[Diary of a Vengeance Foretold] Part 156
DECEMBER 5 1988
“Perhaps life in war-torn Beirut had made them [CIA McKee and Gannon] used to terror risks. Perhaps they figured to themselves that their superiors would not have allowed them to travel if the flight was at serious risk. Had they known that within the past three weeks, there had been a number of strong indications that radical Palestinians were planning to attack Pan Am, they would most surely have chosen another airline.”
John Ashton and Ian Fergusson – Cover Up of Convenience
At 10:45 a.m. December 5, 1988, a man speaking with an Arabic accent telephoned the US Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. The anonymous caller asked to speak with the Security Officer.
The informant said that a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to the United States would be blown up within the next two weeks by someone associated with the Abu Nidal Organization.
The caller stated that a man living in Frankfurt called Abdullah would pass a bomb to a man named Yassan Garadet who just arrived from Libya and was now residing in Hemeenlinne, a city North-east of Helsinki.
In turn, Garadet would plant the bomb on an unidentified Finnish woman. (NB. This Modus Operandi has been used by the PFLP-GC in the past.) Although the caller did not mention the name of the carrier, he dropped the name of a certain Mr Soloronta. This is not without interest as it is known that Samir Kadar, a member of the Abu Nidal Organization, had married a Finnish woman by that name.
The regional security officer, Kenneth Luzzi, informed his CIA colleagues and Finnish Intelligence. The warning was passed to Washington DC and Interpol. As we shall see, the warning will be dismissed as a hoax in a matter of days.
Finnish investigators believe that Samra Mahayoun, a Palestinian living in Finland on a student visa, had accused Garadet because he belonged to a rival drug smuggling organization.
Inside the FBI
Marquise told me an interesting story about the Helsinki warning concerning a meeting between him and Oliver Revell, then executive assistant director of the FBI, whose son is known to have cancelled his reservation on Pan Am 103. (His relatives have provided three different accounts of his rebooking, stating that the event had occurred one week before, two weeks before and around Thanksgiving weekend.)
“I had a meeting with Revell in his office, just the two of us to go over something I was writing for him, on 12/14/88. As I recall it was his 50th birthday — making him eligible to retire — we joked about it.
Although I was in charge of terrorist research for the FBI at the time, we had no discussion about the Helsinki Warning which was, by that time, a week old. It is very possible it had not yet reached him as I do not recall it either.
People often give the FBI (and other government agencies) too much credit for being on top of everything — every time. I would be willing to bet that information had not reached us.”
The FBI investigators would later also conclude that the warning was a hoax. Marquise told me that the caller had done it to impress his girlfriend.
In European countries and the US, terror hoaxes are severely punished. In 1992, Stephen Docherty was sentenced to four years in jail for calling the police regarding a bomb about to go off at Victoria station.
On Nov. 17, 1992, the Finish Embassy in London told the Cadmans, who lost their son Bill in the tragedy, that sufficient evidence had not been assembled to convict the chief suspect, whose identity had not yet been revealed to the public at the time and was only described as a Palestinian man resident in Finland.
If there was not enough evidence to indict, let alone convict, Samra Mahayou for the hoax, where was the evidence to dismiss the warning as one?
Many officials have argued that it is not possible to disclose such warning to the public because of their large numbers. According to Paul Channon, the former secretary of state for transport, the number of bomb threats against aircraft relevant to the U.K. in 1988 amounted to 16.
Channon also reluctantly admitted that none of the other threats was nearly as specific as the Helsinki warning, which correctly predicted the airliner, the airport of origin, the city of arrival and only missed the time window by one day.
If Nidal is indeed behind the bombing, the caller also named the organization responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103.
And he comes in early the next morning, 6 o’clock the next morning, and there is, obviously, confusion and concern. And he is asked to do a number of things. And he is asked to work on Weber’s desk with his computer. And he looks down and sees the Helsinki warning on Weber’s desk. And he goes crazy. And he says what is this? . . .
“And Weber says: Oh, my God, don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s nothing, forget it.
” So Koch says, how can I forget it? This is a warning of a potential bomb. It is my job.
“Just forget it. Be quiet or you will get in trouble.”