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News Briefs II

Bomb Threat Trial of ATF Informer Has Interest of McVeigh Lawyers

The Washington Post

On Monday, Carol Howe, 26, is scheduled to go on trial in federal court here for threatening to bomb federal buildings, and her relationship with the federal government has become the centerpiece of her defense. She had served as an informer for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

She has become a cause celebre for lawyers of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh and far-right conspiracy theorists, who claim that prior to the 1995 Oklahoma City blast, Howe had warned authorities that others were talking about blowing up federal buildings.

Because the government waited three months after that to indict Howe, her attorneys claim she was only charged to silence her on the eve of McVeigh's trial. McVeigh was condemned to death last month for truck-bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people.

Prosecutors counter that the Oklahoma City attack has no bearing on the charges against Howe, and have asked U.S. District Judge Michael Burrage to bar all references to it at her trial. Both sides declined to comment Tuesday because a "gag" order is in place.

Head of Fund-Raising Inquiry Angry About Grants of Immunity

Los Angeles Times

Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who is heading the Senate's campaign fund-raising inquiry, angrily criticized the Justice Department Tuesday for failing to endorse grants of legal immunity to five potential witnesses.

"I do not have any confidence any more in the Justice Department's ability to carry out a credible investigation," Thompson said, referring to the department's criminal probe of fund-raising abuses.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which is holding hearings on fund-raising abuses by both parties, can grant immunity in exchange for testimony without the Justice Department's consent.

A grant of immunity prohibits prosecutors from using anything a witness tells the Senate in a criminal trial.

The committee will take up the matter again Wednesday and committee sources predicted there would be enough support to grant immunity to all five witnesses.

After aides to Attorney General Janet Reno balked at immunity in a closed-door meeting with committee members Tuesday, a frustrated Thompson - with several GOP colleagues at his side - suggested that the decision to oppose immunity is influenced by the Clinton administration's involvement in the fund-raising scandal.