BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HEARING ON FALN CLEMENCY
SEPTEMBER 15, 1999
I, Richard S. Hahn, am a retired FBI Special Agent. During the period of January, 1975, through September, 1987, I was involved almost exclusively in the investigation of Puetro Rican terrorist matters. I served in New York, San Juan and Chicago during this period. While in New York I investigated bombings conducted by the FALN, begining with the bombing of Fraunce’s Tavern on January 24, 1975. From January 1978 through December 1980 I served in San Juan as that office’s bombing coordinator. My experiences there saw the emergence of the Macheteros as well as other groups. From January 1981 through Septemer 1987 I served in Chicago as one of several case agents for FALN investigations.
Between June, 1975 and November, 1979, the FALN claimed credit for nineteen bombing and six incendiary attacks in the Chicago area. These included bomb targets such as the woman’s washroom in a hotel restaurant, (9/76), the bombing of the city-county building, (6/77), and Sears Tower (10/75). These bombings, credit for which was claimed by written communique or telephone calls, were frequently coordinated with bombings in New York, and eventually with actions on the island of Puerto Rico. The communiques stated such things as “ a free and socialist Puerto Rico, if necessary, will be written in red blood” and “attempts to suppress it’s offensive would be met with “revolutionary violence”
While initially law enforcement was unable to identify the FALN, in late 1976 a “bomb factory” was discovered in Chicago. This led to identification of Carlos Torres and Oscar Lopez as persons who controlled an apartment in which explosives tied to FALN bombings and FALN communiques were found.
In January, 1980, the FALN conducted an armed assault on the Oak Creek National Guard Armory in Wisconsin. Employees were threatened at gunpoint and one round was discharged in an unsuccessful effort to obtain access to the weapons vault.
In March, 1980 the FALN conducted a takeover of the Carter-Mondale campaign headquarters. Workers in that office were held at gunpoint while the office was ransacked and spray painted. Lists of delegates to the convention were stolen and threatening letters subsequently were mailed to many of them.
On April 4, 1980, eleven FALN members were captured in Evanston, Illinois as they were preparing to conduct an armed robbery of an armored car. Among those arrested was Carlos Alberto Torres, renter of the bomb factory found in 1976. Also among those arrested was Freddie Mendez, a relatively new recruit to the FALN. The arrests led the location of numerous safehouses through out the U.S. including those in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Newark, N.J. Searches of these safehouses yielded weapons and explosives and bomb paraphernalia tied to the claimed FALN bombings. Mr. Mendez, along with nine other FALN members, was tried and convicted of seditious conspiracy. Throughout the trial the FALN members refused to participate in the proceedings, claiming that the U.S. Government had no authority over them.
Following his conviction, but prior to sentencing, Mr. Mendez reached out for U.S. Government authorities. Mr. Mendez subesquently cooperated with the government and provided significant insight into the operation of the FALN. Mr Mendez identifed each of his co-defendants as individuals who particpated in armed terrorist actions and/or the manufacture/delivery of FALN bombs.
It is Mr. Mendez testimony that identifies the purpose of the gathering of the FALN members in Evanston on April 4, 1980, as well as the actions at Carter - Mondale Headquarters and the Oak Creek National Guard Armory.
In addition to his experiences in armed assaults, Mr. Mendez also provided testimony regarding being tasked, with one other FALN member, Ricardo Jimenez, to place a bomb. Although Mr. Mendez did not ultimately participate in the placing of the device, he did travel on public transportation through Chicago with Jimenez and the live device to the intended target. As they arrived at the target late, they were unable to place the device there, and Jimenez dismissed Mendez, stating that he would take care of the matter. Mendez testified that Jimenez told him that he put the device in the washroom of a building.
Mr. Mendez also provided information as to the functioning of the FALN. He described the FALN in court as a clandestine, revolutionary Puerto Rican organization whose goal was to build a peoples war in Puerto Rico and the U.S. through armed violence. Mr. Mendez also described in testimony, details of the rigors of clandestine operations, designed to preclude one member from knowing the activities of more than just a few others, in order to minmize risk from infiltration or government cooperation. He provided details regarding the training he received in counter surveillance techniques, maintenence of a safehouse, false identification and disguises.
Between December 1981 and January, 1983, various agencies of Chicago law enforcement worked cooperatively to surveil FALN suspect Edwin Cortes. This led to the identification of an active FALN safehouse maintained by Cortes and Alejandrina Torres in an apartment at 736 W. Buena Street, Chicago. Shortly after the identification of the specific safehouse apartment, the government sought, and was granted Title III authority to place microphones in the apartment as well as to establish video surveillance within the apartment. These were established in January, and February, 1983, respectively. On March 8, 1983, Cortes and Torres were observed via the video surveillance, cleaning and loading weapons and subsequently building firing circuits for explosive devices. A search of the apartment after the subjects had left yielded approximately 24 pounds of dynamite, 24 blasting caps, weapons, disguises, false identification and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Law enforcement sought and was granted court authorization to neutralize and/or seize the weapons and explosives, and maintain notice of the searches under seal. Subsequently, law enforcement intercepted coversations between Edwin Cortes and still unidentified co-conspirators in New York to arrange for the travel of an unknown individual to Chicago. On or about March 14, 1983, after several conversations with the unknown consprators in New York, Cortes picked up a man at the airport and transported him to the safehouse. The man, referred to as Benjamin, remains unidentified. Thereafter, Cortes, and “Benjamin” met at the safehouse. They were joined by Torres and were seen gathering the weapons and other materials in the safehouse, and subsequently loading bags with materials into two vehicles, one a stolen vehicle, the other a vehicle registered in a fictitious name, and departing the safehouse apartment in the early AM hours of March 15th. Prior to leaving the safehouse Cortes made the comment to Torres that “ Yes but, she has to have it loaded and cocked further back. If they have to shoot, they can shoot..”
On March 18, 1983, as a result of analysis of Title III intercepts in the Chicago safehouse, law enforcement established a surveillance outside of the ambulance entrance to Wadsworth VA hospital, where FALN leader Oscar Lopez was to be taken that date. Lopez had complained of a malady and had been notified well in advance that he would be taken to the hospital for tests on that date. The surveillance observed Torres, Cortes and “Benjamin” moving about the ambulance entrance for over an hour, all wearing disguises. During this time, Oscar Lopez was precluded from leaving Leavenworth Prison and the ambulance which would normally arrive at the hospital in the morning hours never did arrive, due to law enforcement intervention. Eventually, Cortes, Torres and “Benjamin” left the hospital area and were surveilled to an apartment in Kansas City which had been rented in a false name. A fingerprint of Alberto Rodriguez was subsequently located on an item in this apartment.
On March 19, 1983, Cortes and “Benjamin” returned to the Chicago safehouse at 736 W. Buena Street. While there they were observed on video studying maps of the city of Pontiac, Illinios and Livingston County. FALN member Luis Rosa captured at Highland Park, Illinois following a robbery/kidnapping, was incarcerated at Pontiac State Prison. “Benjamin” subsequently left, returning to Puerto Rico. On March 22, 1983, Luis Rosa was moved from Pontiac Prison to Joliet State Prison. The next day Torres and an unidentified female travelled to the Bloomington, Illinois area, not far from Pontiac, Illinois. There, they rented an apartment under a false name. Later that same evening a telephone call between Cortes and Torres was intecepted on the Buena safehouse phone. In the conversation Cortes and Torres were overheard complaining about the “changes” made the day before.
In March, 1983, Chicago law enforcement located a second Chicago FALN safehouse located on Lunt Avenue. Edwin Cortes and FALN member Alberto Rodriguez were observed to meet there. This apartment was also penetrated with court authorized microphones and video equipment. Through intercepts at this location it was determined that they were developing plans to rob a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), mobile safe operator of the daily collections. Cortes was subsequently observed conducting a surveillance at one of the CTA stops. In intercepted conversations between the two, the topic of whether or not underpaid guards would risk their lives was discussed. Escape routes and advantages of conducting the robbery at different potential sites was also discussed. In a May 15, 1983 conversation Alberto Rodriguez was overheard discussing ways of confronting the guard, stating they may have to “hit him upside the head” and that they may have to “shoot the guard, which makes a noise.” This plot was also diffused by Chicago law enforcement who confronted and obtained Identification from Rodriguez as he conducted a surveillance of a CTA station on March 16, 1983.
On May 27, 1983, Edwin Cortes and Alberto Rodriguez were observed moving materials from the Buena Street safehouse to the Lunt Avenue safehouse. Following the move the two were observed driving around military facilities at Foster and Kedzie, Devon and Kedzie and 74th and Pulaski in Chicago. In early June, 1983, they were observed in the Lunt apartment working with the bomb building paraphernalia previously observed at the Buena Street safehouse. During this meeting Cortes instructed Alberto Rodriguez in how to assemble a firing circuit for an improvised explosive device. In addition to working with the bomb building paraphernalia, they were overheard discussing in detail the physical layout of the Army Reserve Center and GSA facility at 74th and Pulaski, Chicago and talking about the military sites, Cortes wondering aloud how to cause the greatest incendiary damage to vehicles there. Following this meeting they again were observed conducting surveillances of a Marine base, the Army Reserve Center and two military motor pools.
On June 26, 1983, Cortes met Rodriguez at the Lunt safehouse. They were observed working with watches, pipe and pipe caps. They also tried on hats and makeup during this meeting.
On June 28, 1983, Cortes inventoried bomb components at the Lunt safehouse. These included blasting caps, dynamite, detonating cord and batteries. He and Torres met at the apartment and prepared a communique. He subsequently met Rodriguez at the apartment, outside of the presence of Torres. With Rodriguez he drew maps and diagrams and wrapped blasting caps and the explosives which law enforcement had inerted.
On June 29, 1983, Cortes, Torres, Alberto Rodriguez, and a fourth defendant, Jose Luis Rodriguez, were arrested. In comments at sentencing Judge George Layton stated, “One of the strange things about this case is that these defendants didn’t accomplish any of their purpose. The didn’t succeed in springing Oscar Lopez. They didn’t succeed in springing anybody from Pontiac Correctional Center. And they didn’t even succeed in planting the bombs. Why? Because in this case, in this court’s judgement, represents one of the finest examples of preventive law enforcement that has ever come to this court’s attention in the 20-some odd years it has been a judge and in the 20 years before that this Court was a practicing lawyer in criminal cases all over the country. Good, preventive law enforcement succeeded in keeping these defendants from doing what they were going to do. They were going to plant bombs in public buildings during a holiday.”
The co-conspirator(s) in New York and Puerto Rico were never identified.
Luis Rosado, a suspected FALN member from New York, remains a fugitive wanted on state charges in Illinois for the actions taken with FALN member Luis Rosa. Rosado failed to appear on 3/13/81.
In 1985 a plot to break FALN leader Oscar Lopez out of prison at Leavenworth Penitentiary was brought to the attention of the FBI by a cooperative witness. In that case co-conspirators were tasked to obtain weapons and explosives for use in the plot. The plot was to involve forcing a helicopter pilot to land in the yard at Leavenworth. As the escape took place, explosive charges were to be used to distract and to deter guards from taking action to prevent the escape. Co-conspriators in that case were audio taped via court authorized intercepts as they purchased what they believed to be explosives to be used in the plot from an FBI undercover agent. One co-conspirator successfully burglarized a gun store near Littleton, Colorado, to obtain weapons for use in the escape. Due to intervention by law enforcement, none of the plans came to fruition.