Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Primary Suitcase and Its Contents - Rethinking Basic Assumptions

"This is a case about cases"

  Opening line of Doctor Morag Kerr's "Adequately Explained By Stupidity?"

1.          This article was essentially inspired by the recent Al Jazeera documentary "Lockerbie - What Really Happened"   Beyond the cameo appearance of Dr Kerr (whose assertion of the Heathrow origin was somewhat at odds with the documentary's vague assertions about Malta) and two interesting claims by former CIA officer Robert Baer concerning alleged payments to the PFPL-GC and Abu Talb the film was pretty dire.   I also read with interest some comments made by John Ashton on his website "Megrahi - You Are My Jury"  in relation to the Al-Jazeera documentary and what he thought the film was going to feature.    It was a bit surreal to read the co-author of "Cover-up of Convenience" making quite sensible comments criticising the Al-Jazeera documentary (on which he was a paid consultant!) for making claims unsupported by credible evidence.  The words "pot" and "kettle" occurred. 
2.        Essentially this inspired me to rethink some basic assumptions and to appreciate how elements of the "official" version of events, indeed the very terminology, phrases such as "primary suitcase" and "Improvised Explosive Device" (IED) have conditioned some basic assumptions.
3.        The primary suitcase, determined to be an antique bronze Samsonsite, consisted, at least in the official version of events, of four distinct elements.   There was the suitcase itself, no more harmful than any other suitcase.  What made it the "primary suitcase" was when the IED was placed inside it. (When and where this occurred is not known.)  The third element was an instruction manual for a Toshiba Bombeat twin speaker radio-cassette recorder in which the IED (again in the official version)was concealed.  The fourth element was a motley collection of clothing and an umbrella supposedly purchased from the St Mary's House boutique in Silema, Malta.

4.     As the size 34 Yorkie trousers were delivered to Saint Mary's House on the 18/11/88 it seems the Malta clothing could not have been purchased earlier (Al-Jazeera implied the purchaser could have been Abu Talb who left Malta on the 26/10/88).  According to Leppard page 163 Gauci also claimed to have sold the mystery "Libyan" a checked herringbone jacket which according to Gauci had been hanging on a rack for months and which he had despaired of getting rid of it.   Nonetheless in September 1989 (Leppard 164) he was able to supply CIP Harry Bell with an identical item!

5.     Astonishingly in a brief undated statement  Harry Bell describes an interview he conducted with Tony Gauci on the 21st Feb 1990 in which he pointed out to Gauci (or complained?)  that the sample jacket he had supplied to him (in fact sold!) did not match the remnants of bomb damaged jacket.   Bell showed him a sample and asked him if he had anything that resembled it more closely! Even by the standards of the sweaty filth this is astonishing.   Gauci gave him (sold him?) another jacket, description unstated which Bell delivered to the LICC.   The possibility that the bomb-damaged jacket had been originally purchased somewhere else and was not sold by Gauci does not seem to have occurred to Bell.   It would therefore appear that while Gauci had despaired of getting rid of some ghastly jacket he eventually managed to palm it off on DCI Harry Bell.   (Bell's statement omits the crucial detail of whether he tried to get a refund or trade-in for the origional jacket!)
6.       In the official version of events these four elements came together by inference in Malta.  Megrahi bought the clothing and placed it in the Samsonite suitcase with the radio-cassette recorder (which he may or may not have built) and the instruction manual.   The sophisticated MEBO MST-13 timer was set to explode at 1900hrs (approx.) GMT.   The suitcase was then smuggled onto flight KM180 on the 21st December 1988 by unknown means.   Was the suitcase x-rayed at Malta?   No evidence was produced and (unlike at Frankfurt or London) the x-ray machine operator(s) at Malta may not have been interviewed.
7.        At Frankfurt the "primary suitcase" was supposedly transferred to flight PA103A and was supposedly x-rayed.  Whether it was x-rayed at London was an issue the authorities never addressed as they assumed it had been transferred directly from flight PA103A as "online" luggage and was not required to be x-rayed again.   Although quite aware the IED had been concealed within a brown Samsonite they were utterly uncurious about the brown Samsonite that had mysteriously appeared in container AVE4041.
8.      A widely publicised alternate version of events the "drug conspiracy theory" claims on the flimsiest of evidence (or no real evidence at all) that the primary suitcase was smuggled onto PA103A at Frankfurt either instead of or bizarrely in addition to a suitcase containing heroin.   This version pays little heed to issues such as how the bomb was detonated or to explain (at least in credible terms) the Malta clothing.
9.      The Al-Jazeera film made the credible claim that the bomb was built by Marwan Khreesat and infer a meeting between Abu Talb and Dalkamoni in Cyprus.  Was the bomb (and suitcase?) handed over here in early Octyober?  Did Talb take the IED (and suitcase?) to Rome and attempt to take it Libya before flying to Malta?   In material not featured in the final cut the documentary claimed Talb, assisted by Martin Imandi (a very credible courier) and the (mythical?) Abu Elias (the Kayser Soce of Lockerbie)  brought the bomb to the UK on a merchant ship on the 20th or 21st December.

10.      The inference was that the PFLP-GC had planned, with quite astonishing foresight,  months in advance to leave clues in the debris that would lead the authorities to Malta and somehow to Libya.   Why the PFLP-GC wanted to implicate Libya, a prime and steadfast supporter of the Palestinian armed struggle,  was not adequately explained.   But what was it that the three terrorists supposedly transported from Sweden to England?  Just the Toshiba radio-cassette player containing the IED or a brown Samsonite containing said radio-cassette, clothing and the instruction manual.
11.      Morag Kerr's excellent book is essentially concerned with the evidence of John Bedford - who after his break returned to container AVE4041 and saw that somebody had added two suitcases, one a brown Samsonite, and argues that this must have been the primary suitcase containing the bomb.  She spends no time speculating how the suitcase got into the container or how it got to Heathrow and into the Interline baggage shed.   The question of how a Khreesat built IED was primed, by inserting a jackplug (as demonstrated in the widely publicised warnings) did not arise.  But somebody would have to open the suitcase, prime the device, then close and presumably lock the case.
12.    As I argued in my article "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil"   page 51 of RARDE scientists Thomas Hayes notes (in which he claims to have recovered the timer fragment and five tiny sheets of the Toshiba manual from part of a Slalom shirt on the 12th May 1989) is obviously, by comparison with "photograph 117" a fabrication.   This of course casts doubt on whether these items were ever in reality recovered at all or fabricated for the purpose of implicating Libya, exonerating CIA "asset" Khreesat and making the Malta origin vaguely credible.   It also casts doubt on whether the primary suitcase really contained a Toshiba manual and whether the present version of the "Horton Manual" is actually what these witnesses recovered.
13.     If the MEBO fragment was faked then the possibility or likelihood that the IED in fact contained one of Khreesat's barometric bombs increases. This was the premise on which the investigation was based until the emergence of "evidence" the suitcase had in fact come from Malta.  If the evidence of the Toshiba owners manual was also faked then the IED may have been contained within a single speaker Toshiba radio-cassette player.
14.    We now come to a primary assumption that has been transferred from the (false) official scenario to the idea of a Heathrow origin.  That the IED had been transported to the Airport at which it had been introduced in a brown Samsonite containing the Malta clothing.  Is there an assumption that the UK was transported to England in a brown Samsonite containing also the Malta clothing?

15.      Why was the IED contained within a radio-cassette player?   The blindingly obvious answer (deriving from the official scenario or the Police's initial conclusion that the suitcase had come from Frankfurt) was to conceal the bomb so that it would not be detected when the bag was x-rayed and possibly hand-searched.   But was this the reason? Wouldn't an x-ray operator find this bag really suspicious anyway?   It contains only this large (supposedly twin-speaker) radio cassette, three pairs of PJs, a cardigan, a jacket two pair of trousers and an umbrella. (but initially at least no Slalom shirt.)   No shoes, socks, underwear, toiletries or personal items.  Who puts a radio-cassette in hold baggage anyway?
16.       How did the primary suitcase get into the Interline baggage shed?   Did it come in on another plane and was placed on the incoming belt?   What of the "Manley" break-in.  was this the route taken to move the primary suitcase from landside to airside?  Was it delivered landside at Heathrow and smuggled into the Interline baggage shed by an unknown route?
17.     Morag Kerr's book may have offered a clue when she described the long hours worked by the staff in the Interline baggage shed and suggested they frequently napped between infrequent activity.   Probably true but how else to deal with the boredom?   Well take a radio-cassette to work!   Presumably airside staff go through some sort of security check to get to work.   You might look a bit odd going to work with a suitcase but who is going to challenge you with a radio-cassette player!     
18.      If the primary suitcase was introduced at Heathrow then the only relationship with Malta is the Malta clothing.   If Abu Talb is a suspect then it is chronologically possible that the IED and the Samsonite suitcase passed through Malta  but there is no actual evidence where the Samsonite came from.   While is may be suspected that the IED was in fact built in Neuss between the 1st and 26th October 1989 there is again no evidence how it came to the UK.   One can only speculate.

19.       What if the IED was armed (by inserting the jack-plug) and put in an unconnected suitcase at Heathrow?  Of course this leaves the difficulty of where you find a suitcase at Heathrow Airport.  

20.       Is it therefore possible that the contents of the suitcase were of no significance and the trail to Malta was a complete red herring?   That the purchaser (who only vaguely resembled Megrahi) and whom Gauci claimed to have seenafter he was interviewed by Harry Bell had simply had his suitcase mislaid?    Did Gauci's reward through the US "rewards for justice" scheme in some way colour his evidence?

21.       As noted at para.10 other evidence leading to Libyan involvement (the fragment of MST-13 timer) and which made the Malta origin credible was irrefutably fabricated.   There is no credible evidence the primary suitcase really contained (within the IED) an MST-13 timer or that it contained an instruction manual.   In his hearsay "statement" (on which the trial Judges relied) Khreesat claimed to Thurman and Marshmann of the FBI that he had never built an aviation bomb in a twin speaker radio-cassette.   He may have been telling the truth.  It was also an admission he had built them in the single speaker model.

22.      Was there in fact anything inside the "Bedford" Samsonite but a single speaker Toshiba radio-cassette recorder?   Was the "Malta clothing" bomb-damaged elsewhere and strewn at the crash site to lead "like a trail of sweeties" to Malta?


David Howard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
baz said...

I have removed two comments one being of no relevance whatsoever and the second because it was libellous. I believe the truth is a defence to libel. I am prepared to defend my own allegations but not the unfounded claims of others.

Patrick Haseldine said...


In the Summer 2014 edition of 'Lobster' magazine, Robin Ramsay deals with three aspects of the Lockerbie bombing:

1. Review of Morag Kerr's book;
2. Lockerbie quagmire; and,
3. Craig Murray's viewpoint.

Unimpressed by dull book

Robin Ramsay reviews Morag Kerr's book "Adequately Explained by Stupidity? Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies" which left him unimpressed:

"Kerr is a drole writer: chunks of dull technical stuff are punctuated by things like this (admittedly the best example) on page 178:
‘There is another possibility. Perhaps the senior detectives were so convinced of the involvement of the German-based cell of the PFLP-GC that they couldn’t conceive of the bomb not having come from Germany. In other words, perhaps those in charge of this investigation were as dumb as a bag of hammers that failed hammer school.’

"I think the case she makes is plausible: the bomb was planted at Heathrow and the Libyans are innocent. But the last detailed account of the story I read was Paul Foot’s, which was a long time ago, so what do I know?"

Making waves in the quagmire
All the great parapolitical causes célèbres turn into quagmires and Lockerbie is no exception. The quagmire is created by the complexity of the material – which facilitates varying interpretations – the role of state agencies in muddying the water, and the incompetence of some of those who engage with the subject.

One of the competents engaged with Lockerbie is the journalist and author John Ashton, whose site on the subject would be the place to start if exploring the quagmire is of interest.

One of those making waves in the quagmire is a former diplomat, Patrick Haseldine.

Ashton has written a couple of critiques of Haseldine.

Craig Murray's viewpoint

Former British ambassador Craig Murray commented on Lockerbie on his blog on 11 March:

The information on Lockerbie published in today’s 'Daily Mail' from an Iranian defector, matches precisely what I was shown in a secret intelligence report in the FCO just around the time of the first Iraq war – that a Syrian terrorist group was responsible acting on behalf of Iran. It was decided that this would be kept under wraps because the West needed Iran and Syria’s quiescence in the attack on Iraq.

I was at the time Head of Maritime Section in the FCO’s Aviation and Maritime Department. I was shown the report by the Head of the Aviation Section, who was deeply troubled by it.

The UK authorities have known for over 20 years that Megrahi was innocent. The key witness, a Maltese shopkeeper named Tony Gauci, was paid a total of US $7 million for his evidence by the CIA, and was able to adopt a life of luxury that continues to this day. The initial $2 million payment has become public knowledge but that was only the first instalment. This was not an over-eagerness to convict the man the CIA believed responsible; this was a deliberate perversion of justice to move the spotlight from Iran and Syria to clear the way diplomatically for war in Iraq. It will of course be argued, probably correctly, that now Syria and Iran are the western targets, it is in the interests of the CIA for the true story to come out, (minus of course their involvement in perverting the course of justice).

That is why we now hear it was Syria and Iran. But it so happens that is in fact the truth. Even the security services and government can tell the truth, when the moment comes that the truth rather than a deceit happens to be a tactical advantage to them.

Evidence supporting Murray’s view in the last sentence above is provided by the SIS/FCO’s man on 'The Telegraph', Con Coughlin, in his piece on 11 March.

Many of the comments beneath Murray’s item are interesting and illustrate the ‘quagmire’ I referred to above in an earlier item.