Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a report from Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, titled, “The five-year interagency counterterrorism and technology crime plan,” in which she said that “the impending release from prison of members” of Puerto Rican terrorist groups, including the FALN, would ”
increase the present threat” of terrorism.
In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Oct. 20, Deputy Atty. Gen. Eric Holder denied that this statement referred to the same FALN terrorists whom President Clinton pardoned. The next day, he made the same denial to reporters. The Justice Department, however, has not been able to identify any other group of Puerto Rican terrorists who are about to be released.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R.-Ala: “Hasn’t Reno herself concluded in her report that releasing the terrorists would increase the likelihood of violence?”
Holder: “Well, I think given the terms under which these folks were released, which is where they had to indicate that they renounced violence, makes the report language that you cited, it seems to me, a little inapplicable….We should not read the attorney general’s statement in the five-year plan as indicating that the release of these prisoners, given the conditions upon which they were released, that that statement refers to those people, given those conditions.”
Sen. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa.: “… You have this issue of Puerto Rico still before the public …and you have an ongoing threat by this terrorist group and you have specific members being commuted, and that has to have an impact on the threat from that group. What’s wrong with that reasoning, Mr. Holder?”
Holder: “I do not think that the language, impending release from prison of members of these groups jailed for prior violence, quite frankly, refers to the people who we are talking about here today, that given the way in which they were released. Now, this is a document that has a date of September 1999 on it. I don’t know exactly when that language was prepared and I don’t know exactly…”
Specter: “Who cares? Who cares when it was prepared? If it’s issued in September of 1999, it’s issued after the fact.”
At Holder’s press conference the next day: Holder: “…What I was trying to tell the committee yesterday was that the attorney general’s report clearly did not refer to those people, given the fact that they have, as a condition of their release, renounced violence.”
Reporter: “Which one — which was it talking about? Who was about to be released?”
Holder: “Well, at that point they were talking about the possibility that people from among the other groups, the FALN, were going to be released over the next few years. As I talked to the people who prepared the report, they were talking about people over the next three or four years who might be getting out of prison.”
Reporter: “…Did you know by name any of the ones who that was apparently [referring to]?”
Holder: “I don’t know, no, I don’t know that. We might be able to get you some more information on that, but, I mean, you know, there were certain people who are due to be released, or who were at least eligible for parole, had a release date in the next, as I said, three, four years. I don’t know exactly who they were. Maybe — we might be able to get you that information.”
No information, however, has ever been produced by the department.