September 22, 1999
FALN members pose threat, FBI official says

                  WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Little more than a week after the release
                  from prison of 11 Puerto Rican nationalists following a grant of
                  clemency by President Clinton, a top FBI official has told Congress that the
                  convicted FALN members are terrorists who still pose a threat.

                  "I think they're criminals and terrorists and represent a threat to the United
                  States," Assistant FBI Director Neal Gallagher told Congress Tuesday, in
                  the FBI's first public statement on the president's decision to grant clemency
                  to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists.

                  Although the White House decision to invoke executive privilege prevented
                  the FBI from explicitly describing the Bureau's recommendation on granting
                  clemency, Gallagher left no doubt where the FBI stood on the issue.

                  Gallagher made his comment after House Reform Committee Chairman
                  Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana), asked whether he believed the prisoners
                  should have been released.

                 Eleven of the 16 jailed FALN members were released from prison 1
                 1/2 weeks ago.

                The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies have privately
                made clear their strong opposition to the clemency decision, but Tuesday's
                testimony marked the first time a top FBI official made a public comment
                directly opposing the presidential decision.

                  Gallagher, as Assistant Director of the FBI's Criminal Division, is the FBI's
                  third-ranking official. He formerly headed the FBI's counter-terrorism unit.

                  Clinton: No politics in decision

                  Hours before the Congressional hearings began, Clinton issued his most
                  detailed explanation to date why he offered clemency.

                  In a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California), the president said that for
                  six years he had been lobbied by members of Congress, religous and
                  community leaders and others for the release of the FALN members.

                  "My decision[s] were based on our view of the merits of the requests --
                  political considerations played no role in the process," he wrote. "In making
                  my decision, I did not minimize the serious criminal conduct in which these
                  men and women engaged."

                  Sentences from 35 to 90 years

                  The FALN, translated as The Armed Forces of National Liberation,
                  claimed responsibility for or were blamed for 130 bombings, most of
                  them in New York and Chicago, in the 1970s and early 1980s.

                  None of the 16 who were offered clemency was convicted in any of the
                  bombings. They were convicted on a variety of charges, ranging from
                  bomb-making and conspiracy to armed robbery, and given sentences
                  ranging from 35 to 90 years; the activists had served 14 to 19 years in

                  Two of the 16 offered clemency rejected the deal. As part of the clemency
                  offer, the prisoners renounced violence to achieve political goals and agreed
                  to sever ties with FALN.