Libya and Lockerbie: A Questioned Past, an Uncertain Future

October 16, 2011

I've still not been blogging at this site, remaining intensively pre-occupied with more current Gaddafi crime accusations - like this and this - along the path to the destruction of the green revolution and all those who dare to fight for it. There will be far less of them in short order, judging from the siege of Sirte and now the massacres.

My two big thoughts on Lockerbie these days are:

1) It's odd how even the new government is willing to cause some friction with its European sponsors to insist the Lockerbie case is closed and no one's going to be re-tried or re-jailed. The oil is negotiable, and resistant loyalists can be slaughtered on sight, but apparently handing Mr. al-Megrahi back to the Brits or anyone else is such a sore spot that they'd better not try it.

2) With no Gaddafi regime left to hang the crime on, and Iran coming into the limelight again, along with its proxy Syria, the truth may be allowed to emerge now of the Iranian-Syrian(?)-PFLP-GCplot that actually did destroy Pan Am 103. It would be for all the wrong reasons, however - mainly to "justify" the next regime change project(s) of an increasingly bold and desperate grab for the world's oil reserves.

Anyway, on the justifications for destoying Libya this year, old and new, I have discovered a prominent ally. I recently ran across a video interview, in French, with Yves Bonnet, a French terrorism expert and former high counter-terror official.  From the text summary of the September 1 interview, and what I can make out, he's explaining how Gaddafi's Libya wasn't so bad from a terrorism point of view, and didn't do Lockerbie, at least. I can make out the name Ahmed Jibril being mentioned.

Bonnet is a co-founder of CIRET-AVT (International Center for Research and Study on Terrorism and Aide to Victims of Terrorism), along with a Belgian parliamentarian and a former Algerian government minister. With this intriguing genesis, CIRET-AVT has gone on to do unusually brilliant things. Along with another group (CF2R - Center for Research on Intelligence), they wrote a rare, really good report on the Libyan Civil War and the "uncertain future" of the country after the violent, NATO-backed Islamist uprising there (see "Un Avenir Incertain" in Libya)

Unlike most who traveled to Libya on fact-finding missions, their team actually talked with Tripoli and took them seriously, allowing their report to wind up making sense. A sample, on the "popular uprising" in Az Zawiyah, near the capitol:
During three weeks, the police received written orders not to do anything against the insurgents, not to shoot, not to confront them.
During those three weeks, all the public buildings were looted, ransacked, and burnt; police stations, offices of the security department, court houses, town halls, etc. ... There were also atrocities committed (women who were raped, and some police officers who were killed), as well as civilian victims during these three weeks. . . . The victims were killed in the manner of the Algerian GIA [Armed Islamic Group]: throats cut, eyes gauged out, arms and legs cut off, sometimes the bodies were burned . . .
The old and mixed (?) record of 1980s terrorism accusations aside, there were terrorists of the al Qaeda/LIFG/GIA breed that Tripoli was clearly working against, along with Algeria, and certain Westerners willing to co-operate in the age where al Qaeda was everyone's enemy. Yet to a large extent, these same wound up being armed and covered-for by the same western powers that first used al Qaeda against Gaddafi back in 1996. Fifteen years later, Bin Laden himself was just killed but his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri is declaring a victory in Libya:
"And if I congratulated our people in Libya for their victory over the tyrant, I call upon our people in Algeria to follow their footsteps," Zawahiri said in the video. "Here are your brothers in Tunisia and then in Libya having thrown out the two tyrants to the trash can of history, so why don't you revolt against your tyrant?"
Interesting times.

Permanent Second-toTop-Post / Start Point

(last real update 29 November 2010)

Welcome to “The Lockerbie Divide,” a site dedicated to addressing the mountainous divide in opinion that exists over Truth and Justice regarding the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103. Some samples of the two sides can be glimpsed in a related essay, and it should be clear they are not equal in numbers or influence, nor in accuracy. One side wins on power, the other on Truth. Obviously I’m in the latter camp, but it’s more than just hyperbole at work.
The material on this site is all written by myself unless otherwise noted. My own posts vary from empty marked (incomplete) to major essays. Some is little more than "thinking out loud" and subject to change, but much else is actually at the cutting edge of what anyone knows about the case. 
The original plan for this site was to gather some of the amazing talent I'd encountered on the Internet into a powerful site for crossing and wearing down the divide. And I have gratefully accepted some amazing contributions from others:

> Dr. Jim Swire, leader of the British families of PA103 group - Comment on creation of the Lockerbie Divide
> Professor Robert Black QC, Lockerbie Trial "architect" - From Lockerbie to Zeist (via Tripoli, Tunis, and Cairo) (re-published from a book, on-line exclusive)
> Robert Forester, Justice For Megrahi campaign founding member - Circumstantial Jigsaw Puzzle, and also Justice for Megrahi Campaign (details about the group) 
> Barry Walker, inspired theorist -  Camp Zeist: Perils and Pitfalls of a Designer Trial
> Patrick Haseldine, former public servant - The South Africans Theory with rebuttals by myself and Robert Forrester 
And then, posts by others that weren't submitted, but taken by me, with generalized permission, from other sources.
>"Rolfe," JREF forum inspired researcher/commentator 
  - Some Background on Karol Sikora
  - Rewards and Bribery
These are now both among my most-viewed posts here. More excellence from Rolfe will  be coming up (with a head's-up next time).
> Various: Richard Marquise Disputes the Findings of the Zeist Court. Awesome comments from a post at The Lockerbie Case by Richard Marquise, Rolfe, Matt Berkley, Jo G, Ben Six, Ebol (the Bolliers), Full Inquiry, and myself. Subject: the FBI SCOTBOM chief's continued promotion of the evidence of "witness" Abdul Majid Giaka.
And finally, words by many people besides me skimmed from different sources, expressing doubts (or inverse certainty) about Megrahi's guilt. Recently updated, with 84 names, no Libyans or their lawyers, no known crackpots, just several QCs, lawyers, political and religious leaders, reputable journalists, academics, and experts speaking of their doubts. A varied list including Robert Baer, Noam Chomsky, David Frum, Margaret Thatcher (sort of), and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 
> No one Seriously Doubts the Libyan's Guilt?
Also, learn about the Justice for Megrahi Campaign

How this site works: 
The post-dated blog format usually brings the newest post to the top, and I usually put the newest posts right beneath this. But I also reassign dates and times to bring certain articles near the top or further down. Simply scrolling the page may be confusing, especially if one is not familiar with the details of the case. The more useful organization starts here and progresses with links.

Comments and questions are encouraged wherever there's a "post a comment" type link. I offer heartfelt thanks to anyone who takes the time to read and engage this material. You’re probably here to learn something, whether you realize it or not, and I’d like to help.

The Sources
The information on this site draws from a variety of sources: official reports (PDF), books, magazine and Internet articles, opinions and commentary, digital videos, photographs, and most importantly Megrahi's second appeal paperwork (see link to the right, second from top) and the complete (?) transcripts of the 2000 trial at Camp Zeist. This is not openly available to most people, but I've been blessed with a full copy - over 10,000 inefficiently-formatted pages of people talking in great detail, for 87 days, about the evidence al Megrahi was convicted on. It's proven very useful so far in clarifying details, and will continue to offer gems to those who follow this site. Many of my sources, aside from the trial transcripts, will be gathered at the post Lockerbie Documents.

More Bite-sized
Guided tour of the case against Megrahi if you feel you're ready to look at the actual evidence. 

- Images and introductions to 12 key points of the case can be found in my Lockerbie cards collection
And for those willing to learn but not in the mood to read, there's a page that links to numerous videos on the subject

Anyone intrigued or infuriated or otherwise willing to give me a piece of your mind, I'm willing to accept. I can be reached by e-mail at

- Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic
Spokane, WA, USA

20 August 2009

MacAskill’s Two-Track Railroad: part 10/10
Leaving Glasgow
20 August 2010

Note, August 20 2011: One year ago I posted this, to mark the one year anniversary of al-Megrahi's release. Two years on, he's still alive as Libya is murdered over rumors (like sniping children, "bombing his own people," etc.), and people are still mad about what Libya's "gotten away with." Anyway, this day marks another one of shame in the long and sad history of the grinding down of Libya and its people. Mr. al-Megrahi flew home permanently guilty. The events of Agust two years ago explain how. We know why. The saga starts, as I told it a year ago, on August 3. That post is below, and links carry one through the sickening process from there.

Note, Oct. 16: I just noticed again that August 20, that fatefully two-year anniversary, was the start date of the final rebel push on Tripoli that seemed to succeed in only two days. Uncanny timing, that.

<< Previous: 19 August

One year ago today Kenny MacAskill announced and enacted the decision he made the previous day - to release Abdelbaset al Megrahi to his native Libya. At midday the BBC announced:
[Megrahi] will be flown home to Tripoli from Glasgow this afternoon following an announcement by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. ... A spokesman for the administration insisted the decision had been reached "on the basis of clear evidence and on no other factors.
The promised appeearance came across the airwaves an hour later, at 1300 BST, from the Scottish Government's ministerial headquarters in Edinburgh. MacAskill was in top form, explaining the decision with flourishes like "compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people..." It droned on for a bit.

Another BBC story later in the day explained what came next:
A police convoy left Greenock Prison, where Megrahi was serving his sentence, just an hour after the announcement of his release was made.

It was greeting by angry jeers from a small group of local residents.

Megrahi was taken to Glasgow Airport where he boarded an Afriqiyah Airways Airbus plane bound for Tripoli, wearing a white track suit and clutching his prison release papers.
With a white scarf across his face to protect from infection, Megrahi labored up the ramp, looking like a human white flag of surrender flapping in the breeze. The colorful Libyan jet took off at 1530 BST, just two-and-a-half hours after MacAskill first opened his mouth to explain. It muscled up into the sky, away from Glasgow, and banked south towards home.

That was hardly the end of the story, but it is the end of this series of articles.

3 August 2009

MacAskill’s Two-Track Railroad: part 1/10
3 August 2010

Note: The posts in this series are not conclusive, but rather what I was able to learn before the anniversary arrived, sporadically updated later. Any suggestions from knowledgeable readers to improve the content will be gladly appreciated.

Next: 5 August >>

One year ago today, "Lockerbie bomber" Abdelbaset al Megrahi was still imprisoned in Scotland, convicted for the murder of 270, with an appeal of that endlessly stalled, and advanced prostate cancer drawing the grave closer to him. He was desperate to return home to Libya before the end, and the Libyan government was nearly as set on getting him back.

One way home had presented itself up to that point - a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) that had been Libya's brainchild, sponsored by Libya-UK business interests, and adopted by the UK government. One of the keen provisions of the PTA was that all legal proceedings - like Megrahi's dangerous second appeal - had to be closed first.

Another provision of the agreement, ratified on 5 May 2009, was its 90-day life span [1], which expired on this day last year, August 3. But Justice Secrtary Kenny MacAskill, had already "extended the deadline of the prisoner transfer request,” despite its being implausible to execute. [2]

Curiously, the same day one track was slated to stop (but didn't), a second way home came within reach. Megrahi had formally applied for Compassionate Release less than two weeks earlier, in late July. His original prognosis had been only in September 2008, when he was given “an informal mid-estimate of 18-24 months.” [3] Compassionate Release rules, first set-up in 1993, have no firm life expectancy standard, but do cite three months as a reasonable guideline.

By some time in July 2009, a "firm consensus" was reached by "a range of specialists" that Megrahi's cancer had become "hormone resistant," and so the prognosis has "has now moved to the lower end of expectations from ten months ago." [3] That had been 18-24 months, so minus ten from the low end leaves about eight months left.

An unnamed consulting doctor for the Scottosh Prison Service (SPS) looked Megrahi over again a year ago today [3]. This is widely believed to be Karol Sikora,  but is apparently not. [4] (see also comments, below) Having last seen the prisoner on 26 July, the specialist - not paid by Libya that we know of - reported an alarming deterioration in the short interim. A report from a week later explained "the clinical assessment, therefore, is that a 3 month prognosis is now a reasonable estimate for this patient." [3]

The 10 August report that passes this on was from Scottish Prison Services health director, and expressed his own and a general agreement that the prisoner was suitable for compassionate release. There was no other specific agreement with three months offered. And of course none was needed; as explained above, that  benchmark is a guideline, not a requirement.

But it was an important guideline, and it was on the record to inform the choice in Mr. MacAskill's hands alone. He had two tracks to consider now, one of which (the PTA) would cost Megrhi's appeal if used, and the other of which (compassion) could leave the way open to challenge the tenuous conviction...

[2] Times Online. 21 August 2009.
[3] Medical Report, 10 August 2009. PDF download page:
[4] STV. 6 Sept.2009.

Iran Air 655 - Casus Belli Behind Lockerbie?

Caustic Logic
15 March 2010
Last update July 3, 2011

Note, July 3, 2011: I'm simply bumping this post to the top to mark the 23rd anniversary today of this horrific and dubious incident that seems to have sealed the fate of Pan Am 103.

The USS Vincennes and the Downing of IA655:
Iran Air Flight 655 was a scheduled 28-minute flight from Bandar Abbas airport to Bahrain, on July 3 1988. An Airbus A300B2 flown by Capt. Mohsen Rezaian, IA655 left the ground at 10:17 am local time to cross the Straits of Sidra. It seems the plane was talking normally with ground control on open frequencies, was listed in flight registries, flying well within an established civilian air corridor, and transmitting the right civilian transponder code that clearly means something like the car window sign "Baby on Board." [1]

As IA655 steadily climbed to cruising altitude (14,000 feet for this short journey), it was suddenly struck with two powerful SM2 missiles fired from an American ship in Iranian waters below. The 290 passengers and crew (including 66 children) were all killed, either in the explosion and breakup, or after a three mile fall to the Persian Gulf below.

Officially, the crew of the USS Vincennes, which had opted to fire the missiles at that plane, had simply gotten confused in the thick of a separate naval battle they'd gotten into. After missing IA655's listing in the 'do not shoot' registry, misreading its transponder code as of military origin, and erring on its speed, heading/location, and altitude profile, the crew had decided the airbus was a fighter jet swooping down towards them for the attack, as all their misreadings jointly suggested. [2]

The troubling details and explanations of this bizarre accident are worth covering elsewhere, but ascribing the best intentions, the Vincennes fired in what seemed clear-cut self-defense, while they happened to be within Iranian waters. As such they fully earned their later commendations, like the responsible air-warfare coordinator, who won a navy medal for "heroic achievement [...] under fire." [3]

End of the War
At the Iraq-Iran war's commencement in 1980, the United States had sanctioned the bloodshed, so long as Iraq was on top. By the latter 1980s, the situation had shifted. Increased U.S. assistance and even direct shooting reflected fears that Iraq might lose forever the territory Iran was gaining. By the end of 1987, “we became,” a senior U.S. officer told ABC News, “forward air controllers for the Iraqi air force.” [4]

Operation Praying Mantis responded to Iranian mining of the Gulf with escalated U.S. attacks on Iranian gunboats, oil platforms, and tankers in April. [5] Immediately, protection of "neutral shipping" was also expanded; it was to enforce this protection that the Vincennes had been called to the Gulf. 

At the same time, Washington and thence the UN Security Council was calling, with Resolution 598, for the war to simply end with past borders restored. Both sides had to see the benefit of an end to the grueling war, but after their own heavy sacrifices had improved their odds, Iran was reluctant to concede on the West's terms and timetable.

Along with a renewed Iraqi air and chemical offensives into Iran's cities in the spring and summer of 1988, the bizarre accident of IA655 had to have hastened  Iran’s effective surrender a few weeks later. The precise role it played – minor, major, or peripheral - cannot be known for sure. However, an Iranian scholar stated at a conference hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center [paraphrased]
"A turning point in Iran's thinking came with the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in July 1988 by the American cruiser USS Vincennes. That incident apparently led Ayatollah Khomeini to conclude that Iran could not risk the possibility of U.S. open combat operations against Iran and he decided it was time to end the conflict." [6]
There is every reason to believe that’s just what the Americans wanted to get across, after the tragedy if not shortly before as well. Aside from unapologetic "regret” over the loss of innocent life, and blaming Iran for the warship's mistakes, the American message was best put by White House media handler Marlin Fitzwater in putting the accident in context:
Only an end to the war, an objective we desire, can halt the immense suffering in the region and put an end to innocent loss of life. Our goal is peace in the Gulf and on land. We urge Iran and Iraq to work with the Security Council for an urgent comprehensive settlement of the war pursuant to Resolution 598. Meanwhile, United States forces will continue their mission in the area, keenly aware of the risks involved and ready to face them. [7] 
That is, as the Iranians likely read it, "we’ll keep on shooting at anything that might possibly be a threat as long as we “have to” hang around there, which is until Iran surrenders." About seven weeks after IA655 was torn down, an agreement was reached and hostilities between Iraq and Iran were officially and physically ended on August 20 1988. No territory was lost, but nearly a million people were. 

But even after the cease-fire, one more battle loomed. It would be just as one-sided as the battle of IA-655, just about as deadly, and just as unacknowledged. Again, the perpetrators would go unpunished as innocents paid the price for others' crimes.  

Revenge Pronouncements / Connective Tissue
Only in 1996 was a comprehensive legal agreement over the incident settled between Iran and America. Officially Iran accepted the accident story and took a small settlement $132 million and no acceptance of any guilt, exactly as offered by the US eight years earlier. [8] "Official" acceptance doesn't always mean that much; especially when the blood was fresh and tempers hot, Tehran never bought the bland American statements that the shoot-down was purely accidental. It's not even an unreasonable suspicion on their part - it's their apparent response I can't agree with.

Researcher Ludwig De Braeckeleer has assembled a useful compendium of Iranian death threats following the supposed accident. By this, various officials and ambassadors accused the United States of ''a barbaric massacre'' and an "act of terrorism." They pledged to launch "an appropriate response," to the "American crime," to "avenge the blood of their martyrs," and mete out "punishment to prevent further occurrence or recurrence of such unfortunate incidents." Most pointedly, hardliner Ali Akbar Mohtashemi (alt Mohtashemi-Pur), widely believed to have headed up the "appropriate response" planning, publicly "swore that there should be a "rain of blood" in revenge." [9]

This wasn't just hardcore posturing for the Iranian street, but something representing a real danger; everyone in the know expected retaliation, and likely in-kind - the Iranians would seek to now kill American civilians on an airplane and see how we liked it.  While uncertainty persists with no adequate investigation, the supposed payment was $10 million to the Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC. An early 1991 report, prepared by the National Security Agency for Gulf War intelligence use, stated:
"Mohtashemi is closely connected with the Al Abas and Abu Nidal terrorist groups. He is actually a long-time friend of Abu Nidal. He has recently paid $10 million in cash and gold to these two organizations to carry out terrorist activities and was the one who paid the same amount to bomb Pan Am Flight 103 in retaliation for the US shoot-down of the Iranian Airbus." [10]
The revenge moved swiftly, it seems, perhaps starting before the cease-fire even. It was in early October that the GC cell in Neuss, West Germany was set up, October 13 that bomb maker Khreesat arrived and set to work, and October 26 when the cell was busted up in Operation: Autumn Leaves. Most have always suspected their goal had been to destroy an American airliner on Iran's instruction and with support from Syria, using the type of radio-disguised altimeter bomb found in the car with Khreesat.

Three other such bombs were missed in the first raid and only found later, and one bomb at least was never intercepted. Vincent Cannistraro, who headed the CIA's Lockerbie probe, was interviewed for a program Shadow Over Lockerbie:
"[Cannistraro] says authorities focused on the likelihood that Marwan Khreesat's fifth bomb had blown up the Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie. "The immediate feeling was: we've missed someone. That someone in that cell had escaped with one of the explosive devices and succeeded in planting it on Pan Am 103." [11]  
In other words, the terror tree was shaken and the "Autumn Leaves" had fallen and scattered, but they weren't all raked up neat. One may have drifted into the belly of PA103.

Obvious, Then Nothing
When the other shoe fell, the horror and carnage clearly mirrored IA655 with a mid-air explosion leaving 259 to deal with five miles of pure gravity however they did before dying against the cold winter soil of Scotland. To clarify the issue, just hours after the attack, two phone calls were placed from London to the Associated Press and UPI declaring in broken English:
"We, the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, are undertaking this heroic execution in revenge of blowing the Iran Air plane by America a few months ago." [12]
A CIA memo of the following day listed this first among a short list of responsibility claims. Among Islamic Jihad, the Ulster Defense League, and Mossad, the report said "we consider the claim from the Guadians of the Islamic Revolution as the most credible; previous attacks claimed by this group suggest it is pro-Iranian." It then listed several, with responsibility usually called in by an anonymous man: two assassination attempts on exiled Shah era leaders in exile, a plane hijacking a plane to secure the release of said assassins, and killing by car bomb a German businessman accused of selling missiles to Iraq while the war was on. [source]

Avenging the killing of 290 innocent Iranians by a US gunship seems in-line with the Guardians' philosophy, or perhaps some other Iranian agency, and most likely with technical help of the altimeter-triggered kind. Investigators, media reports, and the whole public mind went that way at first for at least a year, from no later than this ABC News broadcast of Feb 16 1989. Behind the suspicions of the PFLP-GC cell and its Khreesat bomb "a senior source overseeing the investigation" revealed that  "some hard-line members of the Iranian revolutionary guard" may have arranged for the attack through these suspects. "Revenge for the shooting down of the Iranian Airliner by the USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf last summer was their motive," said reporter Brian Dunsmore in Lockerbie.  [13]

And still in early 1990 Steve Emerson and Brian Duffy wrote in The Fall of Pan Am 103 how sponsorship ran with Syrian supports up to Tehran, driven by revenge for IA655, "shot down for the Fourth of July holiday, the Mullahs believed, to celebrate America's independence." [14] To repay these expensive 4th of July fireworks with an early Black Christmas present, followed by a Body Boxing Day and a few more, might be a potent signal.

Officially, Iran denies involvement in the bombing, but some, like suspected mastermind Mohtashemi, have claimed a leading role on candid occasions. In 1995, an Iranian magazine ran an interview where "Mohtashami-Pur said that he would soon reveal the "Lockerbie files" to the readers." The report was quashed from above and the magazine closed down. [15] Former Iranian president Abdulhassan Bani Sadr also has admitted proudly, in the 1990s, that “Iran ordered the attack and Ahmed Jibril carried it out,” [16] a claim he repeated to deBraeckeleer in 2008. [17]

As these statements were made and as of late 1991 the U.S. was officially and exclusively pursuing Libya for the crime, freeing some Persian tongues to confess with impunity, it seems. And yet, the U.S. says, there was no Iranian revenge. The faint possibility of Tehran's involvement in Libya's atrocity has been whispered, but never clarified or pursued in the slightest. [see: Iranian vs. Libyan Role in the Lockerbie Bombing]

Iranian leaders had planned to take down an American plane (at least one), had paid for it and had bombs built and ready to go. With hard cash, glory, and blood vendetta driving them, Mohtashemi and and his contractors must have given up after the Germany bust. This is just what the FBI, CIA, USG, Scottish Police, Camp Zeist judges, and others claim to find most likely. And then just as precisely as item 8849 from Malta replaced the Bedford suitcases in the luggage container's deadliest corner, the Libyans took their own incidentally identical revenge at just that time. 

It's never been decided which motive drove the Libyans, but it's widely presumed to be the nearly three-year-old Operation: Eldorado Canyon bombings by U.S. forces. For the death of his adopted toddler daughter and a few dozen other Libyans, he ordered the Lockerbie bombing, while the level-headed Iranians waited for the court settlement and reparations after IA-655.  

At least, that's what the FBI's SCOTBOM evidence strongly illustrates. A desperate defector, an amazingly resilient timer fragment, a bizarre unverifiable printout, and a pliable soon-to-be-millionaire witness, all prove the Libyans did it through Malta, however much sense that makes. And nothing solid implicating Iran or Syria or the PFLP-GC was found anywhere in there. Move along, nothing to see here - the real Lockerbie bomber was behind bars for a while.  
[1] Ghasemi, Shapour. “Shooting Down Iran Air 655 [IA655]” Iran Chamber Society: History of Iran. 2004.
[2], [3] Charles, Roger. "Sea Of Lies: The Inside Story Of How An American Naval Vessel Blundered Into An Attack On Iran Air Flight 655 At The Height Of Tensions During The Iran-Iraq War-And How The Pentagon Tried To Cover Its Tracks After 290 Innocent Civilians Died." Newsweek. July 13 1992.
[4]  "The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War" ABC Nightline, Aired July 1 1992. Full Transcript, with extensive notes. ...
[5] Operation Praying Mantis. Wikipedia.
[6] Steinberg, Dana. "The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War: A CWIHP Critical Oral History Conference." 
[7] See [1]
[8] Wikipedia. Iran Air Flight 655.
[9] DeBraeckeleer, Ludwig. "Tehran: 'The Blood of Our Martyrs Will Be Avenged' [Diary of a Vengeance Foretold] Part 2." Oh My News International. July 4 2008.
[10], [15], [17] DeBraeckeleer, Ludwig. "Former Iranian President Blames Tehran for Lockerbie."
[11] Biewen, John and Ian Ferguson. Shadow Over Lockerbie. 2000, American Radio Works. 
[12]  Emerson and Duffy p 56
[13] ABC News. Feb. 16, 1989: Pan Am 103 Flight Investigation. "A bomb hidden in a cassette player brought down Pan Am 103 in December 1988." Anchor, Ted Koppel. Reporter, Barry Dunsmore, Lockerbie. Video currently viewable at: 
[14] Emerson and Duffy, p 59.
[16] The Maltese Double Cross. Produced, written, and directed by Allan Francovich, Hemar Enterprises, released November 1994. 2 hours, 36 minutes. Quote at 34:00 mark. Google Video 

Primary Evidence: Frankfurt Airport Records

First Posted 20 January 2010
last edits June 25, 2011

The System
[Analysis by Caustic Logic, based on wide but uncited skimming - may not be 100% accurate, but intended only to help understand the records below]

Frankfurt Airport in 1988 was the busiest air hub in Europe, serving many thousands of flights a day between Europe, the near east, nort Africa, and North America. The baggage handling system in 1988 was both state of the art and sloppy. Its workings can be understood as broken down to two parts, loosely termed outer and inner.

The outer portion was where luggage arrived at and left from the airport - a zone of tarmac and taxiing aircraft, wagons and luggage containers. From the planes, luggage was carted to a coding station, where items were placed on bar-code numbered trays (containers), one item per tray, and fed into the inner portion. Hard paperwork was apparently normally kept for transactions between aircraft and coding stations, both inclusive.

The Zeist Court explained “baggage for most airlines was handled by the airport authority, but PanAm had their own security and baggage handling staff.” Thus the airport and the airline each would then have responsibility for keeping track of their own efforts, and both should be called on in the investigation. The Frankfurt Airport Group would be in charge of unloading KM180, and Pan Am's people would handle loading and screening of luggage coming onto the outbound feeder flight.

The inner portion then is what the Court described as “a computer controlled automated baggage handling system” running beneath the airport. This vast electro-mechanic system automatically routed coded items along roller conveyors and through switching stations, at key spots scanned and logged. This system connected coding stations to the various stores, where luggage circulated until needed, and apparently up to loading gates. After this, they re-emerged topside and then to the connecting aircraft’s hold, where again, a record would be kept of loading procedures.

Primary Evidence
The relevant central computer data was produced, if under questionable circumstances, showing one particular item was coded at 13:07 into container no. 8849. It was then routed down to store for two hours until moved at 15:17 to gate B044, from which 103A loaded before its 16:53 departure. No passenger transferred from the air Malta flight to the PanAm one, so the bag thus illustrated was of the dreaded “unaccompanied” variety.

Apparently, no direct record of PA103A's loading was available to corroborate this. The unloading records for the Air Malta flight (KM180) that bag apparently came from, likewise do not figure in the evidence. And the mammoth central computer file aside from the items sent to 103A is missing without explanation. But the arrival of each flight at the airport, and the coding of one's luggage, were presented, aside from the crucial and curious "Frankfurt printout." Below are all available documents relevant to the claim of an unaccompanied bag, from flight KM180, being sent on to Flight 103A at Frankfurt. These will be given by the "production number" assigned them as evidence during the trial, and briefly explained. All images were originally found at Mebo pages, but seem to be genuine and unaltered. (see "Sources" at end)

Production 1068: The Opinion of the Court's paragraph 29 denotes this for “the evidence of Joachim Koscha, who was one of the managers of the baggage system at Frankfurt in 1988” It was his evidence that established KM180’s arrival and unloading time, 12:48-13:00. They do also cite a “record,” but provided no direct citation.

Production Null: This is the designation – none – given to KM180 unloading papers in the trial. Denis Phipps, former head of security, British Airways, has closely inspected the primary records of different airlines and airports connected to the disaster. He said in The Maltese Double Cross [video, 1994] “the records from Frankfurt were by no means complete." Among his concerns:
“There was no record of who unloaded that flight KM180 when it arrived at Frankfurt. We don't know who the loaders were. There was no record of the number of bags that were actually unloaded from that flight. There were no records that I could find.” 

It isn’t entirely clear if paperwork normally was kept for this – it might have been a policy to determine the number of bags from the computer system, which could count the number of items coded at a certain station and time and take that as the number from the flight coded then. It would be a grossly imperfect system, considering the reliability of this method, as mentioned above. But it would line up with the known laxness of procedure there, and mean one less suspiciously missing record.

Production 1092: This is an “interline writer’s sheet” filled out by Andreas Schreiner, who was in charge of monitoring the arrival of baggage at V3 That bears to record one wagon of baggage from KM180 arriving at V3 at 13:01.Within V3 are seven coding stations, where luggage is placed into bar-code numbered trays to enter bottomside. They cite the sheet’s contents in table form and it seems like they had these records at hand. No number of bags in that wagon is given.
This brings us to the reliability of coding station logs in determining where a particular item really came from. The Zeist judges heard testimony that “luggage was always delivered from one flight only” at any given time." [Opinion of the Court, para 29] Taking this literally would mean a station's log saying flight X was handled from 1:00-1:05 means an item shown in the computer system as coded there at 1:01 is clearly from flight X. 

But this is not completely sound. Dennis Phipps noted the unreliability of these logs in the Maltese Double Cross, and it's been widely noted that lapses of stray bags being inserted during another flight's coding are not only possible but recorded, and common sense itself suggests such a presumption is, at the least, not guaranteed to be right. The degree of correlation between coding time and flight number is certainly higher than zero and less than 100%, and debatable from there. A separate post, Coding Station Reliability, will address this controversy, but generally below it should remain an open question.

Production 1061: This document (above) was identified by witnesses Mr Schreiner and Mr Koscha “as a work sheet completed by a coder to record baggage with which he dealt.” The name of the coder in question was Koca, who was not called as a witness.” Pity, since the document shows us little detail. The signatures alternate Koca and Candar, listing either container numbers or numbers of wagons of luggage, the flight number it’s from, time they started coding, and stop time. The relevant line is the last one – one wagon of luggage from KM180 started coding at 13:04, and ended at a time disputed as 13:10 or 13:16. (13:10 yields a time closer to those previously noted, and it's what the Court decided. The difference is six minutes of time, which could have increased the likelihood of a stray bag being introduced. Again, refer to the post on coding station reliability.

Production 1062: This is the court’s code for some unspecified “documentary evidence” that “the aircraft used for PA103A arrived from Vienna (as flight PA124) and was placed at position 44, from which it left for London at 1653.”

Production 1060 (at left - r-click/new window for readable view) This is the famous computer printout, the single document that allows “the inference," drawn by the Scottish Judges, "that an item which came in on KM180 was transferred to and left on PA103A.” It's a list of items routed to PA103A, taken by airport employee Bogomira Erac for personal reasons and handed over to investigators only a month after the disaster.

It was the first time they'd seen it. What's highly unusual about this evidence is that the German federal police (BKA) were unable to secure their own copy, right off the computer, in the days after the crash. In the end, we had to rely on a memento copy from someone’s locker, which existed only by sheer luck. It was that close to having a whole airport's luggage records go completely missing, right after such a massive event demanded that information. The troubling case of the missing records is worthy of a detailed stand-alone post. Another interesting question is why the BKA then made the official investigators in Scotland and Washington wait another six months before sharing it with them. It wasn't until mid-August 1989 that Scottish police were able to see this pivotal record that wound up turning the investigation around to Malta and thence Libya.

Whatever the book got wrong, Trail of the Octopus is helpful on this issue.
"On 17 August 1989, eight months after the disaster, Chief Detective Superintendent John Orr received from the BKA what was said to be a computer print-out of the baggage-loading list for Pan Am Flight 103A from Frankfurt to London on the afternoon of 21 December 1988. Attached to this were two internal reports, dated 2 February 1989, describing the inquiries that BKA officers had made about the baggage-handling system at the airport. Also provided were two worksheets, one typewritten, the other handwritten, that were said to have been prepared on 21 December by airport workers at key points on the conveyor-belt network." [Coleman/Goddard]

Mrs. Erac' testimony at Camp Zeist in 2000 clarified that the printout was not taken to the BKA until approximately the last week of January, so a 1 February foray is a perfect match for being spurred by the printout. Any records of any earlier efforts, fruitful or not, remain under wraps. Upon getting the papers in August, Orr and his men quickly investigated the airport themselves, and also got more serious about previous clues leading to Malta.

What the printout shows, briefly, is 111 items listed numerically by container number. The relevant portions are highlighted in the condensed version below. PA103A is referred to herein as F1042. The relevant item 8849 was coded at station S0009, which it’s been determined means station 206, at 1307. That is a fit with KM180’s load. It then goes to Gate B044 at 1523, the same few-minute span most of 103's luggage arrived. What happened from there is outside the computerized system and not recorded here. But according to this, two late-coded items were sent to a separate gate B041, and curiously, these two items bracket the apparent bomb bag, numerically speaking, and so are visible below. All 108 items not shown here were sent to gate 44.

So broadly there are three possibilities:
- If it could be certain that station 209 at 1307 means KM180 and nothing else, this would be solid evidence of a bag from that flight.
- It could have been an item of another origin passing through there at just the right time to appear as from KM180. This does require a certain acceptance of coincidence, but cannot be ignored.
- The data could clearly mean to say KM180, but itself be fraudulent. This would explain the printout's appearance and the primary data's disappearance. Perhaps the two were not really unrelated bad and good luck, but two halves of a bait-and-switch routine, perhaps carried out by the BKA for uncertain reasons.

Production Null: The normal, official, system-wide, right from the computer luggage records.
As has been mentioned, for some reason the primary data of luggage movements was lost, but avoided making a big noise once a copy was luckily found. So it was no loss, we might presume. But how would we know?

There may never be answers to the riddle of the lost computer data, but a dedicated post is warranted to explore what we do and don't know about it.

Production Null: PanAm’s loading records for flight 103A.

Image: Prod 1092
Image: Prod 1060
(other images by Caustic Logic)
[Coleman/Goddard] TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS -- FROM BEIRUT TO LOCKERBIE -- INSIDE THE DIA. Chapter 7. Online posting.
[Opinion of the Court] PDF download link

Two Secondary Suitcases?

June 13/14, 2011

The Soft, Blue and Maroon Case
Below is a screen capture from al Jazeera's new video, of a severely blasted suitcase, gathered back together for investigator's cameras following the bombing of PA103. This piece of luggage was listed in the examination notes of Dr. Hayes as item 4.2.14, a blue soft-shell American Tourister case.

It was owned by passenger Patricia Coyle, who interlined from Germany on the feeder PA103A, which also officially carried the bomb (although other evidence suggests it was manually placed in London).  By RARDE's questionable and belated finding, it was placed just beneath the bomb suitcase, on the floor of luggage container AVE 4041. It looks just about blown-up enough to have been the primary case - the one containing the bomb. But it was what I'll call "secondary", next to and touching the primary one.

I recognized the photo even without a label from the description given of the unique remains in the trial transcripts, and the readable item numbers support that call. This case had always sounded supremely blast-damaged and largely unaccounted-for, and this elusive photograph 76 shows about what I expected, if even more so. The examination notes (culled as read-back from transcripts) explain:
"The following 27 items, the larger fragments of which are collectively shown in photograph 76, were identified as component parts of a blue American Tourister brand softshell suitcase. The severe overall damage to the identified component parts is consistent with this suitcase having been located in contact with the suitcase that contained the improvised explosive device at the moment of explosion."
The case had been supported by a simple wire frame, with flexible plastic of blue, maroon, and black filling it in the body and trim. TSH/346 is the large piece wrapping around the outside, essentially the whole middle band of the case. It was said to have been blasted at least partly into the neighboring container, AVN 7511, along with some pieces of the container and of the primary suitcase.

There are only about ten further pieces not shown, all very small. As can be seen, the majority of that base material didn't turn up, left in the tiniest tatters lost to wind, sea, and mud if not to the fireball of the explosion itself.

The Hard, Antique Copper One
Here, at left, is what was assembled and called the primary suitcase. It was a different type entirely, a brown or antique copper colored hard-shell Samsonite, Silhouette 4000 series. Given in the report as luggage item 4.1.2, its remains were described thus:
The following 56 items were examined and identified as the component parts of one of the hardshell Samsonite brand suitcases from the Silhouette 4000 range. It was also established beyond any doubt that this item of luggage had been subjected to a violent internal explosion and thus had originally contained an improvised explosive device. Except where noted, all of the items examined below are collectively shown in photograph 49.
The bolded part is the one I here contend. Very similar damage, considering the material differences, had the American Tourister declared as just beneath the bomb. Here, Hayes seems a little too certain for comfort that this extremely splintered suitcase was wrapped around the explosion itself.

As with the other case, the pieces not shown are the smallest ones, especially the many fragments of the cardboard divider from the middle of the suitcase, closest to the alleged bomb (PT/68 in the lower corner is the one sample of that shown).

The delicate suitcase lining fabric not much further away is represented by one nearly-complete side of the stuff - the giant 22-inch PK/1310A, stretched across the middle of the photo. The combined effect of this gauze, the surviving cardboard, and the other very large fragments of shell plastic, is that this case experienced a very asymmetrical blast involvement, with one whole side - and even the middle, it seems - shielded by something - like the upper half of the case and half the primary case and its contents above that.

Among this possible lower half, PI/911 in the upper left is nearly a foot square, and at one point (January 1989) Dr. Thomas Hayes of RARDE had concluded it was from was from "the lower side of a suitcase, compressed and fractured in a manner suggesting it was in contact with a luggage pallet's base and subjected to explosive forces from above." This means beneath the bomb suitcase, which was on level two and blasted from within, not above. (see: the Monster of Newcastelton Forest)

That opinion changed at some uncertain later point - by the time of the final report in 1990, PI/911 was said to have flecks of blue plastic stuck to it, suggesting it had rested on the American Tourister, not the container's floor.

Two Brown Hard-Shells?
This all has direct relevance to the story of John Bedford, the luggage loader at Heathrow now famous for seeing and reporting a brown hard-shell Samsonite case - or perhaps two - inside the container's lower corner. In part, he told police in January 1989:
“They were [both] hard cases, the type Samsonite make. One was brown in color and the other one, if it wasn't the same color, it was similar.”
No passengers on Flight 103 carried any such luggage and only the one shown above was recovered after. Yet here is at least one, and possibly two, such cases confirmed in the container before a second or third such case came in from Malta on the German feeder. This was around two hours after Bedford's sighting, and officially, it was set on top of the Coyle case, in the same exact spot the Bedford bag(s) just vanished from, never to be seen again. Officially, that's what happened.

If he described two cases of the same exact color and style, where did the other one go when only the remains of one turned up?

One possibility I've aired before is the one we've seen is not the primary suitcase. Rather, it might be another secondary case, like ms. Coyle's, with the primary case having effectively vanished under the force of its own more-powerful-than-thought explosion. At right is a graphic (all to scale and accurate) that illustrates that arrangement.

I had backed off a bit on the idea of two matching cases, for the sake of simplicity. But this new image of suitcase 4.2.14 changes things, showing me that  both of the suitcases in question are comparable for extreme damage. Below I've placed both images, fragments in silhouette, side-by-side to approximately the same scale. Seeing them together like this, it's hardly obvious the left one is the most obliterated. Soft-shell vs. hard-shell construction will give different results, and the total number of recovered fragments - 56 compared to 27 - suggests that, in fact, more of Ms. Coyle's less durable case material was lost to the explosion and the elements than were  lost from the primary case that should have seen by far the worst of it.

Really, seeing this image re-affirms to me the idea that these are both cases that had been situated next to the primary one, which was presumably the other Bedford suitcase, worse off yet - gone into dust, along with everything in it. This would mean the clothes, the bomb radio, timer, umbrella, everything deemed to be from the primary case, were either from one of the neighboring cases, or were planted. Considering how neatly they pointed to Libya and Megrahi, and how plagued they are with plausibility issues and handling anomalies, I'm going with planted.

Video: Lockerbie: The Pan Am bomber

June 11 2011

This is the new documentary aired by al Jazeera English the other day, and posted by them graciously on Youtube. It's nothing short of amazing.

Feraday's Forensic Follies, Section Sixty-Seven

June 11 2010
last updates June 11/13 2011

A few days ago I posted a collected timeline of forensic finds and coclusions from RARDE's "scientists" Dr. Thomas Hayes and Mr. Allen Feraday. These were supposed to have led to the identification of a vaguely Libyan radio model holding the bomb - Toshiba BomBeat RT-SF16. The end result is bizarre, with a hundred implied complications, like those presented by a tiny bit of blasted circuit board dubbed PT/30.

This 3mm x 4mm  fragment was allegedly found on June 8 1989 by Dr. Hayes, or June 18 by Feraday, depending. Both versions match on where it was found - embedded in a piece of soft blue American Toursiter suitcase owned by victim Karen Noonan and labeled PK/2128. [Leppard p207] Its PT number is lower than the famous PT/35 found weeks earlier (on paper), as noted by the defence at trial. This would be unusual if not for all the rest being just as out of order (see PT/31, PT/56, etc...). Stranger yet, Dr. Hayes' examination notes of PT/30 read in part:
It has been partially delaminated by the blast and, hence, does not possess the expectedgreen lacquer and/or solder tracking upon its rear face as this has been ripped completely away. The upper [brown] face of the fragment bears part of the white painted characters C32 and a depiction of an electrical resistor.
Consider the sample loading of the alleged bomb (below) in a normally-assembled RT-SF16 radio (minus its cassette assembly). The main circuit board is the one seen along the top, brown-colored component side down. This surfaces is that painted with little white markings that survived the blast of that Semtex about one inch distant. It was the inverse side, green lacquered and tracked with solder, that was blasted away. Was the board backwards?

PT/30 is not alone in having its painted face survive readable and unburnt. Consider this largest portion of the earlier find AG/145 (at right). Its markings "L106" and "101" are plain as day, and only the edges are burnt a little. The smaller part of AG/145 is similarly marked, with "02." It would thus seem the terrorists allegedly scraped off all those little  components off their contacts and flipped the board backwards to fit it back in. Except that the AG/145 fragments also had nice green backsides that showed no sign of blast either, and allowed the first identification in February.

Anyway, to bring this back to Feraday, he was reportedly excited about PT/30 turning up. The radio model RT-SF16 was already identified on May 11, we hear, and this fit it just as perfectly as the AG/145 fragments did, and was noted immediately by Hayes on June 8. So Mr. Feraday reportedly waited a few months, and then in September took the thing to the evidence holding facility Dexstar to see if it could match anything there.

Later, in December, DI William Williamson sent SIO Henderson a memo describing this: "On his visit to Dexstar on 14 September 1989 Mr Feraday viewed a large number of items of circuitry which had been withdrawn for his examination; none of these items was a match for PT 30." [Leppard p 207] (note: PT 30 is just Leppard's way of writing PT/30 - space instead of slash. It's the same item)

Williamson went on to ask Henderson to look into inspecting evidence held by the Germans to see if a match could be found to Khreesat's work - particularly some alarm clocks he was known to have bought. Feraday had "on a number of occasions repeated his keen interest in any item of circuitry," Williamson explained, "or indeed in any digital clocks or other similar items which could contain a circuit board for examination and comparison at RARDE against produsction PT 30." [Leppard 207-208]

Earth to Allen, your science guy Hayes has May 11 as the date he IDd the radio, and on June 8 found that PT/30 matches it. Why the running around drama in mid-September looking for some whole other fit? The obvious answers somehow elude this blogger, but one thing I notice is the timing of this fevered search relative to a more fruitful circuitry quest: PT/35(b), the lucky corner of a Libyan MST-13 timer main board. The day after Feraday's reported inquest at Dexstar, evidencing that "keen interest" in circuit board clues, he sent a memo to the same DI Williamson cited above. This was regarding a four-month old (on paper) find by Dr. Hayes.
In retrospect, this memo is rather vague, not mentioning PT/35(b) by name or giving many direct clues. It could almost be about PT/30, except for the cited curve. Only the mammoth MST-13 chunk and its double-underlined #1 is large enough for that detail. By my rough measurement of a scaled MST-13 jpeg the curve at upper right has a 0.5" diameter. I'd defer to Feraday here.

So this is a letter about that amazing but yet unidentified clue PT/35(b), keenly ignored it seems until that date - four months after the paperwork shows it found. But only one day after Feraday's own foray over the already identified PT/30 (says the same Williamson months later).

Or am I just making too much out of a simple mix up? Not likely, as that memo of December 19, just ahead of the anniversary, shows Feraday behind the scenes urging yet more bogus action over the already identified circuitry. Over six months following its match-up with the known bomb radio, he was pestering Williamson to pester Henderson about trying to find a match for PT/30 over in Germany if possible.

If all these things are the true exploits of professional and even-handed investigators ... my God, what kind of MKULTRA experiments were they doing with the ventilation at RARDE? No, these "facts" must have appeared as they were convenient, with little regard for those which came before or after. It's the only sane explanation.
Update June 11/13, 2011
Some amazing screen grabs from Al Jazeera English's new video.

AG/145 fragments, separated and partly cleaned, hugely magnified and looking less burnt to ash than ever:
Here's the second largest fragment, placed against its spot of origin on the brown/orange, lettered, blast-ward side of the board.
And here is the backside of the larger one against the green, shielded, solder-tracked side.
It's this precise match-up, Allen Feraday said, that helped him at least narrow down the radio model by mid-February 1989. In both images, note the material - flimsy, paper-fiber-and-resin, not fiberglass.

As we can see comparing the first and third of these images, neither side of that largest bit shows any sign of blast damage (extreme heat, for example). But where on the board are these fragments from? The middle, just one inch from the Semtex supernova? Or at one of the ends, a couple of inches away? There's an image that clears that up, and they showed it as well in the video, bless them. I compared it to the assembled IED mock-up, rotated so features matched. I then indicated the rough areas for both AG/145 and PT/30.
That gives at most about 1.5 inches for the blast wave to chill-out, and nothing but the flimsy little capacitors (or ??) attached to those spots to shield the face. The left-hand one is in as good a spot as it gets to survive, but still, I can't cite the measure of the force of this blast except that it ruptured an airliner's hull at two feet distant, after being slowed by the luggage container, the suitcase, the clothing, and the radio's case. Before all of these, at 1.5 inches, tops, fresh and full-force ... No way.

Beyond that, do recall, as explained above, that Hayes found PT/30 had the wrong side - the green one - blasted away, while all of AG/145 shows damage to neither side. Another oddity is that both AG/145 at PT/30 would go about the same direction in the blast wave - out from the center in all directions. If PT/30 were blasted straight down, AG/145 should go down and to the left pretty much.

Officially PT/30 wound up wedged into the outer frame segment (IIRC) of the blue softshell on the container floor, just beneath the bomb bag - if so, why would AG/145 wind up, as Mr. Thomas Claiden testified, blasted into a fold of the data plate, on the outside of the container, halfway up its side, two feet or more above the bomb bag?

A Costly New Libya - Rented, Not Owned

June 5 2011

This rare update is spurred by an excellent video I just saw from Journeyman productions - not sure if they made it or who they are - it says 2003, which seems right - but it's a rare video on Libya and Lockerbie that gives real insight.

The $10 billion mentioned was never paid. It was set at 2.7 billion in 2003, and settled up by, I think, 2008 to a slightly different tune. I don't have the details handy, but lawyers got a lot of it.

The video mentions this as being no admission of guilt but rather the government's purchase of "a license" to simply be allowed back into the world economy (see 7:25). Further, Libya agreed to drop its own claims over the 1986 US bombing, by "mad dog" Reagan, of Tripoli and Benghazi, that killed around fifty innocents. This was in retaliation for another attack the Libyans have sworn they never carried out, and the effects are covered touchingly in the video. Note the contrast of the victims of that bombing in seeking justice compared to those whose case was against Libya, and who had it muscled through to amazingly painful effects for Libya, by the best of Anglo-American imperial might.

Of course, as Professor Black explains here in part, that case itself is weak and unreliable, the judgment confirming it perverse. See the rest of this site for a fuller exploration of the depth of unreliability dug out by the Lockerbie case. But they paid up anyway, because the sanctions rested on the perverse verdict and those were quite real.

Detente did follow from 2003-2011, greased along with Tripoli swearing off all terroorism, real or imagined, abandonimg all WMD programs, including a nuclear deterrent, promising reforms in Libya, and opening to foreign oil companies. But the companies weren't fully happy, the system was still too Libyan, and plots still simmered under the surface, and now ...

It's insane to think eight years later, all paid-up, the country is finally being destroyed completely anyways. At least $60 billion (perhaps more like $100 billion) in Libyan government funds - for military, civilian, and all uses - was just frozen by the US and a handful of other countries. And the NATO bombs are falling across non-rebel Libya. This is all officially based on some muddled humanitarian concern that can only be answered by Gaddafi "leaving" and taking his system - women empowerment, massive benefits for citizens at large, limited foreign control, etc. - with him. This is all being handed to us sewn together wrong, and I'm still working on fixing that, as much as I can, at my new blog The Libyan Civil War: Critical Views.

Announcement: New Blog!

April 24 2011

I've just created a new blog dedicated to the Libyan Civil War: critical views, concerns, complaints, conspiracy theories, and so on. I hope to make it very informative and possibly make it into a hub for multiple writers to organize some mental resistance. There's not much up at the moment (three posts, one a re-post from elsewhere), but there are over a dozen others in draft form and man, many others in the planning and research stages. An explanatory top-post will be up soon.

The blog is here:
Anyone concerned about the war should check it once now, and again in a few days. And in-between and after, feel free to submit useful articles and links to

Thirty-Eight Minutes

The Bomb-Timing Clue for London Intro
First posted March 28 2010

Completely re-written Jan. 18 2011

Five Altimeter Bombs
It was a well-placed bomb detonation in the forward hold of PA103 that sealed the fate of 270 people on the evening of December 21, 1988. To be precise, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) decided it had detonated at 19.02:50 (7:03pm) – almost exactly thirty-eight minutes after it left the ground from London’s Heathrow Airport at 6:25.

This time span, officially decided on by Libyan plotters for unclear reasons, is an uncanny fit with another technology, controlled by another group entirely – Ahmed Jiibril’s PFLP-GC. To recap, Marwan Khreesat is a Jordanian intelligence operative and long-practicing maker of airliner-killing bombs for Jibril (with exact allegiance unclear in a chicken-and-egg sort of way). Khreesat’s bombs were triggered by altitude (air pressure) and hidden inside consumer electronics – usually radio-cassette players. In the fall of 1988 he was called in again by the PFLP-GC on a mission for Iran – avenge the US destruction of Iran Air flight 655 by destroying an American airliner themselves.

Khreesat was hired to make or modify five bombs, and contrary to GID orders (as we've heard them), compelled to make them fully armed. Only one radio-IEDs of the five was intercepted on the arrest of Khreesat and the whole cell on October 26 1988. Three more of these were found later by German authorities and studied, given the numbers below. All seized Khreesat devices, in order of discovery:

1) Toshiba BomBeat 453 radio-cassette
2) Sanyo computer monitor
3) Ultrasound radio
4) Ultrasound radio

The fifth device, which Khreesat says he only soldered two wires on after someone else constructed it, was a different Toshiba radio (not the BomBeat seized nor the Libyan BomBeat SF-16 officially accepted). The someone else who made it was likely "Abu Elias," a relative of Jibril’s and a senior PFLP-GC operative. Khreesat thinks Abu Elias worked by copying his own work, perhaps recycling some parts from the fifth test model he made for Jibril back in 1985.

This one hasn’t been studied, as it officially never turned up. Many, however, still suspect it did surface – on Pan Am flight 103. So we’ll return to it at the end, after grasping the four that were definitely never used.

Gobel and Khreesat explain the time aspect
[Note: a separate post details the hardware end of these bombs in a little more detail.]
David Leppard’s curious 1991 book On the Trail of Terror describes the work done by German investigators on the four bombs found in Germany, and summarized the findings of BKA scientist “W. A. Gobel." This looked at how the altimeter and time delay modifications worked. Here he refers only to unit 1, the seized BomBeat 453:
“Gobel had tested the performance of the pressure pick-up gauge in a vacuum chamber. The circuit would close at a pressure between 940 and 950 milibars - equivalent to an altitude of about 2,400 feet. The contact point was connected by a wire to a condenser which acted as a time delay switch. The condenser was an insulator, absorbing the electrical charge until it fired. At this point the circuit closed, detonating the bomb.”
The condenser here is what’s elsewhere called an ice-cube timer – a simple metal circuit, coiled-up, I believe, and encased in a cube of translucent resin (looks like an ice-cube made with dingy water).
"When the necessary operating height has been reached the fall in pressure connected with it will start the timing mechanism, and when the delay period has elapsed the detonator will be activated. […] The time delay of the electronic component fluctuates over a wide margin since the structure of the circuit is relatively simple. Time delays between 35 and 45 minutes were measured." [p 11-12]
This 35-45 minute range is often cited, wrongly I think, as the range of times to be expected in field usage. But a passage from Khreesat's interview with the FBI in November 1989 explained that the variability comes from repeated tests on the circuit in a lab setting:
"Khreesat advised that the times are not exact and the time changes depending upon how long the timers have been tested after last being used. They usually reset to zero after a day. He used to test the timers three times in a row before installing the timer in a device. He found that in each test the time decreased. When this happened, he put the timers aside, and the next day when he tested them, they would run for the same time as when he had first started them." [Marshman report, page 32, PDF p 19]
The variability then, with repeated testing, is downward from a long baseline time. Absent repeated tests, which might be unwise in an assembled explosive device, the timers would all have, as the designer described them as having, one set time each, and it would be the long time. So in use, the device Gobel analyzed would detonate about 45 minutes after triggering. This would be more than 50 minutes, not 38, from takeoff.

That certainly doesn’t mean it’s not a fit. Khreesat also told the FBI that the timers were not the same from one unit to the next:
"One of the timers was a half-hour timer, one was for three-quarters of an hour, and one was for one hour. Khreesat does not recall what time the fourth timer was set for. None of the timers were for more than one hour."  [Marshman report, p 32]
These seem to go in nice 15-minute increments - 30, 45, 60. His early bombs in 1970 and 1972 blew up too early - about 15 minutes after triggering - leaving two of three planes able to safely re-land. Thus for "stronger medicine" in the 1980s, he went for increments at or higher than 30 minutes. By deduction, the fourth unit was a repeat of one of the other three.

Three more to consider
Herr Gobel at the BKA, as we’ve seen above, made a close study of Khreesat device number 1, apparently housing the (or a) 45-minute ice-cube timer. He also looked at number two, the IED hidden inside a Sanyo computer monitor. This was armed with Semtex-H like the others, and rigged with the same basic altimeter-timer arrangement. “Calculated on the basis of the values of the built-in components,” Gobel wrote, “the delay time is put at between 30 and 35 minutes.” [Zeist transcripts p 8769] It's unclear if he means test variability or range of estimates for its one field-use time.

Leppard bemoans the German’s presumptions based on only one bomb sample to study, but they had units 1 and 2 and also, at one point, two other such devices. Numbered 3 and 4, these were both housed in Ultrasound radios, both found after the Sanyo monitor in a third raid, and were both destroyed under grim circumstances.

In April 1989, one of the Ultrasound IEDs inexplicably detonated while in the hands of a highly experienced BKA bomb technician, killing him and maiming an assistant. The other of the two (it’s not clear which is 3 and which is 4) was then destroyed rather than be studied, for obvious safety and psychological reasons.

But despite the British alarm over this German “sloppiness,” it wasn’t a complete scientific loss. Aside from what was missing in the rubble, which was safe enough to examine, the BKA’s forensics section ST33 noted on what remained from one the two:
“[T]he accompanying capacitor is of is of the same value as in 1 and 2, but has however, jumped out of circuit. […] it can be assumed from the remains of the circuit that the time delay was in the same region as 1 and 2." [p 144]
From four intercepted IEDs, we have three capacitors, all apparently of the vague 30-45 minutes “region.” This comports reasonably with Khreesat’s list of 30, 45, 60, and one repeat. It seems to be lacking anything with a longer time like one hour, but one device, likely the one that killed a bomb tech, was not studied like this. Perhaps that was the one-hour unit.

The results are not 100% conclusive with the information I have, but it remains consistent enough between Khreesat and the Germans to say we have a double-corroborated explanation, more-or-less, of what to expect with each of the four seized devices.

And the Fifth?
Khreesat felt that all four bombs he was tasked with re-used the timers and altimeters from his 1985 test run. But that involved five radios, one of which he says was kept intact by Jibril to study. It’s worth wondering if these same parts, fitting the same patterns, were later used to build Abu Elias’ fifth device. But wondering aside, we can’t be certain.

We can examine the facts of December 21 to see whether or not it’s compatible. Below is a graphic from the AAIB's report on the bombing, based on Flight 103’s data recorder. The key line here is altitude, of course labeled “ALT.” The other is some measure of airspeed. The left bar gives feet above sea level (add three zeroes) and the bottom gives time in minutes from data start.
In the marked-up detail at left, note that the altitude doesn’t change for the first minute – takeoff is at minute one, not zero. We can see here that 2,400 feet, the outside pressure that would trigger the timer, is really not very high, and was reached about two or three minutes in. If this pressure decided things for the 38-minute detonation, we’d be looking at a 35 or 36-minute timer, something not within the Khreesat arsenal.

But inside the plane, where the suitcases were, the pressure is controlled and drops more slowly. The work of Rainer Gobel, as related by Leppard, is also confirmed by Paul Foot, writing in 2001 in Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice, as addressing the expected rate where it matters:
"A clearer description of this ice-cube timer was given the same day by Rainer Gobel, physicist for the German police, the BKA. He had a remarkable insight into how long such a timer would take to set off an explosion. “Pressure change in the cabin,” he said, “is regulated automatically. It happens more slowly than the drop of pressure in the air through which the plane is flying, which means, according to the documents which were provided to me, in a plane of the aforementioned class, about seven minutes after take-off the pressure within the cabin will have dropped to such an extent that 950 millibars or hectopascals will have been reached at which the barometric gauge would be involved and a circuit, a current, would be activated.” [p 19]
Some would protest, and fairly I think, that we can't be certain that even if the PFLP-GC's bombs were involved, that this one used the same altimeter setting, or altimeter, or even timer style, as the units examined. But considering the group's reliance on Khreesat’s formula and available materials (the fifth device from 1985), it seems possible enough that it would. And Gobel's "about seven minutes" is quite a nice fit with the roughly eight required to make this fit into Khreesat’s 30, 45, 60 framework. Thus the strong possibility that cannot be reasonably discounted here is that Flight 103’s ascent triggered another ice-cube timer, of the 30-minute size, about eight minutes after wheels-up.