Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Malta airport security explored at Lockerbie trial

[What follows is TheLockerbieTrial.com’s brief report on the proceedings at Camp Zeist on this date in 2000:]

Air Malta Manager Testifies
Wilfred Borg, Crown witness number 708, who was general manager for ground operations at Malta's Luqa Airport admitted that an uncleared suitcase could, theoretically, have been placed on board a flight leaving Malta.
Borg though, denied that records of unidentified luggage produced by the Crown indicated a violation of safety procedures.
The Crown will attempt to prove that the bomb suitcase was inserted in the baggage system at Luqa airport and sent as unaccompanied baggage to Frankfurt.
Borg was questioned by Advocate Depute, Alan Turnbull QC, about safety operations at Malta's Luqa airport.
Turnbull highlighted what he claimed were discrepancies in Air Malta's baggage loading logs on a number of flights in 1988 and asked Borg whether a person familiar with security procedures and access to loading areas could have breached his staff's safety checks.
Turnbull asked: "Would it have been possible in 1988 for someone with that knowledge and that access to deliberately have circumvented the checks you had in place?"
"Anything is possible. Whether it was probable is a different story," said Borg, who added that in every case an aircraft's captain had to make the final call on the safety of the aircraft.
Wilfred Borg is expected to continue his evidence on Monday.

[An accompanying commentary on the same website reads as follows:]

Airport Security Revelations
Luqa Airport became the focus of attention for investigators, much later then the original Maltese connection, which was around clothing found at Lockerbie.
Certain assumptions have been made regarding Malta's Luqa airport. It has been assumed by many that because Malta is a small country then it follows that their airport security would be lax.
The Crown will undoubtedly contend that all was not well with security at Luqa airport and this will assist their assertions that the suitcase containing the bomb was inserted at this point.

However our investigations have uncovered startling new facts which may counter this part of the Crown theory.

The arguments that may be used to counter this claim have come from a source which will surprise many. It comes directly from the US Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA.
In 1987, a year before the bombing of Pan Am 103, Pan Am made it known that they wished to operate a cargo service to and from Malta. In any instances, where an American flag carrier, such as Pan Am, makes it known that they wish to fly into an airport for the first time, the FAA is mandated to carry out inspections and assessments of the airport concerned.
Officials of the FAA carried out such an assessment of Luqa airport and their report will do nothing to further the Crown's case regarding lax security.
Sources from within the FAA, who spoke on condition of anonymity, have informed us that if they [the FAA] scored airports on a point system giving points out of ten, then their assessment of Luqa Airport would be 9 out of 10.
With the exception of some administrative recommendations, the FAA gave Luqa airport, Malta, a clean bill of health.
Hardly the picture of a small third world countries airport with poor security. Anyone familiar with Luqa airport during that period would know that armed soldiers from the Maltese armed forces carried out much of the security at the airport.
These revelations may have come to light earlier (we learned of this 3 months ago) had the FAA been more careful about their archived documentation.
Those same sources within the FAA confirmed to us that during 1993/1994, the FAA destroyed many assessments and inspections of European airports, covering the 1980s, including the report compiled on Luqa airport. Our source has stated that this destruction was done in error and not in any way to thwart the Lockerbie investigation. The Government of Malta was given a copy of the FAA report.
We make no assertions that the FAA, by destroying these reports, acted in any way maliciously and our sources within the FAA have spoken of the quality and level of co-operation extended to those involved in the legal preparations for this trial.
While the issues under examination today are specific to Air Malta and not to Luqa airport, there is undoubtedly a connection with regards to overall security procedures.
Coming hard on the heels of the debacle over Maltese witnesses refusing to testify, these latest revelations will hardly be good news for the Crown.

[The report of the day’s proceedings on the BBC News website can be read here.]

1 comment:

  1. Wilfred Borg, who was general manager for ground operations at Malta's Luqa Airport admitted that an uncleared suitcase could, theoretically, have been placed on board a flight leaving Malta.

    "Could, theoretically". How could he have answered otherwise to that very general question? No matter how good the security, the theoretical possibility that it might be breached at some unspecified time in some unknown way can never be wholly excluded, and anyone who said it could would be lying under oath.

    But the question before the court wasn't, might it theoretically be possible to get an unaccompanied suitcase on board an unspecified flight out of Malta on some unspecified date, by some means or another, it was, did this happen in respect of KM180 on 21st December 1988? To that the answer must certainly be no.

    I can think of several ways I might have approached the puzzle, if someone presented it to me. In theory, it could be done. The question is, could it be done in such a way that no evidence was left to show that it had been done? No, it couldn't. Every possible way it might have been done would have left evidence in the form of booking records, boarding records, a miscount of the suitcases, lost luggage or something like that. No such evidence existed.

    This point wasn't made to the bench anything like as clearly as it should have been. The whole thing is a catalogue of failure, allowing the bench to presume the most improbable things so long as they supported the Crown case, and dismiss the bleedin' obvious when it supported the defence case.