By Terry Frieden/CNN
WASHINGTON -- Three Justice Department officials subpoenaed by
Congress to testify on clemency for Puerto Rican prisoners plan to provide
only limited testimony to a House panel Tuesday, citing executive privilege.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Jon Jennings, FBI Assistant Director
Neal Gallagher, and Bureau of Prisons Assistant Director Michael Cooksey
will appear before the House Government Reform Committee headed by
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana).
"They will not testify on anything relating to executive privilege," said
Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona.
President Bill Clinton invoked executive privilege last week to
shield internal administration documents and deliberations on the
process that culminated in his decision to grant clemency to 16
members of the sometimes violent Puerto Rican independence group,
"This is not a national security situation," said Burton spokesman Mark
Corrallo. "Either they have something to hide, or else invoking executive
privilege is simply rank arrogance."
The Capitol Hill faceoff takes place exactly one week after the Justice
Department refused to allow Gallagher to testify voluntarily at a Senate
hearing on the same subject.
Justice Department officials say the three witnesses will be allowed to
provide background information on the Puerto Rican independence
organization FALN, and its deadly bombing campaign in the United States,
but not on the discussions or recommendations to grant clemency.
Republicans have seized on the president's clemency decision as a sign
administration is not tough on terrorists.
Nearly all law enforcement officials, including the FBI and the Bureau
Prisons, have privately made clear their strong opposition to the president's
As the government officials prepared to testify, the Justice Department
Monday shipped to Burton's committee staff boxes of FALN-related
documents subpoenaed by the panel. A committee official said staffers were
just beginning to sift through the documents, hoping the material included
relevant prison records on the released FALN members.
In addition to the government witnesses, Burton has also called victims
FALN bombings to testify Tuesday. At least one policeman injured by an
FALN bomb in New York City, the widow of another policeman killed and
the son of a civilian killed by the group are expected to criticize the clemency
decision at the hearing.