Wednesday, 13 April 2016

US hounds accusers over claims of Lockerbie crash cover-up

[This is the headline over an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard that was published in issue 688 of the Electronic Telegraph on this date in 1997. As reproduced on the website it reads as follows:]

The US Justice Department appears to be waging a campaign of persecution against those who have challenged the official explanation of the Lockerbie disaster.

The FBI has used its immense power to sift through the background of whistle-blowers, investigators, and their employers, searching for vulnerabilities that could be exploited in a criminal prosecution.

The chief targets have been those who allege that the bombing of Pan Am 103, which took 270 lives on Dec 22, 1988, was an Iranian-Syrian plot that exploited a security breach in a bungled CIA operation. The US government says this is a conspiracy theory cooked up by the US Aviation Insurance Group (USAIG), the underwriters for Pan Am, to try to avoid liability for up to $500 million in damages for families of the victims. Both the US and British authorities insist that the bombing was the work of Libyan terrorists.

Insurance disputes of this kind are typically adjudicated in civil court. But the Justice Department began an extremely aggressive criminal investigation of Pan Am's lawyers and insurers. The investigation, begun in 1992, was unable to muster evidence of a conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Lockerbie case. But after broadening the scope of its inquiry the FBI managed to sustain a case of fraud against the former chairman of USAIG, John Brennan. This involved insurance claims over a 1987 crash of a USAir commuter plane. Brennan was convicted in July 1996. He is expected to be sentenced later this month. USAIG has accused the government of engaging in a malicious vendetta.

The Justice Department was less successful in its efforts to destroy Juval Aviv, an expert on terrorism employed by Pan Am's insurers to investigate the bombing. He was acquitted on federal charges of fraud last December after an ordeal lasting more than four years. Aviv, head of a New York security firm, Interfor, was indicted in 1995 for supposedly defrauding a client, General Electric, in a minor security contract involving a fee of $20,683.

But General Electric had never issued a complaint. FBI agents nevertheless visited Aviv's clients demanding files. They were the same agents, Chris Murray and David Edward, who had conducted the Lockerbie investigation. "The whole thing was obviously trumped up in revenge for his role in the Pan Am 103 disaster case," said a juror afterwards.

Aviv has now filed a claim alleging malicious prosecution, violation of constitutional rights, and the launch of a campaign to discredit him "in retaliation for his report to Pan Am".

It was Aviv's report in 1989 that first sketched the outlines of a cover-up. He claimed that a rogue CIA unit had allowed a Syrian drug ring to smuggle heroin on Pan Am flights from Frankfurt to New York. He said this was to gain help in the release of US hostages in Lebanon. But the operation was penetrated by Iranian-backed terrorists who exploited the Pan Am channel to plant a bomb on flight 103.

"Aviv stirred up a lot of trouble, playing on the emotions of the families," said Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of counter-intelligence for the CIA. "He goes around saying that he used to be a member of Mossad, but the office of the Israeli prime minister has written a letter denying it. The man's a fraud."

But documents introduced at his trial paint a more complex picture. An internal FBI memo, marked secret, confirmed his "past association with the Mossad". Other documents corroborated his claim to have served as a security consultant to the FBI, Secret Service and other US agencies. Aviv believes that he was indicted in 1995 to destroy his credibility just as claims of a Lockerbie cover-up were gathering momentum. A film that supported his theories, The Maltese Double Cross, was about to be shown in Britain for the first time. It was never broadcast, but families of the victims had a private screening.

The US embassy in London, joined by the Crown Office, went on the offensive, calling him a "fabricator ... recently arrested in the US for defrauding an American company".

The same treatment was meted out to another source for the film, Lester Coleman, who had worked for the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The embassy said he was "a fugitive from justice, wanted in the US for perjury related to the Lockerbie case and for passport fraud".

Coleman was indicted in 1993, four days before the British launch of his book, Trail of the Octopus - still unpublished in the US - confirming that the American government was indeed running "controlled" heroin deliveries from Lebanon on Pan Am flights out of Frankfurt.

He returned to the US from exile in Sweden last year to clear his name and now awaits trial in New York. The US government's actions clearly indicate that something is amiss in the Lockerbie case. Fabricators are usually ignored, so perhaps it is time to pay closer attention to the charges of Juval Aviv, Lester Coleman, and apostles of the "Syrian Connection".


  1. The Lockerbie case has exposed the total rottenness that we accept as the pillars of our fine democracies.

  2. It's all very odd. All that persecution happened, and more. They also went after James Shaughnessy, the lawyer who acted for Pan Am in its defence of the civil case for damages. And yet the bomb didn't go on at Frankfurt, as Juval Aviv and others maintained.

    The introduction of the bomb at Heathrow isn't obviously linked to any of the shenanigans supposedly going on at Frankfurt. So why the systematic persecution of those who favoured the Frankfurt origin theory? Is it simply that the authorities didn't want any scrutiny of what they were up to with these controlled drug deliveries, even though it was irrelevant to the disaster? Or is it possible the authorities believed that Aviv, Coleman et al might actually be right, and wanted to suppress this?

    It's all extremely murky, and highly unedifying.

  3. Of course there need not be any other good reason than "to kill a chicken to scare off the monkeys" as we say here. If you are really in a position to have knowledge, see? We will go after you if you spill the beans.

    All that stuff with US agents being on the site extremely quickly, disappearing suitcases, bags with drugs and from best possible source (Dr. Fieldhouse), a body.

    But that allows for no conclusions.
    Unless, of course you are the crown and the outcome of the case would suit you, then much, much less will do it.

    The statement "Things happened on the fields of Lockerbie that seems incompatible with an aircraft carrying 'normal' people and goods" is dramatically much better supported than "Mr. Al-Megrahi was involved in the bombing".

    We can for a start compare the quality of Dr. Fieldhouse's statement with the development of Tony Gaucis.

  4. It is well known that people in the CIA have been smuggling drugs for years to finance their clandestine activites. A member of the CIA who had been involved in this for some years named Barry Seal was shot in the head before he could give his evidence in court.There was a large amount of drugs on that plane more than what would be required for a sting operation. Those drugs were not handed in to the Scottish police so who took them. Aviv would have been right about the drug smuggling and assumed that it was possible to switch the drugs for a bomb but that switch could not have taken place as the drugs were still on the plane. That the bomb was put on at heathrow would sugguest involment by somebody in britain who would be in a position to carry this out. This would lead one to suspect that one of the reasons for planting a bomb was to stop Major McKee and his team returning to America to report what they had found out about the drug smuggling just as Barry Seal was going to testify in court before he was shot in the head. This is probably why they are so desperate to surpress the truth. The close relationship between the US ambassador and the Crown is interesting. Very murky indeed.

  5. It's very difficult to know whether the strange goings-on at the crash site were really related to the cause of the crash, or peripheral. There's no doubt the CIA wanted Charles McKee's luggage, and they were looking for it and they got it - apparently from the property store after it had been recovered by a Scottish policeman. Was there someone on the flight, undocumented, whose presence the authorities wanted to suppress? That could explain the vanishing body DCF12. But none of that is necessarily part of the whodunit narrative.

    The DEA denied having any controlled drug shipments on that flight. But then they would say that wouldn't they. I have absolutely no idea whether Khaled Jaafar or anyone else was smuggling drugs, but there's no evidence at all that a drugs consignment was switched for anything else and considerable reason to believe that it wasn't.

    I understand that Charles McKee and his companions were very late bookings on that flight, and Lester Coleman makes much of the particular travel agent they used. It doesn't fit with the flight being targeted because they were on it. The possibility that they were deliberately directed to that flight because it was already planned to be the one hit with the bomb makes better sense.