Friday, November 30, 2007

The Flannigan Family Tragedy.

Amid the many tragic consequences of the Lockerbie disaster, there are some that are all too often forgotten amid the international politics, the webs of intelligence and the conflicting investigations; the people of Lockerbie themselves. Those who died in the small Scottish town, and those who were left to rebuild their houses and their lives.

In 2000, twelve years after the Pan Am bombing, there were those who's lives were irreversibly changed in 1988, and there were some still struggling to come to terms with the terrible night four days before Christmas. One such person was Stephen Flannigan, whose life changed, in a moment, beyond almost anyone's comprehension.

IT WAS 7pm on 21 December 1988, a wet and miserable winter evening. In the small Dumfriesshire market town of Lockerbie local people were looking forward to Christmas, some wrapping presents and others preparing their dinner. Fourteen-year-old Steven Flannigan had just braved the weather to go to a neighbour's house to set up his present of a new bicycle for his younger sister Joanne. His parents Kathleen and Thomas were also at home with his sister.

About 60 miles away, in Prestwick Airport's control tower, air traffic controller Alan Topp was watching his radar screen as Pan American Flight 103 from London to New York - the Clipper Maid of the Seas - crossed the Solway Firth. "Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance," First Officer Raymond Wagner said. It was the standard, normal request for aircraft about to cross the Atlantic.

Not a single person in the immediate area forgets where they were when their routine, pre-Christmas evening was transformed into a scene of unimaginable death and destruction. While Topp watched in disbelief as his radar screen showed the deterioration of the aircraft in dozens of bright green squares, the bulk of Pan Am 103 scored a direct hit on Lockerbie.

"The fire was falling down from the sky," said resident Jasmine Bell. "Everything was burning - the driveway, the lawn, the hedges, the rooftops." In seconds the quiet normality of Lockerbie, and all the Christmas preparation that was taking place, was shattered.

The aviation fuel exploded when the plane hit the ground sending what residents described as "an atomic mushroom" through the houses in the crescent. Many homes - along with the people inside - were vaporised. Another 21 homes were so badly damaged they had to be demolished. The giant fireball rose above the houses and moved towards the A74 Glasgow to Carlisle motorway, burning cars on the southbound carriageway.

Eleven residents of Lockerbie lost their lives when the plane hit. Steven Flannigan, who had taken his sister's new bicycle to a neighbour, looked out to see his house gone. Nothing of his parents, Katherine and Thomas, were ever found and his 10-year-old sister Joanne also died. The visit to his neighbour had saved Steven's life but suddenly left him an orphan.

Four members of one family, Jack and Rosalind Somerville, and their children Paul and Lynsey, who lived at number 15 Sherwood Crescent, were all killed instantly.

Steven Flannigan became known as the "Orphan of Lockerbie". He and his older brother David, who had been in Blackpool on the night of the bombing, won a $3.2 million settlement from Pan Am.

In 1993, David died at a hostel in Thailand.

Steven tried to make a go of things but in August 2000, on his 26th Birthday, he lay down on a railroad track in Wiltshire, England, and was killed by a train.

When Steven was finally laid to rest in a pretty Lockerbie graveyard, his remains joined those of his brother and sister. Had the bodies of his parents not been destroyed when Pan-Am 103 crashed into their terraced bungalow with the force of a meteorite on the night of 21 December 1988, his would be the last of five corpses in one grave. As it is, only two coffins had to be disturbed to make space for the last of the Flannigan clan.


From Dungeon To Talk Show Host

by Michael Brown. 28 May 1998.

A US District Judge has sentenced Lester K. Coleman, a witness in the Lockerbie disaster civil case, to time served and a $30,000 fine for five counts of perjury based on an affidavit he gave in the Pan Am case. Last week, Coleman, now a talk show host on WLXG in Lexington, Kentucky, retaliated with a $6.5 million damages lawsuit against the US prison service for his treatment during his time in jail awaiting trial.

Coleman had filed an affidavit in 1991 after fleeing to Sweden where he had been granted sanctuary on humanitarian grounds. He voluntarily returned to the US in 1996 and was immediately taken into custody. He is the only person in US legal history to be charged with perjury over an affidavit filed in a civil case.

Judge Thomas C. Platt had warned Coleman during sentencing : "If I hear you attacking the Government on your radio show, I shall take that very very seriously". Judge Platt also barred Coleman from speaking about his case on the radio programme. Coleman said after the sentencing : "Today was another episode in the saga of a five-year-old perjury case, based on a sever-year-old civil affidavit, over a ten-year-old air disaster. No American can ever give up free speech to preserve a judge's order."

Judge Platt said from the bench : "I want to send to send a message to all those in the beltway in Washington that perjury in a civil case is prosecuted, as this case shows." (Platt, a Nixon appointee, may have been challenging Pres. Clinton's supporters who claimed that perjury in a civil case is never prosecuted.)

Coleman, a former agent with the Defence Intelligence Agency, provoked controversy in the US and UK by claiming in 1992 that the Lockerbie tragedy, in which 270 people died, was caused by an American drug sting operation which went wrong. (Transcript of Coleman affidavit posted below this article.)

Coleman claimed that the DEA had been operating a number of Beirut-based sting operations, involving more than 130 paid informants, which allowed controlled deliveries of heroin from Lebanon to US airports. The goal was to arrest US-based drug gangs. Several informants had been given CIA 'asset' status in 1987 to lure a suspected terrorist out of Beirut aboard a yatch off the coast of Cyprus. The operation was codenamed Goldenrod.

[ Further reading on this particular operation, and an admission by the DEA, in court, that the drug sting was indeed operational, is detailed in this article - ]

This operation was co-ordinated by several key figures subsequently drafted in to deal with the bombing of Flight 103. Oliver 'Buck' Revel, Deputy Director of FBI, Vincent Cannistraro of the CIA's Rome Station and Michael T Hurley, the DEA attaché in Cyprus. Coleman suspected that it was Lebanese drug informants, adopted as CIA assets for the drug operation, who eventually provided Syria with the intelligence used to place the bomb aboard Pan Am 103.

Coleman claimed the DEA's drug operation had been infiltrated by Iranian financed and Syrian backed PLFP-GC, who had been ordered to avenge the shootdown by the US navy of a commercial Iranian flight (Iran Air 655) in July 1988, killing 290 people. Instead of placing the usual heroin on the flight, it was substituted for a suitcase containing explosives.

Coleman made the allegations in an affidavit to Pan Am during the airline's investigation into the tragedy. Pan Am had filed notice of legal action against the Government. Government attorneys balked at turning over classified documents claiming National Security reasons. The case was dismissed by then district Judge Thomas Platt in the Eastern District of New York for lack of evidence.

It was not until Coleman reiterated his allegations in a book, some two and a half years later, that the US government responded by accusing him of perjury. He became the first ever person to be charged with perjury over statements given in an affidavit in a civil case.

At the time "Trail of the Octopus" was published, Coleman and his family were already in Sweden having successfully applied for asylum. Coleman already had had the feeling that he had become a state target. His supporters claim that the charge of perjury was brought because he had dared to contradict the official US view that Libya was responsible for the bombing.

After six years in exile, in failing health and with the US pressing for his deportation, Coleman voluntarily returned home on 11 October 1996. He was held for five months, without bail, while a cancerous tumour the size of a golf ball, grew on his collar bone. Coleman repeatedly told his public defender, Abraham Clott, he needed medical care, but it was not until Vivian Shevitz agreed to take his case without fee that something was done.

Shevitz wrote to the Warden at Metropolitan Detention Centre on 13 January 1997, three months after Coleman's arrival : "I wrote on January 7th to suggest the need for immediate medical treatment for pre-trail detainee Lester K. Coleman. I visited Mr.Coleman yesterday and learned essentially nothing has been done. A painful growth on his chest is still apparently oozing. His t-shirt is covered with blood. Mr Coleman advised me that he was told on 23 December that it would take about two weeks for an operation. It has been longer than that and there is a need."

On January 21, Coleman was operated upon, returning the same day to jail. For 16 days, he received no further medical attention or assistance, and his wound became seriously infected. Shevitz wrote numerous letters to the court. Coleman was finally returned to hospital and Shevitz describes the visit in a letter : "It was not until Thursday 6 February that Mr Coleman was taken to see Dr Beaton at Downtown Hospital. While Dr Beaton refused to tell me directly about his reaction to Mr Coleman's condition, the two Special Deputy Marshals who accompanied Mr Coleman were willing to be forthcoming. (Despite their expressed
knowledge that the system expected their silence.)

Own Flynn is a Special Deputy Marshal who kindly spoke to me on the telephone on 7 February. He told me that when in the examination room with Mr Coleman, Dr Beaton, when first looking at the wound, said in substance :"Oh my God, look at this, this is criminal. This is appalling."

The doctor had warned Mr Coleman that, even that the wound was infected, he would have to remove the stitches from the original operation, and that would be painful.

Dr Beaton wrote : "This frankly is an outrage, as it relates to a man who is charged with no more than perjury in an affidavit in a civil case! Whether he 'jumped bail' or not in the past or another charge, hardly smacks of Jack the Ripper : he voluntarily returned and has no money, nor energy to go anywhere. He is sick with cancer and needs medical care and rest. He needs also to prepare his case at the same time."

After Shevitz's letter to the court charging the Justice department with malpractice and cruelty, Coleman was sent to suburban hospital to recover. It took round the clock treatment for 11 days to clear up the infection. While he was there he was seen by resident psychiatrist, Harvey Berman, clinical professor at New York Medical College.

Dr Berman later wrote to the court on 11 September 1997 : "Mr Lester Coleman is a patient under my care. He has been in treatment with me since 28 February. His diagnosis is major depression. His symptoms include sad moods, insomnia, lethargy, difficulty in concentrating, ruminations of hopelessness, frequent thoughts of death and nightmares of his time at the MDC earlier this year where he received sub-standard medical care. I believe the depression was
precipitated by the way he was treated there."

Dr Jim Swire, spokesman for the British relatives of the Lockerbie victims said he was disturbed at how the US authorities were treating Coleman. Swire wrote "The gross maltreatment of Coleman by the American authorities appears to fit a pattern of victimisation of people who challenge the official version that Libya was solely to blame for Lockerbie."

Shevitz's campaign to obtain Coleman's release on bail finally bore fruit when Assistant Attorney Alan Vickery agreed on 27 March 1998 that Coleman could be released into the custody of his daughter, living upstate New York. The terms included house arrest, wearing an electronic bracelet (tag), with no travel except to see a doctor and to court.

For the next six months Coleman remained confined, but it remained a level up from the ordeal at MDC. He had still not seen the family that he had left behind at Atlanta Airport over a year before.

Coleman and Shevitz began preparing to take on the Government, filing a host of discovery requests for classified documents, listed by file number and name. It was obvious from the detailed requests that Coleman's past relationship with US military intelligence was real. Shevitz, still representing Coleman without charge, filed her expenses with the court only to be denied her motion by Judge Platt.

Soon she was out of pocket almost $10,000. Towards the end of the summer, with not one shred of discovery from the Government, Shevitz reluctantly told Coleman she was forced to withdraw. His only alternative was public defender, Abraham Clott, the lawyer who had not even bothered to complain about Coleman's medical treatment for several months.

With Clott back, the case ground to a halt. Clott and his boss, Attorney-in-Charge, Thomas J Cancannon visited Coleman at his daughter's home on August 28 1998. From illness and prescribed drugs, Coleman has little recollection of that day, but did have the where-with-all to tape the meeting. Cancannon and Clott advised Coleman he could take advantage of the unusual Rule 11 (1)(e) - Deal, plead guilty and walk free - or continue to fight, be returned to jail and face two or three years litigation before Judge Platt. Even in Coleman's distorted state, the choice was clear. He had had enough.

Still, Coleman wrestled with the decision until the day before he walked into court. Clott called him on September 10. Coleman again recorded the conversation :

Coleman : I might just walk in there and disagree with the whole thing, I don't know, I might just do that.
Clott : If you do that, you'll be remanded and face two to three years....
Coleman : Oh, I don't think this will go away anytime soon...
Clott : Yes it will
Coleman : It will?
Clott : I am sure it will, after tomorrow.

The following morning, on 11 September 1998, advised he would never have his day in court, he stood before Judge Thomas C. Platt, and pleaded guilty to five counts of perjury based on the affidavit he gave in the Pan Am civil case nearly seven years earlier.

Within two days, he was on a plane to Palm Springs, California at the Government's expense, where he was joined by his wife and three children.

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Coleman Affidavit

Affidavit of Lester K. Coleman, being duly sworn, do hereby state as follows:
"(1) I am currently selfemployed as a freelance writer, editor, and security consultant. I am a United States citizen and am temporarily outside of the United States.
"(2) In November 1984, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) offered me a position in human intelligence operations in the Middle East. I was raised in the Middle East, where I lived in Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia. I speak three dialects of Arabic and some Farsi. I accepted the position and received training from the DIA. I was assigned to a Middle East intelligence unit.
"(3) Between February and September 1987, I was seconded by DIA to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Nicosia, Cyprus, reporting to the DEA Country Attache, Michael T. Hurley.
"(4) After a cover assignment in the United States, I was again seconded to the DEA in Nicosia, Cyprus, in early 1988.
"(5) During April and May 1988, I worked in the office of Euramae Trading Company, Ltd. in Nicosia, Cyprus, a DEA proprietary company. On or about May 29, 1988, because of my concern about poor security in the DEA operation in Cyprus, I returned to the United States, having previously obtained the concurrence of DIA.
"(6) During my two stints as a DIA covert intelligence officer seconded to the DEA in Nicosia, Cyprus, I became aware of the fact that DEA was using its proprietary company, Euramae Trading Company, Ltd. to sell computer software called PROMISE or PROMIS to the drug abuse control agencies of various countries in the Middle East, including Cyprus, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Turkey.
"(7) I personally witnessed the unpacking at the Nicosia, Cyprus, Police Force Narcotics Squad of boxes containing reels of computer tapes and computer hardware. The boxes bore the name and red logo of a Canadian corporation with the words `PROMISE' or `PROMIS' and `Ltd' in the company name.
"(8) The DEA objective in inducing the implementation of this computerized PROMIS[E] system in the drug abuse control agencies of the Middle East countries was to augment the drug control resources available to the United States Government by making it possible for the United States Government to access sensitive drug control law enforcement and intelligence files of these Middle East governments.
"(9) It is also my understanding that thirdparty funds were generally made available for the purchase of these computer software and hardware systems. One thirdparty funding source was the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control in Vienna, Austria.
"(10) As DEA Country Attache for Cyprus, Michael T. Hurley had overall responsibility for both the Euramae Trading Company, Ltd. and its initiative to sell PROMIS[E] computer systems to Middle East countries for drug abuse control.
"(11) In 1990, DEA reassigned Hurley to a DEA intelligence position in Washington State.
"(12) I became aware in 1991 that Michael Riconosciuto, known to me as a longtime CIA asset, was arrested in Washington State by DEA for the manufacturing of illegal chemical drugs. I had also become aware of the fact that Riconosciuto had made a sworn statement, prior to his arrest, about his participation in a covert U.S. intelligence initiative to sell Inslaw's PROMISE software to foreign governments.
"(13) In light of Hurley's personal involvement in the U.S. Government's covert intelligence initiative to sell PROMIS[E] software to foreign governments and his reassignment to a DEA intelligence position in Washington State in advance of the DEA's arrest of Riconosciuto, the arrest of Riconosciuto should be regarded as suspect. I do not believe that Hurley's posting to a drug intelligence position in Washington State in advance of Riconosciuto's arrest on drug charges is merely coincidental. Rather, the probability is that Hurley was reassigned to Washington State to manufacture a case against Riconosciuto in order to prevent Riconosciuto from becoming a credible witness about the U.S. Government's covert sale of the PROMIS software to foreign governments.
"(14) The investigative journalist Danny Casolaro contacted me in Europe on August 3, 1991. Mr. Casolaro had leads and hard information about things that I know about, including Department of Justice groups operating overseas, the sale of PROMIS[E] software by the U.S. Government to foreign governments, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the IranContra scandal. I subsequently learned of Mr. Casolaro's death in Martinsburg, West Virginia, one week later, on August 10, 1991. I contacted Inslaw in October 1991, after learning about Mr. Casolaro's death under suspicious circumstances."

Signed and sworn to before me this 10tht day of August, 1991.
Melissa J. Corbett. Notary Public. My Commission Expires: June 14th, 1994

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Inconvenient Truths by Hugh Miles

On 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was 38 minutes into its journey when it was blown up at 31,000 feet. The explosion was so powerful that the nose of the aircraft was torn clean off. Within three seconds of the bomb detonating, the cockpit, fuselage and No. 3 engine were falling separately out of the sky. It happened so quickly that no distress call was sent out and no oxygen masks deployed. With the cockpit gone, the fuselage depressurised instantly and the passengers in the rear section of the aircraft found themselves staring out into the Scottish night air. Anyone or anything not strapped down was whipped out of the plane; the change in air pressure made the passengers’ lungs expand to four times their normal volume and everyone lost consciousness. As the fuselage plummeted and the air pressure began to return to normal, some passengers came round, including the captain. A few survived all the way down, until they hit the ground. Rescuers found them clutching crucifixes, or holding hands, still strapped into their seats.

The fuselage of the plane landed on a row of family houses in the small Scottish town of Lockerbie. The impact was so powerful that the British Geological Survey registered a seismic event measuring 1.6 on the Richter scale. The wing section of the Boeing 747, loaded with enough fuel for a transatlantic flight, hit the ground at more than 500 miles an hour and exploded in a fireball that lit the sky. The cockpit, with the first-class section still attached, landed beside a church in the village of Tundergarth.

Over the next few days rescuers made a fingertip search of the crash site: 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 people on the ground had been killed. Bodies and debris were strewn along an 81-mile corridor of Scottish countryside. Ten thousand pieces of debris were retrieved; each was meticulously logged. Among the items recovered were the remains of a Samsonite suitcase, which investigators later established had been used to transport the bomb. The suitcase had contained clothes, clothes that were subsequently traced to the shop of a Maltese man called Tony Gauci. Gauci later became a key prosecution witness. Fragments of a circuit board and a Toshiba radio were also recovered and identified as parts of the bomb.

Twelve years later, on 31 January 2001, a panel of three Scottish judges convicted a former Libyan intelligence officer for mass murder at Lockerbie. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was tried at a specially convened court on a former US air force base near the Dutch town of Zeist. Under a special international arrangement, the court, which sat without a jury, was temporarily declared sovereign territory of the United Kingdom, under the jurisdiction of Scottish law.

Megrahi is still the only person to have been found guilty in connection with the attack. He was sentenced to 27 years in jail. His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, a fellow Libyan intelligence officer, was acquitted. Al-Megrahi was initially told that he would spend at least twenty years in prison, but the Crown, which was prosecuting, protested that this sentence was unduly lenient and petitioned the judges for a longer one. In 2003 the judges reconvened to rule that he must serve no less than 27 years before the parole board would consider his eligibility for release. Al-Megrahi’s defence team had already lodged an appeal against the conviction, but in March 2002 the guilty verdict was upheld.

From the outset the Lockerbie disaster has been marked by superlatives. The bombing was the deadliest terror attack on American civilians until 11 September 2001. It sparked Britain’s biggest ever criminal inquiry, led by its smallest police force, Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. It spelled the end of Pan Am, which never recovered from the damage to its reputation. The trial at Camp Zeist was the longest and – at a cost of £75 million – the most expensive in Scottish legal history. The appeal hearing was the first Scottish trial to be broadcast live on both television and the internet.

Lawyers, politicians, diplomats and relatives of Lockerbie victims now believe that the former Libyan intelligence officer is innocent. Robert Black QC, an emeritus professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University, was one of the architects of the original trial in Holland. He has closely followed developments since the disaster happened and in 2000 devised the non-jury trial system for the al-Megrahi case.

Even before the trial he was so sure the evidence against al-Megrahi would not stand up in court that he is on record as saying that a conviction would be impossible. When I asked how he feels about this remark now, Black replied: ‘I am still absolutely convinced that I am right. No reasonable tribunal, on the evidence heard at the original trial, should or could have convicted him and it is an absolute disgrace and outrage what the Scottish court did.’

Al-Megrahi lost his appeal in 2002, but under Scottish law he is entitled to a further legal review, to be conducted by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), an independent public body made up of senior police officers and lawyers. Its job is to re-examine cases where a miscarriage of justice may have occurred: it handles cases after the appeal process has been exhausted, and if it finds evidence that a miscarriage of justice may have taken place it refers the case to the High Court to be heard again. Al-Megrahi applied to the SCCRC for a review of his case in 2003 and the commission has been reinspecting evidence from the trial for the last four years. It will submit its findings at the end of June. It looks likely that the SCCRC will find that there is enough evidence to refer al-Megrahi’s case back to the appeal court. The Crown Office has already begun reinforcing its Lockerbie legal team in anticipation of a referral.

If al-Megrahi is granted a second appeal, it will, like the original trial, be held before a panel of Scottish judges, without a jury. This time the trial will take place in Scotland, and if the glacial pace of proceedings in the past is anything to go by, it will probably not be heard before the summer of 2008. Al-Megrahi’s defence team would be ready to launch an appeal in a matter of weeks, but the prosecution would be likely to delay the hearing for as long as possible. If an appeal takes place, al-Megrahi’s defence team will produce important evidence that was not available at the time of the first appeal, evidence that seems likely not only to exonerate al-Megrahi but to do so by pointing the finger of blame at the real perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing and revealing some inconvenient truths.

Even the judge who presided over the Lockerbie investigation and issued the 1991 arrest warrants for the two Libyans has cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. In an interview with the Sunday Times in October 2005, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, Scotland’s larger-than-life lord advocate from 1989 to 1992, questioned the reliability of the shopkeeper Tony Gauci, the prosecution’s star witness. ‘Gauci was not quite the full shilling. I think even his family would say [that he] was an apple short of a picnic. He was quite a tricky guy, I don’t think he was deliberately lying but if you asked him the same question three times he would just get irritated and refuse to answer.’ Lord Fraser made it clear that this did not mean he thought al-Megrahi was innocent. But he had presented Gauci as a reliable witness; he went on to become the heart of the prosecution’s case. Now he was casting doubt on the man who identified al-Megrahi.

Since al-Megrahi’s last appeal, many thousands of pages of reports, detailing freight and baggage movements in and out of Frankfurt airport, have been handed over to the defence. Largely in German and many handwritten, the papers were translated by the Crown at the taxpayer’s expense, but the Crown refused to share the translations with the defence and left it no time to commission its own. The Privy Council’s judicial committee, made up of law lords and senior judges, has declared that the Crown’s refusal to disclose this evidence is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. More damaging still, an unnamed senior British police officer – known to be a member of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), which implies that his rank is assistant chief constable or higher – has testfied to al-Megrahi’s defence team that crucial evidence at the trial was fabricated. If the SCCRC finds that the prosecution played foul, the Crown may decide it would be better not to continue with its case, allowing al-Megrahi to be freed immediately.

This anonymous senior officer’s testimony chimes with the well-trodden theory that the American government had a hand in fixing the trial. Hans Köchler, the UN observer at Camp Zeist, reported at the time that the trial was politically charged and the verdict ‘totally incomprehensible’.

In his report Köchler wrote that he found the presence of US Justice Department representatives in the court ‘highly problematic’, because it gave the impression that they were ‘“supervisors” handling vital matters of the prosecution strategy and deciding . . . which documents . . . were to be released in open court and what parts of information contained in a certain document were to be withheld.’ ‘The alternative theory of the defence,’ he went on, ‘was never seriously investigated. Amid shrouds of secrecy and national security considerations, that avenue was never seriously pursued – although it was officially declared as being of major importance for the defence case. This is totally incomprehensible to any rational observer.’ The prosecution, Köchler noted, dismissed evidence on the grounds that it was not relevant; but now that that evidence has finally – partially – been released, it turns out to be very relevant indeed: to the defence.

Whatever happens, al-Megrahi may not have to wait long. As soon as a further appeal is scheduled, he can make an application to be released from custody: the convicted Lockerbie bomber, who was supposed to serve no fewer than 27 years in a Scottish jail, might well be free this summer. Whether al-Megrahi is freed pending his appeal – and what conditions would be applied if he were – depends largely on whether his defence team can convince the judge that he is not a flight risk. This may be hard to do. The judge might decide that if he left the country, he might choose to stay in Libya rather than come back next year for another round in court. If al-Megrahi is exonerated, many tricky questions will resurface, not least what to do about the $2.7 billion compensation paid by Libya to the relatives of the victims of the bombing. And then, of course, there is the question of who really bombed Flight 103.

In the first three years following the bombing, before a shred of evidence had been produced to incriminate Libya, the Dumfries and Galloway police, the FBI and several other intelligence services around the world all shared the belief that the Lockerbie bombers belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC), a Palestinian rejectionist organisation backed by Iran. The PFLP-GC is headed by Ahmed Jibril, a former Syrian army captain; its headquarters are in Damascus and it is closely allied with the Syrian president and other senior Syrian officials. In the 1970s and 1980s the PFLP-GC carried out a number of raids against Israel, including a novel hang-glider assault launched from inside Lebanon. Lawyers, intelligence services and diplomats around the world continue to suspect that Jibril – who has even boasted that he is responsible – was behind Lockerbie.

The case against Jibril and his gang is well established. It runs like this: in July 1988, five months before the Lockerbie bombing, a US naval commander aboard USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian airbus, apparently mistaking it for an attacker. On board Iran Air Flight 655 were 270 pilgrims en route to Mecca. Ayatollah Khomeini vowed the skies would ‘rain blood’ in revenge and offered a $10 million reward to anyone who ‘obtained justice’ for Iran. The suggestion is that the PFLP-GC was commissioned to undertake a retaliatory bombing.

We know at least that two months before Lockerbie, a PFLP-GC cell was active in the Frankfurt and Neuss areas of West Germany. On 26 October 1998, German police arrested 17 terrorist suspects who, surveillance showed, had cased Frankfurt airport and browsed Pan Am flight timetables. Four Semtex-based explosive devices were confiscated; a fifth is known to have gone missing. They were concealed inside Toshiba radios very similar to the one found at Lockerbie a few weeks later. One of the gang, a Palestinian known as Abu Talb, was later found to have a calendar in his flat in Sweden with the date of 21 December circled. New evidence, now in the hands of al-Megrahi’s defence, proves for the first time that Abu Talb was in Malta when the Lockerbie bombing took place. The Maltese man whose testimony convicted al-Megrahi has also identified Abu Talb. During al-Megrahi’s trial Abu Talb had a strange role. As part of a defence available in Scottish law, known as ‘incrimination’, Abu Talb was named as someone who – rather than the accused – might have carried out the bombing. At the time he was serving a life sentence in Sweden for the bombing of a synagogue, but he was summoned to Camp Zeist to give evidence. He ended up testifying as a prosecution witness, denying that he had anything to do with Lockerbie. In exchange for his testimony, he received lifelong immunity from prosecution.
Other evidence has emerged showing that the bomb could have been placed on the plane at Frankfurt airport, a possibility that the prosecution in al-Megrahi’s trial consistently ruled out (their case depended on the suitcase containing the bomb having been transferred from a connecting flight from Malta). Most significantly, German federal police have provided financial records showing that on 23 December 1988, two days after the bombing, the Iranian government deposited £5.9 million into a Swiss bank account that belonged to the arrested members of the PFLP-GC.
The decision to steer the investigation away from the PFLP-GC and in the direction of Libya came in the run-up to the first Gulf War, as America was looking to rally a coalition to liberate Kuwait and was calling for support from Iran and Syria. Syria subsequently joined the UN forces. Quietly, the evidence incriminating Jibril, so painstakingly sifted from the debris, was binned.
Those who continued to press the case against the PFLP-GC seemed to fall foul of American law. When a New York corporate investigative company asked to look into the bombing on behalf of Pan Am found the PFLP-GC responsible, the federal government promptly indicted the company’s president, Juval Aviv, for mail fraud. Lester Coleman, a former Defense Intelligence Agency operative who was researching a book about the PFLP-GC and Lockerbie, was charged by the FBI with ‘falsely procuring a passport’. William Casey, a lobbyist who made similar allegations in 1995, found his bank accounts frozen and federal agents searching through his trash. Even so, documents leaked from the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 1995, two years after the Libyans were first identified as the prime suspects, still blamed the PFLP-GC.
Suspicions and conspiracy theories have swirled around Lockerbie from the beginning. Some of them are fairly outlandish. In Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse (2005), Brigid Keenan, the wife of the British diplomat Alan Waddams, reported that over dinner in Gambia, a former Interpol agent told her and her husband that the bombing had been a revenge attack by Iran, in retaliation for the downed airliner (though she didn’t say how he knew this). The Interpol agent claimed the cargo had not been checked because the plane was carrying drugs as part of a deal over American hostages held by Hizbullah in Beirut. Militant groups were being allowed to smuggle heroin into the US in exchange for information; the bomb had gone on board when the PFLP-GC found a loophole in this drug-running operation.
At least four US intelligence officers, including the CIA’s deputy station chief in Beirut, were on the Flight 103 passenger list. In the days following the bombing, CIA agents scoured the Scottish countryside, some reportedly dressed in Pan Am overalls. Mary Boylan, then a constable with Lothian and Borders police, has said that senior police officers told her not to make an official record of the CIA badge she recovered from the wreckage, asking her instead to hand it over to a senior colleague. Her testimony, too, is now in the hands of the SCCRC. Jim Wilson, a farmer from the village of Tundergarth, reported shortly after the bombing that he had found in his field a suitcase packed with a powdery substance that looked ‘like drugs’. He last saw the suitcase when he handed it over to the police, he said; he was never asked about it again.

In December 1998, Susan Lindauer, a US congressional aide, submitted a sworn deposition to the court in which she claimed that Richard Fuisz, a CIA agent, had given her a guarantee that he knew who was behind the Lockerbie bombing. Lindauer’s affidavit describes a conversation in Fuisz’s ‘business office’ in Chantilly, Virginia, in which he said he knew for sure the perpetrators were based in Syria. ‘Dr Fuisz has told me that he can identify who orchestrated and executed the bombing. Dr Fuisz has said that he can confirm absolutely that no Libyan national was involved in planning or executing the bombing of Pan Am 103, either in any technical or advisory capacity whatsoever.’ ‘If the government would let me, I could identify the men behind this attack,’ Lindauer says Fuisz told her.

Lindauer has since been accused by the US government of being an Iraqi agent; her case is pending. But her earlier deposition has been submitted to the SCCRC. It can’t count for much, however, since Fuisz himself is not able to comment. In October 1994, a month after Lindauer spoke to him, Fuisz was gagged by a Washington court. The US government ruled that under state secrecy laws he faced ten years in prison if he spoke about the Lockerbie bombing. UN observers have since criticised this apparent restraint of a key witness.

When Libya handed al-Megrahi over for trial, sanctions on Libya authorised by the Security Council were suspended and diplomatic relations with Britain restored. Tony Blair claims the Libyan detente was one of his most important foreign policy victories, and last month, as the long shadow began to fall across his premiership, Blair swung by Tripoli to meet again with Libya’s leader. Gaddafi has always contested that al-Megrahi is not the Lockerbie bomber and that he should be allowed to return home. Maybe the two leaders touched on the prickly topic of what should be done about the compensation paid by Libya, in the event al-Megrahi is exonerated.

When al-Megrahi was handed over for trial, Libya declared that it would accept responsibility for his actions. But it never accepted guilt. This distinction was spelled out clearly in Libyan letters to the UN Security Council. In a BBC radio interview in 2004, the Libyan prime minister, Shukri Ghanem, underlined once again that compensation had been paid because this was the ‘price for peace’ and to secure the lifting of sanctions. When asked if Libya did not accept guilt, he said: ‘I agree with that.’

If the court that convicted al-Megrahi now reverses its decision, then Libya would clearly have a case for demanding its money back. Since recovering the compensation from the relatives would be unthinkable, it is more likely Libya would pursue those responsible for the miscarriage of justice. ‘What they might try to do,’ Black suggests, ‘is to recoup the money from the British and American governments, who after all are responsible for the initial farce and the wrongful conviction in the first place. They paid that money on the basis of a miscarriage of justice perpetrated by the British courts.’ Al-Megrahi’s acquittal on appeal would not ipso facto make a compelling case for Libya to have its money back: even if guilt can’t be proved beyond reasonable doubt – the test of the criminal burden of proof – it could still be shown that it was more likely than not (which is the burden applied to civil cases such as compensation cases).

If Libya paid the money for purely political reasons then, one could argue, it might have to live with that decision. When I asked the Foreign Office whether Britain would consider reimbursing Libya in the event of al-Megrahi’s exoneration, a spokesman declined to comment.

If al-Megrahi is acquitted, he will also have the right to sue for wrongful conviction. He could claim compensation to the tune of several tens of thousands of pounds. The Crown Office, which is headed by the Scottish lord advocate, is responsible for what happened, which means that al-Megrahi would sue the Scottish Executive. The lord advocate is now one of the ‘Scottish ministers’, whereas previously he – now she – was one of the law officers of the UK Government. The Scottish Executive might refuse to pay, blaming Westminster. Westminster, meanwhile, would argue that Lockerbie is and always has been a Crown Office matter and that the UK government has no say. A political storm is on its way, especially now that the SNP is in charge in Scotland.

Since the case against al-Megrahi was so weak, it is hard to understand how the judges who presided over the trial could have got it so wrong. Black has a view:
It has been suggested to me, very often by Libyans, that political pressure was placed upon the judges. I don’t think for a minute that political pressure of that nature was placed on the judges. What happened, I think, was that it was internal politics in Scotland. Prosecutions in Scotland are brought by the lord advocate. Until just a few years ago, one of the other functions of the lord advocate in Scotland was that he appointed all Scottish judges. I think what influenced these judges was that they thought that if both of the Libyans accused are found not guilty, this will be the most fiendish embarrassment to the lord advocate.

The appointment system for judges has changed since the trial, but another controversial aspect of the al-Megrahi case may also be re-examined: the policies on disclosure. Compared to almost any other similar criminal justice system, Scotland does not have a proper system of disclosure of information. In England and Wales, the Crown has to disclose all material to the defence, according to rules set out in statute. In Scotland the Crown is allowed to modify or withhold evidence if it considers that withholding is in the ‘public interest’. At least the Scottish criminal justice system doesn’t have the death penalty.

Hugh Miles has lived in Libya, Egypt and Yemen. He works in London.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Why Did They Die?

Taken from a Time magazine article of 1992 by ROY ROWAN:

"FOR THREE YEARS, I've had a feeling that if Chuck hadn't been on that plane, it wouldn't have been bombed," says Beulah McKee, 75.

Her bitterness has still not subsided. But seated in the parlor of her house in Trafford, Pennsylvania, the house where her son was born 43 years ago, she struggles to speak serenely. "I know that's not what our President wants me to say," she admits.

George Bush's letter of condolence, written almost four months after the shattered remains of Pan Am Flight 103 fell on Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, expressed the usual "my heart goes out to you" sorrow. "No action by this government can restore the loss you have suffered," he concluded.
But deep inside, Mrs. McKee suspects it was a government action gone horribly awry that indirectly led to her only son's death. "I've never been satisfied at ( all by what the people in Washington told me," she says.

Today, as the U.S. spearheads the U.N.-sanctioned embargo against Libya for not handing over two suspects in the bombing, Mrs. McKee wonders if Chuck's background contains the secret of why this plane was targeted. If her suspicions are correct, Washington may not be telling the entire story. Major Charles Dennis McKee, called "Tiny" by his Army intelligence friends, was a burly giant and a superstar in just about every kind of commando training offered to American military personnel. He completed the rugged Airborne and Ranger schools, graduated first in his class from the Special Forces qualification course, and served with the Green Berets. In Beirut he was identified merely as a military attache assigned to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). But his hulking physique didn't fit such a low- profile diplomatic post. Friends there remember him as a "walking arsenal" of guns and knives. His real assignment reportedly was to work with the CIA in reconnoitering the American hostages in Lebanon and then, if feasible, to lead a daring raid that would rescue them.

McKee's thick, 37-page Army dossier contains so many blacked-out words that it's hard to glean the danger he faced. Surviving the censor's ink was his title, "Team Chief." Under "Evaluation," it was written that he "performs constantly in the highest-stress environment with clear operational judgment and demeanor . . . Especially strong in accomplishing the mission with minimal guidance and supervision . . . Continues to perform one of the most hazardous and demanding jobs in the Army."

For Beulah McKee the mystery deepened six months after Chuck's death, when she received a letter from another U.S. agent in Beirut. It was signed "John Carpenter," a name the Pentagon says it can't further identify. Although the letter claimed that Chuck's presence on the Pan Am plane was unrelated to the bombing, Carpenter's message only stirred her suspicions. "I cannot comment on Chuck's work," he wrote, "because his work lives on. God willing, in time his labors will bear fruit and you will learn the true story of his heroism and courage."

Chuck had given no clues about his work. Back home in November for Thanksgiving three weeks before he perished, he wouldn't even see his friends. "I don't want to mingle, so I don't have to answer any questions," he told his mother. "Anyway, he didn't have time," she recalls. "He stayed up till 3 every morning studying reports. And when he flew back to Beirut, all he said was, 'Don't worry, Mom. Soon I'll be out from under all this pressure.' "

Almost immediately after the Pan Am bombing, which killed the 259 people aboard the plane and 11 more on the ground, the prime suspect was Ahmed Jibril, the roly-poly boss of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (P.F.L.P.-G.C.). Two months earlier, West German police had arrested 16 members of his terrorist organization. Seized during the raids was a plastic bomb concealed in a Toshiba cassette player, similar to the one that blew up Flight 103. There was other evidence pointing to Jibril. His patron was Syria. His banker for the attack on the Pan Am plane appeared to be Iran. U.S. intelligence agents even traced a wire transfer of several million dollars to a bank account in Vienna belonging to the P.F.L.P.-G.C. Iran's motive seemed obvious enough. The previous July, the U.S.S. Vincennes had mistakenly shot down an Iranian Airbus over the Persian Gulf, killing all 298 aboard.
Suddenly, last November, the U.S. Justice Department blamed the bombing on two Libyans, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah. The scenario prompted President Bush to remark, "The Syrians took a bum rap on this." It also triggered an outcry from the victims' families, who claimed that pointing the finger at Libya was a political ploy designed to reward Syria for siding with the U.S. in the gulf war and to help win the release of the hostages. Even Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA's investigation of the bombing, told the New York Times it was "outrageous" to pin the whole thing on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
A four-month investigation by Time has disclosed evidence that raises new questions about the case.
Among the discoveries:
-- According to an FBI field report from Germany, the suitcase originating in Malta that supposedly contained the bomb may not have been transferred to Pan Am Flight 103 in Frankfurt, as charged in the indictment of the two Libyans. Instead, the bomb-laden bag may have been substituted in Frankfurt for an innocent piece of luggage.

-- The rogue bag may have been placed on board the plane by Jibril's group with the help of Monzer al-Kassar, a Syrian drug dealer who was cooperating with the U.S.'s Drug Enforcement Administration in a drug sting operation. Al- Kassar thus may have been playing both sides of the fence.

-- Jibril and his group may have targeted that flight because on board was an intelligence team led by Charles McKee, whose job was to find and rescue the hostages.

Investigators initially focused their efforts on examining the procedures in the baggage-loading area at Frankfurt's international airport. But risking the transfer of an unaccompanied, bomb-laden suitcase to a connecting flight did not jibe with the precautions terrorists usually take. Security officers using video cameras routinely keep watch over the area. An intricate network of computerized conveyors, the most sophisticated baggage-transfer system in the world, shunts some 60,000 suitcases a day between loading bays.
Every piece of luggage is logged minute by minute from one position to the next, so its journey through the airport is carefully monitored. The bags are then X-rayed by the airline before being put aboard a plane.

But the U.S. government's charges against al-Megrahi and Fhimah don't explain how the bronze-colored Samsonite suitcase, dispatched via Air Malta, eluded Frankfurt's elaborate airport security system. Instead, the indictment zeroes in on two tiny pieces of forensic evidence -- a fingernail-size fragment of green plastic from a Swiss digital timer, and a charred piece of shirt.

Even though investigators previously thought the bomb was probably detonated by a barometric trigger (considered much more reliable, especially in winter, when flights are frequently delayed and connections missed), a Swiss timer was traced to Libya. The shirt, which presumably had been wrapped around the bomb inside the suitcase, was traced to a boutique in Malta called Mary's House. The owner identified al-Megrahi as the shirt's purchaser, although he originally confused al-Megrahi with a Palestinian terrorist arrested in Sweden.

It was the computer printout produced by FAG, the German company that operates the sophisticated luggage-transfer system, that finally nailed down the indictment of the two Libyans. The printout, discovered months after the bombing, purportedly proved that their suitcase sent from Malta was logged in at Coding Station 206 shortly after 1 p.m. and then routed to Gate 44 in Terminal B, where it was put aboard the Pan Am jet. But a "priority" teletype sent from the U.S. embassy in Bonn to the FBI director in Washington on Oct. 23, 1989, reveals that despite the detailed computer records, considerable uncertainty surrounded the movement of this suitcase.

TIME has obtained a copy of the five-page FBI message, which states, "This computer entry does not indicate the origin of the bag which was sent for loading on board Pan Am 103. Nor does it indicate that the bag was actually loaded on Pan Am 103. It indicates only that a bag of unknown origin was sent from Coding Station 206 at 1:07 p.m. to a position from which it was supposed to be loaded on Pan Am 103."

The FBI message further explains that a handwritten record kept by a baggage handler at Coding Station 206 was even less specific about what happened to the suitcase. "It is noted," the teletype continues, "that the handwritten duty sheet indicates only that the luggage was unloaded from Air Malta 180. There is no indication how much baggage was unloaded or where the luggage was sent." The FBI agent's report concludes, "There remains the possibility that no luggage was transferred from Air Malta 180 to Pan Am 103."

Also described in the teletype is an incident that "may provide insight into the possibilities of a rogue bag being inserted into the baggage system." On a guided tour of the baggage area in September 1989, it was disclosed, detective inspector Watson McAteer of the Scottish police and FBI special agent Lawrence G. Whitaker "observed an individual approach Coding Station 206 with a single piece of luggage, place the luggage in a luggage container, encode a destination into the computer and leave without making any notation on a duty sheet." This convinced the two investigators that a rogue suitcase could have been "sent to Pan Am 103 either before or after the unloading of Air Malta 180."

Lee Kreindler, the lead attorney for the victims' families, who are suing Pan Am for $7 billion, says he can prove that the suitcase from Malta was put aboard Flight 103. He charges that a gross security failure by Pan Am, which went bankrupt in January 1991 and later folded, contributed to the disaster.

But it was the rogue-bag theory that was pursued by Pan Am's law firm, Windels, Marx, Davies & Ives, representing the airline's insurers. To piece together their version of how the bomb was planted, Pan Am's lawyers hired Interfor, Inc., a New York City firm specializing in international intelligence and security. If it hadn't been for the government's implausible plottings revealed during the Iran-contra hearings, Interfor's findings might be dismissed as a private eye's imagination run amuck -- especially considering the controversial background of the company's president, Juval Aviv.

Now 45 and an American citizen, Aviv claims to have headed the Mossad hit squad that hunted down and killed the Arab terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Israeli and U.S. intelligence sources deny that Aviv was ever associated with Mossad. However, working for Pan Am, he spent more than six months tracking the terrorists who the airline now alleges are responsible for the bombing. While his report has been written off as fiction by many intelligence officials, a number of its findings appear well documented.
The central figure emerging from the Interfor investigation is a 44-year-old Syrian arms and drug trafficker, Monzer al-Kassar. His brother-in-law is Syria's intelligence chief, Ali Issa Duba, and his wife Raghda is related to Syrian President Hafez Assad.

Al-Kassar has many passports and identities. Most important, he was part of the covert network run by U.S. Lieut. Colonel Oliver North. During the Iran- contra hearings, it was revealed that al-Kassar was given $1.5 million to purchase weapons. Questioned about al-Kassar, former U.S. National Security Adviser John Poindexter said, "When you're buying arms, you often have to deal with people you might not want to go to dinner with."

It was through al-Kassar's efforts, or so he claimed, that two French hostages were released from Lebanon in 1986 in exchange for an arms shipment to Iran. The deal caught the eye of a freewheeling CIA unit code-named COREA, based in Wiesbaden, Germany. This special unit was reported to be trafficking in drugs and arms in order to gain access to terrorist groups.
For its cover overseas, COREA used various front companies: Stevens Mantra Corp., AMA Industries, Wildwood Video and Condor Television Ltd. Condor paid its bills with checks drawn on the First American Bank (account No. 2843900) in Washington, D.C., which was subsequently discovered to be a subsidiary of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
According to Aviv, agents in COREA's Wiesbaden headquarters allowed al- Kassar to continue running his smuggling routes to American cities in exchange for help in obtaining the release of the American hostages being held in Lebanon.
At about the same time, al-Kassar's drug-smuggling enterprise was being used by the U.S.'s DEA in a sting operation. The DEA was monitoring heroin shipments from Lebanon to Detroit, Los Angeles and Houston, which have large Arab populations, in an attempt to nail the U.S. dealers.

By the fall of 1988, al-Kassar's operation had been spotted by P.F.L.P.-G.C. leader Ahmed Jibril, who had just taken on the assignment from Tehran to avenge the U.S. downing of its Airbus. A CIA undercover agent in Tripoli reported that Jibril also obtained Gaddafi's support. According to Mossad, Jibril dined with al-Kassar at a Paris restaurant and secured a reluctant promise of assistance in planting a bomb aboard an as yet unselected American transatlantic jet.

Al-Kassar's hesitancy was understandable. He wouldn't want anything to disrupt his profitable CIA-assisted drug and arms business. Presumably he was also worried because West German police had just raided the Popular Front hideouts around Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. Among those arrested: the Jordanian technical wizard and bombmaker Marwan Khreesat.

The bomb that ended up on the Pan Am jet could have been assembled by Khreesat. However, last month the Palestine Liberation Organization reported that it was built by Khaisar Haddad (a.k.a. Abu Elias), who is also a member of Jibril's Popular Front. Haddad purchased the detonator, the P.L.O. said, on the Beirut black market for more than $60,000.

The detonator, in fact, is considered one of the main keys to the bombing puzzle. Thomas Hayes, a leading forensics expert, did the main detective work on a minute piece of timer recovered from the wreckage by Scottish authorities. In a recent book about the Lockerbie investigation, On the Trail of Terror, British journalist David Leppard reports that "Hayes is not prepared to commit himself publicly on whether the bomb that blew up Pan Am 103 was originally made by Khreesat and subsequently modified by timers of the sort found in possession of the Libyans." In fact, adds Leppard, "his authoritative view is that not enough of the bomb's timing device has been recovered to make a definite judgment about whether it was a dual device containing a barometric switch and a timer, or a single trigger device, which was activated by just a timer."
James M. Shaughnessy, Pan Am's lead defense lawyer, has tried to drive a wedge into this opening left by Hayes, thereby casting further doubt on Libya's responsibility for the bombing. Britain's High Court ruled that Pan Am's lawyers could depose Hayes. However, in a last-minute legal maneuver by the Scottish authorities, the deposition was blocked for reasons of national security. Pan Am's lawyers are now appealing that decision.

But regardless of the bomb's design, al-Kassar still didn't know how and when Jibril planned to use it. A Mossad agent, according to Aviv, first tipped off U.S. and West German intelligence agents that a terrorist attack would be made on an American passenger plane departing from Frankfurt on or about Dec. 18. Al-Kassar quickly figured out that Pan Am Flight 103 was the most likely target and, playing both sides of the fence, notified the COREA unit. His warning corroborated an earlier bomb threat, involving an unspecified Pan Am flight from Frankfurt, telephoned to the U.S. embassy in Helsinki.

Precisely how a rogue bag containing the bomb eluded the Frankfurt airport security system, Aviv doesn't know. Presumably this required the help of baggage handlers there. So in January 1990 he and a former U.S. Army polygraphist flew to Frankfurt, accompanied by Shaughnessy. At the Sheraton Conference Center, adjoining the airport, the polygraphist administered lie- detector tests to Pan Am baggage handlers Kilin Caslan Tuzcu and Roland O'Neill. Pan Am had determined that they were the only ones who were in a position to switch suitcases and place the bomb-laden bag aboard Flight 103.

Tuzcu took the test three times, and O'Neill took it twice. As the polygraphist later testified before a federal grand jury in Washington, Tuzcu "was not truthful when he said he did not switch the suitcases." The polygraphist also told the grand jury, "It is my opinion that Roland O'Neill wasn't truthful when he stated he did not see the suitcase being switched, and when he stated that he did not know what was in the switched suitcase." The two men continued to claim ignorance of a baggage switch.

After flunking their lie-detector tests, both were sent on a bogus errand by Pan Am to London, where it was assumed they would be arrested. But British authorities refused to even interrogate the pair. According to Leppard, Tuzcu and O'Neill were simply "scapegoats" and were never "considered serious suspects." They returned to Frankfurt that same night.
If the bomb-laden luggage replaced an innocent bag, what happened to the displaced suitcase? On Dec. 21, 1988, the day of the bombing, one of Pan Am's Berlin-based pilots was about to head home to Seattle, Washington, for Christmas when he received orders to fly to Karachi first. He had with him two identical Samsonite suitcases full of presents. At the Berlin airport, he $ asked Pan Am to send them directly to Seattle. "Rush" tags, marked for Flights 637 to Frankfurt, 107 to London and 123 to Seattle, were affixed to the bags.

It so happened that the flight from Berlin to Frankfurt was delayed. While all the passengers ultimately made the connection to London, 11 suitcases, including the pilot's two bags, remained behind in Frankfurt. They were entered into the airport computer system and rerouted via the Pan Am flight. But only one of the pilot's suitcases was recovered at Lockerbie. The other had been mysteriously left behind in Frankfurt, and arrived safely in Seattle a day later. That story, which TIME has corroborated, doesn't prove Pan Am's claim that terrorists used al-Kassar's drug pipeline to pull a suitcase switch in Frankfurt. But it does support the theory that a rogue bag was inserted into the automated baggage-control system, as the secret FBI report indicates was possible.

TO GATHER FURTHER EVIDENCE that the bomb was not contained in an unaccompanied bag from Malta, Pan Am lawyer Shaughnessy recently interviewed under oath 20 officials who were in Malta on Dec. 21, 1988, including the airport security commander, the bomb-disposal engineer who inspected all the baggage, the general manager of ground operations of Air Malta, the head loader of Flight 180 and the three check-in agents. Their records showed that no unaccompanied suitcases were put aboard the flight, and some of the staff Shaughnessy interviewed are prepared to testify under oath that there was no bag that day destined for Pan Am Flight 103.

Although Shaughnessy subpoenaed the FBI, CIA, DEA and four other government agencies for all documents pertaining to both the bombing of Flight 103 and the narcotics sting operation, he has been repeatedly rebuffed by the Justice Department for reasons of national security. Even so, with the help of investigators hired after Aviv, he has managed to obtain some of the documents needed to defend Pan Am's insurers in the trial scheduled to begin April 27 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The stakes are enormous, and the incentive is high for Shaughnessy to demonstrate the government's responsibility for the bombing. In addition to defending against the compensation claims of $7 billion, he is bringing a claim against the government for failing to give warning that Pan Am had been targeted by the terrorists.

The man who has been Shaughnessy's key witness in these proceedings is hiding in fear of his life in a small town in Europe. His real name is Lester Knox Coleman III, although as a former spy for the dia and DEA he was known as Thomas Leavy and by the code name Benjamin B. A year ago, the stockily built, bearded Coleman filed an affidavit describing the narcotics sting operation that Shaughnessy claims was infiltrated by Jibril.

It wasn't until July 1990, when Coleman spotted a newspaper picture of one of the Pan Am victims and recognized the young Lebanese as one of his drug- running informants, that he realized he might be of assistance to Pan Am. He was also looking for work. Two months earlier he had been deactivated by the DIA after being arrested by the FBI for using his DIA cover name, Thomas Leavy, on a passport application. Coleman claims that the DIA instructed him to do this. "But such trumped-up charges are frequently used to keep spooks quiet," says A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a Pentagon whistle-blower and a director of the Fund for Constitutional Government in Washington, which has been looking into Coleman's case.

Coleman spent three days in jail. His official pretrial services report, filed with the U.S. District Court of Illinois for the Northern District, began, "Although Mr. Coleman's employment history sounds quite improbable, information he gave has proven to be true."

Raised in Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia, Coleman, now 48, was recruited by the dia and assigned to the still classified humint (Human Intelligence) MC-10 operation in the Middle East. In early 1987 he was transferred from Lebanon to Cyprus, where he began his work for the DEA. However, he says he was instructed not to inform the DEA there of his role as a DIA undercover agent. By this time even the DIA suspected that the freewheeling narcotics sting operation was getting out of hand.

In Nicosia, Coleman saw the supposedly controlled shipments of heroin, called kourah in Lebanon -- inspiration for the CIA operation's code name COREA -- grow into a torrent. The drugs were delivered by couriers who arrived on the overnight ferry from the Lebanese port of Jounieh. After receiving their travel orders from the DEA, the couriers were escorted to the Larnaca airport by the Cypriot national police and sent on their way to Frankfurt and other European transit points. The DEA testified at hearings in Washington that no "controlled deliveries" of drugs through Frankfurt were made in 1988.

Coleman's DEA front in Nicosia, called the Eurame Trading Co. Ltd., was located on the top floor of a high-rise apartment near the U.S. embassy. He says the intelligence agency paid him with unsigned Visa traveler's checks issued by B.C.C.I. in Luxembourg. Additionally, the DEA country attache in Cyprus, Michael Hurley, kept a drawer full of cash in his office at the embassy, which he parceled out to Coleman and to a parade of confidential informants, known by such nicknames as "Rambo Dreamer," "Taxi George" and "Fadi the Captain." Hurley admitted in a Justice Department affidavit that he paid Coleman $74,000 for information.
The informants, Coleman reported, were under the control of Ibrahim el-Jorr. "He was a Wild West character who wore cowboy boots and tooled around in a Chevy with expired Texas plates," he says. "I was told ((by el-Jorr)) that in the Frankfurt airport the suitcases containing the narcotics were put on flights to the U.S. by agents or other sources working in the baggage area. From my personal observation, Germany's BKA ((Bundeskriminalamt, the German federal police)) was also involved, as was Her Majesty's Customs and Excise service in the United Kingdom."

After deciding to become a witness for Pan Am, Coleman phoned a friend, Hartmut Mayer, a German intelligence agent in Cyprus, and asked if he knew how the bomb got aboard Flight 103. Mayer suggested calling a "Mr. Harwick" and a "Mr. Pinsdorf," who Mayer said were running the investigation at the Frankfurt airport. "I spoke with Pinsdorf," says Coleman. "From his conversation I learned that BKA had serious concerns that the drug sting operation originating in Cyprus had caused the bomb to be placed on the Pan Am plane." Mayer and Pinsdorf gave depositions last year at the request of Pan Am. But the German Federal Ministry of the Interior ruled they couldn't discuss law-enforcement matters relating to other nations. Mayer did say he knew Coleman.

"It took three informants just to keep tabs on al-Kassar," claims Coleman. He said the informants reported that al-Kassar and the Syrian President's brother Rifaat Assad were taking over drug production in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, under protection of the Syrian army. Coleman also says he learned that the principal European transfer point for their heroin shipments was the Frankfurt airport.

In December 1988 al-Kassar picked up some news that threatened to shut down his smuggling operation. Charles McKee's counterterrorist team in Beirut that was investigating the possible rescue of the nine American hostages had got wind of his CIA connection. The team was outraged that the COREA unit in Wiesbaden was doing business with a Syrian who had close terrorist connections and might endanger their planned rescue attempt.

Besides McKee, a key member of the team was Matthew Gannon, 34, the CIA's deputy station chief in Beirut and a rising star in the agency. After venting their anger to the CIA in Langley about al-Kassar, McKee and Gannon were further upset by headquarters' failure to respond. Its silence was surprising because Gannon's father-in-law Thomas Twetten, who now commands the CIA's worldwide spy network, was then chief of Middle East operations based in Langley. He was also Ollie North's CIA contact.

MCKEE AND GANNON, joined by three other members of the team, decided to fly back to Virginia unannounced and expose the COREA unit's secret deal with al- Kassar. They packed $500,000 in cash provided for their rescue mission, as well as maps and photographs of the secret locations where the hostages were being held. Then the five-man team booked seats on Pan Am 103 out of London, arranging to fly there on a connecting flight from Cyprus.
McKee's mother says she is sure her son's sudden decision to fly home was not known to his superiors in Virginia. "This was the first time Chuck ever telephoned me from Beirut," she says. "I was flabbergasted. 'Meet me at the Pittsburgh airport tomorrow night,' he said. 'It's a surprise.' Always before he would wait until he was back in Virginia to call and say he was coming home."

Apparently the team's movements were being tracked by the Iranians. A story that appeared in the Arabic newspaper Al-Dustur on May 22, 1989, disclosed that the terrorists set out to kill McKee and his team because of their planned hostage-rescue attempt. The author, Ali Nuri Zadeh, reported that "an American agent known as David Love-Boy ((he meant Lovejoy)), who had struck bargains on weapons to the benefit of Iran," passed information to the Iranian embassy in Beirut about the team's travel plans. Reported to be a onetime State Department security officer, Lovejoy is alleged to have become a double agent with CIA connections in Libya. His CIA code name was said to be "Nutcracker."

Lawyer Shaughnessy uncovered similar evidence. His affidavit, filed with the federal district court in Brooklyn, New York, asserts that in November and ; December 1988 the U.S. government intercepted a series of telephone calls from Lovejoy to the Iranian charge d'affaires in Beirut advising him of the team's movements. Lovejoy's last call came on Dec. 20, allegedly informing the Iranians that the team would be on Pan Am Flight 103 the following day.
In his book, Lockerbie: The Tragedy of Flight 103, Scottish radio reporter David Johnston disclosed that British army searches of the wreckage recovered more than $500,000 cash, believed to belong to the hostage-rescue team, and what appeared to be a detailed plan of a building in Beirut, with two crosses marking the location of the hostages. The map also pinpointed the positions of sentries guarding the building and contained a description of how the building might be taken.

Johnston also described how CIA agents helicoptered into Lockerbie shortly after the crash seeking the remnants of McKee's suitcase. "Having found part of their quarry," he wrote, "the CIA had no intention of following the exacting rules of evidence employed by the Scottish police. They took the suitcase and its contents into the chopper and flew with it to an unknown destination." Several days later the empty suitcase was returned to the same spot, where Johnston reported that it was "found" by two British Transport Police officers, "who in their ignorance were quite happy to sign statements about the case's discovery."

Richard Gazarik, a reporter for the Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Tribune- Review, spent many months probing the major's secret mission. He found, hidden inside the lining of McKee's wallet, which was retrieved from the Pan Am wreckage and returned to his mother, what he assumes was McKee's code name, Chuck Capone, and the gangster code names (Nelson, Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde) of the other team members.

The theory that Jibril targeted Flight 103 in order to kill the hostage- rescue team is supported by two independent intelligence experts. M. Gene Wheaton, a retired U.S. military-intelligence officer with 17 years' duty in the Middle East, sees chilling similarities between the Lockerbie crash and the suspicious DC-8 crash in Gander, Newfoundland, which killed 248 American soldiers in 1985. Wheaton is serving as investigator for the families of the victims of that crash. "A couple of my old black ops buddies in the Pentagon believe the Pan Am bombers were gunning for McKee's hostage-rescue team," he says. "But they were told to shift the focus of their investigation because it revealed an embarrassing breakdown in security." The FBI says it investigated the theory that McKee's team was targeted and found no evidence to support it.
Victor Marchetti, former executive assistant to the CIA's deputy director and co-author of The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, believes that the presence of the team on Flight 103 is a clue that should not be ignored. His contacts at Langley agree. "It's like the loose thread of a sweater," he says. "Pull on it, and the whole thing may unravel." In any case, Marchetti believes the bombing of Flight 103 could have been avoided. "The Mossad knew about it and didn't give proper warning," he says. "The CIA knew about it and screwed up."

The CIA may still be trying to find out more information about why McKee and Gannon suddenly decided to fly home. Last year three CIA agents, reportedly following up on their hostage-rescue mission, were shot dead in a Berlin hotel while waiting to meet a Palestinian informant.

Beulah McKee has given up trying to find out if Pan Am's bombers were after her son, although she says, "The government's secrecy can't close off my mind." Twice she called and questioned Gannon's widow Susan, who like her husband and her father Tom Twetten worked for the CIA. "The last time, I was accused of opening my mouth too much," says Mrs. McKee.

Yet memories die hard, and mothers never quite get accustomed to losing a child. Beulah McKee keeps her son's bedroom all tidied up, as if she still expected him to come home. His pictures, diplomas, miltary awards, even his chrome-plated bowie knife, decorate the walls. In a cardboard carton under the made-up bed are the heavily censored service records of her son, which may contain the secret of why Pan Am 103 was blown out of the sky over Scotland.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Donald Goddard

Author of powerful books on controversial subjects, including the Lockerbie bombing.
A Londoner by birth and a New Yorker by adoption, who spent the second part of his life in rural Sussex, Donald Goddard's formative experience was as an editor at The New York Times between 1962 and 1970, when he developed an intense interest in the then unfashionable subject of the New York underworld. He became the author of powerful books on controversial subjects and on his return to Britain also ran an antiques business, Donay.

Donald Goddard was the son of an engineer, whose wartime memory was of watching dogfights between Stukas and Spitfires and Hurricanes over his beloved South Downs, the area where he was brought up. After school at Dulwich College in London and a degree from Edinburgh University, he gravitated to New York.
His first major book was Joey (1974), the life story of Joey Gallo, a gang leader who was murdered by rival Mafiosi. It was also the love story of Joey and Jeffie Gallo, two strong-willed, intelligent and wildly anarchic people, whose passion for one another was ruinous. One reviewer said that, compared with the relationship between Joey and Jeffie, Antony and Cleopatra stood as models of stodgy domesticity. Gallo's detailed recollections were chronicled with the painstaking care that was characteristic of all Goddard's subsequent writing. He used extensive interviews with Gallo's intimates and the police who monitored Gallo headquarters in Brooklyn, with the psychiatrist who visited Gallo in Attica jail, the testimony of fellow prisoners and correction officials and conversations with Gallo himself. Goddard's narrative revealed the brilliance, ruthlessness and incredible stamina that won Joey Gallo a brief term as a power in the criminal underworld. The book which made Goddard's name in Europe was The Last Days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1976).
Goddard's last book, which brought me into close contact with him over the last 10 years of his life, was Trail of the Octopus: from Beirut to Lockerbie (above) - Inside the Defence Intelligence Agency (1993). This was the story of Lester Knox Coleman, the first American citizen since the Vietnam war to seek political asylum in another country. Hounded by the FBI, the drug enforcement administration and Middle East heroin traffickers, Coleman seemed to Goddard to be a victim of one of the biggest international cover-ups in modern times.

In the spring of 1988, Coleman was on a mission for the world's most secretive and well-funded espionage organisations - the Defence Intelligence Agency. Coleman had been ordered to spy on the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration) in Cyprus which, along with the CIA, was running a series of "controlled deliveries" of Lebanese heroin through the airports of Frankfurt and London en route to America. Coleman discovered that the security of this "sting" operation had been breached and warned the American Embassy that a disaster was waiting to happen. He was ignored. Seven months later, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie. Among the dead was a DEA courier.

Since then, Washington has claimed that the blame for the bombing rests with Libyan terrorists and negligent Pan Am officials. With Pan Am and their insurers fighting this version all the way, it was never likely that Coleman's experience in Cyprus would go unnoticed. In 1991, American state security apparatus - what Goddard called the "Octopus" - made its move. His book is a gripping investigation into the causes of the Lockerbie disaster and the subsequent manipulation of the evidence.

Although Trail of the Octopus was not considered relevant in the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, where Abdel-Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2001, despite the many unanswered questions surrounding the bombing, it would be highly relevant to the public inquiry on Lockerbie that the relatives of those killed want, and that the British and American governments don't want. Goddard was a supreme seeker after truth. If history ever reveals the truth about Lockerbie, I'll wager that Goddard will be one of the unsung heroes in reaching it.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tam Dalyell

Following on from the Paul Foot article (posted below), in this 2nd part of eminent people who have questioned the official line in the Lockerbie disaster, I look at Tam Dalyell (pictured left).

Dalyell was born in England but raised in the family home in Edinburgh, his father was an "old school" Empire civil servant and through his mother he is a hereditary baronet. He was educated at Eton College. He was a soldier with the Royal Scots Greys from 1950 to 1952 for his national service. He then went to King's College, Cambridge to study history and economics, where he ran the Conservative Association. Unusually, he then trained as a teacher at Moray House College in Edinburgh and taught at a non-selective school and a ship school. He joined the Labour Party in 1956 after the Suez. He was a MP from June 1962 until he stepped down in 2004.

During a questions session in the UK House of Commons in 1995, Mr Dalyell raised a very pertinent point, and an even more interesting answer was given in response, which curiously has never been follwed up by the US and UK investigators :

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what currently available figures he has for the quantities and value of drugs seized at United Kingdom airports over any conveniently available recent 12 -month period. [22228]

The Paymaster General (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory): During 1994 Customs and Excise seized 47 tonnes of cannabis and four tonnes of cocaine, heroin and synthetic drugs, with a total street value of some £551 million. Some 10 per cent. by value of these drugs were seized at airports.

Mr. Dalyell: May I ask a question of which I have given Treasury officials notice? Could they put in the Library an account of what a senior Customs official, Mr. Philip Connolly--whom I do not criticise in any way-- said to senior Pan American airways security officers Michael Jones and Jim Berwick about controlled drugs delivery? Will the Minister consider asking a senior Treasury official to watch carefully the two-hour film about Lockerbie which is to be screened tonight on Channel 4? The significance or otherwise of my question will then become apparent.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The hon. Gentleman did me the courtesy of giving me notice of his intention to raise the Lockerbie case. A British Customs officer did give information to an American court about the Lockerbie bombing, and confirmed that bag-switching is a technique used by drug smuggling organisations.

Furthermore, he raised even more important issues in 2002, again in the House of Commons :

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): This Easter, an innocent man—innocent of the monstrous crime that he has been found guilty of committing—languishes in Barlinnie prison in Glasgow. His name is Abdel Basset Al Megrahi. Before Parliament rises, the House ought to get an undertaking that the British Government—yes, the British Government—and not a highly controversial, devolved Crown Office in Edinburgh, will address certain questions.

Our country's relations with the Arab world have not been devolved to a Scottish Parliament, where, perhaps for understandable reasons, not one of the 129 Members has been prepared to take a sustained, in-depth view of the Lockerbie case.

Now that the appeal is over, what steps are being taken to preserve the productions amassed by the Crown for use in the Lockerbie trial? Can an assurance be given that they will not be destroyed in the same way as certain police note books have apparently been destroyed?

In particular, the British Government have a duty to look at the statement of my former constituent—she is at present a constituent of the Leader of the House—former Woman Police Constable Mary Boylan, a thoroughly credible retired police constable.

She states:
"Towards the latter part of 1999, I was asked to attend at Dumfries Police Station, to give a statement to the Procurator Fiscal regarding my duties at Lockerbie. Almost eleven years had elapsed since the disaster, so I phoned 'F' Divisional HQ at Livingston Police Station to request my notebook to refresh my memory. I was told that someone would be in touch with me, and after a few days I was informed that my notebook could not be found. Shortly after this I read in a Scottish broadsheet that Lothian and Borders Police notebooks had been destroyed."

Who gave the instruction for the destruction of notebooks? After all, this was the biggest unresolved murder trial in Scottish legal history. The answer to that question is likely to be found not in Edinburgh, but in London.

I have known and worked closely with the following distinguished police officers as heads of F Division covering West Lothian: David Garbutt, Tom Wood, David Mitchell, Kenneth Mackenzie, Gordon Munro and Allan Shanks. I have also worked with the chief constables of Lothian and Borders police: Sir William Sutherland QPM between 1983 and 1996, and Sir Roy Cameron QPM between 1996 and 2002. I simply do not believe that any one of them, off their own bat, would have allowed, for reasons of routine and storage space, the destruction of notebooks relating to the biggest murder trial in Scottish history.

Mary Boylan, the ex-police constable, states:
"A short time later, while searching in field F72"— this happened on 28 December 1988
"I recovered the handle and rim of a brown coloured suitcase (Production Label No. unknown to me). This was entered in my notebook. PC Forrest corroborated the find and signed my notebook and production label."

26 Mar 2002 : Column 725

Her statement continues:
"Towards the latter part of 1999 . . . On attendance at Dumfries Police Station I was asked to describe some of the debris from memory. I was then shown the suitcase rim with handle I had found and was asked to identify it, which I did. The Production Label with my signature and that of PC Forrest, and of others whom I did not know, was still attached. A photograph was then shown to me of the said suitcase rim I had found, plus other pieces of the suitcase material. I recognised the rim but not the material. I asked the Fiscal about the significance of the suitcase and he said he could not tell me. What he did say was that the owner of said suitcase was a Joseph Patrick Curry and that I would be hearing and reading a lot about him at the time of the trial."

Mary Boylan continues:
"After giving my statement I left Dumfries and drove to Lockerbie's Garden of Remembrance to pay my respects. I noticed a brass plaque there with the inscription 'Joseph Patrick Curry, Captain US Army Special Forces. Killed in the line of duty'."

He is also remembered at the Arlington cemetery and, I believe, in the Pentagon.

In 1989, Police Constable Boylan was informed by a colleague that the suitcase belonging to Curry was that which contained the bomb that blew up Pan Am 103. That is what she says. I want to know who will verify the statement and show whether it is true or false.

If the bomb was in Curry's suitcase, Mr. Megrahi is hardly likely to be guilty.

There is a whole literature on this subject—one almost needs to be a professor of Lockerbie studies—and it would be inappropriate and selfish to take up more of the House's time to go into the matter, but these questions must be addressed.

It has been said that eight Scottish judges cannot possibly be wrong. I draw to the House's attention the conclusion of the Appeal Court's ruling, which some of us have read very carefully.

At paragraph 369, Lord Cullen and his colleagues state:
"When opening the case for the appellant before this court Mr Taylor stated that the appeal was not about sufficiency of evidence: he accepted that there was a sufficiency of evidence"—
"he" being William Taylor QC.

The paragraph continues:
"He also stated that he was not seeking to found on section 106(3)(b) of the 1995 Act. His position was that the trial court had misdirected itself in various respects. Accordingly in this appeal we"—

Lord Cullen and his colleagues—
"have not required to consider whether the evidence before the trial court, apart from the evidence which it rejected, was sufficient as a matter of law to entitle it to convict the appellant on the basis set out in its judgment. We have not had to consider whether the verdict of guilty was one which no reasonable trial court, properly directing itself, could have returned in the light of that evidence. As can be seen from this Opinion, the grounds of appeal before us have been concerned, for the most part, with complaints about the treatment by the trial court of the material which was before it and the submissions which were made to it by the defence."

That is an extremely careful statement, as one would expect of Lord Cullen and his colleague judges. It does not go into the detail of the matters that were before the trial court at Zeist.

These are complex matters, and it would be wrong and absurd of me to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to respond off the top of his head. All I ask is that these extremely serious matters be taken on board by the Government in London, not just passed over to the Crown Office in Edinburgh. I ask for careful reflection on what I have said and proposed, and for a response in the fullness of time.
26 Mar 2002 : Column 726

In 1997, Tam made his most extensive speech to the House of Commons with regards to the events in the immediate aftermath of the disaster on 21st December 1988, and the whole Lockerbie investigation in general titled, "Nothing Has been Done."

Full text of the speech is here -,,740118,00.html

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