LawFuel – Debra Burlingame is a former attorney and a director of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation. She is also the sister of Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, the pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, she chronicles the extraordinary pardon by President Bill Clinton, granted to 16 imprisoned members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, FALN (the Spanish acronym), during Congress’s summer recess. What began as a simple paragraph on the AP wire exploded into a major controversy.
FALN bragged about the bloodbath bombing in New York in 1982, calling the victims “reactionary corporate executives” and threatening: “You have unleashed a storm from which you comfortable Yankees can’t escape.” By 1996, the FBI had linked FALN to 146 bombings and a string of armed robberies — a reign of terror that resulted in nine deaths and hundreds of injured victims.
Clinton justified the clemencies by asserting that the sentences were disproportionate to the crimes. None of the petitioners, he stated, had been directly involved in crimes that caused bodily harm to anyone. “For me,” the president concluded, “the question, therefore, was whether their continuing incarceration served any meaningful purpose.”