[This is the headline over an article by former G W Bush speechwriter David Frum in The Week magazine. It reads in part:]
The WikiLeaks cables offer more evidence the British government was complicit in the release of the Pan Am bomber
The defeated British Labour government has now been thoroughly caught in its lies about the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the terrorist convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988. (...)
The official story was that the decision to release al-Megrahi in August 2009 was made in Scotland and had nothing to do with London. Indeed, the story went, the Labour government in Westminster could not possibly have been more distressed by the release, after just eight years in prison, of a convicted mass murder.
Turns out, of course, that's not the real story. (...)
The al-Megrahi story could be the scandal of the decade. Of the 259 people murdered over Lockerbie, 190 were American citizens. It took a decade of hard diplomatic work to bring the man directly responsible for those deaths to justice. If the cables are correct, the Al-Megrahi release was not some aberration of the local Scottish government, with which London had nothing to do. Instead, our British ally was subjected to intense commercial pressure to release Al-Megrahi, apparently acquiesced, and then stone-facedly denied itsr own role. Nothing to do with them, utterly beyond their control, terribly sorry old boy.
Here's how the UK government characterized the release at the time, again as reported by The Guardian. "Justice Secretary Jack Straw has said reports that the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was released over an oil deal are "wholly untrue." He denied a "back door deal" was done to transfer Megrahi because of UK trade talks with the Libyan government." Even at the time, that story looked dodgy. Here's the next sentence from the same news account: "Letters leaked to a newspaper show Mr. Straw agreed not to exclude [Megrahi] from a prisoner transfer deal in 2007 because of 'overwhelming national interests'." By the way, six weeks after Straw changed his mind about the handling of Megrahi's case in 2007, BP gained a huge oil deal in Libya.
WikiLeaks does not add any new proof to the case that the British ministers misled the world about the Megrahi release. What the leaks do show is that neither the US government nor the British government itself ever believed the misrepresentations. So that's some comfort: a mass murderer may have gone free, but at least nobody in authority duped themselves over what had happened. Just the voters. Actually on second thought, the voters were not duped either. We all knew, and now the truth of what leaders knew has been exposed for all to see.
[Apart from the typical US purblindness with respect to the shakiness of Abdelbaset Megrahi's conviction, this is a pretty accurate encapsulation of the UK government's attitude and role in relation to his repatriation.]