Sunday, 31 January 2010

Kenny MacAskill rapped over Megrahi release

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Sunday Times. It reads in part:]

The justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, is accused of mishandling the release of the Lockerbie bomber in a damning report to be published next week.

The findings of the Scottish parliament’s justice committee are expected to include strong criticism of MacAskill’s decision to visit Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi in prison before he was freed and of his failure to secure assurances from the Libyan government that the bomber would not return to a hero’s welcome.

The draft document suggests MacAskill failed to consider adequately the feelings of the victims’ families before releasing the former intelligence officer on compassionate grounds last autumn.

Committee members viewed the prison visit as unnecessary, suggesting he could have accepted representations from Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, in writing. They believe the minister was insensitive, given that he spoke to the US relatives of victims of the bombing by video-conference rather than visiting them.

When Megrahi returned home to Libya he was greeted by cheering crowds waving saltires. The scenes angered the relatives of those who died and led to threats of an American boycott of Scottish goods.

“The report will be highly critical of MacAskill,” said a source close to the committee. “It will make very embarrassing reading for him and the Scottish government by focusing yet more attention on one of Scotland’s darkest days. After the international and domestic outrage that the government’s decision caused it just wants to make the issue disappear.”

Labour members do not believe MacAskill followed Scottish prison service guidelines in freeing Megrahi. They insist he should have sought a second opinion on the prognosis that Megrahi had three months to live.

Only a prison doctor was willing to state that Megrahi would be likely to die in three months’ time, while four cancer specialists refused to back that opinion. (...)

A spokesman for MacAskill said: “The justice secretary followed due process every step of the way, and has repeatedly expressed his deepest sympathy for the relatives of all victims of the Lockerbie atrocity.”

A separate Commons inquiry by the Scottish affairs select committee is considering whether dealings between the UK government and Libya led to the prisoner transfer agreement which put Megrahi’s case on MacAskill’s agenda.

In Seeking Gaddafi, a book to be published next week, Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski calls on the government after the general election to hold a public inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing.

[1. Once Kenny MacAskill -- presumably after taking advice from officials -- decided to allow face-to-face (and not just written) representations from relatives of those killed on Pan Am 103, he was legally obliged to offer the same opportunity to Mr Megrahi. A failure to do so would have been a breach of the rules of natural justice and would have made any decision reached vulnerable to successful judicial challenge.

2. Four cancer specialists may very well have refused to give a precise time for Mr Megrahi's life expectancy. This is not in the least surprising and is not sinister. Cancer specialists in practice always refuse to do so, taking the view that their job is to make the patient's remaining time as comfortable as it can be, however long or short that time may be. If the patient (or his family) needs to have an estimate of how long remains to him, it is the general practitioner who is likely to provide it, on the basis of the opinions and reports of the specialists. This is precisely what happened in Mr Megrahi's case.

3. If the justice committee's report does indeed criticise Mr MacAskill on these grounds next week, it will be yet another sad instance of the party political posturing that has characterised the stance of the Labour and Conservative opposition at Holyrood over this issue.]

A shameful anniversary

Today is the ninth anniversary of the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi by the Scottish Court in the Netherlands. How much longer will it be before this stain is removed from the Scottish criminal justice system?

Straw fights release of transcript of calls over Libyan oil deal

Justice Secretary denies agreeing to release of Lockerbie bomber in talks with BP lobbyist

Jack Straw was accused last night of trying to cover up details of talks he held with a BP lobbyist over an oil deal with Libya weeks before reversing a Government move to block the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

The Secretary of State for Justice has turned down a Freedom of Information request from a Commons select committee to reveal whether, during two phone calls with the lobbyist, he agreed to include Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in Britain's Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) with Libya.

Mr Straw has admitted having two conversations with Sir Mark Allen, a former MI6 agent turned BP consultant, in the autumn of 2007. But he has insisted that "at no stage was any undertaking promised, hinted, given to the Libyans, that in return for an overall bilateral arrangement Mr Megrahi would be released". (...)

Megrahi, convicted for the 1988 bombing which killed 270, was released last August on compassionate grounds – rather than under the PTA – by the Scottish Executive.

But Mr Straw's discussions with BP are still contentious because MPs believe ministers gave a smooth path for the release in the interests of trade with the Libyan government.

In early 2007, BP signed a $900m (£562m) oil exploration deal with Libya but the energy giant was concerned that the ongoing stalemate over the PTA would damage the contract. Sir Mark, who was involved in the 2003 deal for Colonel Gaddafi to give up his weapons of mass destruction programme, left MI6 in 2004 to work for BP. He telephoned Mr Straw, whom he knew from the minister's time as Foreign Secretary, on 15 October and 9 November 2007. On 19 December 2007, Mr Straw wrote to Mr MacAskill informing him of the British government's change of position.

The Conservative MP and member of the Scottish affairs committee Ben Wallace has written to Mr Straw demanding to see notes of the calls.

During Mr Straw's appearance before the committee last Wednesday, Mr Wallace told him: "I think we should know to what extent HM Government gave commitments in exchange for trade and whether that included Megrahi."

Mr Straw replied: "There's been no secret about the fact that I took two telephone calls from Sir Mark Allen – I take telephone calls from all sorts of people. Sir Mark Allen is somebody I knew from my time in the Foreign Office. He actually had very extensive knowledge of the Middle East and in a role in the Foreign Office had been very much involved in these negotiations. I thought he was worth listening to. And that's what I did."

Asked by Mr Wallace whether he would release the notes, Mr Straw said tersely: "Decisions about the release of material under FOI are dealt with separately, with respect, all right?"

Mr Straw's spokesman said the request was turned down under section 35 of the FOI Act, which exempts ministerial communications. Mr Wallace is appealing on public interest grounds.

[The above are excerpts from a report in today's edition of The Independent on Sunday. Readers may also care to have a look at this blog post.]

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Some reflections following Tony Blair's appearance at the Iraq Inquiry

[The following reflections come from Dr Jim Swire, who has kindly permitted me to publish them here.]

In seeking to defend his decisions over Iraq, Mr Blair emphasised to Chilcot how the atrocity of 9/11 instantaneously changed the 'tolerance of risk' for the government and people of the USA, even venturing to suggest that sooner or later the same approach might be used upon Iran.

9/11 was of course the 11th of September 2001. In England it was a beautiful autumn day with the sun streaming down on the open French-windows of a house in Worcestershire. In the grounds of that house stood a 'satellite van' with its dish aligned on a satellite positioned over Madagascar, designed to transport the local scene to the studios of Sky TV for transmission instantly to a world audience.

Sky TV was there to discuss the significance of a new and startling development following the verdict reached in Zeist, Holland, against the Libyan intelligence agent al-Megrahi. That verdict had claimed that in a bizarre and complex conspiracy, Megrahi, from Malta, had used a sophisticated Swiss timer, well capable of being set to explode over mid Atlantic, to thread his bomb's route through three airports and two changes of aircraft, to litter the peaceful fields of Lockerbie with the debris of 259 human beings and a gigantic aircraft, and to murder 11 of Lockerbie's people, all just 38 minutes after it had left the Heathrow tarmac.

Sky TV were there, more than 12 years later, because they had only just heard that, unknown to the Zeist court, that there had been a break-in at Heathrow in the early morning of the disaster, giving access through the perimeter to the baggage assembly shed where the PanAm baggage container, shown at Zeist to have contained the bomb, was loaded that evening.

They were also there asking the question why this information had lain hidden for more than 12 years till after the verdict was reached at Zeist.

Our families had climbed aboard a flight at Heathrow which our Fatal Accident Inquiry, although also ignorant of the break-in, had found to be under the host state protection of the UK while being loaded from empty there. It was a valid question to ask of our government. Particularly when one realises that the same Zeist court had heard full details of a type of bomb built in Syria, which was available in 1988 and stable indefinitely at ground level, yet designed always to explode approximately 37 minutes after take off.

The Lockerbie plane managed just 38 minutes of flight.

Hollow indeed now rang the trumpeting of Paul Channon, Thatcher's Transport secretary, to the House of Commons on 22 December 1988 that we should be proud that at least Heathrow's security was known to be amongst the best in the world.

Throughout the day of 21st December 1988 Heathrow authorities knew that there had been a break-in, yet they did not know who had broken in, nor what the motive might have been. At a time of known increased terrorist threat they continued the lucrative flow of outgoing flights until the bomb exploded on PanAm 103 that evening.

When criticising an accepted theory, it is useful to produce a simpler and more credible alternative.

So what if the Heathrow break-in was indeed the route for getting a bomb onto the Lockerbie aircraft? For a start the Iran/Syria grouping with their pressing revenge motive and their unique possession of this technology would be centre stage, Malta Frankfurt and Megrahi would be irrelevant.

Such a theory is unexplored: why is that?

Why did the news of the break-in lie hidden for 12 years?

Who was complicit in concealing it?

What was their motive for doing so?

We know that the Metropolitan police (and therefore presumably the Thatcher government) knew of it, why did they keep quiet?.

Why were the Metropolitan police excluded from the [Lockerbie] investigation, turned over by Thatcher to a Scottish force?

Does this throw any light on why Thatcher and every Prime Minister since, including Blair and Brown, has for 21 years refused us the inquiry to which we have an inalienable right?

Did the Crown Office know about the break-in? They have claimed that they didn't.

Did the investigating Scottish police know about it? They haven't said. Of course a Heathrow break-in was a simple but potent threat to their complex Malta hypothesis.

As the sun still shone through those French windows, the Sky TV reporters heard through their phones that a second plane had struck. Now there was no doubt: this was a huge planned terrorist outrage on America's trophy city New York. For a US public which had never had to bear the outrage of enemy bombing of its home territory, as Blair said to Chilcot, the 'tolerance of risk' in America had changed for ever.

Like the morning dew, the Sky reporters and their technology melted away to cover this new atrocity. The coincidence of 9/11's timing had disabled the power of a free media to question the received wisdom.

But the questions remain and shall be professionally addressed.

Unlike Blair, many affected by the Lockerbie atrocity have avoided the idea of retaliation by force against the responsible country, pressing for the use of justice. They see that the atrocity was an act of revenge, and that to seek revenge for it in turn is to abandon the intellectual high ground, and to sink to the philosophy favoured by some terrorists. So long as Blair and all who have shared his office and establishment continue to rely blindly upon a solution to the worst terrorist atrocity ever to occur in their country, which seems fatally flawed, they put at risk more civilised routes through international justice. Their way stands to bring a blight upon all our futures.

In the end history, not Chilcot, will judge them.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Straw says Holyrood not gratuitously kept in the dark over Megrahi deal

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]

Jack Straw said Holyrood was “not gratuitously kept in the dark” about the UK Government’s dealings with Libya over the Prisoner Transfer Agreement in relation to the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

Giving evidence to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, the UK Justice Secretary was asked by the SNP’s Pete Wishart if it would not have been helpful for London to have kept Edinburgh informed about the agreement being drawn up with Tripoli.

Mr Straw said: “Where you are involved in complicated negotiations with a country like Libya, they have to be handled with great confidentiality.”

However, he went on: “We had no interest whatever in keeping the Scottish Executive gratuitously in the dark about this.” Mr Straw pointed out that no PTA gave the Libyan government or Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi a right to transfer, only a right to make an application.

“The Libyans absolutely understood that the discretion in respect... of any PTA application rested with the Scottish Executive.”

Ben Wallace, the deputy shadow Scottish Secretary, pressed Mr Straw on why he was “blocking” the release of the note about two phone calls he took from Sir Mark Allen, a BP consultant.

“It’s odd a man from BP rings you up, the position changes, an oil deal is signed and nowhere in the process is the victim included.”

Mr Straw replied that no promise or hint was given to Libya that in return for an bilateral arrangement, Mr Megrahi would be released.

[According to Jack Straw "the Libyans understood that the discretion in respect of any PTA application rested with the Scottish Executive." This is not so. In meetings that I had with Libyan officials at the highest level shortly after the "deal in the desert" it was abundantly clear that the Libyans believed that the UK Government could order the transfer of Mr Megrahi and that they were prepared to do so. When I told them that the relevant powers rested with the Scottish -- not the UK -- Government, they simply did not believe me. When they eventually realised that I had been correct, their anger and disgust with the UK Government was palpable. As I have said elsewhere:

"The memorandum of understanding regarding prisoner transfer that Tony Blair entered into in the course of the "deal in the desert" in May 2007, and which paved the way for the formal prisoner transfer agreement, was intended by both sides to lead to the rapid return of Mr Megrahi to his homeland. This was the clear understanding of Libyan officials involved in the negotiations and to whom I have spoken.

"It was only after the memorandum of understanding was concluded that [it belatedly sunk in] that the decision on repatriation of this particular prisoner was a matter not for Westminster and Whitehall but for the devolved Scottish Government in Edinburgh, and that government had just come into the hands of the Scottish National Party and so could no longer be expected supinely to follow the UK Labour Government's wishes. That was when the understanding between the UK Government and the Libyan Government started to unravel, to the considerable annoyance and distress of the Libyans, who had been led to believe that repatriation under the PTA was only months away."]

Monday, 25 January 2010

New Lockerbie blog

A warm welcome to Caustic Logic's new blog The Lockerbie Divide. This contains a series of articles setting out and commenting on the evidence against Megrahi, as well as providing useful links to primary and secondary sources, including many of the documentary films made about the Lockerbie disaster.

I came across the new blog while doing one of my periodical trawls on Google BlogSearch. Caustic Logic tells me that he would have preferred some more lead-in time before publicising the site. He writes:

"Hey, thanks for yet another plug. I wasn't quite ready to announce the new site at large, but close enough. I was hoping you could include this, or something to this effect, in that post?

"For The Lockerbie Divide, which is about ready to announce to the experts anyway, if not the whole world, I'm hoping for input from others. Opinion/analysis essays as well as, especially, just filling in slots like "London Origin Theory" or "Megrahi's links to Mebo", Megrahi's bank account", or "Origins of the drugs theory". Especially I'd be honored to invite Nennt mich einfach Adam!, Aku, Baz, Ebol, Frank Duggan, Michael Follon, Patrick Haseldine, Richard Marquise, Charles, Quincey Riddle, Rolfe, Ruth, Sfm and others I've run into round here. Those interested in contributing directly or with submissions, can contact me by e-mail at: caustic_logic@yahoo.com

"The site name and surface approach are changeable. So far I'm going for a mountain (divide) theme - learning is climbing. I have specific ideas of "surface material" that viewers will see first/grab onto, but would like input there as well. Heck, just criticism and general ideas are valuable."

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Two shocking admissions

[This is the heading over the latest addition to the Lockerbie series on Adam "Caustic Logic" Larson's blog The 12/7-9/11 Treadmill and Beyond. The admissions come from Detective Inspector Harry Bell and from Paul Gauci, brother of Tony, and relate to the date of purchase in Mary's House, Sliema, of the clothes that, in the official explanation of the Lockerbie disaster, were in the brown Samsonite suitcase along with the bomb. It was essential to the prosecution case against Megrahi that the date of purchase was shown to be 7 December 1988 (when Megrahi was on Malta) and not 23 November (when he was not).

The following are excerpts from the blog post:]

Detective Inspector Harry Bell, who headed the Scottish police effort on Malta and was the main contact point for the Gaucis, was interviewed in 2006 by the SCCRC [Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission]. Some extracts were re-printed in Megrahi's rock-solid grounds of appeal. Excerpts from there:
DI Bell SCCRC interview (25-26/7/06)
"...The evidence of the football matches was confusing and in the end we did not manage to bottom it out..."
"...I am asked whether at the time I felt that the evidence of the football matches was strongly indicative of 7th December 1988 as the purchase date. No, I did not. Both dates 23rd Nov and 7th Dec 1988 looked likely.
"...It really has to be acknowledged how confusing this all was. No date was signficant for me at the time. Ultimately it was the applicant's [Megrahi’s] presence on the island on 7th December 1988 that persuaded me that the purchase took place on that date. Paul specified 7th December when I met with him on 14th December 1989 and I recorded this..."

The bolded is a shocking admission of just what many had guessed. And then, almost as an afterthought (and a quick one I'd venture) "Paul specified 7th December" as the right day, during a meeting of "14th December 1989." He even has the date memorized! No direct quotes provided there of this meeting. But two months earlier, in a 19 October meeting with the same Harry Bell, he clearly specified the other day. In a police report obtained by Private Eye and published in Paul Foot's 2000 booklet Lockerbie, the Flight from Justice, Mr. Gauci said:

“I was shown a list of European football matches I know as UEFA. I checked all the games and dates. I am of the opinion that the game I watched on TV was on 23 November, 1988: SC Dynamo Dresden v AS Roma. On checking the 7th December 1988, I can say that I watched AS Roma v Dynamo Dresden in the afternoon. All the other games were played in the evening. I can say for certain I watched the Dresden v Roma game. On the basis that there were two games played during the afternoon of 23 November and only one on the afternoon of 7th December, I would say that the 23rd November 1988 was the date in question.” [Foot, 2000, p 21]

Friday, 22 January 2010

FOIA lawsuit against FBI regarding Megrahi release

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on January 14th against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to obtain documents related to the United Kingdom’s release last August of convicted terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was serving a life sentence for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Judicial Watch seeks information that will shed light on what role, if any, the United States played in the decision to release al-Megrahi.

On August 20, 2009, the United Kingdom came under heavy fire for releasing the former Libyan intelligence officer from prison on “compassionate grounds” due to the fact al-Megrahi suffers from terminal prostate cancer. The British government also reportedly attempted to include al-Megrahi as part of a prisoner transfer pact signed with Col. Muammer al-Gadaffi’s Libyan government in 2007 in order to help secure oil contracts for British companies.

Al-Megrahi, who received a hero’s welcome upon returning to Libya, was given three months to live at the time of his release. However, now five months after his release, al-Megrahi is reportedly alive and living with his family in Libya. Convicted in 2001, al-Megrahi served only eight years of his life sentence.

Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed on January 14, seeks “all communications with/between the FBI and the United Kingdom concerning the August 20, 2009 release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer who was convicted of 270 counts of murder for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.”

Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on September 10, 2009. By law, the FBI was required to respond by October 8, 2009. However, to date, the FBI has not provided any documents responsive to the request, nor has the agency provided an explanation as to why documents must be withheld.

“The decision to release al-Megrahi from prison was an affront to justice and an insult to the families of the victims of the Pan Am tragedy. Al-Megrahi’s release also served to rally terrorists around the world. The American people deserve to know what role, if any, the United States government played in the horrible decision to release a known terrorist from prison. Frankly, I’m concerned the Obama administration did not do enough to prevent this terrorist’s release. The FBI has an obligation to the American people and the victims’ families to release all relevant documents as soon as possible,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

[The above is the text of a press release issued by Judicial Watch. I doubt if there are any FBI documents relating to Megrahi's release, other than the idiotic letter sent by FBI Director Robert Mueller to Kenny MacAskill.]

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Who bombed Lockerbie?

This is the heading over a post of yesterday's date on the Hunting Monsters blog. It refers to some relatively recent pieces in the UK media that cast doubt on the official version of the Lockerbie disaster. There is nothing in it that will be new to followers of this blog. I mention it only so that anxious readers will be reassured that I survived my journey to the Northern Cape.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Crown misinformation

[What follows is a commentary by Peter Biddulph on the Crown's response to Dr John Wyatt's findings as disclosed in the recent Newsnight segment.]

The recent Crown statement regarding the John Wyatt tests needs to be exposed for what it is: - an attempt to confuse the uninformed with carefully placed words such as "fragments of circuit boards" and "fragment".

The statement includes:

1. "It was reported in the BBC Newsnight Programme [6th January 2010] that tests carried out by Dr Wyatt suggest that the fragment was unlikely to have survived the mid-air explosion and that the radio used in his tests 'totally disintegrated' and 'went into tiny, tiny bits'. In fact, extensive explosive tests were carried out in the United States in 1989, some time before the fragment PT35B was extracted by forensic experts, as part of the Lockerbie investigation. …."

COMMENT: The Indian Head tests took place in April 1989, three weeks before the bomb "fragment" was discovered for the first time by Dr Thomas Hayes on 12th May 1989.

At the time of the Indian Head tests, neither Thurman or Feraday were aware of the existence of the Hayes fragment, nor of its possible link to an MEBO MST-13 timer board.

They were not tests of the survivability of any kind of bomb trigger timer board, but to establish the location of the primary suitcase and the amount of explosive used.

No mention has ever been made by Thurman or Feraday to fragment survivability testing as part of the Indian Head tests.

2. The Crown statement continues: "After a number of test explosions, a detailed search was made and circuit board fragments … were all recovered in a condition which was consistent with the debris recovered in relation to the Lockerbie disaster."

COMMENT: An aircraft body contains many printed circuit boards. Test explosions of any part of an aircraft body will therefore produce many circuit board fragments.

Note the use of the terms "consistent with" and "fragments". An uninformed reader - including an uninformed journalist such as Dave Cowan of STV, or even an uninformed lawyer - will naturally conclude a link to the next Crown paragraph:-

3. "The forensic evidence placed before the court included evidence about the appearance of 'the fragment.' And the fact that when it was recovered, it was embedded within a fragment from a blast-damaged grey Slalom brand shirt, which had been found in Newcastleton, Roxburghshire on 13th January 1989 ..."

COMMENT: The fragment was not found on 13th January 1989. The shirt collar containing it was found on that day and entered on the evidence log by DC Gilchrist under the identification "CLOTH".

It would take another four months before the fragment was discovered, well after the completion of the Indian Head tests. It was found by Dr Thomas Hayes on 12th May 1989.

At the trial, under cross-examination, Hayes insisted in reply to two specific questions from Richard Keen QC that it was embedded deep within the shirt collar, and that the police could not have been aware of it prior to his finding.

CONCLUSION

The Indian Head tests, as far as the Hayes fragment is concerned, are an irrelevance.

Either the writers of the Crown statement haven't done their homework, or they've been seriously misled by FBI misinformation. Probably a combination of both.

Crown Agent appointed sheriff

Crown Agent Norman McFadyen, who led the Crown's discredited investigation into the Lockerbie case, has been praised by Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini as he steps down to take up appointment as Sheriff. [RB: A sheriff in Scotland is a local judge, one tier down from the High Court of Justiciary (criminal) and the Court of Session (civil).]

McFadyen, who was investigated by Lothian and Borders CID in 2009 when he was reported by MSP Christine Grahame over concerns about his handling of crucial evidence, was praised by Angiolini for his "great professionalism and integrity" in his handling of the case.

After three weeks investigation, no charges were brought against him.

Earlier this month the Crown Office also attacked the BBC over a Newsnight investigation which challenged the explosives evidence offered by the Crown at the Zeist trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.

"Norman McFadyen is an outstanding lawyer with a long and very distinguished career with Scotland's prosecution service," Angiolini said.

"He has served in a variety of senior posts before his appointment as Crown Agent and Chief Executive. These included Regional Procurator Fiscal for Lothian and Borders and Deputy Crown Agent. He also led the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing with great professionalism and integrity.

"Norman McFadyen has been an immense support to successive Law Officers over the years and he has played a key role in the modernisation of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service."

[The above report comes from the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. The Crown Agent is the civil service head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Scottish rough equivalent of the English Crown Prosecution Service. Mr McFadyen was promoted to the top job after the Lockerbie trial.]

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

O bring my -- weer -- terug na die ou Noordkaap!

My next post on this blog (not before the evening of 14 January) will be from the tiny settlement of Middelpos in the Northern Cape, South Africa. My internet connection there is painfully slow (and cannot be upgraded) which makes trawling the internet and the blogosphere difficult. I would therefore be grateful for any references to Lockerbie-related news items that readers care to send to me. But no large attachments, please, which take an eternity to download.

Update
British Airways has spurned the cri de coeur which forms the heading of this post. Because of weather conditions at Heathrow, I was unable to fly today. I am now booked on the equivalent Thursday flights. But will the runways be any clearer tomorrow? Keep tuned for the next thrilling instalment.

Further update
It looks as if I shall be able to get to Heathrow today (Thursday) for my flight to South Africa. But not too many chickens are yet being counted.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Lockerbie bomber release rules 'followed'

Scotland's first minister has rejected claims he failed to work closely enough with Westminster over the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber.

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi's early release by Scottish ministers on compassionate grounds in August sparked a political row.

MPs asked First Minister Alex Salmond whether there had been "buck passing" between the Scots and UK governments.

He said his government had to observe the rules of the legal process.

Mr Salmond told Westminster's Scottish affairs committee it had not been possible to involve the UK government too closely in the decision to release terminally ill Megrahi, an issue devolved to Scotland.

He was giving evidence to the committee, along with Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and Scotland's top civil servant, Sir John Elvidge, as part of an investigation into co-operation and communication between the Scottish and UK governments.

Scottish ministers have said the protocols were followed and the UK and US governments were informed prior to the release. (...)

[T]he Holyrood government said the move was in line with the ideals of the Scottish justice system.

[From a report on the BBC News website. Longer reports are available on The Herald website here and on The Guardian website here. The latter report reads in part:]

Tony Blair failed to tell two of his most senior cabinet colleagues about secret plans to include the Lockerbie bomber in a prisoner-for-trade deal with Libya, Alex Salmond has suggested.

The first minister suggested that Lord Falconer, one of Blair's most trusted political friends, and Jack Straw, the justice secretary, believed that the UK would block Libya's demands for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to be included in a new prisoner transfer treaty.

But the ministers were not "in the loop" with Blair's plans to include Megrahi in that treaty in his controversial "deal in the desert" with Muammar Gaddafi in May 2007 – plans that were eventually agreed with the Libyans by Gordon Brown in December 2007.

Salmond today told the Scottish affairs select committee at the Commons that, throughout the summer of 2007, Falconer and Straw had repeatedly reassured the Scottish government, both in letters and in face-to-face meetings, that Megrahi would be excluded from the treaty.

Salmond told the committee that the Scottish nationalist government in Edinburgh had consistently opposed the proposal to allow Megrahi to be included.

Salmond said that Falconer, who was justice secretary until Blair stood down in June 2007, had "explicitly said: 'This isn't a difficulty. We've told the Libyans that Megrahi won't be included,' and Jack Straw in July of that year said quite openly that he didn't see any great difficulty, they would just negotiate a PTA [prisoner transfer agreement] which would give us the assurances we desired."

Salmond believed that transferring Megrahi to Libya before his 26-year life sentence was over would breach an undertaking to the US government and US relatives before Megrahi's trial that the Libyan would remain in a Scottish jail.

But in December 2007, after Gordon Brown had become prime minister, the UK government reneged on that position and, Salmond alleged, the deal with the US, when it revealed that the prisoner transfer agreement did not exclude Megrahi.

Straw was forced to say the government now believed it was in the UK's "overwhelming national interests", claiming that the UK's business dealings, security and its desire to see Libya re-enter the international community, overrode Scotland's objections.

Salmond said there was "again an 'evolution' in the UK government's position over this period".

He told the committee, which is investigating inter-government relations between Edinburgh and London, that the prisoner treaty was wrong. "It was a mistake because it raised an expectation by the Libyan government that Mr Megrahi would be included in such a prisoner transfer," he said.

"It was a mistake because it cut across the due process of Scots law, because one of the provisions of prisoner transfer is that legal proceedings would have to come to an end.

"It was a mistake because it was cut across what we believe to be prior agreements with the United States government and the relatives." (...)

Straw and Falconer have been approached for a response.

[Further reports have now appeared in The Scotsman and The Wall Street Journal.]

Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill set to be quizzed over Megrahi

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Scotsman. It reads in part:]

First Minister Alex Salmond will today tell an inquiry into the release of the Lockerbie bomber that his government was left in a difficult situation due to lack of information from UK ministers.

Mr Salmond and justice secretary Kenny MacAskill are due to appear before the Scottish Affairs committee to answer questions on the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. Mr MacAskill's decision to free the mass murderer on compassionate grounds caused outrage.

But Mr Salmond told The Scotsman that the UK government's failure to provide details about the prisoner transfer agreement meant that his government was unable to assess whether it could have seen off a judicial review if Megrahi had not been released.

"The problem is that we do not know what prior commitments were made by the UK government," said Mr Salmond.

[The following are excerpts from a report on the BBC News website:]

Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill are to give evidence to the Scottish affairs committee at Westminster.

Political opponents have been highly critical of the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

Mr Salmond will say that protocols were followed and the UK and US governments were informed prior to the release. (...)

The Scottish Affairs Committee will question Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill on Tuesday as part of an investigation into co-operation and communication between the Scottish and UK governments.

In particular MPs are looking at how this worked in the case of the Lockerbie bomber.

Mr Salmond is also likely to express regret at the scenes in Tripoli when Scottish flags were waved as Megrahi arrived home.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Well, now we know

[The following are excerpts from a post on the David Morehouse website.]

Is there precognition, is it possible to travel forward in time and see what’s going to happen? Or can you, as the pre-cogs do, too, go backwards and see what actually did happen? Can you harness these skills for policing? (...)

Yes, you can. The CIA is already there. There are pre-cogs already working and they are called psychic spies. Operating in blacked out, secret warehouses nestled in bucolic Virginia industrial parkland, they work for the Department of Defense, the National Security Council and a half dozen other intelligence agencies.

Meet one of them: Dr David Morehouse, former Army Ranger officer, CIA operative and remote viewer.

“In 1972,” he says, “Stanford Research Institute pulled together all the major psychics that they could get temporary security clearances for and could pay, to come in and explore this. And the job of these laser physicists was to take these greatest natural abilities and synthesize these abilities into a protocol under clinical conditions, scientific test conditions and establish a protocol that could be trained, reliable, measurable, credible.

“It took them $50-million and six years of trial and error to develop that protocol. And this is what they came up with: Stages One through Six of co-ordinate remote viewing. The protocol was turned over to the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1982. (...)

“I was training Jordanian Rangers in the desert and a Jordanian machine gun, a bullet traveling 2,832 feet per second hits me 2 1/2 inches above the eye, knocks me unconscious, and I have a vision.” The vision shifted and changed, but kept returning. He told no one, was brought home and tested, but there was no damage. After a few months, he left the Rangers. (...) he was recruited into a Special Access program that was codenamed Royal Cape.

“Royal Cape was to support logistically and develop an infrastructure to support clandestine and covert operations in Tier One and Two countries. When I finally told one of our counselors what had happened to me in the desert, I was recruited, very rapidly, into a top secret clan of psychic spies called remote viewers.”

According to Morehouse, one of this unit’s most distinct successes was the discovery of what and who brought down Pan Am flight 103, which crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1989 [sic]. Information produced by remote viewers just hours after the crash said that a bomb placed in a music box was the source.

“There was a backup on Pan Am 103: an Iranian woman who had lost her family as a result of the US shooting down an Iranian airliner from a missile frigate. She was seated on the left-hand side of the leading edge of the wing, which was exactly where the explosives in the cargo hold were, just below her. She had explosives strapped around her waist."

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Spare a thought for Lockerbie

[This is the heading over a segment of the column Richard Ingrams's Week in today's edition of The Independent. It reads as follows:]

Busily castigating the US intelligence services for their failures over the bomb attempt in a plane headed for Detroit, President Obama could well spend a moment or two of his time over their record with a previous and successful act of terrorism, the Lockerbie bombing of 1988.

A BBC Newsnight report this week revived interest in the long-running Lockerbie saga when John Wyatt, an explosives expert employed by the UN, gave details of extensive tests he had conducted on a replica of the timer allegedly used to blow up the Pan Am plane. It was a fragment of such a timer that helped to convict Abdul al Megrahi of the bombing. Yet in none of Wyatt's 20 test explosions did any single identifiable fragment survive. In a lengthy email to President Obama before Christmas, Lockerbie campaigner Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the explosion, had already drawn his attention to the suspect evidence about the time given at Megrahi's trial by FBI agent Thomas Thurman who also featured in the Newsnight report.

Dr Swire also referred the President to the fact that one of the key British witnesses for the prosecution, Alan Feraday of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, had been discredited in an IRA bombing case and that the Lord Chief Justice declared his evidence to be "dogmatic in the extreme" and ruled that "he should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in this field". So who, Dr Swire asks, authorised the employment of Feraday in the Lockerbie case, and why?

[Dr Swire was interviewed on these matters this morning on the BBC Radio Scotland programme Newsweek Scotland. The interview is available on the BBC iPlayer.]

Friday, 8 January 2010

Reaction to Newsnight programme

[The following e-mail was sent by Frank Duggan to Tom Thurman and copied to Mark Hirst and me amongst others.]

Tom - that BBC video is rubbish. It must gall you to have your own experience and background deliberately misstated, but worse, to have the whole investigation continually called into question by others with unsupported theories. I would hope that there would be one reporter in the UK who would understand that the piece of timer in question, as well as other pieces of evidence, were not destroyed because the plane was not blown up! It was torn apart, and even pieces of paper that were in that suitcase were recovered. Perhaps we can remind them what happens when a pinhole is made in a balloon, and that the relatively small explosive charge created a gas shockwave penetrating the skin of the plane and blowing off the front nose portion.

Perhaps I am asking too much.

[The following e-mail was sent by Mark Hirst to Frank Duggan and copied to me.]

Tom Thurman complains [in an e-mail to Richard Marquise] that the BBC left out his other "relevant" background. Fred Whitehurst (former FBI Crime Lab Supervisor) has made it plain Thurman could not in any way describe himself as a scientist. He is certainly not qualified in the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) industry. Furthermore his comments related to PT35 confirm that the "link" was made not through scientific tests, but merely through a visual ID of the circuit board, after the most experienced explosive experts in the UK could not identify it, nor could the dozens of PCB manufacturers that police investigators visited.

As a former PCB quality assurance inspector myself (with the largest PCB manufacturer in the world) and who has spoken to a number of colleagues in the industry, there are a large number of scientific tests that could have, and should have, been carried out on PT35, but which were not. These would have given a clearer indication whether this fragment came from the timer device alleged. But as is clear in the trial transcript and below there was no actual scientific testing applied to this fragment, beyond the visual ID of a man whose professional integrity has, as is already widely known and reported, been brought into serious question in other criminal investigations. Sadly the same is true of Mr Feraday and the dubious forensic evidence he provided in other serious miscarriages of justice in the UK.

Sadly the Crown Office statement once again seems more concerned with upholding the reputation of the conviction, regardless of whether it deserves it or not - it clearly does not in this case. They are defending the indefensible, and leading the Scottish legal system further into the mire.

As a lifelong Scottish patriot, it pains me to say it but the reputation of the much vaunted independent Scottish legal system has been irredeemably damaged by this shoddy conviction, made worse by the subsequent sycophantic statements by the Crown Office to appease extreme right wing political sentiment in the US, whilst all the time one of the prime (PFLP-GC) suspects in this case sits comfortably in his home in Washington... What tragic irony.

Mr Duggan and those behind him (and I don't mean the US relatives of PA103) may take comfort in the knowledge that they are in some way reflecting and upholding the realpolitik of US global geo-political interests in persisting in the utter nonsense of this conviction, but eventually, regardless of the "appropriateness" of the forum, the full truth of this atrocity will come to light sooner or later. I would suggest, if they have not already done so, that the Crown Office press team begin drafting some preparatory lines to reflect that reality as it continues to enter the public domain, if we have any hope of salvaging the reputation of Scots law. I fear however it may be too late.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Patrick Haseldine's references

[Patrick Haseldine has recently posted a lengthy comment, with supporting references, on the Newsnight segment broadcast after all thread. Unfortunately, the hypertext links do not work. Here they are:]

References
A. UN Council for Namibia enacts Decree No 1 (http://www.jstor.org/pss/4186138) and UNCN plans enforcement action. (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1309/is_v22/ai_3752724/?tag=content;col1) (Also see "Council for Namibia sues Netherlands over Namibia's natural resources" article, which follows.)

B. History of Namibia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Namibia#Negotiations_and_transition)

C. Michael McGowan's invitation to Bernt Carlsson. (http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/opinion/Michael-McGowan-The-best-tribute.5612963.jp)

D. "Finger of suspicion", The Guardian, 7 December 1989. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PatrickHaseldine3B.jpg)

E. Jan-Olof Bengtsson, iDAG, 12 March 1990. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_talk:IDAG(1)12MAR90.jpg)

F. Reuters report, 12 November 1994. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_talk:REUTERS12NOV94.jpg)

G. "The Lockerbie Incident : A Detective's Tale", by John Crawford, 2002 (pages 88/89). http://books.google.com/books?id=Nh9_p8RjikQC&pg=PP1&dq=Lockerbie+Incident:+A+Detective%27s+Tale#v=onepage&q=&f=false

H. Former MEP calls for urgent inquiry by the United Nations. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernt_Carlsson#Call_for_urgent_inquiry)

Extract from The Gulliver Rossing Uranium Ltd Dossier:

Exploitation of Namibian uranium has had a "disastrous impact" on British foreign policy, and the relationship between Britain and many Third World countries. (A visit to the mine paid by the country's prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in early 1989, where she commented that the project made her "proud to be British" can only have deepened this sense of disillusionment and mistrust among Third World peoples). Moreover - and whether or not the mine's output has ever directly fed South Africa's nuclear plants - Rossing has certainly buttressed the apartheid state.
(http://www.sea-us.org.au/gulliver/rossing.html)

Council for Namibia sues Netherlands over Namibia's natural resources
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Council+for+Namibia+sues+Netherlands+over+Namibia's+natural...-a06272039

Patrick Haseldine's online petition http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/BerntCarlsson/ which demands a United Nations inquiry into the murder of UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Crown Office swipes at BBC over Lockerbie claims, but dodges key explosives issue

[This is the headline over a report on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads in part:]

The Crown Office have released a statement criticising the BBC after it broadcast an investigation on Newsnight across England and Wales reporting that the UN's European consultant on explosives, John Wyatt, found that the circuit board “evidence” relied upon in the discredited Crown case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi could not have survived a semtex explosion as claimed in the trial. (...)

The Crown statement repeats the fact that Megrahi was convicted of the Lockerbie atrocity, but omits the later development that the conviction was thereafter under appeal before being dropped to facilitate Megrahi's return to Libya, following the finding of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission that a miscarriage of justice may have occured.

The statement also highlighted what it described as “errors” in the BBC report and lists details regarding a series of test explosions undertaken as part of the Lockerbie proceedings. However the statement does not address Wyatt’s central claim about the ability of a fragment of circuit board to survive a semtex explosion.

[The full report, including the complete text of the Crown Office statement, can be read here.]

Lockerbie-Malta link blasted away

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of the Maltese newspaper The Times. It reads in part:]

A piece of circuit board thought to have formed part of the bomb that blew up the Pan-Am aircraft over Lockerbie and which supported the thesis that linked Malta to the tragedy is unlikely to have survived the explosion, according to fresh tests by a British bomb expert.

The expert, a UN European consultant on explosives, John Wyatt, recreated the explosion 20 times, using a similar circuit board and timer and the parts were pulverised every time.

Talking to The Times yesterday, he said every test left absolutely no fragments like the one found at Lockerbie and which was used to implicate Libya and Malta in the whole affair. (...)

"It was highly improbable to the point of making it unlikely" that such a fragment could have survived the blast, Dr Wyatt said. (...)

"We conducted 20 tests, 19 of which were indoors to make sure we could collect all the evidence. We even painted the circuit board bright yellow to make it easier to identify any fragments among the debris. In no circumstance did we find any fragment," Dr Wyatt explained.

The explosive tests were conducted in stages and in a controlled environment, which would have made it very easy to collect all the evidence.

"We tried exploding the device on its own; in a radio similar to the one it was supposed to have been planted in; in a suitcase with and without clothes; surrounded by other suitcases and, eventually, in a container. In all tests, the timer and the circuit board were completely destroyed," Dr Wyatt said.

The fragment found in Lockerbie had not been in ideal forensic conditions, he added, because the explosion happened at a height of 10,000 feet and the debris fell over a large area in the Scottish wilderness. "This increases the improbability of finding a fragment that was part of the bomb itself," he said.

Dr Wyatt, who has more than 25 years experience in the British army, mostly as a bomb disposal officer, conducted the tests for BBC's current affairs programme, Newsnight (...)

When asked by The Times, the expert would not say whether his analysis would lead him to suggest the fragment could have been put there after the explosion. "That is not for me to say but it was very, very improbable for such a fragment to be found," he said.

The fragment was found three weeks after the attack. For months it remained unnoticed and unremarked but, eventually, it was to shape the entire investigation. The fragment was embedded in a charred piece of clothing, which was marked with a label saying it was made in Malta.

The Malta lead raised the question as to who would have bought the clothes.

The investigation zoomed in on the Sliema outlet Mary's House and shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who was the other key element in the prosecution's case, identified Mr al-Megrahi.

However, serious doubts were cast on Mr Gauci's testimony because the identification of Mr al-Megrahi only came years later after the witness had seen him pictured in a magazine as a Lockerbie suspect. (...)

This led several people, including Scottish relatives of people who died in the atrocity, to call for a fresh inquiry.

The call was never taken up, not even by the Maltese government, which, many believe, should lead the fight to clear Malta's name from the bombing implication.

Version available outside the UK

I am grateful to a reader of the blog for informing me that the Newsnight segment is available to non-UK residents on the BBC News website and can be accessed here.

Newsnight segment broadcast after all

The Lockerbie segment was broadcast on Newsnight on Wednesday evening after all. I have just watched it on the Newsnight website. The programme concentrates on the famous fragment of circuit board that supposedly came from a MST-13 timer, supplied by MEBO principally to Libya.

The programme mentions the concerns that often have been expressed about the provenance of the fragment, about its identification, about the forensic scientific processes to which it was (or was not) subjected and about deficiencies in the record keeping relating to it. But by far the most important revelation in the programme is the evidence of experiments conducted by top explosives expert, Dr John Wyatt. In twenty controlled explosions of suitcases packed as the Lockerbie one was alleged to have been, no such fragment of timer circuit board ever survived. According to Dr Wyatt, the contention that such a fragment survived the Pan Am 103 explosion at 31,000 feet is simply "unbelievable".

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Newsnight Lockerbie segment postponed

I understand that the Newsnight report on the Lockerbie evidence, which was due to be broadcast tonight, has been postponed because of a breaking political story in the UK. It will probably be broadcast on Friday, 8th January).

'Flaws' in key Lockerbie evidence

An investigation by BBC's Newsnight has cast doubts on the key piece of evidence which convicted the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

Tests aimed at reproducing the blast appear to undermine the case's central forensic link, based on a tiny fragment identified as part of a bomb timer.

The tests suggest the fragment, which linked the attack to Megrahi, would not have survived the mid-air explosion. (...)

Newsnight has been reviewing that evidence, and has exposed serious doubts about the forensics used to identify the fragment as being part of a trigger circuit board.

The fragment was found three weeks after the attack. For months it remained unnoticed and unremarked, but eventually it was to shape the entire investigation.

The fragment was embedded in a charred piece of clothing, which was marked with a label saying it was made in Malta. (...)

Newsnight has discovered that the fragment - crucial to the conviction - was never subjected to chemical analysis or swabbing to establish whether it had in fact been involved in any explosion.

And the UN's European consultant on explosives, John Wyatt, has told Newsnight that there are further doubts over the whether the fragment could have come from the trigger of the Lockerbie bomb.

He has recreated the suitcase bomb which it is said destroyed Pan Am 103, using the type of radio in which the explosive and the timer circuit board were supposedly placed, and the same kind of clothes on which the fragment was found.

In each test the timer and its circuit board were obliterated, prompting Mr Wyatt to question whether such a fragment could have survived the mid-air explosion.

He told Newsnight: "I do find it quite extraordinary and I think highly improbable and most unlikely that you would find a fragment like that - it is unbelievable.

"We carried out 20 tests, we didn't carry out 100 or 1,000, but in those 20 tests we found absolutely nothing at all - so I found it highly improbable that you would find anything like that, particularly at 10,000 feet when bits are dropping into long wet grass over hundreds of miles."

Watch Peter Marshall's full report on the Lockerbie bomb evidence on Newsnight at 2230 GMT on BBC Two, then afterwards on the Newsnight website.

[From a report on the BBC News website.

I am informed by a reader that it is likely that people not based in the UK will be unable to watch the video on the Newsnight website unless they are operating through a UK-based proxy server.]

Monday, 4 January 2010

We were right to complain about Lockerbie prisoner pact, says SNP

[This is the headline over an article in today's issue of The Times. It refers to the report in yesterday's issue of The Observer that forms the subject-matter of the blog post that can be read here. The article in The Times reads in part:]

The Scottish government claimed last night it had been fully justified in protesting that Tony Blair’s Government had kept it in the dark about a prisoner transfer agreement negotiated between the UK and Libya.

Its comments came after the publication of e-mails in a Sunday newspaper which revealed that the Government at Westminster had tried to secure the backing of the Scottish government for the deal — which allowed for the release of the Lockerbie bomber — weeks after it had agreed to it in principle in 2007.

The disclosure of the prisoner transfer agreement led to furious exchanges between the UK Government and Alex Salmond’s Scottish Administration, with the Scots saying that they had not been consulted. While the Blair Government responded by saying that the agreement did not specifically refer to Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, in Greenock jail at the time, Mr Salmond pointed out that he was the only Libyan prisoner held in the UK.

A Scottish government spokesman said last night: “This confirms everything that the Scottish government said at the time about how UK ministers kept Scotland in the dark about the prisoner transfer agreement [PTA] process being negotiated by Tony Blair with Libya.

“When we did find out about it, UK ministers at first agreed to our request to have anyone involved in the Lockerbie atrocity excluded from the PTA, but they then reneged on that.”

The e-mails exchanged between both sides in the dispute show civil servants in Whitehall sought to convene a meeting with their Scottish justice counterparts “to establish the UK’s negotiating position” only at the end of June 2007 or the beginning of July 2007. This was more than a month after Mr Blair signed a memorandum of understanding with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, in which both sides agreed to a binding deal to exchange prisoners.

The e-mails can be seen as bolstering claims that the Blair Government was keen to sign the agreement, which has since being linked with wider deals covering arms exports and oil.

In the same month the memorandum was signed, BP agreed a billion-dollar oil deal with Libya, and Britain agreed to sell the former pariah Libyan state water cannons. (...)

The e-mails will serve to reinforce suspicions that the UK Government was willing to ride roughshod over Scottish sensitivities when it came to the Lockerbie bomber.

In an emergency statement at Holyrood at the time, Mr Salmond expressed his fury that the understanding signed between Blair and the Libyans did not specifically exclude al-Megrahi. Over the next few months, Mr Salmond made several requests for al-Megrahi to be excluded from the agreement. In December 2007, Jack Straw finally wrote to Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, to say that he had been unable to secure such an exclusion and that time had run out.

In the event, the prisoner transfer agreement was not used in the case of al-Megrahi. To the undisguised fury of American relatives of the 270 Lockerbie victims, he was released on the ground of compassion by Mr MacAskill in August last year. The reason for his release was that he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer and he had only about three months to live. (...)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Who released al-Megrahi?

[This is the heading over a post on the Hythlod├Žus blog. It refers to a report which is said to appear in today's edition of The Observer. As the post itself states, the report is not to be found on the newspaper's website. The post reads in part:]

It may be many years before the whole story behind the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the alleged Lockerbie bomber, is told. However, there are regular snippets being released under freedom of information requests.

The latest such releases seem to have been picked up by The Observer in Scotland alone, not even deemed important enough to be published online alongside the rest of the Observer’s content. In a short article, the little-read left-wing paper reveals that, as was widely speculated, the move to release al-Megrahi began more then two years before Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill announced the actual release.

The new timeline of events as presented in today’s article is as follows:

May 2007
*SNP Government elected to Holyrood.
*Tony Blair signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya. This Memorandum was a standard text, allowing for the exchange of all prisoners and remains legally binding upon both the UK and Libya.

June/July 2007
*BP, the British-owned oil giant, sign a multi-million dollar deal to exploit oil resources in Libya.
*The British Government signs an agreement to supply Libya, a dictatorship, with water cannons. Rumours persist regarding sales of additional lethal and non-lethal arms to Libya.
*Tony Blair stands down as Prime Minister.
*Whitehall-based Civil Servants contact their Scottish counterparts in order to fix the UK’s “negotiating position” on the already signed Memorandum of Understanding.

June-December 2007
*The SNP Government lobby various Westminster figures, including Lord Falconer, to add a clause to the Memorandum of Understanding excluding al-Megrahi from prisoner exchange deals.

December 2007
*Jack Straw, at that time Home Secetary, writes to Kenny MacAskill stating that the UK Government is unable to secure a deal on al-Megrahi and that time has run out as far as negotiating is concerned.

August 2009
*Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi released and repatriated to Libya.
*Kenny MacAskill faces censure by the Scottish Parliament for his decision to release al-Megrahi but maintains that the decision to release him was his alone.
*The Scottish Government is heavily criticised by the US Government and various British political figures. The British Government, beset by it’s own problems, maintain their support for the decision.

Despite what Kenny MacAskill maintains, it does appear that the decision to release al-Megrahi was out of his hands. By signing a treaty which legally bound the Scottish Government to release Libyan prisoners, the Westminster administration over-ruled the devolution settlement undermining the sovereignty of the Scottish Government and the democratic will of the Scottish People in order to appease a dictatorship. (...)

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Relatives of Lockerbie victims begin new legal fight for public inquiry

[This is the headline over a report recently published on the Telegraph website. It reads in part:]

UK Families Flight 103, the relatives' campaign group, will use human rights laws in a bid to uncover the truth about the terrorist attack, which claimed 270 lives in December 1988.

The group has hired Gareth Peirce, the prominent human rights solicitor better known for her work representing terror suspects, to devise a legal strategy to secure the inquiry for which families have long campaigned.

It is the first time the families have formally hired lawyers to pursue an inquiry.

The development comes after Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, rejected the group's latest demands for an independent review of the bombing. He informed them of his decision in a letter, dated Christmas Eve, which was received by the relatives last week.

In the letter, Mr Brown said: "All of the matters which you have raised in support of the case for an inquiry are points which were raised at the original trial or the appeal in Scotland, and I do not see that it would be in the public interest to air them again at an inquiry." (...)

Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was killed in the atrocity, said: "We are arguing that our human rights have been transgressed by the failure to hold an inquiry.

"This is the first time we have hired lawyers to do this. We have until now relied on appealing to the good sense and good nature of our politicians, and that has been to no avail."

The Rev John Mosey, whose daughter Helga, 19, was among the victims when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, said: "I feel extremely positive about this development. For 21 years we have been asking the same questions and asking for an inquiry but I think we are nearer to getting it than we have ever been."

Legal tactics used by UK Families Flight 103 are likely to focus on Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, enshrined in British law by the Human Rights Act, which details the right to life.

Previous legal cases have shown that any failure by the state to properly investigate a suspected murder may amount to a breach of the right to life of the victim.

Options open to the families include launching a judicial review of the Government's decision to refuse an inquiry, or using human rights laws to overturn Megrahi's conviction so that ministers are forced to act.

Dr Jim Swire, whose 24-year-old daughter Flora died on the flight, said it was crucial to overturn Megrahi's guilty verdict so that "public outrage" left the Prime Minister with no choice but to allow in independent inquiry into the bombing.

Jean Berkley, who lost her 29-year-old son Alistair, said Mr Brown's letter "was not a well-considered reply" and added: "This is a kind of treatment we are used to receiving. Our perfectly-well thought out points were dismissed in a rather thoughtless way."

[The Prime Minister's letter, dated 24 December 2009, is in reply to the letter delivered by the UK relatives on 27 October 2009. It reads as follows:]

Thank you for your letter of 27 October.

As I said in my letter of 23 October, I am deeply aware of the pain and suffering caused to you and the other families of the Lockerbie bombing victims. You continue to have my deepest sympathies for your loss.

You referred in your previous letters to the need for a public inquiry into the investigation of the Lockerbie bombing and in your letter of 27 October you again referred to the Heathrow incident. As I said in my last letter, the Heathrow incident to which you refer was examined by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland, which concluded that it did not render the conviction of Mr Megrahi unsafe.

All of the matters which you have raised in support of the case for an inquiry are points which were raised at the original trial or the appeal in Scotland, and I do not see that it would be in the public interest to air them again at an inquiry.

I do appreciate that this answer is still not what you were looking for. Please be assured that my thoughts, and those of the Government, remain with you and the other families, especially at what must be a particularly difficult time of year for you all.

Reaction to "Gadhafi admitted it!"

[The following comment on the "Gadhafi admitted it!" thread comes from Peter Biddulph. It was too long to be posted directly as a comment on that thread.]

The timing of this information is most strange.

According to Wikipaedia and other sources, Arnaud de Borchgrave appears to have an impeccable background. According to him, the CIA debriefing arranged by Woolsey took place in 1993.

But I am informed by an expert on these matters that Gaddafi never, repeat never, was without at least one armed personal bodyguard. To be alone with an American journalist with many contacts in Washington would be, for Gaddafi, impossible.

And if this information was known in 1993, why on earth did the CIA, the FBI and the Scottish Crown office not know of it in the next seven years leading up to the trial?

Why was de Borchgrave not invited to be deposed or give evidence to the Lockerbie trial, or even an affidavit?

It might be said to be hearsay, and therefore not admissable in court.

But several hearsay issues and affidavits were extensively investigated by the court, notably the Goben Memorandum, and the account of the interview of bomb maker Marwan Khreesat by FBI Agent Edward Marshman. Even a hearsay account that Gaddafi confessed to the crime would have cast serious doubt on al-Megrahi's defence.

The original 1991 indictment could have been varied to reflect the latest knowledge. Indeed, the final version of the indictment was agreed by the US Department of Justice and the Scottish Crown Office in 2000, only three weeks before the trial commenced.

If the FBI did know it, why did they not mention any of this in a May 1995 Channel 4 discussion following the screening of the documentary The Maltese Double Cross? Buck Revell of the FBI became quite intense in answering Jim Swire's questions and those of presenter Sheena McDonald. But he said not a word about the Gaddafi "confession". Why?

Also, how come Marquise - as he says himself "Chief FBI Investigator of the Lockerbie bombing" - was not aware of it in the seven years leading up to the 2000 trial or the nine years since? That is, sixteen years of ignorance?

And why did CIA Vincent Cannistraro himself not mention it when interviewed on camera on at least two occasions in 1994 by Alan Francovich for the documentary film The Maltese Double Cross?

As head of the CIA team investigating Libya, Cannistraro would be the first to be briefed by the Langley central office. He was happy to provide hearsay evidence to the media and film camera against Oliver North and any Libyan or Iranian that got in his way. He spoke at length about green and brown timer boards, and potential witnesses.

To relate on camera the Gaddafi "confession" would have been greatly to Cannistraro's advantage, a slam-dunk in the public mind. Indeed, even a hint in the media would have ham-strung al-Megrahis defence before proceedings commenced.

But between 1993 and 2009 from Cannistraro not a word. And when it comes to America's interests, the CIA never follow Queensberry rules.

CIA Robert Baer too, as a Middle Eastern specialist has given no hint of this. Such information would surely have come within the "need to know" category. Yet he has maintained on two occasions that Iran commissioned the job and paid the PFLP-GC handsomely two days after the attack. His conclusion suggests strongly that the so-called fragment of the bomb was planted.

The real reasons for this late announcement, we believe, are as follows:

1. It is well known among those who study these things in the field that there are two candidates shortly to succeed Gaddafi. His son Saif, and his son-in law Sennusi. Meanwhile Sennusi is not top of the pops with Arab leaders in the region. They would love it if he were out of the frame. The Borchgrave revelation discredits Sennusi perfectly.

2. The SCCRC is shortly to publish information which some believe will cause serious embarrassment to the FBI And CIA. The Borchgrave email is huge smoke and mirrors, a spoiler.

It all looks highly suspicious. Just another carefully crafted phase in a long, long history of disinformation.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Special relationship ‘unharmed’

The decision to free the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing will not cause any long-term damage to the so-called UK-US “special relationship”, the American ambassador to London has insisted.

Louis Susman, 71, a former banker from Chicago and one of Barack Obama’s key backers during the presidential campaign, said the special relationship was like a marriage in which there were disagreements.

He said: “This was a spat, a case where friends can disagree. Do I think it has diminished the relationship on a long-term basis? Absolutely not.”

Mr Susman dismissed threats of a boycott of British goods in wake of the decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, adding: “I will continue to drink Scotch whisky, I love Scottish golf courses and we buy Scottish sweaters.”

[From a report on the heraldscotland website.]

Gadhafi admitted it!

This is the subject-heading of an e-mail sent by Arnaud de Borchgrave to Frank Duggan and copied by the latter to me. It reads as follows:

"As Gaddafi explained it to me, which you are familiar with, it was indeed Iran's decision to retaliate for the Iran Air Airbus shot down by the USS Vincennes on its daily flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai that led to a first subcontracting deal to Syrian intel, which, in turn, led to the 2nd subcontract to Libyan intel. As he himself said if they had been first at this terrorist bat, they would not have put Malta in the mix; Cyprus would have made more sense to draw attention away from Libya."

According to Arnaud de Borchgrave, Gaddafi made the admission, off the record, in the course of an interview in 1993. His published account reads:

"Megrahi was a small cog in a much larger conspiracy. After a long interview with Gaddafi in 1993, this editor at large of The Washington Times asked Libya's supreme leader to explain, off the record, his precise involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, and for which Libya paid $2.7 billion in reparations. He dismissed all the aides in his tent (located that evening in the desert about 100 kilometers south of Tripoli) and began in halting English without benefit of an interpreter, as was the case in the on-the-record part of the interview.

"Gaddafi candidly admitted that Lockerbie was retaliation for the July 3, 1988, downing of an Iranian Airbus. Air Iran Flight 655, on a 28-minute daily hop from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Strait of Hormuz to the port city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the other side of the Gulf, was shot down by a guided missile from the Aegis cruiser USS Vincennes. The Vincennes radar mistook it for an F-14 Tomcat fighter (which Iran still flies); 290 were killed, including 66 children. A year before, in 1987, the USS Stark was attacked by an Iraqi Mirage, killing 37 sailors. The Vincennes skipper, Capt. William Rogers, received the Legion of Merit, and the entire crew was awarded combat-action ribbons. The United States paid compensation of $61.8 million to the families of those killed on IR 655.

"Gaddafi told me, 'The most powerful navy in the world does not make such mistakes. Nobody in our part of the world believed it was an error.' And retaliation, he said, was clearly called for. Iranian intelligence subcontracted retaliation to one of the Syrian intelligence services (there are 14 of them), which, in turn, subcontracted part of the retaliatory action to Libyan intelligence (at that time run by Abdullah Senoussi, Gaddafi's brother-in-law). 'Did we know specifically what we were asked to do?' said Gaddafi. 'We knew it would be comparable retaliation for the Iranian Airbus, but we were not told what the specific objective was,' Gaddafi added.

"As he got up to take his leave, he said, 'Please tell the CIA that I wish to cooperate with America. I am just as much threatened by Islamist extremists as you are.'

"When we got back to Washington, we called Director of Central Intelligence Jim Woolsey to tell him what we had been told off the record. Woolsey asked me if I would mind being debriefed by the CIA. I agreed. And the rest is history."

On the assumption that this account of an off-the-record conversation in 1993 is accurate, it in no way affects the wrongfulness of the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi. As I have tried (without success) to explain to US zealots in the past, the fact -- if it be the fact -- that Libya was in some way involved in Lockerbie does not entail as a consequence that any particular Libyan citizen was implicated. The evidence led at the Zeist trial did not justify the guilty verdict against Megrahi. On that basis alone his conviction should have been quashed had the recently-abandoned appeal gone the full distance. That conclusion is reinforced (a) by the material uncovered by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission and (b) by the material released on Mr Megrahi's website.