Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground bombmaker, celebrated Tuesday after his old Chicago friend Barack Obama commuted the federal prison sentence of Oscar López Rivera, another bombmaking terrorist.
Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in prison in 1981 on charges of seditious conspiracy, robbery, and transportation of firearms and explosives charges.
He was a member of the Marxist Puerto Rican nationalist group Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, or FALN. The group carried out around 130 bombings across the U.S. from the mid-1970s to early-1980s, killing six people and injuring dozens more.
FALN’s most notorious attack was carried out in 1975 at the Francous Tavern in Manhattan. Four people were killed in the bombing.
According to The New York Daily News, police found six pounds of dynamite and blasting caps in Rivera’s Chicago apartment when he was arrested in 1981. He was slapped with a separate 15 year sentence in 1988 after he plotted to use explosives to break out of jail in 1988.
Bill Clinton offered to grant clemency to Rivera along with 15 other FALN members in 1999, despite the group’s use of violence. Clinton said that he felt that the terrorists’ sentences were too harsh given their crimes. But Rivera refused to comply with one of Clinton’s conditions, which was to disavow the use of terrorism.
Rivera has since became a minor cause célèbre. Lin Manuel Miranda, the creator of the Broadway show “Hamilton,” has publicly called for his early prison release. Manuel Miranda rejoiced on Tuesday when Rivera’s commutation was announced.
It’s no surprise that Ayers is also celebrating Rivera’s release given that his radical group, the Weather Underground, also used bombs to advance a terrorist agenda.
In 1970, three Weather Underground members, including Ayers’ girlfriend at the time, Diane Oughton, were killed when a nail bomb they were building exploded in their New York City apartment.
That bomb was intended to be used at a dance for non-commissioned officers at Fort Dix, N.J.
Ayers took part in several bombings, including at the New York City police department in 1970, the U.S. Capitol Building in 1971 and the Pentagon a year later.
Ayers admitted to participating in bomb making in his 2001 autobiography, “Fugitive Days.” In a 2014 interview with Megyn Kelly, he said that the Weather Underground took part in just over 20 bombings.
“I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough,” Ayers told The New York Times in a 2001 interview. He later denied making the comments defending his bomb making.
Ayers became a fugitive of justice for several years after his Weather Underground days. The most serious charges against him were dropped because of improper investigative tactics.
He would go on to enter the world of academia and become a community activist in Chicago. It was in that world that he met a young Harvard Law School graduate named Barack Obama. The pair became friends in the 1990s and remained so through the 2000s. But Obama was forced to distance himself from the his retired bombmaking buddy during his 2008 presidential run.