by Glen Clancy
Journalists love a good scoop. Top political correspondents were in for a treat at the March 1989 Garrick Club lunch.
Scottish police had uncovered the group responsible for the Pan Am 103 Lockerbie bombing and arrests were imminent, the press gathering was told off-the-record by Transport Minister Paul Channon. These revelations were promptly splashed across the front page of the newspapers who had been lucky enough to be in the loop.
Syria and Iran were implicated together with a Palestinian group, the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), allegedly hired to plant the bomb disguised as a cassette recorder in revenge for a US strike on an Iranian airliner the previous year – all of which was outlined in a three-month-long Sunday Times expose.
Suddenly, eighteen months after the attack the direction of the enquiry shifted and two Libyans were indicted – based on the evidence from one ‘witness’, Abdul Majid Giaka.
Paul Foot’s decade-long investigation summarised in this article he wrote for The Guardian exposed the trial as a farce offering geopolitical strategies as motivation for the abrupt shift in suspects.
Giaka had defected from Lybian intelligence to the CIA months after the bombing but failed to inform the CIA of his alleged evidence of the attacks unitl the beginning of the Gulf War. Giaka stood to gain a four million dollar reward for his testimony.
Foot’s investigation detailed the curious case of undercover Jordanian intelligence agent, Marwan Khreesat, who was arrested by German police in possession of an explosive device shortly before the attacks. Scottish police were prohibited from questioning Khreesat who was hastily released.
An FBI summery of an interview with Khreesat was presented in the trial, “[FBI agent Edward Marshman] does not think [Khreesat] built the device responsible for Pan Am 103, as he only built four devices in Germany”. Foot exposed this statement as a sham. Khreesat had made five devices – not four – all disguised as cassette recorders, one of which was stolen.
Two months prior to the bombing when Khreesat returned from the shower to resume his work, both his associate Dalkamoni, a PFLP member, together with one of the bombs were gone.
Foots tireless analysis of the development of the Lockerbie bombing investigation is a chief example of the true essence of investigative journalism. A timely reminder of the need for critical thinking and a commitment to through research in the current media environment dominated by the almighty PR machine.
Paul Foots summary on The Guardian