The Washington Times
September 17, 1999

Clinton invokes executive privilege on FALN clemency

                                 By Andrew Cain
                                 THE WASHINGTON TIMES

                                 President Clinton on Thursday claimed executive privilege
                                 and refused a congressional subpoena seeking details of
                                 his clemency offer to 16 Puerto Rican terrorists.
                                      "Pursuant to the Constitution and the separation-of-powers
                                 doctrine, the president's authority to grant clemency is not
                                 subject to legislative oversight," White House Deputy Counsel
                                 Cheryl Mills wrote to Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican
                                 and chairman of the House Committee on Government
                                      It was the sixth investigation in which Mr. Clinton invoked
                                 executive privilege. The last was in the Monica Lewinsky
                                      His decision angered Republicans on Capitol Hill, who want
                                 to know why Mr. Clinton offered clemency despite the
                                 objections of law enforcement agencies.
                                      Many suspect Mr. Clinton timed the offer to aid first lady
                                 Hillary Rodham Clinton's likely Senate run in New York, which
                                 is home to 1.3 million people of Puerto Rican descent.
                                      "The president has a moral obligation to the American
                                 people to explain why he let terrorists out of prison," Mr.
                                 Burton said.
                                      "By claiming executive privilege he is, in essence, telling the
                                 American people that it's none of their business. But it is their
                                 business, and it is the business of law enforcement agencies
                                 across the country."
                                            -- Continued from Front Page --

                                      Mr. Burton's committee issued a subpoena this week
                                 seeking testimony from White House Counsel Beth Nolan.
                                 Attorney General Janet Reno wrote to Mr. Clinton yesterday
                                 that the counsel could not be compelled to testify.
                                      Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for the White House Counsel's
                                 Office, said Mr. Clinton would provide more than 11,000
                                 pages of documents -- such as letters from clemency
                                 proponents -- that "do not directly involve the president's
                                 internal, deliberative process."
                                      But Mr. Clinton will not provide "advice-giving" materials,
                                 such as the August memorandum in which then-White House
                                 Counsel Charles F.C. Ruff recommended clemency to the
                                      Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican,
                                 said Mr. Clinton made a "totally fallacious" claim of executive
                                      "There's no national security involved here," Mr. Lott said.
                                 "He made a mistake, and we have a right to know how he
                                 violated their own rules on granting clemency. It's a very
                                 serious matter."
                                      Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the
                                 Senate Judiciary Committee, has vowed to subpoena Justice
                                 Department memos on Mr. Clinton's action to grant clemency
                                 to the terrorists.
                                      Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Mr.
                                 Clinton should release the documents.
                                      "People have a right to know what various law enforcement
                                 agencies did. I generally believe in sunshine."
                                      Miss Mills wrote that "executive privilege serves the vital
                                 public interest in assuring that the president receives candid
                                 advice from his advisers."
                                      In 1998, a federal judge ruled Mr. Clinton could not utilize
                                 executive privilege to protect his conversations about Miss
                                 Lewinsky with aides Bruce Lindsey and Sidney Blumenthal.
                                      Mr. Clinton offered clemency last month to the 16
                                 terrorists, most of whom are members of the Armed Forces of
                                 National Liberation, a pro-independence terrorist organization
                                 known by its Spanish acronym, FALN. The group has claimed
                                 responsibility for 130 bombings that killed at least six persons
                                 and injured dozens.
                                      The 16 were convicted on charges of seditious conspiracy,
                                 and possession of weapons and explosives. White House
                                 officials said none of the 16 to whom clemency was offered
                                 killed or injured anyone.
                                      Fourteen of the 16 have accepted Mr. Clinton's clemency
                                 offer but only 11 have been released from prison.
                                      Mrs. Clinton initially said she would support clemency if the
                                 prisoners renounced violence. Mrs. Clinton later urged the
                                 president to withdraw the offer.
                                      Rep. Vito J. Fossella, New York Republican, said, "It
                                 boggles my mind why our president wouldn't want to explain to
                                 the American people and especially the victims who have
                                 suffered why 11 terrorists have been set free."
                                      The terrorists have offered "no remorse, no apologies, no
                                 contrition for acts of violence they engaged in."
                                      The president said last week that hundreds of people,
                                 including former President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop
                                 Desmond Tutu of South Africa, had urged him to grant
                                 clemency to the 16 terrorists.
                                      "None of them, even though they belonged to an
                                 organization which had espoused violent means, none of them
                                 were convicted of doing any bodily harm to anyone," Mr.
                                 Clinton said.
                                      The president said the terrorists "had served very long
                                 sentences for offenses that did not involve bodily harm to other
                                      Mr. Clinton said the FALN members who accept clemency
                                 will go back to prison if they violate the conditions of their
                                 parole -- for example, by associating with people who espouse
                                      "So under those circumstances, I felt then and I still feel that
                                 that was the just decision."
                                      The House last Friday approved a non-binding resolution,
                                 311-41, saying Mr. Clinton should not pardon the criminals
                                 and that he is encouraging terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. All 41
                                 votes against were Democrats.
                                      Miss Reno, during her weekly press briefing, said the White
                                 House had told her the president intended to invoke executive
                                 privilege in the matter. She was not yet certain how it would
                                 affect the Justice Department's ability to provide witnesses and
                                 documents the House and Senate requested.

                                      Dave Boyer and Jerry Seper contributed to this report.