"But Flight 103 was Behind Schedule..."

December 31 2010
lat edits Jan 3 2011

Note throughout: This post, text and graphics, are imprecise and not fleshed out with detailed research. The concepts are general enough, however, that this is acceptable. Do see beneath comments from Rolfe, who has looked at this better and offers more in a few long submissions.

"But Flight 103 was Behind Schedule" is one of the most persistent myths of the Lockerbie bombing. It's the standard answer when anyone asks why the Libyans set their timer so early. For example, the BBC Conspiracy Files episode on the bombing (2008) starts out:
In the end, it came down, as most things do, to a simple twist of fate. 600 seconds. That's all that was in it. Had the bomb which destroyed the Pan Am exploded just ten minutes later, the plane would have been over open water, and all the evidence most likely lost at the bottom of the sea. But as it was, the bomb blew up over land, and the small town of Lockerbie became a by-word for the worst act of terrorism ever to take place in Britain.
A montage of the effects is shown, and the next words, curiously, are: "the investigation turned on one tiny piece of evidence ... this fragment [shown, of an MST-13 timer] was the breakthrough that cracked the case." The time of explosion over land - 7:03 pm, just 38 minutes after takeoff - wasn't caused by "a simple twist of fate." It was a time set intentionally on a timer to achieve the goal of destroying the plane and, we've always been told, ditching the evidence at sea.

Of course the twist of fate in mind is the fabled delay in take-off that supposedly made the jet miss its date with anonymity. The  show specified ten minutes from the coast, suggesting a delay of at least that, if this interpretation is of any value.

First, if it is of any value, it isn't much. Consider the large span the plane was to take - crossing the entire Atlantic, on a northern great circle path from London to New York, something a bit like the image below. It was first to be vectored out over the northern length of Great Britain, a standard route for this flight (see below). After this long pass over Airstrip One,  there followed thousands of miles, several hours, of nothing but deep, icey ocean passing beneath. A host of minutes, aside from 7:03, were there to pick from between Novia Scotia and the original Scotland, ideally somewhere way out there between them.

Instead we learn the plane was ten minutes from the coast and the plotters had aimed for the coast. By the official story, they had an immense picture window of opportunity available, but they aimed only for just over the lower sill, and missed. It's a simple enough concept no picture is needed, but in case anyone wants to double-check the scale and how easy it is to hit that window, there it is. Put simply, green is smart, orange is stupid. Official story supporters clearly think nothing of the intelligence of the Libyans who they believe planned out the murder of so many Americans.

But was the plane behind schedule at all? Excerpt from the trial transcripts, speaking with air traffic controller Ronald Brown, Day 1, May 3 2000. [pp 154-158]
A [...] "1800" is the planned departure time of this flight.
Q What exactly does a planned departure time mean?
A The time at which an aircraft is expected to shut its doors and be ready for -- to make its
Q Now, I take it it's not the same time as the time that it actually takes off from the ground?
A It's not the same time as it would take off from the ground. It is the time that the aircraft is expected to shut its doors. It will then have to request start-up clearance. It will then have to start its engines. It will have to get taxi clearance and -- before it can possibly take off.

The plane then "departed" - pushed away from the gate - at 6:04, four minutes behind schedule. The feeder flight PanAm 103A was fairly late in arriving, and threatened to delay the whole operation. This flight was carrying about 1/4 of 103's passengers and luggage - including the bomb, we were told - but this was managed swiftly and flight 103 was only the slightest bit behind schedule at this point.

It did take 21 minutes then, including a second last-minute loading at a separate gate, before wheels up at 6:25. That may have been slightly longer than average, but not by much from my limited airport experience. It should easily have been foreseen by any sane plotter. But the Libyans aren't sane, we've been told, and must have simply confused departure with takeoff time, aside from presuming no delays. This must be what caused them to hit so far below the windowsil - a full 25 minutes in this case.

Otherwise, it's worth wondering if the blast timed to be over land really was a fluke. Did the plottes set it up that way? Maybe they wanted to be found? Nah, that sounds stupid. No wonder no one has argued that yet.

To establish the flight Path across the UK, I return to the conversation with ATC Brown:
Q And then A20 route?
A It was a low level airway from London Heathrow going through a reporting point called
Trent, which is TNT.
Q And then, "upper alfa 2 Pole Hill UB for [156] Margo direct Glasgow."
A That's the route that the aircraft would continue to take. After Trent, it would proceed via Upper Humber 2, via Pole Hill, upper Bravo 4 to Margo, flight direct from Margo to Glasgow, and then follows the upper air route 590 to 59 north and 10 west.
Q And then we see, "/ mach No. 0.84." What does that refer to?
A As it crosses the oceanic boundary and comes under oceanic control, the separation on
the ocean is made by reference to a mach number rather than a physical speed and knot.
And therefore the aircraft had planned to fly at mach decimal 84.
Q Mach being the speed of sound?
A Mach being the speed of sound.
Q And then "estimated elapsed times," what does that refer to?
A The estimated elapsed time in number 5 are -- it takes him one hour 24 minutes to get to
10 degrees west
. To 20 west is two hour nine minutes. To 30 west is two hour 47 minutes.
So it's cumulative times as it proceeds across the north Atlantic.
Q Thank you very much.

Some posters at the JREF forum helped me sort this out [link]. Something like a great circle-based fight path, still standard today, but from local weather problems arcing around Ireland, northeast across Great Britain to its rocky far corner. The flight plan passes roughly over Glasgow and, as "Rolfe" noted, nearly over the fabled Isle of Skye. This is my own rough graphic, tracing what others had found and noted. ATC Brown mentions the coordinates 59N and 10W. I fudged the path a bit north of the paths traced from, but it's still a bit south of the 59 line. So this is only approximately the spot to mark as a planned 84 minutes out.

But in general terms, we can see that Flight 103 would not be over even the loosest sense of ocean until approximately one hour after leaving ground - over 20 minutes later than it did, as opposed to the "600 seconds" cited by the Conspiracy Files.

Ocean would come sooner on a more southerly path, also standard. But 38 minutes out from expected take-off, marked here with a faint arc, is only over southern Scotland or Northern Ireland, depending. The orange smudge would be at least partly over land no matter the exact route, set for 7:03 like that.

And further, one would be a fool to just pinpoint the coastline. Clearly deep water is preferable to shallow coastal waters for hiding evidence, but more importantly, one should think in three dimensions and consider what six miles of elevation and air movement within it can do. Prevailing inland winds and early scatter of some bomb debris, giving the farthest spread to some of the best clues, could be foreseen. What happened over a small patch near Lockerbie left a trail of evidence extending tens of miles east clear across Scotland into northern England and to the North Sea (orange in image). Ironically, the only evidence delivered to Neptune would have been on the other side of the land. One would want to clear the last shore by at least that width to keep everything over the ocean.

As we started out, there is no reason not to aim for somewhere closer to above the mid-Atlantic ridge. But if one is impatient and needs the bomb to blow right after passing through three airports undetected, around the edge of the map is about the earliest point one should have aimed for. Even that is hoping for only slight delays, but considering effectively none, they undershot by a good 30 minutes at least. Stupid Libyans.

Stupider than you can know, we've been told in different words and even in "forensic science." They were using one of the most exclusive timers ever to fail with, a unit that pointed right to them and had blabbermouth Bollier fused into the story.  A 1/2" miracle  fragment of the MST-13 survived and fell on land, just as programmed. And they used a radio for their anonymous hidden bomb that, among all models on earth, was perhaps the only one to be associated mostly with the Libyan market. Several fragments of casing, circuit board, and the paper manual cover survived and fell on land. And the brown suitcase that witness Giaka saw the accused with the day before the bombing held all this together along with the clothes that Megrahi bought on December 7, brand new at a small shop that doesn't usually cater to Arabs. He did this at and past closing time, to maximize the memorability of his 6-foot-seeming frame looming over the Maltese man, together hallucinating rainfall in the shadow of confusing Christmas lights.

And they put this all, with the umbrella, into one spotted package, and opted to just drop it all on Scotland at 7:03. Or so we were told.

Or, for those who aren't aware of what this early 38-minute detonation means, vis-a-vis a more rational explanation, see the post Thirty-Eight Minutes. The time was selected by a combination of crude devices, designed of necessity, and relying on the friggin' Semtex-H blast to destroy all clues. This most likely did happen, prior to other clues (see above) replacing them well after the fact.

Harry Bell's Eight Reasons

December 27 2010

(Props to "Pete" for bringing this to my attention)

DCI Harry Bell, head Scots police investigator on Malta, made an important entry in his police diary on February 15 1991, the day of Tony Gauci's selection of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's photo. In it, he says that his boss, Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) Staurt Henderson, "agrees we have a partial identification on the person named Abdelbaset considering all of the circumstances," which he then lists. These eight reasons, in support of Gauci's point, suggested to him that Megrahi was in fact the buyer of the clothes that wound up in the bomb suitcase. [Source: Grounds of Appeal PDF, p 42/43 - unearthed by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) and supplied to Megrahi's defense]
(1) He arrived in Malta on 7th December '88. This was the date of the purchase of the clothing.
This is a whopper of a point to begin with, considering the date of sale is almost certainly November 23, based on Gauci's best evidence. Tony described a Wednesday a few weeks before the bombing, before the Christmas lights went up, at about 6:50 pm during a light shower, with his brother watching a football game at home. All that fits only one day - November 23, and Megrahi wasn't even on Malta that day.

Even an official Scottish legal review by the SCCRC agreed in 2007 that "there is no reasonable basis in the trial court’s judgment for its conclusion that the purchase [...] took place on 7 December." The judges had accepted it, but that decision has been criticized by serious professionals.

Consider also that in 2006 Bell himself admitted to the SCCRC just how the other date was selected despite the evidence. He ignored the lights and rainfall, focused on the less-conclusive football schedules, and got "confused."
DI Bell SCCRC interview (25-26/7/06)
"...The evidence of the football matches was confusing and in the end we did not manage to bottom it out..."
"...I am asked whether at the time I felt that the evidence of the football matches was strongly indicative of 7th December 1988 as the purchase date. No, I did not. Both dates 23rd Nov & 7th Dec 1988 looked likely."
"It really has to be acknowledged how confusing this all was. No date was signficant for me at the time. Ultimately it was [Megrahi’s] presence on the island on 7th December 1988 that persuaded me that the purchase took place on that date."
[same link as above, p 229]
It wasn't the evidence (no rain all day, different game time, lights glowing across town) but Megrahi's presence that made it the day. If that's not dishonest, it is evidently wrong to then make the circular claim, as Bell did in his diary, that the established date is a separate support for Megrahi's guilt.

(2) He resided at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Sliema, which is within several hundred yards of the shop premises.
Extension of point one. He stayed there on December 7, not the day the clothes were bought.

(3) He travelled to Switzerland on 9th December 1988. He is known to Bollier, the person who supplied the IED timer.
This isn't immediately relevant to the bombing; the trial court dismissed any direct link between Megrahi and the timers. However, Mebo founder Edwin Bollier's acquaintance might be material, in that he was the first person to suggest the CIA should blame Libya, and helped them greatly in brining false charges against al-Megrahi into 1991 (see below). His information then and since is often bizarre and usually unreliable.

While the Lockerbie timer fragment is itself questionable, whether or not DCI Bell should have suspected that at the time is another story. But even if he believed these other clues, it's no excuse for mangling the date of purchase evidence like that.
(4) He was involved in the company known as ABH on behalf of the Libyans. This company was set up to deal with contact with the MEBO company, Mr Bollier's firm.
Same as above. This is an irrelevant extension of a tagential connection that doesn't prove anything about how the bombing was done.
(5) He has a resemblance to the original photo fit and artist's impression.
In the sense they both have faces with two eyes and so on, this is a good point. Otherwise, the resemblance is uncanny in its inability to match up. Five inches too short, 14 years too young, too light, too slight, with a different face and hair, and far away from there when the clothes were bought. Point five is way off mark. If the other clues support the guy, a bad sketch is no problem to ignore - they're well-known to be unreliable. But to actively cite it as a support when nothing else really sticks is deceptive.
(6) ...
We don't know what this point was or why it was apparently redacted.
(7) The SIO advises that Bollier has now been shown the photofit and he states that if the hair was shorter then it would indeed look like Abdelbaset, also if it was 10 to 15 years older.
Strangely, this is exactly the description Gauci gave of the "Czech photo" of Megrahi: 10-15 years older, with shorter hair, and he'd look like the buyer. But this is about the Photofit image, which Tony felt looked like his 50-year-old buyer (see last link). Bollier says "if it was 10 to 15 years older" it would look like the 36-year-old Megrahi. Or perhaps Bell is mixed up here.
(8) The SIO also advises that the photograph we have of Abdelbaset is in fact 12 years old. ...
Confirmation that the photo's dating served in a bait-and-switch operation on the age discrepancy. A 12-year old photo, of a man who'd have to look older by just about that, would make it a fit. But Tony still insisted the man was around 50 at the time of sale, while Megrahi was 36 at that time, so something was twisted out of form here. (That's explained a little better at the "Czech photo" link). Point 8 continues:
He is a smart dresser, plenty of jewellery and there is no recollection of the watch according to Bollier and he is taller than Bollier at 5 foot 9 inches. Gauci thinks 6 foot tall.
These fashion points are obviously weak as evidence, but the part on height is interesting. Gauci is famously short (5'3"), so Bollier is cited as a man also shorter than this tall-ish Arab, at a decent 5,8". Here that's fudged up a modest one inch and stated as taller than someone else, and it perhaps seems reasonable for stubby Tony to recall "Baset" as towering 6 feet up there, or maybe ten feet.

The wording is ambiguous enough, on review, that one who didn't know the subject's true height might conclude that a 5'9" man had reported "Baset" as taller than himself, and another had said Megrahi was six feet tall. That's important when that same man said the buyer, who the police knew could not be Megrahi, was six feet or more in height. That's one of the reasons it can't likely be Megrahi.

And that's all of the reasons he wrote down, except the missing one, and the fact of the "identification" earlier that day. Not encouraging stuff to be finding in police records, is it?

A Smoking Gun Left in Plain Sight

Bedford's Bags: What They Were and Weren't
February 17 2011

last edits Feb 20

The bag that blew up
It’s been accepted for over 22 years that the explosive device responsible for destroying Pan Am 103 was within a brown (antique copper), hard-shell Samsonite suitcase, Silhouette 4000 series by its partial remains. This was eventually connected, in an extended fit of fevered imagination, to Libyan agent al-Megrahi, based at the time on the island of Malta.

The suitcase was “found” on flimsy evidence to have traveled unaccompanied from Malta, tagged for PA103, and transferred in Germany to a Pan Am feeder flight, 103A. When the feeder arrived in London at around 5:35 pm, it was decided, the death package was re-loaded into the luggage container AVE 4041, which was then loaded onto the 747 Flight 103, which took off into the sky at 6:25.

The explosion inside the Silhouette 4000 shortly thereafter caused damage to the container suggesting the case was in the lower outboard corner, apparently in the second layer of luggage. Investigators were quite certain this put it among the majority of items loaded from the feeder, but at the very bottom of that batch – just above the few suitcases loaded before the feeder landed, at terminal three’s “interline shed.”

And it’s there we find our smoking gun.

The bags Bedford saw
The plot from Malta is complicated by on-the-ground evidence at Heathrow: the report of baggage loader John Bedford. He was in charge of Pan Am’s operations at the interline shed of terminal three, where luggage from other airlines connecting onto PA flights was re-screened and loaded into containers. Employees of Alert security ran the x-ray part, while Bedford, in this case, placed the items into the “tin” in question.

Of all the cases passing into AVE4041 through the shed that afternoon, none stood out to Bedford except for a pair he reported to the police when they interviewed him in early January 1989. (see: the Bedford suitcase(s)) He described them as brown or maroony-brown, hard-sided Samsonite-style cases. That’s a remarkable fit with the primary suitcase, although apparently in duplicate.

[To clarify a side-point, I proceed here on a different assumption from most. A careful reading of Bedford suggests both mystery cases he saw were the same color and style. As he said: “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.” This plus their appearance at the same time suggests – though it doesn’t prove - a matching set from one owner, and thus both suspicious. Somehow no one else seems to read him the same way, and focuses on one of the two (the left one is specified somewhere) that matches the official style. But I go with what I see, causing the occasional disconnect between singular and plural forms below, as well as apparent complications addressed partly in this post.]

The cases appeared in his absence, Bedford said, but were vouched for by the Alert security x-ray man Sulkash Kamboj. But Kamboj himself denied this to police, and so no one can attest to seeing either one of these bags cleared for safety or placed in the container. This is in itself a minor mystery that raises some questions about what that luggage really was and how it got there.

What they weren’t: Megrahi’s luggage
A crucial aspect of Bedford’s story is its timeline. They mysterious hard-shells appeared around 4:40 pm, about an hour before the feeder 103A, carrying the fabled Libyan Samsonite, had landed in London. There’s no ambiguity possible here; Bedford clocked out right after the incident, and took his eyeballs home at 5:02, over a half hour before the feeder touched down. So clearly, neither one of the bags could be a stray sighting of that Maltese-origin packet-o-clues, which would be the third, or at least the second, brown hard-shell case accepted as going into the lower levels of AVE 4041.

What they weren’t: recovered later
The position Bedford saw the cases in was side-by-side, flat across the front half of the container floor. (see "Visualizing the Bedford story"). Unless they were moved, these would have become damaged by the explosion, accepted as centered about one inch above the left-hand twin. The bomb was powerful enough that nearly half the cases in the container, 25 out of 55 or so, showed signs of explosives damage, so clearly as they were reported, neither of the mystery cases was far enough away to escape harm.

But as the Zeist judges summed it up in 2001, “the evidence did not disclose that any fragments of a hard-shell Samsonite-type suitcase had been recovered, apart from those of the primary suitcase itself.” In fact, neither brown fragments of nor any intact cases of that style with the slightest bomb damage were found, except the one.

To explain this lack of damaged Bedford bags in the evidence, the UK Fatal Accident Inquiry in 1990, bafflingly, did nothing. The judge (Sheriff Principal), John Mowat QC, had in his evidence two brown hard-shells flat on each other, with the upper one from Malta blowing up to be recovered in bits, and the other, still on the floor … vanishing entirely, it seems.
"I am therefore satisfied that the suitcase in which the explosive device was contained was among those transferred from Flight 103A to Flight 103 […] On all the evidence I consider it is probable that bags from flight 103A were placed on top of the two interline bags lying flat at the front of the container.” [FAI 1.rtf]
This last is a clear reference to the ones Bedford spotted, although the determination gives no description of the cases that just fell through the gaps in Mowat’s logic. He did hear in the proceedings (re-read at the Zeist trial) a badgered “admission” from Bedford that the twice-affirmed “maroony brown” bag “could have been” a completely different color, blue even. It’s not clear what effect, if any, this forced appearance of vagueness had on Mowat’s decision. (the lead-up to this memory lapse, which I read as "badgering," is fascinating reading, but the voice inflection and cadence we don't now have might reveal so much more).

The Camp Zeist judges, in their 2001 Opinion of the Court [PDF] fared a little better with explaining its absence from the pool of damaged luggage. They accepted Bedford’s original report on the color of the mystery case, but speculated that it “might have been placed at some more remote corner of the container” just before the re-loading from 103A. It’s a neat thought, but only the upper corners are remote enough to work when half the luggage in there wound up damaged. And those spots obviously were not available until the end of loading from 103A.

Further, there’s no reason to rule out a move to the near corner, just a few inches away, where a case just like that blew up.

Further, the judges’ speculation founders on the fact that apparently no non-damaged case that could fit the description turned up either. The best they could do was say this:
“[W]hile the forensic evidence dealt with all the items recovered which showed direct explosive damage, twenty-five in total, there were many other items of baggage found which were not dealt with in detail in the evidence in the case.”
If the prosecution could find and explain the non-damaged, non-explosive Bedford bag(s), anywhere in the police records, the judges would have heard about it. Yet they’re left having us presume such a case must have been buried by oversight in that quiet bone yard.

Simply put, the investigation and the trial judges accept with bland resignation that the maroony-brown suitcase(s) never turned up. In real life, things don’t just disappear when it’s convenient for them to. In the mind of SCOTBOM, or Camp Zeist, however, it appears everything is permitted in deciding what is and isn’t true.

What they were called: interline luggage
The Scottish police ruled early on that the Bedford suitcases, like all of the luggage in AVE4041 before the feeder landed, was from interline passengers on flight 103. On March 28 1989 Senior Investigating Officer John Orr told investigators gathered at the Lockerbie Incident Control Center (LICC) that:
“Evidence from witnesses is to the effect that the first seven pieces of luggage in the container belonged to Interline passengers and the remainder was Frankfurt luggage.”
“Seven pieces” included five suitcases Bedford first lined up along the container’s back (quite likely it was a few more than this), plus the two mystery cases. The "effect" that this was all interline baggage was not from "evidence from witnesses" - who all swear they don’t know where the cases came from - but from the name of the shed (interline) where the suspect bags were inserted.

The FAI and the Zeist judges, by their wording, agree in calling all pre-103A bags interline, and it’s been the blanket classification ever since. This inherently rules out a Khreesat bomb, the early suspect device built with only one take-off before it blows. If the missing one of those had interlined to London, it wouldn’t get there - it would be scattered along with a plane and its passengers on some field not far from the first airport.

But my article “After the Break-in” outlines how a Heathrow intruder in the airside area of terminal three – which had its security breached in the early minutes of December 21, by the way - could make an introduced bomb appear wherever he managed to sneak it into the flow. If he weren’t caught in the act and the items were tagged right (perhaps even with an sticker saying it was X-rayed), it would wind up looking like, for example, interline luggage. It would run the danger of appearing mysteriously and catching someone’s attention, and of course, something was noticed on December 21 that matches the bomb bag style. So that leaves us … still spooky.

What they weren’t: interline luggage
The presumption that luggage appearing at the interline shed would be interline is only natural. But other possibilities exist, so it should be double-checked before being presumed. If they really belonged there, just whom did this case or these cases, so similar to the Libyan Samsonite, belong to?

Investigators did in fact try to figure it out. Scots detective John Crawford wrote in his 2006 book about analyzing the “first fifteen of the interline passengers” to locate any possible link to the bombing. [JREF link] He said these were high-profile or secret-mission people who might be targeted, have their luggage swapped, etc. Researcher Rolfe has decided instead this was likely all of the interline passengers he looked at, only some being special targets. But these fifteen at least would have any luggage switch from “Air whatever” to the interline shed to be x-rayed and then placed by Bedford. Some of them must have gone elsewhere than AVE 4041, however, as there were no more than eight cases in there before the mystery set appeared. Apparently Crawford found no sign that any of the fifteen possessed such luggage, or it would have clearly explained away Bedford’s story.

The four “Larnaca interline: passengers,” the most targetable subset of Crawford’s list, are of special interest. Major Charles McKee, Dan O’Connor, Mathew Gannon, and Ronald LaRiviere all came in on an Air Cyprus flight, all on sensitive missions related to embassy security and hostages in Lebanon. The four were shown to have held four cases between them, with one (O’Connor’s) left off the flight and sent later to New York. [JREF link] Thus they account for three of the 5-8 bags Bedford placed along the back of 4041: A blue softshell Samsonite and two gray hard-shell cases. All three were recovered and showed signs of explosive damage, especially one of McKee’s case, which also has its own mysteries attached.

Again by the silence we can presume that among the other half of the genuine interline passengers whose cases were in 4041, none had such a case to explain the still-unexplained sighting.

What they weren’t: passenger luggage at all
We can further infer that no such luggage should have been interlined to that container from the fact that no passenger on flight 103 was found to own such a case. Sherriff Mowat issued a finding in his FAI determination that meant one thing there but becomes very interesting in the current context:
I am therefore satisfied that the suitcase in which the explosive device was contained was among those transferred from Flight 103A to Flight 103. I am also satisfied on a balance of probabilities that it was not associated with any of the passengers who boarded Flight 103 at Heathrow. This decision is based upon the evidence of Detective Constable Henderson who analysed the baggage which was recovered and those pieces which were not recovered and where possible linked each piece with the person accompanying it. He gave evidence to the effect that none of the descriptions given by relatives of the baggage which they expected the victims to have been carrying fitted this suitcase.
As Rolfe sums up: “This makes Bedford's left-hand bag very mysterious indeed. […] So if there was no legitimate suitcase answering the description of the bomb bag, what the hell was it that Bedford saw if it wasn't the bomb bag? Of course this evidence was not led at Zeist.” [JREF link] Indeed, as we've seen, the judges there did not rule them out like this, but left the impression they were innocent interline luggage. Unlike at the FAI, the Malta bag and its Megrahi genesis was well-defined by then and separated itself well enough for the judges to forgo such games.

Therefore, besides the color and style description and location, we must add another disturbing shared trait between these mystery cases and the primary one – all of them were something other than passenger luggage. That’s an important point to consider as the odds steepen into sheer cliffs.

And to state it again in shorter form, FBI lead investigator Richard Marquise, in his own 2006 book, affirms no one on the plane at all owned such a case.
"Interviews of the American relatives as well as those who had last seen the passengers who boarded the aircraft revealed little additional information. None of them owned or had a brown hard-sided Samsonite suitcase." [p 41]
Marquise was trying, as Mowat was, to isolate the Libyan suitcase from Malta, but he’s unwittingly chased it into a closet already stuffed with one or both of the cases Bedford reported. None of these two or perhaps three brown hard-shell Samsonites was passenger luggage.

What they remain: sidelined yet relevant
The Bedford suitcases remain to this day unexplained, and equally sidelined and declared irrelevant in every conceivable way. That what he described was the bomb suitcase is the first thing one should have suspected comparing it to the physical evidence and known terrorist weaponry and motivations. All this was available to investigators before the Spring thaw of 1989, yet it was the first option British investigators denied and found against at every available chance, using whatever was at hand.

First, SIO John Orr and his people found that the larger number of Frankfurt origin items in the container (aside from the bottom) led to “balance of probabilities” conclusion it came from Frankfurt. Soon it was established that the blast was slightly too high in the container (not right on the floor) to be one of the bottom interline bags. These were incapable of being stacked or otherwise re-arranged into a slightly higher position (this has never been stated, but always implied).

Then the primary case was found by the esteemed "political scientists" at RARDE to have been on top of a blue soft-shell case from Frankfurt, which had replaced the left-hand Bedford case on the floor. This forensic “fact” was absent on Dr, Hayes' first examination in 1989, and indeed unknown to the 1990 FAI, seeming to appear only later, and supported by contradictory and suspect clues. (see “the Monster of Newcastleton Forest”)

And finally, the Malta link to Libya was established. In August 1989, an unaccompanied bag from Malta was noticed, and later it was decided Megrahi bought the clothes inside of it. Megrahi was at Malta airport as that item appeared to have left, under an alias no less, and was "seen" by witness Giaka in possession of the case. Bingo, the Bedford evidence was finally history. Too bad that construct, elaborate as it was, is now in tatters, held together only by legal convention and increasingly willful denial of reality.

And the clues that rag pile obscures suggest one coherent narrative – a Khreesat bomb loaded in London to help the Iranians get their vengeance for Iran Air 655. One of the key London clues, Security guard Ray Manly’s report of a break-in at terminal three, was completely erased by police (on accident, they say) and never considered as the debate raged over whose airport screwed up (the Brits won).

On reviewing this awkward tribal dance around Bedford’s story, it’s evident that, like Manly’s report, it would have been much easier to dance over its unmarked grave. But for one reason or another this likely smoking gun of the Lockerbie bombing was kept in the public record, in plain sight but overlooked by the eyes with power. Even as it’s been divorced from relevance to legal truth, the unusual insertion spotted at 4:40 pm may still be more than an amazing compound coincidence. It might in fact be central to the physical reality that took 270 lives two and a half hours later.

Their Own Worst Enemy

February 15 2011
Robert Forrester, special to The Lockerbie Divide.

In a saga which, from its very outset, has been replete with such twisted logic and bizarre interpretations of evidence that it is like stumbling through a hall of mirrors in a state of terminal intoxication, the Lockerbie/Zeist case has thrown up yet another peculiar development. In the good old days of the Auld Alliance, that the Scots always wax so lyrical about, your enemy’s enemy was your friend, at least that’s how the Scots saw it. Ask the French what the alliance refers to though and they’ll probably scratch their heads and tell you that it has something to do with a pact with Czarist Russia to get back at Bismarck. The novelty of the relationship that the justice campaigners seeking an investigation into the 2001 conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi face with their detractors is that ‘the enemy’ has strangely become the campaigners’ friend. How so?

Those who uphold the Zeist judgement fall into two basic categories: media commentators and representatives of the executive and judicial arms of state power. As for those who denigrate the justice campaign in the various media, from the press to the net, they think, like Mr Frank Duggan (President of The Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc) seems to, that by turning up the volume, their arguments will somehow become less factually inaccurate. Wrong. Despite having had it pointed out to him on numerous occasions that Mr al-Megrahi was not, in fact, convicted by eight judges but by three, Mr Duggan continues to assert, for reasons known only to himself, that the higher figure is correct (which conflates the number of judges at the Zeist court of fact with those presiding at the first appeal hearing). In fact, the only people to have found Mr al-Megrahi guilty in the course of one trial of fact and two appeals are the three Zeist judges (the first appeal did not deal with the sufficiency of evidence - because it couldn’t due to the failure of Mr al-Megrahi’s defence team to raise the issue - and the second was dropped by Mr al-Megrahi when he was under no obligation to do so). This is but one relatively minor factual inaccuracy that he maintains, however, until he can get even this glaring error sorted out, one must question the reliability of any, or indeed all, of his statements relating to the case. And, apparently he is a lawyer. One thing that Mr Duggan can be given credit for though, despite the parlous shortcomings in his understanding of the trial and subsequent appeals, is that at least he refers, however fallacious his analysis and conclusions, to matters relating to the case and occasionally argues around it. Nevertheless, he, like some internet bloggers who hide behind the cloak of anonymity that the net provides, has shown himself to be only to ready to indulge in the odd spot of attempted character assassination aimed at the likes of the Justice for Megrahi (JFM) Committee.

The broader group, composed of such internet commentators, is invariably reticent to become drawn on detailing what they think is right about Zeist, or dealing with the matter of the mass murder of 270 people, that the bereaved could have been sold a sop on the back of a possible miscarriage of justice and that the authorities seem to be trying their damnedest to prevent any investigation into what might have happened to give rise to so many doubts over the conviction. Instead, they have accused JFM of variously being anything from assets of the CIA and the FBI to being funded by Libya’s Colonel al-Gaddafi and a front for an Arab terrorist regime, and, most recently, drunkards even! Not sure what JFM’s alleged Muslim sponsor would have to say about that. With such a range of speculative and unsubstantiated slander to choose from and the fact that these individuals attempt to avoid the threat of exposure, they think that the normal rules surrounding the burden of proof can be ignored. Wrong. Neither JFM nor the bereaved who question this verdict are beholden to the likes of these, and what’s more, with reference to the enemy’s becoming one’s friend, such individuals, whose cranial cavities have clearly been abandoned by their brains to be replaced by their spleens, only succeed in tarring themselves with their own brush and making the uncommitted bystander with a passing interest in the case wonder if perhaps the campaigners might actually be right after all as smears seem to be the detractors’ final resort.

On a slightly different tack, another group common amongst internet critics frequently recite the mantra: “Why don’t you just grow up, haven’t you got something better to do? Everybody knows Megrahi was stitched up and that the system is irredeemably bent. In any case, an inquiry would cost millions and probably be a white wash. After all, in the grand scheme of things, expediency has served us pretty well thus far.” So, three years of work done by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) and the well in excess of £1,000,000 spent on it from the public purse ought to be tossed to the four winds should it? Work which by rights should belong to the public that paid for it and who are denied sight of it because of the Scottish Government’s intransigence and apparent complicity with the Crown. No assumptions regarding corruption should be made on the basis of self-assured, armchair prejudice until proven. And above all, to sanction this type of attitude is effectively say that we’d rather not be bothered about justice if it is going inconvenience us too much. Far better to blunder through it all in ignorance of the facts and supported solely by our jaundiced views. Like it or not, miscarriages of justice do take place. How, therefore, would those exponents of this type of sentiment, and there are quite a few out there, feel if they ever found themselves banged up for something they didn’t do? One imagines, until such misfortune befalls them, that they will even blame the justice campaigners for the fact that the Scottish Government saw fit to fire through the Scottish Parliament section 7 of the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detentions and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 2010 on the 27th of October 2010, which hands ultimate power to the High Court to accept or reject cases for appeal, thus rendering the professional and independent input of the SCCRC redundant.

And so to government. Some time last year, JFM, tongue in cheek, invited Messrs Salmond and MacAskill to become members of the campaign group. This was during the period when Senators Gillibrand, Lautenberg, Menendez and Schumer seemed to be attempting to enhance their electoral prospects at the expense of BP and the Scottish Government. Although the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice respectfully declined the invitation, they have since qualified as unwitting supporters of the cause through the paucity, flaws and deficiencies of their ripostes to JFM’s challenges.

From the occasion of Mr al-Megrahi’s release in August of 2009, Mr MacAskill maintained that the Scottish Government had neither the power nor remit to set up an inquiry into the case. Wrong. On the 7th of January, the government finally admitted to its powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 thus:

“The Inquiries Act 2005 provides that, to the extent that the matters dealt with are devolved, and criminal justice is devolved, the Scottish Government would have the power to conduct an inquiry.” The Scottish Government response to the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee (SPPPC) questions of the 9th of November 2010.

This massive and embarrassing climb down resulted from pressure brought to bear by the JFM petition lodged with the SPPPC in October of 2010. Mr MacAskill now claims, as the sun sets on this SNP government, that primary legislation is required to remove a secondary instrument preventing the publication of the SCCRC’s Statement of Reasons, which referred Mr al-Megrahi’s case back to the Court of Appeal.

“Separately, the Scottish Government intends to bring forward legislation to allow the SCCRC to publish a statement of reasons in cases such as Mr Al-Megrahi's where an appeal is abandoned, subject of course to legal restrictions applying to the SCCRC…….” The Scottish Government response to the SPPPC questions of the 9th of November 2010.

Precisely why is it not possible simply to remove the secondary instrument alone without having to go through the lengthy process involved in introducing new primary legislation? Truly a mystery. But just as the justice secretary claimed to be right, for a few months at least, over his interpretation of the 2005 Inquiries Act, the public is, no doubt, reassured with his current assertions concerning the restrictions on the publication of the SCCRC’s Statement of Reasons. After all, he is a lawyer. Indeed, First Minister Salmond is currently utilising the claim that should the SNP be elected in May’s general election, his government will definitely bring forward [unnecessary] primary legislation to allow for the publication of the SCCRC’s Statement of Reasons. Currently, the SNP stand a pretty good chance of losing this election, and even if they win it and they pass such legislation, the Freedom of Information Act card will doubtless be called to block its publication again. “The concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.” Edmund Burke.

The Lockerbie/Zeist justice campaigners are rather used by now to delaying tactics and insults, it’s really water off a duck’s back. The Scottish Government’s 7th of January statement however is so risible it is an insult to the intelligence of a single cell life form. Who precisely does the government think it is dealing with here? And what does this say about their regard for the Scottish public. Despite being ridiculed on matters of the interpretation of law by a modest campaign group, the government maintains its confidence in the conviction. How? JFM Health Warning: the arguments here presented by the government may induce severe bouts of vertigo.

Reason 1
“The Government does not doubt the safety of the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi. He was tried and convicted by a Scottish court before three judges.......” (Mr Frank Duggan please note: “three judges”).

Yes, however, it is precisely because the SCCRC and campaigners believe that the Zeist court of fact may have fallen short of the standards expected of the Scottish criminal justice system that JFM is calling for an inquiry to be opened. We return full circle back to the beginning then.

Reason 2
“....... and his appeal against conviction, heard by a panel of five judges, was unsuccessful.”

Yes, but, the sufficiency of evidence was not adequately dealt with at the first appeal and the SCCRC referred the case back to the Court of Appeal on six grounds relating to exactly that. Yet another revolution of the wheel takes us back to the starting blocks.

Reason 3
“A second appeal, following a referral from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, was abandoned by Mr Al-Megrahi. The conduct of his defence during his trial and the appeals, including his decision not to give evidence at trial and the decision to abandon the second appeal, was entirely a matter for Mr Al-Megrahi and his legal advisors.”

Perhaps this is a variety of what behavioural psychologists term ‘projection’: blaming someone else for one’s own failings. What the government is doing here is excusing the fact that the case has not been fully tested in law because of a decision reached by a terminally ill man who felt that he might stand a better chance of dying at home if he dropped his legal right to an appeal when he was under no legal obligation to do so. What compounds this shameful stance is that the government is clearly perfectly comfortable in leaving the interests of justice in Scotland to be defined by convicts.

Such serpentine contortions and circularity of argument by the government are enough to make a performer at a Berlin burlesque wince with pain!

Following a second round hearing of the JFM petition before the SPPPC at a meeting on the 25th of January 2011, the petition was kept open and further questions are due to be submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, the Lord Advocate and the SCCRC by the SPPPC. This means that Scotland still has an opportunity to redeem itself and show that it has the courage to deal with this matter head on. Ultimately, to reject this will cast it as afraid to attend to beasts of its own creation and have to live with a criminal justice system that has become a laughing stock. First, the government denies it has the power to open an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, then it fires through parliament, as emergency legislation, section 7 of the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 2010, now it muddies the waters over the publication of the SCCRC’s Statement of Reasons. Where will it stop?

“On the mace, it says that we will have justice, integrity and compassion. No wonder the petitioners call themselves Justice for Megrahi—frankly, at the moment, there has not been justice for anybody in this particular case.” These were the words of Christine Grahame MSP speaking in support of the JFM petition at the hearing before the SPPPC on the 25th of January 2011. Justice is the thread woven throughout our society which binds its very fabric together, if our justice system is riven with doubt and suspicion, we descend into social chaos. It is down to all of us to ensure that it is one worthy of respect and that its integrity is beyond reproach both within and without our borders. So long as the executive arm of state, the judiciary and the Crown seem to persist in obstructing requests for an independent inquiry into this matter in what appears to be an attempt to protect the transient and temporal reputations of individuals, the Scottish criminal justice system will be the butt of derision and contempt. This is not a legacy that we wish to pass on to our children. Justice is a cause for pride and celebration; it is greater than any one of us and provides, through its structure and functioning, a window revealing the mind and identity of a nation.

The basic tenets of the campaign are the following:
1. We do not assert that their Lordships presiding at Kamp van Zeist were wrong in reaching the verdict that they did. However, we contend that on the evidence laid before the court, we find it incomprehensible that such a verdict could have been arrived at. Like the SCCRC then, we feel that Mr al-Megrahi may well have fallen victim to a miscarriage of justice on the ground that no reasonable court could have passed a guilty verdict.
2. We campaign to lift the doubts over the safety of the conviction which still linger painfully in the minds of the bereaved resultant from the Pan Am 103 tragedy.
3. Following the dropping of Mr al-Megrahi's appeal, his conviction has not been tested in law in the interests of justice. We, therefore, campaign to restore the stature of the Scottish criminal justice system.
An inquiry can only produce a beneficial result for our justice system. Whether it transpires or not that there were shortcomings in the investigation of the Pan Am 103 tragedy and or the subsequent legal proceedings, Scotland will be able to look itself in the mirror again without shame and say: "We tried openly and honestly to lay the doubts to rest." Taking this courageous decision is the only honourable route to go down in order to restore Scottish Justice to her rightful place in our society. To spurn this chance would raise serious doubts over Scotland’s maturity as a nation.

Whether it is the confused rantings of the self righteous President of The Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc, the whispers from the ghosts in the shadows on the internet or the avoidance tactics of the Scottish Government, this all reveals only one thing: fear.

So keep the salvoes of venom saturated invective, the anonymous character assassinations and the legalistic blinds coming. We can’t get enough of them! Apart from anything else, they at least add a spot of humour to what otherwise is such a desperately depressing and sad case. We are in this for the long haul.

As someone once said: “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” Those who profess to be defenders of the free world would do well to pay heed to this.

Robert Forrester.

Explosives Revisionism and "No One Did It" Theories

18 September 2010
last update Feb. 13 2011

I recently asked for help with the contents of this site, soliciting input from the community, and as expected the most interest came from those I'm least inclined to agree with. I'd like to expand the voice of the Divide, but there are some things I just can't bring myself to support with publication here. Where the different theories fall relative to each other and what I accept and why is explained in part here.

Two groups of claims questioning what happened on the plane have become mixed together in my mind and jointly ignored until now. Those who propose a drastically different bomb detonation than alleged took down Flight 103, and those who say it wasn't a detonation at all, but an accident.

Inherently I agree the explosive force as stated is not necessarily correct, although I do suspect it's reasonably close. First, it's not clearly decided anywhere. The Zeist judges wound up taking away a median of 400 grams of Semtex-H, give or take 50, so 350-450. But the Indian Head forensic tests of 1989 found the container damage observed was consistent with the blasts done using between 454-680 grams, and not the lower amounts. There is reason to believe the higher end of that is closer to reality.

And more recently Dr. John Wyatt's unusual tests say that only a blast as low as 150 grams or less might possibly have have left the electonics remains investigators found. And to make PK/689 legitimate evidence, the bomb might have to be more like 20 grams.

I'm not going to argue the bomb was so small it couldn't rupture a suitcase - the clear solution to this is to suspect the poorly fitting evidence was planted poorly. But clearly there is a lot of room for fudging between the intact paper and the ruptured cargo pallet and plane.

As I recall, there are also some genuine-sounding mysteries over residue testing that seemed to suggest a different explosive than Semtex-H (or in addition to?) was responsible. If anyone is excited to explain this a bit better, feel free to do so in the comment section below. I'll try and dredge it up myself if and when time allows.

The rest of this post, however, is stuff just I don't buy. Partly because I don't trust these theories or theorists to get it straight for me, and partly because I don't know the science to be sure myself, I must call these theories worthy of discussion - in the comments section below and nowhere else on my blog (until further notice anyway).

John Parkes on the bomb's power
As reported in Scottish lawyer's magazine the Firm, August 2006.
John Parkes, an explosives engineer present at the crash site in December 1988, who reported damage indicating the carriage of munitions on the plane. Parkes helped in the rescue operation when the Boeing 747 came down on part of the town, killing 259 on board and 11 on the ground. He claims wounding he observed on three bodies recovered from the crash site, and on one young female victim in particular, were not caused by Semtex-based explosives as claimed in the trial.

"Every munitions or explosives device has its own characteristic signature," Parkes says. "The signature I saw was not consistent with the device they maintained was used. There was not enough power or heavy material around that device to have gone through the luggage and floor and through the back of an aircraft seat to inflict these wounds."

[Dr. Jim] Swire has asked the Crown Office to explain why this testimony was not included in the Air Accident Investigation Board report, asking "whether the AAIB gave any reason for rejection of Mr Parkes's ideas, and if so what that reason might have been".

I have great respect for Dr. Swire, but sometimes...

Well, just off the top of my head, Parkes reported the injuries to a girl he felt were consistent only with explosives coming up through her seat, injuring her feet and backside. First, it's unfortunately gruesome and sad as a "smoking gun," and for obvious reasons unverifiable. Second, I'm not convinced Parkes knows what to look for in such an unusual case, and could just be confusing a tree impact after the fall with shrapnel tears from before.

We could check by looking at damage to the floor panels this shrapnel would have to tear through. I had imagined most of this would have been found, perhaps warpedby he overpressure, but not torn up. But according to the AAIB report, many floor beams were fractured and none of the panels in the immediate blast area were recovered (that they admit!). So we can't say one way or the other.
The cabin floor structure was badly disrupted, particularly in the general area above the explosion, where the floor beams had suffered localised upward loading sufficient to fracture them, and the floor panels were missing. Elsewhere, floor beam damage was mainly limited to fractures at the outer ends of the beams and at the centreline, leaving sections of separated floor structure comprising a number of half beams joined together by the Nomex honeycomb floor panels.
Admittedly, that sounds worse than I'd expect, but then again, those beams can't be too solid. Planes rely on lightness, and simple gas over pressure might break up some beams and tear some flooring loose, without ripping through it with shrapnel. To send material tearing up through several filled suitcases, the container top. bay liner, cabin floor, and the seat structure to just stop at injuring this girl - rather than slicing through her - would require a truly massive explosion with supreme control. The focused 20-inch fuselage hole just two feet from the explosion cannot be consistent with such a blast, nor the luggage container or anything in it. I can't buy that's all faked.

Different bomb location
The above theory may also imply a different location even than the missing panels, depending where the girl was seated. I don't think this was ever sorted out, as she was to my knowledge never identified to Parkes.

Then there's temper tantrum Blogger Charles Norrie and his CIA bomb on top of an Iranian one. He cites a statement from Parkes, perhaps reflecting the seating issue above, that "a minimum of two high explosive events took place inboard Pan Am 103." Norrie also points to the twin debris fields, north and south, which could have many explanations in a complex breakup like that of Flight 103,even without another bomb.

For the location of the second blast, Norrie cites a missing section near the rear cargo area which must have been all vaporized by a "brisant explosion." See the image at left (new window for larger view), of the AAIB's painted model. Those sections coded in white were never recovered. Charles would be referring to the section on the lower rear of the craft (seen in view 3). But many other sections at random spots were missing as well, in at least seven apparent "brisant explosions" all over the plane. For whole panels of aluminum to disappear in Scotland might seem odd, but there are a lot of lochs that maybe weren't fully dredged, and the North Sea's not that far off for high-drag items. Perhaps a few still linger in private collections, bought from enterprising rural Scots.

But more prominently, a number of experty people have made themselves quite sure that mathematics prove the bomb was just a foot away from where it was reported, just outside container AVE4041, rather than inside it. These include onetime AAIB investigator named Protheroe, who now says the "mach stem" effect was calculated wrongly, suggesting 25 inches was between the bomb and the airplane skin. This distance, which fits with the physical evidence of the luggage container, is supposedly trumped by his new numbers saying 12 inches. This would mean the container evidence must be faked to appear the bomb was inside it. It also suggests someone planted the device directly in the plane, rather than remotely in luggage, as generally accepted. No explanation, Just math.

Edwin Bollier started trying to sell Libyan clues to the CIA within days of the bombing, was listed as one of the three important witnesses at Camp Zeist against Megrahi. Now he champions Libya and Megrahi as "wrongly accused," with mostly bogus claims, and he supports Protheroe's 12" revisionism.

I had thought further support could be found from Canadian researcher Ludwig de Breackeleer, but thankfully not, on closer look. Most of his other work on the issue is great, and as a science guy at heart (physics), the contribution he's most qualified for questions the official blast size, which is valid. He concludes, based on actual shown math and presumptions I haven't double-checked:
As the explosion of one pound of SEMTEX H inside the luggage container does not generate a blast wave sufficiently powerful to fracture the skin of the fuselage, we have little choice but to conclude that the verdict appears scientifically implausible.
One pound being about 450 grams, that's the upper edge of what's officially accepted. Dr. Ludwig's science fits with what I already observed at the top - something significantly over that seems a better fit with the most believable physical clues. (though I'd wager not enormously higher - perhaps 150-200% of that). I'm heartened to learn this.

No One Did It
The accident theory has two variations. The first proposes an unintended detonation of military munitions being carried secretly on the plane. This is advanced by one "Robbie the Pict" in the UK.

The other proposes no explosives at all, but a failure-induced decompression, and is advocated by a John Barry Smith in the US and also I believe this was the thesis of Carl Davies, proprietor of the Plane Truth website.

Further commentary for and against these theories can be submitted in the comments form below. Any highlights I feel worthy I may pull up and include in the post.

(more text, links, etc. forthcoming)
Update 2/13/11: I have some gripes from Robbie the Pict, which I still need to address re: the above and see if he's got a point. Otherwise, I have to revise my above take on deBraeckeleer. I hear he's been incommunicado for a couple of years now, but I didn't realize that as I tried to e-mail him recently as follows:

Dear. Dr. deBreackeleer,

Greetings. Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic of the Lockerbie Divide here. I've been appreciating your works for quite some time now, especially the interviews and original quotes. Some great work on the Khreesat and Autumn Leaves angles. I've been meaning to get in touch with you, just to see what that might yield.

I'm most interested in where your expert credential are most relevant, with your analysis of the force required to rupture the plane's hull in the first place, as explained in this article: http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/8920

I have in the apparently misunderstood that article twice now, in two different ways. I just reviewed it again prior to writing, and decided I should just ask you directly what's unclear to me here. The abstract says location is the issue, and that's an issue I have some problems with.

Unfortunately for the stated goal of reaching the masses with simplicty, I have a hard time following it. Positive impulse? Critical time, wavelength, greek letters... Perhaps I should go study up on this, but actually, cutting to the last portion seems adequate for my purposes.
The outside wall of the AVE 4041 container was located at 16 inches from the skin of the plane. At this closest possible distance in the light most favorable to the original investigators, experimental data indicate that one pound of explosive will generate a positive impulse of less than 20 psi-ms against the fuselage. [27]
So from this it seems the force on the skin would be dependent on original power and distance. Correct? The force you've taken is 450 grams, which is the upper end of the range the judges accepted: 400 grams, give or take 50. Since "at this closest possible distance" is the qualifier for the inadequacy.
As this value is well below the critical impulse calculated above, namely 50 psi-ms, we have little choice but to conclude that the Lockerbie verdict is scientifically implausible.
And the AAIB decided on 25" from the hull, not 16, strengthening the point. I'd defer on what I can't verify, and concur in general. But I have a hard time seeing the blast being much closer. The luggage container appears to be blown outward in all regards, and that's one piece of evidence I tend to accept. In fact, I've never seen anyone come out and argue or allege it was faked, even as it's been implied over and over, including by an AAIB scientist himself, no less.

I'm not trying to get you endorse any theory or another, but in your scientific opinion, is it possible that the location is about as reported but the blast force was simply higher than reported? Could a wave emitted from, say, 700 grams (or maybe 900?), but from the AAIB's rough placement well inside the container, make it plausible by these same methods?

I do have some reason from other quarters to suspect the blast weight was fudged way down, in part I surmise to half-explain the manual cover and other - erm - dubious clues. The primary suitcase we've been shown might not be that at all, for one thing...
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, researchers at the Center for Explosives Technology Research in Socorro, New Mexico, estimated that up to 30 pounds of explosive was needed to destroy a Boeing 747 if the explosion had occurred in the container. [28] We agree with that estimate.
30 pounds? If I could decipher it, I'd ask to see the math on that. Investigators got it wrong by a factor of 30? I would have suspected a factor of maybe 2 or 3, so as to not appear amazingly ridiculous to other scientists like yourself. Did their models have it placed in the relevant spot, or stuffed in the middle of the container, or the upper corner?

Clearly your point here is to suggest that it was not in the luggage container, but isn't that a bit hyperbolic? Maybe unwarranted?

Beyond that, if you're at all inclined after that, I'd be interested in interviewing you by e-mail for my blog. It might increase your profile a bit, give you a few new viewers. I have Slovenian viewers out my ears all of a sudden. And either way, kudos on some very valuable contributions to a worthy field.



David Leppard on Abu Elias

February 13 2011
slight edits 2/15

I’m delighted to add a very strange new point to the body of knowledge and/or lore surrounding “Abu Elias,” the apparent builder and controller of the Lockerbie bomb. (see: all threads about Abu Elias) This latest is from David Leppard’s highly interesting riddle of a book On the Trail of Terror (April 1991). It was among the first privileged works allowed to announced the turn to Libya in detail, months ahead of the sanctions. It drew on insider sources and related - in great detail - all the relevant clues that didn’t specify al-Megrahi or Fhimah - the Frankfurt printout, the Maltese clothes, the timer fragment, etc.

In fact, the original lead from 1988-1990, the Iranian-backed plotting of the Syririan-based PFLP-GC (Jibril network), is still tied in here. That's good for Leppard because he earned his spots reporting on just that lead in 1989 and '90. After he “changed his spots,” as Paul Foot put it, Leppard’s take became the same as that proposed by CIA Lockerbie chief Vincent Cannistraro in the early 1990s. It was the same Iranian-backed PFLP-GC plot everyone had, with good reason, suspected, just taken over by Libyan intelligence following the October 1998 "Autumn Leaves" bust.

In this series of raids, the bomb-making PFLP-GC cell near Frankfurt, their massive weapons cache, and tangle of targets, was disrupted by German feds who then set almost everyone free. Only the cell's weapons master Ghadanfar and its ring-leader Dalkamouni were kept in lock-up. The bomb-maker, Marwan Khreesat, was a double agent and flew back to his bosses in Amman, Jordan.

This version, where the Libyans picked up the slack, modified the rogue bomb with one of their timers, and arranged for the Malta plot to send it on to PA103, was the insider’s favorite for a while. But after some time, the original portion withered and fell off for lack of official recognition or further repetition (this part, if not the whole shift, can be chalked up to Gulf War-era re-orientation). Lockerbie gradually became a Libyan plot alone, presumably motivated by the nearly three-year-old U.S. air raids on Libya. As President Bush put it in 1992 or so (from memory), the original suspects “took a bum rap” in ever being suspected.

And all this despite the Autumn Leaves bust being quite possibly irrelevant to the original plot. One of the five bombs and one of the plotters escaped the raids entirely, together it seems and moving towards something. No one has ever explained what stopped them, or what they needed any Libyan help for. All that really needed done from there was likely carried out, by whom exactly we don't know, at terminal three Heathrow between 0:00 and 17:00 on December 21.

I thought I’d already checked Leppard’s book for reference to airport security expert Abu Elias, but missed this sole entry until just the other day. In its last three pages, the book concludes with its only mention of this highly relevant fugitive, as a part of the “Libyan connection.”
One final question mark for the Lockerbie team is the identity of the man Jibril asked to liaise with the Libyans in the eight weeks between Operation Autumn Leaves and the night of the bombing. The Scots, the Germans, and the Americans now believe that after 26 October 1988, with Dalkamouni in prison, another leading Jibril operative, called Abu Elias, may have played an important role in arranging the tie-up with Libyan agents and directing at least part of the Maltese end of the conspiracy.
There’s been no other mention of, nor evidence for, this notion of Abu Elias meeting with Libyans. At least, not that I’ve run across yet. It’s a very strange way to end a book to fuse the new direction with perhaps the best lead of the old, this young relative of Ahmed Jibril’s who apparently didn't trust Khreesat. Leppard adds some details consistent with other reports that would emerge:
The FBI have a photofit picture of Elias which shows the handsome features of a blond 25-year old Palestinian who heads the PFLP-GC’s military section in Damascus.
25 years old is new to me - nothing I'd seen before gave an age. This almost certainly refers to the Jordanian GID's sketch, apparently made after Khreesat's first (and, I think, only) meeting with the mysterious operative in 1985. As the 1989 report by FBI agent Marshman says:
The GID officers produced a composite sketch of Abu Elias that was done by Khreesat some time ago. Khreesat examined the composite and affirmed that the likeness was that of Abu Elias who he met in Damascus, Syria. This composite is attached to this FD302. [source: trial transcripts]
If he were a bare 25 years of age in 1985, to head the military section in Damascus (as others report) even by 1988 is clearly young. It's a bit too young to be Basel Bushnaq of Virginia, read literally. He's allegedly the same person as Abu Elias, but his records show he was born in late 1955, making him 29 or 30 at the time of any 1985 meeting. But if that’s not his original name, as Christine Grahame MSP alleges, it’s probably not his real birth date or even year.

And perhaps the 25-year-old estimate, whoever's it was, was erred on that end. This age addition is close enough to be consistent with the other disturbing clues that Ms. Grahame might be right, but is not apparently much of a clue in itself.

Leppard continues:
Dalkamouni admitted in his prison interviews that he had met Elias at the Front’s offices in Damascus. But he has denied seeing him in Germany.
Ah! Khreesat says he never saw Abu Elias in Germany, but that Dalkamouni did, something he was told of repeatedly. Abu Elias had studied Khreesat’s work in 1987, and could perhaps spot a fake, like he was instructed by Amman to build. He might inspect the work being done for the big Iranian job.

And Khreesat says that of the five armed “Khreesat bombs” made under this threat, one was not his at all, and only appeared at the same time Dalkamouni said Abu Elias had arrived. Khreesat was asked to finish it by soldering two wires, and then it disappeared again, presumably back to whoever had brought it.
Nevertheless, the BKA surveillance report on Dalkamouni’s prison meeting with his sister-in-law in July 1989 contains a dascinating reference to Elias. After denouncing Kkhreesat as an informer for the West, Dalkamouni was overheard telling Somaia about Abu Elias. ‘He [Dalkamouni] only gave Khreesat the name Abu Elias once. When referring to this name it concerns a “Phantom” name, and only Khreesat could therefore reveal this name.’ Dalkamouni’s comments suggest that Elias played an important, although unspecified role, which Dalkamouni regretted revealing to Khreesaat., the suspected double agent. ‘It is not a bad guess to say that Abu Elias has played a role,’ said one senior Western intelligence official. But that role is remains a mystery.
That part is interesting, and may refer to a real conversation that Dalkamouni probably knew was being recorded. I’m not sure what to make of it. But investigators still felt Abu Elias was involved, or told Leppard they did, right up to the eve of the indictments, after which he vanished again. They were puzzling over his role, it’s said, but if he had one at all, it didn’t involve Libyans or Malta. That’s all 1990’s cartoon nonsense.

Whatever happened between October 26 and December 21, the bomb clearly left the ground at London. We have real evidence for that, not “intelligence sources now believe” crap. All along, they "now believed" whatever helped shift us gradually from one evidence-led track to another, led by new and more politically convenient evidence, generally oozing from Vincent Cannistraro's end of things and into media reports. And all along the real evidence, partly known to us and partly covered-up, has remained just the same. That is because the murder of those 270 people still happened the same way it actually happened. That can only be re-written on paper.

No Laughing Matter

Response to Roger Simon
February 13 2011

small edits 2/14

The following started out as a comment beneath an article by Roger Simon in the Chicago Sun Times called "Lockerbie Bomber Having a good laugh." I've fixed some typos and errors and addressed a couple more of his, in addition to the general history I laid down for Chicago's readers.

I’ve read Mr. Simon's article, and noticed a shedload of errors of fact and presumption that will need more correction than I have space for here. For one, Megrahi is almost certainly not laughing. However premature that prognosis was, he is by now in a coma, last I heard, and only technically alive. And the whole decade of wrongful incarceration, the cruelty of justice made a mockery for his and his family’s and his nation’s torment, has, I understand, left him less than giddy. Even after the obvious relief of going home.

When I wrote about this at the time, I asked why, if a mass murderer had only weeks to live, not just let him die in prison?
The law in Scotland says he should be released if that's the case. Like Mr. Simon, the U.S. government asked that MacAskill should break the law and force this prisoner to die in prison. Conservatives ripped on the White House for having the temerity to even acknowledge the possibility the Scots would follow the law and release him to a non-prison hospital. They insisted it be in Scotland, not Libya.

A former Libyan intelligence agent, Megrahi was arrested and charged and then used every detail, wrinkle and technicality afforded by Western justice to escape his fate.

Proceedings dragged on for years, and it wasn’t until Jan. 31, 2001, that a three-judge Scottish panel finally convicted him. Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison.

Mr. al-Megrahi was arrested in the Netherlands, where he and his co-accused Mr. Fhimah had surrendered themselves in April 1999, on finally having a chance in a third country venue all parties could agree to. It was the deadlock over unreasonable demands from Washington, not the trial, that took years. Megrahi wanted to beat the rather silly charges, but feared that he'd be tried unfairly and then killed in a U.S. trial as demanded. Further, Gaddafi forbade him to go that route. So, sanctions, thousands dead, but let's just gloss over that part...

Both Libyans were in prison for over a year before the trial started in May 2000, running about eight months total, with frequent breaks. The bizarre verdict was Fhimah not guilty, mostly because everything the star witness said was a lie and even the judges said so. And Megrahi, the man with no known accomplice when he needed at least one to have done it, was indeed sentenced to life.

The wrinkles most definitely worked against him.

A life sentence in Scotland is different than in America, a point not explained in Simon's article. There, it means until you're ruled within three months of death. Even if that prognosis is flawed, it's made by the prison doctor (Dr. Andrew Fraser in this case) and the Secretary is required to release the prisoner ... after something mysterious is worked out, in this case.

What makes Simon's whining about procedures or prognoses he doesn't like any better than that of Jim Swire, Robert Black, Hans Koechler, Michael Mansfield, Oliver Miles, Robert Baer, etc., when they question the verdict reached? If the law means guilty is guilty, then dying is dying, and everyone knows no prognosis is perfect. You alleging a conspiracy? Hey, so are some of us!

But otherwise, let’s skip the specifics so crookedly scribbled into this article, and consider what it is really about. It’s full of protest, but I note that no amount of complaining will have Megrahi returned to prison now. Something else seems to be animating this.

Some of us know that the real picture behind the scenes is Megrahi’s well-known innocence of the ridiculous charges he was amazingly convicted over. The legal reality must seem the same at the physical one, no matter how tricky that is. Thus his promising second appeal, granted by the official legal body SCCRC to address its concerns of a “miscarriage of justice,” was quietly the main area of focus. Fellow Americans – never even heard of it, have you?

The Labor Brits duplicitously did all they could for a Prisoner Transfer Agreement, which, among other things, required abandoning all appeals. And the scape-goated Scots, all but entrapped into the situation, despised the PTA deal and pulled off a miracle – their own way home (“compassion”) for the “bomber,” made mysteriously conditional on an appeal surrender. Megrahi said he was led to believe that was the case, and while the SNP insist no way, he was released for non-appeal-related reasons only after - two whole days after - the appeal was dead. His own choice, for s#!%s and giggles, we're to presume.

And then back to this article and the many like it: now that they’ve served their purpose regarding Megrahi, the SNP are expendable – the stick we used to scrape some dog crap off our shoes. U.S. and U.K media are now freely serving their nations’ foreign policy goals of smearing the SNP who, coincidentally, are pursuing a program towards independence from the U.K.. That’s not something we hear much about in the states, but I suspect it’s the real reason they’re so hated. We encourage the Yugoslavias of the world to fragment, not the United Kingdoms.

Feathering the SNP in their Megrahi-tar to assist the foreign policy objective is a goal that could still be served by extended ill-iformed whine sessions like Mr. Simon’s. Serving justice is not, not when there’s such a serious likelihood the real bombers were never once caught and sent to jail for even a day, escaping under the cover our blame-Libya cartoon detour. Talk about “giving comfort to terrorists around the world,” huh?

Video: Two Hard Cases Solve Another

January 31 2011

Here is my latest Youtube video, relating the account of John Bedford and its potential relevance to the bombing.

It's not the most visually interesting, and the music's a little weird. But I think the soundtrack adds some drama to a pretty detailed narrative. I hope it all comes together well enough to raise a few new question marks - or even exclamation marks - out there.

See also the actual Youtube page for the video to help get the views up. Comments open to all here and there, welcoming constructive criticism and all. I plan to remake all my videos some day, or something to that effect, so feedback is always valued.

Debate Call: Suliman

February 7 2011

This challenge is inspired by a recent string of comments at The Lockerbie Case by “Frank” (Duggan, it seems) and others. The first smears were against the blog’s administrator, Lockerbie trial “architect” Professor Robert Black. Few specifics weregiven, but it seems they were suggesting he was paid by Libya to tell lies. No proof or evidence, no lies identified.

And then smearing Dr. Jim Swire, Justice for Megrahi, and Robert Forrester, veteran anti-Gaddafi propagandist “Suliman” made a notable appearance. “Swire, Forrester and Co. should be treated as undeclared agents of a foreign terrorist syndicate, until proven otherwise.” I’ve left that issue, his "evidence", and my response, for the buried comments there. I look forward to Suliman’s speculation as to what further sinister designs this decision proves.

I'll start with the comment he started out responding to, edited slightly:
Caustic Logic said...
By omission, Suliman and the other Dugganista-types out there acknowledge these points raised by Swire, Black, et al. are darn good ones.
- Gauci's buyer was clearly not Megrahi, but he was paid at least $2 million just to let it be fudged to seem that way.
- The crucial witness Giaka was thoroughly discredited.
- The third important witness was Edwin Bollier.
- There's no normal evidence for an unaccompanied bag from Malta, strong contradictory evidence, and no known accomplice to smuggle it aboard.
- An even more rational alternative theory, apparently hushed-up and obscured by the case that did emerge.

All they can complain about is that the people raising these extremely valid points might have been paid by Libya to tell the truth. Or are perhaps compelled by some moral failings (of the type evidenced by taking Libya's settlement, which is only to reward those who toe the line, not to subsidize free thought) to probe for more accurate answers and deeper truth.

Unless there's some important unstated middle part there where the actions so inspired are themselves somehow erred or unethical.

Select responses from Suliman (in block-quotes) and my responses:
You are attempting to paint me in a certain corner, and your rationale is not anything I said but things I did not say!
Yes indeed. Any of the above. And I predict that he will continue working on the legal technicality side of this, avoiding like a plague facts of the 3-D world in which Flight 103 was physically blown up and people physically died. Of course his and others' refusal to address the facts doesn’t actually prove they know they go against established beliefs. However, the endless dodging is consistent with that, and I suspect such a fear motivates Suliman's avoidance.
What Mr. Larson and others will not touch of course is my explicit challenge to them to justify--by any means--their claims about the personal dignity of those rejecting a court ruling while accepting--voluntarily and enjoying--the financial loot that flowed from it. Go ahead, Mr. Larson, call me whatever makes you feel safe and comfortable in your escape from defending your partner Swire's dignity.
I’ll show him wrong and touch it. In itself, on a sliding scale of human "dignity," as he seems to mean it here, accepting the settlement money from people you don't believe guilty is not at the very top. Marina De Larrocochea refused it. Martin Cadman refused it. But I don't know enough of the circumstances surrounding this to judge him over it. Didn't he try to give it back but wasn't allowed?

What I see coming from Dr. Swire is generally correct, honest, and insightful. By his actions he seems sincere is his desire, despite setbacks and persistent criticism and smears, to find the truth of who killed his daughter Flora all those years ago. So I see no reason to suspect the kind of dishonesty or whatever exactly it is Suliman is suggesting lies at the heart of Swire's unpopular work. Rather, I'm half-suspecting about the opposite.

Another little-noted problem with accepting this money, if it's joined to the dichotomy Suliman proposes, is that it might bias one's public and even private view on Libya's guilt. Of the hundreds of American relatives who took the settlement, none raises a public voice about the valid questions that proliferate. Coincidence? Or has the money somehow hushed them up?

To Suliman, it seems, the epic $2.7 billion settlement is only a reward for those who toe the line, and not meant to subsidize free-thinking.
Tell me: How dignified is it to reject the court ruling and pocket the money?
How dignified is it to convince yourself (or have someone else do it?) that you’d better keep quiet about the huge lie you can faintly sense around your loved one's death? Because, after all, you profited from this version being true in the court sense. If you come to rely on that money, and accept the kind of moral dictate Suliman personifies, you'll be locked into silence. And if you break the unwritten gag order, as we can see, you’ll be smeared as a morally corrupt, money-grubbing, terrorist supporter. Mass complicity is thus purchased and enforced, intentionally or not, and the alternate reality first planned by the CIA in early 1989 remains in place.

So, Suliman, to conclude:
But at the end of your contrivances, you need to address the things I do say, not the things I don't say.
Says you, trying still to avoid being forced into the actual evidence that your villains didn’t really have anything to do with that bombing. It's a lie of admirable size, but the world is waking up to it. You just keep hitting the snooze button. Time to stop.

Count the specific facts of Megrahi's guilt you cited in that three-post screed: Gauci, Giaka, Bollier, timer fragment, 1986 bombing study, … zero. All that was a formality to get to the finish line of a guilty verdict, forever after to be the only point of reference to ever be cited. And you surely know this consciously as you do just that.

I have no gripe with your overall gripe with Libya. I don't mean to apologize for them in general on things I don't know. But on what I do know, the Lockerbie case, you've got nothing real behind the legal technicalities.

The challenge: Of the many facts that must be true for al-Megrahi to be guilty, one crucial point is the date of the clothing purchase, which can only be established from the account of the witness to the sale, Tony Gauci, compared to other reliable and accepted records. You know this, Suliman. What relevant evidence was ever adduced to support December 7 as the date?

I believe I've now addressed all of your points the best I can. What will be your excuse this time to fail in returning the favor?