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Nothing to hide?

By Colin McCullough
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 20, 1999

By invoking executive privilege, President Clinton has gone against the wishes of Congress, members of the Department of Justice and local law enforcement officials.

He has a right to do this.

He has issued the conditional release of 16 convicted members of a terrorist organization.

He has a right to do this.

However, he should not do so; he should not attempt to cover up any documents pertaining to his decision when it flies so strongly in the face of public opinion.

If the President truly has nothing to hide, then we ask him to stop hiding it.

During the sixth investigation since he was elected to office, President Clinton has asserted his executive privilege and is refusing to release documents subpoenaed by Congress pertaining to his decision to grant clemency to 16 members of a violent Puerto Rican nationalist group. The group, the Armed Forces of National Liberation (better known by their Spanish acronym FALN) was responsible for 130 bombings that took place between 1974 and 1983 that killed 6 and left more than 70 injured.

Members of Congress (both Republican and Democratic) contend that the President has done so in an effort to pander to the Latino community in New York and gain support for his wife's expected run for senate from that state.

In an effort to get at the heart of the President's motives in this highly controversial decision, members of Congress have subpoenaed internal documents from the White House relating to the advising sessions conducted before the decision. One member, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has gone so far as to threaten subpoenas for members of the FBI, Bureau of Prisons and the Justice Department all the way up to the Attorney General.

In his defense, President Clinton's decision was in fact one that Hillary Clinton criticized in a public forum. That would lead one to believe his motives were not to curry favor with potential supporters in New York. President Clinton also has stated that the sentences administered to the members were extreme for the crime - one member was sentenced to 90 years in prison for possession of an unregistered firearm.

However, precedent is not in the President's favor.

The last time President Clinton invoked executive privilege, details of his cover-up of the Monica Lewinsky were the subject of controversy. It would make sense that the President would not want the details of this offense to go public. He had something to hide. Considering his reaction, we must ask, what is he hiding this time?

Clinton has also invoked executive privilege in previous instances, but with less public scrutiny. Instances involve documents pertaining to the firing of White House Travel Staff, a memo sent regarding US drug enforcement policy and U.S. policy towards Haiti. However, these decisions did not earn the same attention from the American public or Congress.

By Article II, Section II of the U.S. Constitution the President has the power to

"Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States." This has been done and is no longer the issue. The issue is determining the motives for his actions.

If President Clinton had justified his actions saying it was in the vital interests of the national security of the United States, there would be no need to pursue this issue any further.

Executive privilege serves a purpose when national security is at stake. However, in this instance, the national security of the U.S. is not at stake, and if it is, President Clinton has not said so. Therefore, there should be nothing to hide and no need to refuse subpoenas submitted by Congress.

Mr. President, the American public, your employers, have knocked on your door and asked you a question. You have responded by pretending you were not home and have ignored the request of your employers. It is time for you to accept responsibility for your actions and release documents pertaining to your controversial decision.

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