Only days before President Obama’s inauguration in Jan., 2009, I was invited to testify at Eric Holder’s confirmation hearing regarding his engineering, as deputy attorney general, the infamous 1999 Clinton clemency grants to 16 unrepentant members of the Puerto Rican terror group, Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).
From 1974 to 1983, the Marxist FALN waged a bloody war against the United States that included more than 130 bombings, leaving five murdered and scores wounded. On Jan. 24, 1975, the FALN’s most deadly attack, the infamous lunchtime bombing of Fraunces Tavern, a New York City landmark, killed my father, Frank Connor, 33, and three other innocent men. It was the day we were to celebrate my brother’s 11th birthday, and my ninth.
An FALN communique took credit for the attack, calling it a blow against “reactionary corporate executives.” In fact, my dad was born to immigrants and raised in working-class Washington Heights, not far from many of the FALN terrorists and just across the river from the Bronx where Eric Holder was reared.
The FALN continued its reign of terror until the early 1980s, when 11 of its members were convicted of (among other serious felonies) weapons possession and seditious conspiracy. Their prison sentences ranged from 55 to 70 years. Our shattered family felt safer and that a semblance of justice for our father had been reached as these terrorists were essentially put away for life.
That is until 1999, when Eric Holder masterminded President Clinton’s clemency grants that were almost certainly intended to ingratiate carpetbagger and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with New York’s Hispanic community for her planned 2000 senate campaign.
These terrorists did not apply for clemency but had freedom thrust upon them by Mr. Holder and an administration that met with terror supporters a reported nine times, yet ignored victims and their families in violation of the Victims Rights and Restitutions Act.
Clemency was vehemently opposed by the FBI, police unions and the Bureau of Prisons, among others. The terrorists weren’t required to provide evidence for unsolved crimes as a condition for their freedom. The terrorists actually refused the nominal conditions of clemency and for 30 days were allowed to discuss the individual grants on conference calls between prisons. They ultimately left prison on Sept. 10, 1999.
Only days after his release, FALN member Ricardo Jimenez showed his astounding lack of contrition, telling Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” that my father died at Fraunces Tavern because “measures were not taken that were necessary by the people who owned those establishments.”
One of the FALN, Oscar Lopez Rivera was so unrepentant that he refused clemency and remains in prison today.
These are the people Mr. Holder and the Clintons unleashed on the American public.
Despite our warnings at congressional hearings about how releasing terrorists would only encourage more terrorism, two years later, our father’s godson, Steve Schlag, was murdered with 3,000 others in the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. I witnessed the explosions from my nearby office, having just commuted through the WTC.
At Mr. Holder’s 2009 Senate confirmation hearing, I wrote, “Holder clearly does not have the judgment, character or values to be attorney general.” By releasing terrorists, Mr. Holder played Russian roulette with the American people he was sworn to protect. He should have been disqualified from being attorney general for this act alone.
Anyone paying attention then would have drawn the same conclusion. Unfortunately, 19 of the 39 Republican and all of the Democratic senators were either too blind to see or unwilling to listen. Mr. Holder was overwhelmingly confirmed as attorney general.
Equally unfortunate is that my predictions came true. As attorney general, Mr. Holder played Russian roulette again; this time by arming narco-terrorists during Fast and Furious. Brave U.S. Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Brian Terry, and countless Mexican civilians lost his deadly game, paying with their lives.
Mr. Holder’s abysmal record as attorney general can be traced to his days under Mr. Clinton. His role in releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, his reckless approval of the trade of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban Five, his treatment of terrorists as ordinary criminals, and his lack of a demand for the return of terrorist fugitives, including FALN bombmaker William Morales from Cuba during the normalization process were all predictable when viewed through the lens of the FALN clemencies.
During his own Senate testimony, Mr. Holder set the tone for this administration’s lack of transparency and excuse of ignorance against the accusation of malfeasance by claiming he didn’t know the FALN terrorists were filmed building bombs by the FBI. He foreshadowed his coming arrogance by casually deeming the release of unrepentant terrorists as “reasonable.”
Sean Hannity asked me back in 2008 why Mr. Holder pushed for terror clemency even before Mrs. Clinton announced her Senate run.
I replied, “Maybe he just agreed with them.”
Some things never change.
• Joseph F. Connor is co-author of “The New Founders” (Dunham Books, 2012) and writes for WeWinAmerica.com.