Attention, students of Syracuse University! You won't want to miss the lecture tomorrow to be given by Richard Marquise, who headed the FBI's investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103. (thanks to Ben Six for the tip). Marquise even wrote a book about his work on the case: SCOTBOM: blahblahblah [2006 - Google books, partial preview]. As you've surely been reminded lately, 35 of your historical classmates, eternal alumni, were among the 270 killed in a bombing that an increasing number worldwide consider to be unsolved. But don't let that bother you - Mr. Marquise will assure you he helped get the right man. It's easy when the whole world seems to agree. Just don't worry about it.
Nonetheless, as the years have grown, so have the doubts about his and others' work in this case. All the points of evidence led at trial and before fall apart upon scrutiny, at the latest. I'll spare the full explanation here (but feel free to look around). To put it simply, besides the much-touted verdict against this "Lockerbie bomber," there is a second legal ruling, by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, that the first one "may have been a miscarriage of justice," and should be heard again. But it wasn't. Roadblocks, as always. This has been happening consistently for nearly a decade, something protecting the verdict, and the largely FBI case behind it. And it's not the verifiable truth, this much is clear.
I don't want anyone to be too mean to Mr. Marquise, but he is, as one friend has put it, "crooked as a corkscrew." Or as I've put it, like a broken Speak-and-Spell, programmed in 1991 with no updates since, full of pre-programmed statements, and no good at answering real questions. He should be asked questions. Here's some good material to consider.
Marquise on Giaka
Richard Marquise is quite keen on the 2001 conviction of Megrahi by three Scottish judges sitting at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands. But he's rather selective in accepting the Zeist judges' decisions. They found Megrahi's necessary accomplice, Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, flat-out not guilty (skipping a softer option of "not proven"). And the reason for that was the almost total lack of evidence against him, aside for the abundant claims of the prosecution's witness, a Libyan defector turned CIA-FBI asset, Abdul Majid Giaka.
Mr. Marquise is annoyed by the frequent description of Giaka as a "star witness," but he was presented with some fanfare at trial, was hyped heavily by Vincent Cannistraro in the 1990s when we were choking Libya over this, and contributed roughly half of the claims in the 1991 indictments. Giaka and his wife also consumed five chapters of Marquise's 2006 book.
The judges were presented with this witness, star or no, and also grudgingly allowed to see the full text of CIA cables about his debriefings in 1988-1991. What was redacted was where the CIA itself complained that he was unreliable, making things up but nothing good enough, offering little and asking for money and all sorts of help. Someone deliberately chose to conceal all these doubts from the court and, essentially, present a sham witness as a credible one.
This did not go unnoticed by the defense. William Taylor QC ripped into Giaka epically, calling him a liar many, many times, and colorfully. The prosecution didn't even bother to object. Consider these mainstream news article about the episode:
The judges found the witness as a whole unacceptable. They did credit his basic knowledge of Megrahi's comings and goings, and of the Libyan intelligence operation at Malta's airport. But everything directly relating to the case was dismissed. Explosives in the desk, bomb studies, the suitcase, and a number of peripheral claims verging into the ridiculous. Having lost the most important witness, nearly everyone expected the charges to be dismissed. But only Fhimah was so lucky, as the judges managed to accept the flimsy case left against Megrahi.
In mid-1991, after being in touch with the CIA for nearly three years, Giaka was finally taken on board by the FBI as a witness. Desperate to escape Libya's clutches, and faced with a tough choice, he enabled this by telling them amazing information he never told the CIA at the time it supposedly happened. He'd forgotten to mention seeing the two accused arrive on Malta carrying a style of suitcase just like the one that held the bomb. He only remembered in 1991 that he'd been asked by Megrahi to look into how to bomb a "British plane." And so on. The improved memory had him selected, and given a vaunted new life in America under witness protection, quite likely with a planned $2 million DoJ prize. Bare months later, the indictments came into effect and Libya started to suffer.
The judges found his sudden 1991 remembrance unacceptable, and one of the main reasons they tossed his whole celebrated roster of detailed inside clues.
But Mr. Marquise just sees it differently, and feels Giaka got a bum deal. He was telling the truth as best he could all along, he recently said, to much wicked rebuttal. Matt Berkley, who lost his brother Alistair in the bombing, took issue there with a 2009 article where Marquise put forth as fact several of Giaka's claims, contrasted with the Zeist judges' own feeling on each. (double-check these if you like here)
Marquise: "a senior Libyan official asked a Libyan Arab Airline (LAA) employee about the feasibility of getting a “bag” onto an American or British flight leaving Malta."The former SCOTBOM chief investigator does provide in his book some explanation for his different view. For example, on page 216 (readable on-line) he affirms that Giaka didn't make things up in 1991, he just had a better memory then and the investigators themselves had "an advantage ... a wealth of information about Lockerbie and were able to ask questions not available to the CIA handlers who spoke with him in [1988 and] 1989."
Judges: "we are quite unable to accept this story"....
Marquise: "Evidence was elicited that the Station manager of LAA in Malta kept explosives in his desk..."
Judges: "we are unable to place any reliance on this account"
Marquise: "He was described as carrying a “brown suitcase” similar to that which blew up Pan Am Flight 103..."
Judges: "We are ... quite unable to accept the veracity of this belated account"
For one thing, they may have been willing to stoop lower than the CIA (???) and tell him, from their wealth, that Megrahi used a brown hard-shell Samsonite, triggering a desperate memory of seeing him with one. They might have asked him, if he'd like to come to America, did Megrahi ever show any previous interest in bombing airplanes? A memory emerges of the 1986 report.
This wishful thinking is clearly nothing but self-interest. Why on Earth should someone not be questioned about something like this?
Belated Note: See comments below for at least one other very worthy question about the evidence of Tony Gauci, Giaka's "co-star" at trial.