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Posted at 9:11 AM ET, 08/27/2010

CIA retirees call for escalated probe of Pan Am 103 bomber's release

By Jeff Stein

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.”

By Jeff Stein  | 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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Comments

First, let's escalate the investigations of Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carrilles, the attackers of the USS Liberty, Salvadoran death squads, Contra death squads, to name just a few of the "good" terrorists.

The UK has every right to let terrorists off the hook, as much as do we. We look the other way when Israel or our other "allies" commit acts of terror. Reagan famously told Margaret Thatcher to shove it when she complained about the IRA raising funds and getting sanctuary in the US. The Irish vote was too important, you see.

Guess what? By our standards, BP oil contracts with Libya are too important.

And the retired CIA and intelligence people complaining know this full well. Where was the CIA when their death squads were raping American nuns?

They had their chance, they blew it, shut the frak up and stop whining. By your standards, the UK is A-OK.

Posted by: Garak | August 27, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Frank Duggan: References to Pan Am 103 or Lockerbie Bombing are often linked to Wikipedia's version of this tragedy. There are quite a few nutcases with their own blogs and a few of them have congratulated each other on getting their "alternative theories" included in Wikipedia, which I understand can be done by anyone with the time, energy and disposition.

Posted by: fduggan | August 28, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Frank Duggan: References to Pan Am 103 or Lockerbie Bombing are often linked to Wikipedia's version of this tragedy. There are quite a few nutcases with their own blogs and a few of them have congratulated each other on getting their "alternative theories" included in Wikipedia, which I understand can be done by anyone with the time, energy and disposition.

Posted by: fduggan | August 28, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

What's needed is a probe of the 2006 decision by POTUS George Walker Bush that restored full diplomatic relations between the USG and the terrorist sponsor state of Libya. An event the Bush administration hailed as historic.

Posted by: whocares666 | August 29, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

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