Sunday, September 20, 2009

Looking at Lockerbie

(exclusive to Konformist)
By Kenn Thomas,

It has been a decade since I was invited to speak at an assemblage of “conferences, round tables and youth camps” in Libya organized by the Jamahir Society for Culture and Philosophy. The arrangements had been made after I went through some trouble to get state department approval to travel to Libya, which was illegal at the time. I watched my flight to Paris, stopover to Tripoli, take off as I was still at the airport. One of the conference organizers was explaining to me on the phone why the airline was telling me the airfare had been “undercollected.” I could have paid the remainder of the fare, but I was reticent about the whole trip in the first place. The group had entitled the conference “Towards an Alternative World Order” but it clearly was funded by Moamammr Qadafi, whose government at the time was the chief suspect in the December 1988 Lockerbie tragedy. As a cheerleader for many alternative points of view, a world order based on such terrorism was not among them. Still, little had been settled about it and I felt that I could at least present at this conference, if it didn’t cost me anything but time. Whether it was just incompetence that the full airfare was never paid, or for some unstated reason — like maybe reading the abstract of my intended remarks - decided to disinvite me, I’ll probably never know, but some remnants of those remarks did eventually appear in the book review that follows.

One detail didn’t make it into the review: the Iranian connection. Ahmed Jibril, the Syrian terrorist mentioned in the review, played his role at the behest of leadership in Iran for jihadist revenge on the shoot down by the USS Vincennes of an Iranian airliner 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing nearly 300 souls in July 1988. The captain of the Vincennes, Will Rogers III, later suffered a pipe bombing of his minivan, from which his wife barely escaped. As I’d figured, that’s not a terribly ordered alternative world.

Book Review

It should be noted up front that Libyan money is behind the publication of Foreign Agent 4221: The Lockerbie Cover-Up (Bridger House Publishers, Inc., POB 2208, Carson City, NV 89702), or at least behind its author, William C. Chasey. Chasey was by his own description a hard-nosed Republican political lobbyist and former marine who took up work as a foreign agent for Libya through a US company, International Communications Management (ICM). He figured he could accept the official US position of Libyan culpability in the December 1988 crash over Scotland of Pan Am Flight 103 and still pursue the valid need for diplomatic normalcy, and so registered for his book's title role. He was working to get exposure in Washington for Libyan denials of the US charges when OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, told him to cease work with the Libyans and froze what it determined was a bank account holding money from Libya. Chasey argues that his bankroll came from the American company ICM. Chasey also claims to have been harassed and spied upon. OFAC eventually fined him $50,000 and put him under investigation for fraud. All of this helped convince Chasey that the Libyans were right about their innocence in the downing of Pan Am 103.

Views of the Lockerbie disaster diverge over whether the bomb was placed by two Libyan agents, Abdel Bassett Ali Al-Megrahia and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, or by a Lebanese-American killed in the explosion named Khalid Jafaar, working on behalf Ahmed Jibril, a Syrian terrorist with the somewhat signature trademark of planting bombs in Toshiba tape decks like the one that contained the Pan Am 103 bomb. US and UK governments come down on the former conspiracy theory, having indicted the two Libyans in November 1991. Adherents of the second theory say that Jibril conned Khalid Jafaar into taking the bomb aboard with a shipment of heroin he knew the CIA would never do anything to stop. According to the theory, Jafaar also worked as a CIA drug-trafficking asset.

Filmmaker John Ashton claims to have heard off-the-record statements from searchers who scoured the Pan Am 103 crash site that American plain-clothes operatives came the day after the crash in a huff to find something, presumably the incriminating heroin. Ashton readily admits that initial funding for his film documentary on Lockerbie, The Maltese Double Cross, came from a business with ties to Libya ("How The CIA Blew Up Pan Am Flight 103," Night & Day, June 9, 1996.). Jim Swire, whose daughter died on the flight, has supported the idea of having Ashton's film distributed and discussed, but relatives of other victims have condemned it as an exploitation of their tragedy.

Others who have countenanced the second theory, though, include Lester Coleman, whose 1993 book Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut to Lockerbie describes the "controlled delivery" tracking process allowed by the DEA for some heroin smuggling activity, an argument that actually exonerates US intelligence from deliberate trucking in heroin for profit. (In the book, Coleman also injected himself into the Casolaro/Inslaw story with the claim that he witnessed the unpacking of the surveillance software PROMIS from boxes marked "PROMIS Ltd, Toronto, Canada". Although it seemed unlikely that such secret dealings would be so trumpeted, the story supported Casolaro informant Michael Riconosciuto's allegations that the software had been sold to the Canadians.) An insurance investigator named Juval Aviv also verified the theory, but was accused of trying to clear Pan Am's security practices of blame for the Lockerbie disaster. Both Coleman and Juval Aviv claim to have since received the kind of harassment that Chasey says he suffered.

Lobbyists are not investigators. In fact, they are professional shmoozers. The most damning thing about the credibility of Foreign Agent 4221 is its photo section, showing author Chasey gripping and grinning with such unsavory people as Ed Meese, Dan Quayle, Pete Wilson, even George Bush and Ronald Reagan--and, of course, Muammar Qadhafi. So readers should be cautious that Chasey's book has an agenda, expressed explicitly in the introduction as trying to clear the Libyans of "sole" responsibility for the sabotage over Scotland. There is an attempt here to humanize Qadhafi and present the personal side of his losses in protracted struggle with the US (Qadhafi’s 16 month old daughter died in a 1986 US bombing). It also includes discussions with the two Libyans indicted for the crime. In the course of all that, it shows also how the CIA "protected Qadhafi and sanctioned his acquisition of the accoutrements of modern terrorism" in a scheme involving three tentacles of Casolaro's Octopus: Edwin Wilson, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines. With the agenda antennae up, such tidbits of diplomatic/spook history make Foreign Agent 4221 compelling reading.

In the long run, maybe the paper trails of all the supporters of Pan Am 103 theory two will trace back to Qadhafi. Or maybe the CIA wants the public to believe that rumors of its involvement in heroin traffic are simply disinfo planted by the Libyans, despite how well they dovetail with a known history of CIA drug dealing stretching from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia to the American mafia. Interestingly, a new edition of Foreign Agent 4221, retitled Pan Am 103: The Lockerbie Cover-Up, is scheduled for publication in the UK and Chasey has had some contact with American publisher Warren Hinckle, who co-wrote The Fish Is Red book, which drew Peter Dale Scott's attention to Jose Basulto Leon's terrorist escapades, and who was unable to publish Lester Coleman's book in the US because its distributor, Publishers Group West, bowed to lawsuit pressure.

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