In his invaluable history of the maniacal leftist terrorism of the 1970s, Bryan Burrough frankly characterizes FALN leader Oscar López Rivera as “the man behind the deadliest bombing campaign of the era.” That’s quite a distinction.
And the man remains unrepentant, as they say. He therefore escaped pardon by Slick William J. Clinton in the festival of corruption that accompanied his departure from office. Clinton pardoned 16 of the 18 FALN terrorists convicted in the group’s bombing campaigns; the other two convicted FALN members rejected Clinton’s offer of pardon. Debra Burlingame condemned these “terror pardons” in a superb 2008 Wall Street Journal column. They felt they had nothing for which to apologize.
Yesterday President Obama completed Clinton’s dirty work by commuting the sentence of López. The New York Times covers the story here. In a column arguing against the freeing of López, City Journal’s Matthew Hennessey has a much fuller account of López’s wrongdoing in the New York Daily News here and in the City Journal column here. Don’t miss Hennessey’s takedown.
Seven weeks after his capture on a routine traffic stop in Chicago in 1981, López went to trial on sedition charges in a courtroom filled with FALN supporters. Burrough recalls his trial:
The proceedings proved anticlimactic, ending in three days, Lopez made an opening statement claiming to be a prisoner of war, with a “deep respect for human life,” then sat in silence, refusing to participate. There was an audible gasp when [FALN member] Freddie Mendez took the stand. He admitted everything. In a closing statement Lopez denounced the trial as a “lie and a farce.” The jury took five hours to find him guilty.
“You are an unrehabilitated revolutionary,” the judge said. “There’s no point in giving you anything other than a heavy sentence. And with that he sentenced Lopez to fifty-five years in prison.
López was widely believed to have masterminded the horrific 1975 terrorist bombing of Fraunces Tavern by the FALN but, according to Burrough, the FBI was never able to gather anything beyond circumstantial evidence. That circumstantial evidence should certainly have weighed heavily against López’s pardon, along with his lack of remorse and his conviction for conspiracy to escape.
In his epilogue, Burrough gives the penultimate word in his history to Joseph Connor. On his ninth birthday Connor lost his father in the Fraunces Tavern bombing. Burrough notes that “what truly drives [Connor] ‘mental’ is the notion that modern terrorism on U.S. soil dates only far aback as the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. ‘That gets me every time,’ he says. ‘To think that America thinks none of this ever happened, that it’s not ever remembered, it’s astounding to me. You know, I blame the media. The media was more than happy to let all this go. These were not the kinds of terrorists the liberal media wanted us to remember, because they share a lot of the same values. They were terrorists. They were just the wrong brand. My father was murdered by the wrong politics. So they were let off the hook. That’s what we’re left with today, a soft view of these people, when they were as hardened as anybody. They were just terrorists. Flat-out terrorists.'”
Connor’s indictment of the media now extends perfectly to Barack Obama.
NOTE: The Times notes, and I should add, that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the Broadway musical Hamilton, celebrated on Twitter: “Sobbing with gratitude here in London. OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA IS COMING HOME. THANK YOU, @POTUS.”