[Arnaud de Borchgrave died on Sunday, 15 February 2015. Obituaries are to be found in The Washington Times, The New York Times and The Guardian. His contribution to the Lockerbie affair is recorded in the following two items on this blog:]
Friday, 1 January 2010
Gadhafi admitted it!
This is the subject-heading of an e-mail sent by Arnaud de Borchgrave to Frank Duggan and copied by the latter to me. It reads as follows:
"As Gaddafi explained it to me, which you are familiar with, it was indeed Iran's decision to retaliate for the Iran Air Airbus shot down by the USS Vincennes on its daily flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai that led to a first subcontracting deal to Syrian intel, which, in turn, led to the 2nd subcontract to Libyan intel. As he himself said if they had been first at this terrorist bat, they would not have put Malta in the mix; Cyprus would have made more sense to draw attention away from Libya."
According to Arnaud de Borchgrave, Gaddafi made the admission, off the record, in the course of an interview in 1993. His published account [28 August 2009] reads:
"Megrahi was a small cog in a much larger conspiracy. After a long interview with Gaddafi in 1993, this editor at large of The Washington Times asked Libya's supreme leader to explain, off the record, his precise involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, and for which Libya paid $2.7 billion in reparations. He dismissed all the aides in his tent (located that evening in the desert about 100 kilometers south of Tripoli) and began in halting English without benefit of an interpreter, as was the case in the on-the-record part of the interview.
"Gaddafi candidly admitted that Lockerbie was retaliation for the July 3, 1988, downing of an Iranian Airbus. Air Iran Flight 655, on a 28-minute daily hop from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Strait of Hormuz to the port city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the other side of the Gulf, was shot down by a guided missile from the Aegis cruiser USS Vincennes. The Vincennes radar mistook it for an F-14 Tomcat fighter (which Iran still flies); 290 were killed, including 66 children. A year before, in 1987, the USS Stark was attacked by an Iraqi Mirage, killing 37 sailors. The Vincennes skipper, Capt. William Rogers, received the Legion of Merit, and the entire crew was awarded combat-action ribbons. The United States paid compensation of $61.8 million to the families of those killed on IR 655.
"Gaddafi told me, 'The most powerful navy in the world does not make such mistakes. Nobody in our part of the world believed it was an error.' And retaliation, he said, was clearly called for. Iranian intelligence subcontracted retaliation to one of the Syrian intelligence services (there are 14 of them), which, in turn, subcontracted part of the retaliatory action to Libyan intelligence (at that time run by Abdullah Senoussi, Gaddafi's brother-in-law). 'Did we know specifically what we were asked to do?' said Gaddafi. 'We knew it would be comparable retaliation for the Iranian Airbus, but we were not told what the specific objective was,' Gaddafi added.
"As he got up to take his leave, he said, 'Please tell the CIA that I wish to cooperate with America. I am just as much threatened by Islamist extremists as you are.'
"When we got back to Washington, we called Director of Central Intelligence Jim Woolsey to tell him what we had been told off the record. Woolsey asked me if I would mind being debriefed by the CIA. I agreed. And the rest is history."
On the assumption that this account of an off-the-record conversation in 1993 is accurate, it in no way affects the wrongfulness of the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi. As I have tried (without success) to explain to US zealots in the past, the fact -- if it be the fact -- that Libya was in some way involved in Lockerbie does not entail as a consequence that any particular Libyan citizen was implicated. The evidence led at the Zeist trial did not justify the guilty verdict against Megrahi. On that basis alone his conviction should have been quashed had the recently-abandoned appeal gone the full distance. That conclusion is reinforced (a) by the material uncovered by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission and (b) by the material released on Mr Megrahi's website.
Saturday, 2 January 2010
Reaction to "Gadhafi admitted it!"
[The following comment on the "Gadhafi admitted it!" thread comes from Peter Biddulph. It was too long to be posted directly as a comment on that thread.]
The timing of this information is most strange.
According to Wikipedia and other sources, Arnaud de Borchgrave appears to have an impeccable background. According to him, the CIA debriefing arranged by Woolsey took place in 1993.
But I am informed by an expert on these matters that Gaddafi never, repeat never, was without at least one armed personal bodyguard. To be alone with an American journalist with many contacts in Washington would be, for Gaddafi, impossible.
And if this information was known in 1993, why on earth did the CIA, the FBI and the Scottish Crown office not know of it in the next seven years leading up to the trial?
Why was de Borchgrave not invited to be deposed or give evidence to the Lockerbie trial, or even an affidavit?
It might be said to be hearsay, and therefore not admissible in court.
But several hearsay issues and affidavits were extensively investigated by the court, notably the Goben Memorandum, and the account of the interview of bomb maker Marwan Khreesat by FBI Agent Edward Marshman. Even a hearsay account that Gaddafi confessed to the crime would have cast serious doubt on al-Megrahi's defence.
The original 1991 indictment could have been varied to reflect the latest knowledge. Indeed, the final version of the indictment was agreed by the US Department of Justice and the Scottish Crown Office in 2000, only three weeks before the trial commenced.
If the FBI did know it, why did they not mention any of this in a May 1995 Channel 4 discussion following the screening of the documentary The Maltese Double Cross? Buck Revell of the FBI became quite intense in answering Jim Swire's questions and those of presenter Sheena McDonald. But he said not a word about the Gaddafi "confession". Why?
Also, how come Marquise - as he says himself "Chief FBI Investigator of the Lockerbie bombing" - was not aware of it in the seven years leading up to the 2000 trial or the nine years since? That is, sixteen years of ignorance?
And why did CIA Vincent Cannistraro himself not mention it when interviewed on camera on at least two occasions in 1994 by Alan Francovich for the documentary film The Maltese Double Cross?
As head of the CIA team investigating Libya, Cannistraro would be the first to be briefed by the Langley central office. He was happy to provide hearsay evidence to the media and film camera against Oliver North and any Libyan or Iranian that got in his way. He spoke at length about green and brown timer boards, and potential witnesses.
To relate on camera the Gaddafi "confession" would have been greatly to Cannistraro's advantage, a slam-dunk in the public mind. Indeed, even a hint in the media would have ham-strung al-Megrahi’s defence before proceedings commenced.
But between 1993 and 2009 from Cannistraro not a word. And when it comes to America's interests, the CIA never follow Queensberry rules.
CIA [officer] Robert Baer too, as a Middle Eastern specialist has given no hint of this. Such information would surely have come within the "need to know" category. Yet he has maintained on two occasions that Iran commissioned the job and paid the PFLP-GC handsomely two days after the attack. His conclusion suggests strongly that the so-called fragment of the bomb was planted.
The real reasons for this late announcement, we believe, are as follows:
1. It is well known among those who study these things in the field that there are two candidates shortly to succeed Gaddafi. His son Saif, and his son-in law Sennusi. Meanwhile Sennusi is not top of the pops with Arab leaders in the region. They would love it if he were out of the frame. The Borchgrave revelation discredits Sennusi perfectly.
2. The SCCRC is shortly to publish information which some believe will cause serious embarrassment to the FBI And CIA. The Borchgrave email is huge smoke and mirrors, a spoiler.
It all looks highly suspicious. Just another carefully crafted phase in a long, long history of disinformation.