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Cuban boy moves to Md. Shore

Elian, his father and stepmother in seclusion at Wye

Boy's playmates to visit

Senate GOP leader orders hearings into armed entry of home

April 26, 2000|By Jean Marbella, Karen Hosler and Chris Guy | Jean Marbella, Karen Hosler and Chris Guy,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

Arthur Houghton was a passionate bibliophile, collecting rare works and original manuscripts of such quality that he was asked by the Librarian of Congress to become curator of rare books in 1940. He held that post until 1942, when he joined the Army Air Corps and served in World War II for three years.

Houghton, who bought the Wye River property in 1937, had been president of Steuben Glass, a subsidiary of Corning Glass Works, which his great-grandfather Amory Houghton founded in 1851. His interest in the arts led to his becoming chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Society.

Houghton and his wife moved to Carmichael Farm after donating their larger mansion and the grounds to the Aspen Institute in 1979. At the time, Houghton had been operating a research center of his own, called the Wye Institute, which was then folded into the Aspen Institute.

Elian's arrival is not the Aspen Institute's first brush with international turmoil. The institute served as host to Israeli-Syrian talks in 1995, and, in 1998, to a summit of Israeli and Palestinian leaders who hammered out what would become known as the Wye Accords.

As during that summit, news media representatives who flocked to Carmichael Farm yesterday afternoon were shooed to Chesapeake College about four miles away.

While Elian remains sequestered in this tranquil Eastern Shore site, the sound and fury over him continues in Washington and Miami.

Yesterday, for nearly an hour and 45 minutes, Reno was quizzed by about a dozen senators. But Lott, the Republican leader, said she did not adequately answer several key questions, including why she ordered the raid when negotiations appeared to be still in progress, why such a heavily armed force was used and under what authority federal agents entered a private home.

"Wasn't there some way this could have been avoided," Lott said he asked. "She did not give an answer to that, other than a sort of a feeling that it was time to bring this thing to an end."

Several Democratic senators, who have been supportive of Reno's efforts to reunite the 6-year- old with his father, said the attorney general made a compelling case that Elian's situation was rapidly deteriorating even as the family continued to drag its feet on turning over the boy to his father.

"The chronology" of stalling tactics and resistance by the Miami relatives "was pretty compelling," said Vermont Democrat Patrick J. Leahy. "The string had run out."

Doris Meissner, the commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, told the senators at the private session that Elian was no longer going to school or even able to sleep through the night as his relatives sought to prevent the sort of forcible removal that ultimately occurred.

In explaining the use of agents armed with machine guns, Reno told the senators "there was a real possibility of guns in the house," said Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat.

"They chose to show force in order not to use force," Daschle said.

But the Senate Republicans' decision to proceed with hearings to examine Reno's handling of the Elian case comes as public opinion is shifting more solidly in support of the attorney general, opinion polls show.

Nonetheless, Lott said, Americans need to hear Reno explain her actions in the setting of a public hearing.

Other possible witnesses include the Miami relatives whose home was raided and the two long-time friends of Reno's who were serving as mediators. Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, might also be invited to testify, Lott said.

Republican leaders hope the hearings will help energize their base for the fall elections, but they are trying to avoid overplaying their hand.

"I think it could backfire on them, " said John J. Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. "Unfortunately for the Republicans, this gun wasn't smoking."

Meanwhile, a federal appeals judge in Atlanta -- in a new legal victory for Elian's Miami relatives -- said the three-judge court overseeing the asylum case was considering naming a guardian to check up on the boy's "conditions and care" now that he is with his father.

The Justice Department was told to reply by this afternoon to that proposal, made by Elian's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez. The new order raised the possibility that a court-appointed guardian could second-guess the way Elian's father is acting toward the boy.

U.S. Circuit Judge J.L. Edmondson, in an order yesterday afternoon, also barred Elian from being taken to any place covered by diplomatic immunity, such as the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Such a site would place the boy beyond the court's reach, the judge noted.

Sun staff writer Lyle Denniston and wire services contributed to this article.

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