Monday 17 September 2012

Lockerbie and Hillsborough: the deliberate diversion of blame

[This is the headline over an article by Dr Jim Swire published today on the website of Scottish lawyers’ magazine The Firm.  It reads as follows:]

Dr Jim Swire writes exclusively for The Firm, following the revelations in the Hillsborough papers, and sees the thread linking the common behaviour of the legal and political institutions that bind the Pan Am 103 affair with the tragic deaths at Hillsborough.

In the world confrontation between the terrorists and the developed communities of the West, the complex structures that regulate our societies have intelligence, high technology, well orchestrated military might and the precepts and respect of our peoples for the rule of law as their main resources.

From the nature of terrorism and the front line responses of Western intelligence springs a great temptation: to use the innately secretive culture of intelligence to react to terrorism in ways which their defended populations might denounce, were they only privy to them. 'Extraordinary rendition' is a good example of this. Yet reliance upon secrecy from their own populations can only ever be a temporary protection for those who overstep the line and use that privileged secrecy in ways that defy the rule of law, which they ostensibly support.

To cross that line and use our State resources in ways that are illegal is in the end to hand a moral victory to the terrorists. To divert blame away from the actual perpetrators is to protect them and to increase the chances of them striking again. The American response to terrorism has been profoundly different from the British. America has turned to intelligence/military responses in 'the war on terror'. Britain has striven to use intelligence/criminal law. Except where our leaders have got carried away by enthusiasm for the 'special relationship' with the US and dragged us, the people protesting, into military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But State pressure upon our law to produce politically desired convictions has produced terrible distortions of that law such as detention without trial and the warped trials of alleged terrorists such as the Maguire and other IRA related cases.

It is my belief that in the case of Lockerbie the law of Scotland has been subsumed into the priorities of American foreign policy.

Douglas Hurd, a man deserving of great respect for his personal intelligence and integrity has said to Tam Dalyell and Robin Cook, referring to Lockerbie: "I do ask you two to believe that as Foreign secretary I cannot tell the Scottish Crown Office (which was in charge of the Lockerbie case) what to do, nor does the Foreign Office have detailed access to evidence which they say they have. You must understand that law officers really are a law unto themselves."

Yet I have come to believe over the past 25 years that not only did the US manipulate the Scottish criminal legal process, but that the Scottish Crown Office has ever since, fought a battle to maintain the fiction that it acted with integrity throughout the legal prosecution process.

In so doing they are in effect protecting the perpetrators of the dreadful terrorist massacre of the innocents that was Lockerbie in 1988, and damaging positive responses to better protect the future (such as making it a criminal offence for an airport not to report and take immediate appropriate action over break-ins perhaps?). I believe that in the long run it will be less damaging to the reputation of the West, and certainly for my favourite country, Scotland, to address these issues, and to take corrective action ourselves for the future, rather than allow our failures to be eventually exposed at the bar of history.

In a democratic society the more citizens who assess such matters for themselves, the greater is likely to be the integrity of the decisions which their politicians must eventually take to resolve the issues.

[An email sent to me by Dr Swire, in addition to the text reproduced above, contains the following:]

25 years ago my elder daughter, Flora walked the aisles of Heathrow airport, traversed the security check points, left the departure lounge on an exciting trip to board Pan Am 103 in order to spend Christmas with her American boyfriend.

38 minutes later this beautiful, brilliant and innocent 23 year old, along with 269 others was slain by a bomb loaded at Heathrow and exploding aboard her plane high above the heads of the unsuspecting people of Lockerbie as they innocently prepared their homes for Christmas.

I have always been determined that the truth should come out about who did this dreadful thing, our search has been always and resolutely for truth and justice.

Those who oppose that protect the real perpetrators.

We relatives also have a right to know why she and all those who died with her were not protected.

Why was it that as she and all the others walked those long Heathrow corridors neither they nor anyone outside the airport knew that there had been a break-in there 16 hours before PA103 was blown up and that despite raised worries about impending terror attacks, no appropriate steps had been taken there to identify the intruder, nor his motive? Maybe the lurking terrorist even heard their happy voices.

Why was it that during the ensuing trial of Baset al-Megrahi evidence was led, but rejected, of the availability of Syrian-made IEDs to mid East terrorists which were obligated always to explode between 35 and 45 minutes after take off, and for the use of which money appeared to have been paid by Iran, the State having the most pressing need for revenge against the US?

Why was it that although we now know the investigating Scottish police were fully aware of the Heathrow break-in, it remained hidden from view and from the Zeist court until after the verdict?

Why was the unlikely story of Megrahi having used a long running and fully adjustable timer in Malta to arrange for his bomb to traverse Frankfurt and a change of planes at Heathrow only to have it explode a mere 38 minutes into the flight rather than over the far reaches of the Atlantic Ocean, accepted by the court?

Why on earth would he take such a risk of delays to the take-off time?

The court did hear how an available type of air pressure sensitive IED made by a Syrian terror group, if put aboard a target aircraft at the airport of take-off would always explode between 35 and 45 minutes following take off. Why did the court decide that this cock and bull story about Malta and Megrahi should take precedence over the so simple concept that one of the Syrian IEDs might in fact have been put aboard at Heathrow?

Why did the Crown Office and their investigators withhold the information from the court about the Heathrow break-in until after the verdict?

Why was it that the court was not made fully aware of the known excitement between the Maltese Gauci brothers who claimed to identify Megrahi, over the prospects of multi million dollar rewards if they would only identify him?

Why was the court not made fully aware of the police methodology used to 'encourage' those brothers to identify Megrahi, contrary to the accepted police identification processes?

Why was it that the Crown Office failed to listen even to the warnings of their own forensic expert Feraday that a fragment of circuit board (allegedly originating from the wreckage) simply did not match the Libyan bomb timer board allegedly used?

Why was it that this fragment was found within the only police evidence bag which showed signs of having had its label tampered with, in such a way as to draw attention to debris such as the fragment, rather than simply cloth within the bag's contents?

Who changed that label?

What was his motive?

What else might have been done to the contents of the bag?

Since it is now known, courtesy of a book Megrahi: You are my Jury that the famous fragment could not have come from a Libyan timer circuit board as believed in the court, where might it have originated?

The sole justification for the acceptance of the fragment as genuine evidence was that it was found inside the police evidence bag (with its corrupted label) and the ensuing (now known to be erroneous) belief that the fragment had been part of a Libyan timer. Now that we know that the scientific evidence shows irrefutably that it could not have come from a batch of Libyan timers sold to Libya by the Swiss firm MEBO, where could it have come from?

The fragment contains evidence of the use of a most unusual plating process, provably not available to the Swiss firm which made the Libyan timers. There was not a scrap of evidence of any other possible origin for this fragment, such as other electronic equipment among the wreckage. So where did it originate and how did it get into that evidence bag?

Why was it that the police notebooks of some of the officers involved in the searches of the crash site were destroyed?

Who ordered that?

What was their motive for doing so?

Now that we know that PT35b, the fragment, did not come from a Libyan timer in the bomb, we find that we know of no other origin in the wreckage for it. If it really was recovered from the crash site, a full search of all police notebooks relevant to the search at the wreckage field, and to the transactions occurring over the sorting of wreckage taken into hangers etc would be mandatory if the fragment's point of origin is to be established. Yet key police notebooks appear to have been destroyed.

How can today's Lord Advocate expect us to believe that everything is being done to reach the truth through an active ongoing criminal investigation, when his Department, the Crown Office appears to have allowed the destruction of substantial tranches of what might have been key evidence, in addition to appearing to have allowed illegal changes to have been made to at least one police evidence bag label?

Frankly, on the basis of common sense it looks as though the role of 'fall-guy', prepared by the police at Hillsborough for the fans in the crowd was replaced in this case by the Libyan Megrahi. It seems the available evidence has been selectively massaged in such a way as to make the verdict against him possible.

Who could have wanted such an outcome?

Where in the world was the extraordinary plating process used on the 'famous fragment' available before Lockerbie?

In whose interest would it be to divert blame to a Libyan individual?

We have fought for nearly 25 years for our right to see the truth about how our lovely families came to be murdered.

Personally I would still wish to avoid attacking those who made mistakes, but I would also want to see the truth about Lockerbie used to enhance the protection that we have against future terror attacks partly through the protection we afford in future to our legal systems against insidious and improper infiltration.

There is a warning in Christian faith against seeking revenge against our enemies, and until now I have tried politely to request a full and objective inquiry into all these and many other aspects of this dreadful business, believing that the judicial process should supplant the human lust for revenge.

If the judicial process has indeed failed, then it needs to be improved. If the outcome of the trial was achieved by deliberate manipulation of the evidence with destruction of parts hostile to the desired outcome, then criminal charges will be mandatory.Those individuals through whom it failed should certainly be identified and the nature of and motives for their failures analysed, the better to prevent recurrence, but the overall aim should be to ensure that such manipulation of our justice system can never occur again, rather than the hounding of individuals.

For years now, ever since I heard the description of the Syrian bombs with their obligated 35-45 minute flight times revealed in the Zeist court, I have been convinced that justice got it wrong over Lockerbie and that other interests than justice and truth were allowed to intrude. Much has come to light since to reinforce that view, to the point where serious study of the evidence is incompatible with an objective belief in the propriety of the court's findings

There is also a special case for compassion for the majority of the US relatives. They have suffered every bit as much as we have, yet they believe they have 'closure' in the blaming of Megrahi.

Together with one other UK relative I was present throughout the trial of Megrahi. There was a capacious lounge set aside for the relatives who came to watch the trial. The US Department of Justice offered each American family an 'all expenses paid' fortnight. As those families trooped through the relatives' lounge they (and we) were treated to evening reviews by  a mixed group of Scottish prosecution lawyers and US lawyers invited to sit on the prosecution bench in court. The content was choreographed to convey, right from the start the message 'these are the bastards who murdered your families, we got them they are going to go down for a very very long time'. The defence side was not represented.

This was grooming writ large and official, and our Scottish prosecution lawyers were an integral part of it.

It now transpires that a similar campaign of propaganda has continued ever since, culminating in disgraceful attempts by US Secretary Clinton with the full backing of some US relatives, to extradite Megrahi from his family and from Libya in his last few dying days, to face a new sentencing in the US.

Whilst we cannot blame US relatives for believing what their country and our justice system were telling them, this looks to me like the very thirst for revenge that Christ warned us against.  It has long been a worry to me that insistence on trying to unravel the real facts about Lockerbie was making bereavement more difficult for those who thought they found closure over the Megrahi case.

Three events this year have triggered my belief that there is evil stalking the corridors of power over this case.

1. In February the current Lord Advocate explained to us that he was puzzled as to why the Heathrow evidence had not been available to Megrahi's defence during his trial. Here the evil might simply be complacency and sloth. Surely twelve years is long enough for the Crown Office to find the answer to that one.
Consequent to this meeting I asked for help and received a reply from the current Chief Constable of the D & G police. I then wrote to the Crown Office about  the D & G letter writing that:- 'It (the letter) shows that despite prompt investigations  at Heathrow by the Met. and the passing of their findings to the Lockerbie incident control centre certainly by February 1989, a decision must have been taken not to follow the implications of this information, and to assume that the bomb had come to Heathrow from Frankfurt via Pan Am 103A.'

I have now received a reply to that letter in which the head of Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office,on behalf of the Lord Advocate, writes:

'In relation to the insecurity at Heathrow, you suggest that "a decision must have been taken not to follow the implications of this information and to assume that the bomb had come from Frankfurt to Heathrow via Pan Am 103 A." No such decision was taken and no such assumption was made.'

Really? I feel no match for the skill of the Crown Office in using words in this way. Why then did this information not get passed to Megrahi's defence team till after the verdict?

2. In May John Ashton's book Megrahi: you are my Jury was launched in Edinburgh by the doughty publishing company Birlinn. The book tells of sound scientific evidence that the 'famous timer fragment' simply could not have originated from one of the Libyan timers as alleged in court.

That very May morning, before they had had time to review the book, Downing Street issued a statement alleging that 'The book is an insult to the Lockerbie relatives'. Since I had written to [Prime Minister David] Cameron long before to ask him to review the Lockerbie case and received no help whatsoever for such a suggestion, he was presumably intending to speak for the US relatives.

In fact the book adds very significantly to what is now known about the truth, that is no insult. What is the full fear that Westminster seems to harbour over the exposure of truth in this case?

It is not the job of a British Prime Minister to speak for US relatives and ignore his own citizens. Surely it was his predecessors' job to protect our families on board an aircraft at Heathrow. It is not alleged even by the Crown Office that the bomb was loaded aboard PA103 itself anywhere other than at London Heathrow.

No help for British relatives there then...

3. The Hillsborough disaster has revealed the lengths to which the police there were prepared to go to divert blame from the failure to provide for the safety of citizens by their own and other organs of state.

In the case of the D & G police and Crown Office over Lockerbie diversion of blame was to the Libyan Megrahi. I don't know why the Scottish Crown Office allowed themselves to divert the blame from Iran/Syria and the criminal negligence of the security at Heathrow airport. Perhaps it was all down to human error, but consider these two paragraphs below from Tam Dalyell's foreword to a previous book from John Ashton [and Ian Ferguson] titled Cover-up of Convenience written in 2001 and published by Mainstream also of Edinburgh.

   a) Tam was told by an off duty Scottish police officer that....'American agents were swarming around the (crash) area openly removing items of debris.....the police were doing nothing to stop them'.

   b) “Douglas (Hurd) swooped down on Robin (Cook) and myself (Tam). He said 'I  do ask you two to believe that as Foreign secretary I cannot tell the Scottish Crown Office (which was in charge of the Lockerbie case) what to do, nor does the Foreign Office have detailed access to evidence which they say they have. You must understand that law officers really are a law unto themselves.’”

So it is indeed from 'the Scottish Crown Office' and their agents the D & G police that answers must come. They may be a 'law unto themselves' yet they must abide by the parameters of the justice system which they are supposed to serve.

In previous years the Chinook and McKie (fingerprint) cases north of the border have shown similar police failings. With the blatant diversion of blame over Chinook, diverting it away from the Ministry of Defence to the pilots, and in the McKie case, away from the Scottish fingerprint service onto his innocent daughter Shirley McKie.

I doubt that those seeking to protect their own reputations understand the anguish that such deceit adds to the burden of families. The need for the truth does not fade for the families, and deceit achieves nothing in the long run, except to add to their suffering and to undermine public confidence in the blindfold against becoming partial which justice should always wear.

Never ever should the families be denied the truth.

There are lessons to be taken from Hillsborough, the magnificent persistence and determination of the families and the fallibility of inadequate inquiries which actually increased the anguish of those families.

I dread seeing other families traumatised in the future by failure to learn the lessons of Lockerbie.

At Lockerbie the majority of the deaths were Americans and what happened? The US groomed the relatives to 'help' them to believe they were seeing justice at Zeist.

John Mosey and I were there throughout we saw it all but were too naive and too polite to tell them to go away and let us make up our own minds.

The result? Those relatives mostly still believe that the Megrahi story was true, despite all that has come out since.

I think both John and I have felt restrained by the US relatives whose pain and loss is just as great as ours, and we have tried not to cause additional distress to them by directly challenging their 'closure'. We have even watched silently as Hillary Clinton and others, in the last days of Megrahi's life, and egged on by those very relatives, made efforts to extract him from Libya to be 'retried'. That was difficult.

Thus many of the US relatives unwittingly have been forged into a useful tool in the hands of those who want the wickedness of the trial to remain in position.

The 'police wickedness' over Lockerbie is very real and very Scottish. Not for nothing did I use Tam Dalyell's foreword to John Ashton's previous book at the [Edinburgh International] Book Festival meeting. His words describe how the D & G police were allowing Americans to run freely all over the crash site doing what they liked and making no effort to prevent them from doing so. From day one that became the pattern, and thus the dictates of US foreign policy have been enabled to become the overriding guide for how the prosecution was designed to work out.

During Megrahi's second appeal the Advocate General was sent scuttling to Westminster to ask permission for a revealing document to be released to the defence. The result was the imposition of a Public Interest Immunity (PII) Certificate by the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband blocking the document's release. In a radio four programme in August 2009, David Miliband was a guest on BBC Radio 4's Great Lives. He had stated that he believed there are circumstances in which terrorism is "justifiable, and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective" – though he added that "it is never effective on its own".

The ability of terrorism to inflict damage on its target State and that State's citizens is hugely amplified if that State allows the normal parameters of its legal system to be blunted in order to transfer the attribution of blame to an innocent third party. The impartial rule of law is arguably the strongest weapon we have against the anarchy of terrorism. To restrict the freedom of our law in favour of such anarchy by the deliberate transfer of blame away from the real perpetrators is indeed to make terrorism more effective.

In the case of Lockerbie the terrible damage that terrorism inflicted on its targets at the time has been amplified by the actions of its target states themselves in distorting their own justice systems.

1 comment:

  1. At para.8 Dr Swire describes the former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd as a man deserving great respect by his intelligence and integrity. Hurd had told Robin cook and Tam Dalyell that he had no control over the lawyers at the Scottish Office.

    Presumably Mr Hurd would accept that he had some control over the Foreign Office. It was the Government of John Major that demanded that Libya accept responsibility in advance of a trial (four years later John Major claimed the investigation was "open"). It was the FCO who FCO who piloted sanctions through the Security Council.

    The creation of the "Libyan Solution" (and the timing of the 1991 indictment) wasn't about Criminal Justice but was a means of exerting political pressure on the Libyan regime with the objective of regime change.