San Francisco Chronicle writer Debra J. Saunders, who bills herself as the paper's “token conservative,” is also a self-appointed (??) expert on the “Lockerbie bomber” Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and the feckless handling of his captivity by non-Americans. It’s not normally my style to pick on token people, but I've opted to take note of her lush layers of spinsulation - a fluffy confection of filtered snippets of reality, melted with industrial-scale hot air, and with some added color, blown up with political spin. It's a familiar commodity here, long used to rile up the public on the right issues and in the right way.
Somehow, in her pontifications on British buckling to Libya's "commercial warfare," this stuff has become jammed thick and tight between her words and the actual truth at every available point. It sure doesn’t take much to be a "journalist" using her formula.
Below is the main attraction, a two-part post collaborative with a rare guest writer. The first and scholarly half by Michael Follon deals with Saunders' wrong assertions about al-Megrahi's release. This is from an e-mail sent to her and then to me, responding to a re-printing of her article “Libya, Lockerbie, and commercial warfare.” The second part is by myself, from a comment I posted on the same article.
8 January 2011
Debra J. Saunders,
San Francisco Chronicle.
Dear Ms Saunders,
I am writing concerning an article "Pan Am bomber freed by 'commercial warfare'" written by you which appeared in the 'Gaston gazette' on Jan 03, 2011.
'On Aug. 20, 2009, Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill authorized the "compassionate" release of al-Megrahi on the grounds that prostrate cancer left al-Megrahi with less than three months to live.'FACT: The decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds was made in accordance with Section 3 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993.
FACT: The Medical Report did not specify that al-Megrahi had less than three months to live. The three month period was an estimate NOT a definitive statement as to life expectancy.
From the Medical Report -
'It is very difficult to be precise on matters of prognosis for any disease and Mr Megrahi's condition is no different.'
'the report found that "Scottish officials ignored their own prostrate cancer experts, none of whom would agree to a three-month prognosis."'FACT: From the Medical Report:
'Consensus on prognosis, therefore, has now moved to the lower end of expectations from 10 months ago. Reviewing the total picture, the concluding specialist view is that, in the absence of a good response to treatment, survival could be in the order of 'months' and, no longer 'many months'. Whether or not prognosis is more or less than 3 months, no specialist "would be willing to say"...The clinical assessment, therefore, is that a 3 month prognosis is now a reasonable estimate for this patient.'
'There was talk of releasing al-Megrahi a year before he was diagnosed with cancer.'FACT: In June 2007, it became public knowledge that a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (the 'deal in the desert') was being negotiated between the UK and Libyan governments (at the instigation of the then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair MP). Megrahi was the only Libyan prisoner being held in gaol anywhere in the UK. The SNP government in Scotland sought to have Megrahi specifically excluded from any such agreement. The UK government advised that this was not possible.
'The Menendez report also found that the British Labour government played a role in MacAskill's decision.'FACT: The very suggestion that the British government had a role in the decision shows a total lack of understanding of the political, legal and jurisdictional realities as well as the relationship between the current Scottish government and the UK government.
FACT: At the end of the trial at Camp Zeist in Holland the prosecution conceded that it had been unable to prove how the bomb, which destroyed Pan Am 103, got into the baggage system and onto the aircraft.
- Lockerbie - Information relating to decision on Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi
- Medical Report on Megrahi
- Lockerbie decision
- Lockerbie release - Parliamentary Statement
- Justice Committee Official Report - Inquiry into Decision on Abdelbaset al-Megrahi
- Meeting with Senate Delegation - 16 September 2010
- Protecting patient confidentiality
- Herald Scotland - 'Megrahi's gold'
- Herald Scotland - 'History of controversial Megrahi release'
- Blogpost: THE LOCKERBIE CASE - 'Scottish Government statement following Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing'
- THE LOCKERBIE DISASTER
- THE LOCKERBIE TRIAL AND APPEAL
- LOCKERBIE PRE-TRIAL REVIEW NOTES
- Blogpost: THE LOCKERBIE DIVIDE - 'Some Background on Karol Sikora'
First, on the above, the clearly flawed prognosis and questionable decision to release al-Megrahi, in my opinion, do seem a bit shady. I'm glad he got to go home, since I'm certain he's innocent. But the people deciding were not, ostensibly, motivated by mercy for an innocent man, nor likely by mercy at all. So I'd consider the motive category open, perhaps populated by more than one, and trade is likely in there somewhere. Of course, they killed his second appeal along the way, so maybe "trade considerations" aren't to blame for this – at least, not solely or even primarily. [To see my take on what happened there, see my chronology of August 2009, "MacAskill's two-track railroad"]
Then, my comment at Saunders' article, emphasizing Megrahi's likely innocence, here slightly edited and with links.
Posted by: CausticLogic 2:47 PM on January 7, 2011
I've noticed that Debra J. Saunders has been writing a lot about the "Lockerbie bombrer" and shady deals by non-Americans who live outside our little Island of virtue here, in that cold, weak-willed, terrorism-coddling world.
First, there's no doubt in reviewing convictions, appeals (heard and not), etc. that Megrahi is legally guilty and all this protest is legally justified.
But legal and physical reality are sometimes different. Take this case - a review of the best evidence suggests - strongly, coherently - that Megrahi was either framed or just wrongly convicted on accident.
So long as the distinction doesn't matter, carry on. Otherwwise, I reccommend to millions of Americans to take their own look at the facts:
- Tony Gauci's "identification" of Megrahi (different hair, face, height, build, age, and buying the clothes on a day when Megrahi wasn't on Malta at all)
- Abdul Majid Giaka's contributions to the indictments and his acceptance at trial ("liar")
- Edwin Bollier's role (google Bollier + "catch-letter")
- The many millions of $$ paid out to Gauci, another Gauci, Giaka, and perhaps Bollier (but declined by Vassallo)
- The list of important witnesses against Megrahi (precisely Gauci, Giaka, and Bollier)
- Bogomira's printout (Prod. 1060) with no verification (why no verification?)
- John Wyatt's forensics tests
- the records of political "scientists" Thomas Hayes, Allen Feraday, and Tom Thurman
- the London origin clues, Iran and the PFLP-GC as actual perps never caught.
Just in case reality, which evidence gives us a glimpse of, matters anywhere near as much as a cherished legal technicality. See about a hundred credible people that have made the right stand, with reality and against miscarried justice: "No one seriously doubts the Libyan's guilt?"