[This is the headline over an article by John Fund on the website of The Wall Street Journal. It reads as follows:]
Despite its unsavory and reckless practices, WikiLeaks is clearing up some international mysteries—among them last year's release of the Lockerbie bomber by Scottish authorities.
At the time, Sean Connery, the actor and longtime Scottish nationalist, said that "I doubt we will ever know the full story" of why the Libyan agent who helped blow a Pan Am airliner out of the sky in 1988 was freed. Well, we now know a lot more. US diplomatic cables show that Britain was threatened and bullied into releasing the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi. He was finally sent home based on flimsy medical predictions that he had three months to live and should be allowed to die at home with his family. That was 16 months ago and Megrahi is still very much alive.
A cable by US diplomat Richard LeBaron reveals that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi made "thuggish" threats to kill all trade deals with Britain and harass its embassy staff in Tripoli if no release was forthcoming. In 2008, Mr. LeBaron wrote to Washington that "The Libyans have told [Her Majesty's Government] flat out that there will be 'enormous repercussions' for the UK-Libya bilateral relationship if Megrahi's early release is not handled properly."
Although the Libyans combined their threats with an offer of "treats" for Scottish authorities in exchange for Megrahi's release, the US cables indicate that the Scots turned the offer down. British ministers weren't so honorable. When they faced international outrage over the release, they tried to deflect blame for it onto the Scots. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hid behind the fact that Scotland has control of its own criminal justice system and said that his government "could not interfere and had no control over the final outcome."
But the cables reveal that it was British ministers who nudged Alex Salmond, the Scottish Nationalist minister, to take the political heat for releasing Megrahi. US diplomats were told by Jack Straw, who was British Justice Secretary at the time, that Megrahi might live another five years after any release, but the decision was still made to let him go.
While it's true that Britain kept its trade deals with Libya, the episode is now revealed to be another example of a democracy knuckling under to a dictator's threats. The latest revelations only embolden other dictators to use the same tactics in the future.