The Washington Post
Thursday, September 16, 1999

Clinton Won't Turn Over FALN Files

                  By Kevin Galvin
                  Associated Press Writer

                  Invoking executive privilege, President Clinton today refused to turn over
                  to a House panel documents related to his decision to grant clemency to
                  more than a dozen members of a violent Puerto Rican nationalist group.

                  The clemency grants have stirred up a political firestorm, with law
                  enforcement groups and victims of actions by the group accusing Clinton
                  of using clemency to boost his wife's Senate ambitions. The group is
                  known as FALN, Spanish initials for the Armed Forces of National

                  ``With the legal advice of the attorney general, the president is invoking
                  executive privilege over certain documents and testimony relating to the
                  grant of clemency,'' said Jim Kennedy, spokesman for the White House
                  counsel's office.

                  Kennedy said the White House would be providing some 10,000 pages
                  of documents related to the decision, including thousands of letters
                  exhorting the president to show leniency toward the prisoners.

                  ``But those that are directly related to the exercise of the president's
                  constitutional authority are not being provided,'' Kennedy said.

                  Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform
                  Committee, was being informed of the president's decision in a letter from
                  White House Deputy Counsel Cheryl Mills.

                  Committee officials have threatened to seek contempt charges if they
                  weren't satisfied with the administration's response to its subpoenas.

                  The Senate Judiciary Committee also plans to issue subpoenas for
                  documents and testimony regarding the clemency case, according to the
                  chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

                  ``This committee is a bipartisan committee that's not going to be stiffed.
                  Frankly we're just sick and tired of it,'' Hatch said Wednesday.

                  Critics have accused Clinton of making the clemency offer to help first
                  lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's budding campaign for Senate in New York,
                  home to 1.3 million Puerto Ricans.

                  Mrs. Clinton opposed the deal after it began to draw criticism, and then
                  was herself criticized by some prominent Puerto Ricans in New York.

                  Clinton offered clemency to 16 former FALN members, on the condition
                  that they first renounce violence. Fourteen accepted, and 11 were
                  released from prison last week.

                  None of the 16 was convicted of a violent crime.

                  Clinton extended the offer after a lengthy review by the former White
                  House chief counsel, Charles F.C. Ruff. Prominent human rights
                  advocates, including South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu
                  and former President Carter backed the move.

                  But there is strong sentiment against Clinton's decision in the law
                  enforcement community. At a Senate hearing, two retired FBI agents who
                  investigated the FALN characterized its members as terrorists.

                  At the same hearing Wednesday, Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., who has
                  pushed Mrs. Clinton to seek the Senate seat, lashed out at the president.

                  ``I regret greatly the actions of President Clinton,'' Torricelli said. ``I hope
                  the committee will learn more about his motivations and the process so
                  that it's never repeated.''

                                   © 1999 The Associated Press