finished 3 October 2010
last edit 4/10
Production company: STV, Scotland.
Air date: August 2010
ex prod: Gordon MacMillan
prod: Donald John MacDonald, David Cowan
STV Youtube posting (embedding disabled)
I’m a little late to watch and review this video, which might just be the most strategically deceptive thing I’ve yet seen or on the subject of Megrahi’s guilt. Most of its lies are of the omission type, like ignoring the hundreds of credible critics of the official story on Pan Am 103. The lone voice they present for the other view, Dr. Jim Swire, told the crew he felt “the circumstances of my daughter’s murder have become wrapped up tissue of lies. Something terrible is being covered up.” (32:17) The video that abuses and dismisses his position at every turn is clearly a continuation of that same fabric, hoping to wrap up all his - and many others’ - outstanding questions and chuck them forever in the dust bin.
The 46 minute video is tightly–paced and split into four parts. The first covers the horror, the scale, and the loss of the bombing over and in Lockerbie. Part two relates the popular mythology of how Libya’s guilt, via Megrahi, was discovered. The investigation, indictments, sanctions (nearly a decade glossed over in two sentences), and everything up to the trial at Camp Zeist are packed in there. Part three briefly mentions the 9-month trial and then tries way too hard to clear up the continuing doubts about Megrahi’s conviction there. This is supposed to wipe the slate for the pivotal part 4, which explains how the “Lockerbie bomber” was sent home to die, but then didn’t.
The intro starts by noting the disastrous "compassionate release" all the way to Tripoli was "against the wishes of the most powerful country in the world," as if the power of those who disagree should matter. I didn't know China much cared, but the producers will have you know the SNP has made powerful enemies for the British with its stupid (or...???) decision.
The actual video opens with a long stretch on the horror of the crash, which, again, the best (discarded) evidence suggest was done by the PFLP-GC, for Iran, using a Khreesat-style altimeter bomb loaded in London. The amount of pain or fire doesn't in itself add anything to who's guilty, just to how mad you should be, at how horrible this mass murderer’s act was. Then for a change, it goes to how tragic loss of so many wonderful people was, so you can get sad before getting mad again. It’s a well done and touching segment, to be honest. Mentally, however, it’s counterproductive to thinking straight, and only primes the audience for the coming barrage of deception.
About 12 minutes in the PFLP-GC and Iran Air 655 as possible motive are mentioned, and FBI chief investigator Richard Marquise admits that sounds like a logical assumption. But the notion is here first framed as something the CIA had tried to say once, with "no evidence" of an Iran-PFLP-GC link ever found. It could be fairly said there was no proof, but much evidence exists, a bit of it presented in the preceding minute of this very video. There was not one but four radio bombs found, and a fifth that never turned up - unless it did. These were set by altimeter and a crude "timer" set to blow 35-45 min. after takeoff (that's the simple version - deeper here). PA103 blew up 38 minutes after leaving Heathrow, officially a coincidence of poor Libyan timing.
On forensic findings
Finally at 14:24, after discussing the "fortunate"bomb placement that actually best supports a London introduction, the video gets to the specific evidence that would matter for convicting Megrahi. In thirty seconds it says a lot that leaves out a lot:
Forensic scientists decided the Lockerbie bomb had been hidden inside a different radio cassette player from the one used by the Palestinians. Packed into the Samsonite suitcase, it exploded in the plane’s forward hold, close to the skin of the fuselage. Charred fragments of clothes from the suitcase took the inquiry in a completely new direction. This label from a babygro [“made in Malta”] was the first connection to the island of Malta. Then a distinctive logo [“Yorkie”] led to the firzsst major breakthrough.This is the one of the parts where they tell you that science has spoken, but as I’ve noted elsewhere, what it said doesn’t make any sense. The PFLP-GC link was weakened by the identification, from scattered fragments, of a different radio than the “one” the PFLP-GC used (actually 3 different models and a computer monitor). First, I invite anyone to closely examine how this other radio – Toshiba BomBeat RT-SF16 - was identified. Consider the chronic inconsistencies in this detailed timeline, reconstructed from trial transcripts. Secondly, Dr. John Wyatt's tests suggest an explosion of the scale needed wouldn't leave any such readable debris, meaning investigators would really have no clue what radio - if any - was used.
And thirdly, even if Wyatt is far off, the clearest "proof" of the radio model is this, PK/689, the paper manual cover. You know it was inside the box 2" from the blast center not because it was reduced to ash, but because it's lightly singed, torn, and says, plain as day, "BomBeat." The lady that turned in PK/689 said the paper she saw was fully intact when she found it, and that hasn't been challenged. Officially then, it was made "a bit tatty around the edges" by the semtex blast, and ripped nearly to shreds by forensics tests.
The radio model thus established not only pointed away from the Iran line, but also suggested Libyan authorship. Convenient.
The scorched clothing - blue babygro, Yorkie trousers, black umbrella, slalom shirt, and others - is also challenged by Dr. Wyatt’s findings. Being at least outside the radio's cardboard box, it's to a lesser degree than the radio and timer, and I for one am agnostic on whether they’re authentic. But they were convenient also, pointing to Malta and, by extension, to Libya.
To Malta and Gauci
The story of the clothes’ identification and tracing to Malta seems to be conveyed fairly, although the details, relying on the recall of detective John Crawford, are a bit fuzzy. The trousers in particular led them to the Yorkie clothing factory on the tiny island nation, who had the papers to show the very few pairs of that batch were sold to one shop only – Mary’s House in Silema, run by the Gauci family. One fateful pair was apparently bought there brand new by someone linked to the bombing and f*****g stupid. The clarity of the lead was the "stuff of detective novels," says George Esson, Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Police in 1991. It was all "fantastic," "almost unbelievable." Why "almost," George?
supposed identification of Megrahi as the bird-brained buyer. As the video later notes, Gauci's reliability remains hotly contested, and he “has never said with absolute certainty that al Megrahi was the man" who bought the trousers and babygro.
In fact he’s never said he was the man at all, who he says was at least 4 inches taller and 14 years older than our villain. Just going on faces, he pointed at a photo of Megrahi in 1991 and said it was "similar to the man ... He would perhaps have to look about ten years older,” which he didn’t. Later in 1999 at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, he pointed to the by-then famous “Lockerbie bomber” in person and said "“not exactly the man I saw in the shop.” Clearly Detective Crawford’s take “when he got to number 8, he said “that’s the man,” is misleading. (18:10)
At 17:29, Richard Marquise says again that Megrahi "had been in Malta the day the clothing purchase was made, December 7." This is a big lie and he’s had that pointed out to him prior to this interview. Note he emphasizes “actual immigration records,” as if that's the issue. In fact, the top Scot on Malta, Harry Bell, essentially admitted in 2007 that Megrahi's presence on December 7 was the reason the date of purchase was changed. Gauci clearly describes November 23, when Megrahi has an alibi, but there was a very slim case for it being December 7, and that’s what it became. Gauci can be observed at trial being more vague on all the points that conflict between the two days. But the judges seem to have missed that (see link for details).
And the money situation ... we'll return to that one.
A bomb from Malta
Having "established" Megrahi’s link to the clothing, at 22:07 crown prosecutor John Logue cogently relates the official story of the unaccompanied bag from Malta. The tight and coherent evidence from Air Malta's end says clearly there was no such suitcase on KM180, and opposing it we have wishful thinking plus one unusual record from Frankfurt, with all supports and comparison records somehow vanished with no clear explanation. If it weren’t for the fluke of the computer printout for PA103A, salvaged from an airport employee's locker, investigators would have no record at all of what happened at Frankfurt that day. Air Malta had everything and it was in order, but it differed from what the locker-paper said, so was pushed aside by investigators, by Scottish judges, and certainly by crown prosecutors in between them.
After ignoring these troubles with the notion of a bomb from Malta getting onto 103, the video turns to the evidence that Megrahi was at the airport on Malta December 21 - under a false name. This seems to be solid, and at 22:25 he is caught in a lie to a journalist, denying his presence there. This secrecy probably was related to the false passport and the secret mission he was likely on for Tripoli, and it was unwise to continue denying at the time of that interview in 1992.
But as far as we can tell, Megrahi's unrelated secret mission on that day is precisely why he was chosen as the route to frame Libya, and why evidence pointing to Malta was concocted. It could also explain why Mohammed Abu Talb was chased for a while, but that's too esoteric for most. At any rate, the missing context is the lack of any good evidence his mission was to blow up a plane, and the presence of any bomb on Malta that morning is what’s solidly in question here.
The locker-paper from Frankfurt had suggested (but far from proved) an unaccompanied item from Malta getting onto the doomed 747, but not what kind it would be. This was previously filled in by a witness who said he saw Megrahi with a brown hard-shell Samsonite - like the bomb was packed in - the day before the bombing, on his arrival from Tripoli. Unfortunately, the witness, Abdul Majid Giaka, made this story up for the FBI only in 1991, after learning what type of case he needed to "remember." (And after being given no choice but to come up with something just like that.) The judges dismissed this point of evidence, as well as the rest of what Giaka had to say (and it was a lot) at trial in 2000. As far as I can tell, Giaka and his claims are entirely absent from this video, as if he never existed - another lie of omission, and a rather glaring one.
On the timer fragment
(18:40) The video's approach is standard and brief. A piece of circuit board dubbed PT/35(b) was discovered, and later matched to a timer called MST-13, made by Mebo, a company with links to Libya. This information was obtained from the CIA, who held a comparison model. Identifying FBI agent, "Tom" Thurman, related again his 1990 epiphany comparing a photo to something under a microscope (there are many versions he's told). He explained "I could not believe it under any circumstances, and it was there," so he believed it and so did everyone else.
Myriad logical problems and questions plague this alleged timer (see PT/35(b) link). Why was it set so early, when a couple more hours would safely bury the evidence at sea? Why is the corner they found the only one so distinctly recognizable? The narrator starts by describing the prominent 1/2"square fragment as "tiny," and Marquise later implies that contrary to what critics say, it was not too small to have been found - because it was found, duh!
In fact the key problem for this item is that it's far too large to have been inside the bomb, maybe 2 inches from at least 450 grams of semtex. Dr. Wyatt's tests cited above in relation to the radio itself, were publicized in January 2010 in connection with this crucial evidence more than with the radio. As his work strongly suggests, this thing was put into the wreckage by something (or someone) other than the bomb. Therefore, its ability to implicate Libya might be better evidence for a frame-up than for a bombing.
On the conspiracy theorist
Part three starts with the trial’s end (around 24:15). Megrahi was now ruled guilty, and his accomplice Fhimah was somehow found not guilty. To mention why would require bringing in Giaka, and raise troubling questions. The video does not mention why he was found not guilty, probably some technicality.
"But not everyone was convinced," the narrator ominously intones, turning to Dr. Jim Swire. He's not only a critic of the official story, but feels Libya and Megrahi were consciously framed by the US and UK governments. This blogger agrees that, politically correct or not, tha' the most logical explanation for what happened. The editors selected a video of Swire solitarily approaching a podium on the court's expansive plaza, and then mentioned no one else who holds views like his. With both of these choices, the video creates the impression that Swire is the only one who needs convincing and what the hell's wrong with him?
Just before introducing the loner, US family member Bob Monetti said “if you follow it every day and have an open mind, it became overwhelmingly obvious that Megrahi was guilty.” But Swire insists it was close attention to the trial that solidified his doubts about Libya’s guilt. Having read much of it myself by now, I agree with him, and I suspect Mr. Monetti did not follow as open-mindedly as he claims.
Further, Dr. Swire’s lone claims "infuriate" the leaders of the investigation that led to Megrahi being blamed. Top Scot, SIO Stuart Henderson, says at 26:21:
"I’m sick and tired of saying this. What - is - in - it - for me to try and fit somebody up to go behind bars for forty years. You must be joking. Anybody that makes suggestions like that has got to be rather twisted. Because we were being watched on a daily basis. The whole world was watching us."I can't say what's in it for anyone in particular, nor do I have reason to suspect Henderson himself took part in the most important bits of dishonesty. But the whole world was not watching them. I don't recall seeing the live footage at RARDE’s laboratories showing all comings and goings, or transcripts of the first police interactions with Mr. Gauci. There’s no audio tape of agent Tom Thurman’s meeting with Orkin, or secret video of the session where PT/35(b) was cut, scratched up, and burnt to look realistic enough to plant. But Henderson would have us believe all these things would be known if they happened, so they must not have happened. It's a poor argument to say the least.
Lawyers are then called on – even those who support Megrahi’s innocence – to strengthen the stance that there was no conspiracy here. As expected, they won’t admit, for reasons of being lawyerly, that fakery and framing are bleeding obvious. Megrahi’s counsel Tony Kelly argues that his client is innocent and wrongly charged, but apparently on accident. He didn't see “any major conspiracy, or attempt to frame a particular person.” (26:42) "Megrahi's own lawyer rejects the conspiracy theories," the narrator can triumphantly say, and even his more banal protests could just be invented to justify his paycheck. Swire's looking pretty lonely now.
Kelly further emphasizes that “it’s the legal process that matters,” not theorizing about what might have really happened. I take his point that legal truth does decide things here on Earth, even if it's unjust in its mechanics, like at Camp Zeist, and on Megrahi's first appeal. Call me old fashioned, but I say truth matters more than this fickle legal process – at least in some abstract way that should matter more.
On the Official Review
One bright point where the legal process and revealing truth partially merge is Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC), covered in the video at 25:40. They looked at the case for almost four years and, like Kelly, said they found no sign of evidence being planted (rather I suspect they didn’t look for any). But they did find in mid-2007 reason to conclude Megrahi might have suffered a miscarriage of justice, again presumably by accident.
They referred it, on a conservative six grounds, to the appeal court. A spokesman, Gerard Sinclair, told the film that research suggests “there's about a 64% chance of that being successful" once they’ve sent it back to the courts. This statistic is presented as ominous, spliced with secret video of a jubilant Megrahi, alerted of the commission’s finding.
To its credit, Sent home to Die does acknowledge the finding that the Maltese clothes were bought "when Megrahi wasn't on the island." It's obvious to anyone who reads the evidence with clear eyes, and kind of proves that Marquise lied to the camera at 17:29, but the video already accepted that untruth as a basis for presenting the conviction as sound.
The SCCRC’s findings of American payouts to Tony Gauci of at least $2 million is mentioned (but the further $1 million or more to his brother Paul is neglected). No one will flat deny that such money was dished out to the brothers following the verdict, but on the question of what they knew before that remains hotly debated, for obvious reasons. The promise of money for a conviction against the man in photo #8 has the manifest potential, at least, to alter Gauci’s evidence. And as noted above, he altered his evidence in ways that seem not so much random as strategized to help convict Megrahi.
Marquise fudges, in a way that's effectively a lie (30:00). "Not one witness was ever promised money or did they ask for money in exchange for saying anything." The contrary evidence can be read right from Scottish police records here. Money concerns are there from day one, first seeded by the Americans in 1989 (“endless money” offered, $10,000 upfront) and couched in indirect language elsewhere. Tony himself usually kept mum, but his brother Paul was noted as a money-grubber. Behind the scenes, the ongoing quest for cash was clearly an open secret, gutting Stuart Henderson's ridiculous rebuttal. He told the crew that Tony was not only unaware of the coming reward, he was in fact "well aware that there was no such thing as a reward being handed to him ... Didn't enter his head."
Sent Home to Die gives the commission a semblance of respect in its filming and mention of the more important findings. But ultimately, it brushes their work aside as niggling questions surrounding a rock-solid conviction that had been assembled by solid men like Henderson and Marquise, and accepted by eight judges. However, between the Zeist verdict and the SCCRC’s review, only one has been legally ruled a “possible miscarriage of justice,” and the other is clean as a whistle.
On the appeal/Conclusion
The respect shown to the SCCRC is carried over into the results of its process, Megrahi’s second appeal. It’s a solemn process the prisoner is entitled to, to be looked at by five more judges. It’s acknowledged that this moved rather slow, and then somehow it was buried under the noise of imminent release.
The prisoner transfer agreement is raised first, emerging as it did in 2007 and part of a lucky streak along with the SCCRC review. But as a less-lucky terminal case of cancer entered the picture in 2008, so did compassionate release, and a second way home. Both routes are mentioned, with few details, and it fell to justice secretary MacAskill to chose, and he met the prisoner at the jail.
Then, the narrator says, “just days before MacAskill announced his decision, Megrahi gave up his appeal.” Margart Scott, QC, is shown passing along his officially inexplicable “belief that these instructions to abandon his appeal will assist in the early determination of those [release] applications.” The move is not explained or dwelled over any. Maybe he thought he or his successor would lose the appeal. Again, the Crown prosecutor John Logue is called on (32:00)
We were ready, willing, and able to defend Mr. Megrahi's conviction in the appeal court, and would have done so had that appeal continued. We were confident in the conviction, and confident that we were able to defend it during the appeal.Logue is just parroting the bluff of departing Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini. The Crown was not ready or able to defend the case, at least not by normal evidentiary means. Consider this recent assessment of a renowned defense layer:
Michael Mansfield QC, one of the country's best-known defence lawyers, said a full judicial inquiry was required to settle the doubts over the case. Mansfield said he had no doubt that the evidence given to secure Megrahi's conviction was "entirely unsustainable". [source]But part three ends with “20 years after Pan Am 103 fell from the sky, Megrahi’s legal battle was over. Only one question remained – where would the Lockerbie bomber be allowed to die?” The following part four is interesting in its own right, but I’ll leave it be as based on a false premise, as there are far more, and more relevant, questions than that one, as another prominent lawyer recently noted. Citing the SCCRC’s doubts about the case, the head of the Scottish human rights commission professor Alan Miller said [per the Guardian]:
The row over Megrahi's medical status was an "undignified and unhelpful distraction" from the more important issue of addressing unresolved questions about his guilt.The situation that needs resolved in 2010 is the continued denial of truth and thus justice while nearly everyone turns a blind eye and maintains the charade. In pushing the groundless presumption that Megrahi actually is the bomber, Sent Home to Die cannot be of any use in that resolution. It might just do for someone’s political agenda, but that’s no surprise – Lockerbie has always been taken for all its worth to advance unstated aims.