Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Masonic Verses Part V

The Elephant in the Room –
Richard Lawless & “Autumn Leaves”

I will never apologise for America; I don’t care what the facts are - I’m not an apologise for America kind of guy”. ( 1 )

Vice-President George H.W. Bush

The bombing of Pan Am 103 did not come as a bolt from the blue. It was expected and planned for. While it is widely recognised that the “Vincennes Incident” gave Iran a motive to retaliate, it is not widely recognised that the “Vincennes Incident” also gave the US Government a motive to collude in a measured or proportionate response on a calculation that any alternative course of action would result in far greater loss of life without any political benefit.

Save for those who perished, their friends and families (who at least received substantial compensation) Lockerbie and the creation of the “Libyan solution” worked out quite well. Most relatives, particularly the Americans were largely satisfied with the outcome of Camp Zeist and see no reason to question the guilt of Al-Megrahi or the culpability of the Libyan regime.

Our perception of events are conditioned by assumptions. It is widely, almost universally assumed that in the event of a threat to bomb a civilian airliner the authorities would do all in their power to prevent such an occurrence. This is not necessarily true. (for example credible claims, routinely but not convincingly denied, have been made that the Omagh bombing might have been prevented at the cost of the authorities revealing intelligence sources and surveillance techniques.)

The alternative to “Lockerbie” was not that the supposed warnings were acted on, the bombing prevented and nobody died but that different people, and perhaps many more people, would have died.

It was reputed the Ayatollah Khomeini had demanded the destruction of six aircraft in revenge.(2) Ayatollah Montashemi threatened that “the skies would rain blood”(3) while the Iranian Prime Minister stated the US “would not escape responsibility.”(4) A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in London Mohamed Basti promised or threatened “an appropriate response to the magnitude of the crime”.(5) But what was an “appropriate response” and how would the Americans themselves respond to this unspecified response?

The American Government would have held crisis meetings, the deliberations of which will be likely be secret forever, to consider each possible Iranian response and to plan the US counter-response to each possible Iranian response and to consider in turn how the Iranians would respond to each US response and so on. This is basic International Relations theory. (By pretending retaliation for the Vincennes Incident never happened the proverbial “line in the sand” was drawn and the cycle of response, counter-response, counter counter-response was broken).

The Vincennes Incident would have been top of the agenda for the Inter Agency Group that met on a daily basis in the White House situation room. Comprising representatives of the State Department, the NSC, the CIA and the Military they would have co-ordinated US policy, initially the response of official spokesmen, including the President.

Beyond what was agreed these agencies, who were not only colleagues but rivals, they may have had their own agenda as competing groups within these agencies. For example what would be the collective view of the Military towards a major conflict in the Middle East and what was the view of the Army, Marine Corp and USAF towards the Navy’s conduct in the “Vincennes Incident”?

What where the possible Iranian responses that American planners would consider?

Firstly the Islamic Republic could have decided to forgive and forget, complain to the UNSC and the I.C.A.O., make some threats for domestic consumption, but essentially turn the other cheek. Unlikely as such a response may have seemed this is supposedly what actually happened obviating the need for any US response.

A second option might be that the Islamic Republic might try to pursue the matter under the Montreal Convention, demand the extradition of Captain Rodgers and his crew and put them on trial. This was not a proposition that the USA could countenance.

A third option was that Iran might attempt to destroy several aircraft. Such a plan was conceived and practised by the mastermind of the first World Trade Centre bombing Ramzi Younis who learned his bomb-making skills at Cardiff Polytechnic (an institution also attended by Mr Megrahi) and plans for a similar scheme were thwarted in theUK in the summer of 2006.

There are indications from the “Autumn Leaves” affair in which several aviation bombs were produced that this was the option initially chosen. It may be that different Iranian factions were pursuing different policies. “Autumn Leaves” was presented as a triumph to prevent an attack before “the baton was handed on to Libya.” Was it instead an operation to prevent unacceptable retaliation that would compel the US to make a drastic counter-response?

A fourth option might be that Iran would attempt to destroy a single aircraft. Increased security might prevent this (for a time) but sooner or later “the bomber would get through”. Would the Americans attempt to control the circumstances in which retaliation occurred in order to manage the consequences?

Further possible responses might be a limited or limitless campaign of terrorism, hostage-taking and attacks on US interests. Disproportionate retaliation would lead to counter-retaliation, escalation and war. Was there a way out of the impasse? If Iran retaliated by destroying a single aircraft the US Government could tolerate that (they had few practical alternatives) but it was essential for domestic considerations to pretend that retaliation had not occurred otherwise the pressure for counter-retaliation might be overwhelming.

The Americans could have tried to deter any Iranian reaction by a threat of the use of overwhelming counter-retaliation. There are no indications in the public domain that the US attempted to deter retaliation or even that a threat to the security of US aviation was even acknowledged following the Vincennes Incident.

At a meeting in London an un-named US official told Martin Cadman, father of a Lockerbie victim “my Government knows perfectly well who did this but they will never tell”.(6) This statement may have been absolutely true.

Alleged Meetings between Iranian Officials and a US Envoy:

Following the exposure of Colonel North’s “arms for hostages” operations triggered by the publication of an article in the Beirut newspaper “Al Shiraa” in October 1986 and the eruption of the “Iran-Contra” affair in Washington it might be assumed that the attempt to trade arms for hostages had been brought to an end.

The policy had been recognised by more sober minds in the State Department as being counter-productive. Giving the hostages value only encouraged further hostage-taking, not just of Americans but any Westerner then any foreigner. By the time North left the scene there were more Americans held in Beirut than when he started, his initiative having resulted in the release of just two or three hostages.

In two articles (7) (8) in his series of Lockerbie related articles Diary of a Vengenace Fortold Professor Ludwig De Braeckeleer wrote of a number of meetings that occurred in late September and early October 1988 between a former CIA officer Richard Lawless and four Iranian officials. According to Professor De Braeckeleer the purpose of these meetings were to discuss the ongoing Beirut Hostage Crisis and resulted in the release of one Hostage Mithelswar Singh an academic and US resident who had been held captive for 20 months.

According to other newspaper reports Lawless had handled the release of a South Korean diplomat who had been kidnapped in Beirut, apparently simply as a commercial venture. While the South Korean Government denied a ransom had been paid for his release it is likely that some ransom was paid. This was allegedly paid through Lawless’ Company.(9)

These claims were first made in October 1988 by former Iranian President Bani-Sadr (a man with doubtless very good sources and perhaps an interest in thwarting any rapprochment between the USA and the Islamic Republic) who alleged that both sides in the Presidential campaign had sent envoys to Iran and that an aide to Vice President Bush had held meetings in Switzerland with representatives of the Iranian Government in September and October. (10)

According to White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwalter:-

There is a fellow named Lawless. He is over there. What he’s up to nobody knows. But he doesn’t represent to United States….he does not represent the Vice President or the President or anybody else.” (10)

Lawless himself denies that these meetings took place or that he has even held negotiations on the Hostage issue or ever met with any Iranian official or person purporting to represent the Iranian Government.(10) Spokesmen for both Presidential candidates also denied their involvement in any negotiations to release the hostages.

Lawless’ business partner Therese Shaheen stated that Lawless’ passport and business charge records showed he was not in the area during that period, (9) a claim at odds with Fitzwater’s statement.

The “Iran-Contra” revelations had severely damaged President Reagan’s credibility. The “Hostage” portfolio was firmly in the remit of the State Department and Ambassador Paul Bremmer’s had instituted a strict policy of no negotiation and no publicity. It was the emotional appeal to the President himself that had wrecked a rational policy and Bremmer was determined Reagan’s sentimentality on this issue was not going to affect policy.

Further Vice-President George H.W.Bush was campaigning for the Presidency. Having been dogged by the claims of the “October Surprise”,* and attempting to distance himself from claims of his direct involvement in the “Iran-Contra” affair the surprise release of more hostages was probably not top of his wish list at that time.

After leaving the CIA in 1987, after the death of CIA Director Bill Casey and considerable recriminations in the agency following the exposure of aspects of “Iran-Contra”, Lawless. a Korean speaker, set up a consulting company dealing in trade with the Far East and developed ties with Taiwanese interests. There is nothing in the public record to link him with the Middle Eastern politics.

For four and a half years 2003-2007 he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defence for North East Asia dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. The husband of his business partner Therese Sheheen was Chief of Staff to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who resigned in November 2006 and was replaced by former CIA Director Robert Gates. (Deputy Director at the time of the Lockerbie disaster).

According to a number of Internet sources Lawless was the protégé of many senior Republican figures. He served in Korea when the Station Chief was Donald Gregg President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Adviser, one of his two closest friends in politics with whom he also co-authored a book. He was associated with Dick Cheney (later George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defence) and with other rising stars referred to collectively as the “Lawless Group.”. (Is there a pun intended?) He had been spoken of as a possible Director of a “reformed” (i.e. partisan) CIA earlier in the Presidency of George W.Bush. (11).

However his most interesting relationship was with Jeb Bush, second son of George H.W.Bush. Jeb Bush and Richard Lawless appear to be close business associates and Jeb Bush acquired considerable wealth from his participation in deals involving Richard Lawless. ( 12 ) When Jeb Bush was Florida’s Commerce Secretary Lawless’s Company won contracts to promote Florida in Asia. (13)

In July 1988 Jeb Bush left his post as Florida’s Commerce Secretary to work full-time on his father’s Presidential Campaign (as did older brother George W.Bush). Later Jeb Bush was seen as his father’s political “heir” and far more likely to succeed him that his older brother.

Did Lawless meet with Iranian officials in September and October 1988 and for what purpose? Save for the comments of Marlin Fitzwalter and the claims of Bani Sadr there is little evidence that he did and none about what was discussed. Could they have held discussions about the hostage situation, as Professor De Braeckeleer alleges, and ignore The Elephant in the Room, the shoot-down of an Iranian civilian airliner by a US warship?

The idea of having contacts with the hated Iranian regime was anathema and allegations of such contacts were strenuously denied. But if the Americans were not talking to the Iranians perhaps they should have been. The Republican party were anxious to secure the Reagan legacy and possible Iranian retaliation for the “Vincennes Incident” threatened George H.W. Bush’s road to the White House. In 1980 the Iranians had had a decisive effect on the outcome of the Presidential Election.

Autumn Leaves;

While the “Autumn Leaves” affair occurred eight weeks prior to the bombing of Pan Am 103 as an aspect of Lockerbie it relates largely to the first ten months of the investigation when the Police were convinced of a link between Lockerbie and the activities of the West German cell of Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC). While this link was discounted when evidence of the supposed “rogue suitcase” materialised the Police were probably correct. They were then unable to square the circle having “eliminated” Heathrow as the point at which the bomb was introduced. (14 )

However there are four aspects to the “Autumn Leaves” affair that are of particular significance in the build-up to Lockerbie. These are:

(a) The travel movements of Abu Talb

(b) The existence of a plot to build bombs suitable for use against commercial civilian aircraft

(c) That the Central Intelligence Agency had an active policy

(d) The timing of the arrests.

Abu Talb’s Travel Movements:

Abu Talb was an Egyptian born Palestinian militant who had been granted political asylum in Sweden. His relationship, if any, to the Lockerbie incident, remains unproven. In the film The Maltese Double Cross evidence was fabricated to “prove” a relationship between Abu Talb and Khalid Jafaar a Lockerbie victim who was central to Francovich’s fraudulent claims. (15) He was imprisoned in Sweden in 1989 in relation to attacks on Jewish targets in Copenhagen on the 21st July 1985 and Stockholm and Amsterdam 1986. He was called as a witness in the Camp Zeist trial and was hostile to the defence who were unable to obtain a full and coherent account of his activities.

Interest in Abu Talb centres around his movements in October and November 1988. He left Sweden on the 3rd October 1988 flying to Larnaca. In Cyprus he met his Hafez Dalkamoni a member (leader?) of the “Autumn Leaves group. He then flew to Rome on the 18th October 1988 where he attempted to board a flight for Libya but was ejected from the plane by Libyan security guards. At Camp Zeist he claimed that he planned to fly to Libya in order to enter neighbouring Egypt illegally overland in order to visit his mother. As a deserter from the Egyptian Army he was wanted in Egypt.

In the Lockerbie case the authorites constructed an elaborate scenario to “prove” the primary suitcase was introduced at Malta in order to incriminate Al-Megrahi and Libya. If the Autumn Leaves group planned to bomb one or more civilian aircraft might a subsequent revelation that one of the group had begun his journey in Tripoli be used to “prove” Libyan involvement?

Having been thrown off the plane to Tripoli Abu Talb flew instead to Malta on the 19th October 1988 leaving on the 26th October and returning to Sweden. Despite intense questioning by the defence team at Camp Zeist Abu Talb refused to say by what route he had returned to Sweden. He did not use the unexpired portion of his return ticket to Cyprus. The significance of the matter is that the 26th October 1988 was the date on which the West German authorities moved against the Autumn Leaves group. Was Abu Talb to collect, or did he collect, an aviation bomb on the way to Sweden?

An associate of Abu Talb’s was Imad Chabaan @ Martin Imandi. On the 24th July 1985 Imandi travelled to England by the Gothenburg Ferry to lay low for a while. Imandi had been to England get married. ( 16) This is a possible route by which the primary suitcase was brought to England. As it incorporated a barometric trigger this was probably a lot safer than flying and security on a ferry would not be looking for an aviation bomb.

The objective of the “Autumn Leaves” gang

The central point of the Autumn Leaves conspiracy is that it appears to represent a plot to build several aviation bombs and therefore one mighty deduce a plan to bomb several planes. The extent of the plot are not known because the PFLP-GC bombmaker, the Jordanian Marwan Khreesat was released from custody and left West Germany soon after his arrest. While Khreesat was subsequently interviewed by FBI agents who gave hearsay evidence of what Khreesat said the defence had no opportunity to question or cross-examine him.

In the “special defence” advanced by the defence teams at Camp Zeist Abu Talb and Directors of the Mishca bakery in Malta were named as suspects (lending credence to the “Malta scenario”) while Khreesat was not. As Khreesat had not been named in the Special Defence their Lordships were not inhibited from accepting his “evidence”.

Marwan Khreesat – A CIA Informant:

It was revealed at the Camp Zeist trial that Marwan Khreesat was an “asset” of the CIA. The Camp Zeist Judgement stated that:-

“it is also to be noted that the cell’s principal bomb-maker was one Marwan Khreesat who was in fact an agent who infiltrated the cell on behalf of the Jordanian Intelligence Service. His instructions from them were that any bomb he made must not be primed. Moreover while he himself did not give evidence, there was evidence of a statement given by him to FBI agents in which he said he never used radio cassette players with twin speakers (such as the Toshiba RT-SF 16) to convert into explosive devices”. (17)

Khreesat was suspect in three earlier aviation bombings. In 1970 47 people had died when a Swissair jet from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv exploded and on the same day an Austrian Airways flight from Frankfurt to Israel survived an explosion. Khreesat was also suspect in the bombing of an El Al jet from Rome to Tel Aviv in August 1972.(18) The plane made an emergency landing.

The claim about Khreesat’s supposed instructions not to prime the bombs does not arise from his “statement”. On the contrary he “stated” (via the FBI) that he felt constrained, due to his being closely supervised, from doing this and the devices he built were fully functioning. (19)

Indeed on the 17th April 1989, following an intelligence tip the BKA returned to search the basement of a grocer’s shop belonging to one of the Autumn Leaves group and recovered two further IEDs that had supposedly been there since October the previous year. Later that day two BKA technicians attempted to disarm one of the devices in an armoured workshop at BKA HQ. The device exploded killing one technician Hans Sonntag and seriously injuring another. Contrary to the Camp Zeist Judgement Khreesat’s IEDs (if these further devices were the work of Marwan Khreesat) were lethal.(20) The West German authorities did not pursue the death of Sonntag as a criminal matter.

Their Lordships also saw no reason to question Khreesat’s reported claim that he never used a radio-cassette with twin speakers. He would have had an obvious motive to deny having built the bomb that killed 270 people and his claim may have been self-serving. His claim may however have been true.

The Lockerbie IED was allegedly concealed within a black twin speaker model SF-16, Toshiba radio-cassette player. Khreesat had built an IED within a model RT-f453D single-speaker model (recovered from the boot of Dalkamoni’s Ford Taurus on the 26th October 1988 in Neuss.) Khreesat also possessed a second 453 model single-speaker Toshiba which was also recovered.(21)

However the identification of the radio-cassette in the Lockerbie case, which was blasted to smithereens in the explosion, is extremely dubious. Essentially it is predicated on the recovery of one of the most curious exhibits in the case – a charred owners manual for a twin speaker SF-16 radio-cassette recovered eighty miles away and assumed to relate to the IED radio-cassette. (22) (No other Toshiba radio-cassette was recovered in the wreckage.)

In the official version of events Megrahi (or somebody else) built a bomb within a Toshiba radio-cassette. This was stored in Malta or flown from Libya to Malta. At some point the radio-cassette was placed in a bronze samsonite tourister suitcase together with a quantity of clothing that had been purchased at the Saint Mary’s House Boutique Silema and in the official version the timer was set. But why would they put the owner’s manual into the suitcase as well?

Some observers believe that the IED that destroyed flight PA103 was similar in construction and design to the device recovered from Dalkamoni’s Ford Taurus on the 26th October 1988. It is not known into whose custody this device was eventually entrusted and it is not impossible that this was the device that destroyed flight PA103..

The Timing;

The most significant aspect of the Autumn Leaves case was the timing of the arrests at a point when it appears that the PFLP-GC were about to put their plans into action. The arrests were made on Wednesday 26th October 1988 at which time a fully functioning aviation bomb concealed with a Toshiba radio-cassette recorder was recovered.

Wednesday 26th October 1988 was six days before the US Presidential Election held on Tuesday 1st November 1988. What would have happened if the “Autumn Leaves” group had not been neutralised and what they had planned had gone ahead?

It was George H.W.Bush who had defended the “Vincennes Incident”, George H.W.Bush who said he would never apologise for America. According to Marlin Fitzwalter it was Richard Lawless “over there” a man apparently seen as a representative of George H.W.Bush. Could a terrorist atrocity have had a major impact on the Election? (23)

In 1980 Ronald Reagan had beaten the incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide, only the second time in US History that an elected incumbent President had been defeated. The Iranian Government had played a decisive part in that election in holding the US Embassy Hostages. Carter was campaigning against the backdrop of the hostage situation whose release was eventually timed to coincide with Reagan’s inauguration. This was not a gesture of conciliation but tgo underscore how a US domestic election had been affected by the issue.

If Iranian revenge for the “Vincennes Incident” was inevitable it could have come at a worse time for George H.W.Bush. Although he would have to deal with the situation the election was safely out of the way. He was still Vice-President but President-elect working to organise the new administration. Ronald Reagan, who had never recovered from the Iran-Contra revelations of late 1986 where it was revealed that he had little knowledge or control over what officials were doing, was still President perhaps already affected by Alzheimer’s.

Until the announcement of the indictment in the fourth year of Bush’s Presidency (long after the end of the Gulf War) the investigation had, to the disgust of the relatives, had apparently been glacial. It was the 41st President George Herbert Walker Bush who famously announced that Syria and Iran had taken a “bum rap.”

As pointed out in Parts I & III the object of the indictment was not a trial but sanctions against Libya. These could not be introduced without the changes to the Security Council that took effect on the 1st January 1992 and the main sanctions resolution 738 was passed on the 31st March 1992. That summer Bush was to campaign for re-election essentially on his foreign policy record and presumably had some foreign policy plans for his second term involving the Middle East.

*The “October Surprise” was the claim, almost certainly a hoax, that prior to the 1980 Presidential Election the Republicans had made some agreement with Iran that the US Embassy hostages would not be released until after the Presidential Election ensuring Reagan’s victory. (In the event their release coincided with the inauguration.)

Central to this claim was a purported former CIA officer Oswald Le Winter who claimed to have been involved in arranging security for a meeting that occurred in Paris attended by Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W.Bush. Unfortunately for Le Winter’s story on this day Bush was filmed in Washington.

A claim was therefore made that another native Austrian Gunther Russbacher, who purports not only to be a master spy but a USAF test pilot had flown Bush from Paris to Washington in two hours in an experimental plane. (Russbacher’s astonishing exploits and incredible adventures can be enjoyed on the Rumour Mill website run by his ex Raylean.)

The “October Surprise” hoax was exposed in a BBC current affairs expose made by the late Alan Francovich and Jane Ryder with whom he was romantically involved. Le Winter (filmed with a bag on his head) confessed it was a hoax. A decade later Francovich employed Le Winter as his “consultant” in the fraudulent documentary The Maltese Double Cross purporting Le Winter had been employed by the CIA even after exposing the “October Surprise”. Some of the “evidence” staged by Le Winter for The Maltese Double Cross, notably a telephone conversation between Le Winter and a supposed former CIA colleague was so blatantly fabricated even lawyers at the Scottish Crown Office noticed it.

After Francovich died Russbacher dumped his wife, divorced her without her knowledge in Mexico, and married Jane Ryder in California apparently forgetting he was already married!

Oswald Le Winter ended up in gaol in his native Austria in 1999 having been convicted of having tried to sell Mohamed Al-Fayed “evidence” the CIA colluded with MI6, Prince Philip ect. in the murder of Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana. This was (according to Winter and his ilk) a CIA/FBI plot to prevent Le Winter appearing as a witness in the Camp Zeist trial. (see Other Theories of the Spiro Murders in Part II The Mysterious Life and Death of Ian Spiro.)

( 1 ) Vice-~President George H.W.Bush quoted at a campaign rally 2.8.88 quoted in “Perspectives” in Newsweek Magazine 15.8.88.

(2) Claim attributed to Vincent Cannistraro reported in David Leppard On the Trail of Terror Jonathan Cape, London 1991 page 212

(3) Susan and Dan Cohen PA103 New American Library 2000
page 34

(4) PA 103

(5) Film library clip featured in BBC2 Correspondent The Other Lockerbie

(6) Interview with Martin Cadman featured in Alan Francovich’s The
Maltese Double Cross

(7)Former Iranian President Reveals Secret US Talks With Iran by Professor Ludwig De Braeckeleer Ohmynews International 9.10.08

(8) US Official Denies Arms for Hostages Deal With Iran by
Professor Ludwig De Braeckeleer Ohmynews International 10.10.08

( 9) Hostage Deals; Koreans Look to the US by Robert Neff 23.8.07

(10) Exiled Iranian President Connects Both Candidates to Hostage Talks
New York Times 5.10.88

(11)Tompaine.commonsense 15.11.2004

(12) Alecia Swasy & Robert Trigaux Make the Money and Run St
Petersburg Times Online 20.9.1998

(13) The Masonic Verses Part III Lockerbie – Criminal Justice or War
by Other Means
section The Historical/Political Background refers
to Jeb Bush’s association with right-wing Cuban exiles linked to the
bombing of Cubanair flight 455 when George H.W. Bush was
Director of the CIA .

(14) The Masonic Verses Part I Lockerbie – the Heathrow Evidence

(15)See Francovich The Maltese Double Cross or any version of the
Drug Conspiracy Theory”.

(16) Leppard page 184

(17) Judgement para.75

(18) Leppard page 8, 141

(19) Evidence of Hal Hendershott of interview with Marwan Khreesat
(get Glasgow Law School Lockerbie Trial website.

(20) Leppard 142

(21) Leppard p.11

(22) Camp Zeist Judgement para.10

(23) In the event Bush beat Dukakis by 426 – 111 in the Electoral College
and by 53.8% to 42.6% in the popular vote a considerable margin of

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