[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
October 8 2009
last update 10/9
Collectively, the evidence used to convict Abdelbaset Al Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am 103 indicates a Libyan-made bomb, placed by the "Libyan intelligence operative" into a specially packed brown Samsonite suitcase at Luqa airport onto Air Malta flight KM180, tagged to be transferred unaccompanied onto Pan Am 103 to blow up right around the Scottish coastline. The results could only be approximately controlled, given potential delays between thee planes and three airports.
To date the only positive evidence such a bag was even on the first of the three alleged planes is the tenuous conclusion that it later left that plane onto the second and third. The case linking back to Libya via Malta (Libya’s “backdoor to the West”) is entirely based on circumstantial clues, starting with the clothing of Maltese make, apparently packed around the bomb, followed by the timer fragment found to boldly point to Libya. Eventually some testimony was bought/mangled from witnesses like Gauci and Giaka to support the middle link of a loose bag from Malta traceable to Libyan *super-spook* al Megrahi. But this wasn’t pursued until after they had secured some kind of evidence for the bag itself.
In between Malta and the fields of southern Scotland, there might have been, and probably should have been, nothing but speculation to flesh out the official story. As it turns out, or so we’re told, Frankfurt Airport, which had supplied a feeder flight to 103, routinely destroyed its computerized luggage tracking records after a short period of just one week. Unless this means an office-fridge-style cleanout (say, every Friday at 5:00) we can presume a logical 7-day storage – enough time to retrieve anything in a special situation like this. But no one retrieved it in time, even for Pan Am 103, which had been loaded with passengers and luggage partially at that airport and was all over the news well within 24 hours for having blow the heck up.
Not that it mattered; apparently, no attempt was even made to look at such records in the first months after the incident. But by luck and fate an anomalous copy did surface, fairly early in the (looong) investigation, and made its own way to the German police and thence onto the FBI SCOTBOM investigation. It showed just the bag that the other points could later lean against to strengthen the case that emerged. “That was a key part of the investigation, which allowed us to link a bag from Malta to Frankfurt, through London and then obviously on to Lockerbie,” FBI SCOTBOM chief Richard Marquise has said [CF 6:50]. And it’s a half-decent clue, just far from conclusive and perhaps not even honest.
VERSION ONE: GATHERING EVIDENCE
This was provided, primarily, by Bogomira Erac, a computer programmer and baggage handler there on the fateful day. Her paperwork and testimony were pivotal to the prosecution case when brought before the Scottish Court at camp Zeist. Scottish revisionist Ian ferguson claims she “testified at the original trial under the pseudonym Madame X.” [IF] I can find no support for that, and the final verdict (opinion of the Court, issued Jan. 2001) referred to her by name.
Having “realised that PA103A had departed during her period on duty,” the Court summarized therein, Erac “was interested in the amount of baggage on the Frankfurt flight, and on the following morning she decided to take a printout of the information as to baggage held on the computer.” She was looking for "any useful information," but "did not at once identify any.” [OC, point ] She could not likely know what this data did or didn’t say without other data sources, and she did not hand it over to those who could put it in context, so its vital clues lingered unrealized.
Investigative journalist Paul Foot, one of the few people to sit through the whole Lockerbie trial, came away with about the same impression as the court, in that Erac had printed this out herself for informational purposes. Referring to the record, he wrote in his seminal 2001 report Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice:
“This was printed out on the day after the Lockerbie bombing by Bogomir Erac, who was in charge of the software for the baggage system at Frankfurt. She recovered the print-out in case it revealed anything interesting about the luggage loaded on to flight 103A to Heathrow, which linked to the separate and doomed flight 103.” [PF 18]FBI SCOTBOM chief investigator Ricahrd Marquise, in his 2006 book, took a different view of Bogomira’s interest in the facts; “more for curiosity than anything else, she kept it in her desk for about three weeks. She was later asked by her supervisor to look for baggage records in the computer, but they were purged every week.” [RM 210] But apparently this request came after these three weeks, showing up this unnamed supervisor as both a sluggish thinker and epically ignorant of their own storage policies to bother pursuing this avenue so late. Luckily there was still the paper copy, again no thanks to procedure.
VERSION TWO: OUT OF MEMORY
Mrs. Erac told the BBC in a 2008 video interview (see left) that not only was the data deleted, their paper backups were tossed in short order as well. “We usually destroyed all the printouts. And I was just about ready to do that with this one,” the “diligent” Mrs. Erac told the camera sent for The Conspiracy Files. [CF 5:42] Had she simply forgotten that she had specifically printed this one for factual reference? But of course she didn’t clear out this deadwood; “on the spur of the moment, I just picked it up and put it on the table,” perhaps remembering why it existed. She then decided to hold onto it for sentimental reasons “in memory of the people who were on the plane." With moist eyes scanning towards Gott in Himmel she recalls this, “and then I threw it in my locker.”
In this version, it wasn’t until much later that she changed gears on the issue; “the weeks went by and to Bogomira’s surprise, no one came to ask for the printout,” the video’s narration runs. “Realizing it could be useful, she eventually went to her supervisor.” Having reversed the initiative for the meeting from that reported above, Erac next has the supervisor protesting “but the baggage list doesn’t exist anymore!” When she handed it over, “he was very, very surprised.”
THE FIRST OF FOUR KEYS
So sometime in January 1989 these two were aware of this list’s existence but presumably not its implications. The unnamed supervisor then turned it over to the BKA German Federal Police who in turn sat on it awhile before handing it over to the Lockerbie investigation sometime in August 1989, at least seven months after they’d started work. [CF 4:45]
It was a breakthrough in the case, as FBI chief Marquise wrote in his 2006 book SCOTBOM, “her printout was the only record. This was as much a key to the solution of the case as Tony Gauci or the Mebo chip.” [RM 210] He neglected to mention a fourth key, the damning testimony of witness Giaka. In fact, the evidence from Frankfurt is crucial in that without it they had no evidence (aside from Giaka) for the bomb being anywhere but Heathrow to Lockerbie. And like these other key points (aside from Giaka), which all came after the printout, there are question marks over this evidence.
1) No backup records: Deleting all copies of the data in question sounds like a dubious policy. That this one list is just good luck is itself a bad sign. That the policy was not abridged in the case of this flight, with a copy saved for investigators, is just bizarre or untrue.
2) Corollary lack of interest in looking for such records: officially the bomb in the biggest terrorism investigation in ever got on PA103 via Frankfurt, Even with a week and all the world's investigating agencies to think about it, no one checked the relevant records to see if that might be the case? The official story here, that no one checked and were dismayed by the lack of records is itself dismaying. I’m not at all sure this is really the case.
3) Conflicting stories: Did the supervisor ask Erac to look up info, or did he presume it was gone until she approached him? Did she print this out herself, or save a regular print-up? Did she save it as a memento, for personal research, or for the investigation? Time is obviously a factor, but is it the main one in these shifting details?
4) Long delays: They add up – three weeks, a few moths, and collectively, the time from unknown to openly known stretches into something like a year. Coincidentally, this could provide time to track down the info desired, to run through possible cases and scenarios and implications, and for what was desired to settle into place. If the FBI worked that way. Politically.
The printout timeline thus bears a strangely parallel course to that of the MST-13 timer chip; first found in January 89, realized as evidence in May, and puzzled over for a full year, documented with well-spaced memos, before identified as “Libyan.”
Questions about its provenance aside, the paperwork is not as clear as made out and far less decisive. Showing only a bag originating at a certain place (station 206 of “V3”) at a certain time (13:07GMT) before being put on the feeder to London. Other records would have to be called on, linking KM108 and its bags to this station 206 in order to form the full Air Malta-Pan Am link that emerged. Apparently these more obscure records, not directly touching PA103A, were not routinely destroyed, and were made available to the prosecution with no luck cited. What all these airport records say and what they can’t say will be the subject of another post.
[CF] The Conspiracy Files: Lockerbie. BBC Two. Aired 31 August 2008. Prod/Dir Guy Smith, Ex Prod Sam Anstiss, Narr Caroline Catz. Youtube posting, part 3, time stamps indicated above.
[IF] Ferguson, Ian. "The judges got it wrong" From the Sunday Times, Malta. May 10 2009. Reposted at Robet Black's blog: http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com/2009/05/from-sunday-times-malta.html
[OC] Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield, MacLean, Case No: 1475/99. OPINION OF THE COURT delivered by LORD SUTHERLAND
in causa HER MAJESTY’S ADVOCATE v ABDELBASET ALI MOHMED AL MEGRAHI and AL AMIN KHALIFA FHIMAH. Delivered January 31 2001. PDF file available at: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/library/lockerbie/index.asp
[PF] Foot, Paul. Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice. PDF, 32 pages, published 2001, Private Eye. 6 Carlisle Street, London, W1D 3BN. Available for purchase (5£) https://secure2.subscribeonline.co.uk/PEYE/digital_downloads.cfm
[RM] Marquise, Richard. SCOTBOM, 2006.