Reno warned of Puerto Rican clemencies
October 21, 1999 - Tom Squitieri - USA Today
WASHINGTON - Less than a month after President Clinton offered
clemency to 16 Puerto Rican terrorists, a Justice Department report
warned that their release would increase the threat of violence
by their separatist group.
The September 1999 report, prepared by Attorney General Janet
Reno, called the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN an "ongoing
threat to national security."
"Factors which increase the present threat from these groups
include ... the impending release from prison of members of these
groups jailed for prior violence," the report said, referring
to the FALN members offered clemency.
The report intensified questions about Clinton's rationale for
granting clemency. The Justice Department, FBI Director Louis
Freeh, the U.S. attorneys offices in Illinois and Connecticut,
where the separatists were prosecuted, all opposed their release.
The Justice Department made its opposition known in a 1996 recommendation
to the White House, according to documents made public Wednesday.
Asked to comment on the day's testimony, White House spokesman
Jim Kennedy said, "The president made his decision after
careful consideration of all the facts.''
Fourteen of the 16 FALN members accepted Clinton's clemency offer
in September. Of those, 11 were released from prison, two had
fines wiped out and one had his sentence reduced to five years.
The FALN, the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National
Liberation, was responsible for a wave of bomb attacks and robberies
from 1974 to 1983 that killed six and injured scores of others.
None of those granted clemency were convicted of crimes that led
to injury or death.
The report was made public at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing,
along with an analysis that appeared to conflict with Clinton's
argument that the FALN members received sentences that were excessive
by today's standards.
The analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission showed that if
sentenced today, the FALN members would get equal or harsher sentences
than they received in the 1980s.
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