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February 15, 2008

When will the various Clinton clemency scandals become a campaign issue?

The suggestion of a posible presidential pardon for Roger Clemens (basics here) has yet again caused justice, politics and clemency power to come into focus in a high-profile setting.  However, this long opinion piece from yesterday's Wall Street Journal, titled "The Clintons' Terror Pardons," has me wondering why the many ugly stories surrounding Bill Clinton's troublesome clemency record has not (yet) become a big campaign issue.  Here are snippets from the opinion piece, which is quite potent:

While the pardon scandals that marked Bill and Hillary Clinton's final days in office are remembered as transactions involving cronies, criminals and campaign contributors, the FALN clemencies of 1999 should be remembered in the context of the increasing threat of domestic and transnational terrorism that was ramping up during the Clinton years of alleged peace and prosperity....

It was within that context that the FBI gave its position on the FALN clemencies -- which the White House succeeded in keeping out of news coverage but ultimately failed to suppress -- stating that "the release of these individuals will psychologically and operationally enhance the ongoing violent and criminal activities of terrorist groups, not only in Puerto Rico, but throughout the world."  The White House spun the clemencies as a sign of the president's universal commitment to "peace and reconciliation" just one year after Osama bin Laden told his followers that the United States is a "paper tiger" that can be attacked with impunity.

It would be a mistake to dismiss as "old news" the story of how and why these terrorists were released in light of the fact that it took place during the precise period when Bill Clinton now claims he was avidly engaged, even "obsessed," with efforts to protect the public from clandestine terrorist attacks. If Bill and Hillary Clinton were willing to pander to the demands of local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights activists defending bomb-makers convicted of seditious conspiracy, how might they stand up to pressure from other interest groups working in less obvious ways against U.S. interests in a post-9/11 world?...

The FALN clemencies provide a disturbing example of how the abuse or misuse of presidential prerogative, under the guise of policy, can be put in service of the personal and private activities of the president's spouse -- and beyond the reach of meaningful congressional oversight.

February 15, 2008 at 08:06 AM | Permalink


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Doug, the reason is IOKIYAAD. "It's ok, if you are a Democrat."

Posted by: federalist | Feb 15, 2008 12:02:56 PM

“which the White House succeeded in keeping out of news coverage but ultimately failed to suppress”

This is sort of silly. I realize that this story is aimed at non-lawyers, and therefore its author isn’t trying that hard, but it is ridiculous to say that a “clemency” or “pardon” could be “suppressed.” This acts of the president are public. The only thing I learned from this story is that someone doesn’t like the president. (Because the audience is regarded as a bunch of childish idiots, there are no links to the underlying documents.)

Federalist’s comments are, as usual, political, but since he has admitted that he is not a lawyer, I understand why he says what he says.

Posted by: S.cotus | Feb 15, 2008 12:43:11 PM

I am not a lawyer either, so the following strategies for "suppressing" a pardon come to mind: grant it during a time when people are less likely to be watching news (4th July weekend, Christmas, etc.), grant it in a huge pile of additional pardons, grant it alongside pardons which are more likely to receive attention, provide no explanation and refuse to comment, punish reporters who pursue adittional information (cut off their access, skip over them at news conferences, forget to send them press releases, etc.), constantly badger and harrass anyone who expresses interest as being conspiratorial, partisan, biased, hate-filled, etc., do your best to make inquiring minds appear stupid or without proper focus on "more important" things ...

Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Feb 15, 2008 3:30:45 PM

Oh come on, do you really think that the government needs to not only announce things in public, but then hire a PR firm to time them so that every American knows about them?!?!?!?!?

The best we can hope for is a transparent government. We can’t expect to be spoon fed exactly what you want to hear. So, not only do you want the names of people pardoned to be released (fair enough), but you want them released on a day that people will care only about them, and then you want the pardons that you might object to highlighted!

The president is under no obligation to comment on pardons. He can pardon for any reason or no reason at all. In fact, the MORE he comments, the more a pardon seems like a political act, as he must tailor his comments to appease everyone. But, I leave the amount of comments that the president makes to his discretion. Likewise, there is no obligation to send press releases, but there is no indication that any effort was made to keep the names of people pardoned secret.

I don’t know if anyone being “badgered” and harassed for asking questions. I am sure that if someone felt that the constitutional rights were being violated, they would speak up in the form of a lawsuit. That didn’t happen.

I personally have no use for information on who the president pardons. However, I am very interested in much more arcane matters. So, part of me thinks that your demands are quite selfish. The government does far more important things.

Finally, I will never understand why the non-lawyers that plague our once great land think that every time a court (or executive agency) does something it doesn’t understand it is a “technicality” or “obscure.” For some reason, the media thinks that reliance on a Supreme Court case it never heard of is “obscure” when we, as lawyers, are charged with knowing every piece of authority that might bind our clients.

Posted by: S.cotus | Feb 19, 2008 10:05:17 AM

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