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web posted October 11, 1999

NATO denounces ethnic Albanian leader's comments -- or -- isn't that why we bombed the Serbs?

NATO on October 4 denounced comments by an ethnic Albanian leader who said a new civilian force would have the same leaders as his disbanded rebel army and would soon be running its own academy to train officers for the defense of Kosovo.

NATO spokesman Maj. Roland Lavoie said Hashim Thaci, political leader of the officially disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army and head of a KLA-backed provisional administration, has "no connection with or influence over" the Kosovo Protection Corps. Many ethnic Albanians see the new civilian force as the forerunner of an army to defend the province against the Serbs -- the people the territory belongs to.

Lavoie said the corps "will not have a military academy of any description," although he said it would have training centers for disaster relief and leadership skills.

Thaci openly contradicted the chief U.N. administrator, Bernard Kouchner, in a joint visit to the western city of Pec aimed at building confidence among Bosnian Muslim residents following ethnic attacks on them.

Speaking to a crowd of about 500 people, Kouchner said: "We are here to move together with you towards free democratic-controlled elections that will gain a wide autonomy for Kosovo, where all of you will live and take part in the administration."

Thaci, however, responded by saying he believes international officials will recognize the right of the free will of the people in Kosovo, who he said will vote for independence in a referendum.

Meanwhile, about 100 Serbs left the town of Kosovo Polje, five miles southwest of Pristina, for Serbia in a caravan of cars, trucks and a bus.

"People don't see a future here," said Vera Zecevic, one of those leaving. "They don't see a future there (Serbia) either but at least they are going to a more peaceful environment."

Serbs in the town have maintained a roadblock on the main east-west highway since September 28, when a grenade attack killed three Serbs and injured about 40 others. Ethnic Albanians responded with their own barricades.

Lavoie warned that the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force, or KFOR, will take action to clear roadblocks if necessary, saying peacekeepers "cannot let a minority continually disrupt the daily lives of the majority."

"Every opportunity has been given to those who have erected the barricades to reach a peaceful settlement to their grievances," he said. "If they persist in their disruptive behavior, KFOR will have to take appropriate action."

Later that day, ethnic Albanians lifted the blockade they had set up in front of the Kosovo Polje municipal building, but maintained a blockade of the railroad tracks nearby with 50 people.

After a four-hour meeting with U.N. and NATO representatives, Serb leaders refused to lift their barricade.

Regardless of NATO's position, the former KLA is clearly moving toward taking control of the new corps, or appearing to do so. During rallies in Gnjilane and Srbica, which the Kosovo Albanians call Skenderaj, former KLA commanders were introduced to the crowd as regional directors of the new corps.

Serbs have demanded the right to form their own self-defense force because they consider the corps to be the old KLA with a new name and believe the United Nations and NATO have tacitly accepted this.

The U.N. mission has acknowledged a growing crime problem in Pristina, with six kidnappings and 57 car thefts reported the week before.

Showdown looming in Waco trial

Attorneys for surviving Branch Davidians and relatives of those who died during the 1993 Waco siege contend the government is withholding important evidence by saying it is classified or falls under Privacy Act protection.

The plaintiffs' lawyers expect to go to trial early next year in their wrongful-death civil lawsuit against the government.

"There are a lot of documents which have been turned over to us, large portions of which have been blacked out," said lead counsel Michael Caddell, calling some of the evidence critical to his case. "And that, we'll be taking up with the court."

Caddell said he anticipates filing motions asking U.S. District Judge Walter Smith in Waco, Texas, to examine the government's privilege claims and he intends to bring up the matter when the parties meet privately with the judge October 15.

Caddell's concern is shared by co-counsel James Brannon, who is representing the estates of the three children Davidian leader David Koresh had with his legal wife, Rachel Jones. The children, and others that Koresh fathered with different women, were among the approximately 80 people who died during the fiery end to the 51-day standoff on April 19, 1993.

As for the lawyers' assertions, Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin said: "This matter is currently under litigation and we will certainly respond to any complaint we receive in court"

Caddell questioned the government's blacking out of passages from "virtually every" post-siege interview conducted with all FBI agents at Waco. "We're entitled to know everything that they heard or saw or did on April 19," Caddell said.

And Brannon is challenging the government's refusal to provide the names of certain participants in the final assault.

"They cannot hide behind any laws, any statutes to inflict wrongful deaths on American citizens and then say 'You can't ever find out who these people were,"' Brannon said, vowing to take the matter to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Pointing to past misstatements by federal officials, including the now-recanted denial that the FBI lobbed potentially incendiary tear gas canisters, Caddell said: "At this point, you have to be suspicious when they are withholding things."

Smith or a court-appointed special master should review the items the government wants to keep private, he said.

Federal officials are finalizing production of an avalanche of siege-related documents for Smith's court, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno and a House committee, said Michael Bradford, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

On October 4, Smith granted Bradford 30 more days to give the court every Waco-related government document. The documents had been due on October 1.

"We're under deadlines from congressional subpoenas and court production deadlines and we've been working literally around the clock to try to get that accomplished," Bradford said. "It's a huge undertaking."

Canadian PM, Bouchard goof on Canadian history

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard both got failing grades on October 6 for their knowledge of Canadian history. Both the prime minister and premier had problems pegging the year of Confederation.

Outlining the history of federations, Chrétien noted that the United States launched the first federation more than 200 years ago, followed by Switzerland.

"And Canada was next," he said. "In 1863, we became the third federation in the world."

As most school children know, Confederation was in 1867.

His mistake was duplicated later in the day by Bouchard, who while talking about a Supreme Court of Canada decision on secession, said Confederation was in 1868.

He later realized his mistake and corrected himself.

The two leaders were addressing an international conference on federations.

Cincinnati's gun lawsuit dismissed

On October 6, a state judge dismissed Cincinnati's lawsuit against gun manufacturers, saying it was vague and unsupported by legal precedent.

Several other cities across the country also have sued the firearms industry. The action was the first dismissal of such a suit, a lawyer for gun manufacturers said.

Jim Dorr, a Chicago lawyer for gun makers Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. of Southport, Conn., and Smith & Wesson Corp. of Springfield, Mass., said he hopes to use the ruling by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman in seeking the dismissal of 17 similar lawsuits representing 27 city or county governments.

"These lawsuits filed by the cities have been, in our opinion, nothing but smoke and mirrors with no legal foundation to them," Dorr said.

Cincinnati had sued the manufacturers, a distributor and three trade associations. The suit demanded reimbursement for the costs of providing police, emergency, court and prison services in connection with shootings in the city, including suicides and accidental shootings as well as homicides.

The city also sought damages for alleged reduction of property values and loss of tax revenues, plus court orders that would force the defendants to change the way they design, distribute and advertise their products nationally.

Only the Legislature, not the courts, has the authority to impose that type of regulation, the judge ruled. Ruehlman rejected other claims by Cincinnati as vague or not supported by laws or precedent in court cases.

Stanley M. Chesley, Cincinnati's lawyer, said he expects to appeal. The judge's ruling was premature because the city had not been allowed to review documents from the defendants, Chesley said.

Hillary Clinton files 'statement of candidacy' for Senate

U.S. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has filed a "statement of candidacy" with the Federal Election Commission, freeing her to raise more money for a possible U.S. Senate race in New York. But the statement does not mean she is an officially declared candidate.

Clinton signed the document October 3, right before she left on a European trip, according to Howard Wolfson, the spokesman for her Senate exploratory committee. The first lady was in Iceland through October 9, following stops in Poland and Italy.

The one-page document was received by the Secretary of the Senate on October 7 and forwarded to the Federal Election Commission, said FEC spokesman Ian Stirton.

"This is another step in the process," said Wolfson, who played down the significance of the technical move.

The first step came on July 6, when Clinton filed a "statement of organization," the legal term for forming her exploratory committee. That allowed her to raise and spend money as she tested the waters, Wolfson said.

Since then, Clinton has frequently traveled the state and raised up to $1,000 per contributor, the most a person can give toward a primary campaign.

The statement of candidacy will now free her to accept up to $2,000 per contributor ($1,000 for the primary and $1,000 for the general election funds), the maximum a person can give under federal law.

Although a candidate can collect $2,000 at one time, he or she must set aside the second $1,000 until the primary campaign is over, according to Stirton.

Neither Clinton nor the likely Republican candidate, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have publicly declared for the Senate race to replace retiring Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Giuliani filed papers forming his Senate exploratory committee, "Friends of Rudy Giuliani," on February 19, and then filed his statement of candidacy on April 12, according to Stirton.

"She is now as much or as little of a candidate as Giuliani has been since April," said Wolfson.

The contest could be one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history. Both Clinton and Giuliani have each set fund-raising goals of $20 million.

Military says U.S. launched computer attacks on Yugoslavia. Was is as "successful" as the bombing was?

The U.S. military acknowledged for the first time on October 7 that it used a form of computer warfare against Yugoslavia as part of NATO's air war last spring.

Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the remark during an interview in which he discussed the Pentagon's decision to assign U.S. Space Command the responsibility of coordinating both the defense of military computer networks and attacks on enemy networks.

Asked broadly if U.S. information "weapons" were used against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo campaign, Shelton replied, "You can assume that we in fact employed some of our systems, yes." He said the "systems" were offensive in nature, but he would not be more specific about how they were used.

A defense official said later that Shelton was referring to a broad range of "information operations" involving computers that may have included cyber-attacks on Yugoslavia's air defense network. Shelton would not specify the target of the U.S. computer attacks and did not discuss the results.

"I would rather not be specific about how we used it, to be frank," he said. "I don't want to divulge too much."

Shelton spoke to reporters traveling with him and Defense Secretary William Cohen aboard an Air Force jet from Norfolk, where they attended a ceremony to mark the renaming of U.S. Atlantic Command to U.S. Joint Forces Command. The change is part of a broader revision of the Unified Command Plan that includes the assigning of computer network defensive and attacks responsibilities to Space Command.

At a news conference after the ceremony, Shelton said the Pentagon is concerned about the vulnerability of military computers to intrusions not only by private hackers but also by enemies in times of war.

"I don't think there's any question, as we look to the future, that our information systems throughout America and specifically within the Defense Department will be more and more subject to attack," Shelton said.

Space Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., was given the responsibility to develop defenses against attacks on military computer networks as of Oct. 1. One year later, it will take on the added task of coordinating the development of offensive "weapons" for cyber-warfare, several defense officials said. The individual services are doing that work now.

Space Command's main mission is to provide missile warning and space surveillance as part of the air and space defense of the United States and Canada. It also plans for strategic ballistic missile defense.

At the Norfolk ceremony, Cohen said that the newly named Joint Forces Command, commanded by Navy Adm. Harold Gehman Jr., has been given the added responsibility of coordinating U.S. military support to civilian agencies in the event of an attack on American territory with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Cohen stressed that the Joint Forces Command would be in a support role in such an event, leaving a civilian agency such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Justice Department to take the lead. Even so, some civil liberties groups contend that involving the military is a mistake.

"We are supposed to believe that turning our military into a national police force will somehow strengthen our democracy?" American Civil Liberties Union official Gregory T. Nojeim asked rhetorically.

Gehman said the military should be used to help respond to major disasters, as it does now in the case of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.

"I should think the taxpayers would be upset if they thought that we weren't preparing to help out the citizens in the case of a catastrophic event," Gehman said.

You can smoke a shirt, court told. Canadian government lawyers smoking marijuana?

It's only right that Canada's drug possession laws make no distinction between a marijuana joint and hemp clothing because both could theoretically be smoked, a federal lawyer suggests.

"What if you decide to tear up the hemp shirt and put it in little portions that could be consumed?" justice department lawyer Morris Pistyner said on October 7..

Pistyner was responding to a question from Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Louise Charron about whether criminal prohibitions on cannabis are too broad. The court is the highest in Canada to consider whether the drug should be decriminalized for medical and recreational use.

A three-judge panel was told that drug laws don't distinguish between the intoxicating and non-intoxicating forms of cannabis. Some experts put the dividing line at 0.3 per cent of the active ingredient THC.

Christopher Clay, 28, who is appealing 1997 convictions for drug possession and drug trafficking, contends the federal government never proved plant seedlings confiscated from his London, Ont., hemp store were the intoxicating kind.

Clay and Torontonian Terry Parker, 44, an epileptic who says smoking the drug helps control seizures, are at the centre of two appeals looking at whether marijuana laws should be reformed. The federal government is appealing a Scarborough judge's 1997 decision to stay marijuana possession and cultivation charges against Parker. The Epilepsy Association of Toronto is intervening on Parker's behalf.

Justice department lawyer Kevin Wilson argued that Parker's constitutional rights aren't infringed by the ban because he can receive the same benefits by taking a pill containing synthetic THC. In fact, Wilson said, Parker suffered only one seizure when he was given synthetic THC as part of a nine-week study in 1979.

But Alan Young, Clay's lawyer, said the blanket ban on marijuana is unconstitutional because it has no rationale and it is arbitrary, since there is no real proof the substance causes widespread harm.

Pistyner said while it would be wrong to send a young, first-time offender to jail for having an ounce of marijuana, it might be necessary to lock up a repeat offender who deals pounds of the drug in a playground.

"What's wrong with a jail sentence for someone like that?" he asked.

Pistyner also said that while attitudes toward marijuana might have been "extreme" around the time the ban was invoked in 1923, it can be justified because of the drug's potential to cause harm such as lung damage.

Health Minister Allan Rock announced last week that 14 exemptions from prosecution for marijuana use would be granted to seriously ill people, which generated newspaper stories, but no further information in the government's court brief, prompting the judges to press for details.

"Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, 14 were granted yesterday," asked Justice Marvin Catzman. "Are we not to know that?"

Waco, bomb, militia and Task Force 160?

If the hunch of a loose-knit group of cyber-activists is correct, the above words will trip the keyword recognition filter on a global spy system partly managed by the US National Security Agency.

The near-mythical worldwide computer spy network reportedly scans all e-mail, packet traffic, telephone conversations -- and more -- around the world, in an effort to ferret out potential terrorist or enemy communications.

Once plucked from the electronic cloud, certain keywords allegedly trigger a recording of the conversation or e-mail in question.

Privacy activists have used the words in their signature files for years as a running schtick, but on 18 October, the American Justice Federation hopes to trip up Echelon on a much wider scale.

"What is [Echelon] good for?" asked Linda Thompson, a constitutional rights attorney and chairman of the American Justice Federation.

"If you want to say we can catch criminals with it, it is insane that anyone should be able to snoop on anyone's conversations."

"Criminals ought to be caught after they commit a crime -- but police are not here to invade all our privacy to catch that two percent [of criminal communications]," she said.

On October 18, Thompson, along with Doug McIntosh, a reporter for the federation's news service, and members of the hacktivism mailing list community, invite anyone concerned about the system to append a list of intriguing words to their e-mails.

Specifically, they suggest the following keywords:


The campaign has spread around the Net and has been translated into German. Organizers hope "gag Echelon day" catches on on a global scale as a means of raising awareness of the system.

Neither the NSA, nor its UK equivalent -- the Government Communications Headquarters -- has admitted that the system exists, although its capabilities have been debated in the European Parliament.

Australia's Defense Signals Directorate, an agency allegedly involved in Echelon, recently admitted the existence of UKUSA, the agreement between five national communications agencies that reportedly governs the system.

Last fall, the Washington-based civil liberties group Free Congress Foundation sent a detailed report on the system to Congress, but the system was not debated.

The latest effort hopes to further boost public awareness of the system.

"Most people are angry about it," said Thompson. "When you find out it is not some science fiction movie, most people will be outraged."

But an Australian member of the activist community hopes that "jam Echelon day" will be about public awareness of technologies of political control, not about generating paranoia.

"Public awareness should empower -- not scare people aware from using the Net," the activist, who identified himself only as Sam, said.

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