Sunday, 13 September 2015

Tainting evidence -- the FBI crime laboratory

[On this date in 1995 the FBI crime laboratory was the subject of a highly critical television programme broadcast on the ABC network. It followed disclosures by one of the laboratory’s scientists, Dr Frederic Whitehurst, about the methods adopted by some of his colleagues, including Tom Thurman. The scandal later became the subject of a book, Tainting Evidence, by John Kelly and Phillip Wearne. The relevance of this to the Lockerbie case is outlined in the following excerpt from Gareth Peirce’s article The Framing of al-Megrahi in the London Review of Books:]

The key features needed to prosecute al-Megrahi successfully were the scientific identification of the circuit-board fragment, which would in turn establish its origin, and the identification of the purchaser of the clothes in Malta. The timers, the indictment stated, were made by a firm in Switzerland; their circuit board matched the fragment retrieved from Lockerbie, and they sold the timers exclusively to Libya. Everything, essentially, hinged on those links.

Who found the fragment? And who understood its relevance? Thomas Hayes of the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) claimed the find (with his colleague Alan Feraday) and Thomas Thurman of the FBI claimed the analytical victory. All were swiftly hailed (or hailed themselves) as heroes. Thurman appeared on television on 15 November 1991, the day after indictments were issued against the two Libyans, boasting that he had identified the piece of circuit board as part of a timing device that might have been sold to Libyan Airlines staff. ‘I made the identification and I knew at that point what it meant. And because, if you will, I am an investigator as well as a forensic examiner, I knew where that would go. At that point we had no conclusive proof of the type of timing mechanism that was used in the bombing of 103. When that identification was made of the timer I knew that we had it.’ This was the claim – the hard evidence – that linked Libyans to the crime. If the claim was false the bereaved Lockerbie families have been deceived for 20 years.

On 13 September 1995 the FBI’s forensic department was the subject of a programme broadcast in the US by ABC. At its centre was a memorandum from the former head of explosive science at the FBI, Dr Frederic Whitehurst. It was a devastating indictment of a former colleague. The colleague was Thomas Thurman and the accusations related to his investigation of a terrorist attack in which a judge was killed by pipe bombs. Two years later, as a result of a review by the US inspector general, Michael Bromwich, into a large number of criminal investigations, Thomas Thurman was barred from FBI labs and from being called as an expert witness. Bromwich had discovered that he had no formal scientific qualifications and that, according to a former colleague, he had been ‘circumventing procedures and protocols, testifying to areas of expertise that he had no qualifications in . . . therefore fabricating evidence’.

Thurman had made the Libyan connection, and its plausibility relied on the accuracy of his statement that the fragment of circuit board proved that it would have been possible for the unaccompanied bag to fly from Malta without the seemingly inevitable mid-air explosion. And thus it was that a witness from Switzerland, Edwin Bollier, the manufacturer of the MEBO circuit board, was called on to provide evidence that such boards had been sold exclusively to Libya.


    Vorwort von Edwin Bollier, aus der NEUTRALEN SCHWEIZ, :geonly in German langua:

    Vom Dokumentar Filmemacher von "My Brother’s Bomber", Mr. Ken Dornstein, wird hohes moralisches Verhalten gefordert den Beweisbetrug im Indizienprozess (2000/01, in Kamp van Zeist) - mittels eines manipulierten MST-13 Timer Fragments (PT-35) - zu akzeptieren !

    Wenn Mr. Ken Dornstein, für seinen verstorbenen Bruder David Dornstein ehrlich bemüht ist, die Wahrheit, durch neutrale Nachforschung über
    "My Brother's Bomber" zu finden, muss sich Dornstein, zuerst ausschliesslich (100%) mit dem entscheidenden "indoktrinierten" MST-13 Timer Fragment-Puzzle (PT-35 >> PT-35/b >> DP-31/a) beschäftigen. Hier liegt die Wahrheit und nur die Wahrheit über das falsche schottische Gerichtsurteil (Miscarriage of Justice) gegen den unschuldigen, leider verstorbenen, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi !

    Alle anderen nicht beweisbaren "SAGEN" sind "Ipsationen" zur Abwehr der unbilligen "Opfer-Blutgeld" Annahme (US$ 2.7 Milliarden) damals zur Verfügung gestellt von der Saif Kaddafi Foundation (GIFCA
    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO LTD Switzerland. Webpage:

    Link to Trailer:

  2. That's all just innuendo and whatabootery, though. It doesn't provide any evidence that the timer fragment wasn't genuine.

    The high-resolution photos of the fragment, the control PCB and Lumpert's template show an extremely close match. Both the fragment and the control PCB must have originated from that template, either directly or indirectly. The serial photographs of the fragment demostrate that the object in image 117 is the same object as the fragment that was presented to the court.

    There is documentary evidence of the fragment being present in the chain of evidence on 12th May 1989 and 15th September 1989. On 25th January 1990 it becomes real, tangible and verifiable, when it was handed over to the Scottish police. That's what you have to deal with. Simply pointing out that various personnel involved with the investigation of the fragment were of proven bad character (which is true), or even that the paperwork for 12th May has all the hallmarks of an interpolation (which is also true, and a damn sight more relevant) doesn't prove what is required to be proved.

    Of course Miss Peirce didn't know about the discrepancy in the metallurgy results when she wrote that article. No doubt if she had, the article would have had a different emphasis. The fragment certainly wasn't what the investigators presented it to be, and there is clear evidence that Allen Feraday (at least) deliberately covered up the evidence that demonstrated that. That's a different issue though, and it doesn't prove that the fragment was a fabricated plant.

    Disorganised, scrappy and dubious though that May paperwork is, I can't figure out in what way it's actually a fake. Unless that can be done, this is all smoke and mirrors.