Thursday, 26 October 2017

While Libya took responsibility for the bombing … Iran was actually responsible

[What follows is one paragraph from a long article headlined Iran and 9/11: Down the Rabbit Hole of Blame by Kristen Breitweiser, the widow of a 9/11 victim, published yesterday in Huffington Post:]

The 9/11 Families’ case against the Saudis has been dismissed at the trial level for a myriad of reasons, more recently, because the Kingdom was not a named State Sponsor of Terrorism. In case you didn’t already know this horrifying dirty little secret, for the most part, getting on and off the official State Sponsor List is mostly a political decision, having very little to do with reality—i.e. whether you really deserve to be on the list in the first place. And typically, you can get off the list by buying your way off, just as long as you are deemed “in favor” with the right people and/or Presidents at the right time. This is what happened with Pan Am Lockerbie and Libya, by the way. Notably, while Libya took responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am Lockerbie, more recent reports have shown that Iran was actually responsible for the terrorist attack.

29 years later: How Lockerbie moved on from the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103

[This is the title of a moving and perceptive article published today on the website of The Daily Orange, the newspaper of Syracuse University, thirty-five of whose students died aboard Pan Am 103. It consists in part of the memories of the disaster and its aftermath of a young police officer whose son is this year one of Syracuse’s Lockerbie Scholars. The following are brief extracts:]

For Colin Dorrance, Dec 21, 1988, was supposed to be a night off. Then 18 years old, he had recently joined the police force and was driving to a Christmas party at home in Lockerbie. (...)

Then he saw the explosion. It burst behind a line of trees, silhouetting them in the darkness.
He thought a truck with a chemical load had crashed. Others thought it might have been a low-flying military plane, practicing a drill that went wrong. Yet he and other the Lockerbie residents soon realized this was no ordinary explosion. (...)
In the 29 years since the disaster, Lockerbie residents like Dorrance and neighbors rebuilt and repaired the damage from the plane crash that catapulted their town into the international spotlight. The bomb wasn’t meant to explode over Lockerbie, said John Gair, a long-time Lockerbie resident and chairman of the Dryfesdale Lodge Visitors’ Centre Trust, differentiating it from the sites of other deadly attacks, like 9/11 and the recent Las Vegas concert shooting.
Other than the five memorials around town, there are few reminders of the tragedy. No plaques or signs mark many of the wreckage locations, like the grassy fields at Tundergarth Church, where the plane’s nose cone landed.
The destruction varied. In Sherwood Crescent, where all the Lockerbie residents were killed, wreckage blasted a 26-foot deep crater in the ground. It destroyed some bungalows and set fire to others, yet some buildings suffered as little as one cracked window. The parents of one man whom Dorrance went to high school with still live in the same, unchanged bungalow today, Dorrance said.
Only different brickwork, an updated main road and a memorial for the Sherwood Crescent victims hint at more.
Residents say people from the United States and Scotland grieve differently: those from the U.S. do so publicly and the Scottish more privately.
“We don’t talk about things like that. The town … I have to warn people that come here, it’s not a disaster theme park. It’s not as if everyone is in on the plot, and we all know it, inside out,” Dorrance said.
For the month following the crash, Dorrance worked night shifts in Lockerbie. He left in January 1989 to go back to his regular duties in another town. He separated himself from his memories of the plane crash and only began to revisit them when his daughter, Claire, was chosen to study at Syracuse University as a Lockerbie Scholar. His son, Andrew, is a current Lockerbie Scholar.
“The sheer scale of it was new to everybody. The guys who were nearly retired had never seen anything like it, never mind someone who was just fresh to it, and in a way there was a bit of an advantage of being an 18-year-old because you’re young, free and single,” Dorrance said. “If I was to go into the same situation now, as a married father with two kids who had been the same age as many of the students, I think I would find it harder to deal with emotionally.”
Much of the physical landscape untouched by damage remains virtually unchanged. The High Street is still mostly the same as it was in the 1980s, Dorrance said. Lockerbie’s agricultural industry is still prolific. Buildings like the town hall and ice rink, which were temporarily used as mortuaries, were quietly converted back into their original purposes. (...)
David Wilson, treasurer of the Dryfesdale Lodge Visitors’ Center Trust and resident of Lockerbie since 1966, said people aren’t necessarily passing down their memories of the crash.
“There is something in the Scottish culture, that you dust yourself down and you know the sun is going to rise whether you want it to or not, so you might as well get on with it,” Wilson said. “I think there was a general sort of stiffening of the spine.” (...)
Some of Lockerbie’s finest hours were after the plane crash, Dorrance said. For weeks, people rallied together in the early mornings, providing soup and coffee for workers and washing the luggage and clothes of victims to return to families for free.
Today, the plane crash is no longer current affairs, but part of the town’s history. Often, Lockerbie residents share jokes or laugh when discussing Pan Am Flight 103, but it’s not out of disrespect, Dorrance insists, which can be hard for outsiders to understand. For a town forced to live with the aftermath forever, it’s a way to move on.
“It’s life unfortunately. It’s something you have to get on with. It’s not disrespectful to those who died — they wouldn’t want that either,” Dorrance said. “But it just leads to these really surreal, weird kind of situations. And you do, you look back at it and laugh, because it’s either that or you cry.”
[RB: My own recollections of the disaster and its aftermath, which match surprisingly closely Colin Dorrance’s, can be found in the foreword that I wrote to Jill Haldane’s An’ Then the World Came Tae Oor Doorstep: Lockerbie Lives and Stories.]

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

How Pan Am Flight 103 shook up some professional fields

[This is the headline over an article published today on the website of The Daily Orange, the newspaper of Syracuse University, thirty-five of whose students died aboard Pan Am 103. It reads in part:]

As the deadliest terrorist attack on United States citizens before 9/11, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 shook up practices in professional fields including the airline security and public relations industries.

The flight was carrying 259 people — including 35 Syracuse University students — from London before a bomb in the cargo hold exploded on Dec 21, 1988. The terrorist attack killed all on board and 11 people on the ground.

Activism by the parents and families of the victims was instrumental in influencing national security practices. In 1990, Congress passed the Aviation Security Improvement Act lobbied by some of the victims’ families to strengthen airport security measures.

William Banks, founding director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, said there was little security specifically devoted to airlines before the passage of the act.

Air marshals would ride on flights with a suspected security risk, airline personnel would be screened and cargo would occasionally be inspected.

These personnel and cargo security measures were increased as a result of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, with special attention from the US aviation industry.

However, Banks said, making these practices effective required international cooperation.

“Not every nation has uniform or excellent security,” he said. “With global travel, your airline security is only as strong as your weakest link.”

Banks said was international cooperation between countries to implement screening procedures similar to ones in the US. He added many of the current practices were created in response to the Pan Am Flight 103 and 9/11 attacks.

The incident also showed how the public relations field was underprepared in crisis management.

Maria Russell, a public relations professor in the S I Newhouse School of Public Communications, said spokespeople from Pan American World Airways and the US State Department lacked the training needed the handle the attack.

In the wake of the bombing, Pan Am implemented a “buddy system” where each family was assigned a liaison for communication with the airline.

The liaisons were unprepared and untrained for interaction with families who had lost loved ones, she said.

“That ended up infuriating the families more than making the families appreciate the effort,” Russell said. (...)

Of the public relations strategies Russell examined, she said the spokespeople in Lockerbie were most prepared and professional. Briefings were held every morning and afternoon to disseminate information and keep the public up to date.

It’s been said that one positive point of Pan Am Flight 103 was the involvement of Superintendent Angus Kennedy, a policeman from the Scottish city of Glasgow who acted as a police spokesperson and guided families through media interaction.

“They were incredible in how they responded to the families, the media, with so much common sense,” Russell said. “Basically: How would you like to be treated if this were you?”

Thursday, 19 October 2017

PT/35(b) — The most expensive forgery in history [Lockerbie]

This is the headline over a long article published yesterday on Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer’s website Intel Today. It sets out Dr De Braeckeleer’s conclusions about the dodgy timer fragment and the evidence on which these conclusions are based. This is an important article which should be read by anyone with a serious interest in this aspect of the Lockerbie case.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Iran Air 655 and Pan Am 103

The Turkish website Kokpit.aero has just published a long article about attacks on aircraft that resulted in passenger deaths. The Iran Air 655 tragedy and the Lockerbie case feature extensively. The English language version produced by Google Translate is reasonably comprehensible.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Sir Brian Barder and Lockerbie

Today’s edition of The Times contains an obituary of retired British ambassador Sir Brian Barder KCMG who died on 19 September 2017 aged 83. Sir Brian in his retirement wrote extensively and perceptively about Lockerbie and the Megrahi case. Blogposts about, and links to, these writings can be found here.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

“The case against him was just laughable”

[What follows is excerpted from an article published today on the website of the United Arab Emirates newspaper The National:]

Irish film director Jim Sheridan has a pointed message for aspiring Arab film makers: stop chasing Hollywood. “Every director I’ve met in the Arab cinema world wants to go to Hollywood and make a Hollywood movie, because that’s how you pass the test apparently,” he says when I catch him on the sidelines of this year’s Dublin Arabic Film Festival, where he acts as president and curator. “It’s nonsense. Every time I go to America to make a Hollywood movie, I realise I didn’t grow up in America. I didn’t go to school there. I don’t know their system.” (...)

The director, who was a judge at Dubai International Film Festival in 2013, speaks from a position of some experience when it comes to making films outside the Hollywood mainstream. While his European films, including the multi-Oscar-nominated, and winning, My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, have gathered accolades that most directors can only dream of, his most famous Hollywood effort was the critically derided 50 Cent biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’. (...)

Sheridan’s own next project looks set to have a regional theme too. He is currently in the early stages of developing a film about the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, the imprisoned Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
“Megrahi’s story is so interesting. If he’d been European, or even just a bit whiter, he’d have been out a long time ago. The case against him was just laughable, but three judges found him guilty. These were the same people that were involved in convicting the Guildford Four,” the director explains. Sheridan’s seven-time Oscar nominated 1994 film, In the Name of the Father, was a biopic of the four men who were wrongly imprisoned as IRA terrorists.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Lockerbie film in development

[What follows is excerpted from a report in today’s edition of The Scotsman:]

As Monday morning meetings go, the setting was hard to beat as the sun rose over the distant hills of Knoydart. It was my second visit in a year to the base of Young Films in Sleat, the “Garden of Skye,” as it is promoted. But in that time, the company masterminded by producer Chris Young has stepped up its activity. Perhaps most importantly, it has finally secured a production deal with BBC Alba to ensure the Gaelic drama Bannan will continue for the next four years.

Its creation was the catalyst for Young to base his company in Skye in 2012 after he had finished work on The Inbetweeners TV series and films. Young was keen for me to see how a new generation of actors, directors, writers, editors and technicians were being trained up while working on the drama series, which is based at Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig.

The funding for Bannan not only ensures future work for many of those involved in Bannan, but it also allows Young Films to accelerate a number of other projects. One of these is a feature film on the conspiracies surrounding the Lockerbie disaster, which Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald and award-winning playwright David Harrower are both working on, and a big-screen adaptation of The Silver Darlings, the classic Neil Gunn novel.

What would have been argued had Megrahi appeal not been abandoned

What follows is the text of an item published on this blog on this date in 2009:

More Megrahi materials released


A second batch of materials has been released on Abdelbaset Megrahi’s website. These take the form of Grounds of Appeal numbers 3.1 to 3.3 (which would have been argued at the second stage of the – now abandoned – appeal that had been due to start on 2 November 2009) along with two expert reports and the US Department of Justice publication Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement.

These materials relate principally to the evidence emanating from Malta.

1. The credibility and reliability of the evidence of “identification” of Megrahi by Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, is challenged by reference to (a) new evidence about the circumstances in which Gauci’s various “resemblance” statements came to be made, including improper conduct by investigators; (b) failure by the Crown to disclose to the defence statements by Gauci that undermined or contradicted his “identification”; (c) failure to disclose to the defence the existence of, and a police statement by, a witness who may have been present when the purchase of the clothes in Gauci’s shop took place; (d) the expectation of money from US official sources on the part of Tony Gauci and his brother, Paul, and its subsequent payment to them; (e) evidence from two leading psychologists and experts on facial recognition of the unreliability of Gauci’s “identification” of Megrahi.

2. The Lockerbie court’s acceptance of 7 December 1988 as the date of purchase of the clothes and other items in Tony Gauci’s shop is challenged. Even on the material before the court at Zeist, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission had concluded that it was strongly arguable that no reasonable court could have reached the conclusion that this was the date. The materials released today disclose the existence of new evidence that confirms that the date of purchase was not 7 December 1988 (and hence that the purchaser was not Abdelbaset Megrahi).

The importance of this is, of course, that if the court at Zeist had not decided that Mr Megrahi was the purchaser of the clothes in Malta, they would not in law have been entitled to convict him.

A further matter expected to be adverted to in today’s materials, but which does not seem to be, is the SCCRC ground of referral based on documents in respect of which the UK Foreign Secretary has claimed public interest immunity and to which Mr Megrahi’s legal team still have not had access. Had the appeal continued, Megrahi’s lawyers would have argued that, without the information on which the SCCRC had referred the case back to the appeal court, he could not exercise his right of appeal and would accordingly have been denied fairness, contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Chuck McKee theory revived

[The following are two items posted yesterday on The Lifeboat News website:]

Posted by Sinister Burt on September 30, 2017, 8:52 pm
Few new bits in the latest Lobster. Quotes a new book about lockerbie that gives a version i hadn't heard before (i wasn't paying attention that closely):


Quoting Dr. Roger Cottrell, 'Ashes in the Fall: Iran-Contra, the godfather of terror and the bombing of Pan Am 103' (forthcoming from Red Door)

"In this book, we set out to prove that the actual target of the bombing was Green Beret Captain Charles “Chuck” McKee (attached to the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency), Martin Gannon, the Deputy Head of CIA Station in Beirut and a young Lebanese man called Khaled Jaafar, whom they had accompanied from Frankfurt on Pan Am 103A to place into witness protection in the United States. Two Security Officers from the US Embassy in Beirut were also part of the group. Jaafar, aged just 22, was a member of a powerful drug producing clan in the Be’eqa Valley, who wanted to be free to marry his cousin. He could provide supportive testimony to the 200 page dossier that McKee was also taking back to the US to present as testimony to the Kerry Commission. This was why he was killed The second purpose of the Lockerbie bombing was to destroy or recover McKee’s file."

Posted by Gerardon September 30, 2017, 10:14 pm, in reply to "Lobster: Mentions new book about lockerbie"
"FOR THREE YEARS, I've had a feeling that if Chuck hadn't been on that plane, it wouldn't have been bombed," says Beulah McKee, 75. Her bitterness has still not subsided. But seated in the parlor of her house in Trafford, Pennsylvania, the house where her son was born 43 years ago, she struggles to speak serenely. "I know that's not what our President wants me to say," she admits.

George Bush's letter of condolence, written almost four months after the shattered remains of Pan Am Flight 103 fell on Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, expressed the usual "my heart goes out to you" sorrow. "No action by this government can restore the loss you have suffered," he concluded. But deep inside, Mrs. McKee suspects it was a government action gone horribly awry that indirectly led to her only son's death. "I've never been satisfied at ( all by what the people in Washington told me," she says.

Today, as the U.S. spearheads the U.N.-sanctioned embargo against Libya for not handing over two suspects in the bombing, Mrs. McKee wonders if Chuck's background contains the secret of why this plane was targeted. If her suspicions are correct, Washington may not be telling the entire story. Major Charles Dennis McKee, called "Tiny" by his Army intelligence friends, was a burly giant and a superstar in just about every kind of commando training offered to American military personnel. He completed the rugged Airborne and Ranger schools, graduated first in his class from the Special Forces qualification course, and served with the Green Berets. In Beirut he was identified merely as a military attache assigned to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). But his hulking physique didn't fit such a low- profile diplomatic post. Friends there remember him as a "walking arsenal" of guns and knives. His real assignment reportedly was to work with the CIA in reconnoitering the American hostages in Lebanon and then, if feasible, to lead a daring raid that would rescue them.

McKee's thick, 37-page Army dossier contains so many blacked-out words that it's hard to glean the danger he faced. Surviving the censor's ink was his title, "Team Chief." Under "Evaluation," it was written that he "performs constantly in the highest-stress environment with clear operational judgment and demeanor . . . Especially strong in accomplishing the mission with minimal guidance and supervision . . . Continues to perform one of the most hazardous and demanding jobs in the Army."

For Beulah McKee the mystery deepened six months after Chuck's death, when she received a letter from another U.S. agent in Beirut. It was signed "John Carpenter," a name the Pentagon says it can't further identify. Although the letter claimed that Chuck's presence on the Pan Am plane was unrelated to the bombing, Carpenter's message only stirred her suspicions. "I cannot comment on Chuck's work," he wrote, "because his work lives on. God willing, in time his labors will bear fruit and you will learn the true story of his heroism and courage."" From: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,159523,00.html 2001...