CIA retirees call for escalated probe of Pan Am 103 bomber's release
An influential organization of CIA and other ex-intelligence officers is calling for Scotland, Britain and all relevant branches of the U.S. government to cooperate with a U.S. Senate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the release of a Libyan agent convicted in the 1988 Pan-Am Flight 103 bombing.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was released to Libya last year by Scottish authorities on humanitarian grounds on the basis that he had only three months to live because of advanced prostate cancer. But the former Libyan intelligence agent has been spotted several times in evident good health.
“Multiple officers from within the U.S. Intelligence Community” were aboard the plane when a bomb ripped it apart over Lockerbie, Scotland in Dec. 1988, Gene Poteat, the president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, said late Thursday night, in what he called a “rare” statement by the organization’s membership and board of directors.
One of the victims, he noted, was Matt Gannon, the agency’s deputy chief of station in Beirut.
"The families of the murdered intelligence officers – and indeed all of the families – deserve no less than a full airing of the facts around Mr. al-Megrahi’s release,” Poteat said.
A former CIA officer himself, Poteat said he couldn’t recall the last time AFIO’s board pulled itself together to issue an organizational statement on an issue.
“There have been few clear-cut issues where so many of us agree as we do on this one,” Poteat said by e-mail. “The decision triggering al-Megrahi’s release was a shock, and had a strong whiff of manipulation and back-room deals.”
Critics have maintained that al-Megrahi was released by Scotland to grease the way for British oil giant BP to resume operations in Libya, which had been isolated for years because of the PanAm bombing, which killed 270 people, and other terrorist attacks.
On Thursday Tony Hayward, the outgoing chief executive of BP, rebuffed a request by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to testify about al-Megrahi’s release, saying he was “focusing on ensuring a smooth transition of leadership at the company.”
Other U.K. officials, including former foreign minister Jack Straw and Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish cabinet secretary for justice, have declined invitations of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to testify on the matter.
"The hearing would have focused on the circumstances surrounding the release and, in particular, what BP and its special adviser, Sir Mark Allen, a former high-ranking official of MI6, the intelligence service, said to members of the British government in 2007 about a proposed prisoner transfer agreement with Libya,” David R. Cameron, director of the Yale Program in European Union Studies, wrote last week.
In its statement, AFIO expressed strong support for the Senate committee’s investigation and called on “the UK and Scottish Governments to launch independent inquiries into the release of Mr. al-Megrahi to ensure that commercial and/or political interests did not lead to Mr. al-Megrahi’s freedom.”
It also asked “that CIA Director Leon Panetta, NSA Director Keith Alexander, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Attorney General Eric Holder direct their staffs to fully cooperate with the Senators’ investigation.”
Poteat said he declined to target BP at this point, because ”the moral weight of the decision – and the process that caused the poor outcome -- rests with the U.K. And that is where any committee hearings and investigations should begin – over there and here at home."
"As the layers are peeled away," he added, "we will see what was at the center of the early, and unexpected release, of this malingering convicted terrorist.”
AFIO, formed by a former CIA officer in the mid-1970s to combat widespread criticism of its involvement in Cold War assassinations and coup de'etats, also called for U.S. government agencies “to assist in providing minimally redacted operational cables and intelligence reports to cleared Senate staff in a secure environment. All documents should be narrowly focused on al-Megrahi’s release in order to protect sources and methods of collection.”
“In the event documents ought to be made public,” it added, “we believe that the staffs of the above Senators, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and agencies involved can (and must) work together to declassify the appropriate documents.”
| August 27, 2010; 9:11 AM ET
Categories: Foreign policy, Intelligence, Justice/FBI, Lawandcourts | Tags: Gene Poteat, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Robert Menendez, Senate Intelligence Committee
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