White House Deputy Counsel Cheryl Mills.

Committee officials have threatened to seek contempt charges if they weren't satisfied with the administration's response to its subpoenas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also plans to issue subpoenas for documents and testimony regarding the clemency case, according to the chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"This committee is a bipartisan committee that's not going to be stiffed. Frankly we're just sick and tired of it," Hatch said Wednesday.

Critics have accused Clinton of making the clemency offer to help first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's budding campaign for Senate in New York, home to 1.3 million Puerto Ricans.

Hillary Clinton opposed the deal after it began to draw criticism, and then was herself criticized by some prominent Puerto Ricans in New York.

Clinton offered clemency to 16 former FALN members, on the condition that they first renounce violence. Fourteen accepted, and 11 were released from prison recently.

Clinton extended the offer after a lengthy review by the former White House chief counsel, Charles F.C. Ruff. Prominent human rights advocates, including South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Carter backed the move.

But there is strong sentiment against Clinton's decision in the law enforcement community. At a Senate hearing, two retired FBI agents who investigated the FALN characterized its members as terrorists.

At the same hearing, Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., who has pushed Hillary Clinton to seek the Senate seat, lashed out at the president.

"I regret greatly the actions of President Clinton," Torricelli said. "I hope the committee will learn more about his motivations and the process so that it's never repeated."

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