A House committee has subpoenaed all administration records related to President Clinton's decision to offer clemency to 16 Puerto Rican militants.
Subpoenas issued yesterday by the Government Reform Committee, headed by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ill.), seek records from the White House, the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also requested information from the Justice Department in anticipation of expected congressional hearings on the matter this month.
In a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, Hatch said he was troubled by published reports indicating the Justice Department did not make a formal recommendation to the White House on the clemency issue despite law enforcement officials' vigorous objections. He also said he was bothered by reports that there were Bureau of Prisons recordings of the inmates in which they plotted to use violence again.
"I would hope that, on a matter of such importance, the Department of Justice--and the attorney general in particular--would make its views known to the White House," Hatch wrote.
The Bureau of Prisons has declined to confirm or deny the existence of the audio tapes, but a spokesman did say that inmates' social calls are monitored routinely.
The Justice Department did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Clinton announced last month that he would commute the sentences of the 16 Puerto Rican nationalists if they disavowed the use of violence.
Most of the 16 are members of the FALN--the Spanish initials for Armed Forces of National Liberation--which carried out some 130 bomb attacks on political and military targets in the United States between 1974 and 1983. The attacks killed six people and wounded dozens more.
Human rights officials argued that the sentences--ranging from 15 years to 90 years in prison--were too harsh given that none of them was convicted of involvement in any deaths. Clinton offered freedom to 11 of the 16 prisoners and reductions in fines and sentences for the others.
Some Republicans accused Clinton of making the offer to boost first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's all-but-announced Senate candidacy from New York, home to nearly 1.3 million Puerto Ricans.
White House spokesman Jim Kennedy called that assertion "absolutely false" but said he could not comment on the subpoena itself.
Some Democrats also opposed the clemency. Among them is Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (N.Y.), said his chief of staff, Tony Bullock. Moynihan's seat is the one that Hillary Clinton may seek.