On Planted Evidence

14 September 2010

The possibility of planted physical evidence is a divisive issue among Lockerbie researchers, and one the Lockerbie Divide so far has had no problem promoting. That might be a problem, but it's natural when the blog's voice is almost exclusively my own. Physically inserted clues to implicate Libya suggests active investigative malfeasance many would rather not consider. A sort of mix-up is acceptable to some,  spurred by denying the best clues but needing to nab somebody. A few coincidences that suggested Libya that took on a life of their own, or some witnesses leaned on, seem plausible.

But in at least a few cases, planting is a more rational explanation than the official one. Consider PK/689, the nearly-intact cover of the bomb-radio's paper manual, made "a bit tatty around the edges" by the Semtex blast just a few inches away, and torn to shreds by forensic tests. Still says almost completely "Toshiba stereo radio/cassette recorder, RT-SF16 BomBeat SF16," a model that could be traced primarily to Libya. Consider also the problems with PT/30 and AG/145, 4-6 mm fragments from the Toshiba radio's main circuit board. Which side, if any, of the board experienced even the slightest explosive blast? The wrong side on PT/30 and neither on AG/145. Both of these show a high convenience-to-plausbility ratio, the key measure of how likely something is to be a work of fiction rather than physics.

And then the pivotal timer fragment PT/35(b), four times the size of the radio board bits listed above. Nearly one cm square, it was from the most identifiable corner of a super-traceable timer made by Swiss swindlers Mebo, and traceable to Libya of course. A Libyan timer set to blow up over land and leave such a lucky fragment is stupid for a Libyan terror plot, excellent if short on subtlety for a frame-up. Papers altered, exam log clearly backdated, no explosive residue testing, bizarre timeline unless it appeared four months later than recorded.

The issue came to the forefront most recently about a week ago when more details were revealed about the tests of Dr. John Wyatt. Professor Robert Black was so kind as to re-type much of a print-only version of an article about the tests and their suggestion that the pivotal timer fragment  was planted. The findings are to be part of Megrahi's upcoming book, and I think they solidly indicate a frame-up of Libya. The new article adds some technical detail to what he told the BBC for a January broadcast.

What's new, briefly, is that the 10mm square PT/35(b) is hundreds of times larger than it should be by his tests. Only at about 150 grams of Semtex-H was he able to recognize circuit board fragments - under a microscope but not with the naked eye. This is less than half the alleged explosive force used on Flight 103 (350-450 grams or as high as 680 by the Indian Head tests, or higher yet minus the small radio presumptions there that topped the testing off at 680, as all a RT-SF16 could hold). At any of these levels of force, nothing remotely like the radio fragments, timer fragment, or manual would survive. It's doubtful so much would survive of the Maltese clothes or perhaps the suitcase itself, as what we were presented with. In short, this body of findings suggests a lot of planting.

Again as before, this 150 gram threshold of plausibility is anecdotal, based on Dr. Wyatt's own characterizations. No detailed report has been released.  We still don't know how he came to do these tests or why - although it was apparently 2008 or earlier, and most likely at the Megrahi team's request,for the second appeal that was never heard.

The story also featured an interview with Lockerbie trial "architect" Robert Black who expressed disinterest in commenting on or promoting this development:
Last night, Robert Black, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law at Edinburgh University ... said: "I have decided to stop commenting on new evidence because, interesting as it may be, it takes the eye off what really matters, namely, that he should never have been convicted in the first place on the flimsy evidence before the court."
There are good reasons to gloss over this evidence. Even if what Wyatt says is totally true, it's something most people can't accept, and so a distraction from whatever more digestible points showing the verdict unreasonable. No need to start off telling novices the science was dishonest too - at least not until they're ready. That's ideally well after the notion of his innocence has been broached and all but proven by a careful look at the facts over the myths. Dissolve the Malta link, explain the alternative actors who make more sense, and cover the testimony of Giaka and Gauci, under the DoJ's money for misinformation program. Any closer look at the securing of the G-guys' testimonies suggests willful intent and frame-up, and from there, some convenient circuit board doesn't seem so outlandish.

But sometimes people will counter, whether they've been mentally prepared or not, "well, there was forensic evidence implicatiing Libya..." At that point, their belief in the science they've heard is the distraction from coming around to the bigger picture. Those of us who seek to reach the fuller truth, or want an answer to that science, will have to consider whether or not this Libyan-linked timer really was involved and left such a huge and recognizable fragment. And at that point there are Dr.Wyatt's tests, complete with the uncertainties noted above. And there is common sense, which suggest about what the tests are said to show - if the plane was ripped open, the radio would be vapor and dust. The things we were shown came from somewhere else.

Commentator "Pete" put it well in the comments section beneath Black's post.
Re that 'bloody timer fragment':
Certainly it would be easier to persuade those with the power to launch a new inquiry if we don't stress the implication that it might expose malfeasance on the part of our agencies and those of our allies.
However... firstly, it could be argued that the BTF was ultimately responsible for Megrahi's conviction. The implication of the Opinion of the Court is that the judges took the BTF to be absolutely conclusive proof of the Libyan origin of the bomb. Forensic evidence is scientific and as such outweighs all else (cf. the conviction of Barry George.) It was Libya what done it; Megrahi is Libyan; therefore Megrahi done it. Hence the perverse interpretation of all the other evidence. Science has spoken.
Secondly, while the BTF remains unchallenged, any exoneration of Megrahi is likely to be painted by Marquise, Duggan et al as 'technicalities'.
Thirdly, isn't it likely that if the investigation is ever reopened, even with Megrahi out of the frame,
McKnacker will restrict the scope to Libya unless there is some reason to doubt the clear implication of the BTF?
Damned if that's not a clear-eyed view. Science has spoken, and judges seem unwilling to question it. But what it said doesn't make sense. We can call science out when it lies, and we should. A fully documented, transparent, non-Libyan-sponsored study would be ideal now to compare with what Wyatt says he's got. Science can, if it hasn't already, allow us to see which is correct here: common sense, or those who accept miracle after miracle as their natural right in chasing Libya.

Further thoughts in comments section.

1 comment:

Caustic Logic said...

Also, I'm just annoyed by people who feel compelled to accept this evidence and try to argue Megrahi's innocence around them. It's true the RT-SF16 doesn't exclusively link to Libya, but it tends to (about 75% sold to one Libyan company), but the timer is pretty solid. The defense at trial and the first appeal was left arguing that maybe the Stasi got hold of such a timer and gave it to Abu Talb or whoever... this is based only on something Bollier said, by the way.

The second appeal,which could not be allowed, had gone right for the throat. Could the prosecution mount a credible forensic answer? I doubt it.