Old Wounds That Need Re-Opened

27 November 2010 

Father Patrick Keegans, longtime critic of the official story and core member of the Justice for Megrahi campaign, recently sent out an open letter urging the families of American victims of Pan Am 103 to take seriously the genuine questions and back a public inquiry into Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's conviction. This effort was reported in an article from the Scotland Herald, which also featured a rebuff from one of the Americn family members appealed to.
"But Ted Reina, whose daughter Jocelyn was a flight attendant on the aeroplane, said an inquiry would reopen old wounds."
Mr. Reina's dismissals shows little apparent grasp of what Father Keegans was asking for (see the text of his open letter here). As I read it, in my own words, the essence is something like "even though you can't see it over there for whatever reason, we can over here and we're not insane or stupid. Rational, involved, honest, hurting people genuinely feel deprived of truth and justice in the name of the far-fallen. Why can no one among the American families take that seriously even for a moment and offer us any support?"

The journalist, Helen McArdle, said "reopen old wounds," taking some punch out of the following points to Mr. Reina and those of like mind. But there are clearly times when it's wise to do just that. Say your surgeon leaves half his sandwich inside your abdomen when he sews you up following a major surgery. No wonder you've been feeling so ill, and if you want to live, guess what? It's time to re-open old wounds.

Good example or not, Father Keegans and many others seriously feel that something is deeply wrong with this case. It's not denial or fevered imagination telling them this, but the facts themselves. The facts presented and those hidden, all considered in detail, and weighed critically, show entirely too much grounds for doubt to ethically continue supporting the investigation and verdict without reservation.  No matter how unlikely or absurd it might seem to those with the wounds they consider closed, many are feeling constantly torn open and unhealed. And they're the better-informed.

Next I turn to the quotes directly from Mr. Reina:
“I see no good from opening an inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing except for the lawyers lining their pockets."
You're not letting yourself see very far. The real murderers of your daughter may well have never been brought to justice, because of this farce blocking the way. Professor Robert Black recently called the unreasonable conviction a "logjam," being used as an "excuse" by the UK (and US) governments to prevent another look, which they both greatly fear [source]. It's true. Not a single piece of relevant evidence against Megrahi can be shown to have all of these traits that real honest evidence usually has:
- physically plausible
- logically consistent with a remotely sane plan
- properly examined and documented
- obtained without entangling million-dollar dreams
- obtained from people who aren't chronic liars (like Bollier and Giaka)
- read properly without undue dismissal of key factors like dates of key events
- no contrary facts that were simply brushed aside with no good reason

Americans may be okay with all of this, but they shouldn't be so judgmental and dismissive against those who do in fact have a problem with a sham "investigation" calling itself justice and good metaphorical surgery. The murder of 270 human beings was supposed to be investigated right, but it wasn't. It was supposed to be tried reasonably, but wasn't. These errors were supposed to be resolved in the appeals process, but weren't. That leaves us with it still needing to be fixed one way or another. It might be gotten right for the history books in a few more decades, or possibly, with some courage and vision, tenacity and luck and grace, even in news articles during our own lifetimes.

American family members of PA103 victims: when will you have the guts to shake off the trance and entertain even the 1% possibility that the verdict could be inherently wrong? Even 1% is worth considering carefully, don't you think? If anyone can manage some open-mindedness and re-examination, on a trial basis at  least, you will need to stay as calm and zen as possible. If you're not capable of a fearless and level-headed re-examination, then there's no point going through the charade. Continue on as you were.
"I wonder how many of those who call for an inquiry actually saw the trial or watched it on closed circuit TV as my wife and I did."
At least seven familiy member that close or closer to the precedings, and several others like a primary UN observer at the trial (Dr. Hans Köchler) and the Scots law professor (Black) who helped arrange the trial, have firmly questioned or dismissed the old verdict. Non-US, non-entranced family members include Jean Berkley, Matt Berkley, Martin Cadman, Pamela Dix, Marina DeLarracoechea, John Mosey, and Jim Swire. Dr. Swire at least was physically there at Camp Zeist and followed intently. He even read between the lines enough to see, then and there ahead of the growing crowd, that the two Libyans were innocent, that the PFLP-GC for Iran had bombed the flight, from Heathrow. He was shocked enough at the time of the verdict he physically fainted.

Mr. Reina: why were you, and why do you remain, so accepting?

Myself, I was completely unaware at the time, but since then have read a lot of the transcripts - very carefully in spots - plus several books, official reports, online articles, and documentary videos. And I have been talking this all out with others at the JREF skeptics forum, where rationalism wins and no one at all can support the official story in the needed depth. I and my fellow conversants totally agree with Dr. Swire and, while having lost no one myelf, I feel deeply wrapped up in the issue and driven like he is to struggle after the real truth, against all opposition and prejudice. Therefore I've made myself one of the very few Americans of any class to put my name on the signatory list for Justice for Megrahi, along with Dr. Swire, Father Keegans, Professor Black, and many others.

So, Mr. Reina and those who have so far shared his views, can you please re-consider whether this isn't maybe a time for some courage, to show a little support for those who suffer with wounds that were never closed at all? You've got comrades still left, as Father Keegans recently put it, "back on 21st December 1988, in the darkness." How long will you turn your backs on them, repeating the old fingers-in-ears mantras about why we have found the truth?

The "normal" (American) relatives and their political patrons and mainstream media are all quite sure of that, it seems. But isn't the damn unanimity of of it just a little unnerving, people? Don't you ever get a twinge of "hey, why don't we have even one Jim Swire over here?" They have several in a much smaller pool, but in the land of the free, home of the brave, and home of the left-behind loved-ones of 189 dead Americans, there's nada for questions. Since when did we Americans get so conformist in our thinking?  
"For the families who have had years of anguish I see only more pain."
Even though your wounds are closed up and the likelihood of a re-opening seems slim so far? I'm confused now. But I don't disagree. I imagine there are two different major types of pain prevailing on each side of the Atlantic. There's the dull distant itching of amputated truth on this side, and a more acute anguish on the other, relentlessly prolonged through lack of medical attention. Is there no possibility of changing places or sharing a little of another's pain? You could reach out to explain to Dr. Swire and the rest of those needing closure, in detail, why it's really all solved, and help end their delusion? Or better yet, to realize they know as much as or more about it than you and their questions are valid, and open your heart and mind to the admittedly scary possibility they're right.

Why Bollier Suspected the Libyans

The MEBO Files, part 2
July 4 2010
last updates/edits July 10

In the early 1990s, long before he came out of the closet as a Libya-Megrahi supporter with reams of accusations against Scots-American investigators, Swiss merchant Edwin Bollier sneakily told these same authorities that he actually believed the Libyans were behind the bombing. Now, he had said just that in early 1989 with his semi-famous “catch-letter,” but that was only because a shadowy CIA man had told him to do it.

But his continuing charade, as he explains his helpful phase, went beyond the terms behind that note and raises questions. For example, was it the same agent’s nefarious demands each time he spoke up, or was there a whole team steering the poor man towards implicating Libya? Or was he, as the rest of this article presumes, more self-motivated than all that?

In a January 14 1991 interview with the FBI and Swiss authorities, Bollier said he had written that letter two years earlier to get the investigators “away from the wrong track and to bring them onto the Libyan track." It goes beyond giving the mystery man what he demanded; Bollier says (up to 2000 anyway) that on Jan 5 he himself felt that Libya was the right track to investigate.

Something Was Going On
It was a gut-feeling Swiss suspicion, or “Swisspicion” as it will now be called, that prompted a phone call to his acquaintance Abdelbaset al Megrahi, somewhere around Christmas (see below). He was driven partly by an odd “impression that something was going on,” he recalled at trial a decade later, and cited two powerful clues while apparently meaning to cite only one. “[W]hen this mystery man came along -- or when I found that the timer had been programmed, we ourselves,” meaning he and Mebo co-founder Erwin Meister, “believed that the Libyans were involved.”

The reason he started giving was the mystery man and his alleged visit on the morning of December 30, which was of course after the call in question. The man, who perhaps didn’t exist, had started by telling Edwin that he’d been selling timers to Tripoli for years, and had just been there to sell more right as Lockerbie happened. Chilled to the bone to realize the CIA was monitoring arms sales to Libya, Bollier was then told, as he recalled at trial, “and I can tell you that the Libyans are connected with this attack." All he needed Edwin to do was write a fabricated letter to the CIA telling them what they were already sure of. And this he finds convincing?

No, he had cut himself off, remembering it was the timer re-set, not the CIA man’s statement, that had sparked up his swisspicion. This requires some explaining.

The Olympic Clue
Around December 1, Bollier says (unconfirmed as far as I know) the Libyans told Mebo they wanted 40 more MST-13 units like the ones thay had bought 20 of in 1985. He didn’t have any handy and couldn’t make any more soon enough, so he bought 40 Olympus timers (sometimes translated as “watches” during the trial) on the open market. As he was getting this story on record with the FBI in January ’91, Bollier said “prior to my departure, I did a final check on all timers and reset them to zero."

As he flew out December 18, Bollier brought these fully blank timers in his carry-on luggage (his checked luggage being its own story). He tried to sell them to the Libyans, marked up too much. They wanted MST-13s, these were too expensive, they would keep them anyway, and Abdelbaset al Megrahi would hand over the money, he was told (this allegation will also be addressed separately). He left the timers with alleged Libyan bigwig Ezzadin Hinshiri the 19th, but then had Megrahi flake out on the money meeting. Not having been paid, Bollier says he collected the timer/watches back from Hinshiri in the morning, and wound up bringing back home in failure on December 20, the day before Lockerbie.

Within a few days after this trip, Bollier told investigators, he had looked at one of these fully blank units handled by Hinshiri and found its screen showed a peculiar setting: “Wednesday,” being December 21, and a time - 7:30 pm - exactly 27 minutes after the detonation on board PA103. This could only come from Hinshiri’s hands, connected to his brain, and his brain to the bombing plot, Bollier apparently deduced.

At trial in June 2000 (Day 26) Edwin still swore by this find; “That is true. Yes. That the timer was programmed; that is true.” He says he removed the battery and told his partner, Mr. Meister about the unusual setting but did not show it to him. Meister, however, had already recalled at trial (Day 22) Bollier actually showing him the timer with its setting, which he agreed said Wednesday and 7:30. As the Zeist judges summarized in their Opinion of the Court, paragraph [46]:
We do not accept the evidence of either of these two witnesses about this alleged discovery. It was established, and Mr Meister was forced to accept, that the Olympus timer was incapable of showing a date. Moreover, the evidence of both witnesses about what they claimed to have seen and the circumstances in which they claimed to have made the discovery was so inconsistent that we are wholly unable to accept any of it.
Update July 7: Bollier alerts me the Zeist judges were wrong to dismiss this clue. He sent me a low resolution picture (inset, cleaned up a bit) of the model in question, TM2. There is no date display as in 21/12, but that not what He and Meister said. It was the day name Wednesday. Bollier cites: "LC Display Window ; Display selector switsch; Mode selector; Select button; Set button; Hours>>Minutes (: Seconds); ON Time, Off Time; AM > PM; At the bottom left hand corner > Day of the week = ( SUN > MON > TUE >WED >THU >FRI > SAT" Indeed. The one shown seems to say "SUN" (highlighted). So, Bollier stands by his claim of what he saw, that someone other than him entered this day/time - and not necessarily a Libyan (see comments below)
This was therefore not accepted as evidence against the Libyan Hinshiri, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying on Mebo’s part. Now if they had accepted it as consistent, it might seem a fair reason for Bollier to suspect Libyan involvement, ring them up suspiciously, and then compliantly write a letter on his imaginary friend’s advice. (The judges do also dismiss the “mystery man” as fiction of the “spy thriller” sort). Just what that clue would mean, if accepted, is a little less promising. All I can see in it is one of four possibilities:

A) It was coincidence based on the visit’s timing; Hinshiri wanted to see if it could be set for, say, two days from now – which just happened to be the day that PA103 blew up. (the time mismatch would support this)

B) Hinshiri, a PA103 plotter, was practicing to see if this Olympus timer/watch would work for the bombing two days away, but then let it go as too expensive for the destruction of an American airliner. And just forgot to re-set it to zero.

C) Less directly, he was just typing the bombing time into unrelated electronics at random to make sure he has it memorized (he didn't - 27 minutes off), or something to that effect. And again, he just forgets to re-set it to zero before he hands it back, knowing the bombing will shock the world two days later.

D) As Bollier now says (see comments below) "someone else" aside from a Libyan, might have put that data there for him to see.

I’m unsure if he was trying to imply option B) or C) above, but Bollier would apparently have the Judges believe that Hinshiri had just handed him a major clue to sell to the Americans. I rather prefer the version where he counterfeited this bill of exchange from thin air.

Something Had Happened
Set ablaze by his timer discovery, Bollier says, he placed unusual phone calls (unverified) to both Ezzadin Hinshiri and the man he knew as Abdelbaset, perhaps one week after the Lockerbie bombing. He emphasizes at trial that he was calling to complain about not being paid – for the timers he had brought back with him. But he had complex reasons for these calls, he told Swiss authorities, including:
“I had a feeling that there was a connection between Libya and the crash of Pan Am 103. I wanted to hear them. Experience has shown me that people can no longer be reached when something has happened. This was certainly the case after the American air strike on Libya.”
Or, conversely, after a hypothetical Libyan air strike against America. He couldn’t recall the exact date, but it was “between the 21st -- or between Christmas and New Year,” but prior to the mystery man, so December 29 at the latest. On the call to Megrahi, he said “I telephoned, and he wasn't there. Somebody took the telephone off the hook. But I cannot confirm 100 percent whether it was Mr. Abdelbaset's voice. Anyway, I was told that he was not there.” Well, if people can’t be reached after something has happened, it would seem that something had happened - some unknown event involving timers and December 21 and, apparently, both Hinshiri and Megrahi.

Appeal Court Dismissal of the Heathrow Theory

February 10, 2010
last update Jan 14 2011

The judges considering Abdelbaset al Megrahi's appeal of conviction in February 2002 [PDF] had to give the London introduction theory a listen - they had the Bedford bags, the 38-minute clue, and the recently revealed, long-suppressed break-in evidence to consider. They did some thinking about this it seems. I invite comments to criticize this ridiculous word salad.

[244] In assessing whether the additional evidence supported the hypothesis that the break-in at T3-2A provided the route by which one of the Bedford suitcases was infiltrated, the Advocate depute made a number of points. First, he submitted that an individual carrying a suitcase and, presumably, lock-breaking equipment would be rather conspicuous in Terminal 3 between 2200 and 0030 hours, since normally no members of the public would be around at that time. Secondly, setting aside speculation, for a suitcase brought airside through the forced door at T3-2A to be one of the Bedford suitcases, it required to be infiltrated into the baggage handling system at the interline shed. For that purpose it would require an interline tag. That was particularly so if it was accepted, as the Advocate depute [prosecution] submitted it should be, that the Bedford suitcases were probably placed in the container by Mr Kamboj. He would not have placed them in the container if they had not been bearing appropriate interline tags.

Okay, someone would have to have put Pan Am tags on them. That's not much of a de-bunk. They got some tags, however people do that.

... despite the fact that the trial court’s preference of Mr Bedford over Mr Kamboj (on the question of whether Mr Kamboj told Mr Bedford that he had placed the suitcases in the container) did not constitute evidence that Mr Kamboj had in fact so placed them, the natural inference was that the cases were put into the container by Mr Kamboj, whose job it was to x-ray PanAm interline baggage, rather than by some interloper. Why would an intruder through T3-2A choose to introduce a case containing an explosive device at the interline shed? He had, on the hypothesis under examination, broken in to airside at a point adjacent to the very area (the baggage build-up area) where most bags were handled. Yet he had spurned the opportunity of introducing the case into the baggage handling system there, andhad opted for the interline route which introduced the additional risk of detection when the interline baggage was x-rayed.

What if they had an inside helper, like one of the guys who ran the x-ray machines, and would vouch for it being okay? Or, as I've wondered, Bedford's story isn't directly true, but only reflects someone else's witnessing of these bags at, of all places, the wide-open and unsecured baggage build-up area?

Moreover, although readily discoverable evidence of the break-in had been left behind in the form of the damaged padlock, the hypothesis involved that the case was not introduced into the interline shed until some fifteen hours later. Unless the risk of opening the case airside to set the timer was to be undertaken, the timer would have had to be set before the break-in. No method of arranging for the bag to pass through the system to the interline shed had been identified. 
If I had  hidden two brown Samsonites, say, behind an air vent cover at midnight, I'd come back at the end of the day in Pan Am costume, retrieve the bags, and either
1) pay an Indian guy at Interline some money to let me place them on the floor and make him agree to vouch for them but not to move them, or
2) set them in myself at build-up, where the container sat completely unattended for almost 45 minutes.
I'd also have tags, since that would help thm not stand out otherwise.
The intruder would have required either to wait for fifteen hours himself, or to have the assistance of an accomplice. No place of concealment for the intruder or the suitcase had been identified. There was nothing in the evidence to explain why a suitcase, brought through T3-2A between 2205 and 0030 hours, would not be placed in the interline shed in time for either of the two earlier PanAm flights. On the hypothesis under examination, the suitcase had been tagged for flight PA103, although there were two earlier flights that would have involved a shorter period of concealment of a suitcase containing an armed explosive device. Yet there was no evidence that there was anything about flight PA103 or its passengers that singled it out as the target. Moreover, if an accomplice with airport identification, genuine or false, was involved, there was no need to break in to airside. All that was required was to smuggle the components of the explosive device through an access point, such as T3-2A, where persons with appropriate identification were not searched. The effect of all these points, the Advocate depute submitted, was to show that the hypothesis that the break-in at T3-2A was the means of infiltrating one of the Bedford suitcases was so weak and flawed that the additional evidence could not pass the Cameron test.
[245] The third stage at which the Advocate depute suggested the significance of the additional evidence might be tested was in the context of all the other evidence led at the trial, not merely the other evidence bearing on events at Heathrow airport. The critical issue at the trial was not a simple competition between infiltration at Heathrow and infiltration at Luqa. It was in any event wrong to say, as Mr Taylor did, that the evidence of Heathrow infiltration was no worse than the evidence of Luqa infiltration.
To better Mr. Taylor, it's physically demonstrated to a high degree (see next paragraph), while even the Luqa theorists' best hypotheses are barely verbalized. They just don't bother. They musta snuck it, since a piece of paper shows a thing kinda like maybe the thing Giaka saw, or whatever... As they explain in this ridiculous paragraph: :
There was evidence, which the trial court had accepted, that an unaccompanied and unaccounted for bag had travelled from Malta on flight KM180, had transferred at Frankfurt to flight PA103A, and had thence been loaded on flight PA103. There was evidence associating the bag containing the explosive device with Malta. On the other hand, in respect of Heathrow there was evidence that a door from landside to airside was forced, and evidence that a suitcase matching the description of the primary suitcase was placed in container AVE 4041. There was no evidence that the explosive device was in that suitcase.
Uh... How can one piece of paper, that went missing for a month and says only B8849, station 206, 1307, show all the stuff these judges say it shows? Because that AWOL printout is the only evidence for such a bag at three airports. As for London, we have a credible visual ID of a bag of the right type (two actually) placed in that precise corner of AVE4041 soon after blown up by a bomb (or bombs) in just that kind of case. As for evidence that case(s) had a bomb(s) inside, see the previous sentence, dummy.
[246] There were nine components in the evidence before the trial court, the Advocate depute submitted, which were unaffected by the additional evidence. They were:
(1) The clothing in the primary suitcase was purchased by a Libyan, and the timer was supplied to the Libyan secret service. The trial court concluded that the plot was promoted by the Libyan secret service.
(2) The clothes were purchased in Malta, showing that a Libyan had gone to Malta in furtherance of the plot.
(3) The records of Frankfurt airport were shown to be capable of allowing the origin of baggage transferred there to be tracked.
(4) Those records demonstrated the carriage of an unaccompanied bag from Malta on flight KM180. The evidence of Mr Borg did not rule out the possibility of that happening. It was to be remembered that the Crown case was that the security measures at Luqa had been deliberately circumvented by a criminal act.
And no proof save that lonely printout?

(5) The clothing in the primary suitcase suggested that it had been sent from Malta.
(6) The promoters of the plot, the Libyan secret service, had a presence at Luqa airport.
(7) The appellant, a member of the JSO and the purchaser of the clothing, flew into Malta the evening before the carriage of the unaccompanied bag on flight KM180. He did so using a false identity obtained for him by that organisation.
(8) The appellant was again present at Luqa airport the following morning, during some of the time when flight KM180 was loading. He then left on the first available flight for the safety of Tripoli, and never again used the false identity.
(9) Malta, because of its proximity, provided an airport to and from which Libyans could easily travel.
None of those nine features of the evidence was affected by the additional evidence. They all supported the Crown case. No feature of the additional evidence was consistent with the promotion of the plot by the Libyan secret service.

And that last about sums it up. "The new evidence challenges our preconceptions. It casts doubt on the accused's guilt. That's crazy. Whaddyou think this is, an appeal? Come back with something rational that blames Gadhafi or if possible Megrahi, and then we'll talk..."

Page 51 and its Environs

Dr. Hayes and "a Very Good Question" 
10 October 2010
last update 24 Oct

Yet another problem with the science of Lockerbie, discussed for years but never resolved, is page 51 of the examination notes from Dr. Thomas Hayes and the anomalies surrounding it. Hayes was the chief explosives experts for RARDE (Royal Armaments Research and Development Establishment), making the often lone examination of all explosives-related evidence of the Lockerbie bombing. If Hayes vouches for it, it was in the blast. Even PK/689.

Page 51 deals with his supposed 12 May 1989 examination of the pivotal tiimer fragment, PT/35(b). But the page appears to have been inserted after the fact. As Paul Foot wrote in his seminal 2000 booklet Lockerbie: Flight From Justice:
The fragment lay in a store with quantities of other material at least until May 1989 when it was examined by Dr Thomas Hayes at RARDE. Dr Hayes saw nothing specially relevant in the fragment, and apparently did nothing about it. His own note about his examination originally appeared on page 51 of his notes. The following pages were originally numbered 51-55, but the numbers were overwritten later to 52-56. Dr Hayes was never able to explain this re-numbering. [p 11]
At trial Richard Keen, for the accused, questioned Hayes about this:
Q Now, when was that change in pagination carried out, Dr. Hayes?
A I'm sorry, I have no idea.
Q Why was it carried out, Dr. Hayes?
A I agree, it's a very good question. I'm sure there is a quite innocent explanation, which I have no idea of.
To be fair, he did then offer by way of explanation that he must have misnumbered page 52 as 51, and so on for a few pages, but corrected it later. It's one possibility, and apparently a coincidence that it occurred right after this most pivotal discovery. Perhaps the contents of page 51 were so humdrum he forgot the whole thing, turned a new leaf and numbered it 51.

There is some controversy over the policy at RARDE, where bound examination books had once been the standard. But as of Hayes' work on this case, they were using loose-leaf books. Perhaps not coincidentally, this would make it easier (possible) to insert pages out-of-order.

Dr. Hayes’ examination notes were discussed in some depth at trial in 2000. The main point in questioning was to establish the unusual sequence of numbers and dates, with little or no reference to the page contents.

Page 48 is not discussed, but presumably dealt with work from 15 March, 1989, since the following page (49) starts there. What was examined isn’t clear, but the next item below it is PI/991, a damaged suitcase, exam dated exactly two months later, 15 May, suggesting a break just that long. Using a number format, it jumps from 15/3 to 15/5, so perhaps he 5 is just a goof?

Well, the page ends there and the next page is dated 12 May. An actual two-month break just after the apparent one? (Nothing is given of page 50's contents, and we don't know what his notebook shows for the first thing(s) he looked at after vacation.) Following the incongruous page 50, the pivotal page 51 continues 12 May’s work. Below is what seems to be scan of it from court productions, posted by Edwin Bollier at one of his Mebocom pages (new window for fuller view).

That day, the page says, a scrap of shirt collar called PI/995 is examined and yields a treasure trove of pinpoint clues. Their numbering is strange – all but one are listed under PT/35 (PT/35(a), etc...) and originally, the lump of radio manual is lettered (d), with marginal note of its (later?) designation, PT/2, far out of sequence. The control sample it was compared to, the intact manual, was first dubbed PT/1, even though PT is a prefix otherwise used for evidence found within other crime evidence, like PT/35. (PT/1 was later re-named to PR/1111 for unclear reasons, but PT/2 became official).

Note the paper bits of PT/2 are all carefully sketched, perhaps a clue to the name change (opening the way for PT/2(a), etc.) But the "green circuit board" PT/35(b) is not sketched, despite being by far the largest and most dramatic bit of electronics found anywhere in their work. "Photo" in the margin is checked, and as Rolfe reminds me in the comments, the photo of all items displayed (see below) was apparently taken just before this exam, and it shows the fragment still bunched up. But the date of that photo hasn't been proven, and the fragment was not followed up on in any other way until at least mid-September. A strange lack of recognition indeed, if this thing really was logged back on 12 May, and considering deputy Feraday's intense interest in all electronics.

Following 51 come the scored-out pages 51 52, 52 53, 53 54, 54 55, and 55 56, all dealing with the prolific 15 May. Finally the renumbering stops and a date change occurs to 16 May from pages 57 on. Thus the sequence, using "final" page numbers, runs thus:
49: 15 March / 15 May
50: 12 May
51: 12 May
52: 15 May ...

Dr. Hayes for his part explained that he had originally left the bottom half of page 49 blank, took a two month hiatus, and resumed on fresh pages 50 and 51 on 12 May, a Friday as it turns out. On Monday the 15th, he filled in the following pages with the wrong numbers, and somewhere along the way, also filled in the bottom of page 49 with some of that day's work. He didn't recall all of this, but presumed that must be what happened, as strange and unusual as that is. Because clearly he'd never destroy old pages to make room for backdated new ones.

Looked at more suspiciously, and if we take page 49 as the original start of 15 May’s work after exactly two months off, at least two things jump out. First, it would seem there was no examination 12 May as related on pages 50 and 51. Second, the 15th resumes only on page 52 (originally 51). Obviously implied is a missing original page 50 of 15 May.

The new page 51, however, didn't replace its predecessor, just re-numbered it. And the raising of pages 51-55 can’t avoid an effect on later pages – the new 56 bumps up against the old (or at least non-scored) page 57. Since the new 56 was once 55, that suggests further a missing original page 56, dealing with either 15 or 16 May.

So the appearance here is that two pages were inserted – 50 and 51 as it stands - and two pages were removed – the originals of 50 and 56. Was their replacement just to give space for the supposed work of 12 May, or did they also contain something best deleted?
See the comments below for further discussion.

Richard Marquise to Speak at Syracuse University

10 November 2010

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.

Belated Claims
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."
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"
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."

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.

Abdusamad on Malta

"The Biggest Lie" They Could Find
8 November 2010
last edits 14 Nov

It's no longer a secret that "Lockerbie bomber" Abdelbaset Ali al Megrahi was on the island nation of Malta on 20 and 21 December, 1988. But his passing through Luqa airport there on the morning of the bombing of Pan Am 103 was a secret at the time, since he was traveling under a false identity created by the Libyan government - Ahmed Khlaifa Abdusamad. (see passport below).

We can thus presume that Megrahi was on a secret mission of some sort, on behalf of Tripoli, and likely something illegal. No one can be certain just what his mission was, and there's been to this day no satisfactory explanation from the Libyan side.

It's not sure just who first learned that Abdusamad and Megrahi were the same person, nor when this happened. But if it was found out early enough, and by the CIA, it could well have been the deciding factor to drag the Libyan into the spotlight of suspicion, his hated nation training behind.

In their 2001 Opinion of the Court accompanying Megrahi's conviction, the Zeist judges explain the false identity's origin and early use:
On 15 June 1987 the first accused was issued with a passport with an expiry date of 14 June 1991 by the Libyan passport authority at the request of the ESO who supplied the details to be included. The name on the passport was Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad. Such a passport was known as a coded passport.  There was no evidence as to why this passport was issued to him. It was used by the first accused on a visit to Nigeria in August 1987, returning to Tripoli via Zurich and Malta, travelling at least between Zurich and Tripoli on the same flights as Nassr Ashur who was also travelling on a coded passport. It was also used during 1987 for visits to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Cyprus.  [paragraph 87]
The earlier indictments of Megrahi and Fhimah, issued November 1991, gave different uses of the identity. On 22 August, 1987, "Abdusamad" flew from Zurich to Malta, stayed at the Holiday Inn there, and returned to Tripoli the next day. This trip was made "along with the said Nassr Ashur, who was then using a passport in the false name and using the false identity of Nassr Ahmed Salem." [points (e) (m)]

And then after a long break, he went out as Abdusamad only once in 1988 - on 20 December, when he flew with Fhimah from Tripoli to Malta, and again the next morning for the return trip, this time with Mohammed Abouagela Masud. [point (p)] The Zesit judges agreed that "the only use of this passport in 1988 was for an overnight visit to Malta on 20/21 December, and it was never used again." [para 87]

A supposedly key piece of evidence for Megrahi's guilt occurred only some days after the 14 November public announcement of the indictments. In a November 1991 interview with Pierre Salinger (I can't pin down the date), Megrahi denied being Abdusamad or being on Malta the day of the bombing. This was presented, for one, in the recent STV documentary Lockerbie Bomber: Sent Home To Die [23:18]
"You accuse me falsely. ... On 20 December and 21, at that time I wasn't there. Believe me, I was here in Tripoli with my family."
The editors had FBI lead investigator Richard Marquise follow the clip by saying "I realize that being a liar doesn't make you a terrorist murderer. But I think, again, it adds credibility to all the other factors that we led up to at that point." And Marquise is quick to offer up this lie, as one of his two or three points, nearly every chance he gets. This repeat play is itself a sign that he knows "all the other factors" need all the help they can get. At least once, he's called this "the biggest lie" the Libyan had told.
Megrahi denied being a member of the Libyan Intelligence Service; he did not know Abdusamad; and he did not know MEBO. All were proven at trial to be lies. However, his biggest lie was his claim that on December 20-21 he had not been in Malta: "I was here in Tripoli with my family believe me." Why should anyone believe any of his claims today after his lies in 1991? [source]
This early repudiation has been a verbal rope used by Marquise and many others, time and again over the years, to tie Megrahi to the bombing. In retrospect, he should probably have come clean as much as possible, but bare days after the shocking announcement, and revelation of his secret presence, that didn't happen. It seems cover-up won, at least for a moment. Perhaps it was reflexive on Megrahi's part, not grasping the reality of the charges against him, or a firm order from callous superiors despite Megrahi's own pleas. Either way, it was an unfortunate move on the part of the accused to say these words to a watching world, and one of the few things he actually did that contributed to his conviction.

The Zeist judges, considering in 2000 and 2001, referred to the 1991 interview in lieu of live testimony, which both accused declined to offer (they felt it was wiser to let the lawyers do the talking henceforth). Referring to the crucial visit, the judges mused:
It is possible to infer that this visit under a false name ... was a visit connected with the planting of the [explosive] device. Had there been any innocent explanation for this visit, obviously this inference could not be drawn. The only explanation that appeared in the evidence was contained in his interview with Mr Salinger, when he denied visiting Malta at that time and denied using the name Abdusamad or having had a passport in that name. Again, we do not accept his denial. [paragraph 88]
He was of course no longer denying his presence at the time, his representatives having surrendered to the Crown the passport with his photo and stamped 20 December, Malta. But Megrahi's, his counsel's, and his government's continued silence over this mission, presumably not bombing-related, allowed this inference that it was bombing-related to be possible (or does simple imagination do that? See comments below).

Besides pretending to genius status for rejecting a moot denial made to someone else a decade ago, the judges managed to bolster it with the other weak points to collectively sort-of-justify saying "guilty." An act of imagination, and otherwise it was down to the evidence that he actually was planning a bombing at the time.

And it's this class of clues, as Mr. Marquise likely knows, that needs some help. He called on the same imaginative reading of "Abdusamad" as support for the evidentiary case. But in reality there's much to suggest the oppposite - the hard evidence may have been planted and bribed into being in order to support the fabricated case against that suspicious-looking Megrahi and his false passport.

Thurman's Photo Quest

1 November 2010
last edits 9 Nov

The post PT/35(b) move claims covered the 2008 interviews revealed in Tegenlight: Lockerbie Revisited, which showed a contradiction in whether the fragment of circuit board, PT/35(b) was taken to the United States. FBI SCOTBOM chief Richard Marquise and identifying FBI special agent James “Tom” Thurman both told interviewer Gideon Levy that the fragment was brought to Washington and examined there. Conversely, British authorities and Marquise (after a short-lived change of memory) refuted the claim, insisting it stayed in the UK.

It appears now that it did indeed cross the pond, without proper documentation. While this unacknowledged movement is unusual, the ultimate relevance of it remains unclear. Some have speculated the thing might have been "tampered with" or altered while in America. But I for one suspect the worst that was done with PT/35(b) was when it was planted in the evidence chain the previous year.

What we have in Thurman's case, with or without the actual piece of evidence, was the crucial identification. And one point that's consistent throughout is that he held a photo only when he found the match. The question at hand is how long it took him to find it and to determine its meaning vis-a-vis who carried out the bombing.

Tom Gets a Green Light
On the 10th of January 1990 new Senior Investigating Officer Stuart Henderson (who replaced John Orr) presented at a meeting of investigators in the UK. He did not openly mention the circuit board fragment PT/35(b), an amazing find UK investigators had been puzzling over for four months. But off to the side, he told FBI chief investigator Richard Marquise about it, Marquise says in his 2006 book SCOTBOM. [1 p58] He expressed interest in helping find a match, but Henderson insisted on going it alone. “This decision cost us six months,” writes Marquise.

It was at a later conference in Virginia, on 11 June, when Marquise relates how the Scots finally made their puzzlement known to all, having blindly checked 55 companies to no avail. Given the opening, special Agent Thurman “approached Henderson and asked if he could take photographs of PT-35 and attempt to identify it. Henderson, who believed the Scots had done all they could do, agreed.” [1, p60] This passage is crucial to move claims, and rather ambiguous. It seems to read that Thurman, in Arlington, was allowed to snap a pic of evidence SIO Henderson had there with him. Then perhaps it means he took some of the prints they had brought.

Either way, he walked away with a picture or pictures of this crucial and curious evidence, a half-inch square, perfectly readablemammoth of implausibility. The "forensic explosives expert" didn't balk at it, just ran with it. Or crawled, as he suggests.

"Months, Literally" or 2-4 Days?
A 1991 Miami Herald article, based on interview with Thurman (left, from a 1991 video), reported that he had “meticulously compared the picture of the fragment to hundreds of other devices,” a lengthy-sounding process. [2] Affirming this, Thurman himself told the adoring program Air Crash Investigation in 2008:
“I spent, uh, months, literally, looking through all about the files of the FBI on other examinations that we had, uh, conducted over many many many years. […] After a period I just ran out of leads. And at that point I said, okay now we need to go outside the physical FBI laboratory.” [3]
And it was there, in a CIA facility, that he found the long-sought answer.

But Marquise said “what Thurman did yielded fruit within two days. […] Henderson and his colleagues were on an airplane headed back to Scotland” when Thurman set to work. They had barely settled back in at home before his efforts “would turn Henderson around quicker than he ever imagined,” putting him back stateside, along with electronics fiend Allen Feraday, within 24 hours of the discovery. [1 p60]

Further evidence against Thurman’s "months" claim is his own well-memorized “day that I made the identification,” recalling it as one would a wedding anniversary: June 15 1990. He had four days tops to get this grueling season of cross-checking out of the way after the 11 June conference (perhaps a multi-day event) where Marquise has him first learning of the thing.

Who He Ran To
What Thurman did, Marquise sums up, is know where to look. He took the photo to a CIA explosives and timers expert code-named John Scott Orkin (real name unknown - he testified under this name at Camp Zeist). [1 p60] Thurman mentions him only as an unnamed "contact" in the 2008 ACI interview. [3] From the vast photo files on hand, "Orkin" helped locate an obvious fit with the blow-up of PT/35(b). If you were Tom Thurman and knew about John Orkin, would you waste even one afternoon scrounging in the FBI's files, or go right to him?

Nothing I've seen specifies this match-up was achieved in only one visit on a single day, but that makes the most sense, as does starting right there. That would give us no more than "hours, literally" to describe the search duration. And either way we're at the point of days at most.

The matching circuit board was found in a timer confiscated in the African nation Togo in 1986. This device, assembled in a small plastic case, was physically available for Thurman to look at. He was given permission to take it apart and examine the main board inside. Upon confirming again the obvious similarities, “within a few minutes, literally, I started getting cold chills,” he told Air Crash Investigation. [3] He's also described as declaring "I have you now!" [1 p60] and other variations. In a 2010 interview, he said "I could not believe it under any circumstances, and it was there." [4]

That he got these chills only after getting access to the CIA’s special stores is noteworthy, and the Agency is right to claim much of the credit, as they have in places. An AFIO newsletter from just after the Zeist verdict purred that “the CIA’s most important contribution in helping secure the conviction” was “when a CIA engineer was able to identify the timer […] shifting the focus of the probe from a Palestinian terrorist group to Libya.” [5] (This report's oblique reference to the CIA's less brilliant offering, Giaka, is also worth a read.)

As the overall story tells it, this was clearly a collaborative CIA-FBI effort, via Thurman and "Orkin", that neither side can claim sole credit for. And without this coming together, we're to infer, the naming of this planted piece of Libyan black magic would be delayed or impossible for both Scottish and American investigators. The power of cooperation, between intelligence and law enforcement, and across the Atlantic - a running theme of the 103 investigation - is nicely illustrated here.

The Slow Link to Mebo
Besides the Togo unit, the CIA knew about a 1988 French seizure of two MST-13s found in Senegal, in possession of Libyan operatives. (If I'm not mistaken, one of the Senegal timers held in Paris had gone missing by this time) But Thurman at the CIA facility makes it seem like this was a mystery device he had to analyze from scratch.

A smaller circuit board within the Togo timer's box featured four partially scratched-out characters. Thurman explained to ABC News in 1991, just after the indictments were issued, how he and others labored over this, contacting numerous manufacturers trying to identify “M580” for some time. [6] They finally accepted that it said MEBO, the name of a known Swiss firm supplying timers to rogue governments, including Libya. Thurman told ABC they had “some inkling that’s what it was from the beginning, but we didn’t want to say okay, it’s Mebo’s exclusive, anything else, until we were absolutely certain." [6] Then they decided it was definitely Mebo’s exclusive for Libya only and only usable by Libyans and unable to fall into anyone else’s hands. Except the CIA and their French counterparts, obviously.

And we're to believe the CIA hadn't already managed to trace these African timers to their Swiss makers? A company suspected of their own CIA links, and documented as trying to implicate the Libyans to them since January 1989? Thurman was left to puzzle over those four characters himself? Sorry, but I don't believe that. Mr. "Orkin" could surely have told him these African timers were made by Mebo and supplied by Libya. This "M580" search is quite likely a made-up story, full of needless rigor and theatrics, and again suggestions of long expanses of time.

On top of the fictional months-long search at FBI before turning to the CIA, this little final touch of reported caution belies the focus and speed beneath the whole June transaction. Nine month of dead-end searches in Scotland were trumped within four days by Thurman's knowledge of just the man to talk to. It also goes against the hint he gave in his ABC interview, commenting upon his discovery: "I knew at that point what it meant. Because, if you will, I'm an investigator as well as a forensic examiner. I knew where that would go." [6] The whole country had just learned that it went right to Tripoli.

More to the point, he's a political scientist rather than a scientific one. His main skill here is knowing people, CIA types. One can be excused for wondering if Special Agent Thurman knew where it would go even before Orkin told him, or before he got his hands on a that picture to bring over.
[1] Marquise, Richard. SCOTBOM: Evidence and the Lockerbie Investigation, Algora Publishing. Sept. 1, 2006. 268 pages. Mostly page 60. Google books link.
[2] Roser, Ann. “'Nuts and Bolts’ Work Pays Off in Lockerbie Probe.” The Miami Herald. Published November 30, 1991. Link.
[3] Air Crash Investigation: Lockerbie. Season 6, ep one, aired 2008. Hosted video page. Skip to part four, halfway in.

[4] Sent Home To Die. STV documentary, aired August 2010. Youtube link.
[5] Association of Former Intelligence Officers. Weekly Intelligence Notes, February 2001. http://www.afio.com/sections/wins/2001/2001-06.html
[6] The Maltese Double Cross - Lockerbie. Film, Hemar Enterprises, 1994, 156 minutes. Written, produced, and directed by Allan Francovich. Hosted video page. (1hr, 6 min in) 

1980s Boom Boxes and Ice Cubes

The Evolution of the Khreesat Bomb, part two: 1985-88
May 31 2010

Audition, Performance, Recycling
Part one covered the early years of Marwan Khreesat’s bomb-making career in the early 1970s. After reportedly leaving Jibril’s PFLP-GC group in 1973, Khreesat remained quiet for twelve years. Then in 1985 he was reactivated by Jibril, and summoned to Syria to show his old altimeter-based skills with current technology.

Khreesat bought five Toshiba BomBeat 453 units, which have their own little story, but for our purposes they were housing only, and good sized. It’s the timers and altimeters – only four of each - that mattered to Khreesat, and he selected these himself. The pricey detonators, tens of thousands of dollars apiece, were presumably provided. It was enough to re-create his fear-inducing 1970s innovation; he described the end results to FBI special agent Edward Marshman in November 1989:
“Of the five, two were almost ready to go; they only needed to have the pins pulled to arm them. One had only explosives inside with no altimeter or timer. The other two needed two wires to be connected. After Khreesat built these devices, they were shown to Ahmed Jibril, who approved them. Khreesat then disassembled the devices, and the components were taken back to the PFLP-GC office.”
Just when Khreesat started working for Jordanian intelligence is not clear, but when he was summoned again to Neuss in mid 1988, Khreesat came with instructions from his GID bosses in Amman. The people who in turn met with friends at the CIA, MI6, etc. told him to only build fake bombs while working undercover within the PFLP-GC. But things didn’t work out so smoothly – by Khreesat’s story, the terrorists gave him something more concrete than these instructions.

By Abu Elias he was given a sense that he’d be caught making fake bombs, and from cell leader Hafez Dalkamouni he was given his old materials from 1985. The timers and altimeters were the same, and the five detonators were probably also the same. He was also given one of his five BomBeat453s to re-wire, so one IED was of completely recycled materials.

Working between October 22 and 25, Khreesat thus made four Ialtimeter bombs total in Neuss: this 453 unit, two hidden in Ultrasound radios, and one inside a Sanyo computer monitor. All three of these housings were bought in two second-hand shops in Dusseldorf on October 18, says Khreesat. [p16] The rigged 453 was seized on October 26 in the Autumn Leaves raid, when Khreesat and Dalkamouni were arrested. The other three IEDs were only found months later in 1989. Only the “fifth device,” which Khreesat barely touched (he says) is unaccounted for. First we’ll look at the specs of Khrresat’s four bombs, element-by-element, and then briefly at what can be gleaned about the other one.

In addition to the BomBeat radio, monitor, Ultrasound tuners, timers, and altimeters brought to Khreesat on October 22, my portion of Marshman’s report makes no mention of “detonators.” It does however say “Dalkamoni also brought in four blasting caps that were electrical. [p17] I’m not explosives expert enough to know if that means detonators. All I know is they’re the expensive part of the bomb, and the part Khreesat seems less interested in.

These were provided to Khreesat in neuss. He mentions in his report
Four altimeters which were made in Japan. [p 17]
Marshman’s report specified “the altimeters are the same ones he had in 1985,” and Khreesat “does not know how, when, or by whom these altimeters were smuggled into Germany.” [p 32] He does however note that Dalkamouni was the last stop, handling all Khreesat’s supply needs.

I’ve seen nothing to differentiate the altimeters one from another, and at the risk of error will consider them to all work the same. All I have at the moment to show how they were set is from David Leppard’s On the Trail of Terror. The altimeter from the 453 was tested by the BKA’s Dr. Rainer Gobel in a vacuum chamber. “The circuit would close at a pressure between 940 and 950 milibars - equivalent to an altitude of about 2,400 feet.” [p 11-12] It’s tentative, and Leppard is sometimes wrong, but I can work with this for now.

Ice-Cube Timers
The timers are of interest here, and somewhat more complex. The units themselves were basic – a simple electrical capacitor encased in clear plastic resin, its appearance led to the nickname “ice cube timer”. The timer’s built size determines its resistance to electrical charge and thus the time until it “discharges.” Precise details of that process aside, the time delay is unchangeable but reliable.

These Khreesat picked up himself, as he told agent Marshman. “The timers were made by the Fatah group in Damascus. He first saw these timers at the PFLP-GC camp in Syria and four of them were good, so he took them to use.” [p32] Like the altimeters, they came back to him iin Germany but he doesn’t know how. Where it gets complex is when Khreesat explains how the times vary one unit to the next as far as time delay:

One of the timers was a half-hour timer, one was for three-quarters of an hour, and one was for one hour. Khreesat does not recall what time the fourth timer was set for. None of the timers were for more than one hour. […] Of the four timers he used in the IEDs in Germany, he is not sure of the exact times each one was set for, or which device which timer was put into.
It’s possible to tackle the question of “which device which timer was put into,” but first we must address another issue. Just from the seized BomBeat 453’s timer we have a range, not a set time. Again, David Leppard cites Dr. Gobel’s findings: "The time delay of the electronic component fluctuates over a wide margin since the structure of the circuit is relatively simple. Time delays between 35 and 45 minutes were measured." [p 11-12]

This variation of a supposedly set-in-stone delay might be explained by Khreesat, again via Marshman:
"Khreesat advised that the times are not exact and the time changes depending upon how long the timers have been tested after last being used. They usually reset to zero after a day. He used to test the timers three times in a row before installing the timer in a device. He found that in each test the time decreased. When this happened, he put the timers aside, and the next day when he tested them, they would run for the same time as when he had first started them."
Time delay then varies, with a starting baseline (long time) and shortening with repeated tests carried out too soon. Unless someone was testing it in the field just before use, the long time is what would elapse before detonation.

Timer/Housing Reconciliation
Therefore if Göbel found a range35-45 min for one timer, and Khreesat’s roster can be trusted, that’s the 45 minute unit. That was in the seized BomBeat, leaving for the other three a 30 minute one, a 60 minute, and another he can’t remember, but one hour at most.

The Sanyo monitor was seized intact and just as available for study, but its results are less clear. Dr. Gobel’s notes were read back in part at the Camp Zeist trial, and he include this on the Sanyo's ice cube: “Calculated on the basis of the values of the built-in components, the delay time is put at between 30 and 35 minutes.” [Zeist transcripts p 8769] That’s not a range of test results, but a range of estimates based on, it seems, looking at the circuit. If Khreesat is right, this would most likely be the 30 minute unit.

The two Ultrasound radios were not read as clearly – one defied a top BK explosives expert (Sonntag) and blew him to bits, while nearly killing an assistant. Perhaps some clues from that chain of events could tell us if this is the 60 minute timer or the mystery one. The other Ultrasound was purposefully destroyed, for safety and psychological reasons. But one of the two Ultrasounds (it’s unclear which) did yield enough of its timer for Gobel to note:
“[T]he accompanying capacitor is of the same value as in 1 [BomBeat] and 2 [monitor], but has however, jumped out of circuit. […] it can be assumed from the remains of the circuit that the time delay was in the same region as 1 and 2." [Leppard p 144]

To fit with the above, that’s a possible 30 or 45 minute timer, which are both represented by Gobel’s units 1 and 2. This out-of-circuit timer would be the one Khreesat didn’t remember, likely a duplicate of either the 30 or 45. The other Ultrasound then contained the 60 minute timer, if this should all tie up so neatly (don’t count on it).

The Fifth Device
All of the ahe above is fairly academic for understanding the Lockerbie bombing. As noted, all four of these units were intercepted by police, three of them without fatalities. The fifth mystery bomb is the only suspect here for that atrocity, and this bomb was apparently built by Abu Elias rather than by Khrresat. But his work is said to have informed Abu Elias.

Khreesat does give some details of this unit, which help very little in understanding it. He mentions an altimeter, partly visible under the cassette bay, no mention of timer, but parts of the circuit board and transformer were removed, and some modifications concealed under little cardboard boxes. Khreesat was unable to study it closer, as Dalkamouni stood over him the whole time he soldered two simple wires. This bomb has never been tested in a laboratory setting to determine its settings.

If used on Flight 103, however, the results can be observed from what happened on that December night. If we presume the same altimeter setting, which I did earlier but now seems unjustified, it would start the ice cube charging at about 2400 feet altitude. This low level was reached about two minutes after leaving the ground, according to the AAIB report’s altitude profile (see Thirty-Eight Minutes).

The bomb detonated 36 minutes after that point, so if we also presume a Khreesat-style ice cube timer, and presuming this hadn’t been tested before deployment, 36 or perhaps 35 minutes would be its baseline time. It doesn’t even have to fit Khreesat’s four from the Fatah factory, in their neat quarter-hour time units. Perhaps there was no timer, just an altimeter set to 31,000 feet. But whatever exactly was going on inside it, it is apparently modeled after Khreesat’s 1980s work, and might then be expected to behave about like one of his bombs. And of course whatever blew up PA103 behaved in just that way.

The Political Scientists of Lockerbie: An Overview

3 November 2010

Science Well Done, Answers that Make Sense
Following the bombing and fall of Pan Am Flight 103, and the sudden deaths of 270 people, quite a a number of extremely important questions needed answered. Many of these were best addressed by the rigors of physical science - gathering and analyzing the debris of the crash to form as clear a picture as possible of just what happened to that aircraft  The aircraft debris and break-up analysis was tasked to Mick M. Charles et al. at the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). I see no reason to dispute their findings or methods. (AAIB report) It showed where the initial failure occurred, petaled-out panels indicating a powerful explosion in the vicinity of cargo hold station 14L.

Container AVE4041PA, the luggage "pallet" that occupied station 14L, also showed signs of extreme blast damage and was ruled by the AAIB to have held the primary (bomb) suitcase: The container was studied in particular by Thomas Claiden at AAIB. There are some minor points of strangeness with his findings (and they're named AI/100 and AG/145), but on balance his findings seem sound. It established the approximate blast center, most likely in a case laid flat, with one case between it and the floor, at the outboard end of the container.

Likewise, the Scottish police and their allies should by default be trusted in their painstaking collection of thousands of blast-related pieces of evidence from across hundreds of square miles. And after the in-gathering, their own book-keeping should be presumed to show signs of tampering if such even conceivably happened at their end. For example, Detective Douglas Roxburgh, who headed the store house at Dexstar, would have noted debris being removed without a proper cataloging. In fact, he did report this to his superiors at the time.

At trial in 2000 he didn't seem to recall this removal being a big deal or anything nefarious. Nonetheless, there are certainly ways, from the inside or the outside, to alter the police records to accommodate evidence slipped into certain key spots. This may sound like an absurd consideration to many, but on further reading one can see why it's worth keeping in mind.

A Critical Three 
The most relevant material to determining who was responsible for the bombing also happens to be the evidence with a cloud of questions surrounding them. The accepted evidence from closest to the bomb, and three particular scientists at the heart of it - two with the UK military's RARDE agency, one a special agent with the FBI, all known for returning politically useful but scientifically questionable decisions. Hence the "political" scientists of Lockerbie.

The Royal Armaments Research and Development Establishment (RARDE), a branch of the UK military, had an explosives forensics lab (sometimes called EC3) that had helped in previous terrorism cases involving the IRA. The blast science side of the Lockerbie inquiry was assigned to EC3. Journalist David Leppard, a huge RARDE fan, wrote in early 1991:
"The Lockerbie case team was led by two men who were considered the best in Britain. They were Dr Thomas Hayes, the senior forensic scientist, and Allan Feraday, his deputy. The remarkable work which the two men were to undertake over the next two years was to provide the cornerstone of the entire investigation.” [p74]
Just who among Hayes and Feraday did what neither could recall - they both signed off on the final report of 1990, but remembered nothing specific at trial in 2000.

Part 1: Thomas Hayes
Dr. Hayes was the head investigator at EC3 during most of the time debris was being studied there. He had previously been involved in the Maguire Seven case of 1976, signing off for science that helped put away seven people for supplying the explosives used in a string of IRA bombings. On review in 1990, the basic science was found to be consciously skewed to secure the convictions, which were all overturned. It was apparently this review that led Hayes to vacate EC3's top spot, leaving his deputy Feraday to take his place.

Part 2: Allen Feraday
Mr. Allen Feraday (no PhD) headed the lab from late 1989 to RARDE's elimination in 1995. He had not a single prior case that would fall apart - he had four. A mass-murdering IRA bomb mastermind, a supplier of Syrian terrorists, a Libyan planning to supply someone for bombs, and three IRA terrorists who deserved to be shot by the SAS because they could have blown a bomb. All these opinions were later questioned or tossed out by courts. For decades Feraday served the Crown loyally and robotically, with an eye to political objectives of his superiors rather than to science and truth. In one case it seems an innocent man was targeted in lieu of a known IRA bombmaker whose prints all over the device were ignored. Feraday helping terrorists get away?

All the above cases hinged on Ferraday's supposedly vast understanding of electronics and circuitry, and he showed the same interests in the Lockerbie case. He made a project of identifying the radio model used, and months later, identifying the fragment of Libyan timer that turned up. This he personally escorted on its mid-1990 journey to the United States (see below). In these and other ways unseen he played a key role, in ambiguous collaboration with Dr. Hayes, laying the "cornerstones" of an investigation that most impartial observers recognize as horribly crooked and geared towards securing a rather ludicrous conviction.

Part 3: "Tom" Thurman 
Among the American experts brought in was FBI special agent James "Tom" Thurman, described by mainstream reports as "one of the bureau's best explosives technicians." Others have said he has no formal explosives training, but rather a degree in, literally, political science. The reality may be in the middle - I'm still sorting that out.

Agent Thurman was ordered to Scotland, along with other folks from the FBI and FAA, on the night of the crash. Starting soon after, he helped locate and assess the blast-damaged clues. There's reason to guess he might have been the guy that set off Roxburgh's alarm bells. Otherwise, I see no great reason to question his findings here. Again, it's closer to the blast center that the clues get weird.

The Scottish police handled most of the rest, and Hayes and Feraday zoomed in on the analysis of the bomb-damaged luggage. Thurman was however called on to make a second appearance in mid-1990. In June he helped identify the crucial timer fragment PT/35(b), in a remarkably short and focused quest. Upon making the link with top-secret CIA help, Thurman then had a look at the actual fragment, brought over by EC3 chief scientist Allen Feraday. Both eminent minds agreed this was a piece of a Mebo MST-13 timer, sold only to Libya in a tiny batch of 20.  Convenient.

The fragment's genuine blast origin was doubted by neither of these two supposed explosives experts, nor by Dr. Hayes. Not all scientists outside their little loop agrees, however. Consider Dr. John Wyatt, involved in tearing down Feraday's work before, who later found in a dramatic series of twenty tests that even at a fraction of the official blast power, all surviving remains were many times smaller than PT/35(b).

As the dedicated post will explain, Thurman has been widely criticized for his lack of real knowledge and lack of credentials. That I could forgive if his science was solid. But he was later drummed out of the FBI crime lab for misleading practices, which is clearly more problematic. His other cases are high-profile - including the 1989 Libyan bombing of UTA 772, and the 1995 right-winger bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. Potentially troubling stuff, which I also haven't got sorted out enough to comment on yet.

Detective Roxburgh on Intel and Dextar

3 November 2010

Following is a key portion of the testimony of detective Douglas Roxburgh, Dumfries and Galloway Police. (Trial day 4, May 8 2000, pp 546-548) Earlier he talked of his work administering the main evidence store. Roxburgh recalled how he was tasked with establishing and running this effort, and secured the building from the Dextar company. It came into use on 23 December, and remained under his general control thereafter. Under questioning by Richard Keen for the defense, Roxburgh was brought to a few very interesting points. (Highlighted)
Q Mr. Roxburgh, shortly after you took up your duties at Lockerbie, did you become aware of the presence of a group known as the Joint Intelligence Group?
A At Lockerbie?
Q At Lockerbie.
A I was aware that they operated there, yes.
Q And you were aware that this comprised members of the British Intelligence Services and of certain foreign intelligence services?
A I was never involved directly in it, so I'm afraid I can't answer that.
Q I was going to ask, Mr. Roxburgh, were you ever kept informed of the activities of the Joint Intelligence Group at Lockerbie?
A No.
Q During the course of your duties at Lockerbie, did you have to attend management meetings with the chief constable?
A Yes, I did.
Q And do you recollect raising, at one of the earliest management meetings, your concern that agencies other than the police were dealing with property at the site of the disaster, and expressed concern that some property was being removed without being recorded in the property system at Dextar?
A Yes, I did. As far as I can recall, I did raise that on one occasion.
Q Can you now recall specific instances of property being removed without being recorded in the property system at Dextar?
A I can't recall specific -- I remember raising that at a meeting. Yes, I did. And the reason being, I believed that someone had taken off property, where there had been possible traces of explosion, from the site. Now, I can't remember who it was now, whether it was the Air Accident Investigation Branch  had been out in the field and had removed a piece of aircraft wreckage. And I was concerned that things weren't -- that that shouldn't happen; that things should be properly recorded. I think that was in the early days, when there were an urgency to determine the reason for the aircraft being destroyed. And I think that's what it was.
Q In the early days, when there was some urgency in the inquiry, property was being removed without being recorded in the property system at Dextar?
A Something -- I can't honestly recall the incident. I seem to remember it was something to do with a piece of aircraft wreckage that had been taken off for examination without going  through the police system. Now, I can't honestly remember what it was. I do remember --
Q You were sufficiently concerned to raise that at the management meeting chaired by the chief constable?
A Yes. My philosophy at Dextar was that everything would be recorded meticulously.
Q You said at one stage that the police always accompanied debris to the Dextar warehouse?
A As far as I am aware, yes.
Q Well, how does that square with your recollection that, for example, the public would occasionally bring property to the Dextar warehouse?
A Well, they obviously weren't accompanied by police officers. What has happened, the members of the public would find a piece of aircraft around Lockerbie...
It gets tedious from there.