Just Like the Official Story Where it Matters Most
May 5 2010
last update May 9 11pm
Here I would like to address head-on, at least once, a meme that has underpinned (and undermined) Lockerbie/PA103 revisionism for most of its entire lifespan. Rather than Libyan al Megrahi committing the bombing via Malta, this theory contends it was done by Iranian-paid, Syrian-based Palestinians, introducing the bomb in Frankfurt, West Germany. They did so, the theory runs, by co-opting a CIA-protected heroin smuggling operation. This unusual and compelling concept, with some variations, has gone by many names, but I’ve settled on “the drug swap theory.”
One strength of the theory is that it generally focuses on the German PFLP-GC cell that had been making altimeter-triggered airliner bombs inside radios. By circumventing normal x-ray procedures, it could explain such a bomb getting on the feeder for Flight 103. And the PFLP-GC network is a far more logical culprit than Libya, and suspecting them is the bread and butter of nearly all revisionism (including my own). The drug swap theory can also accept the best evidence against Megrahi’s guilt – which like the alternate culprits, can be sensed by smarter folks everywhere.
By appealing to natural suspicions with a detailed alternative like this, the notion became a missing link for many throughout the 1990s and beyond. However in the end it seems to be a false link, the main effect of which has been to keep revisionism from making as much sense as it could have.
Aviv and Operation Corea
The Drugs Theory meme was first fed by Pan Am people and their hired “spook” Juval Aviv. A dual American/Israeli citizen, Aviv claims to have headed Mossad’s operation Wrath of God and inspired a book about it (Vengeance, adapted by Spielberg as the film Munich), and later, after 9/11, was widely credited as a TV-friendly terrorism expert.
The desperate airline’s lawyers brought Aviv in to sniff out intel that might help their case, and his oddball company Interfor issued a secret report in October 1989 based on a spurious investigation. The report brims with amazing claims to have all the major events, from planning meetings to the bomb placement (a Turk in a black Mercedes brought it to the airport) captured with direct photo, audio, and video surveillance he of course couldn’t show the public or anyone.
According to Aviv’s report, the operation at Frankfurt Airport was called Corea from the CIA end (a rogue unit, wouldn’t you know). In general, as I understand it, the system was operated by Syrian smuggler Manzar al-Kassar, running a heroin conduit out of Lebanon, protected by the CIA in trade for al-Kassar’s help in freeing American hostages in Beirut. Lebanese-American Khalid Jaafar, who transferred to PA103 via Frankfurt, unwittingly brought the bomb onboard. There has been much speculation on Jaafar’s luggage, movements and connections; allegedly a courier in the protected drug route, Aviv has him meeting with a Libyan bomb maker (?) and the PFLP-GC’s leader Ahmed Jibril (??) in Germany a few weeks before the bombing (it’s videotaped). Jibril then effected the switch of Jaafar’s courier drug bag with the one containing a bomb. One can only wonder what he did with the heroin.
A common but not universal addition to the theory is the targeting VIPs on board Flight 103, especially Major Charles McKee, Army intelligence, apparently leading a hostage rescue team in Beirut. As the unsubstantiated story goes, McKee had learned of the drugs system and was en route to report it when his plane blew up. This is all in Aviv’s report, hinting at an agreement among the CIA, Jibril and/or al-Kassar to bomb that plane in particular.
This preliminary report, with a few errors I can identify myself on a quick scan, was somehow leaked to the public before the airline's fate was yet sealed. With some media help and from Mr. Trafficant on Capitol Hill, it raised doubts whether it was Pan Am's insurers or the CIA that should be held responsible for the lapses around PA103. Legally, it didn’t go far; Pan Am sank over its perceived record at Frankfurt, and Aviv’s report has been widely dismissed as a hoax.
But to a jaded public view tinted by Iran-Contra conspiracies, and confronted with a shifting official story, the "smeared" Aviv’s claims survived in a near-legendary form, repeating through the years in different combinations and various media.
The Echo Chamber: 1989-2010
Time magazine’s April 1992 cover story "Why did they die?" stands out among countless articles before and since that have drawn on the core of Aviv’s allegations, supported by facts and speculation from other sources. Among the many critical books along such lines, the most famous is Lester Coleman’s Trail of the Octopus (1993). The former DEA agent had woven an elaborate tale of insider knowledge of about what Aviv described, and is currently a “political prisoner” on fraud and making things up charges.
Both Coleman and Aviv plus many others pushing the Jibril-Jaafar line were interviewed for Alan Frankovich’s sprawling, brilliant, and hoax-tainted 1994 film The Maltese Double Cross. Frankovich’s lead researcher on the film, John Ashton, has gone on to other works, like the book Coverup of Convenience (2000) with Ian Ferguson, that promote variations of the drug swap theory.
Interestingly, a member of the PFLP-GC with an indirect role in the bombing network, one Mobdi Goben, “admitted” on his deathbed around 2000 that the elusive Abu Elias had used the Frankfurt drugs channel to sneak the bomb into Khalid Jaafar’s luggage, reviving the issue amidst the trial of al Megrahi and Fhimah. The defense never was able to get a copy, which may have played into their "special defense of incrimination" that drew on at least some aspects of the drug swap theory. This blogger sees no grat reason to trust the word of an involved terrorist. It could be genuine or, just as just easily, a rearguard distraction crafted from the West's own delusions mirrored back.
Later yet in 2008 it was reported Steven Spielberg was working on another new film, about PA103 and centered on a plot involving the PFLP-GC rather than Libyans. Frighteningly, it was to draw again on Aviv and his strangely compelling yarns. This time it was the just-released “fact-based fiction” novel Flight 103, under pen name Sam Green. Thankfully that film never materialized, and the book seems to have flopped without the support, but it showed how the threat has persisted with professional diligence.
All of these works contain at least some useful information aside from promoting the drug swap theory; it can hardly be avoided as the atrocious official story gave theorists so much legitimate information to work with. My point here is not so much to dismiss the possibility of such a scandalous smuggling arrangements, and I won’t bother trying to fully rule it out. Rather, all I want to say is that it’s irrelevant to what happened on PA103. The best evidence says the bomb entered the air system at Heathrow Airport, London, rather than at Frankfurt.
What The Drug Swap Theory Obscures
I came to the discussion late, only on Megrahi’s compassionate release last year. Before that, I had only a passing acquaintance with the issue at all and was faintly aware of but not impressed by the prevailing conspiracy theory. I was fortunate to start digging into the facts with JREF forum member Rolfe, and with so much revealed by then, 21 years after the fact, it seemed natural to go straight for the competing London origin theory.
The official story started with the weak forensic decision, which drug swap theorists could accept, that the bomb must have come in on the feeder from Frankfurt. Based on an unstated presumption that certain suitcases cannot be stacked up, the decisive elimination of London origin banished truth within a month of the crash.
The PFLP-GC’s Khreesat bombs, as understood by their maker and German investigators, only take-off once before detonating. So to land safely in London and only then blow up after leaving the ground again, one must imagine modifications. Officials did so at first, and later identified the timer. Drug swap theorists do about the same, just a little different.
The implausible Circuit board fragment PT/35(b) was found in mid-1990 to be from a MST-13 unit thought to be held only by Libyan agents. With this flexible device, a PFLP-GC altimeter wasn’t even needed. Many but not all drug swap theorists accept the timer evidence, and just throw in some doubts about exclusive Libyan control; the PFLP-GC might have gotten hold of a MST-13, perhaps from the East German Stasi. Maybe so, but it’s poor use of a timer to set it so it even might blow over land. It would be dumb for Libya to use a timer they knew the CIA had linked to them. The CIA held seized copies. Copies could be forged. Copies could be handed over by Mebo personnel. This one doesn’t seem to have been involved in the PA103 explosion. Accepting crap like PT/35(b) as evidence leads to confusion.
Confusion of the same type is required to dismiss other evidence, like the Bedford story; the only brown hardshell Samsonite seen, and it was twice in a matching set, was in container AVE4041 at about the blast site by John Bedford. This was well before any CIA Jaafar luggage could have been in London. Drug swap theorists will dismiss this as coincidence, or sometimes mention it without explanation as, apparently, some kind of backup in case their main point is wrong.
Furthermore, the spot these bags were in, just inches from the later blast, happens to be the point closest to the plane’s skin and the only (approximate) spot such a bomb would have worked. There’s no proof terrorists chose that placement, but the ONLY place it would be possible to manage this crucial aspect is at Heathrow. It hasn't been ruled out or even seriously considered. Nearly everyone presumes the terrorists trusted to fate for placement and fate delivered. There's something wrong just with that alone.
Then there’s the hushed-up break-in at Heathrow’s terminal 3 hours before the bombing. Security was breached for some probably illegal reason some time before Bedford saw those bags. This evidence was silenced until a security guard, Ray Manly, came forward after the trial to ask why it still hadn’t been brought up. The records he alluded to were then found and reported, and officially his story is now accepted as happening, just too late to help Megrahi’s case at trial. But it was clearly coincidence, say the big heads, since the bomb came in from Frankfurt.
And finally, the best PFLP-GC fit comes from the bombs made in Frankfurt, as we know them, loaded at London. Khreesat’s bombs had a noted time delays of 30-45 minutes after takeoff (it is a bit more complex than that, partly explained here). PA103 blew up 38 minutes after leaving Heathrow, a major clue if one is open to follow it up. No one in the UK was. Confusion ensued.
That’s an intriguing body of clues, and for all we know there might have been a CIA-protected drugs conduit at Heathrow that led to the disaster. It’s been over twenty years now and hardly anyone has even looked close enough to say, dazzled with Corean intrigues. Khalid, not Kamboj, has been the mystery man. How did that happen? Are we just leading ourselves astray with random Human stupidity, or is there some design to this confusion?
Where it Matters Most
So to summarize the official story's take on the above evidence pointing to London: Bedford’s story is acknowledged but dismissed as coincidence. The notable timing is mooted by the miracle timer fragment and proved coincidence. The optimal bomb placement is ruled coincidence. The break-in is covered-up and then later called coincidence. That’s official story coincidence theorists for you.
Problem is, they share many assumptions with their hordes of misguided opponents hypnotized by the drug swap theory. The continued focus away from London wouldn’t work without their pushing from the other side with the “truth about Lockerbie” as told by Aviv/Coleman/Ashton et al. How it came to be this way is not my concern, but both they and the Anglo-American gatekeepers share in common rejecting the best evidence and keeping the issue clouded.
It could well be argued back that while different people will have different theories, we can all agree the case against Megrahi was unsound (still waiting for my paycheck from Tripoli), and should not get hung up on differences. Certainly, some of the sharpest arguments for conspiracy and cover-up and smartest exculpations of Libya have come from those who explain whodunnit with the drug swap theory. After all, that's the majority of everyone who's spoken up in protest over the years.
But intelligent minds do know someone did this deed - it wasn't some nebulous "not Megrahi." And those are the minds who will and should stumble over the Loony Tunes constructs of Aviv, bolstered by the endless repetitions of the core points, often simply laundered as new by having people like Oswald LeWinter say it's so. The whodunnit is tied to the howitdun, and those who care about justice in this monstrous event should think a little more, and more clearly, about the howitdun. On what grounds other than habit do you dismiss the London evidence?