More hidden history, more unsettling truths: the Lockerbie bombing

We know so little about our world and its history.  Sometimes events rip aside the veil and show us aspects of the governmental machinery that ours our nation.  It’s not pretty to look at, but important for us to know.  Today we look at one such event.

Sidenote:  The wealth of information in the FM website’s comments section often challenges that in the posts themselves.  The references in this post came from comments by Rune and Mclaren, bringing to light this sad by enlightening information.

Contents

  1. The Framing of al-Megrahi“, Gareth Peirce, London Review of Books, 24 September 2009
  2. Other articles about the Lockerbie coverup
  3. About hidden history
  4. Afterword

(1)  Excerpt from an disturbing article

The Framing of al-Megrahi“, Gareth Peirce, London Review of Books, 24 September 2009 — This is the conclusion to a long, well-supported, tightly reasoned article.  I recommend reading it in full.  Excerpt:

To discover that al-Megrahi’s conviction was in large part based on the evidence of scientists whose value as professional witnesses had been permanently and publicly demolished 10 years before his trial is astounding.

… Even if the science that convicted al-Megrahi had not offended against every minimum standard, then the second pillar of the prosecution case, his identification by Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper, would remain spectacular in its noncompliance with any safeguard.

  • He described al-Megrahi as ‘6’0’’’ (he was 5’8’’),
  • ‘50 years old’ (he was 37), …
  • said that he ‘had been to the shop before and after’, ‘had been there only once’; …
  • that he ‘will sign statement even though I don’t speak English’;
  • that al-Megrahi ‘was similar but not identical’, ‘perhaps like him but not fully like him’, and,  fatally for any identification of al-Megrahi in the first place,
  • that he was ‘like the man in the Sunday Times’ (in other words, like Abu Talb, whose picture Gauci had initially identified).

But Gauci’s evidence was needed and, reports suggest, handsomely rewarded. He apparently now lives in Australia, supported by millions of US dollars.

That a court of 3 experienced judges convicted on such evidence and that an appeal court upheld the conviction is profoundly shocking. Köchler, the UN observer, reported finding the guilty verdict ‘incomprehensible’ in view of the court’s admission that Gauci’s identification was ‘not absolute’.

We had come to believe that such an outcome, resting on invalid identification, was no longer possible. ‘The guilty verdict’, Köchler wrote, was

  • ‘arbitrary, even irrational’
  • with an ‘air of international power politics’ present ‘in the whole verdict’,
  • which was ‘based on a series of highly problematic inferences’.
  • He remarked on the withholding of ‘substantial information’ (‘more or less openly exercised influence on the part of actors outside the judicial framework’) and
  • on the very visible interference with the work of the Scottish prosecutors by US lawyers present in the well of the court.

But most seriously, he set out his ‘suspicion that political considerations may have been overriding a strictly judicial evaluation of the case’. All of this harks back to the bad old days when a blind eye was turned to the way convictions were obtained.

Al-Megrahi’s trial constituted a unique legal construct, engineered to achieve a political rapprochement, but its content was so manipulated that in reality there was only ever an illusion of a trial. Dr Köchler recorded at its conclusion that it was ‘not fair’ and that it was not ‘conducted in an objective manner’, so that there were ‘many more questions and doubts at the end than the beginning’. Since then, these doubts have not disappeared: on the contrary, the questions are graver, the doubts have grown and so has the strength of the evidence on which they are based. Köchler’s observations continue to have compelling relevance; he found the respect of the court, the defence lawyers included, for the ‘shrouds of secrecy’ and ‘national security considerations’ to be ‘totally incomprehensible to any rational observer’. ‘Proper judicial procedure,’ he continued, ‘is simply impossible if political interests and intelligence services – from whichever side – succeed in interfering in the actual conduct of a court.’

The term miscarriage of justice carries with it the inference of accident, but also of death. There is a pressing need to investigate in detail how it has come about that there has been a form of death in this case – the death of justice – and who should be found responsible.

About the author

Gareth Peirce is a defence lawyer who has represented many men and women in their appeals against wrongful convictions made on the basis of disputed scientific evidence, misidentification and police malpractice.

(2)  Other articles about the bombing

These (a – e below) references were provided by Maclaren in this comment on the FM website.  My thanks to him for this valuable information.

(a)  Flight From The Truth“, Guardian, 27 June 2001:

“The Lockerbie trial was meant to end the saga of Pan Am flight 103. But it didn’t take into account the wads of US dollars, or the heroin, or the Hizbullah T-shirt found in the wreckage. As the man convicted of the bombing prepares to appeal, John Ashton and Ian Ferguson argue that there has been a top-level cover-up.”

(b)  Statement of Dr. Hans Koechler, International Observer at the Lockerbie Trial, on Recent Reports in the Scottish and British Media“, International Progress Organization, 14 October 2005:

Dr. Hans Koechler said that the dramatic shortcomings and errors in the conduct of the trial that have been brought to the attention of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) confirm his earlier assessment that the Lockerbie trial resulted in a “spectacular miscarriage of justice.” (BBC News, 14 March 2002) Dr. Koechler pointed to the following information that transpired in the media and that puts in doubt the very integrity of the judicial process in the Lockerbie case: …

All these facts – which are now before the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission – confirm the serious doubts about the Lockerbie proceedings originally raised by the UN-appointed observer, Dr. Hans Koechler. In his comprehensive reports on and evaluation of the Lockerbie trial (2001) and appeal (2002) as well as in his statement on the compensation deal made between the US, UK and Libya in 2003, Dr. Koechler had criticized the highly politicized circumstances in which the case was handled and drew the attention of the international public to the possible interference of intelligence services from more than one country.

(c)  Probe into Lockerbie timer claims“, Herald Scotland, 5 September 2007 — Excerpt:

Edwin Bollier, whose now bankrupt company Mebo manufactured the timer switch that prosecutors used to implicate Libya, plans to visit Scotland with police forensics experts, following news that an engineer was asked to fabricate evidence.

Ulrich Lumpert, formerly an electronics engineer with Mebo AG, Zurich, has signed an affidavit admitting he committed perjury before the Scottish Court in the Netherlands {that} states …

  • he stole a handmade sample of an “MST-13 Timer PC-board” from Mebo in Zurich and handed it over, on June 22 1989, to an “official person investigating the Lockerbie case.” …
  • that the fragment of the timer, cut into two pieces for “supposedly forensic reasons,” which was presented in court stemmed from the same piece. …
  • that when he became aware that this piece was used for an “intentional politically motivated criminal undertaking” he decided, out of fear for his life, to keep silent on the matter.
  • Mr Bollier has already spoken to prosecutors in Switzerland who will begin their investigation into charges of perjury next week.

The timer was used as a key part of the evidence against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing which killed 270 people. The revelation will strengthen Megrahi’s fresh appeal which was granted in June by the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission.

(d)  Scottish panel Challenges Lockerbie Conviction“, New York Times, 29 June 2007:

“A Scottish judicial review body ruled Thursday that a former Libyan intelligence official jailed for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing might have been wrongfully convicted and was entitled to appeal the verdict against him.”

(e) Statement by Dr Hans Köchler, international observer appointed by the United Nations to the Lockerbie Trial in the Netherlands (2000-2002), International Progress Organization, 29 June 2007:

“In his reports, Dr. Köchler was highly critical of the proceedings and questioned the fairness and impartiality of both the Trial and Appeal Courts. In an interview for the BBC on 14 March 2002, he described the dismissal of the appeal as a “spectacular miscarriage of justice.”

(f)  Other articles and sources of information

(3)  About hidden history

Much of truth about current events lies in the realm of hidden history, revealed only one or more generations later. For instance, the military history of WWII we learned in school was largely false. The reputation of UK and US generals was trashed with the revelation in the 1970’s of Enigma (we read almost all their coded messages) and the treason of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (head of the Abwehr, military intelligence). During the war Canaris gave the UK most of Hitler’s war plans, which they ignored.

Other examples:

  • In 1962 the American people knew all President Kennedy. Healthy, athletic, and a good family man. The truth was very different.
  • So it is with Watergate.  The noble deep-throat, serving America’s freedom.  The intrepid journalists. All a myth.  (See here for details)

The white whale of hidden history for Americans is the Kennedy assassination.  Will we ever learn the truth?

(4)  Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

7 thoughts on “More hidden history, more unsettling truths: the Lockerbie bombing

  1. It should be noted that the Judges were prepared to pass the verdict of “Not Proven” a unique verdict in Scottish law. Sometimes referred to as “That bastard verdict” it is essentially an aquittal where there is some doubt as to the evidence of the guilt or innocence of the accused. There was some pressure applied to have this changed to guilty, the need to put this case to bed so to speak was overwhelming.

    this site here will be of interest to those wishing to read further
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you, I have added this site to the post.

  2. FabMax, to say that “the military history of WWII we learned in school was largely false. The reputation of UK and US generals was trashed with the revelation in the 1970’s of Enigma” is an hysterical overstatement. What I find remarkable is the degree to which the disclosure of Enigma did _not_ alter too many of the fundamental historical judgments about World War II. Some reevaluation was necessary, to be sure: aspects of the antisubmarine campaign in the North Atlantic, Axis resupply operations in the Mediterranean, the Battle of Midway (to some degree), a few others. But Enigma intercepts did not always yield actionable intelligence, and like all too much “sensitive compartmented information” even today, it doesn’t get disseminated too far beyond the intelligence community. (As one of my old bosses, the Army’s Asst. Chief of Staff/Intelligence once told me after a briefing, too much intelligence analysis is the proverbial “self-licking ice cream cone.”) Some of the big operational surprises came in spite of Enigma — the successful Axis withdrawal from Sicily, the Salerno counterattack, & the Battle of the Bulge are a few examples. And And of course Enigma played no role in the war’s major campaigns, on the Eastern Front.

    “Hidden history” is a seductive concept, but I doubt it really exists, most of the time. Much of it seems to be the domain of cranks.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You are correct, I overstated it (my military history reading is long behind me). Since I don’t want to enter into a dispute on professional historians’ views, let me rephrase this as “my opinion of the allied WWII generals crashed” after learning of enigma. Taking a year to put down German after D-Day was too long, considering how much we were reading.

    Furthermore, and this might be outdated, the military lit I’ve read gives too little attention to the potential benefit of the Enigma intercepts, and the allies poor use of them.

    (2) I said “the military history of WWII we learned in school was largely false.” You say “degree to which the disclosure of Enigma did _not_ alter too many of the fundamental historical judgments about WWII.” I say potatoe, you say eggplant. These are not the same things.

    (3) More broadly, the conventional history of WWII is largely myth (as usual for recent wars, which are too hot for a society to contemplate as other than myth). For example, consider the US Army’s reaction to books like Martin van Creveld’s Fighting Power — contrasting the relative effectiveness of the German and American armies. Rather than learn from his well-researched insights, they commissioned 3 books as rebuttal (weakly so, perhaps #4 will do it). For an intro to this I recommend “Mythos revisited: American Historians and German Fighting Power in WWII“, Thomas E. Nutter, posted at Military History Online.

    (4) “‘Hidden history’ is a seductive concept, but I doubt it really exists, most of the time. Much of it seems to be the domain of cranks.”

    An odd comment, since I gave several incontrovertible examples (3, 4 including Lockerbie). It’s a long list. Jefferson’s slave mistress is another example, forcing re-evaluation of a major historical figure.

  3. Probably the biggest surprise was not the information we gained by cracking Axis intel, it was the number of times the information was ignored intentionally so that the leak would not be revealed, at the potential cost of allied soldiers’ lives.

  4. FM , You wont be able resist 9/11 much longer …
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I did a great deal of research on this after 9-11. Unfortunately, like the Kennedy Assassination, the 9-11 commission carefully avoided doing a full investigation. The nature of the WTC 7 collapse, could passengers communicate from a moving aircraft using cell phones, the weird stories about activities in the NYC area that day — they showed no interest in these questions. The Mayor took extraordinary steps to see that the scrap metal was moved and destroyed ASAP (I read that the trucks were fitted with special GPS to see that none were misplace en route). All we have are technical question, not susceptable to casual analysis like done on most 9-11 sites (and on this thread).

    I suspect some answers will appear (i.e., the cell phones). Most I’ll bet we never know. More hidden history, perhaps. Anyway, it’s a closed book IMO.

  5. Which agree that Gareth Peirce’s article was long I would not describe it as “well-supported” or “tightly reasoned”. For example you repeat her points concerning the discrepancy between Tony Gauci’s description of the purchaser of the “Malta clothing” being far taller and older than Mr Megrahi. However the article continues the imply that Gauci had actually identified another man Abu Talb who was younger than Megrahi!

    Unfortunately the article also had many factual errors and featured the claims of fabricators notably the lie that a scottish farmer had claimed to have found a suitcase of “white powder”. Your first reference “Flight from Truth” refers to “wads of dollars” and “heroin” for which there was no basis in reality and the recovery of a Hezbollah T-shirt in the wreckage which is probably of no significance whatsoever.

    I am not a supporter of the official version of events and agree that Megrahi was framed for reasons unmentioned in Ms. Peirce’s article. I believe that for quite intelligible reasons agencies of the western Governments colluded in the bombing. (see “Lockerbie – Criminal Justice or War by Other Means” at “The Masonic Verses”).
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Knowing nothing about this issue, I use “well-supported” in the narrrow sense of citing many sources in support. No surprise, he’s a trial lawyer after all. Trackking down the validity of these thigns is beyond my resources or interest. So you might be correct.

  6. I’m afraid the article didn’t cite any sources at all which I why I wondered where she had got some of her more dubious information from. However if you know nothing about the issue and aren’t interested what is the point of your blog?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I stated that poorly. I meant while the subject is interesting to read about, I do not have an interest in doing research on the subject.

  7. A very minor point, Fabius, but some of that rebuttal of van Creveld’s Fighting Power that you decry was driven by unease over the very enthusiastic embrace of “germanophilia” by thoughtful soldiers and military scholars, seen in a plethora of articles in military journals — an attempt to rein in the sudden desire to become “feldherrn” that blossomed in the US Army during the 80s.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed. The link I provided was to a long essay that describes this background in detail. That does not, however, mean that the rebuttals to MvC’s book were well-done — as he explicitly does not embrace “germanophilia”. He describes the Wehrmacht’s limitations and flaws, and gives due credit to the US military’s creation of a superpower-level military machine so rapidly from such a small start.

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