[This is the headline over a report that was published in The Herald on this date in 1989. It reads in part:]
Investigators believe that employees of Libyan Arab Airways in Frankfurt planted the bomb which destroyed a PanAm Jumbo jet four days before Christmas, killing 270 people in and around Lockerbie, according to the American television network CBS News.
In a follow-up to its report on Wednesday night that the Palestinian terrorist Ahmad Jibril, sponsored by Syria and Libya, was believed to have built the bomb, CBS said this morning that the sophisticated device was in a suitcase which did not belong to any passenger aboard PanAm flight 103.
The CBS version contradicts a Radio Forth report, which said that an American agent of the Central Intelligence Agency unwittingly had the bomb in his luggage. Mr David Johnston, of Radio Forth, said last night police had given him until today to name his sources for his report which blamed a Palestinian group for the bombing.
He said he was ''completely confident'' he had been told the truth, and was prepared to face court moves if necessary. Mr Johnston said he was told by official agencies ''in Britain and elsewhere'' that the bomb was planted at Helsinki in the luggage of an American CIA agent returning from an unsuccessful attempt to release US hostages in Beirut.
Police gave him until today to approach his sources to ask if he could divulge them, he added. The officers said that if he did not want to disclose his sources to them, they would make available ''anyone in Britain, including the Prime Minister, for him to disclose them to.''
Mr Johnston said the police ''have said that if I don't tell them tomorrow where the story came from, it would be open to them to put me before a sheriff under precognition.''
CBS said that at least 100 Libyan airline employees are intelligence operatives under the command of Abdullah Senoussi, who is related to the country's leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Senoussi reportedly has a printing plant which produces forged luggage tags, among other documents. The bomb, said by CBS to contain 20lbs of plastic explosives, was in a suitcase falsely labelled to fly to New York, via London, on flight 103. It was not searched, x-rayed, or even weighed-in at Frankfurt airport, where it was smuggled in through a ''back door,'' the TV report said, citing an American source.
CBS said the device was believed to be identical to a suitcase bomb found by West German police, in the days before the Lockerbie disaster, when they arrested 14 members of Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- General Command. The report said the PFLP-GC wished to upset the peace initiative of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Meanwhile, lawyers representing families bereaved in the Lockerbie disaster are to pursue their claims for compensation through the American courts. They will also press for a full accident inquiry to be held as soon as possible.
The first meeting of the lawyers' steering committee will be held in Glasgow today but its spokesman, solicitor Mr Michael Hughes, said last night it was virtually certain any compensation claims would be made to the American courts.
[RB: Caustic Logic has commented on this report on his blog The Lockerbie Divide. What follows is an excerpt:]
On February 3 1989, based on what someone had told them, CBS News reported that Libyans may have been behind the whole thing. The Herald (Scotland) reported on this, and I thank to JREF forum member Spitfire IX for the tip.
Libyan link to Lockerbie blast
“INVESTIGATORS believe that employees of Libyan Arab Airways in Frankfurt planted the bomb which destroyed a PanAm Jumbo jet four days before Christmas, killing 270 people in and around Lockerbie, according to the American television network CBS News.”
This is far too early for any of the bogus clues against Megrahi to have emerged. It’s also far too early to be motivated by Gulf War alliances mandating a blind eye to Syria, as some assess the motive. It doesn’t appear to be based on any evidence (see below), but it must have been based on something or it wouldn’t have been said.
“CBS said that at least 100 Libyan airline employees are intelligence operatives under the command of Abdullah Senoussi, who is related to the country's leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Senoussie reportedly has a printing plant which produces forged luggage tags, among other documents.”
That certainly would not explain accused Fhimah’s later plot to flat steal Air Malta tags for the bombing, a "clue" that wouldn’t emerge for over two years. In fact, these sounds like hollow points of speculation, maybe just a handy occasion to again draw attention to Frankfurt while floating a novel solution to the embarrassing truth. Of course, only a few people would know this soon just how embarrassing that would be.
“The bomb, said by CBS to contain 20lbs of plastic explosives, was in a suitcase falsely labelled to fly to New York, via London, on flight 103. It was not searched, x-rayed, or even weighed-in at Frankfurt airport, where it was smuggled in through a ''back door,'' the TV report said, citing an American source.
CBS said the device was believed to be identical to a suitcase bomb found by West German police, in the days before the Lockerbie disaster, when they arrested 14 members of Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command.”
There is no likeness, "identical" or otherwise, implied in the given description. Mot obviously, the ones seized were designed to blow up within 30-45 minutes or an hour (it's complicated) of leaving the ground, which has never fitted with an origin at Frankfurt or further out. Not with the blast 38 minutes after leaving London. Further, the only one of the PFLP-GC devices known of at the time contained 312 grams of Semtex-H, or well under one pound. Three found later were comparable, and the bomb used on 103 was at least that weight, and perhaps as high as 680 grams, based on the container damage. Again nowhere near this alleged 20 pound Libyan monster.
In fact, such small amounts of explosive could only work as fatally as happened on Soltice ’88 with the choicest placement within the luggage container - against the sloping outboard floor panel just two feet from the plane's skin. This is entirely possible by random baggage loading, but far less than a 50/50 shot. There’s still no guarantee, but at least a good 50/50, if the luggage is actually arranged by a terrorists who knows of the sweet spot. Someone else could then move it, or not move it. And of course that could only happen at Heathrow where the container was loaded, hundreds of miles from those dastardly Libyans at Frankfurt and their "back door" antics that still have never been elaborated.
That unspecified “American source” would have presumably been someone involved in an investigation. And we know the CIA’s probe into 103 was headed by Vincent Cannistraro, head of Agency’s counter-terrorism center. Previously, Cannistraro was one of Reagan’s make-s***-up-about-Libya men (See Maltese Double Cross – 42:40 mark). Along with Ollie North and Howard Teicher at the NSC, he used input from CIA and Deprtment of Defense to seed disinformation in the media to justify a policy of covert US harassment of Col Gaddafi up to coup plans and attempted assassination by Cruise missile, in 1986.
I’d bet money that Vincent Cannistraro was the source for this allegation. He’s friendly with the press, and always eager to tell them whatever’s convenient at the moment with some flair and no compunctions. The story had Libyan intel agents working through LAA at an airport connected to the Lockerbie bombing. The CIA at that time had Abdul Majid Giaka’s stories on file, mentioning both Megrahi and Fhimah as just such agents, but attached to LAA at Luqa airport on Malta.
Of course, no further moves were made for quite a while, as investigators spent all of 1989 and 1990 at least publicly pushing the PFLP-GC leads - and increasingly Malta leads. Even the suspicious, possibly backdated evidence pointing at Libya was dated around May ’89 and not generally understood for around a year. If this is indeed an early stirring of Vince’s Libya solution, it was too early after waking from the haze of no leads that can be pursued. Libyan guilt rather than PFLP-GC/Syria/Iran probably did look nice and comforting passing through the national news, but just six weeks after the bombing, it was clearly something to come back to after a cup of coffee and a fistful of planted clues.