Tuesday, 13 April 2010

FBI agent dismisses CIA spy’s claim of Iran ties to Pan Am 103 bomb

[This is the heading over a post on Jeff Stein's Spy Talk blog hosted by The Washington Post. It reads in part:]

Retired Special Agent Richard Marquise, who headed the FBI’s investigation into the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, says there is no credible evidence for former Iranian double agent Reza Kahlili’s claim that Iran downed the plane.

Moreover, Kahlili's claim that his CIA handlers weren’t interested in hearing what he knew about it is ridiculous, Marquise said in an interview.

Kahlili (the name is a pseudonym) makes the claims in a memoir, "A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran," which has generated a lot of attention since it was published April 6. Its general theme is that Washington has underestimated the Iranian threat.

“I have read the parts about Lockerbie and did not see anything which was more than pure speculation on his part,” says Marquise, who headed the FBI task force on the bombing and later wrote a book about the probe.

”He said his info came from some guy he met in London after the attack. He never mentions anything about having knowledge of the attack before, and no information that would substantiate how it could have happened.“

Kahlili’s allegations aren’t nearly as specific in his book as they are in his interviews promoting it.

One news report summarizes Kahlili saying the CIA “didn’t seem interested in [his] information, which included details on the type of radio transmitter used in the bomb and other details not publicly known.”

But in the book, Khalili makes no claim of knowing technical details about the bomb, much less that the CIA wasn’t interested in what he knew.

In interviews, however, he has expanded on the theme.

“Shortly after the Pan Am incident I was in Europe on a mission and I had met with Iranian agents somewhere in Europe …” he told Roger L. Simon, the Hollywood writer and head of the Pajamas Media web site.

“We talked about the incident, they verified that Rafsanjani had ordered the Pan Am bombing and the retaliation for the Iranian airliner incident and they talked about a Palestinian suspect and the transistor — that the bomb was in the transistor radio. … In my conversation with them I was convinced that this was an Iranian act. It was delivered, as promised, through their proxies.”

Kahlili continues: “I reported my findings to the CIA, gave the names of the agents. They were traced — their travels were traced; where they were before, what countries they had visited. I told them of their connection to the Iranian hierarchy and so that’s where we left it off.”

Kahlili said he “expected a follow-up,” but “nothing happened.”

“The new US administration, President Bush Senior, made an assessment that Hashimi Rafsanjani, the new president, is ready for a change in diplomatic relations…,” he writes. George H.W. Bush wanted to move on

Twenty years later, U.S. intelligence is still covering up the Iranian role in the Pan Am bombing, Kahlili hints darkly.

“In August 2009,” he writes in his book, “Scottish authorities freed Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted for downing the plane, just when his legal team was ready to present US Defense Intelligence Agency documents implicating Iran.”

It's true that DIA sources did report, soon after the plane went down, that Iran orchestrated the bombing through Syria and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP.

And the FBI’s Marquise, now retired, does acknowledge that Iran was first suspected of carrying out the bombing, because U.S. fighters had mistakenly downed an Iranian Airbus over the Persian Gulf five months before.

But investigators eventually discounted the reports for lack of evidence, he said.

Amid the debris, Marquise recounted, an investigator found the main piece of evidence that eventually led to Libya’s authorship of the crime: a piece of the circuit board that set off the bomb.

The FBI traced it to the head of a Swiss firm, who told them he had made only “20 or 21” of the type, “all of which were delivered to Libyan officials,” Marquise said.

All the physical evidence pointed to Libya.

“Nothing ties Iran to the evidence,” he declared. “There is no evidence, nothing that could be used in court, that ties Iran to those timers.”

Asked for comment, Kahlili repeated the main points in his book and said, "I think the lack of investigation of Iran's involvement into Pan Am bombing and behind the scene negotiations between Rafsanjani and President Bush were related."


  1. How nice, Mr. Marquise answers simple questions!
    I am still waiting for answers to almost a dozen of more advanced questions. (Other participants may wait for answers to their questions)
    It seems Mr. Marquise has no answers to my questions. Or he is not allowed to answer. How nice!

  2. The point is Mr Marquise says

    "But investigators eventually discounted the reports for lack of evidence"

    This is of Iranian responsibility. But the point is that this assessment is from the US side.

    The Iranians made it quite clear in the aftermath of IR-655 that they wanted revenge.

    If it wasn't Pan Am 103, what was it?

    Nothing I can see.

    Charles Norrie

  3. I'm not entirely impressed with the author's evidence, from what I've seen. Nor with Mr. Marquise. But there are some good comments there now.

  4. Can I take a number of points from all of this.

    Mr Marquise says that Mr Kahlili has no credible evidence.

    But Mr Kahlili was dealing with the CIA not Mr Marquise who was FBI. Mr K did not take his fears to the FBI. Therefore we must conclude that the CIA had concluded there was no credible evidence. It appears that this is the first time that Mr Marquise has mentioned publicly Mr Kahlili. If it is reality the first time Mr Marquise has come across the name, why did not the CIA tell the FBI about Mr Kallilil's existence and claims.

    Now that they are out in the open, it's a bit ripe to claim that they can have no basis n fact. The attribution of Lockerbie to the CIA, even at thr bits the investigators can agree on is entirely due to the CIA; the chip identified in Mr "Orkin's" office by Mr Thurman at CIA HQ, and the sadly confused and misleading Mr Giaka, who was an undoubted CIA agent (though not a very good one - so bad in fact that the Zeist Court decided to discount his story completely, with the exception of his views on the structure of Libyan ESO/JSO, which kept Mr Abdullah Senoussi in the frame as the silent Libyan defendant.)
    Mr Marquise goes on to miss the essential point of the Mr Kahlili's story, that it was reported somewhat contemporaneously to the CIA, who did not pass it on to the FBI.

    Then we get the usual US coloured spectacles in the form of a comment from President HW Bush:

    "The new US administration, President Bush Senior, made an assessment that Hashimi Rafsanjani, the new president, is ready for a change in diplomatic relations…,”

    The point is that Bush's observation is irrelevant. We are investigating a crime in which 270 people died here, and Bush is braying on about diplomatic relations. The FBI should have ignored everything a mere President said in the search for the truth; bu they didn't. They bowed to the ruling political ieology coming out of the White House and Langley: "Don't blame Iran. We won't let you. Be content with the pathetic lies we've dreamt up about two Libyans and the oh so wicked Libyan state!"

  5. Some of Charles' comments actually make sense. I must have dropped acid!

  6. Baz,

    Who is Ian Spiro? You haven't spoken about him in quite a while. Nuff said?

    Charles Norrie