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
Capitol 1983 bombing damage.jpeg
LocationWashington, D.C.
DateNovember 7, 1983
10:58 pm (UTC-5)
TargetUnited States Senate
Attack type
bombing
Deaths0
Injured0
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 attack led to heightened security in the DC metropolitan area, 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.

Background[edit]

In October 1983, the United States invaded the island nation of Grenada and replaced the ruling New Jewel Movement with the previous parliamentary government at the behest of Governor-General Paul Scoon. The invasion began following the violent overthrow of the nation's first socialist leader, Maurice Bishop, due to a power struggle with his Deputy Prime Minister and subsequent mass demonstrations. The invasion, coupled with US participation in a peacekeeping force in Lebanon, prompted the left wing militant group Resistance Conspiracy to plan the Senate bombing as well as other similar attacks.[1]

Bombing[edit]

On November 7, 1983, 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 "Armed Resistance Unit" plotted to murder Henry Kissinger.[4]

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 U.S. 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 $640,000 in 2019).[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]

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.[5][better source needed]

The organization is also known as the Armed Resistance Unit, the Red Guerilla Resistance, and the Revolutionary Fighting Group.[6]

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 UPI in advance of the attack mentioned "U.S. 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.[7]

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 U.S. 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.[8]

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. 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."[9]

After a four and a half years 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.[6] 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.[10] On January 20, 2001, the day he left office, President Bill Clinton commuted Evans's sentence.[11]

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]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bomb explodes in U.S. Capitol, Nov. 7, 1983".
  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 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. ^ William Rosenau, The Dark History of America’s First Female Terrorist Group; The women of May 19th bombed the U.S. Capitol and plotted Henry Kissinger’s murder. But they’ve been long forgotten. May 3, 2020 Politico
  5. ^ "May 19th Communist Order". Global Terrorism Database. Retrieved 2017-08-26.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Upi (1983-04-27). "Small Bomb Explodes at War College". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Ostrow, Daniel (1988-05-12). "7 Indicted in 1983 Bombing of U.S. Capitol". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  10. ^ "Radical Gets 20-Year Term in 1983 Bombing of U.S. Capitol". Associated Press. December 8, 1990. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  11. ^ 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.