Friday, 30 July 2010

BBC presenter 'speaking nonsense’ over Megrahi release

[This is the headline over a report published this morning on the Newsnet Scotland website. It reads in part:]

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has dismissed as “nonsense” a claim by BBC Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler ...

Mr Salmond was appearing on the UK Newsnight programme in order to address attacks from US Senator Robert Menendez. Mr Menendez is one of four senators whose letter to the UK ambassador resulted in the setting up of a Senate Committee hearing into the circumstances leading up to the release.

During the exchanges, broadcast live, Mr Esler appeared to claim that the release had harmed the chances of Scottish independence saying to Mr Salmond: “You would like an independent Scotland, you would like good relations with the United states particularly those 40 million or so who claim some kind of Scottish descent. This one case may have blown it”

Mr Salmond ridiculed the suggestion saying: “I think that’s just such nonsense Gavin, we have good relationships with the United States.”

Mr Salmond underlined the respect that the Scottish government has for all of the victims of Lockerbie who spanned 21 different nationalities. The FM included in that respect the surviving families who themselves were also victims and explained that there were some families in the US who actually agreed with the release.

When asked by Mr Esler whether the Scottish government would be prepared to ‘cooperate’ if senator Menendez were to come to Scotland the First Minister pointed out that the Scottish government were already cooperating where they could and highlighted the refusal of the US and UK administrations to release all documents relating to the case.

Mr Salmond promised that the senator would be extended the courtesy afforded all foreign representatives who visit and revealed that Kenny MacAskill had recently met with a dozen US Congressmen on the subject of Al Megrahi at the request of the American Consul General in Scotland.

However the First Minister made it clear that no Scottish Minister would be compelled to attend - and have judgement passed on them by - a committee controlled by another nation. Mr Salmond highlighted the United States refusal to attend inquiries into the ‘friendly fire’ deaths of UK servicemen, the ‘extraordinary rendition’ where people were spirited through UK airports by the CIA for torture and inquiries into Guantanamo bay.

Mr Esler suggested that US suspicions that the release was related to a BP oil deal were justified saying: “BP wanted drilling in Libya, Libya wanted Megrahi, You release Megrahi, BP gets drilling rights.”

Mr Esler added: “There was some lobbying by the LBBC of which BP is a part, you can understand why American senators, meaning no disrespect to the Scottish or British governments think there’s something deeply fishy about this”

This was addressed by Mr Salmond who explained that the lobbying on behalf of LBBC had been carried out by a Tory politician. The request had been rejected out of hand by Kenny MacAskill who had explained firmly to the Tory peer that business interests would play no part in the decision on Mr Megrahi.

The First Minister went on to suggest that if the senator was truly interested in Libyan oil deals negotiated on behalf of BP then the person to ask would be the man who was part of the negotiations - Tony Blair. Mr Salmond explained that the signing of the BP oil deal took place, not as the BBC presenter had suggested after the release of Mr Megrahi, but two years before on the same day that Tony Blair met with Libyan leader Col Gadaffi.

Mr Salmond also highlighted the silence from both the then Westminster opposition and indeed US senators when the SNP exposed Tony Blair’s secret ‘deal in the desert’.


  1. When Esler asked Menendez what he wanted to know, and Menendez started on with his complete conspiracy theory as if he'd never been sent any information at all, I was waiting for Esler to inquire whether he'd actually read any of the reams of written evidence he'd been sent. But no.

    Instead he started on Alex about this letter from the Tory lobbyist. Didn't you know BP was one of the companies connected to this lobby group? He was giving the entire nonsense credence by putting it to Alex as a serious point.

    Whose side is he supposed to be on?

    Oh wait....

  2. Patrick, that is enough. What Rolfe posts elsewhere on the Internet, I neither know nor care. But she does not not abuse my hospitality on this blog. You have. Cease and desist immediately.

  3. Those who matter are on the side of justice. Compared with many of you I am inexperienced, lacking in knowledge or whatever. But I know this: a great wrong has been done and together we can fight it. There are different areas for all of us which matter more than others. We should not allow those areas to turn into needles for those on the same side.

    The other thing I would highlight at this time is the tendency of some pro-SNP groups to be involved in this issue solely to defend the SNP on the release. Again I would say this is about so much more than that and by choosing to focus only on Ministers in the current Scottish Government, and defending them, you truly miss the bigger picture and that is extremely unhelpful and narrow minded. It will do great harm that they miss the bigger picture.

  4. On and on an on it goes. The nonsense about BP and the release of Megrahi. And a US senate hearing.

    But why??

    I suppose there is some political gain for some senators, with nothing better to do?

    What result could possibly be achieved otherwise?

    Don't they worry that somebody get tired of the bullshit and ask the good senators what they thought about the US bribing of the primary witness?

    Wonder that they even dare. When they invited Galloway he went, and made complete fools out of them.

  5. Galloway isn't a slouch on Lockerbie either. His take-down of Duggan is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

  6. Here's what George Galloway thinks about Lockerbie these days...

    What about the Tripartite Dream Team of Alex Salmond, George Galloway and Tam Dalyell going to the Senate hearing?

  7. I'd like to think that people make no distinction between where some other people like to express their views on the Lockerbie disaster and the subsequent injustice that became of the trial at Zeist and Mr Megrahi's conviction. What matters surely is, does it advance our knowledge on the issues that are important to us all?

    I first entered discussions on the matter on a forum that was set up in the late 1990's, I think by one of the family of a victim on 103, and although there were many opinions (as you surely must expect given the scope and accessibilty that the www has aforded) some of which were odd, unhelpful or ill-mannered and those that were erudite on the subject, it provided a wealth of information which contributed to the betterment of my knowledge.

    If people wish to disassociate themselves with any particular web site because of some preconceived notion that those people have nothing to contribute, be it because it may be a comedy site, a sporting site, a sceptics site or a blog, then I fear then that is to their own deprevation.

    As for Mr Esler's interview with Mr Salmond, it appeared to fall into that catergory espoused by Mr Cameron on his recent visit to Washington, and epitomised the mindset that we are indeed the 'junior parter' and the SNP is the mischievous whippersnapper new to the big boys playground.

  8. Here's what George Galloway thinks about Lockerbie these days...

    Hah! Wonderful mixture of the shrewd and the downright insane. I wonder how he thinks it's possible to fake prostate cancer within the Greater Glasgow NHS?

  9. I am new to commenting on this blog. I have some questions on the subject matter I would like to pose – to whoever may be kind enough to answer. But a bit unsure that if I do I will ‘transgress the unwritten law of this blog’, and Robert will smack his virtual gavel down and rule me in contempt. (Scary thinking you are a real live judge – judges like generals don’t die in my book...they keep judging stuff whenever the chance arises)
    Notwithstanding my reticence, can I also declare my neutrality on the subject? Neutral like that place famous for Toblerone and bomb timers. (Do I have to leave now?) I just can’t get a handle on the ‘who dunnit’. Being a sceptic by training doesn’t help in this search – my expertise being in applied science (electronic communications). And in that regard, by the phenomenon of Occam’s Razor, it would seem like Mr Megrahi did it – the biggest counter to this idea is the Scottish ‘polis’ believe that too…that’s my entry point for doubting it (those guys would stitch up their grandma if she was near the crime scene).
    I first happened upon this nest of conspiracy (first impressions) when I was nostalgically looking for stuff about Radio North Sea International. I used to listen to that pirate station, and you all know the connection etc blah blah. My first fleeting thought when I read it had subsequently been off the coast of Libya broadcasting was, how very convenient as an electronics eavesdropping platform – but let’s not open another conspiracy.
    Some of my questions are political, some legal, some technical – all have been difficult to find answers to by my own efforts.
    Q1. [Legal] Why did the appellant agree (or why did the appelant suggest) a trial without a jury? I recall at the time (12 years after the crime) there was a healthy scepticism around Scotland about who the perpetrator(s) really was or were. Was the appellant’s defence team not aware that this scepticism would in all likelihood lead to an acquittal if a jury was involved? Or was it a cultural thing (e.g. in Libya trials do not involve public juries – if that is the case)? Or did he fail to discriminate between anti arab sentiment in America versus a more tolerant Scotland?
    Q2 [Legal] Was there ever a consideration of ‘not proven’ as a likely outcome by the judges? Was it a possible judicial option?

  10. Blogiston, you are very welcome on this blog, whether or not you are as yet convinced of the wrongfulness of Megrahi's conviction.

    As regards Q1, here is what I have written elsewhere:

    a meeting was convened in Tripoli in October 1993 of the international team of lawyers which had already been appointed to represent the accused. This team consisted of lawyers from Scotland, England, Malta, Switzerland and the United States and was chaired by the principal Libyan lawyer for the accused, Dr Ibrahim Legwell. The Libyan government asked me to be present in Tripoli while the team was meeting so that the government itself would have access to independent Scottish legal advice should the need arise. However, the Libyan government expectation was clearly that the outcome of the meeting of the defence team would be a decision by the two accused voluntarily to agree to stand trial in Scotland.

    I am able personally to testify to how much of a surprise and embarrassment it was to the Libyan government when the outcome of the meeting of the defence team was an announcement that the accused were not prepared to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland. In the course of a private meeting that I had a day later with Dr Legwell, he explained to me that the primary reason for the unwillingness of the accused to stand trial in Scotland was their belief that, because of unprecedented pre-trial publicity over the years, a Scottish jury could not possibly bring to their consideration of the evidence in this case the degree of impartiality and open-mindedness that accused persons are entitled to expect and that a fair trial demands. A secondary consideration was the issue of the physical security of the accused if the trial were to be held in Scotland. Not that it was being contended that ravening mobs of enraged Scottish citizens would storm Barlinnie, seize the accused and string them up from the nearest lamp posts. Rather, the fear was that they might be snatched by special forces of the United States, removed to America and put on trial there (or, like Lee Harvey Oswald, suffer an unfortunate accident before being put on trial).

    The Libyan government attitude remained, as it always had been, that they had no constitutional authority to hand their citizens over to the Scottish authorities for trial. The question of voluntary surrender for trial was one for the accused and their legal advisers, and while the Libyan government would place no obstacles in the path of, and indeed would welcome, such a course of action, there was nothing that it could lawfully do to achieve it.

    [to be continued]

  11. [cont'd 1]

    Having mulled over the concerns expressed to me by Dr Legwell in October 1993, I returned to Tripoli and on 10 January 1994 presented a letter to him suggesting a means of resolving the impasse created by the insistence of the governments of the United Kingdom and United States that the accused be surrendered for trial in Scotland or America and the adamant refusal of the accused to submit themselves for trial by jury in either of these countries. This was a detailed proposal, but in essence its principal elements were: that a trial be held outside Scotland, ideally in the Netherlands, in which the governing law and procedure would be that followed in Scottish criminal trials on indictment but with this major alteration, namely that the jury of 15 persons which is a feature of that procedure be replaced by a panel of judges who would have the responsibility of deciding not only questions of law but also the ultimate question of whether the guilt of the accused had been established on the evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

    In a letter to me dated 12 January 1994, Dr Legwell stated that he had consulted his clients, that this scheme was wholly acceptable to them and that if it were implemented by the government of the United Kingdom the suspects would voluntarily surrender themselves for trial before a tribunal so constituted. By a letter of the same date the Deputy Foreign Minister of Libya stated that his government approved of the proposal and would place no obstacles in the path of its two citizens should they elect to submit to trial under this scheme.

    On my return to the United Kingdom I submitted the relevant documents to the Foreign Office in London and the Crown Office (the headquarters of the Scottish prosecution service) in Edinburgh. Their immediate response was that this scheme was impossible, impracticable and inherently undesirable, with the clear implication that Professor Black had taken leave of what few senses nature had endowed him with. That remained the attitude of successive Lord Advocates and Foreign Secretaries for four years and seven months.

  12. [cont'd 2]

    From about late July 1998, there began to be leaks from UK government sources to the effect that a policy change over Lockerbie was imminent, and on 24 August 1998 the governments of the United Kingdom and United States announced that they had reversed their stance on the matter of a "neutral venue" trial. In a letter of that date to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, the British and American Acting Permanent Representatives to the UN stated:

    ".... in the interest of resolving this situation in a way which will allow justice to be done, our Governments are prepared, as an exceptional measure, to arrange for the two accused to be tried before a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands..."

    Although many within the governments of Britain and the United States and within the media were sceptical, the suspects did eventually, on 5 April 1999, surrender themselves for trial before the Scottish court at Kamp van Zeist. That trial, after lengthy delays necessitated by the defence's need for adequate time to prepare, started on Wednesday 3 May 2000.

  13. [cont'd 3]

    Q2: "Not proven" was a verdict that was open to the Zeist judges. But it was not one that they were ever likely to use, given that it does not exist in the criminal justice systems of most other countries (and is widely misunderstood even in Scotland).

    In the same way, it was never likely (though it was legally permissible) that the judges would reach their verdict by a majority. Indeed, it is widely rumoured that the unanimous verdicts of "Guilty" against Megrahi and "Not guilty" in respect of Lamin Fhimah were reached as a compromise between the stance of judges who wanted to convict both accused and that of those who wished to acquit both.

  14. Robert Black, Thanks for the comprehensive answers which I am eagerly digesting – I’ll avoid a two way dialogue by asking my questions first. And maybe comment on some of your answers in a later post. I hope this is okay to follow a wee process to keep it tidy.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Blogiston, I think you'll find that Prof. Black is very broad-minded indeed about what people post on his blog. I don't believe he has ever deleted a civil and sincere contribution. And you have just elicited from him some quite rare information, and for that I'm sure we all thank you.

    I don't think I've ever heard him be drawn on the minutiae of the evidence, other than to declare that he is convinced of Megrahi's innocence. I originally approached the matter from the same direction as you, but after reading a great deal of both primary sources and comment, I have come to agree entirely with Prof. Black. Which is why this current witch-hunt makes me so angry. That poor man is dying of cancer, and whatever else he may or may not have done, which we actually don't know anything about so is not an issue, the vitriol being heaped on him is absolutely deplorable.

  17. In my opinion the tendency for the case to become clogged up with conspiracy theories is unhelpful to the present argument. That doesn't mean I think the conspiracy theories are entirely unfounded. However, speculations and accusations about fabricated physical evidence, high-level agreements to avoid certain lines of enquiry and so on are actually irrelevant to the evidence that was used to convict Megrahi. Even if all the physical evidence is entirely on the level and no political games higher than the classic "let's pin it on this guy because he's handy and we've got to get someone" were played, he didn't do it.

    It might be helpful to consider the nature of the plot Megrahi is said to have been involved in.

    First, the manufacture of the bomb and its introduction into Malta itself were so cleverly done that no trace of this exercise was ever discovered. The same is true as regards getting it on the Malta-Frankfurt flight. The Malta baggage records were complete and the security was good - even the appeal judges agreed that "there is considerable and compelling evidence that that could not have happened." This was quite fiendishly clever, however it was done. Years of concentrated effort by an international team of investigators never found any trace of the bomb or the suitcase on Malta.

    And yet, when sourcing clothes to pack round the bomb, Megrahi chose to go to a small shop only three miles from the airport where the dastardly and completely secret deed would be done, and buy brand new, locally-manufactured clothes, in a most conspicuous and memorable manner, only two weeks before the operation. If the police had been quicker off the mark, they could have been talking to Tony Gauci within six weeks of this purchase, rather than nine months. Almost any source would have been better than this - a big chain store, a second-hand shop, raid a clothes-line or something!

    Then, having done that and shown his face to someone who could potentially link him with the clothes, he then showed up at the airport at the time the bomb was being smuggled into the baggage system - for no readily apparent reason, as he appeared to have done nothing while in the airport that could have facilitated this. And although he was travelling undercover, the passport was traceable to him, and he wasn't even wearing a false beard. Was this plot so short of personnel that the same person had to show himself in two capacities like this?

    The bomb was then routed unaccompanied across Europe, in winter, with two changes of plane. The chances of it simply becoming lost baggage weren't negligible. The chances of the flights being delayed or disrupted by bad weather weren't negligible. The bomb was routed through Frankfurt, which had a computer-controlled system, which should have allowed that unaccompanied bag to be spotted almost immediately enquiries began, and turn attention to Malta. The reasons this didn't happen are complicated and bizarre, but this development wasn't something that could have been anticipated or influenced by the plotters. In addition, all the baggage for the Frankfurt-Malta flight was x-rayed by a "careful and conscientious operator" who had been specifically alerted to the possibility of a bomb being introduced disguised as a radio-cassette player. Kurt Maier should have intercepted that device.

  18. At Heathrow, it gets even dafter. The amount of Semtex was small, and it could only have penetrated the hull if it was placed right against the skin of the plane. I don't know what percentage of cases in that baggage container were in suitable positions for that to happen, but I think no more than about 30%. An unaccompanied bag coming off the Frankfurt flight would have been placed randomly.

    And worst of all, the timing of the explosion. The timer was apparently set for about 7pm, only about 45-50 minutes after the plane was due to take off (38 minutes after it actually did take off). This was Heathrow, early evening, a few days before Christmas. Bad weather, traffic congestion, a late passenger whose baggage was already loaded (that very nearly happened), anything could have delayed that plane so that it was still on the tarmac at 7pm, in which case a lot of not very much would have happened, and those scraps of Maltese clothes would have been right there to be traced. The flight wasn't due to land until 1.40am GMT - any sane conspirator would set that timer for midnight GMT or later.

    It's all very well to look with hindsight and say, well it worked, didn't it, but it's a completely insane excuse for a terrorist plot. Especially the clothes purchase completely negating the otherwise total concealment of any trace of bomb or suitcase in Malta.

    Conversely, if we look at the possibility the bag being introduced at Heathrow, we find very definite evidence of introduction there. Not just the potential for a rogue suitcase to be introduced, but actual concrete evidence that it was. This skips all the problems of the three-plane daisy-chain, the Frankfurt computer system and x-ray, and allows an opportunity to get the thing in the part of the container where it will do most damage. And as we all know, a barometric trigger would have exploded about 40 minutes after take-off no matter how long the plane had been delayed.

  19. You could still say, well it might have been bizarre, but he still did it. Except, there's no evidence he did!

    He wasn't the man who bought the clothes from Tony Gauci. That's what the grounds of appeal we know about were all about. Tony had a remarkable memory for the goods he sold, and remembered the purchaser in terms of vital statistics, as he sized him up for fit (and realised some of the clothes he was buying wouldn't have fitted him). The man he originally described was nothing like Megrahi in height or build, and over 10 years older. And the day he described the purchase as taking place was a day Megrahi wasn't on Malta. The rest is a shocking catalogue of leading the witness, twisting his evidence and pure bribery.

    He didn't put the bomb on the plane - not just because he didn't go airside that morning or do anything at all suspicious, but because the bomb didn't go on at Malta. The baggage records proved that to any reasonable standard of proof.

    And that's it, really. He knew Edwin Bollier. So did a lot of people, no doubt. He was never shown to have had one of Bollier's timers in his possession, or any bomb-making equipment, or to have any previous record of or expertise in bomb-making. He was a JSO officer. Indeed, and again that hardly proves guilt in this case - there were a lot of JSO officers in the 1980s.

    So how come he was charged and convicted? Prof. Black has explained how the evidence that was eventually accepted would never have been sufficient to issue an indictment in the first place, if it had not been for the additional evidence of the witness Giaka. Giaka was going to swear he'd seen Megrahi and Fhimah smuggle the bomb into the airport and so on. Except, Giaka had invented the whole thing at the behest of the CIA and the US Department of Justice, who both bribed and blackmailed him to do that. This all came out in court, and Giaka's evidence was thrown out. Incredibly, the prosecution received no criticism for pulling this trick, or for lying to the court in an attempt to conceal the evidence that their star witness was lying.

  20. After Giaka was discredited, it appears that the whole circus had gathered too much momentum to be stopped, and the prosecution went on to try to stitch together a case from what was left. Threadbare doesn't begin to describe it, but for some reason the judges bought it.

    Tony Gauci never positively identified Megrahi - the best he ever mustered, despite all the coaching and bribery, was that Megrahi resembled the purchaser, and a pretty hesitant job it was too. The judges nevertheless decided it was Megrahi beyond reasonable doubt, because - the purchase happened on a day Megrahi was on Malta, and Megrahi was at the airport when the bomb was loaded. And he knew Edwin Bollier and he was a JSO officer, yadda, yadda.

    Tony said the purchase happened midweek, early evening, when his brother was home watching a UEFA match, the Christmas lights weren't yet lit, and it was raining a bit. All these features pointed to 23rd November. Megrahi wasn't even on Malta on 23rd November. By torturing the meteorological and other data past breaking point, it was possible to make a highly unconvincing case for the date to have been 7th December. When asked by the SCCRC why he preferred 7th December, DCI Bell said that it was Megrahi's presence on the island which had persuaded him it must have been the latter date. The judges concurred, and it was 7th December beyond reasonable doubt.

    The Malta baggage records said loud and clear there was no suspect suitcase on the Malta-Frankfurt flight. The Frankfurt baggage records all vanished completely within a few days of the incident, right under the noses of the German police. And I'd give a minor body part to know what that was all about. Eight months later, a very limited extract of these records was handed over to the Scottish police, having been saved as a souvenir by an IT technician. This appeared to show an item of luggage from the Malta flight being coded for the Heathrow flight. However, this was far from certain, partly due to the very incomplete nature of the records, and it was possible the record in question was due to a coding anomaly. Mistakes in coding were acknowledged to occur at Frankfurt from time to time. (And that's not even considering the bizarre provenance of the souvenir computer printout.)

    Faced with this choice, the judges decided that as the defence had not proved there had been a coding anomaly at Frankfurt, they were entitled to find that an unaccompanied bag had indeed travelled on the flight from Malta beyond reasonable doubt, and that some completely dastardly and untraceable method had been used to get it on. They explained this reasoning by saying it fitted the pattern, with Megrahi who had bought the clothes being present at the airport whan that flight left.

    I don't think there's a more blatant example of circular reasoning in the criminal justice system.

  21. Looked at from the point of view of the investigators, it's possible to see how this happened. When the disaster happened, there was indecent haste to declare that the device was "almost certainly" not introduced at Heathrow. Most of the baggage in the relevant container came off the Frankfurt feeder flight, so attention was directed back there. The Frankfurt authorities hotly denied the possibility that it had gone on there - and all the baggage records were missing. There was no love at all lost between the Scottish and the German police over all this.

    Then, a full eight months after the disaster, evidence appeared pointing to Malta - both the Maltese origin of the clothes in the suitcase and the computer record suggesting the presence of an unexplained item of luggage on the Malta-Frankfurt flight showed up. The investigators became convinced the bomb had actually been introduced there. This conveniently left Heathrow entirely in the clear (as the luggage had been shunted from one plane to the other across the tarmac in about 20 minutes, and had never been unattended), and Frankfurt relatively in the clear as responsibility for security of the flight as regards luggage coming in from another airline (as opposed to the check-in desks) lay with Pan Am.

    All the effort shifted to Malta. Eventually, it was discovered that one of the passengers passing through the airport that morning, checking in for a flight to Tripoli which left about the same time as the Frankfurt flight, was a JSO officer travelling undercover. I can sort of see why the cops would have got excited about that. The clothes purchase, the apparent rogue suitcase showing on the Frankfurt computer record, and a suspicious Libyan, all right there.

    The trouble was, they wouldn't take no for an answer. Megrahi didn't actually buy the clothes - but Gauci was badgered, coached and bribed, and the meteorological evidence tortured, to say he did. He didn't go airside that morning or do anything suspicious - but it was decided he was up to something, anyway. There was no suspect suitcase on the flight - but the possibility of a coding anomaly at Frankfurt was handwaved away, and an impenetrable and undetectable plot conjured into being to declare there was. And then, in case that wasn't enough (which is wasn't), Giaka's CIA handlers told him to produce evidence to implicate both Megrahi and Fhimah, or else.

    Did they know they were framing an innocent man? Some of them probably did. Some may have believed he was genuinely guilty and they were merely ensuring justice was done. Maybe it was OK regardless because a JSO officer was just a terrorist anyway. And other leads has petered out in the sand and it was going to be pretty embarrassing if nobody was ever convicted for this atrocity. And it just so happened that it was extremely politically convenient to lay this on Libya as well. And there you have it, the perfect storm.

  22. However, if you look at it another way, it makes better sense. If you intend to introduce a bomb at Heathrow, say, maybe it's not so daft to make a conspicuous purchase of brand new, locally manufactured, traceable clothes in Malta - a thousand miles away. If they should happen to be traced, it might provide a nice little diversionary red herring. So long as the purchaser is someone Tony Gauci has never seen before and will never see again, why not?

    I think it worked beyond someone's wildest dreams.

    The coincidence of the Frankfurt computer record seeming to point to Malta and Megrahi having been there under cover at the crucial moment seems to have been too much for the investigators - and the judges. They wrote several times about a "pattern", really referring to this coincidence. However, striking coincidences happen all the time. When examined in detail, they're often not as unlikely as they first appear.

    The prosecution referred often to how it was possible to trace baggage through the Frankfurt system using the reasoning they employed to identify the anomalous record as referring to the Malta flight. They showed a number of records relating to known PA103 passengers exactly where they ought to have been. However, nobody ever demonstrated how frequent miscodings and anomalies were. It's possible there were three relating to the Heathrow flight alone. If it was quite usual for there to be two, three or four anomalous records in the loading data for a flight that size, then the chances of one of them seeming to relate to the Malta flight might not be especially low.

    Megrahi travelled through Malta quite often, but that's not the data we want for that end. What we don't know is how often a JSO officer, any JSO officer, travelled on LN147 from Malta to Tripoli. If this was a rare occurrence, then it's quite a coincidence. But it might not have been. JSO officers might have been in the habit of catching that flight on a regular basis. In which case it was just Megrahi's rotten luck it happened to be him on 21st December 1988.

    So you see, without even mentioning the fact that the provenance of the MST-13 timer fragment in the evidence simply screams "plant", and the identifying page of the radio-cassette manual simply couldn't have survived the explosion it was supposed to have been next to, and ignoring whatever cover-up was going on at Frankfurt, and completely forgetting about all the allegations that the investigation was deliberately headed off from cornering the PFLP-GC with their radio-cassette bombs with barometric timers set to go off about 40 minutes after take-off, and all the rest of the circumstantial evidence against them - it's quite obvious that Megrahi was framed. By the CIA and the US Department of Justice, with the enthusiastic co-operation of the Lord Advocate and the Scottish criminal justice system.

    In essence it need be no different from the framing of Barry George for the murder of Jill Dando - all the other leads had gone cold, and here was someone the crime might be plausibly pinned on, so let's do it.

    Sorry to have gone on so long, and most people here know all this anyway, but maybe Blogiston didn't, or other lurkers may come by and find some of it helpful.

    I'm off to bed.

  23. Rolfe: (thanks for sharing your notes) Wow! I now feel how Professor Lidenbrook must have felt when he descended the subterranean abyss only to discover that Arne Saknussem had been there before. You have answered one of my next questions (and probably some others), that of the circuitous route of the bomb. Intuitively, it seems wrong.

    Here are my notes (which are academic now) as I developed the preamble to that question.
    Q4 Why did the judges not have a lot more concern over the route of the bomb in the baggage transit system in regard of the high probability it would be unreliable and that therefore a seasoned sponsor of terrorist plots would not have chosen such a route. I also saw criticism of this route as being unfeasible by an experienced bomber in one of the documentaries on YouTube.
    I have worked for American electronics companies for the last twenty five years – and travelled to and from the US innumerable times. In the eighties, I was a fairly frequent traveller with Pan Am too. I used to joke that my luggage was far better travelled than I was, because baggage, back in those days, especially through Heathrow was commonly mislaid, wrongly routed, or failed to get the same flight as the owner. When it reached you it would have luggage tags from exotic airports! From experience, my colleagues and I, used to take a small essentials pack in hand baggage to avoid having to purchase essentials at our destination while we waited on our baggage being retrieved – what I am saying is poor baggage delivery was ‘expected’. The more hubs you flew through before reaching your destination, the higher the probability of losing something. As engineers, we used to muse about this, and developed whimsical algorithms for predicting this probability. This situation came about for two main reasons; 1. Airline traffic did not run on time, and subsequently the available window to transfer baggage on the tarmac was often missed. 2. Baggage handling automation was not as sophisticated as today – and still involved manual input to a greater degree. Stuff went awry. It occurs to me now that if I had been a diligent bomb maker (back in the eighties) with a pride in my job, I would have been very cognisant of the high(ish) probability of a package not getting on the intended target aircraft and the point of entry into the baggage transit system would have occupied a lot of my planning. My anxiety would have been heightened to the point of expected failure, if I had been relying on a two hub jump which included Heathrow! The chances of the bomb exploding in some holding warehouse or on a conveyor belt would have been quite high.
    2. The business or intent of ‘terrorism’ has also changed over the last two decades; back then the middle eastern perpetrators of these crimes always had a specific target in mind – usually an asset of either the USA or Israel. They were not merely happy (like today’s Islamic terrorists would be) with a bomb exploding in some vague fashion randomly in Europe, for example. So they avoided sloppy execution. More reason to doubt why they would ever plant a bomb which had to undertake a risky journey prior to being loaded on the correct aircraft. Also one thing that has not changed in the last twenty years of terrorist attacks; the security agencies tasked with protecting air travel learn from previous successful and failed attacks. Another reason a conspirator would have planned the execution of an attack with as few points of failure as possible – because they only really got one chance per type of attack before that kind of attack would be defended.
    Conclusion: I concur about the bomb route.

  24. Rolfe..........thank you for all of that!

  25. Maybe I should just point out that my statement that the CIA and the US Department of Justice deliberately framed Megrahi for the crime is based primarily on their solicitation of perjured evidence from Abdulmajid Giaka, and their own perjury to try to conceal the evidence that Giaka was perjuring himself from the court. This is beyond any doubt whatsoever, and was proved in court.

    The harrassing, pressurising and in the final analysis bribing of Tony Gauci is the other aspect. This may not have been affirmed in court, but from the evidence brought forward by the SCCRC, it would be very difficult for them to deny this.