[On this date in 1990, the Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST) presented its report to President George H W Bush. The full report can be read here. A report in The Washington Post the following day reads in part:]
A presidential commission yesterday placed much of the blame for the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on a "seriously flawed" aviation security system, beginning with inept and confused Pan Am security at Frankfurt and London and compounded by the Federal Aviation Administration's failure to enforce its rules.
"The destruction of Flight 103 may well have been preventable," the commission said. (...)
The commission found fault throughout the government, from the FAA to the State Department, which it blamed for failing to adequately aid and inform the families of the victims. Only the US intelligence system, including the CIA, did its job adequately, the commission said. (...)
The commission said that for many months before and after the crash, Pan Am failed to follow written federal security guidelines, employed poorly trained security personnel and generally ran a lax security apparatus in Frankfurt and London. It said that despite $630,000 in fines, problems were not cleared up until 10 months after the crash when [Federal Aviation Authority administrator James B] Busey had a face-to-face meeting with Pan Am's new chief executive officer.
"It is astonishing . . . that Pan Am permitted those problems and others to continue at that level month upon month after the disaster," the report said.
The report said the commission could not determine exactly how the bomb got onto the plane, although it said there is ample evidence that an "extra" unaccompanied bag was placed on the plane at Frankfurt. A container of luggage was also left unguarded on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport in London for about 30 minutes.
The commission called the extra unaccompanied bag "the 13th bag," because an X-ray operator's list of parcels delivered from other airlines totaled 13, while other records could trace only 12 of them to passengers.
The report also did not identify any individual or country responsible for the bomb, apparently Semtex explosive hidden in a small Toshiba radio. A criminal investigation continues, and no charges have been filed.
However, [Commission chair, former Secretary of Labor Ann] McLaughlin indicated the commission may know more than it is making public. She said the panel delivered a private letter to President Bush yesterday morning with his copy of the report. She said the letter contained more specifics about dealing with terrorism but refused to elaborate.
[RB: The current president of US relatives’ organisation Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 Inc, Frank Duggan, was on the staff of the Commission, in charge of family liaison.]