New York Post
September 18, 1999

O'Connor: I did not ask Clinton to free FALNers

                 By BRIAN BLOMQUIST

                 WASHINGTON - John Cardinal O'Connor, in
                 his first statement on the FALN flap since his
                 brain surgery, stressed yesterday he never asked
                 President Clinton to free the Puerto Rican
                 terrorists from prison - contrary to White House

                 In his weekly column for Catholic New York,
                 O'Connor tried to settle the dispute about his role
                 in the FALN controversy. "I did not ask for the
                 release of the Puerto Rican federal prisoners
                 called FALN," he wrote.

                 O'Connor wrote in yesterday's column that he
                 wanted "simply a review" of whether the FALN
                 members deserved clemency - confirming a story
                 last week in The Post - and that he never urged
                 any action at all.

                 "It has been my long-standing custom to raise
                 questions rather than give advice on such matters,"
                 O'Connor wrote.

                 The White House had invoked O'Connor's name
                 in offering clemency to 16 Puerto Rican terrorists
                 - 14 of whom accepted the offer.

                 Meanwhile, sources say the Justice Department
                 has told congressional investigators they will get to
                 hear tapes of phone calls FALN members made
                 while in prison.

                 It isn't clear whether the tapes contain any
                 incriminating information, but the Bureau of
                 Prisons is reviewing and copying them, sources
                 said. Newsweek has reported some prisoners
                 were taped vowing to return to violence.

                 It isn't known when the tapes will be sent to
                 Capitol Hill. Congressional investigators have
                 been told the process of reviewing and copying
                 them is "extremely time-consuming."

                 President Clinton Thursday claimed executive
                 privilege in an effort to shield documents and
                 muzzle witnesses related to his decision to grant

                 But despite its privilege claim, the White House
                 yesterday released O'Connor's original March
                 1996 letter to Attorney General Janet Reno,
                 which said: "I ask your consideration of these
                 cases for determination of where injustice has
                 been done or where justice has been served by
                 time already spent in prison."

                 O'Connor also wrote in the letter "there may be
                 grounds for clemency."

                 White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said
                 yesterday: "I think our characterization was fair,
                 given the stance he took."

                 But Joe Connor, son of Frank Connor, who was
                 killed when the FALN bombed Fraunces Tavern
                 in 1975, said O'Connor's latest statement shows
                 the need for Clinton to release the documents and
                 ungag the witnesses so that Americans can
                 understand exactly why he decided to grant

                 "I believe there's been a disinformation campaign,"
                 Connor said. "It would be curious to see where
                 the disinformation is coming from. I would like to
                 see what the president reviewed before granting
                 clemency - and what he might have refused to

                 Clinton's executive-privilege claim was blasted by
                 congressional Republicans and Mayor Giuliani,
                 but Senate wannabe Hillary Clinton had "no
                 comment" on whether her husband should have
                 invoked the privilege to keep the lid on witnesses
                 and documents, her spokesman, Howard
                 Wolfson, said.