“The greatest crime since World War II has been U.S. foreign policy.”
Ramsey Clark, Former U.S. Attorney General under President Lyndon Johnson
Today, Admiral Crowe has blamed the Iranians for the downing of one of their airliner by the USS Vincennes. ” Iran must bear the principal responsibility for the tragedy,” Crowe added.
As the New York Times points out, his attempt to blame Iran as the principal perpetrator of the accident is simply grotesque. This is particularly true since Crowe knew that the USS Vincennes was in Iranian territorial waters, a fact that the Admiral omitted to reveal. When asked about this several years later, Crowe will answer that no one ever asked him the question before…
And of course, recognizing the rights of Iran is not a popular thing to do, specially in an election year. ”This tragic accident was ultimately the result of the conflict between Iran and Iraq, which we now hope is on the verge of settlement,” White House press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, said in California today.
Back to the Present (2008)
Today, the Herald is publishing two letters from Dr Swire and Tom Minogue regarding the decision of the High Court on the issue of the appellant’s access to productions used at the Zeist trial. Dr Swire daughter was a passenger on Pan Am 103. Tom Minogue is a long-standing campaigner against injustices perpetrated by the Scottish court system.
Letter from Dr Swire
In granting Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al Megrahi’s defence its petition for examination of documents and the other productions from the Zeist court, including its forensic examination where appropriate, the High Court has shown a capacity for making a rapid decision.
It appears in line with previous practice. However, in this case it bears also on the defense petition for allowing a more comprehensive scope to the grounds of appeal than those set out by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), on which the Court has yet to adjudicate.
One has to question why the Crown attempted to block this petition by the defence in the first place. The net effect of the opposition has been to risk delaying preparation for the appeal by perhaps six months.
For better or for worse, forensic science almost always plays a vital role in modern murder cases, and despite the SCCRC’s claim that it had no criticism of the forensic work at Zeist, we should remember that probably the most crucial item of physical evidence, namely the timer fragment PT35B, was not even tested for explosive residues.
There may be concerns about the forensic science evidence at the trial. It might also now be possible for forensic examination to be made of the police evidence bag in which the vital timer fragment was presented. This might throw light on whether the wording thereon was altered.
This decision by their Lordships can only be regarded as good news for those who seek the truth and wish to see the obstructions cleared along the way to a fair appeal on a level playing field.
Letter from Tom Minogue
Dr Jim Swire, as a father who lost his daughter in the Lockerbie air disaster, must have so desperately wanted to accept the Lockerbie trial verdict.
The fact he has never been satisfied with the verdict and has consistently and with reasonable and clear argument (Letters, August 20) questioned the fairness of the trial process and verdict says much for him.
Despite his reservations about the propriety of the Lockerbie trial, Dr Swire has always stated that he trusts that the Scottish legal establishment will get it right at the end of the day.
Dr Swire is a credit to Scotland.
Reaction from a reader
Dr Swire is a credit to Truth and Justice. When this sad affair has been sorted out once and for all, I hope that Dr Swire is put up for some kind of recognition and honor. Despite his grief at the loss of his daughter, he has tirelessly campaigned for justice for the man convicted, wrongly in his view, of her murder. She would be so proud of him.
Concerns Regarding the Timer
In the months following the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, someone discovered a piece of a grey Slalom-brand shirt in a wooded area located about 25 miles away from the town. According to a forensics expert, the cloth contained a tiny fragment — 4 mm square — of a circuit board. The testimony of three expert witnesses allowed the prosecutors to link this circuit board, described as part of the bomb trigger, to Megrahi.
This version of events, which was accepted by the three judges who convicted Megrahi of murder at the Zeist trial in January 2001, raises at least four different issues.
Firstly, the circumstances of the discovery of the board are uncertain. Secondly, and the point is crucial, the circuit board twice miraculously changed color in between the time of its discovery and the day it was presented at the trial. Thirdly, none of the experts is trustworthy in the light of past experiences. Last and not least, a former CIA agent and a Scottish policeman have told the defense and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission [SCCRC] that the evidence had been planted by the CIA.
The Discovery of the Timer Fragment
There have been different accounts concerning the discovery of the timer fragment. A police source close to the investigation reported that it had been discovered by lovers. Others have said that it was picked up by a man walking his dog. In the end, the official version, as presented by a former investigator, claims that it was found by a policeman “combing the ground on his hands and knees.”
According to documents obtained by the Scotland on Sunday, the entry of the discovery is recorded at widely different times by UK and German investigators. Moreover, a new page has been inserted in the record of evidence.
According to statements made by the persons who found them, the manual of the Toshiba radio in which the bomb is said to have been located, as well as the babygro in which the radio was wrapped were recovered intact. During the trial, they were shown in pieces. Explosive experts have long pointed out that the patterns of the damage made by the bomb were inconsistent with the alleged location.
The Circuit Board Miraculously Changes Color
Forensic analysis of the circuit board fragment allowed the investigators to identify its origin. The timer, known as MST-13, is fabricated by a Swiss Company named Mebo, which stands for Meister and Bollier. The company has indeed sold 20 MST-13 timers to Libyan military.
Twice before the trial, Bollier was invited by the Scottish police to examine the fragment. On the first occasion, he immediately pointed out that the brown color of the board indicates that the device was experimental and that it had never been commercialized and could not have been delivered to Libya.
On the second occasion, he was shown a green fragment board similar to those he had sold to Libya.
Finally, at the trial, Bollier was presented a fragment of a circuit board completely burnt down. As he requested to explain the significance of the issue, Lord Shuterland told him that his request was denied.
Three self described experts have helped the prosecutors to link the timer to Megrahi. Dr Thomas Hayes and Allan Feraday work at the DERA Forensic laboratory at Fort Halstead in Kent. Thomas Thurman worked at the FBI explosive forensics laboratory.
Dr Hayes was employed at the Royal Armament Research Development Establishment (RARDE). In 1995, RARDE was subsumed into the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). In 2001, part of DERA became the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
Dr Hayes testified that he collected the tiny fragment of the circuit board on May 12, 1989. He testified that the fragment was green. His colleague, Alan Feraday, confirmed his story.
The record is inserted on a loose-leaf page with the subsequent pages re-numbered by hand. What is more, the index number he gave to the piece is higher than some entry he made three months later.
At the young age of 43, Hayes resigned just a few months after the discovery of the timer fragment.
Based on the forensic Dr Hayes had supplied, an entire family [The Maguire seven] was sent to jail in 1976. They were acquitted in appeal in 1992. Sir John May was appointed to review Dr. Hayes forensic evidence.
“The whole scientific basis on which the prosecution in [the trial of the alleged IRA Maguire Seven] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone, the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the conviction,” said Sir john May.
In the Megrahi’s case, Dr Hayes did not even perform the basic test which would have established the presence of explosive residue on the sample. During the trial, he maintained that the fragment was too small while it is factually established that his laboratory has performed such test on smaller samples.
Dr Alan Feraday’s reputation is hardly better. In three separate cases where men were convicted on the basis of his forensic evidence, the initial ruling was overturned in appeal. After one of these cases in 2005, a Lord Justice said that Feraday should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in the field of electronics.
In October 2005, Dr Hans Kochler, one of the international observers at the Lockerbie trial, issued a report regarding Feraday’s grave misgivings.
“The credibility of a key forensic expert in the trial, Mr. Alan Feraday, has been shattered. It was revealed that in three separate cases, men against whom Mr. Feraday gave evidence have now had their convictions overturned.
In the first case where Mr. Feraday’s credibility had been questioned the Lord Chief Justice had stated that Mr. Feraday should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in electronics.
According to forensic scientist, Dr Michael Scott, who was interviewed in the documentary “The Maltese Double Cross — Lockerbie”, Feraday has no formal qualifications as a scientist.
Thomas Thurman worked for the FBI forensics laboratory in the late 80s and most of the 90s. Thurman has been publicly credited for identifying the fragment as part of a MST_13 timer produced by the Swiss company Mebo.
Again, his record is far from pristine. The U.S. attorney general has accused him of having altered lab reports in a way that rendered subsequent prosecutions all but impossible. He has been transferred out the FBI forensic laboratory.
The story shed some light on his formation. The report says:
“Williams and Thurman merit special censure for their work. It recommends that Thurman, who has a degree in political science, be reassigned outside the lab and that only scientists work in its explosives section.”
Was the Evidence Planted?
It has long been rumored that a senior former Scottish officer, who has worked at the highest level of the Lockerbie inquiry, has signed a statement in which he claims that evidence has been planted. UK media have now confirmed the story. Thus, the Scottish officer has now confirmed an allegation previously made by a former CIA agent.
NOTES AND REFERENCES