<< See part 3: effective warning?
Can we be sure it was a coincidental hoax?
The official word was that the 5 December call, warning of an American (Pan Am) flight from Frankfurt being bombed within 14 days, was just an unrelated hoax with an unsettling similarity to the bombing that happened 16 days later. While such near-synchronicity is indeed possible all on its own, it was naturally difficult for some to just let it go at that. Paul Hudson, whose daughter was killed in the officially coincidental bombing, spoke up at a 1989 House subcommittee hearing.
“I for one cannot take this statement any longer at face values. […] There is a position that has been conveyed tat the threat was a hoax. But when I asked the number two person at the FBI whether that person who committed this hoax had ever been arrested, or charged […] the answer I was given is no […] with all due respect, I cannot accept the bare assertion that this was a hoax without proof. And we have not seen any proof.” [Gerson and Adler, p 56]It was a good point then, and remains so today.
First, there’s nothing we can really know for sure about this call. No recording was made at the embassy end, with notes only. Further, there should have been recording from this on the Finnish end, as their feds were tapping the line it came in on. But to my knowledge no one has heard of such a tape, and there is no known recording to go back to as a primary source. It’s all from agent Luzzi’s notes and memory, as stated.
But via Luzzi we do have a set of details that became its official content, as related in part one. Recall that Abu Nidal terrorist Samir Kadar was cited, by a little-known pseudonym, playing on fears of his survival despte his apparent death six months earlier. Frankfurt airport was cited as the origin point for the bomb, just weeks after its PFLP-GC cell was busted with airliner bombs. Anyone who watches the news could possibly assemble all that, but insider information, designed to perk the interest of intelligence types, could explain it at least as well.
From what we hear, and on the surface of it, a hoax does seem most likely. Finnish police, while not getting a tape, had reportedly tapped Mahayoun’s phone due to his repeated hoaxing in the same period of weeks. [Emerson and Duffy 54] That one fiction among many would wind up resembling a real attack is not unthinkable. And there's no reason to suspect this failed student with girl problems would have any relevant info about attack plans, Iranian, Libyan, or otherwise.
However, it’s worthy to ask if the simple fact of the phone line used is proof of much. What if Mahayoun wasn't really the caller?
With just a bit of imagination, we could speculate an Iranian insider, say from the embassy in Helsinki, who wanted to feed the CIA a lead of one kind or another. He might poke around and learn of Mahayoun’s pranking, and decided to use it to launder the lead. He could sneak into the man's apartment one night when he’s known to be away, preferably with a weak alibi, perhaps some engineered distraction young Samra could neither refuse nor verify. Once inside, the insider simply take the US embassy's number out of his pocket and place exactly the call he wants. Ideally it would have whatever immediate or long-term effect was desired, but then appear to be another prank and obviously or arguably coincidental, leaving the seeder unseen.
Interestingly, the lack of any recording complicates things by being unable to help rule this out. Investigators could have compared Mahayoun's voice with that on the tape and found it either a match with the "guttural, Arab" one Luzzi heard, or not a match. As it stands, we can't be sure either way.
Just what any insider would hope to achieve in such a scenario is less clear. Many possibilities could be speculated, but my own unique hunch will be the subject, eventually, of part five.