Posted on October 3, 1999


Common Criminals

FALN convicts are just plain folks


Daniel Clark


President Clinton has deservingly been roundly criticized for granting clemency to eleven members of the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation). This was a political move, his critics claim, designed to help his wife's prospective Senate campaign...or to sabotage it, allowing her to withdraw semi-gracefully rather than be trounced. These analyses are understandable, and possibly true, considering Clinton's history of vulgar manipulation of group identity politics, not to mention his insistence on conducting polls and focus groups on virtually everything, perhaps including the "boxers or briefs" question. More deeply disturbing, though, than the politics of this bizarre and dangerous decision, is the philosophy which underlies it.

Of course it's unsettling that a president might free a group of bomb-making seditionists in order to influence an election. Worse yet, however, is Clinton's relieving these actual terrorists of their justly issued punishment, while at the same time pushing anti-terrorism measures aimed at prevention. The message sent is that the culprit is not the terrorists themselves, but a society which is too free from the government's watchful eye.

Within days of Clinton's initial offer of clemency to the FALN, the FCC, in the name of fighting terrorism, radically expanded federal wiretapping regulations. Just a week earlier, the Justice Department had unveiled a proposed piece of legislation called the Cyberspace Electronic Security Act. This would allow law enforcement officers to secretly search citizens' personal computers, overriding passwords and encryption codes. While freedom is being granted to the FALN, it is incrementally being taken away from the general population. It appears to be this administration's approach that everybody is a potential terrorist, and actual terrorists are only potential terrorists over whom the government has lost control.

By now, Clinton's distrust of the American people is overwhelmingly evident. He won't agree to a tax cut because, as he told an audience in Buffalo the day after his State of the Union Address, we wouldn't spend our money the right way. He supports laws which assume that gun owners are, at worst, psychopathic, and at best, lethally stupid. He defends racial quotas, under the assumption that statistical under-representation can be the result of nothing other than epidemic bigotry. Not that he thinks any more highly of the minorities he is ostensibly helping. His 1993 crime bill sought to lure young black men away from crime by tempting them with basketballs.

It's no wonder Clinton habitually assumes the worst about people, because for decades he's been surrounding himself with the worst people. In a world where the McDougals are partners, cocaine dealer Dan Lasater is a valued friend, and international criminals drop by the White House for coffee, how good can anyone be?

Considering Clinton's bleak view of human nature, it's not surprising that he thinks the herd of miscreants he brought into his cabinet "looks like America." He probably even believes the "everybody does it" defenses his supporters offer for his various crimes and perversions.

If the public at large is as untrustworthy and amoral as Bill Clinton, then the FALN terrorists are just ordinary men and women. These people don't care how they get what they want, or how many people get injured along the way. That should be perfectly understandable to a lying, file-stealing, witness-tampering, intern-cigarring president. So, naturally, when it was suggested to him that their sentences may have been too harsh, he empathized. He was not as willing to be persuaded by the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons, both of whom fervently opposed the clemency.

It's not that Clinton wants more crimes to be committed. It's just that he seems convinced that one person is as likely a culprit as the next, and that since he can't jail everybody, he had to find an alternative.

Whenever a high-profile crime is committed with a gun, it is followed by a flurry of new proposals which would affect every owner, or prospective owner, of a firearm. No regard is given to whether any proposed law is at all relevant to the specific crime which inspired it. (The Brady Law, for example, could have done absolutely nothing to stop John Hinckley.) To Clintonites, this makes sense, because to them the guilty party is not Hinckley, or even Hinckley's gun. It is the sheer volume of privately owned guns which they perceive as simmering beneath America's surface like magma.

They look at terrorism the same way, except that, instead of guns, the offender in this case is freedom. Anyone who is able to obtain destructive materials, and to communicate with others in secret, is capable of doing what the FALN has done. The terrorists themselves are only one tentacle of the monster under the bed.

People are dangerous things. To a president who promises security to the American people during nearly every speech he delivers, those people's own freedom to communicate and act upon their thoughts is a formidable managerial problem.

Managing this problem requires a massive and multi-faceted plan, which the managers are unveiling piece by piece. All they require in order to implement it is the public's passive acceptance. That is one thing for which, as Bill Clinton knows from years of experience, he can trust us.



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