December 21st 1988 it’s just gone 7pm and the sleepy town of Lockerbie, Scotland has been shook by a terrible and terrifying explosion the sky is “raining fire”, confusion and panic is rife. What has just happened is the worst terrorist atrocity in British criminal history, 270 people are dead. In the months and years that follow Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi a former Libyan intelligence operative is to be the only person to be convicted of the attack. In the blog that follows I would like to outline what I think really, happened why it happened and why I think his guilt was never conclusively proven.
The real story of Pan Am 103 starts in Lebanon during April 1983, after a huge bomb explodes at the US embassy in Beirut killing 63 people, mostly embassy workers (1). Six months later on the 23rd of October 1983 a bomb the equivalent of 6 tons of TNT rip’s though the Barracks of the US Marines killing 305 people of which 241 were American troops (2). It is alleged that these attacks were both perpetrated by Hezbollah (2) a Middle Eastern terrorist group who have received backing, training and finance from Syria and to a greater extent Iran through the Army of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution better known in the west as Iran’s feared Special Forces group the Iranian Revolutionarily Guards (IRG) (23)
Not surprisingly the Americans were not about to let this go, through the CIA and ISA they knew Hezbollah were behind the attack and that, Iran and Syria were behind Hezbollah, they vowed revenge. However there was a problem it was known as the “Lebanon Hostage Crisis”. From 1982 to 1992 Hezbollah and linked groups took American hostages as bargaining chips with the Americans, threatening that if any revenge was taken they would simply kill the hostages. For America this presented a dilemma because they had recently failed to get hostages out of Iran during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 to 1981 which ended in the disastrous operation by Delta Force to free them (27). For this reason America simply could not risk direct revenge and lose more hostages.
Now what does all this have to do with Pan Am 103, well quite allot. It became the top priority in Washington and Langley to get the Hostages out as the 1980’s progressed more and more Americans were taken. The solution was a top secret operation carried out by the CIA in what would become to be known as the “Iran Contra Affair”. The deal was that in exchange for America selling weapons to Iran (in breach of weapons embargos) Iran would put pressure on Hezbollah to release the hostages (3).
In November 1986 this all came to light however there is one part of the story that remained secret, it was called Operation Corea. This was the Syrian part of the scandal in which the CIA would inshore the safe passage of drugs into Europe and America using Pan American flights in exchange for intelligence on the hostages and the groups holding them (4,20). It would work by CIA operatives making sure the bags of drugs never got checked at the airports. This operation continued throughout the 1980’s and I believe that Pan Am 103 was one of these flights.
On July 3rd 1988 things took a nasty turn when the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with a SM-2MR surface to air missile because they somehow mistook the Airbus A300B2 for an attacking F14 Tomcat and killed all 290 onboard (5). This tragic accident only made relations between Iran and America worse. Now it was Iran that wanted the revenge however they did not have the military might to attack America directly so they needed a plan.
It is my Hypothesis that Iran turned to Syria looking to use Operation Corea to smuggle the bomb on board. Deniability would have been a consideration for Iran, if Iran was carry out an attack them self’s they risked the combined wrath of Brittan and America so they got a little known terrorist group do carry out the attack for them. They turned to a group called the Popular Liberation Front of Palestine General Command (PLFP-GC) a small group backed by Syria and Iran, the group was also responsible for a number of attacks on European soil during the 1980’s (24). The group is particularly strongly linked to Syria some even say it is just a proxy between the government of Syria and the Popular Liberation Front of Palestine (PLFP) considering that their leader, General Ahmed Jibril is a former Syrian army officer (25) there could be some substance to this claim.
I believe that the plan was for the bomb to be put on the pane at Frankford because in October 1988, two months before the bombing German police raided an apartment in Frankfurt and arrested several Palestinians. The raid unearthed explosives, weapons and, most importantly, a number of radio cassette recorders similar to the one used to detonate the Pan Am 103 bomb. Most of the Palestinians arrested were members of the PFLP-GC. Due to the timing of this is seems plausible that PFLP-GC were making the bomb that would be put on Pam Am 103 (26).
Unfortunately they had already finished the bomb and passed it on to whoever was responsible for putting the bomb onto the plane before the arrests. The plan for getting the bomb onto the plane would have been to switch the bag of drugs for the bag containing the concealed explosives and use the CIA to inshore the bag got past airport security and into the aircraft baggage hold thanks to Operation Corea. The bomb would have to be concealed encase the CIA agents were to check it themselves that is why they put the bomb inside a music player large enough to hold the explosives and it would have electric circuitry that could be manipulated to act as a detonator. Best of all it would not appear out of the ordinary to the CIA agents for regular domestic goods to be mixed in with the narcotics, this makes logical sense because the bags would have to pass at least a casual examination.
There was a problem however on the 5th of December 1988 two weeks before the bombing a warning was issued by the Federal Aviation Administration After a warning came from an “Arabic sounding man” that a bombing would take place on a Pan American flight from Frankford to America as a result security on flights to America out of Frankford was increased (6). This is a very strange coincidence and something ignored during the original trial of Al-Megrahi it could possibly be that this warning came form with in Iran or Syria.
As a result of the warning and the arrests in Germany security was increased on Pan Am flights out of Frankford. The plan was changed, instead of putting the bomb on the plane at Frankford it was put on a London Heathrow when Pan Am 103 stopped off. This seems logical for four reasons: firstly being that Frankford’s security had been tightened therefore it was more of a risk to put the bomb on the plane at Frankford. Secondly the IRG already had people in London form the failed assassination attempt of a former member of the Shah’s cabinet on the 18th of July 1987 (6) and PLFP-GC were known to carry out attacks over Europe. The Fourth reason comes from reports made that there was a brake in at Heathrow airports baggage handling department just 18 hours before Pan Am 103 landed at Heathrow (7) this is where the bag of drugs was switched for the bag of explosives. The bomb was put on the plane ether by the PLFP-GC on behalf of Iran or by IRG them self’s, the later seems the most likely however as it allows Iran to maintain deniability although the IRG were active in London at the time so it is possible they took the risk. Regardless of who made the switch at Heathrow it was still the CIA who unwittingly escorted the deadly bag onto the plane.
BANG! Just after 7pm on the 21st of December 1988 an explosion burst through the suitcase and ripped a hole just under the “P” of the word “Pan” on the aircrafts fuselage, resulting in rapid decompression of the entire aircraft with fires on board then a few minutes later the plane smashed down into the sleepy town of Lockerbie killing 270 people (8). Among the dead was a contingent of US intelligence officials who were escorting the package into America one of them was working the Defence Intelligence Activity (DIA) who was according to some sources about to whistleblowe on Operation Corea (9).
The following day 22nd of December 1988 in a document by the CIA entitled “Analysis of Claims” said that “A male caller claimed that a group called the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution had destroyed the plane in retaliation for the US shootdown of an Iranian airliner last July”. The document goes on to say that “We consider the claim form the guardians of the Islamic revolution as the most credible one received so far; previous attacks claimed by this group suggest it is pro-Iranian” (6). In this document they say that all intelligence points to the IRG and Iran being behind the attack not once in this document is Libya mentioned.
Why then, if there is evidence to support a case for the IRG or PLFP-GC (or both!) being the real perpetrators of this plot did Al-Megrahi and Libya get the blame. Well it stands to reason that America would not want Operation Corea come to light not only because it would raise the possibility that they had unwittingly helped get the bomb on the plane but also to avoid a repeat of the fall out after the Iran-Contra affair. There was also the issue of Iraq, during 1989 it was looking increasingly likely that Iraq was about to invade Kuwait something the west were strongly opposed to. When Iraq did invade the west stepped in to get them out in what was the first Gulf war, but the first Gulf war was a political balancing act if any other country in the region was to get involved it could have sparked a huge war, similar to that of the 6 day war of 1967. Israel wanted to get involved because Saddam launched Scud’s into Israel and Iran wanted in because they didn’t like Iraq very much after the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s therefore the coalition had to keep Israel and Iran out of the war. Blaming Iran for the attack and exposing operation Corea is hardly a good way to keep Iran and public opinion happy. Syria was also an instrumental ally in the first Gulf war as they provide 14500 troops to the conflict (6th largest force) (10) so they also had to be kept happy because the support of a Muslim state was critical to the war.
For this reason the Americans and British could not afford to have Iran or Syria implicated in the bombing of Pan Am 103 because they needed their support in Iraq and to prevent Operation Corea coming to light. In a search for someone new to blame they turned their attention to Libya, this started in April 1989 when President Bush senior made a phone call to Prime Minister Margret Thatcher asking her to stop the Iran and Syrian line of investigation because it would be necessary to keep them happy if a war was to break out between the US and Iraq. The American and British public would never be satisfied however unless justice was seen to be done so they turned to Libya. It was win win for everybody except of course Libya. Libya was known to be supplying terrorists with weapons and finance including Irish republican groups and it was also under UN sanctions, blaming them would make scene. Iran, Syria and the terrorists are happy because they have just got away with mass murder. Brittan and America are happy because they have two new allies’ in their future war and are about to blame their old nemesis Libya, whilst keeping the public vote.
Now all they had to do was frame Libya. To start with the investigation was fairly normal a Air crash investigation team scoured the area around Lockerbie for clue’s and then over a few months reconstructed part of the aircrafts fuselage different bits were taken for forensic tests and whiteness statements were taken. Then a tiny piece of a circuit board was found with the term “MEBO” printed on it, the prosecution would later claim that this small piece of cricket was part of a MST-13 timing device that somehow managed to survive the explosion they then went on to say how MEBO had supplied 20 of these timers to the Libyan secret services (11).
I have a few problems with this piece of evidence. Firstly there are allot of different accounts about how it was found some say it was a couple talking a walk through the woods or a man walking his dog, eventually it was concluded that the police had found it. However a senior retired police officer who took part in the investigation has claimed that the CIA planted this piece of evidence (12). Edwin Bollier was the co-founder of Mebo Telecommunications AG, who manufactured the MST-13 Said that he had supplied Libya with 20 of the boards 2 years before Pan Am 103. He also said that when he was given permission to examine the boards he found they matched his prototype because it was a brown cricket board, however that the ones supplied to Libya were Green and therefore could not have come from Libya (13). He also claimed that in 1991 the FBI offered him $4 million if he would testify that his company had supplied the board to Libya, he did not take this bribe (14), and he also told the court that the evidence had been tampered with.
As it turns out Mr. Bollier was not the only person to be offered a bribe by the American intelligence community. A Libyan double agent working for America called Abdul Majid Giaka who claims he delivered the suitcase to Al-Megrahi was also offered a bribe of $4 million (15). This claim is also backed up in the by the UN’s independent observer at the trail who in his report said that “The Libyan-US double agent Abdul Majid Giaka had similarly been offered a huge amount for his testimony as a prosecution witness” (14). As well as the possibility that Mr. Giaka had been compromised in his integrity as a witness through the bribe let’s not forget he was a Libyan secret service agent if he didn’t say what the Americans and British wanted him to they could have just sent him back to Libya to be tortured and probably killed.
Tony Gauci was another whiteness at the trial and perhaps its most controversial. He claims to be the man who sold Al-Megrahi the cloths that he used to wrap the bomb. The prosecution managed to find fragments of the clothing that somehow survived the explosion then they traced these fragments back to a shop in Malta run my Mr. Gauci. Mr. Gauci claims that he remembers Al-Megrahi buying the cloths at his shop thus making Mr. Gauci the most important whiteness for the prosecution because he was the only person who could directly link Al-Megrahi to the bomb. He was also offered a bribe for his information of $2 million to testify at the trial (16). The UN’s independent Observer also said that “there is no reasonable basis in the trial court's judgment for its conclusion that the purchase of the items (clothes that were found in the wreckage of the plane) from Mary's House (in Malta) took place on 7 December 1988." (17). Then in 2008 the Scottish Criminal Cases Reviews Commission (SCCRC) said that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in Megrahi’s case because it was revealed that Mr. Gauci had given police a series of “inconclusive” statements (18).
Aside from the three key whiteness all being bribed; there was also the way the approach of the whole trial. There was no jury, the trail was heard by 3 judges who decided if he was guilty or not. Some other witnesses were cut off by the judges at times; one when asked to stand down from the stand said “That's all? You're not letting me tell the truth. Wait a minute; I know exactly who did it. I know how it was done.” He was not given an opportunity to elaborate. Other bits of evidence such as the brake in at Heathrow airport and the arrests of PLFP-GC in Germany were ignored.
A number of high profile figures involved in the trail have also raised their doubt over the verdict. Top of this list is Professor Hans Köchler mentioned already he additionally said that that the dismissal of Al-Megrahi’s first appeal was a “spectacular miscarriage of justice” (19). Juval Aviv an ex-Mossad agent who led the investigation for Pan American Airways pointed culpability towards the CIA and not Al-Megrahi (20).
Then of course there is Libya admitting involvement. Well in exchange for Libya admitting that they were behind the attacks, the UN sanctions were lifted and much needed supplies and finance could start flowing in to the country it was there way of “coming in from the cold”. In recent years trade between Libya and Brittan has soared and Gaddafi is now friends with the west all because he admitted to bombing Pan Am 103. In a recent interview with the BBC one of Gaddafi’s son’s claimed that the only reason Libya took the blame and paid out the compensation was to have the crippling sanctions lifted and provided the country with much needed fiscal and industrial stimulus (21)
Now for the most recant event on 4th August 2009 Scottish justice sectary Kenny MacAskill released Al-Megrahi on “compassionate” grounds dew to his terminal prostate cancer (22). However he didn’t get to go home until he had dropped his second appeal that could have proved his innocence I think that he dropped the appeal in exchange for going home. If the appeal was to prove him innocent this would be a huge embarrassment on both sides of the Atlantic and reopen the investigation possibly exposing Operation Corea and CIA drug running as well as the conspiracy I have outlined above
Based on what I have read I believe that Iran through the PLFP-GC, IRG, Hezbollah or perhaps some other terrorist group swapped a bag of drugs for a bag with of explosives at Heathrow airport. They then tricked the CIA into carrying it on for them telling them it was all part of Operation Cora. After the plane came down the British and American governments shifted the blame away from Iran and Syria on to Libya in order to prevent Operation Corea being exposed and dew to international politics at the time. Now that Al-Megrahi has dropped his appeal and been sent home we will never know the truth unless the government open a public inquiry that won’t happen because we’re all good friends now , besides it would expose the biggest lie of the 20th century.
3. Killer Elite by Michael Smith
20. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/lockerbie/resources/pdf/interfor_report.pdf (well worth a read if you want to know more about operation Corea and CIA being on the flight)
21. BBC One Conspiracy Theories: Lockerbie
25. Special Operations.com list of designated terrorist groups.