The Birth of Airborne Death

The Evolution of the Khreesat Bomb, part one: 1970-73
May 30 2010

Marwan Abd Rezak Mufti Khreesat has a long and unusual career as a bomb-maker spanning nearly two decades. He was employed by the radical babykillers Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command (PFLP-GC) in two distinct phases with a long pause between – the early 1970s and mid-late 1980s, culminating with the “Autumn Leaves” operation a few weeks before the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

His formula, the Khreesat magic, was to wire a barometric switch to a plastic explosive IED hidden inside consumer electronics. The result was altimeter bomb, triggered by falling air pressure, revolutionizing airline terrorism. It avoided a problem with timers on much-delayed flights – this would not blow until airborne, maximizing the chance of mass fatalities.

Emerson and Duffy reported in a 1990 book that “according to Israeli intelligence files, it is almost certain that Jibril [the PFLP-GC], in 1970, was responsible for the very first plane bombing carried out with a barometer-triggered explosive,” and the bombs were built by Khreesat. [1] Two flights from Europe to Israel were bombed the same day (February 21) with radio-based IEDs. These first two were gotten onto the plane by being sent as Air Mail to Israel – so the carriers, not the bombers, chose the flights that would be hit. [1] One of these killed no one, and the other left none alive.

An Austrian airliner (Australian per Emerson and Duffy) from Frankfurt to Vienna and then Tel Aviv, Israel, detonated at 10,000 feet. All 38 aboard survived, following an emergency landing at Frankfurt. [1] But the same day, Swiss Air Flight 330 “blew up 15 min after leaving Zurich for Tel Aviv,” Emerson and Duffy wrote, at an altitude of 14,000 feet. [1] The pilots tried to re-land, but thick smoke and then power failure caused them to crash in the woods at Würenlingen. All 47 people on board perished. [2]

A German-language appendix to a report (sent to me by Edwin Bollier) is quite informative. It disagrees with the above specifics – the airport is about 1,400 feet above mean sea level, and the approximate trigger altitude is shown as 3,500 feet MSL, with the detonation coming perhaps one minute later, at 4000 feet (2610 above the airport). It was apparently not a powerful bomb, it’s almost a fluke that it worked to such deadly effect. The bulky altimeter was recovered pretty much intact (shown at left). [3]

Khreesat’s work struck again on August 16 1972, with an El Al flight from Barcelona to Tel Aviv. The altimeter bomb this time was powered by 250 grams ammonium nitrate hidden in a Phillips record player. This had beengifted by a terrorist to a young British lady. This was in her luggage in the rear hold when it detonated at 14,700 feet. [4] The cabin floor was damaged, but the plane was fine and re-landed safely with some injuries but no deaths. Two men she’d met were arrested and said they given the bomb by Khreesat in Yugoslavia. [1]

Having been compromised, it makes sense that, as the Mossad says Khreesat left the PFLP-GC in 1973, perhaps just laying low as their secret weapon. [4 Leppard p. 8] However later events suggest he became an asset for Jordanian intelligence, GID, presumably during this long downtime. But no more such bombings happened from the PFLP-GC, and the threat faded over more than a decade.

In general, his first three bombs showed an inventive approach that made sure a plane was airborne before detonating. They did not however wait until the plane was way up there. The early triggering allowed for a safe return. Further, some combination of inadequate explosives and random placement in luggage yielded high failure rates. If such a bomb could wait longer to detonate, blow harder, and be placed nearer the hull, it could kill an airplane. All three problems wound up being solved, one way or another, for the next try against Pan Am 103.

And developments in air ravel after 1970 would solve another problem – low death tolls even with success. Companies like Boeing and Airbus would answer that in sevens and by 1988 and give both the US Navy and the PFLP-GC hundreds to kill at a time.
Next: Part Two
[1] Emerson, Steven and Brian Duffy “The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation” New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1990. 304 pages. pp 114-116.
[2] Wikipedia. Swiss Air 330.
[3] Beilagen Über den unfall Des Swissair-Flugzeuges Convair Convair 30 A (CV-990 A <> HB-1CD Vom 21 Februar 1970 Bei Würenlingen / AG
[4] Leppard, David.On the Trail of Terror: The Inside Story of the Lockerbie Investigation. London, Jonathan Cape . 1991. 221 pages. Page 8. 

The Lockerbie Divide

Adam Larson (Caustic Logic)
February 13 2010

For the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, the single worst loss of American civilians in a terrorist act prior to 9/11, the blame was of course brought to bear on two Libyans and their nation by extension. This assignation has no shortage of support; the entire U.S. government, even the usual dissenters, Scottish police, British scientists, the UN Security Council, and finally three Scottish judges all acted as if they believed the evidence-led case that these two without doubt organized the bombing. It’s an impressive enough roster, backed by official evidence, and, hey, didn’t the Libyans themselves admit it?

Yet serious questions have been openly verbalized and acted on across the divide, and quite widely outside fortress America. A number of the victim’s families, learned academics, involved officials, legal experts, and others (like myself, an unusual American dissenter of no particular standing) have put their reputations on the all-too-real possibility of a miscarriage of justice; the verdict does not reflect reality and would be unsafe if ever assailed - on the level - with all the facts.

The lone convicted "Lockerbie bomber” Abdelbaset al Megrahi was only into his ninth year of a life sentence in a Scottish prison when he was sent home in August 2009, in line with the established laws of Scotland, to die of his prostate cancer with his family. Anger on his early “compassionate” release was widespread within the United States, where doubt over his true guilt is proportionally narrowspread. Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter, among other strong words called Megrahi’s release "a triumph for terrorism." Kara Weipz, who lost a brother to the bomb said of the release "I think it's disgusting … why they're showing compassion to this — I hesitate to use the words 'human being' — is beyond me. He should spend the rest of his life in jail."

But across the pond attitudes are more varied, and among them, UK families leader Dr. Jim Swire said of the release “even if I was convinced that Megrahi was guilty, my Christian compassion and forgiveness would extend to wanting to see him die with his family around him in Libya … It's not a head on a platter I want, but the truth […] I am convinced Megrahi is innocent." Dr. Swire said in response to this site’s creation “all who display independent thought about this disaster are welcome in the fight to lay the fallacies of the 'official version' open to analysis, and to the public's sight.” Signed humbly “Jim, father of Flora, a victim of Lockerbie, who just wants to know who murdered her and why they were not prevented from doing so.”

I’ve yet to receive any such support from the larger pool of American relatives, many of whom, as it happens, are represented by Victims of Pan Am 103, Inc. This in turn is led by president as of 2008 Frank Duggan (and formerly by Kara Weipz). Among other things, VPA103 Inc. organizes the annual ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, and the divide looms Alpine over the selection of addresses to be given for the 21st anniversary of the bombing, and the first since Megrahi’s release. The board selected speeches based on appropriateness for “a day to remember 270 innocent souls murdered in an act of state sponsored terrorism,” Duggan explained. “It is not a day for politics, a discussion of the bomber's trial and conviction or of his health,” even though he may have been an innocent victim of state-sponsored terror-framing.

This formula disallowed the remarks of Friar Pat Keegans of Lockerbie itself, an old friend of all victims’ families but, to the chagrin of some Americans, sympathetic to Dr. Swire’s position. In his submitted address, Keegans expressed support for the compassionate release of al Megrahi, and stated “I do believe that he is an innocent man and that in time the truth of that will emerge.” His remarks were to be read out, until the board read them. On the other hand, President Obama’s terrorism adviser John O. Brennan was allowed to remark on the bomber, the trial, and politics, after taking the microphone from Mr. Duggan:
"The evidence was clear. The trial was fair. The guilt of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. His conviction stands. The sentence was just. And nothing—not his unjustified release and certainly not a deplorable scene on a tarmac in Tripoli—will ever change those facts or wash the guilt from his hands or from the hands of those who assisted him in carrying out this heinous crime."
The double standard is clear, but Brennan’s statements were in line with government policy from 1991 onwards, and the general trend of American popular thought, and the leadership of Victims of Pan Am 103 Inc., whose business has always been squeezing Libya, which required widespread certainty of their true guilt.

The divide can also be seen looking at these two reactions by two very different insiders. FBI Director Robert Mueller, declared that Megrahi’s release “makes a mockery of the rule of law,” and “gives comfort to terrorists around the world who now believe that […they may] be freed by one man's exercise of "compassion."" Mueller had been, as he puts it, “Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation and indictment of Megrahi.” From this lofty perch he spoke to “the quality of the investigation,” and “the conviction by jury after the defendant is given all due process.”

Well, there was no jury and the trial was arguably quite unfair. Mueller might just be honestly mistaken; he wasn’t there for that second act. But Dr. Hans Köchler was, as the primary international observer at the Zeist trial in 2000, a provision of the compromise trial the Americans never wanted. In September 2009 he said “I welcome the release of Megrahi, because I firmly believe that he is innocent of the charges made against him. Believe me, if I thought he was guilty I would not be pleased to see him released from jail.” What he witnessed at the 2000 trial and 2002 appeal constituted “a rather spectacular case of a miscarriage of justice” that “looks more like an intelligence operation than a genuine undertaking of criminal justice.”

It’s been my (limited) experience that a closer look at the evidence and the trial universally leads to questioning of it. Flaws appear, thicker and thicker, until they stop seeming like mistakes. A vast conspiracy, of complicity at least, that started out seeming ludicrous will start to seem possible, and then all too likely. It’s also been my experience that those who enjoy the current status quo are never eager to look closely at these facts. Once was enough, they say.

It’s strange how in this same physical world, under the same sun of reason and natural laws, the facts raining and running down to one flood plain are so different from the other side’s drainage. This is the Lockerbie divide, a monumental ridge of false certainties and fears, splitting the experience and beliefs of those who care about the issue.

With so many credible voices raised in protest, one should wonder are these all, as Frank Duggan so tactfully puts it, “Libya shills?” Or is there something else, something even the USA can’t keep down forever, behind this constant disbelief? Some type of reality (like the real one maybe?) that can challenge such a mammoth official truth? And while it may seem useless Monday morning quarterbacking, do consider the flip-side of this; if the convicted bomber was in fact innocent of it, as many have concluded or at least suspect, then clearly somebody else tore down Flight 103 and got away while the Libyans were harassed as cover. And all of our harping on letting terrorists go, and boycotting Scotland, is only helping cover the long-cold but still-real path that could be followed to a truer Justice.

PFLP-GC Radio Recycling and the Khreesats' Luggage

Coincidences, or Clues of a frame-Up?
May 28 2010

Onetime suspect in the Lockerbie bombing, Jordanian double-agent Marwan Khreesat, has quite a fascinating tale, laid out in an 1989 interview with FBI special agent Edward Marshman [PDF download] and other sources. Two minor but interesting threads of the story are a curious set of five recurring Toshiba radios, and a matching set of luggage that eerily resembles another I’ve been wondering about.

The Toshibas originated when Khreesat was summoned to Damascus in 1985 and tasked with building five hidden altimeter bombs to show to PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril. Khreesat says he bought five of the same model radio-cassette player - the aptly-named BomBeat 453 – on “Smuggler’s row” in Syria. [p 10] (model at left, but Khreesat's were black) He also secured his own timers and altimeters - four of each - but the pivotal and pricey detonators were apparently provided. [p 32] Khreesat left one bomb radio absent its altimeter and timer, two ready but for loose wires needing soldered, and two fully ready to go. A pin pushed in would arm them, and a sustained climb past a certain altitude would cause the detonation. [p 10]

After Khreesat built these devices, they were shown to Ahmed Jibril, who approved them. Khreesat then disassembled the devices (aside from one shown in 1987 to Jibril’s nephew Abu Elias) “and the components were taken back to the PFLP-GC office,” the report states. [p 10] “The radios themselves were left in Khreesat's cousin's house.” Compared to America’s culture of disposable electronics, these five boom boxes were treated like golden heirlooms passing from hand to hand. Someone was later sent to retrieve them, but the cousins were allowed to keep one and “only four were picked up.” Of these, Khreesat insists he “saw one in an office in Syria being used as a regular radio.” [p 10] The one kept by Khreesat’s cousins “stayed upstairs at the house,” the report continues, until “Khreesat's wife later reclaimed this radio.” [p 10]

Now when he arrived in Neuss, West Germany in mid-October, Khreesat brought his wife with him; he explains that she wanted to visit her brother in prison there, a wish Dalkamouni granted. [p 5]. David Leppard in On the Trail of Terror (1991) reported that they brought a matching luggage set – two brown hardshell Samsonites - and inside Khreesat’s case was a black BomBeat 453. “He had brought it from Damascus,” Leppard writes. [p 6]

But by Khreesat’s story to agent Marshman, it was the wife who had brought this radio from Jordan, after reclaiming it from Syria, “to give to her brother, who was in prison” in Germany. She was reportedly “unable to give this radio to her brother, and this radio was left in Hashem Abassi's house,” where they stayed while in Neuss. “This radio was clean,” Khreesat advised, and he “assumes that it was seized by the Germans.” [p 10] There is a Yaesu FT-211RH that was seized but found to be unmodified [Zeist trial, day 72, pp 8829-31], but I’ve seen no mention of a clean 453 found.

The only sample of that familiar model the BKA are known to have seized was rigged for altitude-based killing and in the trunk (boot) of Dalkamouni’s car when he and Khreesat were arrested on October 26. This was the unit studied by BKA scientists, with Dr. Rainer Gobel measuring time delays between 35 and 45 minutes after the pressure switch.

Leppard seems to have decided that was the BomBeat that Khreesat brought in his case, but the bomb maker’s own story conflicts with that. He says it was yet another of his omnipresent 1985 radios. On October 18 or 19, on returning to his room at Abassi’s place, he found all his supplies laid out across the bed, including his original timers and altimeters, and that Toshiba. [p 17] He didn’t know how any of this got there, but it was presumably brought by Dalkamouni, who handled all his supplies. All the timers and altimeters were the same he used in 1985 [p 32] and the radio “was one of these five radios that he worked on in 1985,” [p 10] while he and his wife just happened to have another of the five there with them.

It’s not clear what this might mean, but for one thing we should wonder if it’s completely accurate. Was Khreesat more involved than he lets on, and brought his own 453 radio to modify? And if his wife really brought one, did he really just leave it in the Abassi home, or did it disappear, say, along with Abu Elias?

And then there are the suitcases – what if these were stolen and used for the bombing? Here we have the bombmaker with brown, hardshell Samsonite suitcases, forensics on the other end suggesting the 103 bomb was in such a case, and between them one credible report - John Bedford’s story - widely noted as seeing one such case quite near the blast area of fateful container 4041. However, few realize he describes two such cases, apparently a matching set. Like the Khressats' (per Leppard). This must be either a fairly steep coincidence, an error by Leppard, or a clue of something else. Khreesat doesn’t mention any missing luggage, and Leppard reports clues that the wife took her bag when she returned home on the 22nd, which of course makes sense.

But other clues point to the infiltrator being essentially framed by the PFLP-GC. Khreesat didn’t even build the bomb that may have done in 103; at least by his own telling, all four of his  own products were (eventually) taken in by the BKA. The fifth device that Abu Elias escaped with was apparently of his own making, and not a black BomBeat 453 (Khreesat thinks it was a bronze Toshiba RT-F423). [p 37] Its modifications were apparently mimicked based on earlier study (1987) of the master's work, and Dalkamouni only had Khreesat do a token finish on this unit (solder two wires) before taking it back to its maker, perhaps just passing it through the Jordanian’s workshop to get his “fingerprints” on it.

Such co-option is one way to respond to an infiltrator in their midst, if they had found that out. If so, Abu Elias might also have secured his own copy of the double-agent’s double Samsonites and put his “Khreesat bomb” in one. It would also do to snag the extra 453 unit (if there indeed was one) to put in the other case.

Even without awareness of this spooky suitcase match, I can imagine how investigators would be apoplectic seeing BomBeat 453 debris at Lockerbie after the famous Khreesat bust weeks earlier. There’s no evidence of such debris and I’m not arguing for this. However, it's an interesting thought, and  if it had been there it would be reflexively covered up with rigor. And otherwise the possibility stand that a clever PFLP-GC worked right around Khreesat, doing the bombing themselves but making it appear like the West's agent had done it.  Embarrassment upon embarrassment as cover, and no surprise, it wasn't looked into.

Just a Passing Magic Touch, and the Rest Unseen

Khreesat, Abu Elias, and the Fifth Device
April 15 2010
last edits May 24

ref throughout: Khreesat Advises, PDF

Two Men, Tangled
Setting aside the cartoon storyline of Libyan guilt and dealing with the surprisingly coherent body of discarded facts along the SCOTBOM highway, we’re left with a separate and well-known set of most-likely villains. A cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command (PFLP-GC) had formed in Germany in October 1988, convened on behalf of Iran and $10 million to avenge the U.S. shoot-down of Iran Air Flight 655 in July. The cell was not-quite-thwarted with the “Autumn Leaves” raids of October 26; one airliner altimeter bomb and an expert in getting it onto a plane had slipped away, just weeks before Flight 103 blew up in exactly the way it would if the missing bomb had been loaded at Heathrow.

This is a all a common and familiar theme here and elsewhere, but amidst this, there is some confusion over the relative roles and culpability between Jordanian ‘double agent’ bomb-maker Marwan Khreesat and elusive PFLP-GC member “Abu Elias,” supposedly the expert set to sneak the device(s) onto aircraft. The tangle cannot be sorted out with much certainty, as almost all we have is Khreesat’s word, as told in November 1989 to FBI special agent Edward Marshman. Based on his debriefings, Khreesat’s bosses with the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) “produced a composite sketch of Abu Elias,” Marshan noted, and attached a copy to his own report. Khreesat had examined this “and affirmed that the likeness was that of Abu Elias who [sic] he met in Damascus, Syria.” [p 29]

The two met again before Khreesat’s assignment with the PFLP-GC cell in Germany, when he took a separate trip to Yugoslavia. There he was met by Mobdi Goben, the PFLP-GC coordinator for that country, whom he knew as Abu Fuad. Khreesat’s GID case officer had “instructed him not to arm any explosive devices while in Yugoslavia,” and that ”he would be protected while in Yugoslavia.” He didn’t build any bombs while there, but did meet Hafez Dalkamouni, right-hand man to PFLP-GC founder Ahmed Jibril, and (allegedly) Jibril’s nephew Khaisar Haddad, whom Khreesat knew as Abu Elias.

“Khreesat did not know the function of Abu Elias in Yugoslavia,” Marshman’s report notes, “nor did he know the purpose of the meeting that was to be held in Yugoslavia.” [p 5] The meeting itself must be described in the pages not shared at trial, but apparently it was where he was assigned to the cell forming for the big revenge job. “Dalkamoni introduced Khreesat to Abu Elias,” the report states, and “said that Abu Elias was an expert in airport security," and he learned that "in 1987 Abu Elias was shown one of the BomBeat 453s that Khreesat worked on in 1985.” [p 10]

Khreesat's Bench Work
The 1985 job was, as Khreesat related it, to come to Syria and work up five altimeter bombs, similar to those he’d been making since 1970, but inside Toshiba BomBeat 453 model radios. These were for demonstration purposes only, and in different states when inspected. Two were ready to arm, one had no altimeter or timer in it, and "the other two needed two wires to be connected," Marshman recorded. [p 5] Khreesat went to great detail on the later history of each radio unit after being disassembled, but one was apparently kept intact for Jibril to show his nephew, and I'm guessing it was one of the two-wire-short ones (see below).

Strangely, Khreesat's original four altimeters and four timers were brought back to him after he arrived in Germany on October 13 1988, to rebuild as part of his new batch of four bombs. He's not as clear on the pricey detonators.  One of the five 1985 radio housings was also handed back to Khreesat; this completely recycled BomBeat 453 is the unit he and Dalkamouni were arrested with on the 26th. The other IEDs that were intercepted months later, two Ultrasound radios and a computer monitor, were bought by Khreesat and Dalkamouni at a second-hand shop on October 18, according to the report. The fifth device we’ll discuss below.

Abu Elias as Watcher
“Khreesat never saw Abu Elias in Germany,” he told Marshman, but was made well aware of his presence. For October 22 Khreesat recalled Dalkamouni leaving him at the zoo for an hour before taking him back home. Following this:
“There was a lot of traffic on the way home, and on the trip Dalkamoni mentioned that Abu Elias had arrived in Germany that day. Previously Dalkamoni had said that Abu Elias was coming to Germany. Khreesat asked Dalkamoni why Khreesat was there if Abu Elias was such an expert. Dalkamoni replied that Abu Elias was an expert in airport security and Khreesat was the expert in building the IEDs. Abu Elias was of concern to Khreesat because Khreesat felt that he could not render the IEDs inoperable as Abu Elias would probably know it.”
This last is of great importance, as Khreesat started to work on the bombs later that evening. He had presumably taken the same directions from the GID about keeping his bombs dud that he’d been given before Yugoslavia. But here he feels he’s being watched closely and must not disappoint. Thus were born five live altimeter bombs, one of which most likely tore down PA103 two months later. According to Khreesat, Abu Elias was the reason for that.

Following his arrest along with the others on October 26, Khreesat “told the Germans that they should have waited one more day to make the arrests, as Dalkamoni was on the way to meet Abu Elias when they were arrested.” [p 2] Just from the read portions, we have Khreesat repeating this anticipated meeting four times in the report (p 2, 7, 22, 23) Yet “the Germans also asked Khreesat about Abu Elias. Khreesat advised that he did not tell the Germans anything about Abu Elias,” other than he was on his way to meet him, obviously.

The Fifth Device
This trip to bring the mystery man a bomb on the 26th is curious, considering he already got hold of the one he needed – the “fifth device” - two days earlier. This isn’t known but inferred; Marshman’s report has for October 24:
“Around 2.00 p.m. Khreesat took a shower. When Khreesat was in the shower, Dalkamoni knocked on the door and said that he was leaving to go to Frankfurt. After getting out of the shower, Khreesat went back to work on the IEDs. At this time he noticed that the fifth device was no longer in the workroom. He did not pay a lot of attention to this, as he was thinking about the upcoming meeting with Abu Elias. Khreesat speculated that Dalkamoni took the fifth device with him, as only Khreesat and Dalkamoni ever went into the room. After working on the IEDs until late that evening, Khreesat went to bed.” [p 23]
It was only the following day that the agent again called his case officer and said “that he had prepared a device and given it to Abu Elias. Khreesat advised that he had assumed that the fifth device went to Abu Elias, as related above.” [p 24]

The unit used for that escaped IED was brought into the Abbasi home the 22nd in some boxes with the other devices and tools. “Also in the boxes was the fifth device, which was a Toshiba radio/cassette recorder. This device is further described infra. Khreesat does not know where the radio came from. It was not in a new box.” [p 21] He later described it, after looking at a catalog, as a bronze-colored RT-F423 model. [p 37]

The next day, October 23, “Dalkamoni came into the workroom with the fifth device. Dalkamoni told Khreesat that two wires had to be soldered together. Khreesat. […] soldered the two wires together.” He also noted for Marshman numerous strange modifications, some involving cardboard, and said that he “told Dalkamoni that the device was not very good, as the authorities could very easily discover that the radio had been altered into an IED.” The altimeter could be seen beneath the cassette relay. [p 22]

The bomb maker did not know where it came from but thought it might have been “obtained by Dalkamoni when he left Khreesat at the zoo for the hour” the day before. “Khreesat speculated that Dalkamoni may have met Abu Elias, as on the way back to Neuss from the zoo, Dalkamoni mentioned that Abu Elias was in Germany.” [p 20]

It was Built by Abu Elias
Indeed, it’s a decent guess that the interloper brought the fifth device with its (reportedly) sloppy work, and considering his earlier inspections of Khreesat's work, it's even possible he built the thing himself. Some unspecified intelligence held by Arafat’s PLO (among PFLP-GC’s competitors) said as much in 1992, as reported in Time:
The bomb that ended up on the Pan Am jet could have been assembled by Khreesat. However, last month the Palestine Liberation Organization reported that it was built by Khaisar Haddad (a.k.a. Abu Elias), who is also a member of Jibril's Popular Front. Haddad purchased the detonator, the P.L.O. said, on the Beirut black market for more than $60,000. [source]
All this helps clarify what first seemed a rather confusing statement in Marshman’s report.
Khreesat advised that he does not know what type of device was used to bring down Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988. Khreesat advised that he does not think he built the device responsible for Pan Am 103, as he only built the four devices in Germany which are described herein. [p 37]
If Abu Elias built that bomb, then indeed Khreesat only built four devices, none of them the one that apparently escaped with Abu Elias. It almost seems that Khreesat himself suspects the fifth IED - that he only finalized - to have brought down Flight 103, as so many others suspected.

The interloper was apparently to take his work back after Khreesat’s modification and slip away to do his real work. But the modification was one even Dalkamouni knew – solder two wires. Why didn’t Abu Elias just solder it up himself? Why insist on Khreesat’s token touch? If Khreesat’s tales are true, we’re faced with a clue and a mystery about the thinking of Jibril and Dalkamouni. If not, we’re faced with a compound mystery and a lot of small uncertain clues. The issue can now be considered “explored” but nowhere near “resolved.”

What's in a Name?

"Abu Elias" and his Alleged Names
April 13 2010
last edits 4/30

Abu Elias was the terrorist-world code-name of a certain high-ranking member of the PFLP-GC as of late 1988. Though a blond Christian born with blue eyes in Lebanon, he was reportedly the nephew of the dark-haired, nominally Muslim PFLP-GC leader and founder Ahmed Jibril, and working for him in Syria in violent opposition to Israel. “Abu Elias” is also suspected by many (including myself) to be the real Lockerbie bomber, but was never caught after making off with Khreesat’s fifth bomb. The fugitive was eventually forgotten by investigators as some Libyans took the blame, but as explained in another post, he wasn’t forgotten by everyone. “Abu Elias” was reported in 1992 to have the real name of Khaisar Haddad, and to have built that fifth bomb himself, and in 2009 he was mentioned again as being re-named Basel Bushnaq and living safely in Washington DC with a government job.

I’m not sure yet what to do with this knowledge, considering Basel A Bushnaq is still sitting over there and I could easily get his phone number. As I mull it over, or wait for him to step up himself, or for him to start over again with a new town and name, I thought it might be interesting to explore some available information, including the three names that have been attached to the same guy. Who - again - was an expert in airport security, sent by his uncle we hear to make sure the bomb was live and got onto a plane, just two months before success over Lockerbie.

Abu Elias:
Literally, this name means “Father of Elias,” with Abu being a form for ‘father of’ in Arabic, popular among terrorists, and Elias being the Greek rendering for the prophet Elijah. Elijah in Hebrew means “Yahweh is my God,” and Wikipedia says Elias is a common name among Middle Eastern Christians, especially in Lebanon. Elijah/Elias is of course a major, major figure in the Judaic/biblical mythology, and one with no known father. He’s said to be able to raise the dead and work other miracles, classed near Moses among the revered ghosts, and expected to return to Earth to herald Christ’s return and the apocalypse. (Or has returned, if you’re Mormon). Judging by his chosen name, no small ambitions had this one.

Khaisar Haddad:
This name was reported by Arafat's PLO in a 1992 report as the real name of Abu Elias, Lockerbie bomber. The family name ‘Haddad’ means ‘blacksmith,’ and is also the name of a Pre-Islamic Semitic storm god. Wikipedia says the name is held largely by Middle Eastern Christians, and the most common single surname in Lebanon. Sounds like a plausible real family name for a Lebanese Christian.

The given name Khaisar doesn’t appear much, or at all, in Arabic names as far as I’ve been able to find. The same spelling, however, was once a Beluchi word for the Tamarix tree. This I learned from an old book Google's got, explaining how dense growths of such trees was said to have given a name to the Khaisar Lora river in Baluchistan, modern-day Pakistan. (p 33). That's probably not it.

In English and other “Christian” languages, Khaisar of course sounds just like Kaiser, the German variant of Caesar (Russian is Czar). Please note how a person could get used to having a grandiose name that means emperor, king, etc. It also echoes (or is echoed by?) the fictional Keyser Söze, elusive super-villain of The Usual Suspects (1995).

Basel Bushnaq
The latest alleged “family” name held by this guy called “alias Abu Elias” is Bushnaq. If we're looking at the same guy, it's clearly a name of choice, not birth. Otherwise... This seems to be Arabic for “Bosnian,” as per an article on Lofti Bouchnaq, a renowned composer, oud player and singer, born 1954 in Tunis. His family name (with given variants Bushnaq, Boushnak, and Bouchnak) “in Arabic means “Bosnian,” suggesting that his family may have arrived in Tunisia from Europe as slave-soldiers from Bosnia during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule.” So also says the “Bushnak International Union” page at Myspace; “every one of us is a refugee from our dear and beloved countrey [sic] Bosnia.” Basel A. has not popped in yet. I don’t think Khaisar Haddad has any Bosnian ancestry, but it’s possible.

One other unusual feature of this name, importing the foreign “Bushn” from Bosnia, makes it among the very few (or only?) plausible Arabic family name that contains "Bush", when one or another of that family may have overseen Basel A’s assimilation as a Virginian. An honorary nod to his new benefactors? (At Myspace he lists many prominent Republicans as his favorites, but avoids this contrast by excluding the Bushes)

The suspect’s first name “Basel” (as pronounced by its revealor Christine Graham, anyway) is most obviously evocative of the city of just that name in Switzerland – an international hub in a famously neutral country. One site does offer Basel, probably pronounced different, as an “African-Muslim name popular in Sudan, meaning 'brave.'” The name name Basel does pop up with unsure origins in a Google search attached to at least one Palestinian and one Jordanian. I also hear it's fairly common in Syria, where both Abu Elias and Basel Bushnaq (judging from online commentary) have roots. In all, it probably means the same as in Sudan. It would take a brave man to blow up PA103 and then, without state help, take up residence so near the US capitol.

Most importantly for our purposes, Basel is first on Wikipedia’s list of variants on Basil, meaning royal or kingly, from the Greek Vassillos, meaning King. That original spawned names for the herb Basil, the structure Basilica, and people like Czars Vassili I, II, III. and IV of Russia. Thus Basel continues to be a decent replacement if one’s old name had been Kaiser and the new one still had to sound okay in Arabic. There it means courageous.

So ‘emperor blacksmith’ becomes terrorist mover ‘father of Elijah’, and all that carries, then he allegedly starts a new life as ‘brave Bosnian’ and/or ‘kingly vassal of the Kaisers Bush.’ That’s a heck of a lot of reading into it, but there is a compelling psycho-logic to the whole string. It goes on the "hmmmm" pile.

Parviz Taheri, Testimony

Day 57, October 7 2000 pp 7720-7759

Extended excerpts in italics. 

Prosecution witness, number 996 on the list, Parviz Taheri, gives evidence in Kurdish. 

Before he is brought in, might I remind Your Lordships that he is one of the persons  mentioned in the special defence  lodged on behalf of each accused.  I don't suggest  to Your Lordships that he should be given a warning, but I remind Your Lordships of his status.
LORD SUTHERLAND:  As he is being used as a Crown witness, he would have immunity  anyway.

Bio up to 1988:
At testimony, Mr. Taheri was 42 years old, lived in Sweden, married with a son, and drove a taxi for a living. He was born in Mahabad, Iranian Kurdistan, all relatives still there, except a brother and a sister who live in Sweden.

Before leaving Iran in 1983, he was "a teacher in the villages on the suburbs of Mahabad." "After the collapse of the Shah, Iran, there were two parties, one called Democrat of Iran and the other one Komola." He says he was suspected of fundraising and organizing for the latter, "so I went via Turkey to Germany."

He arrived on 23 December, 1983, lived in Darmstadt in Germany; then Frankfurt in the early 1985. After a year as a student, he "started working in the council of Frankfurt, then in a publishing house of Frankfurt for a few years."

Q  In 1988, did you become engaged to be married?
A  Yes.  
Q  And in 1988, where did your future wife live?
A  In Sweden, because I had moved -- they had moved to Sweden for a year.

"Because I had no constant job, I was using -- I was intending to buy a place with some friends, like a restaurant, or a shop for selling sweets or newspapers.  That was my intention. ... When I moved to Frankfurt in '85, I started thinking of setting up a business ... From '85 to '88. ... I was working from '87 to '88 in -- looking for advertisements in the newspapers.  There was -- then I started looking for auctions or agents for shops.  ... We looked at several places, but it was either because it was unaffordable or because we didn't like the place."

Q  Where did you keep the notes that we've just spoken of?
A  In a notebook which I kept with me.
Q  How many premises did you go to look at?
A  Because it has been for quite a long time since that happened, but as far as I remember -- but I can say that we viewed a place per week. ... I can say in approximately between 40 to 50 places.

Sandweg 28
Q  Did you ever see an advert for premises at Sandweg 28 in Frankfurt?
[...a headquarters of the PFLP-GC cell busted in October, building altimeter bombs like may have downed Flight 103...]
A  I can't remember precisely where that is, but we looked for several places in Frankfurt, but I can't remember all the places.  Even if I was taken to Frankfurt, I might not be able to point out the places -- all the places that we had viewed.
Q  All right.  Does that address mean anything to you now, then?
A  Which address are you referring to?
Q  Sandweg 28 in Frankfurt.
A  It doesn't ring a bell in my recollection.  The only thing that I remember in Frankfurt is my old address and some old addresses that I still keep in contact with them.  Apart from that, I can't remember any other addresses.

21 December, Frankfurt Airport
(cross examination)
Q  ... When you checked in on the 21st of December of 1988 through Pan Am employee Irene Reijheus, did you tell her that you had visited London often and did not require a visa?  It's a simple question, Mr. Taheri.  Did you tell her?
A  I can't remember if I had told anything to her, because I travel in a normal way. You just check in, and you show your documents if required. 
Q  Well, if Ms. Reijheus felt so alarmed by what she saw that she called up her colleague, Jasmine Sadiq, to help her with you ... If Ms. Sadiq, Jasmine Sadiq, who was also an employee of  Pan Am, remembered seeing you at the check-in, and indicated that you looked very nervous, can you explain why she would have that view, if this was a perfectly normal check-in by you, Mr. Taheri?
A  Yes.  People usually get upset if they have a fight, but I was very happy and pleased. I was not upset at all, and I was looking forward to arrive to London to meet my friends and my future wife.  There was no disturbance at all.

Q  Now, just two final matters.  Your intention was to work in the catering industry; is that right?
A  Yes.  In English it's called take-away. I was, yes, in such a place.
Q  Where did you get that idea, as a teacher, that you would move into catering?
A  I tried to work in my specialization, but I couldn't find any job.  I followed some courses, but it was very difficult to find the job that I wanted.  Therefore, I started thinking of finding some other job with a -- more profit.
Q  Did the German police tell you that that was another coincidence in your account? Because the individuals who were arrested in connection with the possession of arms, ammunitions, and explosives, at the address you had in your notebook, were also concerned in the catering industry, which they used as a convenient front for their activities. So here we've got another coincidence, Mr. Taheri.  Now, these may be coincidences, but there is now four of them.

A  Yes, I was asked by the German police regarding these matters and if I came across  anything to do with ammunition.  Yes, I said I had served in the Iranian army for two years, and in the first six months, I was trained in arms and ammunition in Iran.
Q  There is maybe a fifth coincidence coming along, Mr. Taheri.  You are a trained individual in weapons?
A  Yes, this is correct, because I had a training in my military service, and then after I finished my military service, I worked as a teacher in the villages in Iran.

Q  Now, I think the West German police said to you that if you were not involved in the tragedy that happened to Pan Am 103, did you, with your connections, have any idea who might be involved; is that right?  They asked you that question?
A  Yes, it is correct.
Q  And you told them to look somewhere in particular, didn't you?
A  I don't know what you are referring to.
Q  Well, let's see if I can jog your memory.  Did you direct their attention to the Iranian embassy in Helsinki?
A  No, I haven't contacted Iranian embassy at all.  I had been to Helsinki just as a tourist.
Q  We are at cross purposes.  When the German police asked you if you could help them by giving advice on who might be responsible, did you say to them that they should look at the Iranian embassy in Helsinki?
A  No, I was not asked about the Iranian embassy in Helsinki by the German police, but they only asked my point of view regarding that incident.  And I said I don't know.
Q  My Lord, that's all I ask.
MR. KEEN:  No questions.

LORD SUTHERLAND:  Advocate Depute. 
MR. TURNBULL:  I have no re-examination. Thank you, My Lords.
LORD SUTHERLAND:  Thank you.  That's all. 

Evidence Reconsidered: The Timer Fragment

last edits 13 November 2010 

The Basics and Prosecution’s Case
One of the key forensic clues that pointed to Libyan orchestration in the Lockerbie investigation was a small piece of circuit board from a specific model of timer called MST-13, a very special product of Swiss firm Mebo. The remnant was recorded as being first discovered by RARDE scientist Dr. Thomas Hayes in May 1989, within a previously logged, explosion-damaged piece of cloth. This "fragment of green circuit board" was deemed to be from within the bomb-radio that ruptured the plane (radio case and user's manual debris was also found in the same piece of cloth).

It took another year from that point for American FBI special agent James "Tom" Thuman to match it up with a CIA-held sample of a MST-13 confiscated from Libyan agents.From there the manufacturer, Mebo ltd. of Zurich Switzerland, was decided and contacted. Sure enough, they sold 20 of these units - the only 20 ever made - to Libyan intelligence JSO in the mid-1980s. Mebo founders Meister and Bollier became prime prosecution witnesses as "JSO agent" Megrahi, who had separate connections to Mebo, by the way, was decided to have held a bomb containing one of these, and sent it off to PA103 on December 21 1988.

Problems with the Evidence
The problems with this fragment are absolutely epic.

1) discovery discrepancies
First there are controversies with the discovery and labeling of damaged shirt collar PI/995, most notably "Cloth (charred) being written over with "Debris (charred)." This may or may not be a clue, but is covered in the post PI/995 Label Issues
Dr. Hayes' notebook page 51: On this apparently backdated page, Hayes tells how the various radio materials were separated out and "raised" as PT/35, "assorted materials recovered from damaged clothing PI/995," with the timer fragment raised as (b) of that set.
See: PT/35(b) Papers, Photos, details

2) Handling of evidence
Various reasons have been given for the lack of explosive residue testing carried out on the fragment. Its small size, the relative cost and effort involved, the obvious explosion involvement (it was found inside bomb damaged clothes) have all been cited. Having skimmed Alan Feraday's testimony in 2000, it seems a nexus of all three convinced him not to bother.

The fragment's movements to Germany (forensic cutting), and US (comparison to a CIA model, done by agent Thurman), were not properly documented. This seems to me a fairly minor point, but to some others, it's seemed a big deal, so perhaps it is.

(more forthcoming in this section)

3) Illogical timing for a timer
A fairly obvious tactical problem arises with the Anglo-American answer. The Libyans were thought to be hiding their role, not broadcasting it, yet the clues like the timer were found in the hills of Scotland. If a flexible timer was used to target PA103, and its schedule would be known, and they had a several hour window over the Atlantic, why not bury the evidence at sea and prevent such finds?

The delayed-flight theory so widely cited simply doesn't cut it. PA103 was off only about 15 minutes behind schedule, depending how one defines it. It was at least that far short of the coastline (probably more like 30 min, by planned flight path) at detonation. This would meaning the alleged planners had deliberately set the timer for just short of the coastline. Even if they meant to aim right at the shore or a bit past, considering further possible delays at London or anywhere, prevailing easterly winds in the area, and that the best  bomb evidence would scatter first and farthest, this would not count as an attempt at burial at sea. Setting the timer for 7:03 PM instead of, say, midnight, was an a major blunder. They either failed to realize any evidence would survive, or they wanted to get caught.


4) Risky for Libyans
The MST-13 had been encountered at least twice by the CIA, both times in Africa, and it had been classified as coming from Libyan intelligence. (another post I've been meaning to do for months). The Libyan authorities likely knew this, or at least that some of their hardware was unaccounted for. There were supposedly only 20 of these things on the planet, highly specialized and incredibly traceable back to them.  So they decided to use one in this bombing they've planned over Scotland. Indeed, knowing their own technology was likely known, with a world of other options, they used the MST-13 and set it so early that any surviving fragment would fall to rare earth rather than anywhere on the enormous Atlantic Ocean.


5) Unlikely to Exist if Genuine
The first and foremost point this blog supports about PT/35(b) is that, given the official explosion of at least 450 grams of Semtex-H set less than two inches from the timer, a piece so big (1cm sq) is highly unlikely to have survived. Simple common sense was recently backed up by repeated tests by explosives expert Dr. John Wyatt. (see IED fragment survivability tests and this follow-up with more detail)

The fact that it turned up itself indicates PT/35(b) was planted outright. If the bomb had put it there, it'd be in unreadable slivers or dust. This conclusion is obviously controversial within the skeptic community, but I see no reason to dispute what Dr. Wyatt says he's found.

The investigators say nothing on the issue except, implicitly, that they do believe it's from the bombing. Obviously. If it's a statistical miracle, well, they'll claim that as their natural right. There are many other "miracles" in this case.

Or, if it's not a miracle...

6) Most Recognizable Part of the MST-13
That the miraculous surviving bit would also be just the corner of the board with a meaningful symbol (the number one, and double-underlined at that), sttill readable and making it astonishingly recognizable, must rank as a further bizarre coincidence.


7) Mebo, the board's makers
After providing useful evidence against the accused, while asking for money, Mebo co-founder Edwin Bollier has turned over a new leaf and is now pushing his own implausible version of a frame-up of Megrahi. His most qualified area, the alleged MST-13 fragment, he disputes with charges of substitution of one planted MST-13 fragment with a nearly exact duplicate, apparently based in part on being color-blind. Naturally, this hasn't gone much of anywhere, despite the ridiculous affidavit his subordinate swore to that effect (see link). 

Back-Up Arguments Addressed

Other sources besides Libya
Some have argued that Mebo had also supplied MST-13 boards to the East German Stasi. And the Stasi sometimes supplied terrorists, like maybe the PFLP-GC, who seem to have been involved in Lockerbie.  That's quite a stretch for a few reasons. One, the allegation of a Stasi MST-13 link is based on things said by Bollier, who's not reliable. Second, even that only has two handmade prototypes delivered, on brown board. For the green machine-milled one we see, the Stasi would have to have made their own copies first. Third, the issues of timing relative to the ocean, as addressed above, apply to anyone using a flexible timer like this. And the question of fragment survivability is the same. 

It says Libya and that's it
Don't be stupid. Review the above. It's bad evidence. It's key to the case. That's a bad case.

Circumstantial Jigsaw Puzzle

Commentary by Robert Forrester
February 5 2010 (slight changes Feb 6)
[many thanks to Mr. Forrester, aka Quincey Riddle, a committee member of the Justice For Megrahi campaign, for contributing these thoughts to The Lockerbie Divide - C.L.]

Circumstantial Jigsaw Puzzle

To have suffered the loss of his daughter in the tragedy of Pan Am 103, and following Zeist, to then have campaigned relentlessly for the overturning of the verdict in the face of every device the Crown has thrown in his way and the criticism levelled at him by those, largely bereaved American families, who wish to believe in al-Megrahi’s guilt regardless of the deeply flawed Crown case (not to mention his having to put up with Lord Carmylie’s sensitive accusation, on the twentieth anniversary of the destruction of the aircraft, that he is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome), Dr Swire has shown a quite remarkable degree of courage, resilience and determination over the last couple of decades in his quest to find justice.

The Lockerbie/Zeist saga is for the UK on a par with the impact of the Kennedy assassination in the States in the manner in which it has become a paradise for conspiracy theorists who have no reputation to lose; this of course is manna from heaven for the establishment that hopes the question marks will fade with time. Whilst some of these imaginings may have an air of plausibility, others are plainly certifiable. All of this simply muddies the waters. It enables those responsible for the Zeist verdict to lounge back on their laurels, cast all who question it into the same loony bin and pronounce: “Well, it is clear from such meanderings, isn’t it? Anyone who dissents, especially if their name is Swire, is quite obviously a fruitcake.”

For what it is worth, I put my money on the Iran– Jibril theory, although I am also perfectly prepared to accept that I am misguided. I also, albeit reluctantly, accept that it is entirely possible that Mr al-Megahi was the one behind it all, not however on the Crown case as laid before the court at Zeist. Dr Swire’s principal position, like that of Professors Köchler and Black, has always been that the trial was a travesty of justice akin to a burlesque. Why this happened and who one thinks actually committed the crime is to place the cart before the horse. What can be done must be done, and what can be done is to maintain the pressure via the fourth estate, the courts and any other high profile means to establish that Zeist was a gross miscarriage of justice more concerned with ‘power politics’ (Köchler) than establishing the truth.

I have forgotten the number of times that I have sat in a courtroom, listening to the judge’s directions to the jury and heard the constant refrain (roughly along the following lines): “Now, Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in a case based on circumstantial evidence, to aid you in arriving at a verdict, one may like to imagine that one is constructing a jigsaw puzzle. If you feel that you have enough pieces of the puzzle to formulate a clear picture of events, then you may regard a guilty verdict as proven.” The Crown case at Zeist fell precisely into this category. Exactly which jigsaw the three judges in the Netherlands were using at the time though is a mystery. It is truly hard to believe that if a Scots jury of fifteen ordinary citizens had been employed to reach a verdict, they would have arrived at the same conclusion as their Lordships.

For the sake of space, let us dispense with the show’s supporting cast and deal with two of the Crown’s star turns in the jigsaw: Mr Toni Gauchi and the now infamous circuit board fragment. Having dispensed with Mr Giaka as being beyond the pale ("We are unable to accept Abdul Majid Giaka as a credible and reliable witness…….”), we are left with the Crown’s main witness: Mr Toni Gauchi. Eye witness testimony is well-known to be notoriously unreliable, and to compound this, Mr Gauchi qualified his evidence by saying that Mr al-Megrahi “resembled” the individual who bought the apparently incriminating clothes from his shop in Malta by saying there were discrepancies in both the height and the age of the purchaser. Not to mention the confusion over the date of the purchase. To further render his testimony worthless, major doubts hang over why he and his brother Paul were in receipt of $2,000,000 and $1,000,000 respectively. Whether to secure testimony or complicity, this is outrageous.

In addition to the above, we have the fragment of circuit board purported to have come from a timing device employed to detonate a bomb. To believe this, we are expected to accept the evidence of Mr Alan Feraday of the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment. Firstly, Mr Feraday was signally lacking in qualification to make any pronouncements on this item other than the obvious fact that it was a piece of circuit board. Secondly, RARDE had conducted no tests for explosive residues. Thirdly, Mr Feraday had discredited himself as a forensic witness in previous cases involving terrorism and explosives. Fourthly, nobody at RARDE was able to explain why evidence labels and page numbers on notes relating to the fragment were altered. Finally, it seems that Mr Feraday took the item in question to the USA for analysis – this appears to have come as something of a surprise to Carmylie when informed of this on camera (by Gideon Levy: ‘Lockerbie Revisited’): doubtless due to his Lordship’s concerns surrounding the possible tampering with evidence.

Moreover, as is known, and has been ever since its development, and as independent tests have proven, the hotspot of a Semtex explosion reaches temperatures of between 3,000 and 4,000ºC – quite sufficient to vaporise anything in its immediate vicinity. It would seem then that both Mr Bollier’s timers and Mr Gauchi’s clothes are of a remarkably robust variety.

Dr Swire is right to draw attention to the Heathrow break in and the fact that, although this was notified prior to the trial, it did not become public knowledge until after Zeist was a done job. A review of the security regimes in force at Luqa, Frankfurt and Heathrow was carried out post Lockerbie demonstrating that Luqa had a clean bill of health whilst Heathrow left rather a lot to be desired. Quite apart from this, what self-respecting bomber would elect to place a device utilising a timer – barometric or other – on an in-line flight to Frankfurt, thence to be transferred to a second in-line flight to Heathrow around Christmastime with all the attendant variables such a strategy would bring into play? Frankly, this is bonkers. I would like to know if the judges were drug tested during the trial.

It is, of course, not unknown for juries to deliver misguided verdicts. However, had there been one drawn from the Scottish citizenry at Zeist, one ponders not only whether they would have convicted Mr al-Megrahi but also whether they would have acquitted the co-accused, Mr Fhimah, given that it was taken as read that the act could not have been carried out single-handed. His acquittal left not a few people, including Professor Köchler, utterly bamboozled. So, if not Mr Fhimah, who?  Moreover, how much effort has been put into locating the mystery conspirator since the trial?

Never again ought the Crown to be in a position where it performs the role of prosecutor, judge and jury. It is all rather like their Lordships’ jigsaw was a picture of a top hat taken from an obscure angle and they managed to convert it into a rabbit. Whilst such conjuring sits well in vaudeville, it has no place in a court of law. This is no criticism whatsoever of Professor Black; how could anyone have imagined that such a Pandora’s Box would be opened? He was in the unenviable position of trying to get oil and water to mix for a while at Zeist, and was clearly as stunned as so many of us were by the verdict (“I have made no secret of my belief in his innocence. His conviction, on the evidence led at the trial, was nothing short of astonishing. It constitutes, in my view, the worst miscarriage of justice perpetrated by a Scottish criminal court since the conviction of Oscar Slater in 1909 for the murder of Marion Gilchrist.”). Not only that but he has worked tirelessly to have it overturned. Furthermore, from what he has said himself, it is clear that he agrees that one of the reasons why we have a jury of fifteen ordinary citizens in criminal trails, and do not utilise a form of Diplock Court in Scotland, is in order that a degree of common sense might prevail in arriving at a verdict.

Finally, the quality of Mr al-Megrahi’s defence counsel deserves mention. On a number of occasions during the trial, his representatives can hardly be said to have covered themselves in glory. Why so limp, so lacking in acuity and seemingly unprofessional, both at the trial and the first appeal? Incompetence?

All of the above served only to make the accused a sitting duck for those aiming for a quick and expedient fix. This episode has not only cast Scottish justice in a most disreputable light, it has castigated a man who should by rights be regarded as innocent of the crime on the basis of the evidence laid before the court, and in some ways worst of all, it has sold a cynical sop to the relatives and friends of the deceased. I have only one thing to say to those who are satisfied with the Zeist verdict: “Aye, that’ll be right, pal.”

Robert Forrester (Justice for Megrahi Campaign).

Primary Suitcase Details and Corrections

April 26 2010

Sometimes on this blog I run ahead and make a mistake and have to backtrack. This is one of those times.  I just finished a video and some updated graphics on the Bedford suitcases and the forensic evidence, and the possibility of two brown hardshell Samsonites existing at the blast site, and now find two problems with the case I've made.

First, I had with some reason identified some hard gray plastics, presumed of the IED case, as matching a report of antique copper material bleached to blue-white. However, I learn, the case was not made of solid colored plastic, but solid gray plastic topped with a colored outer layer. Dr. Thomas Hayes' lab notes explain (and other sources confirm) this observations based on control sample labeled DC/90 (shown at left, I believe), read back at trial:
"The suitcase [...] was essentially constructed from rigid grey acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics with the base and lid coated with an exterior surface layer of copper bronze-coloured plastics having a simulated leather surface finish. The base and lid were each strengthened with a circumferential metallic black painted magnesium alloy metal frame which retained a rigid hinged handle, a central combination lock and hasp, recessed left-hand and right-hand lockable lift levers and catches, an address window, a retractable pull strap, and upper and lower brown plastics single-track shock-absorbing bumper strips."
Some of the material may still be bleached as reported by Emerson and Duffy (see link above), but the seven chunks of gray material I listed is likely its original color after all, minus the surface coating. So color is an ambiguous clue at best and we're left with the number and size of fragments - both of which are larger than I previously thought (more than 50 fragments total and up to twenty inches in size). This is a cataloging effort I'm working on and will have an article and PDF up when that's done.

But then, there would be more material than I had first thought. Previously I had estimated the IED suitcase size as 24x16x8 inches, and used that in Visualizing the Bedford story graphics and the attached video (see first link). The suspect case model is only a tad longer at 26 inches, verified in trial transcripts by a Samsonite materials expert, who found numerous clues pinning it as a 26" frame silhouette 4000 model case. Embarrassingly, the 26" dimension is widely published but I didn't stop and clear up the point before proceding with a whole video even...

That's close enough I wouldn't feel a need to update the old graphics again, but the other dimension is even more different. Dr. Hayes measured control sample DC/90 as "660 millimetres (26 inches) in length by 560 millimetres (22 inches) overall width by 225 millimetres (8.9 inches) deep." On his given dimensions, 22 inches seemed too wide for me; suitcases aren't square like that usually. Looking around for photos of Silhouette line cases, most were of a more normal 3:2 or 4:3 proportion until I found one, listed as Silhouette 4000, for sale on some site, that is about the given 13:11 props, (below, left).

Seeing this model open next to the control (above right) it's suddenly clear that area is wider than I had realized and nearly square. Perspective and expectations... Also, the handle and combo-lock assembly seem the same, although the latch levers seem a bit different (see below). From here on then, I'll consider this a model and call the IED case 26x22x9 inches. The graphics will be updated to reflect this, and the implications for arrangement will play into a look at which parts of the case(s) wound up where.

Lockerbie Documents

Listed here are several documents I've found useful and that I'd like to share for others' education. The title links for each will take you to a separate download page where they're available. Most are PDFs and seem to download fine for me.

Investigation and Pursuit of the Libyans: 1988-1999
AAIBReport, PA103
UK Air Accident Investigation Branch, July 1990. Summary of forensic findings about how the plane most likely came apart. (strictly text). Signed M M Charles, Inspector of Accidents, Department of Transport. PDF, 57 pages.

AAIB Report Appendices
Appendix A-F - detailed text, photographs, and graphics - referenced in the AAIB report (above). PDF, 97 pages.

Indictment, Nov 1991
The joint U.S.-Scots indictment of Megrahi and Fhimah, issued November 13 1991, about half-based on the obvious fabrications of Libyan defector and literature student AM Giaka.

State Dept. Press Release, 1992
In support of the recent indictments, State quells any lingering doubts... (reformatted by me) PDF, 13 pages

Zeist Trial: 1999-2001
Opinion of the Court
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY AT CAMP ZEIST - Case No: 1475/99: HER MAJESTY’S ADVOCATE v ABDELBASET ALI MOHMED AL MEGRAHI and AL AMIN KHALIFA FHIMAH. Camp Zeist (Kamp van Zeist), The Netherlands, 3 May 2000 to 31 January 2001. (document itself undated) PDF file, 82 pages.

LTBU Daily Reports
Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit daily reports of the Zeist trial, with much commentary. compiled by me with comparative notes on corresponding trial days (there are plenty of mis-matches, missing one or the other). A lot of information here. PDF, 99 pages.

Megrahi Appeal Documents
Also available at Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi: My Story
Grounds of Appeal one and two
Megrahi legal team - arguments against the Camp Zeist ruling. Fairly legal stuff. Made by Tony Kelly, Sept 18 2009. PDF, 38 pages.

Additional Information / Discarded Leads Re-examined
Khreesat Advises
FBI report on November 1989 interviews with bombmaker Marwan Khreesat - partially reconstructed from trial transcripts (app. 60% complete). Invaluable background info on Khreesat, Abu Elias, and the Autumn Leaves gang. PDF, 22 pages.

Swiss Air 330, Appendix to Official Report Re: airplane bombing on Feb 21 1970, Switzerland, 47 fatalities. The bomb was apparently Khreesat's work. German language, but mostly graphic-based. Includes diagrams, photos, etc. Courtesy Edwin Bollier.