Sunday, January 3, 2010


De Borchgrave's Allegation and its Malta Problem
[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
January 4 2010
last update 1/8/10

An Atlas Twitches?
In the wee early minutes New Years Eve I posted a little analysis of the Libya confessed/didn't confess issue that was mildly valuable but not too exciting. It was quickly picked up by Professor Robert Black at his much higher-profile blog. By the evening, an e-mail was sent from Frank Duggan of Victims of Pan Am 103 Inc. to Prof. Black, subject-titled "Gadhafi admitted it!" Weird spelling aside (and there just too many spellings), it's something interesting, being spurred by an e-mail Duggan had just recieved from the renowned Arnaud de Borchgrave, recounting the admission he personally took from Gaddafi years ago.

De Borchgrave is a Belgian-born, 1926-born, globe-trotting phenomenon, plying the realm between politics and journalism from the dawn of the Cold War until today. His greatest renown is his ability to speak to world leaders, discretely one would think, and help them understand each other. (I studied the guy for 30 minutes or so - Wiki). He was briefly President and CEO of United Press International, currently an Editor-at-Large for both UPI and The Washington Times, which he has written for since 1985 (not the best recommendation). He’d previously worked at numerous outlets, including Newsweek, reportedly fired "in part for keeping dossiers on fellow employees". But a Newsweek editor has said of his reporting “despite his intimacy with major policymakers, he has never aligned himself with either side of a dispute.” (see the wiki).

Aaaand, since 1991 de Borchgrave has been a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and its director of the Global Organized Crime Project, which became the Transnational Threats Project after 9/11, and also resides in groups like the Atlantic Council. (source). This in turn is dedicated to creating and using trans-Atlantic “consensus” on "appropriate responses" to "bring ideas to power" in service of “American leadership” of the world. Specifically they focus on refining policies towards Russia, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, etc. as well as promoting NATO enlargement throughout Eurasia, and relevant here “drafting roadmaps for U.S. policy towards the Balkans, Africa, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, and Libya.” (source).

It's not certain my little post spurred this twitch from a giant, but I was lancing at Libya’s non-admission admission, and this is about offering more solid proof on precisely that issue - "Gadhafi admitted it!" I’m curious enough to check the timeline:
My posting was at 12:25 am local (PST), which would be 8:25am GMT. I think that's when I started it, rather than hitting publish. But I'm not sure.
Professor Black partially re-posted it at 13:09 GMT. According to Black, de Borchgrave's line to Duggan was sent at 6.15pm GMT, and Duggan’s to Black at 7:21pm on New Year’s Eve. The Professor apparently had better things to do that evening, but not tooooo much better, and posted on it prompltly at 8:45 on New Year’s Day. I take two days for another overblown yammerfest in response. It's rather a coincidence if these developments aren't all connected. So I'm probably "touching history" I guess, a small bit of it, and so far it feels, well... not quite fuzzy.

Alright, Alright, so What the Hell is it?
The e-mail sent to Black, as he posted it, passes on of de Borchgrave's original message:
"As Gaddafi explained it to me, which you are familiar with, it was indeed Iran's decision to retaliate for the Iran Air Airbus shot down by the USS Vincennes on its daily flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai that led to a first subcontracting deal to Syrian intel, which, in turn, led to the 2nd subcontract to Libyan intel. As he himself said if they had been first at this terrorist bat, they would not have put Malta in the mix; Cyprus would have made more sense to draw attention away from Libya."

Up-front, it seems as if Duggan solicited this e-mail to support the admission he's heard about earlier. We can see three tracks worthy of note - Iranian genesis of the plot, which has been a confusing on-again, off-again sub-current in the case I need to study more. For the most part, an Iranian link (as the primary sponsors no less) played no role mentioned in renderings of "the official story" - for example, the final verdict (opinion of the Court) following the 2000 trial contains zero mentions of "Iran" in its 82 well-filled pages. There's also a potential problem for the Malta aspect of the official story (which I'll return to), and an acknowledgment that Libyan intel did agree to take some part in the (Iranian-initiated) bombing.

But the e-mail is too vague. Let's turn to the previous publication of this reported admission that likely spurred Duggan to ask for a statement. At the time of Megrahi’s release, in late August last year, de Borchgrave wrote for “The Atlanticist,” apparently a paper from Atlantis (kidding - from the Atlantic Council), on the interview he had with Gaddafi on June 6 1993. After the main session, de Borchgrave asked the leader “to explain, off the record, his precise involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.” Gaddafi then “dismissed all the aides in his tent” and went candid, “in halting English without benefit of an interpreter.” Mostly he decried terrorism and offered to assist the West fight bin Laden-type terror networks (Libya is well known for realizing this threat specifically well before our 9/11, having suffered from them alongside U.S. sanctions, etc.).

Without offering an exact paraphrased quote, de Borchgrave states “Gaddafi candidly admitted that Lockerbie was retaliation for the July 3, 1988, downing of an Iranian Airbus," Iran Air 655 - shot down in a bizarre reckless action by an unusual US warship suffering a strange group psychosis while on a U.S.-engineered entrapment mission. Gaddafi explained how the Arab world could not accept that as accident (and for decent reason) and how he agreed with the Iranians:
"[R]etaliation, he said, was clearly called for. Iranian intelligence subcontracted retaliation to one of the Syrian intelligence services (there are 14 of them), which, in turn, subcontracted part of the retaliatory action to Libyan intelligence (at that time run by Abdullah Senoussi, Gaddafi's brother-in-law). "Did we know specifically what we were asked to do?" said Gaddafi. "We knew it would be comparable retaliation for the Iranian Airbus, but we were not told what the specific objective was," Gaddafi added."

I see no reason to either blindly trust or blindly doubt the veracity of this remembered talk. But taking it as true, we must still consider Gaddafi's understanding may be incomplete, or his statement may be slanted to fit an audience that's already convinced of his guilt. And then there are possible translation issues. But admittedly, it does sound like he agreed, or understood someone else's agreement, to take some part in a plan he knew would likely cause destruction of an American civil airliner. That would be a noteworthy development that might affect people's thinking on the subject. Libya is usually reported as "always inisisting on their innocence." Why did de Borchgrave wait sixteen years to report it? Did he?

No he didn't. Looks almost like he waited 11 years to make it public, while reporting it behind the scenes to the CIA, with a debriefing, immediately on returning home from the 1993 interview. He explained this in an article for NewsMax, from January 2004. Therein, de Borchgrave argued that Saddam Hussein's recent fall had increased Libya's anxiety to be even less for terrorism-tyranny-WMD-whatever. This led to Libya's 2003 moves to accept responsibility for Lockerbie (see first link at top), dismantle their WMD programs, and to really, really swear off terrorism, barring further frame-ups of course. To this end he had already come clean to the writer a decade before. He said of that meeting:
"[Gaddafi] admitted Libya's guilt for the downing of Pan Am 103, but made clear that it was originally an Iranian [plot] ... “So the Iranians subcontracted part of the job to a Syrian intelligence service, which, in turn, asked the Libyan Mukhabarat to handle part of the assignment," Col. Gadhafi explained. "That is the way these things were planned in those days. If we had initiated the plot, we would have made sure the accusing finger was pointed in the other direction and we would have picked Cyprus, not Malta, where some of the organization was done. The others picked Malta presumably to frame us.""

This to me is quite interesting. It would imply that someone not Libyan - it would seem Syrians - had directed al Megrahi to use Malta for the plot - or something, if Gaddafi's second-hand words are to be believed. Or alternately, the admission could read "we were involved in part of it, just not the part you "caught" our guy doing. The Syrians did the Malta stuff." That's not too helpful when your whole case against Libya was about the Libyan intel bigwig sent to Malta, by Tripoli, to plant the bomb because of his own (known) connections there and Libya's own, non-Iranian, grievances. Two JSO operatives, commanded by JSO higher-ups, had specifically targetted PA103 via Luqa airport, and were even stealing the "taggs" to write that on. No "framed" in that scenario. Is this just another Libyan non-admission admission?

And all this when the real evidence Gaddafi may or may not have known about highly suggests the bomb went on PA103 way up in London, with nothing physically to do with Malta at all. Don't lose focus.

A response by Peter Biddulph to Duggan's "admitted" e-mail got its own post on 2 January at Black's blog. Against the whole one-on-one admission, he stated from some experts that "Gaddafi never, repeat never, was without at least one armed personal bodyguard. To be alone with an American journalist with many contacts in Washington would be, for Gaddafi, impossible." de Borchgrave also claimed to be de-briefed by the CIA on this discussion in 1993:
"When we got back to Washington, we called Director of Central Intelligence Jim Woolsey to tell him what we had been told off the record. Woolsey asked me if I would mind being debriefed by the CIA. I agreed. And the rest is history." (NewsMax)
If history here means silence, then it was so. Biddulph points out this admission of guilt never made it into many if any pronouncements from, say Vincent Cannistraro, who headed the CIA's Lockerbie probe until 1991, and could be someone privy to such a debriefing even after this. Biddulph found no reference to it in the trial proceedings, the writings of various commentators, etc., running through a pretty good listing of places this amazing admission did not get repeated between 1993 and 2009. Indeed, the earliest mention I've seen anywhere is that Newsmax piece from three years after the verdict.

Biddulph called the e-mail "disinformation," and postulated "the real reasons for this late announcement" as affecting the Libyan leadership succession (smearing Senoussi), and to distract from the imminent release of SCCRC documents." An original publication in 2004 does seem to complicate the second reason at least, and perhaps Mr. Biddulph spoke too soon, as I had dismissing de Borchgrave without knowing a flit about him. This alleged admission and the man who has alerted us to it are too much to dismiss. There are several somethings wrong about this story I can't quite put my finger on, and I suspect others more influential have their own problems with it, and so it's unlikely to make more noise now than it did before.

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