BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HEARING ON FALN CLEMENCY
SEPTEMBER 15, 1999
My name is Donald R. Wofford and I am currently a retired FBI agent having retired in 1995 with 23 years of service with the FBI.
During the period 1974-1980 I was assigned to the investigation of the FALN in New York and was the Case agent for the investigation of the FALN when it claimed the bombing of Fraunces Tavern Restaurant on January 24, 1975. During this period I was participating in an investigative Task Force comprised of 50 FBI agents and 50 NYCPD detectives. This task force investigated all FALN claimed bombings and other criminal acts.
During the period 1980-1984 I was assigned to Newark, N.J. where I investigated FALN suspects as well as other terrorist suspects.
From 1984-1987 I was assigned to Butte, Montana and was investigating the Aryan Nations and its underground group “the order.” This investigation of white supremacist criminals resulted in 23 individuals being convicted for armed robbery, bombings, murder, and conspiracy.
During the period 1987-1989 I was assigned to FBI headquarters as a Supervisory Special Agent in the Domestic Terrorism Unit. My major duties included authorizing Domestic Terrorism investigations in accordance with the Attorney General’s guidelines.
The FALN is a clandestine terrorist organization that has dedicated itself to "liberating Puerto Rico from United States control" through the use of violent actions including bombings, incendiary attacks, kidnappings, attempted prison escapes, and threats. These actions have been financed through various illegal activities including armed robberies. The FALN has been linked to over 130 bombing-type actions (actual bombings, attempted bombings, incendiary attacks and bomb threats) since October 26, 1974. These incidents have resulted in over $3-1/2 million in damages, 5 deaths and 84 injuries including four police officers who were maimed. In addition, the group has perpetrated three armed takeovers in which innocent people were restrained, robbed and terrorized. The group is convinced that armed struggle is the only vehicle through which independence can be achieved. Unlike other independence groups that engage in violent actions on the Island of Puerto Rico itself, the FALN has elected to stage its violent actions within the continental United States.
The FALN publicly emerged on October 26, 1974, when the group claimed credit for five bombings that occurred in downtown New York City. These explosive devices were believed to have been concealed in airline shoulder type flight bags containing from three to five propane tanks, a quantity of high explosives believed to be dynamite, a detonator, a wrist watch timer, and a battery. In total, over $1,000,000 damage was sustained in those bombings, but no injuries occurred. The FALN claimed credit for this bombing in a communiqué left in a phone booth which was listed as FALN Communiqué #1.
The next known bombing claimed by the FALN occurred on Wednesday, 12/11/74, when an anonymous Hispanic female notified the NYCPD that a dead body was located in a building at 336 East 110th Street, Manhattan. A radio car was dispatched and when the investigating patrolman pushed upon an outside door to an abandoned five story tenement located at this address, the explosion occurred, seriously injuring the officer, and ultimately resulting in the loss of his eye.
An examination at this bomb site revealed that a blue colored airline flight bag had been secured to the inside of the door, and contained what is believed to have been three propane tanks, a large lantern type battery, and a pipe nipple approximately ten inches in length, containing what is believed to have been dynamite. The booby trap bomb in this instance was detonated by a clothes pin type firing device which was tied to the door with string, which detonated the bomb upon opening the door. Almost immediately after the bombing, an unidentified Spanish accented female telephoned the Associated Press advising that she was part of the FALN and that a communiqué claiming responsibility could be located in a telephone booth at Tenth Avenue and 52nd Street, New York, NY. This letter was recovered by the NYCPD and when examined, revealed that it was identified by the FALN as Communiqué #2 and was determined to have been typed on identical letterhead paper as Communiqué #1.
The group's next action, occurring on January 24, 1975, was even more ruthless and resulted in four deaths, over 60 injuries, and extensive property damage. The target was the historic Fraunces Tavern in New York City and the device exploded during the busy lunch period at approximately 1:22 p.m. Four persons were killed, over 50 injured, and property damage exceeding $300,000 was sustained. Shortly after the explosion, the Associated Press in New York received a telephone call from a male with a Spanish accent who stated that the Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation (FALN) was responsible for the bombing, and a communiqué explaining the reasons could be found in a telephone booth located at Bridge and Water Streets in New York (which is approximately 3 or 4 blocks from the bombing scene itself).
The communiqué referred to be the caller was recovered by the NYCPD and, when examined, revealed it was identified by the FALN as Communiqué #3, and was found to have been typed on letterhead paper of the FALN, identical to Communiqués #'s 1 and 2, recovered in previous bombings claimed by this group.
FBI Explosive Experts working in close coordination with the NYCPD Bomb Squad have closely examined all the debris collected from the explosion site and have recovered what appears to be a back plate from a watch; a severely mutilated latch believed to have come from the case that held the bomb; pieces of black plastic or leather from the case; miscellaneous small pieces of unidentifiable metal, and a piece of a valve stem believed to have come from a propane tank (probably a Bernzamatic type used for home plumbing repairs and/or camping equipment). No information is available as to the specific explosive used, although experienced estimates indicate dynamite.
A witness has been located who observed a bag in the vestibule portion separating the tavern from the Anglers Club entrance. He identified this bag as approximately 2-1/2 feet long, 1-1/2 feet high and 1 foot wide. He described this bag as a gray synthetic cloth type bag with black plastic piping around the outside, having 2 black straps around the middle, and having a single black handle. He added that this bag appeared to be new and inexpensive. The witness places the bag at the specific location in the vestibule which explosive experts indicate was the seat of the explosion. Subsequent interviews of two other witnesses indicated that the bag was not at the site as late as 1:10 to 1:15 p.m.
The letterhead paper recovered in all three bombings, had a five pointed star design with the letters FALN imposed thereon. Above this star were the two words Fuerzas Armadas and below the star were the words de Liberacion Nacional Puertorriquena (which translates as Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation). All letters were found to have been prepared on a typewriter with Smith Corona face type (available on several types of machines but probably a Smith Corona portable). There were four copies of Communiqué #1 recovered, but only one original typing, although examination of recovered specimens clearly indicate two typings. The original of the typed communiqué was in red ink and mailed to a Spanish language newspaper in New York. All of the communiqués recovered have been found to have been prepared on Gestetner watermarked paper. (See Exhibit 1)
In their next attack, the FALN reverted back to more "symbolic" bombings when they attacked four New York City buildings in April, 1975.
The FALN first made its presence known in Chicago, Illinois, on June 15, 1975, when they claimed credit for two powerful bombs that detonated in the downtown Loop area. In October, 1975, the FALN attempted to display their strength by simultaneously exploding bombs in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. During the months that followed, the FALN detonated several more devices in New York and Chicago, causing property damage and injuring innocent bystanders; however, for some unexplained reason they did not claim credit for these incidents. One of these attacks involved the placement of incendiary rather than explosive devices in the downtown Chicago Marshall Field Department Store.
In late June, 1976, the FALN resumed making claims for its terrorist actions which were, during the subsequent years, to include both explosive and incendiary device attacks. One of these attacks was on the Hilton Hotel in New York City in September, 1976, and resulted in $300,000 in damages. Another victim target was the Merchandise Mart in Chicago which suffered $1,335,000 in damages from a February, 1977, bombing. An incendiary device placed in New York City's Gimbel's Department Store on October 11, 1977, resulted in a fire that caused $125,000 in damages. Perhaps the most violent of these attacks which occurred between June, 1976, and July, 1978, was directed against the Mobil Oil Company employment office in New York city. On August 3, 1977, a powerful bomb detonated inside this office during the busy morning rush period, killing one man and injuring several other bystanders. It was painfully clear that this bombing was designed to kill people and was anything but "symbolic" in nature. Marie Haydee Beltran Torres was subsequently convicted of perpetrating this act and was sentenced to a life term in federal prison.
In May, 1978, the FALN again expanded its scope of activity by simultaneously placing devices in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., and threatening to bomb Chicago targets. A month later the group placed incendiary devices in three department stores in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Illinois.
On November 3, 1976, the FALN suffered a serious setback when Chicago Police discovered their "bomb factory" which was located in an apartment within the city's north side Hispanic community. This discovery led to the identification of Carlos Alberto Torres, his wife Marie Haydee Torres, Ida Luz "Lucy" Rodriguez, and Oscar Lopez-Rivera as being members of the FALN. All four individuals immediately vanished, thus ending the double lives they had been leading for several years. The four had masqueraded as law abiding community members and had assiduously avoided doing anything that would have drawn attention to themselves. Indeed, "Lucy" Rodriguez was working in an executive position with the Federal Government when the "bomb factory" was uncovered.
Based on information located in the Chicago bomb factory, the New York FBI determined that Luis Rosado-Ayala and William Guillermo Morales were prime suspects in the New York bombings claimed by the FALN. In addition, it was determined by the New York FBI that Rosado-Ayala and Morales were associating closely with, among others, Dylcia Pagan, Adolfo Matos, and Elizam Escobar.
In July, 1978, the FALN suffered still another setback - one that was destined to drastically change the nature of the organization. On July 12, 1978, a powerful explosion occurred in New York City apartment, maiming the resident. Subsequent investigation determined the apartment was, in fact, an FALN "bomb factory," and the injured man who lost most of both hands was FALN member William Guillermo Morales, who was constructing a pipe bomb when the explosion occurred. Further investigation identified the four missing Chicago FALN members as being involved with the New York "bomb factory." As the police were clearing the debris from the apartment, FALN incendiaries, apparently placed prior to the explosion, ignited in several New York department stores. These were followed by a communiqué from the FALN that had been mailed prior to the "bomb factory" explosion.
FBI and NYCPD examination of the Morales "bomb factory" revealed that William Guillermo Morales was severely injured when a pipe bomb, which he was constructing, exploded literally in his hands, and his most severe injuries were the instant amputation of both hands. Inventory of items seized in this bomb factory include 66 sticks of dynamite and 5,000 rounds of ammunition. In addition, watches, batteries, wires, circuits, and all types of tools were recovered among other items. As a result, the NYCPD Bomb Squad stated at the time that the explosives and incendiaries found in this Queens bomb factory could have constructed at least 28 explosive devices and 2,632 incendiary devices of a type customarily used by the FALN.
The FBI and NYCPD also recovered two Gestetner machines which were used to produce stencils and for duplication. These two machines were purchased by an organization ostensibly supporting Hispanic affairs throughout the United States. It was determined that Carlos Alberto Torres, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Luis Rosado-Ayala, and William Guillermo Morales were members of this organization which was headquartered in New York City. Following an exam by FBI and NYCPD experts, it was determined that defects in the Gestetner duplicating machine found in the Queens bomb factory were consistent with defects noted on the FALN Communiqué #1. Communiqués in 63 separate bombings were produced from a stencil located in the Queens bomb factory and this stencil also produced several hundred blank FALN communiqués bearing the FALN logo which were also discovered in the Queens bomb factory.
The New York "bomb factory" caused the FALN to change its operations and make itself into an even more clandestine and devious organization. Rather than attempt to stage "symbolic" attacks in order to "prove" to supporters and police that the group continued to exist, or to send communiqués designed to alert the world of their continued presence, the FALN quietly and methodically constructed an "underground" network of members and supporters and gathered necessary supplies for their "war of freedom." Only when they felt they had developed a strong and secure organization did the FALN resume overt political operations.
In October, 1979, explosive devices detonated in New York and Chicago in conjunction with a series of bombings on the Island of Puerto Rico. Communiqués issued both in the U.S. and Puerto Rico claimed credit for these incidents in the names of the FALN and three other island-based groups. Curiously, the FALN name appeared first on the U.S.-issued communiqué, while that group's name appeared last on the island-issued document. Clearly the intent was to illustrate that the FALN had perpetrated the mainland attacks while the other groups had done the island bombings. The joint communiqué also informed the world that at least four Puerto Rican independence groups were now working in cooperation with one another. In November, 1979, the FALN struck again in Chicago with the bombings of two military recruiting offices and an armory.
In mid-March, 1980, the FALN staged a new terrorist tactic when members of the group seized the Carter-Mondale Presidential Campaign Office in Chicago and the George Bush Campaign Office in New York and held campaign workers hostage while ransacking the facilities and stealing supporter lists. On the days that followed these incidents, the group sent threatening letters to around 200 Carter-Mondale supporters including Demographic National Convention delegates living throughout the State of Illinois.
On April 4, 1980, the FALN suffered its most serious setback when Evanston, Illinois, Police arrested 11 members who had assembled in that municipality for the purpose of robbing an armored truck making a pickup at Northwestern University. Seized with the arrestees were a stolen truck, several stolen vans and cars, 13 weapons, and various disguises and articles of false identification. Those arrested included Carlos and Haydee Torres, Lucy Rodriguez, her sister Alicia Rodriguez, Dylcia Pagan, the common-law wife of William Morales, Adolfo Matos, Carmen Valentin, Luis Rosa, Dick Jimenez, Elizam Escobar, and Freddie Mendez.
Investigation arising from these arrests revealed that from the time of the discovery of the New York "bomb factory" in August, 1978, the FALN had developed an intricate "underground" operation. "Safehouses" were discovered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; New York City, and Chicago. Vehicles had been stolen through various methods in several states. Quality false identifications had been established. Through investigation it became apparent that the group had developed sources of income sufficient to easily maintain its existence. This became clear when it was learned that their Milwaukee "safehouse" had been purchased for cash and that tens of thousands of dollars in currency had been hidden there.
Good evidence was also developed to reflect that on December 24, 1979, the FALN robbed an armored truck making a pickup at a Milwaukee supermarket. Additional evidence showed that the FALN had invaded the Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Armory, in January, 1980, in an unsuccessful effort to steal military arms. This invasion failed only because the three military employees captured by the raiders refused to open the weapons vault. Evidence was also developed to show that FALN members were responsible for the armed robbery of the Radio Shack Store in Highland Park, Illinois, on April 1, 1980.
The April 4, arrests undoubtedly sent shock waves through the FALN, however, it did not end the organization and did not break the spirits of those incarcerated. Immediately all 11 arrestees claimed to be "prisoners of war" and refused to cooperate with authorities. After Haydee Torres was separated from the group so that she could be returned to New York to stand trial for her role in the fatal Mobil Oil bombing, the remaining ten FALN members were found guilty in Illinois courts of a variety of state violations. All were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in Illinois maximum security penal institutions. Haydee Torres was found guilty in New York and subsequently sentenced to serve a life term in federal custody.
On December 10, 1980, a Federal Grand Jury returned indictments in Chicago against the ten April 4 arrestees in Illinois custody and against the still missing Oscar Lopez, charging among other crimes Seditious Conspiracy against the U.S. Government. During early February, 1981, trial was held for the ten in Federal Court in Chicago. All claimed to be "prisoners of war" and refused to defend themselves. All were found guilty of Seditious Conspiracy, violation of the Hobbs Act, and violation of Federal Firearms statutes. Several of the individuals were also found guilty of interstate vehicle theft. On February 18, 1981, the ten were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 55 to 90 years to commence after they had completed their Illinois prison terms that ranged from 8 to 31-1/2 years.
On the evening the federal indictments were returned, December 10, 1980, two presumed FALN members, Luis Rosado-Ayala of New York and Felix Rosa, brother of indictee Luis Rosa, were arrested following a high speed chase arising from the armed robbery of a van from a Highland Park, Illinois, Ford dealer. This brazen robbery was similar to previous FALN actions. Rosado subsequently became a local and federal fugitive when he jumped bond and Illinois authorities requested a Federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) warrant. Rosa became a fugitive when he failed to come for the second day of his trial after having been present on the first day. He was subsequently arrested by Illinois State Police who returned him to court where he was found guilty of armed robbery and vehicular theft and sentenced to serve a 22 year prison term.
In the months that followed the federal convictions, all of the incarcerated FALN members remained dedicated to their cause except for Freddie Mendez who agreed to cooperate with the government. Mendez subsequently provided a wealth of information concerning the operations of the FALN. In discussing some of the FALN's terrorist activities, he mentioned that the group had been responsible for William Morales' escape from prison in New York during the spring of 1979. At the time Morales was serving an 89 year term on charges arising from the New York "bomb factory." Mendez indicated that despite being maimed Morales returned to a leadership position with the FALN and had been one of the primary planners of the ill-fated April 4 armored truck robbery and of the Oak Creek Armory invasion.
On November 19, 1980, a heavily armed group of around eight individuals took over a Texaco Service Station located at 6140 North Broadway, Chicago, in an effort to rob an armored truck that was scheduled to make a pickup at that location. Victims of the robbery subsequently selected Felix Rosa and Eduardo Negron from a lineup and both men were arrested and charged with this crime.
On May 29, 1981, Glenview, Illinois, Police arrested fugitive FALN member Oscar Lopez in company with MLN member Wilfredo (Freddie) Santana after the pair was stopped for a traffic violation. Various forms of false identification were found in conjunction with the arrest. Subsequent investigation led the FBI to Lopez' secret residence at 3151 West Ainslie Street, Chicago, apartment 1B, wherein approximately six pounds of dynamite and four blasting caps were recovered along with false identifications and FALN related materials.
Lopez was subsequently tried for Seditious Conspiracy, violation of the Hobbs Act, illegal weapons possession, and interstate transportation of stolen motor vehicles, and was found guilty in Federal Court in Chicago on July 31, 1981. He was sentenced to serve 55 years in federal custody on August 11, 1981.
The November 19, 1980, attempted armored truck robbery and the December 10, 1980, armed robbery of the van proved that the FALN continued to exist despite the arrests of 11 members. 1980 through early 1982 was to be a period of rebuilding for the FALN similar to the 16 month period that followed the explosion of the William Morales "bomb factory" in New York. The group made no claims of credit for any terrorist actions during this span although its surface group, the MLN, repeatedly assured supporters that the FALN continued to be alive and well.
On the late evening of Monday, February 28, 1982, four powerful bombs detonated in front of business institutions in New York's financial district. The FALN claimed credit via a five page communiqué which was found in a phone booth at 91st and Riverside Avenue after an anonymous call was received by someone claiming to be the FALN. In this communique, the FALN stated that their jailed comrades and members of their organization were being mistreated in jail. The FALN identified its jailed comrades and members as Oscar Lopez Rivera, Lucy Rodriguez, Carlos Alberto Torres, Haydee Torres, Luis Rosa, Alicia Rodriguez, Ricardo Jimenez, Dylcia Pagan Morales, Adolfo Matos Antongiorgi, Elizam Escobar, Carmen Valentin.
On early Monday morning, September 20, 1982, the FALN struck again in New York detonating a bomb in front of the Bankers Trust on Park Avenue. The group claimed that this incident was to "...protest the U.S. support of Israeli massacre of Palestinian People."
During the evening of December 31, 1982, four powerful bombs detonated in New York City outside police and federal buildings. Three police officers were maimed by the blasts and considerable property damage resulted. A fifth device was disarmed by the police and was found to consist of four sticks of dynamite and components similar to those used in previous FALN devices. The FALN telephonically claimed credit for the bombings. Various people familiar with fugitive Luis Rosado-Ayala subsequently identified the voice of the FALN caller as that of Rosado. Based on this a warrant was issued for Rosado in the Eastern District of New York charging him with Conspiracy to Engage in Racketeering (Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1962(D)) in conjunction with the bombings.
On May 26, 1983, William Morales, the maimed FALN member who escaped from custody in New York in 1979 after being convicted of various explosives violations in connection with the explosion of the New York "bomb factory" in 1978, was arrested by Mexican authorities in Puebla, Mexico. During the arrest Morales' bodyguard and one police officer were killed and a second police officer wounded. Morales subsequently led Mexican officials to a place where he had been staying. Another gun battle erupted at this location when police attempted to enter same and a female resident was killed and a police officer wounded. Although U.S. authorities desire Morales be extradited to New York, Mexican authorities have charged him with four major violations carrying prison sentences of five or more years, consequently it appears that Morales will remain in Mexican custody for many years.
In summary, the following information has been developed concerning the operations of the FALN:
The members are totally dedicated and have expressed a willingness to spend the remainder of their lives in prison if captured during their terrorist activities. This is not to suggest that members will passively submit to arrest. Indeed, if escape is believed possible, FALN members will use deadly force to avoid apprehension.
Membership in the FALN is not a fact that members make public. It is logical to believe that few people within the Puerto Rican independence movement are even aware of the membership of the FALN. Members usually function as apparent law-abiding citizens maintaining residences, families, and legitimate employments while covertly operating in clandestine, criminal operations. It is not until positively identified as FALN members that such people vanish into full-time clandestine "underground" existences.
The group believes that the liberation of Puerto Rico is the paramount aspect of their lives and that anything designed to foster this objective is proper and correct. Armed robberies whether they be of business establishments or of common people are justified if they bring into the organization the funds, vehicles, weapons, and other supplies necessary to bring about the revolution. In the past the FALN has taken advantage of naive clergymen especially people connected with the Episcopal Church, and there is every reason to believe that they will in future attempt to glean funds, supplies, and other support through religious institutions. The father of Carlos Torres is the Rev. Jose Torres of Chicago's First Congregational Church.
Security is of the utmost importance and great care is exercised to maintain confidentiality of the group's operations. Although in the early days FALN members tended to be somewhat careless in their false documentation, safe housing, and other activities, such does not seem to be the case today, and their present false identification will likely stand all but very extensive scrutiny. If arrested, FALN members will almost certainly not cooperate regardless of promises offered to them. Arrested FALN members know that when their cohorts, both overt and covert, learn of their incarceration, assistance in terms of finances, attorneys, and supporters will be made readily available to them. While such people know that escape from custody may not be immediately possible, such an option will remain open throughout their incarceration, and they know that when the opportunity for success is greatest, necessary assistance will be available to them.