For years I was told the terrorist who placed the bomb on board Pan Am 103, known as the Lockerbie bombing, lives about 8 miles from my house, in Fairfax County, Virginia.
His life-time of privilege and protection, gratis of high flyers in U.S. Intelligence, has been a reward for silence on the CIA’s involvement in drug trafficking in Lebanon during the 1980s.
As sources go, I was more than a casual observer. From May 1995 until March 2003, I performed as a back channel to Tripoli and Baghdad, supervised by my CIA handler, Dr. Richard Fuisz, who claimed from day one to know the origins of the Lockerbie conspiracy and the identity of the terrorists. He swore that no Libyan participated in the attack.
Armed with that assurance, our team started talks with Libya’s diplomats for the Lockerbie Trial, and I attended over 150 meetings at the Libyan Embassy in New York. After the hand over of Libya’s two accused men, our team engaged in a concerted fight to gain permission for Dr. Fuisz to give a deposition about his primary knowledge of the conspiracy, during the Lockerbie Trial In a surprise twist, the U.S. Federal Judge in Alexandria, Virginia imposed a double seal on a crucial portion of Dr. Fuisz’s deposition. The double seal can only be opened by a Scottish Judge. In my opinion, that should be a priority, as testimony hidden by the double seal maps out the whole Lockerbie conspiracy. Most significantly, it identifies 11 terrorists involved in the attack. Dr. Fuisz’s testimony could put the whole matter to rest forever.
There’s good reason for my confidence. Much to my surprise, during the Lockerbie talks, Dr. Fuisz’s allegations of CIA opium running in Lebanon received unusual corroboration. One day, as I left the office of Senator Carol Moseley-Braun on my lunch break, an older spook caught up with me in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. From out of nowhere, he stepped in my path and invited me to lunch. With extraordinary candor, he debriefed me as to what motivated the CIA’s actions. I remember it as one battle-hardened old spook sharing the perils of fieldwork with a gung ho young Asset, anxious to get started on great adventures.
It was a morality tale for sure. According to him, the CIA infiltrated opium and heroin trafficking in Lebanon as part of a crisis operation to rescue AP reporter Terry Anderson and 11 other American and British hostages in Beirut, including CNN bureau chief Jeremy Levin and Anglican envoy Terry Waite. The hostage crisis was a legitimate CIA concern. The CIA Station Chief of Beirut, William Buckley, was also kidnapped by Islamic Jihad and brutally tortured to death, his body dumped in the street in front of CIA headquarters. The rescue was protracted and complicated by Lebanon’s Civil War—ultimately, Terry Anderson’s captivity lasted seven years. Many of the hostages suffered beatings, solitary confinement chained to the floor, and mock executions.
The older spook who refused to identify himself swore that the CIA considered it urgently necessary to try every possibility for recovering the hostages. The concept of infiltration into criminal networks cuts to the murky nature of intelligence itself. Drug enforcement frequently rely on the same strategies. Where the CIA went far wrong was in pocketing some of those heroin profits for itself along the way. The dirty little secret is that the CIA continued to take a percentage cut of opium and heroin production out of Lebanon well into the 1990s.
As for the hostage rescue itself, considering the operation took years to accomplish, it’s always been whispered that a corrupted CIA officer enjoying those opium profits might have swallowed reports on the hostages’ locations, or otherwise diverted his team in order to protect his narcotics income.
That appears to have become a serious fear at the time, among other U.S. officers jointly involved in the rescue.
In December 1988, infuriated Defense Intelligence agents issued a formal protest, exposing CIA complicity in Middle East heroin trafficking. When teams from both agencies got summoned back to Washington to attend an internal hearing, they boarded Pan Am 103. A wing of militant Hezbollah led by Ahmed Jibril, his nephew Abu Elias, Abu Talb and Abu Nidal took out both teams in order to protect their lucrative cartel.
Classified Defense Intelligence records show that Jibril and Talb had been toying with a conspiracy to bomb a U.S. airplane during the 1988 Christmas holidays anyway. They planned to bomb a U.S. airliner in revenge for the U.S.S. Vincennes, which shot down an Iranian commercial airliner loaded with Hajiis returning from Mecca in July, 1988. However the Defense Intelligence threat to expose their heroin network put the bombing plan into action. Islamic Jihad’s ability to discover actionable intelligence on the flight schedules would definitely confirm that somebody at CIA was operating as a double agent, keeping Islamic Jihad a step ahead of the rescue efforts.
That’s the dirty truth about Lockerbie. It ain’t nothing like you’ve been told.
Wait a darn moment—I anticipate your confusion. Libya got blamed for the Lockerbie attack. Daddy George Bush told us so! The United Nations imposed sanctions on Libya, demanding that Colonel Moammar Gadhaffi hand over two Libyans for trial. One of the two, Lameen Fhima got acquitted immediately. The other Abdelbasset Megrahi got convicted (on the most flimsy circumstantial evidence that overlooked endless contradictions). Libya paid $2.7 billion in damages—amounting to $10 million per family death— to make the U.N. sanctions go away, and expressed a sort of non-apology for the deaths—while never acknowledging its involvement in the conspiracy.
So Libya was innocent the whole time? In a word, yes.
Don’t get me wrong: I have no soft spot for Libya. As an Asset, I saw that no matter the flowing promises of friendship, at heart Libyans hearken to their glory days as Bedouin raiders. It’s pathological, not personal. They are deeply tribal and Islamic, which often makes them paranoid and suspicious of outsiders. They have an ancient history of raiding each other’s camps, back and forth, stealing livestock, women and children. One of my best diplomatic sources had a tattoo on his wrist, because his grandmother feared he would be kidnapped as a small child (in the 1950s). Libya simply does not have a history of believing that it needs to keep promises to individuals outside their clans. That’s not part of their heritage.
That vendetta culture bodes dangerously for the current rebellion. Even after Gadhaffi’s gone, in all likelihood these tribal families will continue to exact vengeance on one another. It remains to be seen whether the new government will hide those clashes to protect its image of cohesion and legitimacy to the outside world. In truth, Libyan culture poses a threat to itself most of all.
I don’t say that about just any Arab country. I enjoy Arab culture very much. I just know better than to do favors for Gadhaffi. His actions often mask some other agenda.
But the bottom line is that Libya had nothing to do with the bombing of Pan Am 103, which exploded over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland. We should care about Lockerbie because of the serious problem that it exposed. Opium trafficking out of the Bekaa Valley provides a major source for global heroin production. In turn, the global pipeline of narco-dollars keep militant operations alive world-wide from the Middle East to Indonesia, Colombia, Burma and the Far East.
That’s something to fear. We don’t have to deploy soldiers to shut it down. With a little creativity, we could attack the bank accounts of these global heroin traffickers and cut off funds for the violence without damaging the local society through warfare. We could strike down two scourges—heroin and terrorism. And the U.S. would not require military action all over the planet to accomplish its goals. Thankfully, there are other ways.
The first step is recognition.