Monday, 2 March 2015

Andrew Fulton, MI6 and Lockerbie

On this date seven years ago the rôle of Andrew Fulton in the Lockerbie saga was recalled in the context of his appointment as chairman of the Conservative Party in Scotland:

Andrew Fulton: is he a professor?

The Sunday Herald reports that Andrew Fulton's CV, issued to the press when he was appointed chairman of the Conservative Party in Scotland, claims that he is a visiting professor at Glasgow University's School of Law. The university denies this. The article reads in part:

"The new chairman of the Scottish Tories has become embroiled in a row over his CV after false claims were made about his academic credentials.

"Andrew Fulton, a former MI6 spy who was appointed by the Conservatives on Friday, was hailed as a 'visiting professor' at Glasgow University's school of law.

"But a spokesman for the university rebutted the claims, saying: 'Mr Fulton is not associated with the University of Glasgow's law school and is not entitled to call himself a professor.' Fulton, 64, took up the post as the Scottish Tories' top official last week and received endorsements from Conservative leaders David Cameron and Annabel Goldie.

"The biography supplied to the media claimed he had read law at Glasgow University and was 'now visiting professor at his alma mater's school of law'.

"But Fulton, who was a government diplomat for 30 years, was only briefly a visiting professor at the university between 1999 and 2000. He worked in the university's law school at the Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit until he was dropped from his post when he was unmasked as an ex-spook.

"Visiting professors lose their title after leaving a university, but the academic status symbol has somehow followed Fulton in his business career."

The full article can be read here.

An article in The Herald the previous day had contained the following:

The former agent, who was born in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, also brings his own baggage to the post: his unmasking as an MI6 operative led to him stepping down in 2000 as an adviser to Glasgow University's briefing unit which advised the media about the Lockerbie bombing trial amid speculation - which he strongly denied - that he had a competing agenda.

[Coincidentally, another player in the Lockerbie saga is currently chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland. That is Richard Keen QC who successfully defended Lamin Fhimah at the Zeist trial.]


  1. Hmmm, Richard Keen. Brain the size of a planet (allegedly). But I'm sure I read somewhere that he was a civil law specialist who had never done a criminal trial before Camp Zeist. Very strange choices of legal teams for both defendants. I'd have expected the top criminal defence solicitors and advocates in Scotland to have been snapped up for this but they somehow weren't, were they?

    Keen is famous for taking Christopher Peel apart in the witness box and demonstrating to the professor that he'd in effect got his sums wrong. He must have been well coached by an expert behind the scenes to have pulled that one off, and it was impressive, but what was the bloody point of it all you have to ask yourself? You don't need the Mach Stem effect calculations to see more or less where the explosion happened within the container, to about three or four inches either way. Discrediting Peel's arithmetic accomplished precisely zero.

    More than that, if you're going with the theory that the luggage in the container, Heathrow and Frankfurt origin alike, had been randomly shuffled by Sidhu out on the tarmac, it's doubly pointless. If "any case could have ended up in any position", as was hypothesised by both sides, then what does it matter where the explosion was within the container, as position isn't going to help you determine whether the case in question came off the feeder flight or not. What a waste of time and effort, when a lot less of it directed to more productive areas could and should have produced the exculpatory proof that was hiding there all along.

    The more I see of the evidence, and the pathetic failures of those being paid a king's ransom to figure it out, the more scunnered I am about the whole thing.

  2. I know this is tangential, but I just can't get my head round it. The defence originally believed the prosecution were going to run with the logic of the FAI, as regards the elimination of the Bedford suitcase. They believed Sidhu was going to be called to the witness box and encouraged to maintain his position that he didn't move the cases already in the container. I've seen a defence memo where the writer seems to be expressing the hope that it might be possible to shake Sidhu on that point and put it to the court that the cases might have been moved.

    Obviously, to shake the FAI logic you have to do one of two things. Show that the first few cases in the container could have been moved (or preferably that they were moved), or undermine the mantra that the bomb suitcase wasn't the one on the floor of the container. In fact the point to go for was the latter. The ammunition for that is staring you in the face in the location of the red-hatched area on the Claiden diagram, even if you haven't had the nous to figure out about the pattern of the damage to the cases in the back row.

    It seems as if the defence team was so bamboozled by the sheer numbers and dogmaticism of the witnesses prepared to swear blind the case had been on the second layer they didn't really probe it in detail. So they pinned their hopes of implicating the Bedford case on the possibility of introducing the idea that Sidhu had moved the initial cases. So far so good, I suppose. It was the wrong choice as regards actual verifiable fact, but as a stratagem it was potentially a winner.

    So what did anyone in the defence team think when the prosecution voluntarily surrendered the pass without firing a shot? They didn't call Sidhu at all, no reference was made to his police statements or his evidence to the FAI, and although they did call Sandhu no reference was made to whether he or Sidhu had moved anything. Crabtree, who knew nothing at all about what Sidhu (or Sandhu) might have done and wasn't even there, was encouraged to paint a picture of staff habitually shuffling suitcases around in containers like Paul Daniels on acid.

    Now my first reaction to this gambit would be, whoa, why are you doing this people, what conclusion might flow from the proposition that the Bedford case wasn't moved are you trying to avoid? And that, my friends, is the key to all of this.

  3. But let's suppose Mr. Brain-The-Size-Of-A-Planet Keen doesn't manage to figure that out. That he's content to accept the wooden horse at face value. What the hell should he do with it? Him and his struggling partner Taylor?

    Lay into the Crown argument with both fists. Point out that the court has been asked to sit for hours and listen to people pontificate about how the bomb wasn't in the case on the floor of the container, and ask what was that all about? Because if the Crown is happy to accept that the cases were shuffled, then there is precisely zero point in spending half a second on that point. "Any case might end up anywhere." In that case, even if you can prove that the explosion wasn't in the position the Bedford case was last seen occupying, you've done nothing to prove that it wasn't the bomb. Any case might end up anywhere.

    In that case, how has the Crown ruled out the case Bedford saw? Simply proving that the bomb suitcase was unaccompanied luggage doesn't help us determine whether that unaccompanied luggage arrived on the feeder flight. Certainly not in the context of the abysmal security demonstrated at Heathrow. "Who could have put a suitcase in the container, Mr. Bedford?" "Anyone who worked at the airport." He actually said that in the witness box. God give me strength. And we might extend that to anyone who might have got hold of one of the couple of thousand unaccounted-for security passes and a set of BA overalls.

    So you concentrate the minds of the judges on the self-evident fact that the Crown hasn't even attempted to rule out the Bedford case. It arrived in the container in suspicious circumstances, and there's nothing at all to prevent it having been moved into the position the investigators were touting for the bomb suitcase. The Crown has made no attempt to show that the thing was legitimate passenger luggage documented as arriving in the Heathrow interline shed, nor has it suggested that one of the non-exploding suitcases found on the ground might have been that case. We are entitled to ask ourselves, on what grounds did the investigation itself discount that case from the inquiry?

    It's not as if the evidence presented to support the contention that the bomb arrived from Malta was anything like conclusive. No evidence at all of anything untoward at Malta, and a lot of evidence suggesting that nothing untoward actually happened there. Confused and incomplete baggage transfer records at Frankfurt with more than half the transfer luggage trays unable to be reconciled to documented passenger or luggage movements. It would have kind of helped a bit if that point had been brought out. Really it would. Talk about passing up on a sitter?

    I think pretty much everyone present at Camp Zeist was suffering from the same problem. Utter inability to comprehend the possibility that the investigation could have been so incompetent as to have walked right past Bedford's evidence without seriously following up the case he had described. She sheer enormity of the error shields it from scrutiny. Our brains simply can't wrap themselves round the concept that the answer could be that simple, or that obvious.

    I think that applies to the defence, and I think it applies to the judges. The latter did complicated back-somersaults to exclude the Bedford case and go with the Malta evidence instead. I think they just couldn't even contemplate the possibility. Is this the first false conviction that has happened because the evidence for innocence was too bloody obvious?

    I'm not convinced it applies to the Crown prosecution though. The very selective nature of the evidence they chose to lead as opposed to the evidence they quite blatantly chose not to lead points to a very careful degree of calculation.

  4. Apart from being the world's foremost expert in Lockerbie evidence, you are also doing quite well in a general competition of "most readworthy comments on the Internet".

    "She sheer enormity of the error shields it from scrutiny. Our brains simply can't wrap themselves round the concept that the answer could be that simple, or that obvious."

    When things are very large-scale, yes, it is hard to imagine that something simple was overlooked.
    In fact, must suggestions in that matter come from people who do not understand the complexity.
    Usually, the emperor does in fact wear clothes, and the small boys are wrong.

    Yet, there are incredible stories, like this one:
    where the simple answer was overlooked for years.

    And you point out that Lockerbie is one more example.

    How can it happen?
    One way the mind gets confused is wrong focusing.
    Issue A maybe be crucial and easy, while B is controversial.
    B takes all the discussion, maybe intentionally by one part.
    It is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

    Our brain works mysterious ways.
    Maybe you know the expression "the color of the bikeshed".

    And a case like Lockerbie is politics and interests from the very beginning, like any other grand-scale disaster. The last bits of the plane have hardly hit the ground before accusations are out there. Leaders of the investigations are in fact politicians and elected for political reasons, your LAs being the most glaring example.

    So many possible ways that a bomb could have ended in that plane. We have a Bedford reporting on an unexpected brown suitcase from the very start. A strange story of an indian worker who should have nothing better to do than rearranging suitcases that was already placed.
    Questions like "How often do you see unexpected suitcases" or "how often do you rearrange suitcases already placed" or later "how often are break-ins reported at Heathrow" are not even asked, though the answers are crucial.

    The "retrial" is another raving madness.
    Imagine taking your to a mechanic and he tells you your gearbox is broken. "Hmm" you say and take it to another service. They say:
    "Look, our job is to say whether your new specific information would have changed the mind of your previous evaluator, and we think it wouldn't. We will not tell you if we think that your gearbox is in fact broken."
    Laughable. Has never happened in the history of troublesome cars.
    But for a retrial - fine!

    There isn't the absurdity you could not one day see accepted.
    We are living right in the middle of it.

  5. Great comment, SM.

    You know, I'm nowhere near "the world's foremost expert in Lockerbie evidence." When I read the books that go into enormous detail on the intricacies of middle-eastern internecine feuding, I just glaze over. Even as regards the physical evidence, there are people who know far more about PT/35b and the Maltese clothes and so on than I do.

    I'm just some idiot that started looking at the case in 2009 and became obsessed with how the bomb got on the plane and in particular why do we not know a lot more about the Heathrow evidence and what Bedford saw. I'm an expert on the transfer luggage, that's all. It just so happens that (I think, anyway) the transfer luggage is the key to the whole thing. It's level one in the puzzle that when solved gives you access to the more advanced levels.

    I remember very early on a group of us were discussing the case Bedford saw, and I looked at the Claiden diagram (which is all over the internet) and remarked that the red-hatched area seemed to point to the exploding case having been the one on the floor of the container. I then shrugged inwardly and assumed that this must be discussed in the Joint Forensic Report (which I had not seen) and some reasonable explanation given for why that wasn't so.


    When I finally saw the JFR I was astonished by what a poor document it was. So many things not discussed, so many inferences not drawn. Just a heap of data-gathering and only minimal analysis of that data. But to be honest that took time to sink in. At first I didn't realise the deficiencies because I wasn't reading it as an academic scrutineer. I was still inclined to take the expertise of the writers as read, and mentally defer to their take on the subject. I finally shook this off and realised that I was reading an amateur botch-job, not a professional analysis.

  6. I think Feraday's "two postulated positions" diagrams encapsulate the incompetence. Never mind the out-of-scale drawing which makes them even more misleading than they actually are, consider what Feraday is proposing, and then look again at the Claiden diagram.

    Feraday's text actually favours his "first postulated position" in which the bomb suitcase is handle-up in the overhang section, lying against the sloping side panel of the container. He never explains his reasoning for this, but I suspect it's because that's the only position for the case compatible with the radio having been packed in the intuitive way, across the hinge end. (He never explored the possibility that the radio might have been packed along one side, although that would have to have been the packing orientation in his "second postulated position.)

    You just have to look at his diagrams alongside the Claiden diagram, also included in the Joint Forensic Report, to see that the first position is completely ruled out by the distribution of the blast damage ot the airframe. It's absolutely brain dead.

    Worse than that, the first position is also ruled out by the recovery of part of the lock of the bomb suitcase inside one of the cases that were in the row at the back. That couldn't have happened if the bomb suitcase had been handle-up in the overhang. Andrew Hardie pointed this out to Feraday at the FAI, but there'a no evidence he took it on board.

    It seems clear that none of these geniuses ever looked at the Claiden diagram, and thus the damage to the airframe, in the context of the position of the bomb suitcase. Never mind the revelation that dawns when you work out the pattern of damage to the cases in the row at the back, the Claiden diagram actually showed the truth all along.

    I woudln't have dared postulate that the bomb must have been on the bottom layer just from looking at that diagram, because the idea would have been laughed at as simplistic and naive. It's the simple truth though.

    I don't know how the Scottish appeals process works when it's operating properly, which the 2001-02 one at Camp Zeist wasn't. Maybe Prof Black will enlighten us.