Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 6 Num. 69 ====================================== ("Quid coniuratio est?")
LOCKERBIE: CRACKS IN THE COVER-UP
Within hours of Pan Am flight 103 devastating the Scottish border village of Lockerbie in December 1988, a team of American secret agents was methodically working its way through the crash site.
By the following morning a small area on the outskirts of the town had been sealed off. The Americans removed a suitcase full of heroin and some incriminating documents from a U.S. undercover agent, who died in the crash, and was taking part in a "sting" drug smuggling operation in Lebanon.
Two months prior to Lockerbie, the worst civilian atrocity committed on British soil since the last war, the German security services had rounded up a Palestinian terrorist cell in Frankfurt.
The ringleaders of the cell, sent to Germany to conduct terrorist operations, were caught red-handed. A primed bomb, almost identical to the one which destroyed the Pan Am flight, was found in the back of their car.
After five days of questioning, and following a bitter dispute between rival German security agencies, 12 of the 14 Palestinians arrested were released in October 1988, together with their bomb- making equipment.
One of those released, Marwan Khreesat, a known Jordanian bomb- maker, is believed by many experts on the case, with the key exceptions of American and British officialdom, to be the man who masterminded the placing of the bomb on the Pan Am flight at Frankfurt airport, which resulted in the murder of 270 people.
This is not idle supposition. These are the conclusions that have been reached following numerous, exhaustive inquiries which have sought to establish the truth about the disaster.
But tell any of the above to the governments responsible for bringing the culprits to justice, and they will respond either with an outright denial or sullen silence.
Far from actively seeking the truth about Lockerbie, the British, German and American governments appear to engage in a contest to deny any new evidence about the disaster.
Take last week. A top secret report, compiled by the intelligence wing of the American Air Force, was finally made public.
The report, written two years after the Lockerbie bombing, stated that a prominent Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, paid L6.5 million [6.5 million British pounds] for the Palestinian group arrested in Frankfurt to carry out the bombing.
No sooner had the report been made public than the respective spokesmen for the British and American governments denied its authenticity.
In Washington, it was dismissed as a "dud", the result of third- hand information which had been "mistakenly" channelled into the system. In Whitehall it was discounted as "old hat", nothing to get excited about.
At no point did any of the various agencies involved in the Lockerbie investigation suggest the American report might be worthy of further attention.
The primary objective of any murder inquiry is to establish motive. The Iranians had more than enough reason to bomb an American passenger jet after an Iranian Airbus, with 290 people on board, was shot down by an American warship in the Gulf in the summer of 1988.
The Americans never apologised, and Mrs. Thatcher inflamed Iranian ire by appearing to justify the American action. Mohtashemi, who founded the Islamic fundamentalist Hizbollah militia in Lebanon in the 1980s and masterminded the Lebanon hostage crisis, openly vowed to seek revenge.
That Mohtashemi has a record of sponsoring state terrorism should in itself be reason enough to investigate him. To claim that allegations of the nature contained in the U.S. report were published by mistake is also stretching the bounds of credibility. Intelligence services, more than any other government department, are required to sift, assess and analyze information before it is committed to print.
Whenever it relates to Lockerbie, however, this process, if the spokesmen are to be believed, is unaccountably overlooked. A more rigorous intelligence assessment is applied only when the information, belatedly and often with embarrassing consequences, becomes public.
The German government responded in similar vein last week when The Sunday Telegraph revealed that a key figure in the Lockerbie investigation had been freed from jail in Frankfurt and repatriated to Syria as part of a secret deal with Iran.
Scottish detectives were keen to interview Abdel Ghadanfar, 53, one of the Palestinians rounded up in Frankfurt before the Lockerbie bombing and jailed for 12 years for terrorist offences. But Ghadanfar was spirited out of Germany last November before the Scottish inquiry team received satisfactory answers to the questions they wanted to put to him.
The first the Scottish inquiry team, not to mention the Foreign Office and the British government, knew about Ghadanfar's release was when they read about it in The Sunday Telegraph last week. So much for the much-vaunted international co-operation on Lockerbie.
And as Ghadanfar's confession to the German authorities, published for the first time today, has revealed, Ghadanfar and his accomplice, Hafez Dalkamoni, were deeply involved with Khreesat in setting up a bomb-making ring in Frankfurt in the months immediately preceding the Lockerbie disaster.
Despite the protestations of the German Embassy in London that its government has done nothing wrong, these revelations show that the Germans, for reasons that remain totally inexplicable to the victims' relatives, set free an active, bomb-making terrorist cell.
It is not difficult to understand why the Germans would prefer to keep their security limitations to themselves. Their discomfort will be alleviated if they are successful in repatriating Dalkamoni, Ghadanfar's sole remaining accomplice, in the summer. Then no one will ever know the real truth about what happened in Frankfurt.
What is more difficult to explain is why both the British and American governments continue, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, to persist with their line that culpability for the disaster should rest entirely with two Libyans.
Warrants were served for the arrest of the Libyans, both members of Col. Gaddafi's intelligence service, in 1991 after Scottish and American investigators jointly concluded that they were involved in placing a suitcase bomb on a flight from Malta, which was subsequently transferred to Pan Am 103 at Frankfurt.
Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said shortly after the charges were initially made: "The investigation has revealed no evidence to support suggestions of involvement by other countries. This matter does not, therefore, affect our relations with other countries in the region."
This is a highly convenient excuse for the government. The fact that the Libyan charges are still pending means that all those involved in Scotland in the inquiry are unable to make any comment about new developments.
So when Sir Teddy Taylor, the Conservative MP for Southend, says he has "new and disturbing" information that the bombing was carried out by Syrian, not Libyan, terrorists, there is no official response.
And when Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP for Linlithgow, produces compelling evidence that the Americans actually "stole" a body from the Lockerbie wreckage, all he receives are gratuitous insults from Douglas Hogg, Mr. Hurd's lieutenant at the Foreign Office, when he raises the matter in the Commons.
There are many reasons why the British and Americans have sought to protect both Syria and Iran from being implicated in Lockerbie. First there was the fate of the Western hostages held in Lebanon; then there was the need to keep Damascus and Teheran sweet during the Gulf war.
The warrants against the two Libyans were served after Iran and Syria had co-operated with the successful liberation of Kuwait. But as new evidence, which seriously undermines both the Libyan and Maltese connections, continues to mount, the government is under pressure to set up a commission of inquiry, with the same wide-ranging scope as the Scott Inquiry, to investigate Lockerbie. This, the relatives of the victims argue, is the very least that they deserve.
They want to know, for example, precisely what the American secret agents did at Lockerbie the day after the crash and to have explained the true extent of the communication breakdown between the German and Scottish authorities.
Dr. Jim Swire, the official spokesman for relatives of the Lockerbie victims, said: "It is more than six years since Lockerbie, and we still have not received a proper explanation about what happened."
"Our lives were ruined by what happened that night, and our government has a duty to tell us why these innocent people died."
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