Marwan Khreesat: How Many Times an Agent?

Caustic Logic 
Completed March 4 2010
last edit June 1


Note, June 1: I'm leaving thispost as-is, but much of it must be qualified by later findings. The text in red below is that explained better in later posts, primarily "A Passing Magic Touch..."
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A Suspect at Large
Iran’s non-involvement in the Pan Am 103 bombing is one of the few points Washington and Tehran can publicly agree on, while both secretly knowing better. Following the July 1988 shoot-down of Iran Air flight 655, "accident" was not accepted and vengeance was vowed. And as former Iranian president Abdulhassan Bani Sadr told The Maltese Double Cross in 1994, “Iran ordered the attack and Ahmed Jibril carried it out.” [1]

If Ahmed Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), did carry out the attack, as it seems he was planning, it was through his right-hand man Hafez Dalkamouni. And Dalkamouni’s known plans to that end, operating in West Germany in October 1988, relied on the airliner-bombs made by the experienced Jordanian expert Marwan Khreesat (alt Kreeshat, Khreeshat).

Khreesat reportedly produced five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Germany during late October 1988. These were apparently all triggered by an altimeter and timer so that the detonation would occur once the plane was well airborne, around 35-45 minutes after takeoff. Pan Am 103 fell apart 38 minutes after taking off from Heathrow. Scottish police and FBI did reject this direct clue as they decided the bomb had first come in from Frankfurt and probably somewhere else before that, and didn’t blow up then. But Scottish police did continue to suspect that a Khreesat bomb, with some hypothesized modification, had gone aboard in Germany.

Paul Foot, in Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice (2001), cited a report compiled by the Dumfries and Galloway police in March 1989, referring to Khreesat, then living freely in Jordan after fleeing from Germany, as "a suspect” they’d like to interview. “There can be little doubt that Khreesat is the bomb-maker for the PFLP-GC," the report is quoted, "and there is a possibility that he prepared the explosive device which destroyed Pan Am 103. As such he should not be at liberty.” [2]

Off The Hook: He’s One of Ours
By now of course Khreesat has been officially absolved of suspicion and remains fully at Liberty. To be sure, he made five deadly altimeter-triggered airliner bombs on behalf of the PFLP-GC, just weeks before the bombing of Pan Am 103. But he did so undercover, for friendly Jordanian intelligence, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). In testimony at the Camp Zeist trial on December 5 2000, FBI Special Agent Edward Marshman confirmed that Khreesat “would be what we refer to as a -- commonly as a double agent, yes.” [3]

Originally listed as Crown witness 1157, Khreesat declined the invitation to trial, and a report written by Marshman took the place of Khreesat’s testimony. Based on Scots/FBI interviews with the bomb-maker on Nov 12 and 13 1989, the report passes on Khreesat's word that "he was sent to Europe in order to infiltrate the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command; he was sent by the GID and was acting as an agent of the GID at all times” [4]

Scots police officer John Crawford, in The Lockerbie Incident: A Detective's Tale (2002) concluded “there is little doubt that he was a double-agent working for the Jordanian Intelligence Service.” Further, Crawford spoke of “the integrity of Marwan Khreesat, who had assisted [Jordanian authorities] to help the West escape a bombing campaign in the late eighties.” [5] It's highly ironic that he did this by building five airliner bombs, one of which was possibly slipped onto Flight 103. But they were supposed to be phony. Marshman’s Report, referring to a stay in Yugoslavia prior to entering Germany, stated:
“Before Khreesat left for Yugoslavia, he met his GID case officer, who instructed him not to arm any explosive devices while in Yugoslavia. He was told to build any improvised explosive device necessary, but he was instructed to alter the device so that it would not detonate even if used against an Israeli target. Khreesat was told by his case officer that he would be protected while in Yugoslavia.”[6]
Apparently he was to assemble the bombs there ahead of delivery, but it seems the actual work was done later in Germany, and as we’ll see, they were indeed armed to the teeth. The Zeist judgment of 2001 explained: “the cell’s principal bomb-maker was one Marwan Khreesat who was in fact an agent who infiltrated the cell on behalf of the Jordanian Intelligence Service.” They also expanded the geographical scope of his ordered harmlessness: “His instructions from [GID] were that any bomb he made must not be primed.” [7]

Even tough he did arm the bombs he made, for whatever reason, it seems almost impossible to deny - if the Jordanian authorities are all in agreement and corroborated his employment and mission - then he was indeed official and undercover. So what did he do within that role?

Field Work
At Jibril’s request, Dalkamouni’s crew had gathered at Hashem Abbasi's flat in Neuss, West Germany (near Frankfurt) in early October to work on the airliner bombing plot. Khreesat first appeared at their flat on October 13 [8] German authorites watched the men for the next two weeks in Operation: Autumn Leaves. They were seen purchasing electronics and mysterious brown stuff, and meeting different people for unheard conversations. [9]

Khreesat’s history with the PFLP-GC was a key alarm; Steve Emerson and Brian Duffy wrote in 1990 “according to Israeli intelligence files, it is almost certain that Jibril, in 1970, was responsible for the very first plane bombing carried out with a barometer-triggered explosive,” and this was done by “Merwad Abd Rezak Mufti Kreeshat” AKA Marwan Khreesat. On Feb 21 1970 two flights from Europe to Israel were bombed the same day with radio-based IEDs. One crashed 15 minutes after takeoff, killing all 47 aboard, while the other was able to land. Khreesat struck again on August 19 1972, with an El Al flight, Rome to Tel Aviv, that again failed to destroy the plane in mid-flight. Khreesat’s work there was decided to be concealed in a record player. [10] [more details]

It’s not clear if he was a double or single agent at the time, but he did some more work in 1985, similarly modifying five Toshiba radios, model BomBeat 453. These were apparently just demos – Jibril was shown how they were done, then Khreesat disassembled them, according to Marshman’s report. [11] And here he was three years later, apparently doing something again. On October 19, Dalkamouni made an intercepted phone call to contacts in Syria, and Khreesat popped on the line to announce “changes in the medicine” that had so far shown a high failure rate. [12] It was like the 1985 operation but for real - five concealed live bombs that were not meant to be broken back down.

According to Marshman’s report, only on October 22nd did Khreesat get to work on building the bombs, after receiving five new electronic items, including “a Toshiba radio/cassette recorder … not in a new box.” [13] As for the model, he was later shown a catalog and decided it “looked exactly like a model RT-F423 radio/cassette recorder. It was bronze in colour just like the model in the catalogue” that he was shown.” He did specify some knob modifications in the one he saw. [14]

That same day, another player arrived in Nuess; “Khreesat never saw Abu Elias in Germany,” Marshman’s report states, “but was told by Dalkamoni that Abu Elias had arrived. (This occurred on October the 22nd, 1988)” [15] This mysterious terrorist was to link up with Khreesat’s bombs and arrange the airport security end, or how to get the IEDs onto the aircraft. [16]

It never was determined which target(s) they had in mind, but the police made their move on the evening of October 26. Khreesat and Dalkamouni were arrested on their way to meet Elias, with one altimeter bomb in the trunk of their car. It was in a black Toshiba Bombeat 453 radio cassette recorder, with an altimeter set to detonate 312 grams of Semtex-H.[17] The base apartment and another were raided and over a dozen suspects taken in, along with a huge weapons and explosives cache, the largest “ever found in the Federal Republic” [18]

All the apartment arrestees but one – eleven total – were released by a Judge for lack of evidence. Besides Dalkamouni and Khreesat, only Abdel Ghadanfar, who claimed the weapons cache (educational props, he said), remained in custody. [19] And then Khreesat made his one phone call and soon the German authorities were getting a call from Jordanian intelligence asking for their man back. And he was sent back, leaving two of fourteen.

And that's just the people. Only the altitude-triggered bomb radio in Dalkamouni’s car was recovered. As far as anyone knew, all that trouble had been to build only one deadly bomb, and that was safely in custody.

Lost in the Shuffle?
Then, less than two months after Marwan Khreesat stepped off the plane back in Jordan, another plane was destroyed just after leaving Heathrow airport in London on the Winter Solstice. The Autumn Leaves had been shaken down, raked, sorted, and bagged, it had seemed. Now one could wonder if a stray leaf had drifted across the channel and lighted in the belly of Pan Am 103. What if those Neuss bombers had made a second bomb?

Emerson and Duffy reported that unspecified U.S. intelligence officials learned “in the early part of February [1989],” that “Marwan Kreeshat had surfaced,” and was ready to help. “And this is what the man said: He had made five bomb in Germany, not one. At least that’s what the Jordanians told the U.S. officials.” [20] A sworn statement followed to clarify that's what he meant to say, stating that if they hadn’t been intercepted already, the remaining IEDs were still in the Neuss flat - the one that was raided for suspected bomb-radio-type work.

This spurred the FBI to urge the German BKA to find the remaining bombs. After initially insisting there could be no more, they finally re-checked the Abbassi home (or rather, his storage by then) and found two suspect radio tuners on April 13 [21]. In an inexplicable episode at BKA headquarters, a bomb tech named Sonntag was killed and another (Ettinger) was maimed while trying to defuse one of these on April 17 [22] Following this unusual scare, the BKA destroyed the other bomb in revenge rather than study it, and again checked Abbasi’s storage for anything electronic at all. They netted another IED, again with Semtex and altimeter, this time concealed in a computer monitor. [23]

On April 26 Hafez Dalkamouni, still in custody, was told he might be charged with the murder of Sonntag and agreed to talk. But then he said the bombs were to go back to Israel to kill Israelis in the high mountains. [24] Khreesat in Jordan was giving them details but they weren’t encouraging; if indeed there were five airliner bombs built, the tally is thus – one captured in October, three found later in Neuss, leaving a fifth one unaccounted for. Writing in early 1990, Emerson and Duffy filled in the gap with “the fifth bomb, investigators believe, blew up […] over Lockerbie.” [25] So how did, or would, this slip through the double-agent’s careful control? Marshman’s report, again from Khreesat’s own self-exculpation, said for 24 October:
“Around 2.00 p.m. Khreesat took a shower. When Khreesat was in the shower, Dalkamoni knocked on the door and said that he was leaving to go to Frankfurt. After getting out of the shower, Khreesat went back to work on the IEDs. At this time he noticed that the fifth device was no longer in the workroom. He did not pay a lot of attention to this, as he was thinking about the upcoming meeting with Abu Elias. Khreesat speculated that Dalkamoni took the fifth device with him, as only Khreesat and Dalkamoni ever went into the room. After working on the IEDs until late that evening, Khreesat went to bed." [26]
[…]
"[The following day] Khreesat told his case officer that he had prepared a device and given it to Abu Elias. Khreesat advised that he had assumed that the fifth device went to Abu Elias, as related above."
[27]
So believing Elias was already given one bomb on the 24th, and telling his handlers on the 25th, Agent Marwan went along to bring a second one on the 26th until he was intercepted by the BKA. “Khreesat told the Germans that they should have waited one more day to make the arrests,” Marshman’s report noted, “as Dalkamoni was on the way to meet Abu Elias when they were arrested.” [28] The arrest being too soon might be a good complaint if he was talking minutes and miles - they could've ambushed them right and got all three. But he said "one more day," by which time Elias might well be gone with his two bombs. Khreesat had met Elias before, in Syria he says, and was able to help the GID make a composite sketch. [29] He’s never been found.

If this is undercover work, it’s sloppy, and sloppy with bombs is no good. For whatever reason, Khreesat clearly broke the rule against making live bombs, left them lying around amongst known terrorists who wanted to use them, and waited a day before alerting anyone that one of his pieces had disappeared. Khreesat may have been working to help the West, but certainly not with any coordination to ensure a tight net collected all the bombs and runners. The German BKA had no idea of his supposed operation, and didn’t even know there were plural devices. Neither Khreesat nor the GID apparently let them know this basic fact, as a note on the way out or at any time until after the Lockerbie bombing. Such negligence could easily lead to a tragedy like that, and to charges of being a triple agent – only playing at playing the PFLP-GC.

But however murky all of this is, the FBI and the Scots agreed with Khreesat that his bombs were not responsible, and there is one overriding reason for this.

Just Not His Style
The main things that helped the case shift away from a Khreesat bomb was the physical evidence that had been involved in the explosion. Or at least said to have been. Again, the official device was probably 450-650 grams Semtex-H, triggered by a Libyan-linked MST-13 timer, set in a Libya-linked Toshiba RT-SF16 model radio. We can be sure since the whole front page of its manual survived.

The manual is what convinced the judges of the radio make, and its supposed Libya clues helped them, in small part, hand down the guilty verdict for al Megrahi. As to why they could easily brush the PFLP-GC and its bomb-maker aside, they explained:
“Moreover, while he himself did not give evidence, there was evidence of a statement given by him to FBI agents (production 1851) in which he said that he never used radio cassette players with twin speakers (such as the Toshiba RT-SF 16 had) to convert into explosive devices.” [30]
Please! He's used radios, record players, computer monitors, vacuum cleaners for all we know. But he couldn't possibly use a radio cassette player with two speakers? Near the trial’s end, the Crown’s Mr. Campbell re-explained how
“[A]n examination of the evidence makes it clear that the components available to the PFLP-GC were of a quite different variety. The radios were of a single-speaker version, and indeed the fifth device described by Khreesat was of a single-speaker type.

The timer used by the PFLP-GC was known as an ice-cube timer and was used in conjunction with a barometric device. It was a very unsophisticated and unstable device. Mr. Orkin of the CIA explained the difference between such a timer and the highly sophisticated MST-13 timer on day 71, 8804."
[31]
After discounting the possible Stasi link that some have wondered as a route to get the timers to the PFLP-GC, Campbell summarized “there is, therefore, in my submission, no evidence that would raise a reasonable doubt in Your Lordships' mind with respect to” the PFLP-GC and their friend Mr. Khreesat as suspects. [32]

Marshman’s report concluded “Khreesat advised that he does not know what type of device was used to bring down Pan Am Flight 103 “ and that “he does not think he built the device responsible for Pan Am 103, as he only built the four devices in Germany which are described herein.” [33] As Paul Foot aptly noted “‘Described herein’, however, were not four devices but five, and the missing one was disguised as a Toshiba cassette recorder.” [34] It wasn’t a RT-SF16, so that point is a bit moot, but still he admitted there was a bomb missing. DI John Crawford described a later trip to Jordan, in mid-2000. This “walking-on-eggshells job” was described thus:
“It was obvious that what was required was for him to testify that he had no part in building the bomb that blew up Pan Am 103, it was a totally different bomb than the ones he had built in the 1970s and 1980s, the timer was also much different from the ones he favoured in his bombs.” [35]
Indeed, what was found by RARDE folks like Hayes and Feraday was not Agent Marwan’s style. He did not use Libyan-linked RT-SF16s with two speakers, small spaces, and indestructiable paper manuals. He didn’t use Libyan-linked MST-13 timers to send the bomb from Malta through Frankfurt to London, by way of Libyan agents using the brown suitcase Giaka saw. His bombs had no special powers to blank out Frankfurt's luggage records, nor to replace the Bedford suitcases in their corner of AVE4041. This, in fact, makes them more real, and dangerous, and worth consideration.

There is no real disconnect between the PFLP-GC’s bomb and the one on 103 if we accept the following: one Khreesat bomb slipped away, was packed into a copper-brown hardshell Samsonite and transported by surface to London. There it was slipped into he most dangerous corner of AVE4041 two hours before the plane took off. All we need then for all the evidence to match up is to disappear the remains of that RT-F423-like radio (around 550 grams of Semtex might do that) and introduce the implausibly large timer and radio chunks that indicate Libya with such cartoonish clarity (certain RARDE operatives might do that).
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[1] The Maltese Double Cross. Produced, written, and directed by Allan Francovich, Hemar Enterprises, released November 1994. 2 hours, 36 minutes. Quote at 34:00 mark. Google Video
[2] Foot, Paul. Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice. Private Eye, 2001. 30 pages.
[3] IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY AT CAMP ZEIST - Case No: 1475/99: HER MAJESTY’S ADVOCATE v ABDELBASET ALI MOHMED AL MEGRAHI and AL AMIN KHALIFA FHIMAH. Camp Zeist (Kamp van Zeist), The Netherlands, 3 May 2000 to 31 January 2000. Computerised transcription of the proceedings using LiveNote. 10,241 pages in 86 volumes. Copyright 2000, Scottish Court Service. Anonymous donation to The Lockerbie Divide. Day 76, December 5 2000. Edward Marshman, witness no. 540. p 9259
[4] ibid. p 9272
[5] Crawford, John. The Lockerbie Incident: A Detective's Tale Trafford Publishing 2002. 351 pages. Gogle Books pp 160, 163
[6] See [3], p 9273
[7] Opinion of the Court. Delivered 31 January 2001. PDF link: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/library/lockerbie/docs/lockerbiejudgement.pdf
[8]Emerson, Steven and Brian Duffy “The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation” New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1990. p 208.
[9] ibid. pp 128-29
[10] ibid. pp 114-115
[11] Transcripts, Day 76, pp 9275-76
[12] Emerson and Duffy, p 129
[13] Transcripts, Day 76, pp 9254-55
[14] Transcripts, Day 76, p 9268
[15] Transcripts, Day 76, p 9244
[16] Transcripts, Day 76, 9250
[17] Transcripts, Day 72 (November 20 2000), pp 8829-31, also Leppard p. 11
[18] Emerson and Duffy p 132
[19] Emerson and Duffy p 133
[20] Emerson and Duffy pp 176-77
[21] Emerson and Duffy p 206
[22], [23] Emerson and Duffy p 208
[24] Emerson and Duffy p 209-10
[25] Emerson and Duffy p 255
[26] Transcripts, Day 72 p 9258
[27] Transcripts, Day 72 p 9260
[28] Transcripts, Day 72 p 9244
[29] Transcripts, Day 72 p 9264
[30] See [7]
[31], [32] Transcripts, Day 79 (January 10, 2001), p 9525-26
[32] 9525-26
[33] Transcripts, Day 76, p 9268
[34] Foot, Paul. Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice. Private Eye, 2001. 30 pages. p 23.
[35] Crawford, p 160

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