FBI agent dismisses CIA spy’s claim of Iran ties to Pan Am 103 bomb
Retired Special Agent Richard Marquise, who headed the FBI’s investigation into the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, says there is no credible evidence for former Iranian double agent Reza Kahlili’s claim that Iran downed the plane.
Moreover, Kahlili's claim that his CIA handlers weren’t interested in hearing what he knew about it is ridiculous, Marquise said in an interview.
Kahlili (the name is a pseudonym) makes the claims in a memoir, "A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran," which has generated a lot of attention since it was published April 6. Its general theme is that Washington has underestimated the Iranian threat.
“I have read the parts about Lockerbie and did not see anything which was more than pure speculation on his part,” says Marquise, who headed the FBI task force on the bombing and later wrote a book about the probe.
”He said his info came from some guy he met in London after the attack. He never mentions anything about having knowledge of the attack before, and no information that would substantiate how it could have happened. “
Kahlili’s allegations aren’t nearly as specific in his book as they are in his interviews promoting it.
One news report summarizes Kahlili saying the CIA “didn’t seem interested in [his] information, which included details on the type of radio transmitter used in the bomb and other details not publicly known.”
But in the book, Khalili makes no claim of knowing technical details about the bomb, much less that the CIA wasn’t interested in what he knew.
In interviews, however, he has expanded on the theme.
“Shortly after the Pan Am incident I was in Europe on a mission and I had met with Iranian agents somewhere in Europe …” he told Roger L. Simon, the Hollywood writer and head of the Pajamas Media web site.
“We talked about the incident, they verified that Rafsanjani had ordered the Pan Am bombing and the retaliation for the Iranian airliner incident and they talked about a Palestinian suspect and the transistor — that the bomb was in the transistor radio. … In my conversation with them I was convinced that this was an Iranian act. It was delivered, as promised, through their proxies.”Kahlili continues:
“I reported my findings to the CIA, gave the names of the agents. They were traced — their travels were traced; where they were before, what countries they had visited. I told them of their connection to the Iranian hierarchy and so that’s where we left it off.”Kahlili said he “expected a follow-up,” but “nothing happened.”
“The new US administration, President Bush Senior, made an assessment that Hashimi Rafsanjani, the new president, is ready for a change in diplomatic relations…,” he writes. George H.W. Bush wanted to move on
Twenty years later, U.S. intelligence is still covering up the Iranian role in the Pan Am bombing, Kahlili hints darkly.
“In August 2009,” he writes in his book, “Scottish authorities freed Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted for downing the plane, just when his legal team was ready to present U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency documents implicating Iran.”
It's true that DIA sources did report, soon after the plane went down, that Iran orchestrated the bombing through Syria and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, or PFLP-GC.
And the FBI’s Marquise, now retired, does acknowledge that Iran was first suspected of carrying out the bombing, because U.S. fighters had mistakenly downed an Iranian Airbus over the Persian Gulf five months before.
But investigators eventually discounted the reports for lack of evidence, he said.
Amid the debris, Marquise recounted, an investigator found the main piece of evidence that eventually led to Libya’s authorship of the crime: a piece of the circuit board that set off the bomb.
The FBI traced it to the head of a Swiss firm, who told them he had made only “20 or 21” of the type, “all of which were delivered to Libyan officials,” Marquise said.
All the physical evidence pointed to Libya.
“Nothing ties Iran to the evidence,” he declared. “There is no evidence, nothing that could be used in court, that ties Iran to those timers.”
Asked for comment, Kahlili repeated the main points in his book and said, "I think the lack of investigation of Iran's involvement into Pan Am bombing and behind the scene negotiations between Rafsanjani and President Bush were related."
The December 1988 explosion high over Scotland killed all 270 aboard, including 190 Americans.
Last year Al-Megrahi was welcomed home a hero in Tripoli, following his release on medical grounds. Libyan leader Qadaffi also accrepted responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing, paying hundreds of millions of dollars to the victim's famlies.
The CIA approved Kahlili's book for publication, but on Monday it had no comment on his PanAm 103 allegations.
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