Clintons Plant Tree for Bombing Victims, Head to Oklahoma City
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton planted a tree of remembrance Sunday for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing as his administration pledged to rebuild the demolished federal building and restore services.
On a designated national day of mourning, the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged from the White House, both wearing black, and walked hand-in-hand to the South Lawn. They then took turns shoveling dirt into a hole prepared for the commemorative dogwood.
After standing silent for a few moments, they boarded a helicopter and departed for Oklahoma City for a prayer service in remembrance of those killed in the bombing.
Earlier Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, speaking on NBC’s ``Meet the Press,″ said Clinton will approve the rebuilding of the federal building in Oklahoma City that was blown up Wednesday.
``The president will make a commitment today that that building will be rebuilt and we will restore those services to the people of Oklahoma City,″ Panetta said.
Whether the services restored in Oklahoma City include a day care center located at the federal building remains in doubt, Panetta said later Sunday on CNN.
``We have about a 100 day care centers located in federal buildings across this country,″ Panetta said. ``As a consequence, however, of the increasing threat to federal buildings ... we need to look at whether day care centers should be located in those facilities.″
Panetta also said the FBI and the Department of Justice are examining a point raised Saturday by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.: whether they need expanded authority to infiltrate paramilitary groups.
``There is authority now to basically go after groups (where an) obvious allegation of wrongdoing is involved,″ Panetta said. ``That’s happening. The FBI is doing that.″
But former FBI Agent Oliver ``Buck″ Revel said on CBS’s ``Face the Nation″ that the federal government has limited power to monitor paramilitary groups and he advocated an expansion of that power.
``Mr. Panetta’s statement that some of these groups are being monitored is inaccurate,″ Revel said. ``I only left six months ago and we had no investigations on any of the militias. We certainly did on some of the white hate groups ... but these are not synonymous.″
Defense Secretary William Perry, meanwhile, rejected assertions that the military was somehow unwittingly supporting paramilitary groups.
``I don’t believe it is appropriate to couple the militia groups, the terrorist groups, with the U.S. military, and I very much resent any connection between the U.S. military and terrorist groups,″ Perry said on NBC.
As to the participation of active-duty U.S. military personnel in paramilitary groups, Perry said, ``What military people do on their own time is not something we keep records of or maintain control of.″
Robert Brown, the editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine, told NBC that no one knows how many people are involved in these groups.
``I don’t even think even the federal government can come up with accurate counts,″ he said. ``I would suggest in the tens of thousands.″