[sixties-l] Clinton's Radical Pardons

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Date: Mon Mar 05 2001 - 17:43:58 EST

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    Clinton's Radical Pardons
    FrontPageMagazine.com | March 5, 2001
    by Ronald Radosh
    URL: http://www.frontpagemag.com/columnists/radosh/2001/rr03-05-01p.htm

    WITH PARDONGATE IN FULL STEAM, the attention is continually, and
    appropriately, on the factors behind Bill Clinton's last-minute pardons.
    These include those of the exiled billionaire and tax evader Marc Rich;
    the pardons in upstate New York of four Hasidic Rabbis who stole money
    from the State of New York, and whose congregation all voted in the New
    York Senate election for Hillary Clinton; and on the pardons of Carlos
    Vignali, a major drug dealer, and Glen Braswell, a man convicted of mail
    fraud and perjury. Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham, was handsomely
    paid for his intervention on their behalf. But among the hundred-plus
    late-minute pardons signed by Bill Clinton before he left the White House
    were those of two 1960's radicals, unreconstructed advocates of
    revolutionary violence, Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg.

    Why did Clinton pardon them? In this case, both did not have benefactors
    giving large sums of money to Hillary's campaign, to the Democratic
    National Committee, or to the Clintons' personal legal defense fund. To
    date, I have not seen any investigative reports as to who recommended
    them, nor seen any comments from the former President as to what motivated
    him to grant these pardons. Let us look first at the record.

    Susan Rosenberg was a former member of the Weather Underground the
    extremist faction that emerged from Students for a Democratic Society in
    the 1960's. The group was the major exponent of revolutionary violence,
    which they sought to carry out in a joint effort with black radicals in
    the Black Panther Party. Rosenberg was arrested in New Jersey in 1984,
    after she and a companion were found unloading pounds of dynamite and
    weapons, and a submachine gun, from their auto. These weapons were to be
    used by a Weather Underground cell in planned bombings, the key "tactic"
    favored by these revolutionaries at the time. Rosenberg was indicted and
    found guilty by a jury, and sentenced to 58 years in prison.

    Among other crimes, Rosenberg was also accused in a nine-count indictment
    in 1982 of helping to engineer the 1979 prison escape of Black Liberation
    Army leader Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted of murder, assault,
    robbery and weapons charges in the May 2, 1973 murder of a New Jersey
    State Trooper, W. Foerster, and the wounding of another trooper while
    traveling on the New Jersey turnpike. Chesimard shot the second trooper,
    James Harper, as he was retreating to his police car. On November 2, 1979,
    Rosenberg helped Chesimard escape from a women's prison at which she was
    serving a life sentence, when visitors took a guard and prison driver
    hostage. Chesimard then managed to escape to Cuba, where Fidel Castro gave
    her sanctuary.

    Appearing last December on "60 Minutes," Rosenberg presented her case for
    a pardon to a national audience. Essentially, she argued that she was
    incarcerated for a crime she never committed ^ the 1981 Brinks robbery in
    Nanuet New York, in which two police officers and a security guard were
    murdered. At the time of her arrest, she had also been charged with
    planning to provide weapons for that robbery. But after her New Jersey
    conviction, Rudolph Giuliani, then US Attorney, dropped the charges as
    redundant since she had already been convicted and sentenced to a lengthy
    and severe sentence.

    Rosenberg, like so many other prisoners seeking parole, argues that she is
    a new and different person. A model prisoner with no charges against her
    by prison authorities, she was up for parole. After her hearing, the US
    Parole Commission refused to pardon her, citing her role in the Brinks
    robbery as grounds for continued incarceration. Her attorneys appealed
    their ruling to a US District Court, which ruled that she could legally be
    kept in prison for fifteen more years on the basis of the Brinks charges.
    What Rosenberg is doing is citing a legal technicality that Giuliani had
    dropped the charges to save the government the cost and time of a trial
    as the grounds on which she says the Parole Commission had no right to
    reject her appeal. Moreover, she also argues that she was only a political
    activist, and not part of the Weather Underground group that committed the
    murder. When she was indicted, Rosenberg went underground as a fugitive,
    and would have remained free had the FBI not caught her in 1984, when she
    and a revolutionary associate were found, once again, stashing explosives
    and guns. She is innocent, she claims. "I supported the right of oppressed
    people to armed struggle," she told the news show. "That didn't mean I did
    it." Of course, in her lexicon, armed struggle is itself not a crime;
    simply a tactic to be used by the oppressed, of which she obviously
    includes herself ^ a woman trapped in a hierarchical and patriarchal
    oppressive capitalist society. Therefore, even if she was guilty of
    supplying the Weather Underground Brinks terrorists with weapons by
    definition she would still say that she was not guilty. And as for the
    arms that government witnesses testified she had gathered for the Brinks
    job, she of course responds that those witnesses were lying.

    Then there is the question of remorse. Rosenberg argues that she has had a
    change of heart about using violence to reach her proclaimed objectives.
    The US Attorney's office, however, argued to the Parole Commission that
    "even if Susan Rosenberg now professes a change of heart... the wreckage
    she has left in her wake is too enormous to overlook." Except, of course,
    for Bill Clinton. The Parole Commission, in refusing to release her, noted
    that it was appropriate to consider information about the Brinks robbery,
    even though an indictment for that crime had been dropped, and it did not
    find her denial of involvement in the crime credible. In addition,
    relatives of the murdered officer have publicly asked that she not be
    released, since she had never expressed any remorse for the murders.

    As for Linda Evans, she too has record similar to Susan Rosenberg. Evans
    was once arrested in 1970 for conspiracy and crossing state lines to
    incite riot at SDS's so-called "Days of Rage" in Chicago, and for
    conspiracy and transportation of weapons and explosives in Detroit
    charges which were dropped because evidence was gained by illegal
    wiretaps. As her own biography puts it, "Linda began working to develop
    clandestine resistance capable of conducting armed struggle as part of a
    multi-level overall revolutionary strategy." She was again arrested in May
    of 1985 and charged with acquisition of weapons, using false ID's, and
    using safe houses and engaging in military training "to bring the war
    against US imperialism home to America." Her targets, proudly listed on
    one of her fan's websites, included the US Capitol building, the National
    War College, the Israeli Aircraft Industries, (she is also, of course,
    opposed to "zionism.") (sic) the FBI offices and the New York Patrolmen's
    Benevolent Association.Yet her forty-year sentence was also commuted by
    Bill Clinton in his last-minute pardon spree.

    Reading Evans' articles makes it clear that she too has not changed her
    views one bit. An article she co-authored on "The Prison Industrial
    Complex" contains such gems as that incarceration's public rationale "is
    the fight against crime," while its real purpose is "profit and social
    control." Just as "communists were demonized" in the 1950's, she writes,
    "the demonization of criminals serves a similar ideological purpose;" to
    justify "repression" of poor people "who commit nonviolent crimes "out of
    economic need." Her world view is one of an America in which one sees "the
    flight of capital in search of cheaper labor markets," a continued
    "downward plight of American workers," of a war against drugs in Latin
    America meant to create "social control" in the hemisphere to be used to
    stop land reform and to enforce "the transnational corporate agenda."

    Reading Evans is like perusing old copies of Ramparts or the Weather
    Underground's Prairie Fire, in which the "state's repressive apparatus"
    works around the clock to incarcerate poor people to prevent them from
    becoming revolutionaries. In a recent radio interview, Evans sounded like
    an unrepentant 60's revolutionary, who was proud to have beat the system
    and gained her freedom, despite not even having a bit of remorse for the
    terrorist activities for which she was convicted. Indeed, people like
    herself ^ she calls them "political leaders from the ^liberation
    struggle," are in prison because the state wants to rob oppressed
    communities of "radical political leadership which might lead an
    opposition movement." Written while in prison, Evans identified herself as
    a "north american (sic) anti-imperialist political prisoner."

    The question, then, is what motivated Bill Clinton to pardon these two
    self-proclaimed adherents of revolutionary violence, who pledge to use
    their regained freedom to carry on the struggle and provide the leadership
    they claim is missing. In these cases, there is no money trail to
    investigate no rich benefactors seeking favors. There were only two
    unreconstructed revolutionaries advocates of armed struggle who have
    shown no remorse for the lives of the working-class police officers that
    died as a result of Weather Underground terror.

    Finally, there is one other reason that a President can pardon an
    individual found guilty. That reason, as Charles Krauthammer has argued in
    his syndicated column of March 2, is to "assuage deep national rifts."
    Thus, the incoming Republican President Warren G. Harding pardoned
    Socialist Party leader Eugene V.Debs in 1920. Debs had been found guilty
    of violating the Espionage and Sedition Act, by openly opposing American
    intervention in World War I, by speaking to a rally in Canton, Ohio. Debs
    argued that he did so to prove that an unconstitutional law unjustly
    curtailed the exercise of free speech. Running for President from prison,
    he received over 1 million votes. Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic wartime
    President, had shown extreme vindictiveness towards Debs. The war was
    unpopular in many levels of American society, and a clemency campaign for
    Debs drew wide popular support. Harding, a conservative, released Debs.
    The Socialist's first stop as he left prison was the White House, where
    Harding received him. "We understand each other perfectly," Debs said of
    the new President.

    Debs was a true and legitimate political prisoner, imprisoned for
    expressing his ideas, openly and publicly. He engaged in no violent
    action; his only crime was to avail himself of his First Amendment rights.
    In this modern case, both Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans dare to call
    themselves "political prisoners," when in fact; they were arrested,
    indicted and tried not for their ideas loathsome as they may be but
    for their terrorist actions. Indeed, as they see things, and constantly
    reiterate in their articles and speeches, every radical in prison, from
    Mumia Abu-Jamal on down, is to them a political prisoner. The violence
    they are guilty of is justified on political grounds, and hence they do
    not see their actions as criminal. Moreover, there is no widespread
    movement for clemency for them, as there was for Debs in 1919. Their
    continued incarceration would hardly have been noticed by anyone, save
    their family and extreme radical friends. I have studied Eugene V. Debs,
    and to put it bluntly, Rosenberg and Evans are no Gene Debs!

    When Bill Clinton pardoned Puerto Rican terrorists last year, it was
    widely understood that the act was probably related to Hillary Clinton's
    forthcoming New York Senate race, and the hope that the pardons would gain
    her local New York Puerto Rican support. But in these two cases, no motive
    stares us in the face. Could it be that secretly, Bill Clinton in the
    depths of his heart, holds sympathy for these pathetic radicals as fellow
    anti-war comrades from the 60's, and that, in this final gesture, he has
    acted to show them solidarity, thinking that he is acting on behalf of
    ideals he too once held? Some journalist, at least, should also ask
    questions about these completely indefensible pardons.
    Ronald Radosh is a regular columnist and book reviewer for
    FrontPageMagazine.com. A former leftist and currently Professor Emeritus
    of History at City University of New York, Radosh has written many books,
    including The Rosenberg File (with Joyce Milton). His memoir Commies: A
    Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left is due
    out the first week in May, with the official publication date in June.

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