September 14, 1999
Justice blocks FBI testimony at FALN clemency hearing

                  From Terry Frieden at the Justice Department

                  WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department on Tuesday
                  prevented the FBI from testifying at a Senate hearing on President Clinton's
                  decision to grant clemency to members of the Puerto Rican
                  independence group FALN.

                  In what appeared to represent continued tension between the Justice
                  Department and the FBI, a senior Justice official sent a letter to Foreign
                  Relations subcommittee chairman Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Georgia) late
                  Monday saying, "We cannot authorize their appearance at tomorrow's

                  The letter was signed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jon Jennings,
                  who heads the Justice Department's Office of Legislative Affairs.

                  "In light of ... the fact that the hearing may, in significant part, address the
                  exercise of an exclusive presidential prerogative, we are carefully reviewing
                  this matter and consulting with the White House regarding how most
                  appropriately to proceed," the letter said.

                  An FBI official told CNN Monday that Assistant Director Neil Gallagher
                  intended to testify before congressional panels about the FALN issue on
                  Tuesday and Thursday of this week and would express the FBI's opposition
                  to the president's clemency offer.

                  An FBI official told CNN on Tuesday, "They pulled the plug on us,"
                  referring to the Justice decision to prevent the FBI testimony.

                  The hearing was attended only by Coverdell and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona)
                  and featured emotional testimony from victims of FALN violence.

                  Former New York City Police Department detectives Rich Pastorella and
                  Anthony Senft, who were seriously injured by FALN bombs, were harshly
                  critical of Clinton's decision to grant clemency.

                  "President Clinton has sent terrorists a message that the law enforcement
                  community is expendable, and terrorists will not be pursued to the ends of
                  the earth," Pastorella told the committee.

                  "Clinton's actions tell would-be terrorists around the world that terrorism
                  against the United States and its people is an acceptable form of
                  demonstrating their political ideology," said Senft.

                  In 1975, Joseph Connor was celebrating his 9th birthday at a New York
                  restaurant when an FALN bomb exploded, killing his father Frank. Connor
                  expressed bitterness at the decision.

                  Connor was upset that Ricardo Jimenez, an FALN representative who was
                  granted clemency, appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday and failed to
                  apologize for the bomb that killed his father.

                  Connor released a copy of a Justice Department letter he received in 1996,
                  which referred to FALN members as terrorists. In light of the Justice
                  Department's position, Connor said he was unable to understand the
                  decision to grant clemency.

                  Strained relations with law enforcement community

                  The victims and their families were joined by the national president of the
                  Fraternal Order of Police, whose condemnation of FALN clemency may
                  represent a serious blow to the Clinton administration's efforts to maintain
                  strong support from police organizations.

                  The FOP's Gilbert Gallegos said his organization had strongly supported
                  Clinton on several law enforcement initiatives, including the program to put
                  100,000 more police on the nation's streets, but now had to condemn
                  Clinton's clemency decision.

                  "We've stood shoulder to shoulder with the president, but with this action, all
                  the good that has been done has been wiped away," Gallegos said.

                  The FOP is the nation's largest organization of law enforcement
                  professionals, representing more than 283,000 rank and file law officers

                  "We should make no mistake. The president has used his constitutional
                  power to release convicted terrorists, despite the opposition of federal law
                  enforcement officials, despite objections from the law enforcement
                  community and despite the pleas of the victims and families of the dead --
                  killed in their wave of bomb attacks," Gallegos said.

                  The administration opposed sending any representatives to testify in support
                  of the president's decision.

                  After the hearing, Coverdell complained to reporters that the Clinton
                  administration has refused his committee's efforts to obtain documents
                  relating to the FALN clemency decision- making process.