A Three-Year Test Drive, Parked 8 Years, and then a High-Speed Crash, pt 1

written January 22 2010
re-posted September 20 

 Note: what follows is the first half of a looong working essay I just had to see up even before it's done. It covers from Giaka's defection to the start of trial preparations in 1999. Part two will be long-delayed, but will call on Giaka's direct testimony via trial transcripts. This was previously (also) posted at a separate blog. 

A Missing Link
Among the sources collecting the evidence against Abdelbaset al Megrahi (and/or his accused accomplice Lamin Fhimah), most mention the same three “keys to the solution of the case” given by the FBI’s lead investigator on the SCOTBOM case, Richard Marquise, in his 2006 book. He gives these as Tony Gauci, “the Mebo chip,” and the souvenir printout of the Frankfurt luggage records taken by Bogomiras Erac, which was strangely “the only record” anyone could find of this vital information. [Marquise p 210] There are other peripheral clues of importance, but few with the resonance, clarity, and specificity of these three as indicators of Libya’s guilt, via the two accused.

 But missing from such formulations is a fourth and most important key – Abdul Majid Giaka [different spellings have been used], a Libyan intelligence defector turned intelligence asset for the U.S. side of the investigation. In fact, in coming on board four months before the Lockerbie bombing, Giaka’s connections with Malta, Luga Airport, and Libyan intelligence put him in a prime position to be the first to mention both accused - to his CIA handlers - in the first place. The majority of everything he said has by now been discredited and shown to be fabrication – at best enabled and at worst demanded by his American friends.

Giaka’s intelligence was transformed to evidence with some CIA/FBI alchemy, tying several loose ends together and, in essence, providing the skeleton for the ‘Libyan villains’ case to stand on. The defector’s tales underpinned the US/UK joint indictment, the years-long extradition wrangle, and was finally brought as far as the Scottish Court as Camp Zeist in 2000. But as we’ll see, it went no further and has been mentioned as little as possible since.

Effective Defector Detected
Abdul Majid started this journey as a self-described disaffected Libyan perturbed by Tripoli’s terroristic ways and Gaddafi’s Masonic schemes. A low-level intelligence agent with the JSO, and stationed on Malta, he approached the US embassy there in August 1988 offering his services. Paul Foot’s seminal 2000 booklet Lockerbie: Flight From Justice explains how this started a “long series of meetings with American intelligence officials in Malta,” 41 secret meetings total, spanning almost three years from “September 1988, the same month he started getting regular payments from the CIA.” [Foot]

For $1,000 US per month, rising to $1,500, he wasn't a huge payback at first. “His information was patchy and unreliable,” Foot reported. “He pretended he was a senior official in the Libyan intelligence organisation JSO though in reality (as the Americans quickly realised) he was a former garage mechanic who helped to maintain JSO vehicles.” The BBC Conspiracy Files program in 2008 treated this subject fairly, and summed up “not so much double-oh-seven, more WD40.” [CF 44:20] He had however “graduated to the exalted position of assistant station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines,” Foot concedes, work carried out at Luqa International Airport, on the island's near-south side.

Giaka was given the code-name "puzzle piece" by his CIA handlers, [CF, 43:29] at least one which also worked at the airport, under cover as a baggage handler. [LTBU 8/29] The agent kept tabs on him, writing cables back to the CIA that named the subject in code as “P/1” (and referred to the JSO as ESO). P/1’s job there involved aircraft security, “but he is also obliged to assist ESO operatives transitting or on missions to Malta,” according to a copy shown on the Conspiracy Files. That’s a reasonably rich source for intel reports, but the agent noted Giaka “has been a “shirker” while in Malta, generally dodging ESO assignments since his Luqa appointment.” [CF 44:12]

Whatever the defector’s shortfalls, in October 1988 he reported his first big lead – Lamin Fhimah, a “JSO agent” also working at the airport, kept eight pounds of TNT in a locked desk drawer of an office. Paul Foot again relates how two months later in December (whether before or after the Lockerbie bombing is unclear) “he was asked about the movements of JSO officials through Luqa airport. He replied that a man he regarded as a senior JSO officer, Abdelbasset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi, had passed through Luqa airport on 7 December.” [Foot] The names may not have meant much at first among Giaka’s other intelligence, but as soon as investigators were willing to consider a Libyan link, and it was found that both were also present on Malta December 20, the eventual suspects were clearly on file and ready to drop in place even before 1988 had closed.

Giaka and America Rescue Each Other
By the beginning of September 1989 the investigation’s scope was narrowing in, of all places, on Malta. The oddly-delayed Frankfurt printout revealed in mid-August an unaccompanied bag from Malta had apparently gone onto PA103A. At the same time, the tattered Maltese clothes from inside that bag had led to Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who gave his first statement about the buyer on September 1. But Giaka was probably not told these things as, on September 4th Foot maintains, “his CIA handlers in Malta told Giaka he was “on trial” until the next New Year (1990).” [Foot]

The informant likely grew nervous as his bridges to America became more precarious, his bridges on Malta stood burned, and his bridges back to Libya were threatening. The 1994 film The Maltese Double Cross featured interviews with both accused, who indeed knew Giaka, at least in passing. Megrahi confirmed he did security work there, and “he was hated by other employees there.” Fhimah added “He behaved badly towards the employees working with us, in dealing with passengers. The Maltese airport authorities know this.” [MDC 1:28:10-1:31:28] Some bias might be expected of course, but others interviewed for the film vouched that he was irresponsible, a partier and amasser of debts. And he wasn’t going to be getting any more popular trying to sell intelligence to the CIA.

One anonymous Libyan related for the film how Giaka was put up for transfer at some point: “they asked him to return back to Libya because his contract finished, for his staying in Malta.” Apparently desperate to maintain his situation there and his possible ticket away from Libya, Giaka asked the CIA to pay for a surgery to injure his arm so he wouldn’t be called away to serve in the Libyan Army. [Foot] They apparently consented and “after a few days,” the anomymous source said “[Giaka] came here after the hotel and he had a plaster on his hand” which he said was from falling down the stairs. This seemed to help him “get an extension of around three or four months to stay here.” [MDC 1:31:15]

By 1991, the regular cables were describing P/1 as “a shattered person” who “does not want to be part of the security apparatus and is certainly milking any of his contacts, including us, for whatever he can get.” [NYT] The Americans were ready to milk back - the fruit was ripe and dripping with urgent ‘get-me-outta-here’ intel possibilities. Perhaps realizing that Giaka really was the best they were going to get, the decision was made by July 11, when the Department of Justice told Mr. Giaka they would “accept or reject him" as a witness "based on his response to their Inquiries,” which would be done at leisure within the United States. The very next day, Foot writes,
“Giaka, to his intense gratification, was taken off Malta by an American warship, and interrogated there by an FBI officer, Hal Hendershot. Before long he was safe in the US where he was later joined by his wife. He was paid a regular salary in exchange for constant interrogations by the CIA and the FBI. What he told them plainly satisfied them. In October, in conditions of great secrecy, he gave evidence to a US Grand Jury. The result, in November 1991, was a detailed indictment charging Megrahi and Fhimah with murder by planting a bomb in a suitcase on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt and thence to London – and the explosion over Lockerbie.” [Foot]
The World Dances to the Fantasist Tune (Played Real Loud) The United States government for this point forward until now, without interruption, has accepted the core of this indictment as unassailable truth. The findings of Libyan guilt via al Megrahi and Fhhimah and others not named, the findings found primarily in Giaka’s words, has been the basis of economic sanction, diplomatic pressures, approval of clandestine operations, public vilification of Libya allowing more of the same to pass, and so on.

Most of the world was rather surprised at the turn of events, running counter to all the old evidence that made more sense and involved no Libyans. And was, of course, highly inconvenient for the Americans. Naturally, suspicions of cover-up flourished, especially in the UK. This was primarily channeled into an intriguing “CIA drug-running” cluster of theories (which this author considers a huge distraction) that got its biggest boost with an April 1992 cover story in Time magazine.

A Department of State press release from the same month sought to counter growing confusion at home and abroad by calmly laying out the facts in a press release. The Suitcase itself, fairly non-descript and not directly accounted for anywhere in the luggage records of three airports, was prime evidence at the time, thanks to Giaka’s incredible contributions.
“Forensic analysis has identified the bag that contained the Pan Am 103 bomb as a brown, hard-sided Samsonite suitcase. The following evidence links Al-Megrahi and Fhimah to the suitcase: -- Al-Megrahi, traveling in alias, arrived in Valletta with Fhimah from Libya on the evening of 20 December 1988--the day before the bombing. Fhimah, the former manager of the LAA office in Valletta, retained full access to the airport. Al-Megrahi and Fhimah brought a large, brown hard-sided Samsonite suitcase with them into Malta on that occasion. [DoS]
They make it sound like the Fact they had such a suitcase is evidence they planted the bomb, but in reality, Giaka’s intelligence was the only evidence they had such a suitcase. This emerges chronologically, below. That his stories wound up matching the emerging evidence at the scene is highly troubling – the similarities are from neither truth (as we’ll see) nor likely from coincidence. It seems Mr P/1 served as a two-way intelligence conduit - milking the CIA so they could re-milk him – helping them launder propaganda into intelligence and, via FBI acceptance of that, into evidence ready for trial.

The top man who promoted Giaka as evidence, and the most likely to be fully aware of such unethical activities, would have been Vincent Cannistraro, senior director of the CIA’s own Lockerbie investigation until October 1990 [Ashton] . He continued promoting the story line he'd helped write in the years between indictment and trial. For a 1995 BBC program, he described the case modestly as:
“… overwhelming … conclusive … tremendous amount of evidence … mind boggling amount of detail … that will allow the prosecutors to present the chronology of the operation from its very inception … describe and in almost excruciating detail exactly how they made the bomb, how they secreted it, how they got it on board the aircraft, and I think that's a fairly strong case.” [FS]
His favorite part that he singled out for emphasis in that interview was “they have a live witness for one thing, who would be presented in a court of law.” [FS] Cannistraro bravely spoke to The Maltese Double Cross, again pimping Giaka, just not yet by name: “a former member of the Libyan Intelligence Service who has defected” into Justice Department witness protection, “so he would be used in a trial of Fhimah and Megrahi.” [MDC, 1:28:25]

Such a trial was demanded, in the US or Scotland, based the much-hyped amazing case. The demand was repeated often, and with force, befitting a mighty nation’s drive for truth and justice for the 270 dead. Faced with such confidence, people and whole nations started falling for it. Those comprising the UN Security Council at the moment, in particular, were collectively convinced enough to enforce the indictment with sanctions.

In 1992 and 1993, Security Council resolutions 748 and 883 imposed and tightened embargoes, diplomatic restrictions, and various other punishments. Aircraft equipment and supplies in particular were squeezed on, putting al Megrahi to work on the gray market (the likely cause behind his "suspicious" Zurich office and Swiss bank account). It was under this prolonged duress that Libya eventually relented to a compromise solution. By late 1998 the framework of a trial was established, and in April 1999 the accused were flown to the special Scottish court in neutral Netherlands. Megrahi and Fhimah were arrested at “Camp Zeist” and set to await their trial. Sanctions were immediately suspended, under threat of re-enforcement.

All this was based on an alarming mass acceptance of the American/Scottish case, in turn largely built up on “accepting” Giaka’s intelligence as evidence. The suspects, the suitcase, the materials, the plans, and the evil behind the Pan Am 103 plot were all attested to by a desperate defector, in trade for a steady paycheck, a maimed hand, and a new life in America. It had all wowed the grand jury and secured the indictment, but now that Cannistraro’s dares had paid off, it would be challenged for once, and before the whole world at that. At stake were these claims, in "job resume" format. Most of these were unknown to the public at the time, but about to see the light of day:

 - Giaka’s own credentials/authority: JSO agent, high-level, secret files department – related to former King Idriss - hates Gaddafi - aware of Masonic plots between Libya and Malta.

 - Has a long-standing friendship with Ezzadin Hinshiri, director of the central security section, JSO (allegedly involved in buying the MST-13 timers as used in the bombing, including an order placed for 40 more just two days before the bombing!)

 - Long-standing friendship with Said Rashid, head of the operations section, JSO (also involved, allegedly, in timer acquisition and other wickedness)

 - Acquaintance with Abdullah Senussi, the head of operations administration for the JSO. (convicted in absentia in 1989 for using that role to blow up an airplane (not 103). Also, Gaddafi's brother-in-law.)

 – Can describe the high-level JSO connections of the accused – worked directly under the first accused – hated his boss - can testify to their movements at the airport – able to read clues from them, ranging from subtle to fictitious, revealing their plot.

 - Was asked by Said Rashid, in 1986, to write a report on whether a bomb cold be put on a British plane - had someone else look, who said yeah so he wrote the report saying so. The upper levels mulled the idea over...

 - Turned said report in via his boss, “Lockerbie bomber” Megrahi, who definitely saw it. Megrahi later mentioned the idea back to Giaka and said “don’t rush things.”

 - Can testify to Fhimah’s personal handling of explosives, in his desk, which were overseen by Megrahi, for the JSO.

 - Was invited to the final plotters’ meeting as Megrahi and Fhimah met at Luqa airport on the day of the Lockerbie bombing, with a suitcase just like the one that would do that explosion hours later, after having come in from Malta (other evidence covered that, obviously). That’s the clincher for sure.

 - Has defected safely from the murderous regime, after a grueling three-year initiation, and can therefore finally reveal the secrets he held of the devious, random, and surprisingly unselfconscious scheming that climaxed five miles above Scotland four days before Christmas. That - is - evil. Thank God they've got a witness who saw it all, ready to go before the judges...
Sources: [Ashton] http://www.copi.com/articles/lockerbie.html [CF] "The Conspiracy Files: Lockerbie." Prod/Dir Guy Smith, Ex Prod Sam Anstiss, Narr Caroline Catz. BBC Two. First Aired 31 August 2008. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-327765978162851498&hl=en# [Foot] Foot, Paul, Lockerbie: Flight From Justice. Published 2000 by Private Eye. https://secure2.subscribeonline.co.uk/PEYE/digital_downloads.cfm [FS] Frontline Scotland: "Silence Over Lockerbie" Reporter: Shelley JofreProducer: Murdoch Rodgers. Aired 1995. Transcript accessed at: http://plane-truth.com/Aoude/geocities/silence.html [LTBU 8/29] Connelly, Clare. "Controversy Over CIA Cables Continues." 29 August 2000. Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit. .doc link: http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_78571_en.doc [MDC] The Maltese Double Cross. Produced, written, and directed by Allan Francovich, Hemar Enterprises, November 1994. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7160854996287567609&ei=EAtQS8iUNYOYqQPjnaka&q=Maltese+Double+Cross+&hl=en [Marquise] Marquise, Richard. SCOTBOM: Evidence and the Lockerbie Investigation, Algora Publishing. Sept. 1, 2006. 268 pages. http://books.google.com/books?id=JKLT360G_zAC&pg=PA119&lpg=PA119&dq=Marquise+SCOTBOM&source=bl&ots=WGsIBNTRDo&sig=ZkD5iwHr [NYT] McNeil, Donald, Jr. “Defense in Lockerbie Trial Undermines a Key Witness.” New York Times. September 28, 2000. Accessed at: http://plane-truth.com/Documents/Defense%20in%20Lockerbie%20Trial%20Undermines%20a%20Key%20Witness.htm

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