Below is the full interview I conducted exclusively for Red State over the weekend with Joseph Connor about Eric Holder’s role in expedited clemency for members of the FALN granted by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Joe is the son of Frank Connor who was murdered in 1975 by members of the Puerto Rican Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN). Eric Holder is President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to be the Attorney General and former Deputy Attorney General in the Bill Clinton Administration. Holder will be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee this Thursday, January 15 at 9:30 am.
Joe agreed to be interviewed about former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder’s role in those grants of clemency and recent reports from the Los Angeles Times that “As deputy attorney general in 1999, Holder -- now attorney general nominee -- pressed subordinates to drop objections to clemency for 16 members of violent Puerto Rican nationalist organizations.” The FALN has been linked too over 150 bombings and other activities that resulted in the death of at least six people and injuries to many others in a terrorist criminal spree that lasted from 1974 to 1983.
Even without connecting the dots between his involvement in the Marc Rich pardons, Chiquita Brands, Clarendon Limited settlement, and Elian Gonzalez, in my view, Holder's involvement in the FALN pardons should disqualify him on its own merit. Simply put, he actively pushed the release of unrepentant terrorists on the American people he was charged to protect. Holder clearly does not have the judgment, character or values to be Attorney General.
Brian Darling, Red State: Joseph, thanks for taking the time to be interviewed by Red State. Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to be the next Attorney General, suppressed a recommendation that President Bill Clinton not move forward with pardons for the Puerto Rican terrorist group the FALN in 1999. Your family was victimized by the terrorist acts of this group. Tell me about what happened to your dad and explain why Eric Holder has disqualified himself from being our nation's next Attorney General?
Joseph Connor: Thank you for allowing me to express my opinions on your fine web site. My goal is to make sure all the information about Mr. Holder is made available to the American public and senators put aside politics and look thoroughly and in good conscience at this man's record remembering that their constituents will know how they voted.
My father, 33 year old Frank T. Connor, was murdered in cold blood as he ate lunch with colleagues and clients in the heinous bombing of Fraunces Tavern on January 24, 1975. Survivors remember the bomber casually walking into the restaurant and placing the bomb strategically so it would inflict the most death. Just before its explosion it was inadvertently moved by a Fraunces worker which shifted the impact from the greater part of the dining room which saved many lives, but directly into the direction of my father's table. My father had been very excited to get home from work that night to celebrate my brother’s and my recent 11th and 9th birthdays with his young family. Instead, after my father’s funeral, mourners shared a dinner in our home that was meant for our birthday celebration.
In a communiqué found only a block from the Fraunces attack, the remorseless terrorists of the Puerto Rican Armed Forces for National Liberation (“FALN”) proudly claimed responsibility for the murder of our father and three others in unspeakably gruesome ways. One of his colleagues was decapitated; silverware from the table was lodged in the torsos of the others. They had intended to kill many more than the four innocent men whose lives were taken that day.
After members of the FALN were arrested, they threatened Judge Thomas McMillan's life during their Chicago trial. Carmen Valentine told the judge, “You are lucky that we cannot take you right now,” and called the judge a terrorist. Dylcia Pagan warned the courtroom: “All of you, I would advise you to watch your backs.” And Ida Rodriguez told the judge, “You say we have no remorse. You’re right. … Your jails and your long sentences will not frighten us.” These terrorists convinced McMillan that they would continue being terrorists “as long as you live. If there was a death penalty, I’d impose the penalty on you without hesitation.”
In 1999, 16 of these FALN and Los Macheteros terrorists received pardons from President Clinton, even though they remained unrepentant. Indeed, after 18 years in prison, Ricardo Jimenez explained to Tim Russert on Meet the Press, just days after his release, that people died at Fraunces Tavern because “measures were not taken that were necessary by the people who owned those establishments.” As I watched this surreal interview I thought, “My father was eating lunch in a crowded restaurant in New York City. What precautions should the owners have taken?”
Former assistant U.S. Attorney and FALN prosecutor Deborah Devaney wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 7, 1999: “I know the chilling evidence that convicted the petitioners… . [T]he White House spun the tale that Mr. Clinton was freeing only those who had harmed no one…I would like the Connor family to know that the American justice system did not fail them, the President did.”
My father was the only child of immigrants Thomas and Margaret born and raised in Washington Heights, NYC, a working-class section of Manhattan, his was a classic American success story. After High School in 1959 he attended City College and after many years of night school graduated from Farleigh Dickinson University in the early '70s. He worked his way from a clerical job out of High School to a successful career as an officer at the prestigious J.P. Morgan, where his proud Irish born mother worked nights as a cleaning lady. While many of his friends became police officers, firemen or worked the NYC transit, Frank had a safe office job on Wall St. Margaret and Tom could not have been more proud of their son.
Frank married Irish born Mary Anne Lynch in 1962 and had three sons, Tom (1964), Joe (1966) and Martin (1967). The young family endured tragedy when Martin died shortly after his birth just before Christmas 1967. Through the pain, Frank remained a devoted husband, son and proud and loving father to Tom and Joe. He loved playing sports with us, telling us stories about when he was a kid growing up in New York, and watching his beloved Football Giants. I only hope I can be as good a dad as he.
According to news reports in the LA Times, Hartford Courant, NY Daily News, NY Times and recently released memos, as Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Pardon Attorney during the end of the Clinton years, Eric Holder actively pushed for the release of these murderous terrorists. According to the LA Times of January 9, 2009, Holder ignored recommendations of the FBI, Bureau of Prisons, former Pardon Attorney, Margaret Love and even Janet Reno herself who warned about the danger of releasing unrepentant terrorists. He 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. After Pardon Attorney Roger Adams resisted, Holder's chief of staff instructed him to draft a neutral "options memo" instead. The options memo allowed Clinton to grant the commutations without appearing to go against the Justice Department's wishes, Adams and his predecessor, Margaret Colgate Love, said in their first public comments on the case.
Further, Holder reportedly met with supporters of FALN clemency nine times and ignored the victims and their families such as ours. This violated the victim's Rights and Restitution Act of 1990, a "responsible official" was to provide victims with the earliest possible notice of the release from custody of the offender. The law reads at 42 U.S.C. Section 10607(c)(5): "After trial a responsible official shall provide a victim the earliest possible notice of. . .release from custody of the offender.” My family read about the grant in the newspaper! Had the terrorists renounced violence and accepted clemency right away, they may actually have been out of jail before we ever learned of the offer. The Department of Justice did not require the requisite application from the terrorists. Instead Holder reportedly coached the terrorists to renounce violence to get around the fact they had not filed formal applications for clemency. Terrorists did not accept clemency for 30 days as they were so dedicated to their cause that they would not renounce violence or express remorse. During the 30 days, they were allowed unprecedented conference calls between prisons to decide on accepting the grants. Keep in mind, clemency is an individual grant, not a group grant, but unrepentant terrorists were inexplicably given this privilege. Terrorists were not conditioned to provide information that would have solved outstanding cases such as the Fraunces Tavern murders.
Darling, RS: Holder has an impressive resume -- former Deputy Attorney General under President Bill Clinton, Acting Attorney General for a short period for President Bush, U.S. Attorney and a federal judge. He is clearly qualified by virtue of his experience. How do you think the actions he has took to expedite a pardon for individuals who committed terrible acts of terrorism has disqualified him from being Attorney General?
Connor: Even without connecting the dots between his involvement in the Marc Rich pardons, Chiquita Brands, Clarendon Limited settlement, and Elian Gonzalez, in my view, Holder's involvement in the FALN pardons should disqualify him on its own merit. Simply put, he actively pushed the release of unrepentant terrorists on the American people he was charged to protect.
United States Attorneys Generals can neither be stooges to their president, releasing terrorists against their better judgment, nor can an Attorney General have such poor judgment and values as to unleash dedicated terrorists on the American people with no concern for the people.
According to recently released Justice Department memos, his office's main concern surrounded a public relations problem if these terrorist committed more crimes. His office did not mention any concern for victims of a future crime but incredibly public relations! “A significant public relations problem could arise if one or more of the prisoners granted clemency is charged with an additional crime…”
A US Attorney General is the top law enforcement officer in this country. His record shows, Holder clearly does not have the judgment, character or values to be Attorney General.
Darling, RS: If you were a Senator, what would you ask Eric Holder?
Connor: I have several specific questions I would ask of Mr. Holder:
- Why did he ignore the recommendations of the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the former Pardon Attorney, prosecutors and even his own Justice Department and championed the release of self proclaimed terrorists?
- How did his conscience feel when he released dangerous terrorists on the American public?
- Why Mr. Holder would want to be part of the most "transparent" administration when he has regularly hidden behind the cover of Executive Privilege when asked to explain his actions on the clemencies?
- Why Holder failed to contact victims or their families while meeting with supporters of the terrorists?
- Why Holder provided advise to the terrorists by coming up with the idea that they renounce violence?
- Why Holder allowed unprecedented conference calls between prisons?
- Why Holder did not require their provision of information to resolve unsolved crimes?
- Why was a new report done in 1999, superseding the Love report (that recommended against clemency)
- If not the FALN terrorists, which terrorists was Janet Reno referring to in her Sept 1999 report condemning the impending release of terrorists? Holder claimed in his very evasive testimony before the Judiciary Committee that it could not be the FALN terrorists because (in his logic twisting manner) they had renounced violence and therefore could not have been regarded as terrorists. However he never said, who if not the FALN, it could have been.
- As Attorney General would Holder view the detainees at Guantanamo Bay as he did the FALN terrorists and does he believe they should be released?
Darling, RS: Some will say that you have an axe to grind because you did not support Barack Obama’s candidacy. What would you say to your critics who would say that you are a Republican who is fighting for partisan reasons?
Connor: Great question. The first presidential election I was old enough to vote in was in 1984. I was a typical college kid and voted for Mondale. I may have tried to push this out of my mind but I think I voted for Dukakis in 1988. In 1992, I voted for Perot.
It was not until 1996 that I voted Republican. I was 30 years old, married, expecting our first child and realized that it was time to grow up and vote for people who understand how the world works; republican, or more precisely conservative.
I stiffly opposed the Clintons, Gore and Obama and supported Bush and McCain precisely because of their actions and beliefs, not because of the letter D or R after their names.
From the recent Democrats release of, and dangerous associations with terrorists and their irresponsible economic and social policies, there is no partisanship, just knowing right from wrong. The Republicans more closely match my beliefs and values.
Darling, RS: I have written for Human Events on the issue of Holder's hostility to the Second Amendment, his role in the Elian Gonzalez controversy, his relationship with impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and the pardon of Mark Rich. Of all the controversies surrounding Eric Holder, his role in suppressing dissent at the Department of Justice with regard to President Bill Clinton's pardons of FALN terrorists seems like the most important issue for the Senate Judiciary Committee to review this week. The L.A. Times reported last week that Holder pressured subordinates to suppress a memo that recommended against a pardon. Was this information a shock to you and what does this new revelation add to the controversy?
Connor: Nothing shocks me anymore. As a man who loves his country and demands the best from our elected officials, recent events in Washington have been discouraging. The politicians who caused the financial crisis by mandating who banks had to lend to will not take responsibility for their actions and now pretend that more government intervention will fix the problems. They are disingenuously using the financial crisis to push government control of more and more of our private sector. Government control over private business will be a socialist disaster.
The LA Times revelation confirms Holder's malfeasance and his dangerous lack of judgment. How can we ever trust him to look after the best interest of the American people? How do we know he will not be perusing his own pet agendas or is nothing more than a lackey specifically chosen for that reason by the president elect?
Darling, RS: I am of the opinion that partisanship is never ending in Washington, DC. President-elect Obama comes to the Executive Branch promising change, yet in the Senate and House we are seeing early evidence of partisanship. Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy has already said that the confirmation of Holder is a done deal. How, in good conscience, can any member of the Senate allow this nomination to go through if the allegations prove true that Holder forced through pardons, against the wishes of so many at the Justice Department and why did he do it? Was this at the direction of President Bill Clinton? Is he a partisan who would do anything for the President? If so, why would we expect that he would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for President Obama? I guess what I am trying to ask, is -- do you think there is one Senator who has the political courage to hammer Holder with tough questions to see why he advocated pardons for terrorists who were part of an organization that killed Americans, including your dad?
Connor: Seems to me many of our elected officials see their job as nothing more than getting re-elected. Therefore I would like the senators to understand that their constituents would not accept their rubber stamping Holder's confirmation. That is why it is so important to make the American people aware of what Holder has done, who the FALN was and, by his actions, the contempt Holder has shown for his fellow citizens by pushing their release.
I am firmly convinced that my fellow citizens, if properly informed, would demand that their senator thoroughly review Mr. Holder's record, put aside partisan politics and decide if this man, Eric Holder, who championed the release of unrepentant terrorists should be charged with protecting their children.
I think us ordinary Americans would agree, the answer is very clear.
Darling, RS: Thank you for your options and I hope the Senate Judiciary Committee gives you the opportunity to discuss many of these issues before the Committee this week.