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In hindsight, an Aug.18, 1995, covert RCMP operation at the Gustafsen Lake armed stand-off may have escalated tensions and roused extremists, Staff Sgt. Ken Porter now admits. But the Kamloops-based officer says such considerations "did not even cross my mind" Aug.18, when heavily armed camouflage-garbed officers were detected by the native campers.
Porter says now he was more concerned with the compromised probe than with camp occupants who may have mistakenly believed the officers were armed white supremacists. "I may be naive," Porter told a BC Supreme Court criminal trial yesterday, "but I would have thought that they(camp occupants) would have known that was the RCMP. My concern was that the RCMP had been burned (detected) - not that there was an armed group of people in there bent on civil disobedience."
Porter denied contentions that a delay of 10 hours before camp occupants were told the true nature of the police reconnaissance was deliberate. But he agreed the botched RCMP mission and the day-long refusal to respond to calls from camp natives concerned about "men with guns" could be interpreted as provocative. "The combination of the compromised probe and your delay provided the spark to create exactly what you were concerned about, about this...becoming a volatile activist issue," said defense lawyer Don Campbell.
"On Aug.18, no, but since then, based on information I've learned I can see where some people might interpret those two events in the light you're portraying," Porter responded.
Porter also told the court:
* He was not aware of allegations that staff of ranch owner Lyle James rode into camp with bull-whips and threatened to "hang ourselves a red nigger" on June 13."Its hearsay," he told defense lawyer Manuel Azevedo. "Absolutely. The whole thing is hearsay."
* He based his description of camp occupants as "terrorists" on "other incidents and a pool of intelligence" although could not directly connect one accused person with weapons-related offenses prior to the crisis.