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Eric Holder and the FALN Pardons:

The LA Times reports that Eric Holder actively sought to blunt opposition to President Clinton's pardon of members of two pro-Puerto Rican independence terrorist groups.

New interviews and an examination of previously undisclosed documents indicate that Holder played an active role in changing the position of the Justice Department on the commutations.

Holder instructed his staff at Justice's Office of the Pardon Attorney to effectively replace the department's original report recommending against any commutations, which had been sent to the White House in 1996, with one that favored clemency for at least half the prisoners, according to these interviews and documents. . . .

The 16 members of the FALN (the Spanish acronym for Armed Forces of National Liberation) and Los Macheteros had been convicted in Chicago and Hartford variously of bank robbery, possession of explosives and participating in a seditious conspiracy. Overall, the two groups had been linked by the FBI to more than 130 bombings, several armed robberies, six slayings and hundreds of injuries.

None of the 16 whose sentences were commuted had been convicted of murder, and most had already served lengthy prison terms.

A spokesman for the Obama transition, Nick Shapiro, confirmed that Holder asked for the "options memo" that preceded the clemency. . . .

George Terwilliger, who served as deputy attorney general under President George H. W. Bush and was asked by the Obama transition team to comment, said that although he disagreed with the FALN clemency, Holder's conduct in the case was appropriate. . . .

When Clinton issued the commutations on Aug. 11, 1999, the House and the Senate passed resolutions condemning his decision. . . .

Holder was called to testify on the case by the Senate Judiciary Committee but, invoking Clinton's claim of executive privilege, declined to say whether the Justice Department had changed its position on the commutations. Asked what happened after the 1996 report opposing any commutations, he told the senators: "There were subsequent communications with the White House in the months after that recommendation."

Given the concerns raised by GOP Senators over the Holder nomination, this story could be significant.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Eric Holder and the FALN Pardons:
  2. Eric Holder and the Marc Rich Pardon:
A.S.:
Holder instructed his staff at Justice's Office of the Pardon Attorney to effectively replace the department's original report recommending against any commutations, which had been sent to the White House in 1996, with one that favored clemency for at least half the prisoners

Hmmmm. Remember all the uproar the left got into when we found that the political appointees in the Bush DOJ Civil Rights division were overruling the career personnel? Let me venture a guess that, all of a sudden, those leftwingers will now think it's perfectly appropriate for the political appointees to overrule the career folks...

(Mind you, I think that it's OK for political appointees to overrule careerists. It's just going to be interesting to see how fast the people who hounded Bradley Schlotzman out of a job change their minds.)
1.9.2009 3:31pm
Al Maviva:
C'mon. We know it's crap.

The DOJ was a paragon of non-partisan, sterling legal advice untainted by any whiff of politics, until Bush came along. And Ashcroft. Then it immediately turned into a hotbed of second tenth rate political hack lawyers with correspondence degrees from carribean law schools, and the hacks' depravity is so deep that even Satan himself would recoil in horror.

But with a few new brilliant non-partisan minds being appointed to top-slots, like NARAL's former general counsel, the very model of non-partisanship, DOJ will turn again, flowering, into the most ennobling, non-partisan, lovely legal practice in the world, with the only excess to be found in the practitioners' burning zeal to look out for the well-being of the American People.

There, I think that about covers every possibility.
1.9.2009 4:11pm
Le Messurier (mail):
What eludes me is WHY? Why was there a desire or "need" to pardon these people? What was the motive? Supposed or real.

Can someone opine on this. I've never heard or conceived of a rational reason.
1.9.2009 4:38pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
It is interesting how much attention is being given by the media and bloggers to relatively minor apparent abuses by Eric Holder while ignoring the big one that arouses the opposition by a large number of people: His key role in the perpetration of the Davidian massacre and subsequent coverup of the criminal liability for it of government personnel. That is the real reason Bill Clinton should have been impeached, removed, and criminally prosecuted for treason (making war on the American people), along with several hundred of his henchmen.
1.9.2009 4:40pm
Sebastian H (mail):
"What eludes me is WHY? Why was there a desire or "need" to pardon these people? What was the motive? Supposed or real. "

Hillary Clinton was going to run for a Senate seat in New York, and wanted the support of Puerto Rican groups at the time.
1.9.2009 4:47pm
Sarcastro (www):
Republicans, take heed of Jon Roland! During the hearings you really should talk about prosecuting Bill Clinton and go into detail about the Waco Conspiracy!

Then go into Elian Gonzales and how Holder was totally in league with Castro!
1.9.2009 4:51pm
Philistine (mail):

His key role in the perpetration of the Davidian massacre and subsequent coverup of the criminal liability for it of government personnel.


OK, I'll bite. What, exactly, was his role int the "perpetration" of the Davdian massacre? Wasn't he a judge in DC at the time?

And I'm also curious what role it is you think he played in a coverup.
1.9.2009 4:54pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Le Messurier:

What eludes me is WHY? Why was there a desire or "need" to pardon these people? What was the motive? Supposed or real.

Can't speak to motive. However, all of the offenses for which they were charged are unconstitutional. I don't expect that was part of their reasons, though.
1.9.2009 4:55pm
Steve:
It's interesting that Republicans have abandoned their belief in the unitary executive in favor of the view that the Executive Branch is supposed to be staffed with presidential adversaries. Some would say that if Clinton issued a bad pardon, he's the President and it's on him.
1.9.2009 4:57pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

It's interesting that Republicans have abandoned their belief in the unitary executive in favor of the view that the Executive Branch is supposed to be staffed with presidential adversaries.


No less interesting than Democrats abdandoning their belief in the "independence" of the Justice Department.

However, I don't actually see any Republicans dancing with your straw man.

It was Clinton's call and I agree that Holder was in his legal right to overrule his subordinates.

However, morally he, and Clinton, were wrong. They were pardoning convicted terrorists. People who belonged to groups that killed Americans. For political advantage.

Holder's role is a valid subject of inquiry.

If David Addington was nominated by a GOP president, I guess you think that his 2001-2009 activities have no relevance?
1.9.2009 5:13pm
Sarcastro (www):
It's morally wrong to pardon ANYONE convicted of a crime! They all injured Americans somehow, after all.

And I wish Dems would stop being angry at Clinton for replacing all the US Attorneys when he got into office.
1.9.2009 5:24pm
Steve:
However, morally he, and Clinton, were wrong. They were pardoning convicted terrorists. People who belonged to groups that killed Americans. For political advantage.

It's "morally wrong" to conclude that someone's sentence was excessive? Are you of the opinion that there is some kind of objective morality that dictates the appropriate sentence length for each and every criminal? Because I'm not tapped into that particular source of morality.
1.9.2009 5:26pm
Fub:
Jon Roland wrote at 1.9.2009 4:55pm:
Can't speak to motive. However, all of the offenses for which they were charged are unconstitutional. I don't expect that was part of their reasons, though.
At last I can make a really big cash withdrawal at any bank without all those pesky cops taking exception to it.
1.9.2009 5:26pm
Kent G. Budge (www):
Interesting that we're focusing on this, and not the fact that Holdren's science is fru-fru.
1.9.2009 5:27pm
WHOI Jacket:
Who knew bank robbery was a constitutionally protected activity?
1.9.2009 5:34pm
Spinoneone:
Right, bank robbery is not a constitutionally protected activity; ditto, murder. Having a political appointee, in any Cabinet Department, change the Department's position/opinion in the face of career civil service opposition is exactly why we have political appointees. The political appointee serves "at the pleasure of the President of the United States." Thus, he/she is expected to conduct the President's business first and the Department's business second. Of course, the Department should be conducting the President's business in the first place, but then, we don't live in a perfect world
1.9.2009 5:42pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Philistine:

What, exactly, was his role int the "perpetration" of the Davdian massacre? Wasn't he a judge in DC at the time?

He was brought in as part of the cleanup team, so was complicit after the fact to the assault, but the coverup is a separate offense, and since it was committed on the territory of DC, a federal enclave, prosecution for it is constitutional.

And I'm also curious what role it is you think he played in a coverup.

The following links provide some sense of it:
CESNUR
GreadDreams
Jeremiah Films
Moore on Danforth Report
Progressive Review
Waco: Rules of Engagement
DC Examiner
POSTED Nov 23, 2008

AlanR: "I have a question for Eric Holder. Was anyone punished, sanctioned, disaplined or even mildly inconvenienced for the complete mismanagement and bungling of the Branch Davidian tragedy?"

Note that I am not necessarily agreeing with these criticisms. I am not an eyewitness. I am pointing out that there is a lot of criticism that is being neglected.
1.9.2009 5:52pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Fub:

At last I can make a really big cash withdrawal at any bank without all those pesky cops taking exception to it.

If a bank is on state territory the feds do not have constitutional jurisdiction, even if you grant that banks have become federal government operations, unless the state legislature has ceded exclusive jurisdiction to the parcel of land on which they rest. See
Jurisdiction over Federal Areas within the States
Federal Jurisdiction — Brief by attorney Larry Becraft.

Of course perhaps you were referring to prosecution for "money laundering" by making a large cash withdrawal. But there is no constitional authority for that on state territory, either.
1.9.2009 5:59pm
The River Temoc (mail):
Hillary Clinton was going to run for a Senate seat in New York, and wanted the support of Puerto Rican groups at the time.

You are a grade-A idiot if you think that all Puerto Ricans in the United States support independence.
1.9.2009 6:16pm
Fat Man (mail) (www):
My theory is that if skunk Holder, we will get Bill Lan Yee (?) or Lanie Guiner or some other left-wing lunatic. Better to accept Holder, and wait to bring this stuff until it is useful.
1.9.2009 6:32pm
BT:
River Temoc not all Puerto Rican's support independence only about 10% do. SH's comment made no mention of support or lack there of for independence. The fact of the matter is that there is a signifiacant popluation of Puerto Ricans in NY and the Clinton(s), both of them, being politicians who like to pander to various ethnic groups when it is to their advantage, had just that in mind at the time of the pardon, due to Hillary's pending Senate run. They were looking at how this would play out as far as counting votes and figured that it would be a net gain. My guess is that they were right.

I personally disagreed with the pardons and thought that they were remarkably cyincal, but Our Boy Willie had that power, I did not.
1.9.2009 6:46pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
Has anybody checked to see if there's an interesting donation to Clinton's "foundation" about that time?

/cynacism
1.9.2009 8:07pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Brief by attorney Larry Becraft.
In case you hadn't guessed, Mr Roland is citing a well-known tax protestor crank, if you couldn't tell.
1.9.2009 8:19pm
Bronx HS of Science grad (mail):
Of course he's dishonest and evil. He attended Stuyvesant High School.
1.9.2009 8:50pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Al Maviva,

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Also, I don't care about what anyone says. Puerto Rico is in no hurry to be independent or to become a state. Why should they? They get all of the benefits of being U.S. citizens without those pesky taxes.

I say of they want independence, give it to them. They'll be the Dominican Republic or Haiti within a decade, if not sooner. Hell, they are halfway there now.

My buddy in college once said something I'll never forget. The call for Puerto rico to become another state will get loud and overwhelming if it ever gets to the point where the Dems can't get any other Senate seats because of permanent political shifts.
1.9.2009 9:22pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
The call for Puerto rico to become another state will get loud and overwhelming if it ever gets to the point where the Dems can't get any other Senate seats because of permanent political shifts.
Someone forgot to notice the most recent election.
1.9.2009 9:25pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It will be necessary for O's supporters to start asking, in feigned innocence, "What's so bad about terrorism against Americans, anyway?"
Otherwise, they'd have to deal with a sordid, vote-getting political move.
1.9.2009 9:50pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Steve: You forgot the "For political advantage." part.

Richard Aubrey: They already have. Remember Bill Ayers?
1.9.2009 10:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Bob.
Oh. Yeah. I forgot. Blame it on the Friday evening manhattan.
It will be interesting in the future, the near future, watching O's supporters justifying some really stupid or rotten issues they'd never have contemplated for an instant, in order to justify their support for the guy.
IIRC, and I do, C's supporters were asking that same question.
But, now that I think of it, I suspect O's supporters would have asked that question regarding terrorism even if O had not managed to get the Ryan divorce decree unsealed (and remained stuck in Springfield).
What a hoot. The president of the most powerful nation in the world owes his position solely to Jeri Ryan's scruples.
As they say in France, it is to puke.
Or maybe I should quote Sheldon Whiteside's first line.
Oh, well.
1.10.2009 12:31am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Sheridan?
1.10.2009 12:31am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Andrew J. Lazarus:

Brief by attorney Larry Becraft.

In case you hadn't guessed, Mr Roland is citing a well-known tax protestor crank, if you couldn't tell.

Becraft has represented many tax protesters of illegal taxes and has won many of those cases. If you are ever targeted by the IRS for your political views (something that happens often), you might want to hire him. His brief provides much material anyone will need in a tax case.
1.10.2009 1:18am
NickM (mail) (www):
Pssst. Sarcastro. We Republicans laugh at Roland too.

Nick
1.10.2009 1:32am
The River Temoc (mail):
The fact of the matter is that there is a signifiacant popluation of Puerto Ricans in NY and the Clinton(s), both of them, being politicians who like to pander to various ethnic groups when it is to their advantage, had just that in mind at the time of the pardon, due to Hillary's pending Senate run.

No, the fact of the matter is that your "theory" (better known as a gratuitous swipe against both Hillary and Puerto Ricans) assumes that the recipients of the pander will be swayed by the appeal -- an appeal that assumes they want independence and are willing to see terrorists pardoned to get it. Neither assumption is particularly correct.
1.10.2009 2:28am
TruePath (mail) (www):
First of all it's important to be clear that this was a commutation of the sentences not a full pardon. Thus it merely let them out of jail it did not wipe them of the conviction so it doesn't make any statement that what they did wasn't wrong or serious. It merely released them from prison.

Now what point did keeping these men in prison serve? There was no deterence value as we no longer seem to face a serious threat of peurto rican style terrorism and the difference in jail terms is unlikely to make a difference to al qaueda or any other terror threat or national resistance movement we are likely to face. Moreover, people who commit political violence, unlike people who steal and murder for more mundane reasons, don't pose any particular threat to the public after they cease supporting the revolutionary movement/group. What they did may be terrible but I don't want to spend my tax dollars to keep someone in jail just so they suffer when it benefits no one.

Moreover, as the article points out the motivation here was (officially and it has plausibility) to help reduce bad feelings about US rule by the peurto ricans. That is certainly a valid governmental objective and while it may be orders of magnitude less serious than what the israelis do when they exchange terrorists for hostages or in the hope of gaining a ceasefire or peace treaty but then again release ex-terrorists who are no longer a threat is a lot less serious than releasing dangerous militants who still belong to an active terrorist movement. So if it's okay for the Israelis to release terrorists to gain goodwill why isn't it for us?

The complaints here seem to smack of "How dare they" rather than serious attempts to balance the harms and benefits of releasing these people as a responsible president must do.

I have issues with clinton's other pardon but this? Moreover, the AG can't fight the president on every issue. It seems like small potatoes.

I'm more worried about Holder's suggestion that we censor the internet after Columbine and I'm curious what this science issue is.
1.10.2009 5:27am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Bob from Ohio.
See TruePath. We're right. Can't wait for other issues to surface for True to minimize.
River. The point is not whether pardoning some terrorists will really get the votes of the Puerto Ricans, or pardoning some scam artists will really get the votes of some particularly orthodox Jews. The point is whether the pardon has any political down side. If not, then why not take a shot? Is it worth trying? Hell yes. If it doesn't get the votes, what's the big deal? Takes about as much thought as an ad buy someplace, except it doesn't cost the campaign any money.
People who don't like scam artists or terrorists wouldn't vote for a Clinton in the first place, so it's not like they'd lose anything.

WRT PR independence. I'll chip in for a half dozen Evinrudes to be stuck on the west end of the island and let them motor off to Caribbean anonymity. The sooner the better. How'd that Vieques thing work out, anyhow.
1.10.2009 10:00am
davod (mail):

"No, the fact of the matter is that your "theory" (better known as a gratuitous swipe against both Hillary and Puerto Ricans) assumes that the recipients of the pander will be swayed by the appeal -- an appeal that assumes they want independence and are willing to see terrorists pardoned to get it. Neither assumption is particularly correct"

That those of Puerto Rican descent living in New York may not support a change in status for Puerto Rico is irrelevent. It's the thought that counts.

Speaking of pandering - Don't forget

... four Orthodox Jews from New York State who had bilked the government out of $40 million in education aid, housing subsidies and small-business loans. During Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign, the First Lady visited the Skver sect in New Square, N.Y., trying, successfully, to lock in a group that usually swings Republican. After the Skver turned out in force for Hillary, she invited the group's spiritual leader to the White House, where he asked the President to lighten the men's sentences. The subsequent commutations only heightened suspicions — vehemently denied by Clinton and the Skver — that there was a quid pro quo for their support on Election Day...

An Othodox community which never previously voted Democrat.
1.10.2009 10:06am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The commenter's assumption that the objects of pandering will be swayed is not the point.
The point is that the Clintons thought they might.
Since there's no cost, no downside, to pandering by pardon, there's no reason not to. Might work. If it doesn't, well, it didn't cost anything.
1.10.2009 12:05pm
Jmaie (mail):
The River Temoc - No, the fact of the matter is that your "theory" (better known as a gratuitous swipe against both Hillary and Puerto Ricans) assumes that the recipients of the pander will be swayed by the appeal -- an appeal that assumes they want independence and are willing to see terrorists pardoned to get it. Neither assumption is particularly correct.

I hold both Clinton's in particular contempt for their willingness to take and change opinions for political expediency, and so I'll admit this "gratuitous swipe" holds a certain appeal for me.

I have no deep knowledge of whether NY Puerto Rican's would respond well to the commutations, and your tone suggests that you do. Please educate me...
1.10.2009 3:24pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Becraft has represented many tax protesters of illegal taxes and has won many of those cases. If you are ever targeted by the IRS for your political views (something that happens often), you might want to hire him. His brief provides much material anyone will need in a tax case.
Becraft has won a handful of criminal cases based on the idiot defense (a/k/a the "Cheek defense"), which says that the defendant was so stupid that he didn't realize he had to pay taxes. He has lost many others, and of course every one of his clients has had to pay the taxes anyway, whether they won or lost the criminal case.

He has also managed to personally be sanctioned for making frivolous arguments.
1.11.2009 3:06pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
David M. Nieporent:


Becraft has represented many tax protesters of illegal taxes and has won many of those cases. If you are ever targeted by the IRS for your political views (something that happens often), you might want to hire him. His brief provides much material anyone will need in a tax case.

Becraft has won a handful of criminal cases based on the idiot defense (a/k/a the "Cheek defense"), which says that the defendant was so stupid that he didn't realize he had to pay taxes. He has lost many others, and of course every one of his clients has had to pay the taxes anyway, whether they won or lost the criminal case.

He has also managed to personally be sanctioned for making frivolous arguments.

None of which goes to the merits his arguments as a matter of history and logic. All of that is nothing more than evidence that the courts are, in the words of Judge Edith Jones, "corrupt beyond all recogntion".

I personally witnessed one of those trials. What I witnessed was blatant corruption on the part of the judge and prosecutors. And the ignorant jurors were too gullible to see through it (although I have unverified information, not for attribution, that several of them got hints that if they acquitted they would be aggressively audited). I have gotten information that some judges have been threatened in the same way. In private conversations the prosecutors are no longer even pretending to be lawful.

I invite people to do your own research on the legal merits without regard to court decisions, assuming you are not a complete legal realist who holds that the law is whatever judges do. If that is your position then for you the Constitution is just a "goddamn scrap of paper".
1.11.2009 6:54pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I invite people to do your own research on the legal merits without regard to court decisions, assuming you are not a complete legal realist who holds that the law is whatever judges do. If that is your position then for you the Constitution is just a "goddamn scrap of paper".
One cannot do ones own research on legal merits "without regard to court decisions" in a common law country. More importantly, Becraft and the other tax protestor nuts certainly don't research legal merits "without regard to court decisions"; they routinely cite court decisions -- albeit completely out of context -- to justify their nutty theories.

I am not a legal realist. However, I am sane. Which means I can tell the difference between legitimate legal arguments and loony ones. Fringed flags are not a sign of conspiracy or corrupt judges; they're a decoration.
1.11.2009 8:39pm
Ricardo (mail):
What eludes me is WHY? Why was there a desire or "need" to pardon these people? What was the motive? Supposed or real.

Can someone opine on this. I've never heard or conceived of a rational reason.


I'll bite.

1. Most if not all the FALN members referred to here received commutations of their sentences rather than pardons. Those who had their sentences commuted already served more than what would have been the typical sentences for the "vanilla" crimes they were convicted of: bank robbery, possession of illegal firearms and the like.

2. The reason they were still in prison was that they were convicted of an offense just one step below treason. The post above describes it as "seditious conspiracy."

3. The FALN nowadays comes from a different era when there were many other domestic terrorist groups waging war against the U.S. They no longer pose any kind of national security threat if they exist at all.

4. The U.S. has a long history of pardoning treasonous individuals once the U.S. has the opportunity to firmly claim victory and vanquish its opponents. See the Whiskey Rebellion or the post-bellum pardons of Confederates, for instance.

Note I'm not saying this is the actual justification for the commutation of prisoners' sentences, just that it is a possible justification.
1.12.2009 12:08am
Ricardo (mail):
My buddy in college once said something I'll never forget. The call for Puerto rico to become another state will get loud and overwhelming if it ever gets to the point where the Dems can't get any other Senate seats because of permanent political shifts.

The rich irony with this comment is that one of the most prominent lobbyists in the D.C. establishment pushing for Puerto Rican statehood is Ralph Reed. Yes, that Ralph Reed, former roommate of Jack Abramoff and former head of the Christian Coalition.
1.12.2009 12:26am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ricardo.
Thanks for biting. But we're talking about the Clintons here. The orthodox community in New York. Marc Rich. Neither of which were seditious treason persons whose cause had been justly and righteously overcome.
So it doesn't look as if you're right.
Did the FALN guys repent, or did they do a Bill Ayers? I know it makes no nevermind to fans of O and Clinton, but I'm curious.
1.12.2009 10:18am

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