Monday, 26 July 2010

5 Questions the Americans Should Answer (Part 2)

Continuing from the previous post, in the spirit of clearing up this affair which the American’s have entered into.  Here are 3 more questions that the American’s should answer about their role in the Lockerbie bombing and their part in the conviction of Abdelbasset Ali Mohamed Megrahi…

3) Did the FBI Fabricate evidence surrounding the fragment of explosive timer?
A fragment of circuit board (pictured right) was found by the police in the neck of a shirt collected from the luggage from the downed plane. The fragment was marked “cloth, charred”, before being overwritten with the word “debris”. No explanation was given for this. After spending time being examined at the Royal Armament Research & Development Establishment in Kent, the fragment was sent to the FBI, where it was examined by Tom Thurman. Thurman found that the fragment resembled a part of a MST-13 – a type of Swiss made timer used by Lybia, particularly as there appeared to be printed letters on the fragment “MEBQ”. This was translated as MEBO, the name of a company which makes MST-13 timers.

So why fabricate such conclusive evidence? Well the investigation was heading towards Syria and Iran being the powers behind the bombing, which would be problematic given that Thurman invited Dumfries & Galloway’s finest 8 weeks before Iraq invaded Kuwait, and any action against Iraq would require the consent of Iraq’s neighbours, namely Iran & Syria. Also one of the selling points was that the MST-13 timers were accurate. Any terrorist would have set the timer to go off then the plane was over the sea. The time of the explosion, 38 minutes into the flight makes it likely that the timer was a barometric timer – also known as an Ice-cube timer. Coincidentally, one of Thurman’s predecessors alleged that Thurman circumvented established procedures and protocols in the assignment of evidence to examiners. Essentially Thurman was accused of fabricating evidence. The investigation took place, and Thurman was cleared in April 1997. Thurman left the FBI shortly afterwards, and rather strange for a man described by Time magazine as a legend, was not called to give evidence at Camp Zeist.

Not that the FBI were alone in being economical with the actualite. The CIA leaked the original story linking Libya to the Bombing in December 1990, the Independent picked it up. The follow-up story gave the source as “The former head of the CIA’s counter terrorism section… Vince Cannistraro”. Cannistraro had worked with Oliver North, and was supposed to have been an expert in circulating information damaging to the Libyan government.

4) Why are Abdul Giaka and Tony Gauci in recipt of money from the CIA?
Abdul Giaka was a “source” for the CIA who maintained vehicles for the Libyan intelligence organisation (JSO), and also worked for Libyan Arab Airlines. One of his colleagues was Lamin Fhimah, who Giaka told the CIA kept explosives in his desk drawer. He also identified a senior JSO officer (Megrahi) as being in Luqa Airport, Malta, on 7th December to his CIA handlers. This information did not become relevant until the fragment emerged. Giaka left Malta in July 1991 on an American warship, and was given a regular salary. During the trial, the judges described Giaka’s evidence as “at best grossly exaggerated, at worst simply untrue”. So apart from the above (and we have to question whether this is true), why was he paid, and what for?

Tony Gauci was more of a central figure. The clothing which was found to be in the same suitcase as the bomb was traced back to Mary’s House, the shop in Silima which Tony owned. In theory Tony sold clothes to the Lockebie bomber, this fact alone led to 11 years worth of interviews. Tony was first shown pictures of terrorists with links to the PFLP-GC. Tony said that Mohammed Salem was “someone who looks like the man but is too young by 20 years”. He was shown a picture of Abu Taib – “I thought than this was the man who bought the clothes from me. His hair and face were very similar”. When he was shown a picture of Megrahi in February 1991 he said that the photo resembled the man he had sold the clothes to “though he would have been 10 years older”, yet at the trial Gauci picked Megrahi out of an identification parade as the man he sold the clothes from. This evidence seemed to be the key evidence, yet should have been taken apart for Gauci too had dollar signs in his eyes.

Gauci said that he was alone in the shop when the man came into the shop, as his brother had gone home to watch football, the man came and bought an umbrella as it was raining outside. As he was leaving the man put up the umbrella and walked down the road to pick up a taxi. His Brother said to the police that the date in question was the 23 November, as two games were played in the afternoon, one of which was defiantly the UEFA Cup tie between Dynamo Dresden and AS Roma. Paul Gauci was not called to give evidence. Possibly because it would be revealed that Megrahi was not in Malta on that date, but Talb was in Malta in late October and had a ticket that would have got him back to Malta in late November. Talb was also in possession of other clothes bought in Malta when his flat was raided after the bombing.

5) Why would American senators (?) say to families of the victims at a meeting at the American Embassy in February 1990 “Your government and our government know exactly what happened at Lockerbie. But they are not going to tell you”?
A group of British relatives went for a meeting with seven members of the President’s commission on Aviation security and terrorism. One of those there was Martin Cadman who remembered that after the meeting broke up and they were moving towards the door, they started talking to two members of the commission; Calman thinks that they might have been senators. One of them came away with the above astonishing quote.

The issues surrounding the Lockerbie bombing are complex and labyrinthine. I’m not holding out any hope for answers, but the above questions show how two faced the Americans have been in their claims requesting justice. However there is one question that Cameron should answer. Are you going to set up an enquiry into the Lockerbie bombing, or are you going to follow the lead of Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, and snub this request?

(sources for these pieces: BBC, Washington Post, "Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice" by Paul Foot)

Saturday, 24 July 2010

5 Questions the Americans Should Answer (Part 1)

With the first anniversary of the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbasset Ali Mohamed Megrahi (Pictured left, at his trial in 2000) approaching, the release has suddenly appeared on the radar of American senators and politicians, who have been struggling to jump onto the bandwagon launched by Hilary Clinton. Clinton condemned the release while Obama and Cameron launched an astonishing and ill-informed attack on the Scottish Government (that’s Government Cameron, call yourself Prime Minister). Obama, Cameron & Clinton seemed to be ignorant (or chose to ignore) that there are serious doubts about the conviction. The American authorities themselves are not blameless in this sad episode where the truth has been a victim in the race for favours and commerce.(NB: Part two will be posted on Monday)

1) Why did Bush and Thatcher agree to “play down” the truth?
In January 1990, an article appeared in the Washington Post which stated “President Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher secretly agreed last spring to play down the truth about who blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. After both leaders had intelligence reports pointing the finger at a terrorist hired by Ayatollah Khomeini, Thatcher called Bush. In that conversation they agreed that neither could stand the political heat of making the evidence public because both were impotent to retaliate.

When the intelligence reports began to leak last March (1989), Thatcher called Bush to discuss their problem. Bush didn’t argue when Thatcher suggested that they “low-key” the findings. After the call, word was quickly passed to top officials conducting the Pam Am investigation that they were not to make any off the record remarks implicating Jibril or Iran in Britain
At the time of the call, the investigation was heading towards the Syrian/Iranian backed plot theory, with the culprits thought to be the PFLP-GC (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command). The Transport Secretary at the time Paul Channon is supposed to have made comments to this effect at a lunch with four journalists, comments which despite being off the record still found their way into the press. The call could be seen as an attempt to dampen speculation or as an attempt to throw the press investigation off a more worthwhile question – Why did the security services fail to stop a terrorist attack despite several warnings?

2) What was on Pan Am Flight 103 – Clipper Of the Seas?
We know that Major Charles McKee, a senior CIA agent who had been involved in the release of hostages in Beirut and the former deputy CIA station chief in Beirut Matthew Gannon were among the dead of Pan Am Flight 103, but what were they carrying and what else was on board? After all security services were swarming all over southern Scotland within hours of the explosion. Jim Wilson, a farmer from Tundergarth Mains reported finding a suitcase, neatly packed with a powdery substance that looked like drugs. The police took the suitcase away, but was not asked about the suitcase at the Fatal Accident Inquiry in October 1990. The “owner” of the suitcase did not appear on the list of passengers for Flight 103 either. There were also stories of “a huge red or orange tarpaulin in an open field. It covered a large box or container” – this was guarded by a helicopter and an armed guard. It was suggested by the radio reporter David Johnston that the investigation was held up for two days while the CIA inspected the luggage of their dead officers.
These stories would have been just stories if it wasn’t for the sinister veneer of the experiences of Doctor David Fieldhouse. Doctor Fieldhouse drove from Bradford on the night of the disaster to offer his help to his colleagues from Dumfries & Galloway (Dr Fieldhouse was a police surgeon). From his arrival late on the 21st through to darkness on the 22nd he aided in the act of searching out and labelling bodies, by the time he was finished he had labelled 59 bodies. When he came back on the 23rd, to keep an appointment he was told that his tags had been replaced by “official” 58 tags. The official police figures showed that he had certified 58 bodies. Dr Fieldhouse was then subjected to the most ridiculous smears. The Lord Advocate at the Official Accident Inquiry asked one of the Police Sergeant’s “Would this be another example of Dr or Mr Fieldhouse carrying on a search on his own?” – Dr Fieldhouse was assigned a police officer on his arrival in Lockerbie late on the 21st. Sergeant David Johnson was asked by Mr Gill QC when Dr Fieldhouse submitted the information about the bodies he found, Sergeant Johnson replied “It would be some months later before we were able to ascertain the complete information we had to hand”. With these strange events in the initial aftermath of the bombing, it looks like something was being covered up.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Bloggies…

As you have probably seen, campaigning for the Total Politics awards has started.  I thought that it would be a good moment to have a look at the most read posts here over the past year, you know what they say about birthday’s bringing out a certain retrospection in people...


At 10, posted on 8th April 2010 – Malcolm McLaren Has Died – no explanation required here

At 9, posted on July 31st 2007 – New Pearl of India No Less – about my first visit to this restaurant since it moved from Aitkenhead Road.

In at 8, posted on May 10th 2009 – Was Thatcher Good For Scotland – looking at the Thatcher legacy seen through Scottish eyes.

In 7th place, posted on 28th October 2009 – The Title Track Courtesy of Sandy Stoddart – refuting the claim that it is chic to criticise Paisley.

At 6th, posted on 14th November 2009 – Why The SNP Lost Glasgow North East – looking at how the SNP lost a winnable by-election.

Into the top 5, at 5, posted on 11th July 2009 – Sma Shot Day 2009 – pictures from Paisley’s annual celebration of workers rights.

At 4, posted on 20th August 2009 – The Day Holyrood Grew up – reaction to the release of  the convicted Lockerbie bomber, and victim of the biggest miscarriage of justice in Scottish legal history.

Into the top 3, and at three, posted on May 31st 2007 – Mirador del Atlantico – a post about Gran Canaria.

At 2 is a post about the first of the historic “leaders” debates.  Posted on April 15 2010 – On Tonight's 15 to 1… compared the production of the show to a cheesy ITV game show.  Not so much removed from reality then…

However the most read post of the past year has been a blog posted on September 18th 2008 – The End Of Super Squirrel… – is my reaction to the end of, what was the first bank I ever held an account with.  Proving that the credit crunch still has an effect on people.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Whatever Happened to "... Tough On The Causes Of Crime"?

While the focus has been on Westminster politics, and the coming firestorm of public services (Well, you’re not expecting the various managers & heads of services to cut their own wages are you? Turkey’s? Christmas anyone?) the SNP administration have been quietly getting on with the job of, you know, running Scotland. Last week saw voting on the Crofting Bill and more controversially the Criminal Justice & Licensing Bill.

The headline piece of the Criminal justice bill, and the one which has garnered the headlines has been the proposal to end jail sentences for offences which would have garnered a six month (or less) term in jail. This is controversial because New Labour believes that this is soft on criminals, they have been pushing for their own amendment, a statutory 6 month sentence for possession of a knife. I’m glad that New Labour have suddenly realised that there is a “problem” with knife crime, but I’m rather perplexed that this is a problem which has “suddenly” appeared. Going back 15 years Paisley used to have a serious problem with knife crime, which is why I tended to go out in Glasgow. This is not a new problem. What is new is that we have a generation of particularly nasty, vulgar, violent young people who do not appear interested in anyone but themselves.

What is particularly depressing is that Scottish New Labour has adopted the “prison works” mantra of the former Tory Home Secretary, Michael Howard. According to Paisley’s own Howard wannabe, Hugh Henry “Every week three violent criminals would dodge jail, and every week 12 knife criminals would dodge jail. That’s nearly 800 (no, that’s 654 Hugh, Ed) violent and knife criminals dodging jail every year because Alex Salmond thinks they should be kept in the community” The assumption being made here is that violent criminals should be locked away, regardless of whether prison is a deterrent or will rehabilitate or not.

What this shows is that politicians don’t really have an understanding of criminals, and why crime occurs. Crime is born of circumstances, of economic environment, a feeling of hopelessness, a lack of trust and of mentality. The former shadow home secretary made his name with the “Tough on crime… and tough on the causes of crime” sound bite. It seams somewhat remiss of those following in Blair’s footsteps to concentrate on the first part, but not the latter part. No understanding is shown by New Labour as to why there is a problem with the section of our population who are violent, and no attempt is made to formulate policies which will act as a deterrent to a life of crime.

Something else which has occurred to me with New Labour’s attacks on the Criminal Justice & Licensing Bill is a complete ignorance of the facts and of worldwide opinion. Both Hugh Henry and Richard Baker have raised again the release of Abdelbasset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie, as a stick to beat the SNP’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskil. Megrahi, is depending on who you believe either months from death or could go on for another 10 years, much to the embarrassment of the man who released him because of some sense of pity and sympathy towards his plight. As opposed to the fact that he was innocent and his continued incarceration was a weeping sore on the face of Scottish justice, and continue to be a weeping sore. Even now, the likes of Michael Forsyth are content to keep the myth going.

Henry & Baker really have shown themselves to be totally ignorant of the facts in this case. To summarise, the case was built around Megrahi and Fihimah (you know, the guy acquitted) who were supposed to have put a bomb on the flight from Malta to Frankfurt, which would then carry on to London and then onwards. Except there was an existing security alert in West Germany where the authorities were investigating a Syrian terrorist cell who were putting together bombs housed in Toshiba radio cassette players. This meant that every single piece of luggage was screened, especially for bombs housed in radio cassette players. Of course many people argued that there was no way the bomb could have been put on in Heathrow, but there is no way that the bomb could have been put on its course any other way. Apart from the above, the baggage handler John Bedford testified at the trial about a “maroony brown Samsonite” case appearing in the baggage container for Flight 103 after the team came back from a tea break and the trial also heard that the majority of timers used by middle-eastern terrorist cells were triggered by air pressure so could not have been used had the bomb come from Malta. Kept from the trial was the most damming evidence, that there was a break in reported at Heathrow on the morning of December 21 1988. Is it any wonder the official report into the trial for the UN states “The trial, seen in its entirety, was not fair and was not conducted in an objective manner. Indeed, there are many more questions and doubts at the end of the trial than there were at the beginning… Irrespective of this regrettable outcome, the search for the truth must continue”.

If the likes of Henry & Baker are happy to swallow the myth that Megrahi single handed put a bomb on a plane in Malta, which exploded about 24 hours later over a small Scottish town, what hope do we have that they can understand what will deter people from committing crime.