Certainly the Ashton book does raise some reasonable arguments about the ‘guilt’ or otherwise of Megrahi, done in part through statements from Megrahi and by diligent journalistic investigation by Ashton uncovering anomalies, inconsistencies and previously unheard or ignored facts which were not disclosed during the Camp Zeist trial leading up to Megrahi’s conviction. The arguments set out in the book have some substance and seem to have created a division between many of the PA 103 victims’ campaigners; some key outspoken personalities appear to support the claims in the book while others continue to believe in his undisputed guilt. Is Megrahi guilty or, just a whipping boy so that justice can be seen to have been done? According to the media the Scottish police consider the case still open, although few expect that this will result in any change to the outcome.
Was Megrahi guilty or not? Frankly I don’t know; I watched the documentary and read Ashton’s book and there does seem to be a reasonable cause for further investigation into the soundness of the conviction. What I do know is that whoever was responsible for the PA 103 atrocity, in a rather ironic way, has made air travel safer for passengers by forcing the regulators and industry to learn from the gaps that were so easily exploited and implement viable, effective and appropriate measures for closing those gaps.
For nearly a decade the UK stood alone in its commitment to putting in place viable measures to counter future similar attacks. These steps were initiated years prior to the Camp Zeist trial and took into account both obvious and less obvious ‘gaps’, the most dominant of these being screening of all passenger bags carried in the aircraft hold. A gap which, irrespective of how the device was placed on the aircraft, was certainly long overdue and one that took almost a decade for our European neighbours to adopt, during which time the previous security administration for the US (FAA) did its utmost to discredit the measure as not being effective enough. What part of an eightfold increase in bomb detection capability was not effective enough, eludes me to this day. It was not until the tragic events of 9/11 that the US suddenly decided that screening checked bags was a necessary security measure, even though it was not a tool used by the 9/11 suicidal hijackers.
[Earlier Lockerbie-related comments from Professor Shanks can be read here.]