The perpetrators were members of Armed Forces of National Liberation, FALN (the Spanish acronym), a clandestine terrorist group devoted to bringing about independence for Puerto Rico through violent means. Its members waged war on America with bombings, arson, kidnappings, prison escapes, threats and intimidation. The most gruesome attack was the 1975 Fraunces Tavern bombing in Lower Manhattan. Timed to go off during the lunch-hour rush, the explosion decapitated one of the four people killed and injured another 60.Sounds like the sort of thing that would make Palestinian terrorists proud--and a bit jealous. At the time, President Clinton confirmed his commitment to the victims of the terrorist attacks and pledged that he "will not rest until justice is done."
FALN bragged about the bloodbath, calling the victims "reactionary corporate executives" and threatening: "You have unleashed a storm from which you comfortable Yankees can't escape." By 1996, the FBI had linked FALN to 146 bombings and a string of armed robberies -- a reign of terror that resulted in nine deaths and hundreds of injured victims.
As it turned out, just as FALN channeled Fatah and Hamas--Bill Clinton channeled Olmert, stopping just short of actually using the phrase that the terrorists 'had no blood on their hands':
Mr. Clinton justified the clemencies by asserting that the sentences were disproportionate to the crimes. None of the petitioners, he stated, had been directly involved in crimes that caused bodily harm to anyone. "For me," the president concluded, "the question, therefore, was whether their continuing incarceration served any meaningful purpose."Keep in mind that the charges the terrorists were convicted on included "conspiracy, sedition, violation of the Hobbes Act (extortion by force, violence or fear), armed robbery and illegal possession of weapons and explosives -- including large quantities of C-4 plastic explosive, dynamite and huge caches of ammunition."--and of course all of the law enforcement agencies opposed the pardon.
Clinton not only failed to follow proper federal guidelines for commuting sentences--the terrorists themselves had never requested a pardon.
So why did Clinton do it? Burlingame has a suggestion:
Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the midst of her state-wide "listening tour" in anticipation of her run for the U.S. Senate in New York, a state which included 1.3 million Hispanics. Three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- Luis V. Gutierrez (D., Ill.), Jose E. Serrano, (D., N.Y.) and Nydia M. Velazquez, (D., N.Y.) -- along with local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights advocates, had been agitating for years on behalf of the FALN cases directly to the White House and first lady.Originally, Hillary supported the pardon--and changed direction when it became clear public opinion was opposed. This only made matters worse:
Meanwhile, Puerto Rican politicians in New York who'd been crowing to their constituents about the impending release of these "freedom fighters" were enraged and insulted at Hillary Clinton's withdrawal of support. "It was a horrible blunder," said State Sen. Olga A. Mendez. "She needs to learn the rules."Meanwhile, Clinton demonstated why Olmert, despite his own political acumen, is still only a rank amateur by comparison:
...Tom and Joe Connor, two brothers who were little boys when their 33-year-old father, Frank, was killed in the Fraunces Tavern attack, were dumbstruck to learn that White House staffers referred to the FALN militants as "political prisoners" and were planning a meeting with their children to humanize their plight.
The House launched an investigation, subpoenaing records from the White House and Justice in an effort to determine whether proper procedure had been followed. President Clinton promptly invoked executive privilege, putting Justice Department lawyers in the impossible position of admitting that they had sent the White House a recommendation on the issue, but barred from disclosing what it was.The comparison between how the Clintons and Olmert deal with terrorism is very relevant and very real:
While the pardon scandals that marked Bill and Hillary Clinton's final days in office are remembered as transactions involving cronies, criminals and campaign contributors, the FALN clemencies of 1999 should be remembered in the context of the increasing threat of domestic and transnational terrorism that was ramping up during the Clinton years of alleged peace and prosperity. To wit, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Tokyo subway Sarin attack, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1995 "Bojinka" conspiracy to hijack airplanes and crash them into buildings, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing, Osama bin Laden's 1996 and 1998 "Declarations of War" on America, the 1998 East African embassy bombings, the 2000 USS Sullivans bombing attempt, the 2000 USS Cole bombing, and the 2000 Millennium bombing plot.This argument looks familiar:
It was within that context that the FBI gave its position on the FALN clemencies -- which the White House succeeded in keeping out of news coverage but ultimately failed to suppress -- stating that "the release of these individuals will psychologically and operationally enhance the ongoing violent and criminal activities of terrorist groups, not only in Puerto Rico, but throughout the world." The White House spun the clemencies as a sign of the president's universal commitment to "peace and reconciliation" just one year after Osama bin Laden told his followers that the United States is a "paper tiger" that can be attacked with impunity.Read the whole thing.
With all the talk about Olmert's willingness to release terrorists, it is jarring to note that Clinton did the same, and for far less of a reason.
Crossposted at Soccer Dad