FBI PSA : “Think Before You Post” — FLASHBACK : “The Helsinki Warning”

“And he comes in early the next morning, 6 o’clock the next morning, and there is, obviously, confusion and concern. And he is asked to do a number of things. And he is asked to work on Weber’s desk with his computer. And he looks down and sees the Helsinki warning on Weber’s desk. And he goes crazy. And he says what is this?

And Weber says: Oh, my God, don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s nothing, forget it.

So Koch says, how can I forget it? This is a warning of a potential bomb. It is my job.

Just forget it. Be quiet or you will get in trouble.”

Washington Post — “Helsinki Warning: Timely or Buried?”

“There was a real push in the embassy community to make sure that everybody was aware that there had been a terrorist threat made, and that people flying Western carriers going through Frankfurt should change their tickets.”

Karen Decker, Consular Official at the Moscow US Embassy – ABC, Nov. 30 1989

“Perhaps life in war-torn Beirut had made them [CIA McKee and Gannon] used to terror risks. Perhaps they figured to themselves that their superiors would not have allowed them to travel if the flight was at serious risk. Had they known that within the past three weeks, there had been a number of strong indications that radical Palestinians were planning to attack Pan Am, they would most surely have chosen another airline.”

John Ashton and Ian Fergusson – Cover Up of Convenience

“The Helsinki Warning was totally investigated after the bombing and we determined as fact that it was not a credible threat based on who made the threat.”

Richard Marquise – Former FBI agent and head of the Pan Am 103 Bombing Investigation (Communication to the author)

“At the end of the Commission findings, you will see that we looked at the total history of passenger bookings for Pan Am 103 and they were the same for years. No one was warned off the plane.”

Frank Duggan — (Communication to the author)

The FBI is reminding the public to “Think Before You Post” hoax threats targeting schools and other public places. It’s not a joke. It is a federal crime.

On December 5, 1988, a man speaking with an Arabic accent telephoned the US Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. The informant said that a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to the United States would be blown up within the next two weeks. On December 21, 1988, Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie. Pan Am 103A — its feeder flight — originated from Frankfurt. The warning was dismissed as a hoax.

The FBI concluded that the ‘culprit’ had done it to impress his girlfriend. Actually, the suspect was never indicted because sufficient evidence could not be assembled. If there was not enough evidence to indict, let alone convict, Samra Mahayou for the hoax, where was the evidence to dismiss the warning as one? Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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The FBI Chicago Field Office has produced a Public service announcement (PSA) that warns social media users to strongly consider the ramifications and consequences of their messages before they are posted.

Flashback : The Helsinki Warning — December 5 1988

At 10:45 a.m. December 5, 1988, a man speaking with an Arabic accent telephoned the US Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. The anonymous caller asked to speak with the Security Officer.

The informant said that a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to the United States would be blown up within the next two weeks by someone associated with the Abu Nidal Organization.

The caller stated that a man living in Frankfurt called Abdullah would pass a bomb to a man named Yassan Garadet who just arrived from Libya and was now residing in Hemeenlinne, a city North-east of Helsinki.

In turn, Garadet would plant the bomb on an unidentified Finnish woman. (NB. This Modus Operandi has been used by the PFLP-GC in the past.) Although the caller did not mention the name of the carrier, he dropped the name of a certain Mr Soloronta.

This is not without interest as it is known that Samir Kadar, a member of the Abu Nidal Organization, had married a Finnish woman by that name.

The regional security officer, Kenneth Luzzi, informed his CIA colleagues and Finnish Intelligence. The warning was passed to Washington DC and Interpol.

HELSINKI WARNING DISMISSED AS HOAX — December 12 1988

In the evening of December 8 1988, following the FAA security bulletin issued to US embassies and airliners, Pan Am contacted his Heathrow based Corporate Security Manager Jim Berwick.

They instructed Berwick to go to Helsinki at once to investigate the warning received by the US embassy on December 5.

Berwick left for Finland. There, he was met at the airport by US regional security officer, Kenneth Luzzi who had picked up the warning call.

Finnish investigators concluded within days that Samra Mahayoun, a Palestinian living in Finland on a student visa, had accused Garadet because he belonged to a rival drug smuggling organization.

Having been told that the Helsinki warning had been thoroughly checked and could be safely ignored, Berwick returned to Pan Am headquarters in London.

Nevertheless, Berwick, already aware of the Toshiba radio bomb threat (Operation Autumn Leaves – Frankfurt, Germany), ordered special screening of all woman passengers from Finland.

US Staff in Moscow Are Warned — December 13 1988

On December 13 1988, William Kelly, the Moscow US embassy administrative counselor, drafted a memo addressed to “All Embassy Personnel” and posted on the staff notice board.

“Post has been notified by the FAA that on Dec. 5 1988, an unidentified individual telephoned an US diplomatic facility in Europe and stated hat sometimes during the next two weeks there would be a bombing attempt against Pan Am airliner flying from Frankfurt to the United States.

The FAA report that the reliability of the information cannot be assessed at this point, but the appropriate police authorities have been notified and are pursuing the matter.

Pan Am also has been notified. In view of the lack of confirmation of this information, post leaves to the discretion of individual travelers any decisions on altering personal travel plans or changing to another American carrier. This does not absolve the traveler from flying an American carrier.”

Inside the FBI

Marquise told me an interesting story about the Helsinki warning concerning a meeting between him and Oliver Revell, then executive assistant director of the FBI, whose son is known to have cancelled his reservation on Pan Am 103.

(His relatives have provided three different accounts of his re-booking, stating that the event had occurred one week before, two weeks before and around Thanksgiving weekend.)

“I had a meeting with Revell in his office, just the two of us to go over something I was writing for him, on 12/14/88. As I recall it was his 50th birthday — making him eligible to retire — we joked about it.

Although I was in charge of terrorist research for the FBI at the time, we had no discussion about the Helsinki Warning which was, by that time, a week old. It is very possible it had not yet reached him as I do not recall it either.

People often give the FBI (and other government agencies) too much credit for being on top of everything — every time. I would be willing to bet that information had not reached us.”

The FBI investigators would later also conclude that the warning was a hoax. Marquise told me that the caller had done it to impress his girlfriend.

Post Scriptum

In European countries and the US, terror hoaxes are severely punished. In 1992, Stephen Docherty was sentenced to four years in jail for calling the police regarding a bomb about to go off at Victoria station.

On Nov. 17, 1992, the Finish Embassy in London told the Cadmans, who lost their son Bill in the tragedy, that sufficient evidence had not been assembled to convict the chief suspect, whose identity had not yet been revealed to the public at the time and was only described as a Palestinian man resident in Finland.

If there was not enough evidence to indict, let alone convict, Samra Mahayou for the hoax, where was the evidence to dismiss the warning as one?

Many officials have argued that it is not possible to disclose such warning to the public because of their large numbers. According to Paul Channon, the former secretary of state for transport, the number of bomb threats against aircraft relevant to the U.K. in 1988 amounted to 16.

Channon also reluctantly admitted that none of the other threats was nearly as specific as the Helsinki warning, which correctly predicted the airliner, the airport of origin, the city of arrival and only missed the time window by one day.

If Nidal is indeed behind the bombing, the caller also named the organization responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103.

A Triple Coincidence?

How many impossible things are you willing to believe ‘before breakfast’?

“Alice laughed: There’s no use trying,” she said;

“one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.

“When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Alice in Wonderland.

Fact 1 — On october 26 1988, German police arrested seventeen men at Neuss in an operation codenamed “Autumn Leaves” (Herbstlaub). During the fall of 1988, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) —  a Damascus-based rejectionist group led by former Syrian army captain Ahmed Jibril and sponsored by Iran — had set up an active terrorist cell in Germany. Their plan was to destroy several airliners in retaliation for the shoot-down of Iran Airbus 655. The cell specifically intended to target a Pan Am airliner at the Frankfurt airport with Semtex explosive hidden in a Toshiba radio. One of the terrorist had visited Malta and bought some clothes on the island. While many of the cell members were arrested during operation “Autumn Leaves” , others escape. One of the Toshiba radio bombs — last seen in a brown Samsonite suitcase — was never recovered.

Fact 2 — On December 5 1988, a person called the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, warning that “sometime within the next two weeks,” terrorists would plant a bomb on a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to the United States. Please, read that sentence again. Indeed the person named the right airliner, from the correct airport at almost the exact date. (Not bad for a hoax.)

Fact 3 — On December 21 1988, Pan Am 103 — with many people connecting from the Pan Am  103/A flight from Frankfurt — explodes over Lockerbie. According to the legal truth, a lone Libyan intelligence officer managed to put a bomb on board. The explosive (about a pound of SEMTEX) was hidden in a Toshiba radio, wrapped in various pieces of clothing bought in Malta, and placed in a brown Samsonite suitcase.

Only in a parallel universe, these three stories would run independently of each others. Only a child will believe in such coincidences.

How you interpret these coincidences is an other story. And one that will critically depend on how much you know about how the intelligence agencies politicize intelligence.

The “Missing Data”

Francis J. “Frank” Duggan (April 15 1938 – November 1 2017) was a US lawyer and federal official who spent years as a advocate on behalf of families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103.

Duggan once sent me a email regarding the Helsinki warning. Let us consider carefully his central concluding statement.

“At the end of the Commission findings, you will see that we looked at the total history of passenger bookings for Pan Am 103 and they were the same for years. No one was warned off the plane.”

Since the warning was posted on December 14 1988, I would expect that diplomatic personnel in Moscow would have rebooked their flight on December 15 1988.

Thus, one should see a significant decrease in the number of seats booked on both Pan Am 103/A and Pan Am 103.

What does the PCAST report reveal about these key numbers? Unfortunately, nothing. The data for this day — and only this day — are simply missing! Again, only a child will believe this!

US intelligence officials have confirmed that, prior to their arrest on Oct. 26, PFLP-GC members had monitored Pan Am facility at Frankfurt airport. Berwick was not informed of this finding. What do you think?

President Ronald Reagan comments on PAN AM 103 plane crash that carried some Americans  

Reagan is obviously at pain to explain why NOTHING was done about the Helsinki warning. The US President is also asked why the civilians — unlike the US diplomats in Moscow — were NOT told about the Helsinki warning.

George Lardner Jr. — EMBASSY OFFICIALS DESCRIBE WARNING BEFORE LOCKERBIE CRASH (Washington Post – May 1990)

A warning of a terrorist attack was broadly circulated to Americans in Moscow a week before the December 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

“It named a carrier {Pan Am}. It named a route {Frankfurt to the United States}. And it covered a time period” when many Americans in Moscow would be going home for Christmas, Smith said. “Here, it seems to me we have a moral obligation to let people know.”

The warning was posted Dec. 14 at a number of places, including the embassy’s press office, the commercial office frequented by American businessmen, the U.S. Information Service where students congregate, the Anglo-American school, and a bulletin board at the entrance to the cafeteria in the new U.S. Embassy complex.

Jennifer S. Young, who was Pan Am station manager in Moscow, said a reservations clerk told her of the posting. Young, in turn, sent a telex to Pan Am officials in Frankfurt asserting that “approximately 80 percent” of Pan Am’s holiday traffic from the embassy was “now rebooking” to other flights.

Also, notice that a journalist already suggested that Iran had a role in the tragedy at a time where no evidence of a bombing had been found and mechanical failure was suspected.

REFERENCES

Diary of a Vengeance Foretold

THE HELSINKI WARNING – 05/12/1988

US STAFF IN MOSCOW TOLD TO AVOID PAN AM – FRANKFURT — 13/12/1988

HELSINKI WARNING DISMISSED AS HOAX -12/12/1988

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FBI PSA : “Think Before You Post” — FLASHBACK: The Helsinki Warning

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