[The following is an excerpt from the transcript of yesterday's State Department press briefing conducted by Assistant Secretary Philip J Crowley.]
QUESTION: We went over this a little bit yesterday about Mr Megrahi, the Libyan bomber of Pan Am 103, about the fact that he kind of seemed to have lived a lot longer than doctors predicted. But now the senators that we talked about yesterday, they’re also raising the issue that – asking for a Senate investigation about a possible deal with BP being part of the reason why the British let him go. Can you – do you support the senators’ calls for an investigation and are you at all concerned that oil and trade deals were part of the deal? I know we talked about it a little yesterday.
MR CROWLEY: Well, again, as to the reason why Scottish authorities made the decision that they made, we will leave it to them to explain why they made that decision. But the basis was for making that decision, how they evaluated the medical evidence that was presented to them. As we indicated then, as I indicated yesterday, I can repeat today, we felt that his release was a mistake.
QUESTION: But do you support a British – a Senate investigation into charges that the Brits kind of traded him for a deal – for oil deals?
MR CROWLEY: I can tell you that we have received – there was mention made yesterday of a letter by a number of senators encouraging us to raise this issue with the new British Government. We have received that letter. I’m not aware that we’ve had a conversation yet with the British Government about this issue. It’s unclear that there’s anything that we can do at this point. A year ago, he was – 11 months ago he was released. We thought it was a mistake. We haven’t changed our view. He sits in Libya today and it is for Scottish authorities to explain the basis upon which they made the decision that they made. As I recall, a year ago, they indicated this was made on humanitarian grounds. We disagreed with that judgment. But I can’t offer an opinion as to whether we, the United States, ought to investigate a decision made by a previous British Government in consultation with Scottish authorities.
QUESTION: So do you want the Scottish authorities or the British Government to reinvestigate the medical evidence that was used to inform the decision to release Mr Megrahi?
MR CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we share the concerns raised in the letter to us that seems to draw – to question the medical basis upon which the Scottish authorities made the decision that they made. Again, this may well be an issue for the British Government to investigate. I’m not sure-- we regret what’s been done. I’m not sure at this point that there’s anything that we can do on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
QUESTION: Just so we’re clear about the letters, there’s been a number of letters that have been written by these four senators. The letter that I have today – and I don’t know if it’s the same one that Elise is referring to – is dated July 13th. It asks not for a Senate investigation but for a State Department investigation into reports that BP might have sought to secure his release. The letter is addressed to Secretary Clinton. Do you have that letter, one, and do you have any intention of --
MR CROWLEY: Okay, I will --
QUESTION: -- investigating that --
MR CROWLEY: If there’s a letter that was dated today, it is possible that that is in transit to us as we speak. As to the letter that was mentioned yesterday, we, in fact, have that letter and we will respond to it. Again, there are some – serious question have been raised. We have had – we had extensive conversations with British and Scottish authorities last year leading up to the decisions that was made. We had subsequent conversations with the former British Government making clear that we disagreed with the judgment that had been made. I’m not aware that we have brought this issue up with the new British Government. But we will obviously review the letters that we’ve received, respond to them, and at that point we’ll make a judgment as to whether we think the actions that they have recommended are appropriate.
QUESTION: Can you take the question then – the letter is indeed on its way to you right now, you personally. Can you take the question once you’ve gotten it as to whether you think a State Department investigation is merited in this case?
MR CROWLEY: Well, let me say that we – when we receive correspondence from members of Congress, we respond to them. We will respond to this letter and I will make note that when we respond to it we will find a way to communicate whether we think the steps that they’ve taken in these various letters are appropriate.
[The Scotsman's report on the issue, headlined "US senators step up pressure for inquiry into release of Megrahi" can be read here. The readers' comments that follow, as is so often the case with The Scotsman, are much more interesting than the report itself.]