“I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.”
George H. W. Bush — August 7 1988
On July 3 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by a missile cruiser fired from the USS Vincennes under the command of William C. Rogers III. “The shoot-down of Iran Air flight 655 was an accident, but that is not how it was seen in Tehran.” Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
July 3 1988 – Iran Flight 655
Iran Air Flight 655 was an Iran Air passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai.
The aircraft operating on this route was shot down by a missile cruiser fired from the USS Vincennes under the command of William C. Rogers III.
The incident took place in Iranian airspace, over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and on the flight’s usual flight path. All 290 people on board died.
The U.S. government issued notes of regret for the loss of human lives, but never apologized or acknowledged wrongdoing.
George H. W. Bush, the vice president of the United States at the time commented on a separate occasion, speaking to a group of Republican ethnic leaders (7 Aug 1988) said: “I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.”
According to the Iranian government, Vincennes negligently shot down the civilian aircraft: the airliner was making IFF squawks in Mode III (not Mode II used by Iranian military planes), a signal that identified it as a civilian craft.
The event generated a great deal of criticism of the United States. Some analysts blamed the captain of Vincennes, who had entered Iran’s waters, for reckless and aggressive behavior in a tense and dangerous environment.
To this day, Iran Air continues to use flight number 655 on the Tehran to Dubai route as a memorial to the victims. This event ranks eighth among the deadliest disasters in aviation history; the incident retains the highest death toll of any aviation incident in the Persian Gulf.
RELATED POST: Suspicious Aviation Tragedies: Introduction
RELATED POST: Suspicious Aviation Tragedies: 1970 Swissair Flight 330
Former CIA analyst Kenneth M. Pollack wrote:
“The shoot-down of Iran Air flight 655 was an accident, but that is not how it was seen in Tehran.”
Following the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 five months later (December 21 1988), the British and American governments initially blamed the PFLP-GC — a Palestinian militant group backed by Syria — with assumptions of assistance from Iran in retaliation for Iran Air Flight 655.
Today, some experts still believe that the two tragedies may very well be linked.
A few years ago, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr — the former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran — told me that Tehran, not Libya, had ordered the bombing of Pan Am 103 in revenge for the downing of Iranian Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes a few months earlier.
According to Bani-Sadr, in the immediate aftermath of the Lockerbie tragedy, Mohtashami-Pur — the then minister of the interior — acknowledged in an interview that he had contracted Ahmad Jibril, the leader of the PFLP-GC, to bomb an American airliner.
Dr. Jim Swire lost his daughter Flora in the Lockerbie tragedy. On January 11 2008, Swire told me that he never doubted who ordered the bombing of Pan Am 103, why they did it and who supplied the technology.
“As you know, I have always believed that it was Iranian revenge, whether or not the Libyans helped, and that the Syrians through Jibril supplied the technology,” Swire told me.
Michael Scharf — Co-Dean, Joseph C. Hostetler — BakerHostetler professor of law, and the director of the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Law — helped draft the UN Security Council resolutions that imposed the [Lockerbie] sanctions on Libya in 1992. Scharf also doubts the truth of the Lockerbie case.
“Though I always wondered about the possibility of a PFLP-GC connection to the Lockerbie bombing, I don’t know enough about the persons/events you mention to offer any type of expert opinion about it at this point,” Scharf wrote to me.
“It was largely based on this inside guy [Libyan defector Abdul Majid Giaka]. It wasn’t until the trial that I learned this guy was a nut-job and that the CIA had absolutely no confidence in him and that they knew he was a liar.”
“The CIA and the FBI kept the State Department in the dark. It worked for them for us to be fully committed to the theory that Libya was responsible,” Scharf has argued.
Going even further, Scharf suggested that the Lockerbie trial had nothing to do, whatsoever, with justice.
Professor Robert Black, also known as the architect of the Lockerbie trial, is very knowledgeable about this affair. As I know that Black has seen some documents never made public about the investigation, I asked him how he felt about the news from Bani-Sadr.
“What Bani-Sadr told you about Mohtashemi certainly does not surprise me. It coincides with what other people have suggested to me,” Black said.
FBI Richard Marquise — who led the US side of the Lockerbie investigation– does not deny the possibility of an Iran-Syria role in the affair. But Marquise is adamant that no evidence linked the bombing to these countries.
“I never have said the evidence against Megrahi was direct or overwhelming but there is more evidence to implicate him, and Libya, than there is EVIDENCE to convict Jaffar, Jibril, Dalkamoni, Iran, Syria, etc. …
All we had with them is lots of “intelligence,” but no EVIDENCE. I cannot make that point more strenuously,” Marquise wrote to me.
“Did we convict all those involved? As you said yourself, there are probably more people involved than one man sitting in a Scottish prison. No we did not. And they live in Libya for certain. And no one ever said it was Libya and Libya alone. That is the only direction the EVIDENCE flowed,” Marquise added.
Then, Marquise concluded:
“Did Iran contract with the PFLP-GC? Probably — although, it cannot be proven in court. Did Iran ask Libya and Abu Nidal, as you stated in an earlier article? Perhaps — although that too cannot be proven and never will be unless a reliable witness or two comes forward with documentary evidence.”
Colonel Patrick Lang — chief of the DIA’s Middle East section at the time — has stated that he “signed off” on the DIA’s conclusion.
“The bombing of the Pan Am flight was conceived, authorized and financed by Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur, the former Iranian minister of Interior.”
“The operation was contracted to Ahmad Jibril for $1 million,” said a Sept. 24, 1989, memo. “The remainder was to be paid after successful completion of the mission.”
“I still agree with that. We felt quite sure that this was a PFLP–GC thing,” Lang told me.
In the fall of 1994, Dr Richard Fuisz — known as a high level CIA asset/agent — told a US Congressional staffer that the perpetrators of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie were based in Syria. Fuisz was adamant that Libya had played no role whatsoever in the tragedy.
RELATED POST: CIA Asset Dr Richard Fuisz : TEREX & Lockerbie
Just a few weeks after Dr. Richard Fuisz spoke to congressional staffer Suzan Lindauer in the fall of 1994, the Clinton administration placed a gag order preventing him from publicly discussing his knowledge of the Pan Am 103 bombing.
Fuisz had told her that the perpetrators of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie were based in Syria. He was adamant that Libya had played no role whatsoever in the tragedy.
“If the United States government would let me, I could identify the men behind this attack [Pan Am 103] today. I could do it right now. You want a police line up? I could go into any crowded restaurant of 200 people, and pick out these men. […] And you know what, Susan? You won’t find this restaurant anywhere in Libya. No, you will only find this restaurant in Damascus,” Fuisz had told Lindauer.
In recent emails, Fuisz told me that he still believes that he was right both about the TEREX scandal and the Lockerbie tragedy.
Noel Koch — who headed anti-terrorism efforts for the US Defense Department from 1981 to 1986 — never accepted the “Lybian Theory”.
“It was decided by the two governments, by the United States and the United Kingdom, that Libya had been responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103,” Koch argued.
“I have never believed that. My own conviction from the outset was that the Syrians and Iranians were pre-eminently responsible for this.”
Former CIA Robert Baer
“Marquise is right. The body of intelligence on Lockerbie does not constitute evidence and cannot be introduced into court,” Baer told me.
To this day, Robert Baer remains convinced that politics took over the truth. Baer recently confirmed to me his view on the Lockerbie tragedy.
“Look — in the intelligence community — I’m not giving you a controversial opinion here. I kept up with all of the CIA, National Security Agency analysts, everybody involved in the intelligence side, and to a man nobody has ever said to me that it was Libya”.
Comment: In a recent email, Baer told me that this quote should be understood as meaning “not Libya alone”. Today, Baer believes that it is possible that Libya, Syria and Iran may have all worked together.
“The PFLP-GC was unaffected by the raid [Autumn leaves] because like any good guerrilla organisation they had back up, had members all over Germany and simply they went to a different cell.”
“The National Security Agency reporting on Lockerbie is absolutely damming that it was Iran and Syria behind it, rather than Libya. It’s damning, damning, damning, it’s rock solid intelligence”.
“Regarding the CIA people in Malta that knew about Giaka… I asked them what the fuck was going on. And they said: “We took one for the team, by making up this stuff about Libya.”
“That was their exact words, ‘we took one for the team’. Meaning they knew Giaka [The Lockerbie Trial ‘Star’ witness] was a fraud, a swindler”.
INTEL TODAY on Iran 655 and Lockerbie
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi (1 April 1952 – 20 May 2012) is dead but the “Lockerbie Affair” is not going away. The grounds for a new appeal has been formally handed to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) by the Megrahi family’s lawyer earlier this year (April 2017).
The SCCRC has the power to refer the case to the Appeal Court if it feels there are grounds and if it believes that a new trial is in the interests of Justice.
I hope to be wrong, but I am NOT optimistic about the outcome of the Megrahi family’s application to the SCCRC.
Although the SCCRC decided in June 2007 — on six grounds! — that there might have been a miscarriage of justice and even more damning evidence has come to light casting doubt on the verdict since then, I believe that the SCCRC will apply the “interests of justice” requirement to reject the application.
RELATED POST: Lockerbie — Pan Am 103 : The Truth at last?
Let us hope that INTEL TODAY is wrong about this horrible prediction. However, if it turns out to be correct, I will simply reveal my own conclusions about this case and “close” a 10 year long investigation that has taught me much about the insanity of this world.
RELATED POST: Lockerbie — An open letter from Dr Jim Swire
Final comments (for today…)
John Ashton — an investigative journalist and author — has uncovered evidence that the key piece of evidence — a fragment of a Swiss timer made by MEBO known as PT/35(b) — was in fact significantly different form the circuit boards of the timers actually delivered to Libya.
[This timer fragment was the evidence that shifted the investigation from the PFLP-GC to Libya.PT/35(b) was the key piece of evidence of the Lockerbie Case. As Richard Marquise (FBI Agent who led the US side of the investigation) himself said: “Without PT/35(b), there would have been no indictment.” ( See: FBI Richard Marquise: “No PT/35(b), No Case.”)]
There is some reason to believe that the copper used to manufacture PT/35(b) was not produced –at the earliest –before the end of 1989. If true, it would be proof that PT/35(b) was fabricated AFTER the Lockerbie tragedy. It would also destroy the “legend” that PT/35(b) was examined by Dr Hayes and Feraday in May 1989!
RELATED POST: DP/10 : Evidence of Fabricated Proof?
Lockerbie Investigator George Thomson wrote the following about this latest finding:
“If (…) the type of copper used in PT35b can be dated 1989 -early 90s then it adds enormously to the evidence that the fragment was not found by Hayes in May 1989 as claimed. I have consistently claimed this since 2002 but following on from John Ashton’s achievements re the tinning this could be the biggest breakthrough to date.”
However, let us not jump to conclusions…
Long ago, I asked Marquise to comment on the following information:
“Two day after the bombing, communication intercepts indicate that Tehran ordered their Ambassador in Beirut to pay Jibril Organization for the successful operation. The transfer of the money is recorded and Dalkamoni was in possession of the Paris bank account number when he was arrested.”
“I am aware of some of this – it is classified – but has nothing to do with Lockerbie or a PAYMENT”, Marquise told me on 02/11/2008.
Marquise is right about this. Since then, I was able to see the primary evidence regarding this matter and I can only conclude that this transaction – and all other transactions to and from this account and its many joint accounts – has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with Pan Am 103.
RELATED POST: The Legend of The Iranian Payment – UPDATE
Iran Air Airbus Flight 655 Mistaken Identity US Missile Disaster
Did Colin Powell ever come into the debate?
No, Colin becomes deputy national security adviser by the end of 1986, early 1987, after Iran-Contra when John Poindexter is fired and they bring in Frank Carlucci. Frank brings in Colin as his deputy. So most of those major battles are over by that time.
And of course, by the time they come in, what has resulted is Iran-Contra and kind of a major disaster, both for the administration, but also policy-wise for the United States. Its credibility in that part of the world is damaged very, very seriously.
You might say that the major policy debate after that is, what we do to repair the damage, and how do we regain credibility with countries in the Gulf that are important to us?
One of the results was Kuwait and the flagging with American flags of Kuwaiti vessels that were being challenged by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Gulf.
We protected those with American flags and with U.S. naval power to escort Kuwaiti ships in order to protect them against challenge from the Iranian navy. And that’s kind of the fallout, that we get involved in the Gulf on the side of Kuwait against Iran.
And of course, one of the great tragedies that emerges in the summer of 1988 is one of our naval vessels shoots down an Iranian Airbus, by mistake, but nevertheless with a great loss of civilian life on this civilian airliner.
That, in itself, generates a sequence of events that comes back to haunt us. So it’s interesting to look at these in hindsight.
We used to look at them as kind of discrete events, not tied to each other, and seen in a vacuum. But from a distance, I think we can see more of a pattern.
You say we were haunted by the Airbus disaster. What were the practical results of that?
The practical result of that is the Iranians initiate the sponsorship of a number of terrorist plans against the United States.
The immediate reaction is to agree with the Ahmed Jibril group to conduct a series of operations against the United States, revenge operations, the settlement of a blood debt. Intelligence is following this very closely.
That leads to the establishment of [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] cells in Germany. So that basically initiates a whole series of plans against the United States. …
For those interested in the Lockerbie Trial tragedy, I recommend the excellent blog of Professor Black: TheLockerbieCase.
Those who want to study the forensic history of PT/35(b) will find many resources and original documents on the PT35B blog.
Also, you may want to check the blog of Dr Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph: The LockerbieTruth.
Suspicious Aviation Tragedies: 1988 – Iran Flight 655