As in the past, "the administration doesn’t want to pick a fight with Jackson," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. Jackson is powerful, he has an influential constituency, and has proved amazingly capable at pulling off these kinds of missions. But the White House is keeping a close eye on Jackson’s doings nevertheless. "Throughout the Kosovo conflict," says Branegan, "the administration has struggled mightily to avoid sending mixed signals." That is why they frowned at -- and gave wide berth to -- his earlier, successful mission to free the three U.S. soldiers held captive by Yugoslavia. It's also why "they will not remain benignly silent if somehow his mission for the Australian captives ends up interfering with the latest maneuverings for peace," says Branegan. But since that seems unlikely, the White House is content to lie low for now and let the civil rights activist pursue his latest round of humanitarian diplomacy.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson may be off flying to Yugoslavia on another humanitarian mission -- this time to free three Australian CARE workers. The Yugoslavian regime has convicted and sentenced the three Australians to 12 years for spying. Jackson said on Monday the workers were not spies but merely "war trophies" for Milosevic, and that he would seek to obtain their release. The White House took no official position on Jackson’s latest mission.