Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The truth was inconvenient

[On this date in 2007 I reproduced on this blog a long article by Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer published the previous day on OhmyNews International. What follows is an excerpt:]

Back to Square One
Let us give Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord Maclean some credit. After hearing 230 witnesses and studying 621 exhibits during 84 days of evidence, spread over eight months, the three judges of the Lockerbie trial almost got the date of the worst act of terror in the UK correct.

In the first line of the first paragraph of the most expensive verdict in history (£80 million), they wrote: "At 1903 hours on 22 December 1988 Pan Am flight 103 fell out of the sky." As a matter of fact, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded on Dec 21.

Michael Scharf is an international law expert at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Scharf joined the State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser for Law Enforcement and Intelligence in April 1989. He was also responsible for drawing up the UN Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions on Libya in 1992.

"It was a trial where everybody agreed ahead of time that they were just going to focus on these two guys, and they were the fall guys," Scharf wrote.

"The CIA and the FBI kept the State Department in the dark. It worked for them for us to be fully committed to the theory that Libya was responsible. I helped the counter-terrorism bureau draft documents that described why we thought Libya was responsible, but these were not based on seeing a lot of evidence, but rather on representations from the CIA and FBI and the Department of Justice about what the case would prove and did prove."

"It was largely based on this inside guy [Libyan defector Abdul Majid Giaka]. It wasn't until the trial that I learned this guy was a nut-job and that the CIA had absolutely no confidence in him and that they knew he was a liar."

The Magic Luggage
According to the Lockerbie verdict, the bomb was hidden in a Toshiba radio, wrapped in clothes and located in luggage that was mysteriously boarded in Malta.

The court has examined this allegation in depth and the matter occupies 24 paragraphs of the final verdict (§16 to §34). After reviewing all the evidence and testimonies, the three judges came to the following conclusions:

"Luqa airport had a relatively elaborate security system. All items of baggage checked in were entered into the airport computer as well as being noted on the passenger's ticket. After the baggage had passed the sniffer check, it was placed on a trolley in the baggage area to wait until the flight was ready for loading.

"When the flight was ready, the baggage was taken out and loaded, and the head loader was required to count the items placed on board. The ramp dispatcher, the airport official on the tarmac responsible for the departure of the flight, was in touch by radiotelephone with the load control office. The load control had access to the computer and, after the flight was closed, would notify the ramp dispatcher of the number of items checked in. The ramp dispatcher would also be told by the head loader how many items had been loaded; and if there were a discrepancy, the ramp dispatcher would take steps to resolve it.

"In addition to the baggage reconciliation procedure, there was a triple count of the number of passengers boarding a departing flight, that is there was a count of the boarding cards, a count by immigration officers of the number of immigration cards handed in, and a head count by the crew.

"The records relating to KM180 on 21 December 1988 show no discrepancy in respect of baggage. The flight log (production 930) shows that 55 items of baggage were loaded, corresponding to 55 on the load plan.

"On the face of them, these arrangements seem to make it extremely difficult for an unaccompanied and unidentified bag to be shipped on a flight out of Luqa.

"If therefore the unaccompanied bag was launched from Luqa, the method by which that was done is not established, and the Crown accepted that they could not point to any specific route by which the primary suitcase could have been loaded.

"The absence of any explanation of the method by which the primary suitcase might have been placed on board KM180 is a major difficulty for the Crown case."

An internal 1989 FBI memo indicates that there is no indication that unaccompanied luggage was transferred from Air Malta to Pan Am. Law authorities from Malta and Germany came to the same conclusion.

And yet, without any explanation, the judges wrote in the conclusion of the verdict that: "the absence of an explanation as to how the suitcase was taken into the system at Luqa is a major difficulty for the Crown case, but after taking full account of that difficulty, we remain of the view that the primary suitcase began its journey at Luqa." (§ 82)

The Maltese Storekeeper
According to the verdict, Megrahi bought the clothes in which the bomb was wrapped in Sliema, a small town of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, including the "cloth" in which the fragment was "discovered" by Hayes. At first sight, the "cloth" appears to be part of a Slalom shirt sold in a little shop -- Mary's House -- located on the island.

However, upon closer examination, the "cloth" raises a series of issues. Firstly, the color of the label is incorrect. A blue Slalom shirt label should have blue writing, not brown.

Secondly, the breast pocket size corresponds to a child shirt, not the 16-and-a-half-sized shirt allegedly bought by Megrahi, for the pocket would have been 2 centimeters wider.

Thirdly, German records show the shirt had most of the breast pocket intact, while the evidence shown at Zeist had a deep triangular tear extending inside the pocket.

Lastly, the storekeeper initially told the investigators he never sold such shirts to whoever visited him a few weeks before the Lockerbie tragedy.

Storekeeper Tony Gauci's testimony was pivotal in the case against Megrahi. Gauci gave a series of 19 statements to the police that are fully inconsistent. Yet, the judges found him trustworthy. Allow me to disagree.

On Jan 30, 1990, Gauci stated, "That time when the man came, I am sure I did not sell him a shirt." Then, on Sept 10, 1990, he told the investigators, "I now remember that the man who bought the clothing also bought a Slalom shirt." And to make things worse, two of his testimonies have disappeared.

When Were the Clothes Bought?
According to the verdict, Megrahi bought the clothes on Dec 7, 1989. Gauci remembered that his brother had gone home earlier to watch an evening football game (Rome vs Dresden), that the man came just before closing time (7 pm), that it was raining (the man bought an umbrella) and that the Christmas lights were on.

The game allows for only two dates: Nov 23 or Dec 7. The issue is critical for there is no indication that Megrahi was in Malta on Nov 23, but he is known to have been on the island on Dec 7.

The chief meteorologist of Malta airport testified that it was raining on Nov 23 but not on Dec 7. Yet the judges determined the date as Dec 7. This rather absurd conclusion from the judges raises two other issues.

The Dec 7 Rome-Dresden game was played at 1 pm, not in the evening. What is more, Gauci had previously testified that the Christmas lights were not up, meaning that the date had to be Nov [23].

On Sept 19, 1989, Gauci stated, "The [Christmas] decorations were not up when the man bought the clothing." Then, at the Lockerbie trial, Gauci told the judges that the Christmas lights were on. "Yes, they were … up."

Who Was the Mysterious Buyer?
"We are nevertheless satisfied that his identification, so far as it went, of the first accused as the purchaser was reliable and should be treated as a highly important element in this case," wrote the judges.

In fact, Gauci never identified Megrahi. He merely stated that Megrahi resembles the man to whom he had sold the clothes, but only if he were much older and two inches taller. Gauci, however, had identified another man: Abu Talb.

Talb was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GL), the terrorist group led by Jibril.

In late October 1988 the senior bomb maker of the PFLP-GC, Marwan Khreesat, was arrested in Frankfurt in the company of Hafez Dalkamoni, the leader of the organization's German cell.

Dalkamoni had met Talb in Cyprus and Malta the week before. In the car the two men used, police found a bomb hidden in a Toshiba radio. Khreesat told the police that he had manufactured five similar improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Each device Khreesat had built was triggered by a pressure gauge that activated a timer -- range 0 to 45 minutes -- when the plane reached a cruising altitude of 11,000 meters. The timers of all recovered bombs were set on 30 minutes. It takes about 7 minutes for a 747 to reach cruising altitude. Pan Am 103 exploded 38 minutes after take-off from London.

German police eventually recovered four of the IEDs Khreesat had built. No one seems to know what happened to the fifth one, which was never recovered. When police raided Talb's apartment in Sweden, they found his appointment notebook. Talb had circled one date: Dec 21.

Contrary to Jibril's statement, and surely he must know better, a bomb triggered by a pressure gauge set at 11,000 meters would not have detonated during the Frankfurt to London flight as the airliner does not reach cruising altitude on such a short flight.

Then again, such a device would not have detonated at all if it had been located in the luggage area, as the hold is at the pressure of the passengers' zone and never drops below the pressure equivalent of 2,400 meters.

This is why when the judges were presented with the undisputable and undisputed evidence that a proper simulation of the explosion -- taking proper account of the Mach stem effect -- would locate the explosion outside the luggage hold they simply decided to dismiss the existence of a scientifically well-established fact.

"We do not consider it necessary to go into any detail about Mach stem formation," the judges wrote.

Had the judges deemed it "necessary to go into the details regarding Mach stem formation," they would have been forced to acknowledge that the position of the bomb was fully incompatible with the indictment. That magic unaccompanied luggage went mysteriously through airport security was "plausible." That it jumped on its own out of the luggage hold at London airport was a little too much to believe.

In truth, a proper simulation of the explosion locates the bomb just a few inches away from the skin of the plane, a position fully consistent with the very specific damages left by the explosion.

The truth was inconvenient. The three judges had to dismiss it in order to justify a verdict that had been decided more than a decade before the first day of the Zeist trial.

Shame on those who committed this horrific act of terror. Shame on those who have ordered the cover-up. Shame on those who provided false testimony and those who suppressed and fabricated the evidence needed to frame Libya. And shame on the media, whose silence made it an accomplice.


  1. In truth, a proper simulation of the explosion locates the bomb just a few inches away from the skin of the plane, a position fully consistent with the very specific damages left by the explosion.

    Not true. The nature of the damage to the baggage container and the suitcases in it absolutely corroborates the conclusion that the bomb was in a suitcase loaded inside the container, close to the bottom front left-hand corner. The crucial argument is whether the case in question was on the bottom layer of luggage or whether there was another case underneath it. However the condition of the damaged items reveals that the bomb suitcase was on the bottom layer and there was no case underneath it.

    I have no idea why the "correct" Mach stem calculations seem to say something different, but there has to be a mistake there. Who are you going to believe? Some fancy sums or your own lying eyes?

  2. Also this is written earlier, but well:

    People coming with mathematical models and applying them to cases where numerous parameters can't be even estimated and could be expected to lead to chaotic behavior will be able to fool themselves and some people all of the time.

    Drop a beer glass on a concrete floor from, say, the height of one meter. It may break on the spot, or it may bounce, landing in any distance from where it fell, and then break or not.
    Drop one more, held in the same height and angle, and the result is likely to be totally different from the first.

    But would there be a Dr. Professor Scientist who'd be willing apply his models to a glass found on the floor, and conclude what height and with what angle the glass would have been dropped from? Almost certainly, and the court would probably eat it.

    We have some cute cases, where scientists without common sense convinced a jury, e.g. Sally Clark, Lucia de Berk and Lindy Chamberlain.

    Some may have the idea that with enough advanced science you can reach a correct true/false conclusion based on whatever collected data sets you may have.
    No. Despite knowing every bit and detail of a car's construction there is only one way to gain proper knowledge about how it protect passengers when crashing: build a handful, run them into something and measure the forces on the doll in the car.

    De Braeckeleer is excellent, but on a few points we don't understand each other. I recall an earlier analysis where he concluded that it would have taken 30 kg of explosives to have PANAM103 disintegrating the way it did.

  3. But if there is no evidence in the recovered wreckage that 30 kg of explosives detonated anywhere on board, then we must conclude that, somehow, the explosive charge in the radio-cassette recorder in the suitcase in the baggage container, which we can see did detonate and did blast a hole in the hull in addition to other non-local effects, caused the crash.

    If it happens, it must be possible.