1983 United States Senate bombing

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Coordinates: 38°53′24″N 77°00′32″W / 38.89°N 77.009°W / 38.89; -77.009

1983 United States Senate bombing
Part of the New Communist movement
United States Capitol - west front.jpg
LocationWashington, D.C.
DateNovember 7, 1983
10:58 pm (UTC-5)
TargetUnited States Senate
Attack type
bombing
Deaths0
Injuries
0
PerpetratorsResistance Conspiracy of the May 19th Communist Organization
MotiveUnited States military involvement in Grenada and Lebanon

The 1983 U.S. Senate bombing was a bomb explosion at the United States Senate on November 7, 1983, motivated by United States military involvement in Lebanon and Grenada. The effect of the attack led to heightened security in the DC metroplex, and the inaccessibility of certain parts of the Senate Building. Six members of the radical left-wing Resistance Conspiracy were arrested in May 1988 and charged with the bombing, as well as related bombings of Fort McNair and the Washington Navy Yard which occurred April 25, 1983, and April 20, 1984 respectively.

Bombing[edit]

In October 1983, the United States military invaded the socialist island nation of Grenada, and replaced the socialist government with the previous government under Governor-General Paul Scoon and Chairman of the Interim Advisory Council Nicholas Brathwaite, the country having been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. At the time, the invasion was supported by 64% of the US population. However, members of the left wing militant group, the Resistance Conspiracy, were perturbed. The invasion of Grenada, coupled with the October 1983 bombing of a United States Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, prompted the beginnings of a plan for the left-wing militants to take action. Members of the group felt the United States, led by President Ronald Reagan, had no business meddling in the affairs of Middle Eastern nations or small socialist island states. Thus it was decided to bring awareness to their ideals by bombing the US Senate on November 7, 1983.[1]

On that day, the Senate adjourned at 7:02 p.m. A crowded reception, held near the Senate Chamber, broke up two hours later. At 10:58 p.m., an explosion tore through the second floor of the Capitol's north wing; the adjacent halls were virtually deserted.[2]

Minutes before the blast, a caller claiming to represent the "Armed Resistance Unit" warned the Capitol switchboard that a bomb had been placed near the Chamber in retaliation for recent U.S. military involvement in Grenada[2] and Lebanon, in which the U.S. had placed Marines.[3]

The force of the device, hidden under a bench at the eastern end of the corridor outside the Chamber, blew off the door to the office of Democratic Leader Robert C. Byrd. Senator Byrd was an active supporter of involvement in Grenada, and had recently made attempts to garner support for retaliating against recent attacks against US marines stationed in Lebanon. His recent actions may have drawn attention from the terrorist group, and led to his targeting. Furthermore, the blast also punched a hole in a wall partition, sending a shower of pulverized brick, plaster, and glass into the Republican cloakroom. The explosion caused no structural damage to the Capitol. The force shattered mirrors, chandeliers, and furniture. Officials calculated damages of $250,000 (equivalent to $630,000 in 2018).[2]

A portrait of Daniel Webster which was located near the concealed bomb, received most of the force of the blast. The image of Webster's face was damaged, and canvas shards of it were strewn across the floor. Members of the Senate recovered fragments of the painting from debris-filled trash bins. A conservator worked for months to restore the painting to a semblance of the original.[2]

The November 1983 bombing occurred just three weeks after an earlier bombing attempt on the House Gallery. A young Israeli man by the name Israel Rubinovitch, threatened to detonate a bomb on his person upon entering the building. He was quickly apprehended, however, police stated that the bomb carried by the man would have detonated, had it not been improperly wired. Rubinovitch's actions were intended to bring awareness to world hunger, according to his court-appointed lawyer.[3]

Earlier in that year on April 25, 1983, a small bomb detonated at the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. A call coming into U.P.I (United Press International) in advance of the attack mentioned "US imperialism." The National War College is where American military officials get high-level training. Following the attack, it was immediately sealed off. Of the device causing the explosion, Col. Jamie Walton of the Army remarked that it ''appeared to be 5 to 10 pounds of unknown explosives detonated by some sort of timing device.'' Colonel Walton also reported no injuries were incurred, although there was superficial damage to the outside of the building.[4]

A year later, on April 24, 1984, the a group calling itself the Guerilla Resistance Movement took responsibility for a bombing at the Officer's Club at the Washington Navy Yard. Their reasons for the bombing were opposition to US policy in Central America and independence for Puerto Rico. The explosion at the officers club occurred at 1:50 A.M. An F.B.I. spokesman said it appeared to have been caused by a powerful bomb that was placed under a couch in an entryway to the club. The explosion blew out windows, knocked down part of a false ceiling and damaged the interior of the three-story, red-brick club building. There was nobody in the building at the time of the bombing and no one was injured. The effect of this bombing led to heightened focus on anti terrorism operations in the United States, and eventually led to the group's takedown four years later in 1988.[5]

Resistance Conspiracy[edit]

The group Resistance Conspiracy was a United States-based branch of the wider Communist organization known as, the May 19th Communist Order. This group existed from its first attack in 1976 until later attacks in 1985. Throughout the lifespan of the organization, twenty incidents of terror were committed including one fatality inflicted. Most of the incidents involved bombings and sabotage, however several also included scare tactics such as threats and the utilization of fake weapons.[6][better source needed]

The organization is also known as the Armed Resistance Unit, the Red Guerilla Resistance, and the Revolutionary Fighting Group.[7]

Aftermath[edit]

"Within minutes of the explosion, more than a dozen fire trucks and four ambulances raced up to the west front of the Capitol while officers with police dogs began combing the area for clues," according to the New York Times. Witnesses attested to a loud blast which they could hear, and smoke at the Capitol, which they could see.[3]

A group calling itself Armed Resistance Unit claimed responsibility for the bombing. The group mailed a recorded communique to National Public Radio stating, "We purposely aimed our attack at the institutions of imperialist rule rather than at individual members of the ruling class and government. We did not choose to kill any of them this time. But their lives are not sacred."[8]

After a five-year investigation, federal agents arrested six members of the Resistance Conspiracy, on May 12, 1988, and charged them with bombings of the Capitol, Fort McNair, and the Washington Navy Yard.[7] On December 7, 1990, Federal Judge Harold H. Greene sentenced Laura Whitehorn and Linda Evans to lengthy prison terms for conspiracy and malicious destruction of government property. The Court dropped charges against three co-defendants, who already served extended prison sentences for related crimes. Whitehorn was sentenced to 20 years; Evans, to 5 years, concurrent with 35 years for illegally buying guns.[9] On January 20, 2001, the day he left office, President Bill Clinton commuted Evans's sentence.[10]

The 1983 bombing marked the beginning of tightened security measures throughout the Capitol. The area outside the Senate Chamber, previously open to the public, was permanently closed. Congressional officials instituted a system of staff identification cards and added metal detectors to building entrances to supplement those placed at Chamber gallery.[citation needed]

While presenting the indictments, U.S. Atty. Jay B. Stephens offered the following words: "Let this be a warning to those who seek to influence the policies of the United States government through violence and terrorism that we will seek unrelentingly to bring them to justice. Those who attack our sacred institutions of government and seek to destroy the symbols of our democratic system ultimately will have to pay the price."[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "FLASHBACK: April 18, 1983: U.S. Embassy Attacked in Beirut — Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  2. ^ a b c d "November 7, 1983: Bomb Explodes in Capitol". United States Senate. Archived from the original on 22 February 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Pear, Robert; Times, Special to The New York (1983-11-08). "Bomb Explodes in Senate's Wing of Capitol; No Injuries Reported". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  4. ^ Upi (1983-04-27). "Small Bomb Explodes at War College". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  5. ^ Taubman, Philip; Times, Special to The New York (1984-04-21). "Terrorists Bomb Washington Club for Navy Officers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  6. ^ "May 19th Communist Order". Global Terrorism Database. Retrieved 2017-08-26.
  7. ^ a b Shenon, Philip (May 12, 1988). "U.S. Charges 7 In the Bombing At U.S. Capitol". The New York Times. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  8. ^ a b Ostrow, Daniel (1988-05-12). "7 Indicted in 1983 Bombing of U.S. Capitol". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  9. ^ "Radical Gets 20-Year Term in 1983 Bombing of U.S. Capitol". Associated Press. December 8, 1990. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  10. ^ Wong, Edward; Day, Sherri (January 21, 2001). "Former Terrorist Is Among Those Pardoned or Freed in Clinton's Final Acts in Office". The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2011.