[The following response by Richard Marquise to Gareth Peirce's article in The London Review of Books was sent to me by Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am 103 Inc.]
The recent piece written by Gareth Peirce entitled “The Framing of al – Megrahi” had numerous errors of fact and the record needs to be corrected. I will ask her these questions-- How many days of the trial did you attend? How many trial transcripts have you read? What do you know—first hand—about the investigation? I think I know the answer to those questions. If I am right, her credibility should be in doubt. There has been so much misinformation published about the Lockerbie case over the past several years. It is time individuals get information from real sources rather than the internet and bloggers. If one of these people who call themselves historians, architects, observers and experts would spend some time with those of us who were there and know the facts, I think a different record develop.
I found I only agreed with Ms. Peirce on one topic. The release of Mr. Megrahi was based on greed—the wishes of officials in the United Kingdom to access Libyan oil and business ventures. My own Government is no better. In 2004, when Gaddafi “accepted responsibility for the actions of his agents,” the United States allowed that to stand as his formal admission of guilt for the Lockerbie attack. It should be noted that he told a reporter, “off the record,” as far back as 1993 that his government was involved in the plot to blow up Pan Am Flight 103. Unfortunately, this “real” admission has received little publicity.
The rest of Ms. Peirce’s lengthy article had so many errors of fact that I will try and address them in “bullet” form to make it easier to follow:
• Ms. Peirce says the investigation should have been conducted by Scottish police alone without interference from other agencies or countries. Clearly she lacks a basic understanding of the world. There is no way the police in Scotland could or should have carried out the investigation alone. We live (and did in 1988) in a global society. Good police and intelligence relationships are key if we are to protect our society from those who would do us harm. These relationships were not as advanced in 1988 resulting in many missteps but we worked through the process of understanding the nuances of each system. This case would not have been solved without the FBI, Scottish police and officers from Germany, Malta, Sweden, Switzerland and England working together, as a team. No one agency could have done it alone.
• Ms. Peirce indicates this investigation should have been conducted with “utter integrity.” I and my colleagues take great exception to this slander. The investigation was conducted with integrity and we only followed the facts and presented them to a court which found Mr. Megrahi guilty.
• There is discussion of unauthorized people (FBI and CIA) at the crime scene in Scotland. This scene which would encompass over 1400 square kilometers could not effectively be secured and police had to constantly tell local citizens not to pick up debris. However, although much has been reported, not one “confirmed” sighting of an American walking unattended has ever been documented (see trial transcripts). The Americans who would eventually come to the site were those who were helping identify bodies and if one went into the field, they were accompanied by a police officer. To believe that both the CIA and FBI had the bureaucratic ability to send large numbers of people to the scene immediately and then to spirit away luggage (assuming one knew where to look in this massive crime scene) is just incomprehensible. Yes, and then there were the helicopters…..also unbelievable.
• There is much discussion about the “original” suspects—the PFLP-GC. Based on available public source information at the time, they indeed were our original suspects. This suspicion was enhanced when a piece of circuit board of a Toshiba radio was found at the crash site. PFLP-GC terrorists had used a similar (but not the same) brand of radio before. However, although this avenue was pursued for over two years, no evidence of any PFLP-GC involvement was ever found. The key word is evidence and I believe Ms. Peirce, as an attorney, knows, that is what one needs to have a court reach a finding of guilty.
• Although not said specifically, it is implied that the shopkeeper in Malta who sold clothing which had been found in the wreckage (by very capable Scottish officers) identified Abu Talb, a Palestinian terrorist living in Sweden, as the purchaser of the clothing. This is just not true. This shopkeeper only identified one photograph in a police photo array—Mr. Megrahi—in February 1991. When the shopkeeper was interviewed in 1989 he had said the purchaser had a “Libyan accent.”
• Ms. Peirce may recall that although Iran and the PFLP-GC were our original suspects and the media reported as much in early 1989, an (at the time) unidentified individual walked into the US Embassy in Austria (January 1989) and left a message for the Ambassador. In it he said that Libya was responsible for the bombing. His note said he had been in Tripoli in December 1988 and believed that if he could believe what he was reading in the press—we were focused on Iran and Palestinians—then we were wrong and investigators should look at Libya. This man would be identified nearly two years later as Edwin Bollier, the man whose company built the timer which was part of the bomb.
• The investigation would prove that only 20 of these timers had ever been made and all had been delivered to Libyan intelligence officials. A statement made nearly 20 years later by Ulrich Lumpert, a technician who worked for Bollier that he had stolen one of the circuit boards from his company and made it available to “someone who was investigating the Lockerbie case” in 1989, has no credibility. No one associated with the Lockerbie investigation had ever heard of the MEBO Company in 1989. We did not find them until late 1990. Bollier and Lumpert each testified in 1990 that they only purchased a small number of the circuit boards and made 20 or 21 timers. When the Libyans came looking for additional timers in December 1988, Bollier had none. Bollier now says he was offered $4 million to link Libya to the attack. That is not true because by the time he alleges this happened he had already linked Libya to his timers at a magistrate hearing in Switzerland. Lumpert and Bollier’s change of heart became clear in 2008. Bollier said on a BBC special he hoped to get up to $200 million from Libya if he helped free Megrahi. Lumpert, before he filed an affidavit stating he had lied at the trial made it clear that he had sought legal advice and determined he could not be prosecuted for these earlier “false statements.”
• One remark (actually interspersed throughout the piece) stated that the CIA took control of the investigation. When I shared that with my colleagues in Scotland, they were amused because somehow, no one had ever relayed that message to them. The Scottish police were always in charge. Yes, we negotiated and often disagreed about what we would do next, but the FBI and Scottish police worked together, neither side forgetting where the crime scene was and who had “primary” jurisdiction. At no time was the CIA (or any intelligence service) “in charge” of the investigation. They supported the police in Scotland, just as the FBI and the other police agencies around the world did. Vincent Cannistraro did retire in 1990—before the EVIDENCE led us to Libya and he did not come back. In fact, if you speak with any police officer in Scotland, I doubt any of them ever met him and I only recall him being at one meeting involving this case. It was not in a leadership capacity.
• A number of assertions were made about the type of timer which was used at Lockerbie. We had initially assumed it was a barometric timer favored by the PFLP-GC. This timer would have exploded after reaching an altitude above 15000 feet. The timing mechanism was erratic (based on examination of similar devices found in Germany) and could have exploded from 1 minute and as long as an hour after being triggered, if it exploded at all. We believed the timer used as part of the bomb was one manufactured by MEBO and given to Libyan officials.
• Ms. Peirce’s attack on the FBI laboratory had more erroneous information. Tom Thurman was not barred from the FBI laboratory and was used as an expert witness after the IG report was written; however, I have no intention of using this forum to do what I consider a needless defense of him. The issue is the FBI lab. The identification of the fragment which led to the MEBO timer was done by Mr. Thurman based on a photograph. As an investigator—something most lab examiners are not—he was able to figure out where to go to look for a possible match to the fragment recovered by Scottish police officers. Once he identified the fragment, he asked Alan Feraday to come to Washington. Feraday brought the original fragment of the timer with him and they both examined it under a microscope. They independently agreed it was identical to the MEBO timer. The fragment was never out of the control of Mr. Feraday and returned with him to the lab at RARDE.
• I am not an attorney and have no idea what Hans Kochler saw at the trial which caused him to doubt the verdict. I do know he is neither a policeman nor is he an attorney. The case which was presented was circumstantial and these cases are often more reliable than those having eyewitness identification
I have only addressed part of Ms. Peirce’s concerns. However, for all of these “circumstances” to have been true as accepted by the three original trial judges, the overall case must have been credible. In order for it all to be wrong, there would have to have been a conspiracy of the grandest order and I will state without hesitation—that is false! Wrong! To somehow believe that dedicated law enforcement officers would somehow take world politics (US-UK intervention in Kuwait) to make a case against an innocent party does not know what makes us who we are. We followed the evidence. To state or even imply otherwise is an insult to all of us who only sought a righteous solution and justice for the victims.