Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:58 pm

Chapter 7

When President George Bush and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agreed on the telephone in March 1989, to keep the Flight 103 investigation within politically acceptable limits, the octopus was presented with a tricky problem of news management.

As the only official source of information about the disaster, as well as the only official source of information about government business in general, the American and British bureaucracies could count on the polite attention of every mainstream journalist, but the story had run for months and it was hardly possible to retract the tips, leaks, official statements and background briefings already given.

The consensus was that the Syrian-backed PFLP-GC had committed the atrocity for the Iranians; that the Libyans had probably had a hand in it by supplying the bomb components; that the individuals responsible had been identified, and that warrants could be expected at any time.

Undoing these now inconvenient views and expectations was not going to be easy, even without the continued meddling of congressional committees, boards of inquiry, lawyers for both sides in the compensation dispute and police officers still treating the case as a murder investigation. There was also the problem of what to do with the Germans, because there was no way of putting a suitable gloss on events without them.

At their baldest, the new policy requirements were that Syria and, to a lesser extent, Iran should be eased out of the picture, leaving Libya solely to blame, but without seeming to deny or tamper with evidence already made public and without appearing to allow expediency a higher priority than the ruthless pursuit of justice.

Given the usually uncritical reception of 'official news' by the media, and the patriotic reluctance of most people to believe the worst of their own governments, this should have been possible, but the solution to the problem rested in the hands of those who had created it in the first place, and in the end the task was to prove beyond them.

The first requirement was to get the Germans to cooperate, and the only way to do that was to show that the bomb had gone aboard Flight 103 in Frankfurt due to circumstances beyond their control.

After Detective Chief Superintendent John Orr had taken them to task in March 1989, for dragging their feet, the BKA in April sent him the files on the PFLP-GC cell they had broken up some eight weeks before the disaster -- and by any reading, the circumstantial evidence against Dalkamoni, Ghadanfar and Khreesat was strong, not to say overwhelming. Although the first two remained in custody, charged with bombing American military trains in Germany, Khreesat and the other PFLP-GC suspects rounded up in the raids had, unaccountably, been released -- a decision which, on the face of it, might well have cost 270 lives.

A possible solution was to show that the bronze Samsonite suitcase containing the bomb had been fed into the system at some other airport, and that it was therefore a failure on Pan Am's part which had allowed it to go aboard Flight 103 in Frankfurt without an accompanying passenger. If this could be 'proved', then the German authorities would be no more to blame than the British at Heathrow, who had also allowed the bag to be transferred from one aircraft to another for the trans-Atlantic leg of the flight.

To make this version of events plausible, a few awkward facts had first to be smoothed over. There could be no suggestion, for instance, that Frankfurt was the European hub of a 'controlled delivery' pipeline for drugs in transit from the Middle East. There could be no suggestion that 'clean' suitcases, properly checked through, were routinely switched in the baggage-handling area with 'dirty' suitcases containing heroin en route to the United States. There could be no reports of 'suspicious activity' in the baggage-handling area before Flight 103 left Frankfurt on 21 December. Nor could there be any videotapes available from the security cameras in the baggage-handling area.

A good deal of embarrassing speculation had already been made public. On 30 July 1989, for instance, the Observer, in London, had published an 'exclusive' under the headline: 'Lockerbie: Turks "planted bomb."

Reviewing the results of a 'three-month inquiry' into the disaster, the report said the paper had

obtained specific information from a range of Middle East sources who have told us that Turkish nationals were brought into the plot to bomb the Pan Am Boeing 747 at the end of September last year ... Contact is said to have been made, on the instructions of a German-based Iranian diplomat, by a member of the PFLP-GC ...
According to our sources, five Turks were entrusted with the task of planting the bomb on the Pan Am plane ... One has been described as a 'young Turkish engineer' and it is this man who is said to have physically planted a suitcase containing the bomb inside a cargo container on the London-bound Boeing 727 ...

German officials who questioned airport workers after the bombing have refused either to support or dismiss this account. American intelligence agencies want to reexamine and trace all likely suspects, but they appear to have received little cooperation from the Germans. The 'engineer' allegedly left Germany for Beirut via Cyprus shortly after the bombing.


What was needed to divert attention away from Frankfurt into politically safer channels was some 'new' evidence, preferably linked to the hard forensic evidence that had already been established and which, by association, would lend credibility to it. And as the police officers engaged in the field investigation could not be counted upon to cooperate in a political fix, that evidence had to be 'found' in a plausible way, even at the cost of further inter-agency bickering.

On 17 August 1989, eight months after the disaster, Chief Detective Superintendent John Orr received from the BKA what was said to be a computer print-out of the baggage-loading list for Pan Am Flight 103A from Frankfurt to London on the afternoon of 21 December 1988. Attached to this were two internal reports, dated 2 February 1989, describing the inquiries that BKA officers had made about the baggage-handling system at the airport. Also provided were two worksheets, one typewritten, the other handwritten, that were said to have been prepared on 21 December by airport workers at key points on the conveyor-belt network.

In the margin of the computer print-out, a penciled cross drew particular attention to bag number B8849 -- that is the 8849th bag to be logged into the computerized system at Terminal B that day. By reference to the worksheets, B8849 could be shown to have arrived in Frankfurt by a scheduled Air Malta flight from Luqa airport and to have been 'interlined' through to Flight 103. But neither the Air Malta nor the Pan Am passenger lists showed anybody who had booked a through flight from Luqa to New York that day. In other words, bag B8849 had arrived from Malta unaccompanied but tagged for New York and had been loaded aboard Flight 103 without being matched with a passenger. And as the job of matching bags with passengers is the responsibility of the airline, not of the airport authorities or of the host government, Pan Am had plainly been guilty of lax security amounting to 'wilful misconduct'.

This tied in nicely with the forensic evidence, which had already shown that the bomb had been hidden in a Samsonite suitcase filled with an assortment of clothing made in Malta, including a baby's blue romper suit.

Less than three months after the disaster, in March 1989, two Scottish police officers had flown out to the island to interview the manufacturer of the romper suit but had drawn blank. At least 500 of them had been sold to babywear outlets all over Europe. To trace the purchaser of the suit that had been all but destroyed in the explosion was clearly impossible. Now, with the baggage records pointing to a suitcase originating in Malta, the field of search was dramatically narrowed.

Two weeks after the BKA released the Frankfurt baggage print-out, two of Detective Chief Superintendent John Orr's men returned to Malta and, with the help of the manufacturers, traced the clothing to a shop in Sliema.

As 'luck' would have it, the proprietors not only remembered selling the exact items which the forensic team had shown were used as packing around the bomb but remembered the date on which they had sold them, 23 November 1988, a month before the bombing; remembered the purchaser -- a Libyan, they thought -- and, ten months after the event, remembered what he looked like clearly enough to brief an FBI video-fit artist to produce an acceptable likeness to Abu Talb of the PFLP-GC, who was known to have visited Malta not long before the bombing.

Leaving the shopkeepers guarded around the clock by security men, the police officers returned home with their questions answered so neatly that in other circumstances they might have been forgiven for suspecting the witnesses had been coached.

Never mind that Air Malta, the Maltese police and the Maltese government categorically denied that any baggage, unaccompanied or otherwise, had been put aboard Air Malta flight KM180 to connect with Pan Am 103 in Frankfurt on 21 December 1988, and never mind that the airline's record-keeping showed this to be so -- as David Leppard of The Sunday Times pointed out later, if the fatal bag 'had been smuggled on to the flight unaccompanied, it must have bypassed Luqa's baggage control system. No one could blame the airline company for the criminal activities of a terrorist gang.'

He was not prepared to exercise the same understanding for Pan Am in Frankfurt, however. 'Under international airline rules, bags unaccompanied by passengers should never be allowed on to aircraft,' he wrote (erroneously) in The Sunday Times of 29 October 1989. 'The new evidence casts serious doubt on the theory that the bomb was placed on board in Frankfurt and carried by an unwitting passenger who died in the crash.'

Leppard did not address the possibility that the bomb might have 'bypassed' Pan Am's baggage-control system at Frankfurt in the same way as he suggested it might have bypassed Air Malta's at Luqa; nor did the Independent, in London, two days later.

'Police investigating the Lockerbie bombing,' the paper reported, 'have confirmed they are investigating whether the bomb was first placed aboard an airliner in Malta, and then transferred to the Pan Am flight even though it had no accompanying passenger.' The story went on to quote a spokesman for the BKA as saying 'there are clues that a suitcase from Malta may have played a part. There are also clues that someone from Libya -- or at least, someone with a Libyan accent -- may have bought the items.'

John Orr declined to comment.

With this sensational breakthrough in the case, everybody but Pan Am and its insurers were off the hook. If the world could be persuaded to buy this scenario, then the responsibility would be shifted from the Iranians and Syrians to the Libyans, to the obvious benefit of Western foreign policy, not least in its attempts to secure the release of Western hostages in the Middle East; the security and police forces of the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom would be seen to be blameless, and the families of the victims would have a clear shot at a clear target in seeking proper compensation for their loss.

But there were problems.

The weight of circumstantial evidence against the PFLP-GC unit in Germany was still impressive and not to be wished away. If the bomb had been built there by Marwan Khreesat and hidden in the copper-coloured Samsonite suitcase that he had brought with him from Damascus, how did it get into the hands of the Libyans in Malta?

And why? It was winter time, when flight delays and missed connections were commonplace. Was it likely that any well-organized, well-funded, seriously determined terrorist group, capable of building a sophisticated explosive device to blow up an American aircraft over the Atlantic, would choose to put it aboard the target flight by sending it, unaccompanied, in a suitcase that had first to be smuggled on to an Air Malta flight (which might have been delayed or diverted) to Frankfurt (where it might have been mislaid or misrouted), in the hope that Pan Am would fail to search it or match it with a passenger and forward it, unaccompanied, on a feeder flight (which might also have been delayed or diverted) to Heathrow (where again it might have been misplaced or misdirected), still in the hope that no one would notice or examine the suitcase before it was finally loaded aboard the third, and target, aircraft for the New York leg of the flight?

As this is still the official view, such a plan must surely represent the most conspicuous victory of optimism over elementary common sense in the annals of terrorism. On the face of it, the PFLP-GC would have been better advised to post their bomb to the United States as a registered air parcel.

More particularly, there were problems with the computer records and worksheets from Frankfurt. For one thing, they did not tally with Pan Am's own baggage records, which although questionable as to their accuracy, were at least compiled in good faith. To this day no one knows exactly how many pieces of luggage there were aboard the doomed flight or consequently whether they have all been recovered or accounted for. Nobody even knows exactly how many suitcases were in the luggage pallet that contained the one with the bomb -- it was 45 or 46 -- or how many of these were brought in by the feeder flight from Frankfurt. (The number was also thought to include not one but four unaccompanied bags.)

The BKA estimate that 'about' 135 bags were sent through to the baggage room below the departure gate of Flight 103A, some belonging to the 79 passengers whose journey ended in London and the rest to the 49 who were going on to New York. There were no records of luggage sent directly to the departure gate, nor of interline luggage taken directly from one aircraft to another, nor of bags belonging to first-class passengers.

Of the 49 passengers bound for New York and beyond, 28 began their journey in Frankfurt, and 21 transferred from other connecting flights. As with the other interline passengers who joined the flight in London, their luggage was X-rayed before it went aboard but no attempt was made to match baggage with passengers, even though it had already been established that the Semtex explosive in the PFLP-GC Toshiba radio bombs was virtually undetectable by X-ray examination alone. (Later on, it would emerge that the X-ray machine operator had been instructed to pull out any bag that appeared to contain a radio. According to his testimony, he X-rayed 13 bags but none contained anything resembling a Toshiba radio.)

Of the 135 bags mentioned by the BKA, 111 had been logged on the Frankfurt computer and about 24 taken directly to the aircraft from three other connecting Pan Am flights. The list compiled by Pan Am at its check-in desks, however, showed not 111 but 117 items of luggage, and the discrepancy has not been convincingly cleared up to this day.

Although the 'discovery' of an unaccompanied bag from Malta was seized upon as a breakthrough in the investigation, there were in fact 13 items of unaccompanied luggage on the flight. According to the minutes of the fourth international conference of police agencies called on 14 September 1989, to consider the new Libyan link with the bombing, this cast 'doubt on the total reliability of hand-written entries of the baggage handlers on the computer print-out,' which had indicated only one such item. Details of the Malta connections were discussed, 'and it was explained that the bomb need not have been brought on in Malta, but must at least have come from Frankfurt'.

Well, they said it. Given that the flight wreckage was picked over initially by the CIA, that the total number of bags loaded aboard is not known, that the remains of others may yet be found in the wilder reaches of the Kielder Forest and the Scottish border country, and that there is still no reliable manifest for Flight 103 listing all the passengers by name with their seat numbers and baggage -- given all this uncertainty, to suggest that the theory of a suicide bomber or of an unwitting 'mule' had been eliminated or that the baggage could not have been tampered with at Frankfurt or Heathrow or that the investigation had accounted for every piece of luggage on board and, except for the bag from Malta, matched every piece to a passenger is, to say the least, unpersuasive.

Indeed, the claims are almost as unconvincing as the provenance of the crucial computer listing itself.

If the new Malta/Libyan theory was to replace the established Iran/PFLP-GC scenario, it was necessary, first of all, to believe that no one thought to ask for the baggage-loading lists for Flight 103A as soon as terrorist action was suspected -- which was almost at once.

It was necessary to believe that no one in any of the British, German and American police, intelligence and accident inquiry agencies who had a hand in investigating the disaster, or anyone who was in any way involved with airport management or security at Frankfurt or London, thought to secure the baggage lists as the one indispensable tool that would be needed to unravel the mystery of how the bomb got aboard.

It was necessary to believe that the only person who considered the lists to be at all important was a lowly computer operator at Frankfurt airport.

The Observer's chief reporter, John Merritt, described how this came about in a story published almost two years after the disaster.

He wrote, on 17 November 1991:

A major breakthrough in the hunt for the Lockerbie bombers came to light only because of the quick thinking of a conscientious computer operator at Frankfurt airport.

The vital computer evidence, proving conclusively that the bag from Malta, identified as Item B8849, was on board as the airliner was blasted apart on the last stage of its journey from Heathrow to New York would have been lost forever if the woman operator had not kept her own record.

Acting on her own initiative, the woman, an employee of the Frankfurt Airport Company, who for legal reasons cannot be named, was working at the computer system known as KIK on the day of the disaster. She knew records relating to baggage loaded on to flights were kept in the system for only a limited time [eight days] before being wiped. So when she returned to work the next day she made her own print-out of the information and placed it in her locker before going on holiday.

On her return, weeks later, she was surprised to learn that no one had shown any interest in the computer records. She passed the print-out to her baggage section leader who gave it to investigators from the West German Bundeskriminalamt. But it was not until mid-August, eight months after the bombing, that the German authorities turned over this information to Scottish police in charge of the investigation.

The woman employee's role became known only last week when lawyers for families of the American victims took evidence from her in Germany. She had kept her own copy of the print-out and still had it in her locker.


The Observer's readiness to print this story contrasted sharply with its scepticism when Pan Am subpoenaed the CIA and five other US government agencies in the US District Court for 'all documents concerning warnings, tips, alerts and other communications as to plans by any person to place a bomb, make an assault or commit another form of terrorist attack at Frankfurt airport during November or December 1988'.

The request seemed reasonable enough, given that the airline and its insurers were facing damage lawsuits totaling some $7 billion, and possibly as much again in punitive damages, but it was instantly dismissed as a fishing expedition when it became known, five weeks after the subpoenas were served, that Pan Am was seeking through the courts to compel the US government to produce the documents necessary for its defence.

This step had been prompted by the now notorious Interfor Report commissioned by the airline from Juval Aviv, whose inquiries into the disaster had produced intelligence information that was sometimes more reliable than the conclusions he drew from it. When copies of the report were leaked to the press and to Congressman James Traficant, a member of the House Aviation Committee who was then seeking re-election, its findings captured media attention across the world.

'Pan Am Seeks to Prove U.S. Was Warned of Lockerbie Attack' -- The Independent, London.
'Syrian Arms Dealer Linked to Pan Am Lockerbie Disaster' -- The Daily Telegraph, London.
'Lockerbie: How the Bomb Slipped Through' -- Daily Mail, London.
'CIA Drugs-for-Hostages Deal Allowed Bomb on Pan Am Jet' -- The Times, London.
'CIA Accused of Link to Drug Runner in Lockerbie Attack' -- The Guardian, London.


In vain, Pan Am protested that it was embarrassed by the leak of its confidential report (which was certainly doing the airline's position no good at all) and, in vain, did its spokesman insist that: 'We are not supporting the findings, neither are we suggesting that they are nonsense. What we are trying to do is establish what is fact and what is fiction. That is why we asked for the subpoenas.'

No sooner had the furor died down than the Observer weighed in on 26 November with the results of a 'Special Investigation':

'Pan Am Lockerbie Report a Sham'
'How Lockerbie Bomb Story was Planted'.


In marked contrast to the sympathetic hearing the paper was later to give the story of how the computer baggage-list came to light in Frankfurt, its reporting team fastened on the Interfor Report and its author like piranha fish.

An investigator's report which claims that the CIA allowed terrorists to place the bomb on board Pan Am Flight 103 is today exposed as a sham, following an investigation by the Observer [it announced]. Pan Am's insurers commissioned the report from an Israeli intelligence expert based in New York. As a result of his findings, the airline issued subpoenas demanding information from the CIA and five other US intelligence agencies ... As the agencies will strenuously contest any attempt to force information from them, Pan Am will be able to argue it was prevented from presenting a complete case.

And why not? Why would the agencies 'strenuously' contest the subpoenas if their hands were clean and they could prove the airline was wrong?

Described as 'incredible', 'unbelievable' and 'bizarre', the Interfor Report was summarized in the context of interviews with Juval Aviv -- 'a chubby Donald Pleasance, wearing a grey suit and a Gucci watch' -- and Congressman Traficant -- a 'former sheriff, who was once accused by Federal tax inspectors of accepting $108,000 in bribes from organized crime figures.'

When the Observer team met with Aviv, 'he failed to provide any evidence to substantiate a single claim in his report.' And when Traficant was told that there were 'serious doubts about the report', he suggested the Observer might be working for the CIA. When pressed, Mr. Traficant said: "'You've come here a day late, a dime short and you're a piece of shit." The Observer made its excuses and left.'

In the Observer's summary, the Interfor Report claimed

... that an autonomous CIA unit based in Frankfurt, West Germany, struck a deal with a Syrian drugs dealer with terrorist connections [Monzer al-Kassar]. He was supposedly allowed to smuggle heroin into the United States in return for helping to negotiate the release of American hostages in Beirut. Knowing of his 'protected' route, the bombers used his network to place the device on board the plane. It also alleges that warnings that Flight 103 was the target of a terrorist attack were suppressed because they would have exposed the 'drugs-for-hostages' deal ...

On first reading, the report is a detailed and strictly factual account of a complex plot to strike back at the U.S. for the downing of an Iranian airliner over the Gulf in July 1988. Many of its facts are true, but they have no link with Lockerbie. Other details do not stand up to close examination. The report is riddled with errors.


The Observer team then itemized the errors they had found and the details which did not stand up to close examination.

1. The report claimed that al Kassar had rented a car in Paris and driven to Frankfurt with components of the bomb. On examining the records of the rental firm for the day in question, 'No car hired on that date clocked up sufficient mileage to have made the trip.'

2. The report claimed that 'Corea' was the code name for the drugs-for-hostages deal. 'But Corea actually refers to communications between members of Trevi, the group of European intelligence, customs and police forces set up to monitor "terrorism, revolution and violence".'

3. The report claimed that documents proving Pan Am's case were held in the safe of Kurt Rebmann, 'a West German equivalent of an assistant attorney general, based in Berlin'. This was denied by Mr. Rebmann, 'who is, in fact, a Federal prosecutor based in Karlsruhe'.

And that was it, apart from other unspecified 'facts' that appeared 'to have been cobbled together from newspaper cuttings, many of which have turned out to be wrong'. On the strength of these revelations, which seem little enough to warrant such a conclusion, the Interfor Report was never again to be referred to in the public prints, either in Britain or the United States, without being described as 'discredited' or 'a sham'.

Aviv may have failed to provide the Observer with any additional evidence to support his findings, but equally the Observer failed to provide any solid evidence to refute them, despite the obvious pains it had taken. It was also a little ungrateful of the paper to attack him so vigorously, for in his preamble to the report, Aviv had spoken of crossing the trail of several other private investigations into the Flight 103 disaster, notably those of the Observer and The Sunday Times but 'only the Observer', he wrote, 'seems to continue trying to identify how the act was done and by whom.'

The Sunday Times was less dismissive of Aviv's work, although its reporter, David Leppard, agreed that 'the report at first appears so fantastic as to be ridiculous. Almost all the agencies involved have denied it. The CIA called it "nonsense"; one intelligence source said it was "fantasy". But the report, however bizarre, does contain remarkable detail, including names, dates, times of meetings, telephone and bank account numbers.'

The Interfor Report was commissioned by James M. Shaughnessy, of the New York law firm, Windels, Marx, Davies & Ives, who was acting for Pan Am as lead counsel in its defence of the liability suit. The report was an internal document, summarizing mostly unverifiable intelligence data collected in the field, designed to open up lines of inquiry that might lead to the discovery of evidence admissible in court, which the report self-evidently was not. Aviv began work in the spring of 1989 and when his findings were submitted to Shaughnessy on 15 September they provided the basis for the subpoenas served shortly afterwards on the CIA, the DEA and other government agencies.

The leakage of the report to Congressman Traficant and the press some six weeks later was a severe setback for Pan Am's legal team -- indeed, the embarrassment it caused was so acute that conspiracy buffs might well have suspected the U.S. Justice Department itself of leaking the report. A U.S. magistrate thought otherwise, however. Amid a blizzard of media speculation, an evidentiary hearing was ordered, at which John Merritt of the Observer was questioned, and, after hearing the testimony, the magistrate concluded that Aviv's denial of having leaked the report was 'not credible'.

After defining its terms of reference -- which had nothing to do with exculpating Pan Am, as was widely suggested even by those who had read them, but was 'to determine the facts and then to identify the sources, nature, extent, form and quality of available evidence' -- the report reviewed the results of the official investigation to date and the theories then current as to who was responsible ... Then followed a review and assessment of the anonymous intelligence sources who had contributed to Aviv's findings, rated on a scale of reliability from 'good' to 'excellent'. In some cases, their anonymity was barely skin-deep. 'Source 5', for example, rated 'excellent', was described as 'an experienced director of airport security for the most security-conscious airline'.

Next came a 'Background History' to the disaster, starting two years beforehand, in which the politics and principal players were put in context. Libya's leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, 'a major funder of terrorism', was said to have demanded better coordination among terrorist groups, and better 'deniability' for himself, with the result that the Abu Nidal group took over drugs and arms smuggling while Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC, backed by Syrian intelligence as its 'front team', concentrated on arms and terrorism.

Nidal's partner was Monzer al-Kassar, a Syrian arms and drugs smuggler, married to Raghda Dubah, sister of Ali Issa Dubah, then chief of Syrian intelligence, and a close associate of Rifat Assad, Syrian overlord of the Lebanese heroin industry and brother of Syria's President Hafez Assad. Al-Kassar's mistresses in Paris included Raja al-Assad, Rifat Assad's daughter, and a former Miss Lebanon who had previously been married to two prominent terrorists -- most recently to a friend of Nidal's, Abu Abbas, who had planned the Achille Lauro hijacking.

Al-Kassar had many passports and identities, which Aviv listed in his report by serial number and date and place of issue, and operated through cover companies and offices, also listed by address and phone numbers, in Tripoli, Warsaw and Berlin. One of the principal drugs/arms smuggling routes ran through Frankfurt, with Pan Am being the favoured carrier. Tipped about what was going on, 'reportedly by a jealous Jibril', the BKA, in cooperation with the CIA and the DEA, began to monitor the operation and infiltrated 'at least two agents as well as informers, one of whom was Marwan Khreesat', the PFLP-GC's ace bomb-builder.

Aviv's Interfor Report went on:

The Pan Am Frankfurt smuggling operation worked as follows: an accomplice boarded flights with checked luggage containing innocent items. An accomplice Turkish baggage handler for Pan Am was tipped to identify the suitcase, then switched it with an identical piece holding contraband which he had brought into the airport or otherwise received there from another accomplice. The passenger accomplice then picked up the baggage on arrival. It is not known how this method passed through arrival customs, where such existed, but this route and method worked steadily and smoothly for a long time ...

Khalid Jafaar was a regular 'passenger' accomplice for the drug route.


The BKA/DEA/CIA surveillance continued to monitor the route without interfering with it, according to the report, and by visibly increasing the police presence in other locations, the team sought to focus drug smuggling through Pan Am's baggage area at Frankfurt. The reason for this was mainly convenience, as it was already under close watch by the CIA because of cargo shipments via Pan Am to and from the Eastern bloc through Frankfurt, Berlin and Moscow.

In Aviv's opinion, the CIA team concerned with this operation was not closely supervised. 'It appears that it eventually operated to some, or a large, extent as an internal covert operation without consistent oversight, a la Oliver North ... To distinguish what it knew as opposed to what CIA HQ definitely knew, we refer to that unit as CIA-1.'

In March 1988, the report went on, the CIA team was advised by the BKA of a secret meeting in Vienna between delegations from France and Iran that led to the delivery of weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of French hostages held in Lebanon. Having identified Monzer al-Kassar as a key player in the deal, BKA/CIA-1 approached him to see if he could also help arrange the release of American hostages in return for their protection of his drug routes.

According to Aviv, al-Kassar not only agreed to this but helped the CIA 'in sending weapons ostensibly to Iran ... supposedly to further the US hostage release', and also used his arms routes to supply weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua, sometimes financing the shipments out of his drug profits. For these and other services, he was designated a CIA 'capability', which meant that he and his business activities were then virtually immune from interference.

'It is believed that US Customs at JFK were ordered by CIA to allow certain baggage to pass uninspected due to national security interests. Thus the drug-smuggling operation was now secure.'

That was in the summer of 1988, at about the same time as a special team of counter-terrorist agents led by Matthew Kevin Gannon, the CIA's deputy station chief in Beirut, and Major Charles Dennis McKee, of the Defense Intelligence Agency, left for Beirut 'to reconnoitre and prepare for a possible hostage rescue'.

Against this background, Aviv now set out the sequence of events leading up to the bombing of Flight 103 as described by his sources.

On 13 December 1988, Jibril met with Khalid Jafaar and a Libyan bomb-maker known as 'the Professor' in Bonn -- 'sources speculate that Jafaar was offered money to make a private drug run to raise money "for the cause".' The 'passenger accomplice' was now lined up. But the BKA's raids on the PFLP-GC cell in late October had made it necessary for another bomb to be brought in, and Aviv asserts that al Kassar took care of this personally.

'His brother Ghassan's wife, Nabile Wehbe, traveling on a South Yemen diplomatic passport, flew from Damascus to Sofia on 13 November 1988, picked up the bomb components from [Ali] Racep and then flew to Paris. Al-Kassar picked up the bomb from her, and on 25 November 1988, rented a car from Chafic Rent-a-Car, 46 Rue Pierre Charron in Paris and drove to Frankfurt (carrying other contraband as well). He had previously been arrested twice by West German border guards but each time was suddenly released after a telephone call was made. Sources speculate that he apparently felt secure because he had "protection".' (The Observer, which later discovered that Chafic had no record of any such rental transaction, also managed to reach al-Kassar by telephone in Syria. Not unnaturally, he insisted he had been somewhere else at the time.)

Aviv's report went on to list the warnings that began to come in from the beginning of December 1988.

The first, from a Mossad agent about three weeks before the disaster, was to the effect that a major terrorist attack was planned at Frankfurt airport against an American-flag carrier. This warning was passed to CIA HQ and BKA HQ. The local CIA team is said to have suggested that the BKA visibly secure all the American carriers except Pan Am so that the threat, if it was genuine, would be focused on an airline and airport area already under close surveillance.

The second warning, on or just before 18 December, came from associates of Nidal and al-Kassar, who wanted to save their protected drug route without seeming to lack zeal in the cause of militant Islam.

Having figured out the most likely flights for Jibril's bomb ... they tipped BKA that a bomb would be placed on this regular Pan Am Frankfurt-London-New York flight in the next three days. They figured that BKA would increase visible security, thus dissuading Jibril in case that was in fact his target. So, two to three days before the disaster, and unwittingly, these terrorists tipped off the authorities to what proved to be the very act.'

The third warning, a follow-up of the second, was issued by CIA HQ, 'which sent warnings to various embassies, etc., but not apparently to Pan Am. CIA-1 thought that BKA surveillance would pick up the action and that BKA would stop the act in case the tip was correct.

Meanwhile, al-Kassar had learned that the Gannon-McKee official hostage team in Beirut had found out about his relationship with the CIA unit in Germany and his protected drugs/arms smuggling route through Frankfurt. According to Aviv, the official team had advised CIA HQ of what was going on and when no action was taken to put a stop to it, Gannon and McKee decided to return home, outraged that their lives and rescue mission should have been put at risk by CIA-1's deal with al-Kassar.

'Al Kassar contacted his CIA-1 handlers sometime in the third week of December,' the Interfor Report went on, 'communicated the latest news and travel information and asked for help. There were numerous communications between CIA-1 and its Control (in Washington).'

The fourth warning came two or three days before the disaster. A BKA undercover agent reported a plan to bomb a Pan Am flight 'in the next few days' and the tip was passed on to the local CIA team. Though anxious not 'to blow its surveillance operation and undercover penetration or to risk the al-Kassar hostage release operation', the warning was passed on and the State Department advised its embassies. As a result, BKA security was tightened even further around all the American carriers operating out of Frankfurt except Pan Am. Observing this, Jibril scratched American Airlines as his preferred target and finally selected Pan Am.

'We do not know exactly when this decision was made,' wrote Aviv, 'but the dates point to two or three days before the flight ... Jibril, through an intermediary, activated the Jafaar /Turkish baggage-handler connection via Pan Am. For the Turk and Jafaar, this was another normal drug run. Jafaar does not profile as a suicidal martyr type.'

The fifth warning, from an undercover Mossad agent 24 hours before take-off, was of a plan to put a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December. BKA passed this to CIA-1 who reported it to Control.

'The bomb was ready,' Aviv's report went on. 'Within 24-48 hours before the flight, a black Mercedes had parked in the airport lot and the Turkish baggage-handler picked up a suitcase from that auto and took it into the airport and placed it in the employee locker area. This was his usual practice with drugs.'

The sixth warning came from a BKA surveillance agent watching the Pan Am baggage loading about an hour before take-off on 21 December. According to Aviv's sources, he noticed that

... the 'drug' suitcase substituted was different in make, shape, material and color from that used for all previous drug shipments. This one was a brown Samsonite case. He, like the other BKA agents on the scene, had been extra alert due to all the bomb tips ... He phoned in a report as to what he had seen, saying something was very wrong.

BKA passed that information to CIA-1. It reported to its Control. Control replied: 'Don't worry about it. Don't stop it. Let it go.'
CIA-1 issued no instructions to BKA.

BKA did nothing.

The BKA was then covertly videotaping that area on that day. A videotape was made. It shows the perpetrator in the act. It was held by BKA. A copy was made and given to CIA-1. The BKA tape has been 'lost'. However, the copy exists at CIA-1 Control in the U.S.

Jafaar boarded the flight after checking one piece of luggage. The suitcase first emerged from hiding and was placed on the luggage cart in substitution for Jafaar's only after all the checked suitcases had already passed through security. The suitcase was so switched by the Turkish Pan Am baggage loader ...

The special, designated communications codename which BKA/CIA-1 had set up for their operations as described above is known at CIA HQ as 'COREA'. All communications concerning the surveillance operation and as described above as between or among BKNCIA-1 and CIA-1 Control were made via COREA. Thus all documents concerning all communications described above ought to be marked at the top COREA.

This completes the recitation of intelligence as to the act.


After listing other possibly useful details, such as the banks and account numbers used by al-Kassar, President Hafez Assad, Abu Abbas and Ali Issa Dubah to deposit their drug revenues in Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Beirut and Damascus, the Interfor Report declared

... it is our firm conclusion and opinion that our sources are correct as to why, how, where, when, by whom and what act was committed, and who had what prior warnings and when and what they did about it ...

From the perspective of intelligence analysis, our findings are conclusive. From the perspective of journalists, it is publishable speculation. From the perspective of trial lawyers, it probably remains inadmissible speculation or hearsay. Fortunately, the intelligence provides leads to admissible evidence. The videotape is the gem. But all the evidence is guarded by formidable constraints. Only carefully planned and tenaciously and narrowly pursued efforts will make acquisition possible.


The remaining six pages of the report consisted of Interfor's practical recommendations as to how Shaughnessy should proceed in seeking to obtain that evidence, including the issue of discovery subpoenas.

In the light of affidavits sworn to later by Lester Coleman and many other witnesses and investigators, the Interfor Report -- a confidential document never intended for public consumption -- can be challenged more for errors of interpretation than errors of fact (although there were probably more of the latter than the Observer was able to find).

Lester Coleman believes that, by grouping the CIA agents in Germany together under the designation of CIA-1, Aviv endowed them with a collective, conspiratorial purpose which almost certainly did not exist, and that he entirely omitted the contribution to the Flight 103 disaster of the US Drug Enforcement Administration and its country office in Cyprus.

With the sinister expansion of 'narco-terrorism' everywhere in the world during the 1970s and 1980s, the work of the two agencies overseas had become ever more closely entwined, with the CIA emerging as the senior partner in view of its superior resources, its loftier purpose and its greater freedom of covert action. As often as not, the requirements of narcotics law enforcement were subordinate to those of foreign policy and national security, as defined in Washington but reinterpreted by the octopus in the light of changing local circumstances.

In Coleman's view, the Lockerbie disaster was not the consequence of a malign conspiracy by a rogue CIA team in Germany -- as many assumed Aviv was saying from a careless reading of the Interfor Report -- but the result of misguided decisions and misplaced confidence in their own abilities on the part of a loose alliance of U.S. government agents in the field, often working with different agendas and priorities, and always without adequate supervision, on an ad hoc, day-to-day basis.

It was only after the event, in his opinion, that Washington engaged in a deliberate conspiracy, and that was to avoid the potentially disastrous political fall-out from Lockerbie by covering up the incompetence, complacency and bravado that had let the terrorists through.

Aviv was also perhaps confused by his sources' reference to COREA, a matter the Observer seized upon in its attack on the Interfor Report. COREA may well have referred to communications within the Trevi group, as the paper suggested, but as Coleman pointed out later, it could also have been a mishearing of khouriah, a Lebanese slang word for 'shit', which is, in turn, the international slang word for heroin.

With the media only too happy to savage Aviv's report as a device to allow Pan Am to escape its obligations, the government was under no necessity to descend into the arena and battle it out line by line.

'Garbage,' said the CIA.

'Rubbish,' said British intelligence.

'We never received any credible threat against Flight 103 on 21 December or any other date,' said the State Department, diplomatically hedging its bets with the weasel word 'credible'.

With the report made public, Juval Aviv's usefulness to Pan Am as an investigator was virtually at an end, a consequence he might have foreseen if he had, indeed, leaked it to the press. In an attempt to flesh out its findings with hard evidence, he met Shaughnessy with a polygrapher, James Keefe, in Frankfurt in January 1990, and interviewed the three Pan Am baggage-handlers who, on 21 December 1988, were thought to have been in a position to put the suitcase bomb aboard Flight 103.

They were Kilin Caslan Tuzcu, a German national of Turkish origin, who had been in charge of incoming baggage; Roland O'Neill, a German who had taken his American wife's maiden name, and was load master for the flight, and Gregory Grissom. All three voluntarily submitted to polygraph examinations.

Tuzcu was tested three times, O'Neill and Grissom twice. On reporting the results to the Scottish police, Shaughnessy was asked to sign a statement about the tests in the presence of an FBI agent, and readily agreed. The only visible result, however, was that, upon his return to the United States, James Keefe, the polygrapher, was served with a subpoena at Kennedy airport to appear before a Federal grand jury in Washington.

When he did so, he testified that Tuzcu 'was not truthful when he said he did not switch the suitcases'. And in Keefe's opinion, 'Roland O'Neill wasn't truthful when he stated he did not see the suitcase being switched, and when he stated that he did not know what was in the switched suitcase.' He thought the Grissom results were inconclusive.

A second polygrapher brought in by Shaughnessy to review Keefe's findings agreed with his interpretation of Tuzcu's and Grissom's tests but found those on O'Neill inconclusive. (Grissom was later eliminated from Pan Am's inquiries when it was shown he had been out on the tarmac at the time.)

The interest displayed by the FBI in the fact of Pan Am's polygraph tests rather than in the results was not shared by the British authorities, however. Convinced that the Scottish police would wish to interview Tuzcu and O'Neill on the strength of this lead, the airline found a pretext to send them to London so that they could be questioned and, if necessary, detained, but nobody seemed in the least bit interested. After hanging around all day, they returned to Frankfurt that night. (Intelligence sources suggested later that O'Neill was an undercover BKA agent, which, if true, might account for the lack of British and American interest. Otherwise, it must be assumed that the British investigators were as committed as the Americans to the politically more convenient theory that the bomb had arrived unaccompanied from Malta.)

Predictably, the results of the polygraph tests were leaked to the press, and just as predictably, on 28 January, the Observer heaped scorn on the airline's initiative: 'Both the timing of the pair's interrogation [by polygraph] and the circumstances surrounding it have refueled suspicions about Pan Am methods in defending the lawsuit brought by relatives of the 270 people who died when Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie.'

Unable to resist having another tilt at the Interfor Report, which was exposed as a sham by the Observer two months ago, the paper went on to say that the report 'weaves a fantastical tale around the assertion that the CIA, operating a drugs-for-hostages deal through Frankfurt airport, allowed the bomb to proceed, thus overriding or corrupting the airline's own security controls'.

Whether that was a fair statement of Juval Aviv's position or not -- he still believes that Tuzcu and O'Neill are prime suspects in the mass murder -- it was certainly typical of the prevailing view that Pan Am was indulging in spy-fiction fantasy to pervert the course of justice.

But in the scale of probabilities, was it any more likely that the management and staff of a major international airline, its insurance underwriters and the best legal brains that money could buy would seek to evade the legitimate claims of the victims' families and counter the determination of three governments to pin all the blame on Pan Am by inventing a fairy tale?

Is it any more fantastic than Aviv's report to think that they would hire, not just Aviv, but a small army of investigators to run around the world looking for some shred of happenstance to clothe that invention?

Or that they would persevere with it for years in the face of almost universal condemnation and ridicule and at a cost of millions of dollars in the hope that one day they would find someone like Lester Coleman, who might transmute some of that fantasy into fact?
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:01 pm

Chapter 8

The octopus had had him in its sights for so long that the security vetting should have been a formality, but a month went by without a word. And that was the first thing Coleman learned about the Defense Intelligence Agency: it never knowingly took chances. It would sooner not employ him than take an unnecessary risk, said McCloskey. He had known them junk a whole operation that had taken hundreds of people months to put together just because there was an outside chance that if anything went wrong the DIA might break cover.

McCloskey was unperturbed by the delay. This wasn't the CIA, he said. The CIA was a showboat civilian agency. These were the professionals, the military, the combined intelligence arms of the United States Army, the United States Navy and the United States Air Force. Together, they formed the largest and most discreet intelligence agency in the world; 57,000 people operating out of Arlington Hall, Virginia, and Bolling Airforce Base, Washington, D.C., on a budget five times bigger than the CIA's. No restrictions, no oversight -- and nobody even heard of it. Why? Because it didn't make mistakes. And because the director reported to the joint chiefs of staff, who didn't tell anybody anything they didn't have to know. And that included the Secretary of Defense.

But wasn't that dangerous? asked Coleman. To have a covert agency that big and powerful, and not directly accountable to anyone? Not even to the President of the United States? Their commander in chief?

The White House leaked like a colander, McCloskey said. It was full of politicians, and politicians came and went. Same thing with Congress. The military had never trusted politicians. It didn't trust civilians. Period. The military was America's backbone, its power and its honor. It didn't take sides. It didn't have to make promises it couldn't keep or gamble with the national interest to get elected. You could count on the military to see things straight, to see things through and to do things right. The DIA was only dangerous to the nation's enemies.

But where did the CIA fit in? And the National Security Agency? Didn't the DIA have to share these responsibilities?

The National Security Agency took care of the electronic and satellite stuff, McCloskey replied. And all that was filtered through the DIA before it went to Langley. The NSA did an important, technical job. As for the CIA, its main use as far as the military was concerned was as cover, as a front operation. While Congress, the media and the whole world watched the CIA, America's real spy shop could get on with its work the way it was supposed to -- in secret. Everybody knew about the CIA. It was good for a scandal a year at least because it leaked from top to bottom. It was a public agency, pinned down by White House directives and Congressional committees. Its director was a public figure. Everybody knew about William Colby, Richard Helms, George Bush, William Casey, William Webster, Robert Gates -- but who even knew the name of the DIA director?

'Not me,' said Coleman.

'Damn right,' said McCloskey. 'Not that I guess you'll ever get to meet him anyhow. Or even see the inside of Arlington Hall, come to that. The only DIA personnel you're ever likely to meet will be your handler and maybe a couple of agents you'll work with. (And he was right. It was only after the DIA froze him out that Coleman finally learned that the name of his boss, the agency's director of operations, was Lt. General James Kappler.)

A week before Thanksgiving 1984, a call came in on McCloskey's private line instructing Coleman to drive out to Washington's Dulles international airport and stand beside a potted palm near the United Airlines ticket counter, where he would be contacted at 11:15 a.m. precisely.

Coleman thought it was McCloskey playing a joke. He started to ask if he should wear a red carnation in his buttonhole or a false nose or something but the caller hung up.

At 11:15 a.m. precisely, he took up position by the potted palm and waited to see if he could spot his contact before his contact spotted him. It was a tie. He advanced to meet the first young man he saw with a grey briefcase, they shook hands cordially, and descended by escalator to street level, where his escort hailed a cab.

On arriving at the airport Ramada Inn, they took the lift to the fifth floor, walked back down the stairs to the third floor and along the hall to a room towards the end. After knocking on the door, his escort unlocked it himself and ushered Coleman inside.

"Sitting by the window (he remembers), was a thin fellow in his shirt-sleeves, about my age, a bit taller than me, same color hair as mine, a beard, too, who gets up and introduces himself.

'Hey, buddy,' he says. 'How are you? Glad you could make it. My name's Bill Donleavy.'

Before I could say anything he flips on the room TV, I guess to mask our conversation, and again I have to smile because this is straight out of John Le Carre. Anyway, Donleavy is to be my Control, my principal contact with the DIA for the next five years."


A quiet, careful, calculating man, Donleavy would quickly earn Coleman's trust and respect, in large measure because Coleman never caught him out in a lie but also because he always felt that Donleavy really cared, that he was genuinely concerned about Coleman's personal safety and the welfare of his family. But it was soon clear also that while Donleavy had to know everything about him, he was to know next to nothing about Donleavy.

Over the five years of their association, Donleavy revealed very little about himself, other than that he had served in Vietnam with the Special Operations Group, Military Assistance Command, and had worked in intelligence for most of his military career. Nor did he ever reveal very much about the agency that employed them both, other than that the range of its interests was wide enough to merit ex-CIA Director Richard Helms's rueful description of the DIA as 'the 900-pound intelligence gorilla'.

That was one of the ground rules Donleavy discussed at their first meeting. Everything would proceed on a strictly need-to-know basis. Coleman would have no contact with the DIA other than through him or those he would introduce from time to time. He would not meet or be aware of the identity of other agents unless they worked together, and possibly not even then. He could tell no one of his affiliation under any circumstances, not even the closest members of his family. If he were ever compromised or if it was ever suggested that he worked for military intelligence, the DIA would disown him; it would categorically deny that he had ever worked for the agency or had ever had any dealings with it in any capacity, whatsoever.

In return, the DIA would pay him $5000 a month, plus expenses (but in a way that could not be traced back to the agency); it would put him to work on matters of national importance (for which he would never receive any public recognition); it would train him in the most advanced security and intelligence techniques, and go to almost any lengths to keep him out of harm's way because the DIA was only as good as its agents and none of them were ever considered expendable. If Coleman was ready to accept the offer on those terms, all he had to do was sign an undertaking, binding for life, that he would never disclose the nature of his employment or assignments to anyone at any time and the agency would be happy to welcome him aboard.

As McCloskey had told him most of this already, Coleman signed.

'Okay, so what now?' he asked. 'Where am I going?'

Donleavy smiled. 'Later,' he said. 'When you get back from Europe.'

'Europe? Where in Europe?'

'Spain. For your training.'

'When?'

'First of the year. But there are things to do yet.'

They included a polygraph examination by an operator from Fort McClellen, Alabama -- six hours wired to the box in a hot, stuffy hotel room, while he answered the same sets of questions over and over again, with the sweat pouring off him.

Then another session at a different hotel with Donleavy, who told him he was now officially assigned to the Department of Defense Human Resource Intelligence (HUMINT) Program of the Armed Forces of the United States. His unit was MC/10, whose activities, he later learned, were part of Trine, a compartmented, special-access programme requiring clearance beyond Top Secret. MC/10 reported to the Special Technical Operations Center (STOC), The Pentagon. His code name was Benjamin B. He would use that to sign all receipts and agency documents from then on in.

'What about Thomas Leavy?' Coleman asked. 'I've still got that birth certificate. The one the CIA gave me to use in the Bahamas.'

Donleavy shrugged. 'Let me have it,' he said. 'It may come in useful some day. Who knows? I'll give it back to you later.'

Coleman was also given a contact number to call, but only in an emergency (703-455 8339), and a mail-drop address (P.O. Box 706, Oxenhill, Maryland 20745).

'Otherwise, don't call us, we'll call you,' Donleavy said. 'And if I can't get to you myself, if I have to send somebody, he'll say, "Hullo, I'm a friend of Bill Donleavy's." And you'll say, "I don't know any Bill Donleavy." Then he'll say, "His friends know him as Kevin." After that, you can talk. But if you've got any doubts, any question in your mind at all, just act like the name means nothing and pass it off. Never take a risk you don't have to. Not ever.'

Coleman practised this procedure several times before Christmas when meeting experts from Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) attached to Army Intelligence Center and School (JITC), Fort Huachuca, Arizona. They took him through such things as IUG (Intelligence User's Guide), MEBE (Middle East Basic Intelligence Encyclopedia), ACOUSTINT (Acoustical Intelligence), OPSEC (Operations Security), CIPINT (Encrypted Intelligence Communications) and HITS (Human Intelligence Tasking System).

He was also told to look out for a help-wanted ad in Broadcasting magazine placed by the Christian Broadcasting Network, a private venture owned and operated by Pat Robertson, the popular TV evangelist and moral conscience of the far right. CBN would be looking to hire a Middle East correspondent and when the ad appeared, Coleman should apply for the job.

'You're going to get born again,' said Donleavy. 'Kind of a nice touch that, seeing you're just starting out with us.' He seemed quite proud of it. 'When they get your resume, a guy with a British accent will give you a call and invite you down to Virginia Beach. Do like he says, and he'll help you see the light.'

The call came just before Christmas. Right after the holidays, Coleman flew down to be interviewed at CBN's Virginia Beach headquarters, a sprawling, neo-Colonial, campus-like complex with broadcasting facilities to rival anything he had seen in the major networks. The guy with the British accent, besides working for M16 under the code name of Romeo, was at the time general manager of CBN's Middle East Television (MET) based in Jerusalem, and had flown over to hire a correspondent for its bureau in Beirut.

'It's all set,' Romeo said, as they strolled in the grounds. 'All you've got to do is play the role. And not just with the Robertsons -- with everybody you meet down here. These are pray-TV people, every last one of 'em -- and they're all paranoid, so watch your step. They all think they've been called by Jesus to work for Pat Robertson.'

'Including you?'

'Doesn't it show? You'll find 'em friendly enough on the surface but don't let that fool you. They're fanatics, and very suspicious of strangers. They're going to work you over pretty thoroughly to make sure you're not the devil in disguise, so let's show 'em a little evangelical fervour, shall we?'

Romeo was not exaggerating. Coleman was asked to supply the names and addresses of past and current friends, a floor plan of his house, the names of his spouse, children and close family members, his medical records, dental charts and a typical daily schedule of family activities.

He then sat for a round of personality profile tests and apparently showed the requisite degree of apostolic zeal for, at the end of this two-day inquisition, a benevolent Romeo introduced him to Pat Robertson's son Tim and the three of them went off to meet the great man himself at a local restaurant, where they prayed over the salad bar.

During lunch, the Robertsons explained that MET operated from studios in Jerusalem, with a transmitter in Marjayoon in Israeli-occupied South Lebanon, an office in Nicosia, Cyprus, and a news bureau in the Christian enclave in Beirut, to which Coleman would be assigned. The station aired Christian and family programmes to the mostly Arab populations of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, thereby enraging Islamic fundamentalists to such an extent that they had several times bombed the transmitter even though it was located in the Israeli security zone.

'It was a funny coalition,' Coleman found. 'You had right-wing Christian Americans, the Israelis, and right-wing Christian Lebanese fascists, funded, trained and uniformed by the Israeli Army, all working together and in bed with outfits like CBN.'
Over dessert, Pat Robertson explained at some length that his interest in the region stemmed from his belief that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ was imminent in the Holy Land, and he intended to cover it live.

As far as Coleman could make out, MET seemed to be a pirate station, operating, in violation of international law and numerous treaties, without a license from any government. There was no advertising, and the programme material, other than the Robertsons' religious and family output, consisted of wrestling on Saturday nights, NFL football and endless reruns of American soaps and situation comedies. As far as its audience was aware, the whole operation was funded entirely by the American faithful (of whom the most generous, as Coleman discovered later, was faithful Bill Casey, director of the CIA, and his friends at the Jewish Defense League).

Coleman's job was to file stories from MET's Lebanon bureau, not just for the pirate station, but for a new national network news programme the Robertsons were planning to set up in the United States.

They always had some major project going (he remembers). Pat would say he had been talking to Jesus, and Jesus had told him He wanted him to do this or do that, so CBN would then go out and hire the people they needed. These people would quit their jobs and sell their houses and move to Virginia Beach, where they'd buy new homes and settle down happily and go to work for Pat because Jesus had called them. He'd pay everybody lots of money and they'd all live very comfortably. Until one day he'd walk into the office and say, 'I just talked to Jesus. He doesn't want me to do this anymore. You're all fired.'


The Robertsons' mission in the Middle East was still clear and urgent, however, when they talked to Coleman over lunch.

'How soon can you join us?' Tim Robertson asked. 'We really need to get you out there, to get you started on God's work as soon as we can.'

'Praise the Lord,' said Coleman. 'I need thirty days to prepare myself.'

Donleavy had already told him to set January aside for his crash course in DIA HUMINT operations. CIA agents graduate in classes of 40 from spy school at Camp Perry, Virginia, not far from Williamsburg. As a DIA HUMINT agent, Coleman was trained alone, one on one, having little contact with anybody but his instructors and no contact at all with anyone outside his chain of command.

On 15 January 1985, he flew out to Malaga and made his way to Torremolinos, where he was picked up by an American contact, a friend of Bill Donleavy's, better known as Kevin, who drove like a madman down the winding coastal highway to Estepona, deposited him on the doorstep of a small hillside cottage overlooking the sea, and drove away immediately with a cheerful wave. With a rueful nod, Coleman went inside and slept the sleep of the jet-lagged.

The following morning, at 8 a.m., he dragged himself out of bed and went downstairs to see who was hammering so vigorously at the door.

'Sorry to disturb you," said another obvious Englishman, looking him up and down with professional detachment. This one had steel-grey, Fuller's brush hair, a bulging briefcase and a generally more purposeful air than Romeo. 'I'm a friend of Bill Donleavy's.'

Donleavy had already explained that the DIA enjoyed a special relationship with MI6, sharing the view that secrets were meant to be kept, not turned into headlines in the morning papers. The British had never quite grasped the logic of Congressional oversight of the CIA. The notion of their own intelligence chiefs being questioned at televised hearings before a Parliamentary committee was so comically at variance with British ideas of a secret service that they had turned gratefully to the DIA as a discreet, professional alternative to Bill Casey and his Langley cowboys, whom they distrusted almost as much as the Pentagon did.

But there were limits.

'I wish your people could have waited another fortnight,' grumbled Coleman's visitor. 'The border reopens next month, and I can drive here in under an hour from Gib. As it is, I had to fly from Gib to Tangier, and from Tangier to Malaga and drive over from there. And a bloody bore it was, too, I don't mind telling you.'

'Sorry,' said Coleman humbly. 'How about another cup of coffee?'

The man from MI6 had come the long way around in order to brief him on the finer points of the political situation in the Middle East, a British sphere of interest since the late 19th century. When they got down to considering which neighborhoods in Beirut were controlled by which of the warring Christian and Muslim factions, his visitor raked through his tattered briefcase and tossed a bundle of Bartholomew's folding maps on to the kitchen table.

'There you are,' he said, 'Compliments of HM government. Available at all good stationers. Easy to read and a bloody sight more accurate than the rubbish you'll get from the CIA.'

It was a useful lesson. If he was ever stopped and searched, no one would think twice about finding a Bartholomew's street plan in his pocket. But a map of Beirut by a military cartographer?

The lesson was underlined by a succession of visitors to the cottage over the next two weeks, most of them from Wiesbaden and Lisbon. As a correspondent for the CBN, Coleman was not about to engage in hand-to-hand combat with enemy agents or in high-speed car chases with armed Muslim militiamen, but for his own protection he was issued by one of his instructors with a small, five-shot, stainless steel, single-action, North American Arms .22 Magnum revolver, courtesy of 7th Brigade, Special Forces Detachment, from Bad Tolz, near Munich.

He was supposed to carry it in a canvas holster worn under the zip fly of his trousers, but Coleman never could get used to the idea of walking around with its barrel pointed at his private parts. On the rare occasions he went out with it, he wore the holster on his ankle instead.

In the event of an attempted kidnap or close combat he was supposed to aim at the eye or behind the ear of his assailant, but, having some notion of the hitting power of its Magnum round, rather doubted if he could do it. Although brought up with firearms, he had never really liked them, and managed to lose this one before he left for Beirut.

The main thrust of his training was in cryptography and communications. Although his assignment would entail the dispatch of lengthy reports to Control almost daily, the use of secret short-wave transmitters or fancy electronic gadgetry was ruled out. Unless the means of transmission were as secure as the codes he used, his cover would be constantly at risk, along with the integrity of his reports. If his true role as an American agent were ever suspected, not only would his life be in danger, but -- even more serious from the DIA's point of view -- he might also be used by the opposition as a channel for disinformation.

The same considerations also ruled out the use of the American Embassy's secure communications system from Beirut. Donleavy had already made it clear that Coleman was to keep well away from the embassy and its staff after he arrived in Lebanon as they were under continuous surveillance by Arab and Israeli intelligence agents. Anything but the most casual and routine contact with U.S. government officials in the field was, therefore, to be avoided, and under no circumstances was he to reveal his true affiliations to any of them, up to and including the ambassador.

Being entirely on his own, therefore, and unable to use any method of communication with Control that might draw attention to himself, Coleman needed a simple yet virtually unbustable code system that would enable him to send untraceable dispatches to Washington every day via the ordinary international telecommunications networks without alerting anybody listening in to the traffic and without having to use any item of equipment more incriminating than a Bartholomew's street map.

For an FCC licensed broadcast engineer working with the DIA's cryptographers, the solution was child's play. Between them they devised a simple grid code based on random number access via a telephone touch-tone keypad, the variable alpha-numeric sequence being determined for each transmission by the day of the month and the month of the year. All he needed was a Radio Shack pocket calculator with a touch-tone number pad, of the sort that any businessman might carry in his briefcase, and a two-speed microcassette recorder of the type that any self-respecting media correspondent would carry in his pocket.

After encoding his message, Coleman had simply to record the touch-tone bleeps, using slow speed, then direct dial Donleavy's answering machine in Maryland from a public telephone, place the recorder over the mouthpiece, play the tones on high speed as soon as the answering machine beeped, hang up and erase the tape. In this way he could transmit a lengthy, secure message in 30 seconds or less -- far too short a time for anyone to trace a call even if they had been waiting for it. (Later on, they supplemented this system with a software program in Coleman's laptop computer that randomly scrambled his plain language reports as they were sent via a modem direct to his contact number in Washington.)

But first he had to have something to communicate, and so was taught about 'dead drops' for the exchange of messages. A basic means of communication among members of the DIA cell in Beirut, these offered the advantage that the people using them did not have to meet, and messages could be left there at any convenient time. Popular locations included an international telephone booth in the central telephone exchange, where messages could be taped under the shelf, and the soap and detergent section of a supermarket in Jounieh. This became one of Coleman's main pick-up points for material coming from West Beirut, and was the unromantic setting for his first meeting with Mary-Claude, who worked there for a time.

He also learned about 'live drops', receiving or passing information face to face, and the 'brush pass' -- by far the riskiest means of exchange.

Then there was 'environmental situation awareness' -- or how to work covertly in a hostile environment. The key to this was an intimate knowledge of the terrain, with carefully selected drops, meeting and contact areas, and prearranged escape routes and safe houses, taking into account the opposition's strong points and weak points.

An intimate knowledge of the enemy was also crucial, for to overestimate him could be as dangerous as to underestimate him. This in turn meant understanding local culture and history and how differences in thought and outlook had to be taken into account in running an operation -- a factor nowhere more important than in the Middle East.

Still using off-the-shelf technology, he was taught how to photograph documents with an ordinary 35 mm. camera in available light. He was also shown the basic spy tricks of how to pass a message in a paperback book by pinpricking letters or words, the holes being visible only when the pages were held up to the light. (A variant of this was the overlay message, where the holes were pricked through a sheet of paper that the message receiver would then lay over the appropriate pages of his own copy of the book.)

A more sophisticated method was to use the book as a one-time code pad, reducing a letter or word to a number sequence by listing page number, line number and the letter or word number on that line. He liked this system, for he could keep up with the paperback bestseller list at the same time. He also enjoyed typing invisible messages on the back of innocuous letters by means of his IBM typewriter's lift-off correction tape.

The remainder of Coleman's crash induction course was taken up with briefing sessions on Operation Steeplechase, the mission for which he had been so hastily prepared.

The DIA had been monitoring activities at the Virginia Beach headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which suggested that Pat Robertson's organization was heavily engaged in raising money and providing support for the Nicaraguan Contras through Major-General John K. Singlaub, president of the Taiwan-directed World Anti-Communist League, and Lt-Colonel Oliver North, with the covert assistance of DCI William Casey and the CIA. James Whelen, a close friend of Casey's, had been installed at CBN to tap its database for fund-raising, and it was a measure of the importance attached to Robertson's contribution that, in 1985, the Contras named a brigade in his honour.

Coleman's job in Beirut was to track the Middle Eastern ramifications of the conspiracy, working through a network of informants who reported to Tony Werner Asmar, the DIA agent in place. A Lebanese of German extraction, Asmar owned AMA Industries, SAL, -- a hospital supply business which gave him access to every part of the country and every section of Beirut, regardless of which faction, Christian or Muslim, controlled it.

Until Coleman arrived, on 25 February 1985, the main duties of the Asmar cell had been to monitor the Muslim radical groups supported by Iran and Syria, to report on the movements of their leaders -- in particular, those of Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadellah -- and to keep track of the Western hostages then being taken in Beirut. After Coleman's arrival as Asmar's Control and his communications link with DIA headquarters, this work continued but with the added responsibility of trailing Oliver North and his boss Robert McFarlane, President Reagan's National Security Advisor, as and when the Iran-Contra conspiracy brought them to the region to buy illegal arms.

Coleman was also required to provide intelligence support for 7th Brigade Special Forces detachments in Lebanon, working through DOCKLAMP (Defense Attache System), American Embassy, Beirut. These Green Beret units were there ostensibly as advisers to the Lebanese Army but actually as a commando team to free the American hostages if the political situation in Lebanon ever changed sufficiently to warrant the use of force.

As CBN's Beirut correspondent, Coleman was well placed to observe and report on all these activities. Robertson's Middle East Television had close ties with Lebanon's right-wing Christian groups, which were largely funded by drugs trafficking, and in particular with the Christian Lebanese Forces, a militia largely funded by Israel.

CBN's 'office manager' in Beirut, Gushan Hashim, and his 'assistant,' Antoine, had both been recruited from the Christian Lebanese Forces, and, as Coleman observed when he took over, the bureau was better equipped with arms than with cameras. He also quickly discovered that the main function of CBN's telex links was to enable Antoine to contact 'Odette' in Tel Aviv via Zurich on behalf of the Mossad, ingeniously rendering his Arabic into its phonetic English equivalents in order to use the English-language keyboard.

DIA's concern about the Iran-Contra conspirators was focused in particular on Oliver North's Georgia 'mafia', whose representative, Michael Franks, also known as Michael Schafer, arrived in Beirut soon after Coleman. Described as a 'TV cameraman', Franks stepped off the boat from Cyprus wearing full army battle fatigues with a mercenary patch on his black military baseball cap.

He had been sent out by Overseas Press Services Inc. (OPS), a television consultancy company run by W. Dennis Suit, formerly a CIA operative in Central America. An associate of Oliver North, General Singlaub, Contra leaders Adolfo and Mario Calero, and William Casey, Suit specialized in organizing field trips for journalists to U.S.-supported military and paramilitary operations around the world, notably in Afghanistan, Angola, Central America and the Middle East.

As consultants to Pat Robertson's television operations, OPS clearly felt that Franks's inability to distinguish one end of a camera from another was offset by the expertise he had acquired in counter-terrorist techniques at SIONICS, a mysteriously funded training school near Atlanta run by another North associate, retired Lt. General Mitchell Werbell III.

It was all the same to Coleman. The Beirut bureau never filed a story in all the months he was there, and Franks was never around long enough to prove an embarrassment. Socially, they got on well enough, to the point where Franks felt free to talk openly about OPS and the Contras. His boss, W. Dennis Suit, while under cover for the CIA in Nicaragua as an ABC-TV cameraman, had apparently been caught handing out bugged Zippo lighters to the Sandinistas and ABC had fired him. When not regaling Coleman with gossip of this sort, Franks spent most of his time fighting along the so-called 'Green Line' with the Christian militias.

For his part, Coleman had his hands full coping with the flood of intelligence data from Tony Asmar, who quickly became a close friend. The Asmar cell was efficiently run, thoroughly professional and highly productive. Besides a network of informants inside every political and religious faction, the armed militias and the Lebanese Army, he also ran a string of Filipino domestic workers recruited from American Baptist missions in Manila. To have a Filipino housekeeper was a mark of prestige among Lebanon's leading political, military and business families, and as she invariably attracted the intimate attention of the head of the family, her reports, often of pillow talk, were invaluable.

"When I first got to Beirut, Tony stationed one of them with me for a while (Coleman recalls). Mainly for my protection. Before I even opened a suitcase, a package arrived at the chalet with a .380 calibre Beretta and another .22 Magnum pistol inside -- to add to the folding umbrella with the stiletto in the handle. I kept the Beretta in the bedroom and sometimes wore the twenty-two in an ankle holster, but Kathy was much better at that sort of stuff than I could ever hope to be.

She was a deadly little thing. Good with knives, guns or bare hands. Black belt karate. Close armed combat expert -- kill you in a minute. And yet the sweetest little thing you ever saw. I could step out of the shower in the morning and my slippers would be waiting at the bathroom door. She was always very attentive, and kept everything clean and spotless."


Mary-Claude soon put a stop to that.

As there was no way of avoiding face-to-face contact once in a while, Coleman and Asmar had decided that to fraternize openly as friends would probably attract less attention than if they were observed meeting in secret. At the first opportunity, therefore, Asmar invited Coleman to join him and his fiancee Giselle for Sunday dinner with Giselle's family. And to provide possible observers with a plausible reason for subsequent visits, Giselle made sure her sister Mary-Claude was there to make up a foursome who might also meet elsewhere on other occasions.

Virtually on sight, the two put flesh and blood on the stratagem by falling in love.

Neither could quite believe it. On the surface, Coleman, going on forty-two, divorced, a disillusioned, cynical and worldly American, a secret agent sailing under false colours, had nothing whatever in common with a petite, vivacious, voluptuously attractive, 22-year-old girl, strictly brought up by a typically close and protective Lebanese Catholic family in the claustrophobic confines of East Beirut during a civil war. His first reaction was to lie about his age. He told her he was thirty-seven.

But that was the least of their problems. He told Mary-Claude everything else about himself, except that he was an American spy, and left it to her to decide how much she would tell her family, who strongly disapproved of divorce, were concerned about the age difference between them, even though he had pruned it, and were naturally suspicious of his intentions. Even so, they were determined to marry from the start, and as quickly as possible as far as Coleman was concerned, for he had no way of knowing how long his assignment to Beirut would last.

"The family's reaction was reserved, polite and curious (he remembers), but Mary-Claude was always headstrong and usually got her way, no matter what her father said. As I spent more time with them and they saw it was a serious matter -- I told her father I respected the traditions of his society and I think that went in my favour -- so they came to accept me.

Even so, it was a style of courtship entirely alien to me. Though Christian and emancipated compared with the rest of the Arab world, the family was very strict by American standards. Mary-Claude and I were not allowed to meet without a chaperone -- one of her brothers or sisters always had to be there. Once or twice we met surreptitiously for lunch and went for a walk afterwards but that was the only time we were ever alone. Out of respect for her father, we complied with his wishes in order to show the seriousness of what we felt for each other. Once he was convinced of that, we had a traditional Lebanese engagement party, at which I gave her the traditional set of gold jewelry and stuff, and that made us official."


Mary-Claude was unhappy with the idea of keeping anything from her family, but knew that Coleman's divorce would be one problem too many for her father to handle. Asked, years later, what she had thought on meeting Coleman for the first time, she replied, 'I thought he was an old fart,' and they both laughed uproariously.

'He lied to me about his age. He was a foreigner -- with a previous marriage. There were many problems. But I always did like older men. I wanted a peaceful life with a wonderful husband who took care of me. I enjoy being spoiled. I like the attention. And I got it. I lived through hell.'

They both laughed again, but ruefully this time.

The DIA was delighted with the idea of having a married agent. Donleavy wanted to know all about Mary-Claude so that he could run a security check, but as her sister Giselle was already unknowingly in the loop, the vetting was a mere formality.

'Go ahead,' he said. 'Congratulations. That's great cover. With family there, you can go in and out of Beirut whenever you like and nobody's going to think anything about it.'

By then the question of cover was important. Although hired to do news stories for CBN, Coleman was using the camera equipment mainly to shoot background footage for intelligence reports and to keep up appearances. Even if he had filmed a story, he had no way of getting the tape to the studios in Jerusalem except via Cyprus. A running joke among correspondents in Beirut was, Middle East Television: Yesterday's News Tomorrow.

Until Operation Steeplechase got under way in April, the work Coleman was paid by CBN to do consisted mainly of training the Christian militia to run a TV station, called LBC, for the Christian enclave. This operation was backed by the Israelis, who were trying to set up a microwave link to feed video from Jerusalem to its agents inside Lebanon. But he was kept busy enough handling the huge volume of data from Asmar's cell, and servicing the drop for what was officially described as an in-country mobile training team (MTT) from 7th Brigade, Germany.

The drop was at Juicy-Burger, a hamburger stand run by an American couple known as Bonnie and Clyde at Dora, on the road between Jounieh and East Beirut.

"These Green Beret guys were supposedly advisers to the Lebanese Army [said Coleman], but they were really there to handle the wet jobs. If the politics had ever been right, they might have been used to rescue the hostages but the situation was always too sensitive, too precarious to risk using force. So they were simply there in case they were needed. They took care of loose ends. If there was anything for them, I'd take it over to Juicy-Burger and Sergeant-Major Duke, from 7th Brigade, would stop by for a hamburger and pick it up.

I remember one time I took in some special bullets that somebody needed. Six rounds in a coffee-can full of coffee with lead foil to beat the X-rays. Mercury-loaded or something, about .380 size shells hollowed out, with a wax tip. Couldn't help wondering what they were used for. But I'm happy I wasn't there when they were."


He was certainly there when the starting gate went up for Operation Steeplechase. On 22 April 1985, Coleman and office manager, Gushan Hashim, flew to Cannes to join Tim Robertson at a meeting in a private apartment with Pierre Dhyer, of the Christian Lebanese Forces militia; Mario Calero, representing the Contras, and a British agent from MI6 working undercover with the DIA.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a consignment of arms confiscated by the Israelis from the PLO and turned over to the pro-Israeli faction of the Lebanese Forces. The idea was to buy them secretly for the Contras and send them out to Honduras disguised as relief supplies on a ship chartered by CBN, but the problem was that the Hoobaka faction had declined a cash offer, preferring to exchange the weapons for an unspecified commodity to the value of $1.5 million, to be brokered by CIA asset Monzer al Kassar.

After an animated discussion, Hoobaka's terms were accepted in principle and the meeting adjourned, the CBN contingent to advise Oliver North with a view to setting the wheels in motion, and Coleman to advise DIA with a view to applying the brakes. Control responded by calling him to Frankfurt. On the strength of his report, the DIA had decided to scrap the whole vehicle.

'This CBN thing is getting to be a real pain in the ass.' Donleavy said.

He paused to light another in his endless chain of Merit cigarettes, brushing the stub ash off what could have been the same pair of double-knit trousers he had worn at their first meeting.

'So is Ollie North and that whole damn bunch of kooks and weirdoes. We got this lightbird colonel running around loose, telling two and three-star generals what to do, and they're getting pissed off about it. So don't be surprised if we pull his plug. Starting with this cockeyed deal with the Hoobaka bunch. We want you to close 'em out, old buddy. Nothing sudden, nothing dramatic -- we don't want to make waves. Just let it die from natural causes, okay? Let 'em get on with it, but from now on, things should start to go wrong.'

Early in June, al-Kassar flew out to Bogota, Colombia, on a Brazilian passport, No. CB5941792, in the name of Muce Sagy, one of several aliases. By prior arrangement, $1.5 million had been transferred from Oliver North's secret Contra fund at the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) in Panama to al Kassar's own BCCI account in Lima, Peru, which he held under the name of Pierre Abu Nader. From there, the money was credited to a BCCI account managed for one of the Colombian cocaine cartels by Frank Gerardo, a DEA informant, for the purchase of several hundred kilos of cocabase.

As Pierre Abu Nader, al-Kassar then returned to Europe on his Peruvian passport and subsequently reported on the success of his mission to North, who was then in Cyprus, staying in the ambassador's private apartment at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia. Coleman observed him there on 15 June.

Two months later, on 17 August, the shipment of coca base arrived from Colombia aboard an East German freighter that put in to Tarbarja, Lebanon, an illegal narcotics port operated by the Hoobaka faction. The load was then taken by road to Zakorta, just east of Tripoli, processed into high-grade cocaine in the Hoobakas' own laboratories and passed through to its agents in Sofia, Bulgaria, en route to Monzer al-Kassar's distribution hub in Warsaw for bartering in the Eastern bloc.

On 23 August, Coleman reported to Control that the arms were to be loaded within ten days on the same freighter, which was now waiting to sail for Porto Lampura, Honduras, under the banner of the CBN's Central American relief programme, Operation Blessing.

The rest was up to Donleavy and the DIA, for by that time Coleman had so demoralized CBN headquarters with telex messages about Gushan Hashim and his colleagues stealing the store in Beirut that he knew it would take only one more serious shock, like preventing the arms from leaving Tarbarja, to bring the whole enterprise down. In accordance with instructions, he had ensured that the Lebanese would take the debacle philosophically, for they already had their cocabase and so would lose nothing by it, and that the Contra supporters would have to attribute the loss of the arms shipment, and of North's $1.5 million, to an act of God.

Meanwhile, Coleman had a pressing problem of his own. From the moment Donleavy gave North, Casey and CBN the thumbs down, Coleman had known that the days of his Beirut assignment were numbered. And now that he had found Mary-Claude, there was no way he was going to leave her in a war zone, not knowing when or if he could get back to her. The shelling had been bad that summer, and she had already had one narrow escape.

Coleman had been running around the city one day with Michael Franks when the bombardment became so heavy that he decided he should move the family down to the comparative safety of his beach chalet, which was sheltered to some extent from incoming fire by a number of tall apartment buildings. As the shells rained in from the Druze artillery, he drove through the winding streets of the quarter and found Mary-Claude hiding with her sisters in a neighbor's basement. Fifteen minutes after they left, the house took a direct hit and was virtually demolished.

But even the random brutality of the shelling provided the DIA with an opportunity for the kind of black humor enjoyed by the octopus. Coleman had been surprised to learn that Nabi Berri, boss of the Amal militia, held a resident alien's Green Card issued by the U.S. immigration authorities and owned five garages in the Detroit area.

"And yet here he was, in the middle of kidnapping U.S. citizens and up to his neck in the TWA 747 hijack and all that stuff. Berri really pissed us off. The problem was, what could we do to screw him without getting the U.S. involved in the civil war?

"Well, what we did was leak the trajectory coordinates of every house on Berri's street except his to militia factions Amal happened to be fighting at the time, including Hezbollah. And sure enough, every damn house in the neighborhood was hit except his. You can imagine what the neighbors thought. They went ape-shit. After that, nobody was going to mow his yard."

The incoming bombardment was less amusing, however, when Coleman himself seemed to be the target.

Mary-Claude was determined to have a proper wedding in a proper wedding dress at Christ the King, a beautiful, cathedral-sized church overlooking the sea. Equally determined to bring the marriage forward before his mine exploded under CBN, Coleman found himself faced with the usual string of time-consuming formalities, and prevailed upon her father Philippe to accompany him up to the monastery overlooking the city to seek a special dispensation from the bishop.

No sooner had they set out than shells started falling along the road, the barrage accompanying them half-way up the mountain. Taking their survival as a favorable omen, Coleman managed to convince the church hierarchy of his good intentions and they set off again down the mountain with the necessary dispensation, only to pick up the barrage where it had left off. Muttering prayers forgotten since childhood, he drove down the winding mountain road with Philippe, the shells still falling around them, and presented Mary-Claude with the necessary papers like a knight errant back from the Crusades with a trophy for his lady.

And only just in time. As Coleman had anticipated, CBN was finally panicked into acting on the reports he had been sending over about the reckless indiscretions of Hashim and his cronies in the Lebanese Forces. Fearing a major political scandal, the Robertsons ordered Coleman to close down the Beirut bureau at once and evacuate its equipment to Cyprus, abandoning the cache of arms on Tarbarja beach.

The shelling was then at its height, which at least spared him the complications of having to contend face to face with Hashim, who was hiding in his basement. But it did rather spoil the bride's toilette and the wedding party. Mary-Claude's hairdresser failed to get through, and except for Tony Asmar, only the immediate family were in the church when the bride and groom arrived in Range Rovers manned by Lebanese Forces militiamen armed with Kalashnikov rifles. The best man, hurriedly pressed into service at the last minute, was Michael Franks, alias Schafer, the OPS mercenary.

The Coleman's wedding night was spent in the chalet, with Tony Asmar's men tramping in and out delivering videotape machines, cameras and other equipment from the CBN office. At 5 a.m., trucks arrived to take all the boxes to the Jounieh docks, where they were loaded on the ferry to Larnaca, and as the sun came up, the happy couple watched the coast of Lebanon fade behind them in the morning haze. For Mary-Claude, it was the first time she had set foot outside Beirut's Christian enclave.

Following Donleavy's instructions, Coleman reported on arrival in Cyprus to Colonel John Sasser, the Department of Defense attache at the American Embassy in Nicosia. He was also debriefed by Micheal T. Hurley, the Drug Enforcement Administration attache, though without revealing his connection with the DIA. As far as Hurley knew, Coleman was an employee of CBN's who had been evacuated from Lebanon after the closure of its Beirut bureau.

At Donleavy's suggestion, Coleman then took Mary-Claude to Corfu for a two-week honeymoon before they went home to the United States to begin their married life in an apartment not far from James McCloskey's house in Timonium, Maryland.

Everything had gone according to plan. Fearful that his political ambitions, including a presidential candidacy, would be wrecked if CBN's connection with bartering drugs for guns on behalf of the Contras ever came to light, Pat Robertson lined up Gushan Hashim to take the rap, severed his connections with Colonel North, General Singlaub and their associates, and fired every non-believer who knew anything about it, including Coleman -- cushioning the blow with a $6000 severance check.

'Keep it,' said Donleavy, 'You did a great job, buddy. I want you to know that some very high-level people over here have asked me to thank you for a job well done. We rate the mission a major success. So take a couple of months off. Show Mary-Claude a good time. We're going to need you out there again after Christmas.'
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:03 pm

Chapter 9

Stalled by the higher priorities of Anglo-American diplomacy, the deliberate withholding of information by British and American intelligence agencies, and the seeming intransigence of the German BKA, the police investigation into the bombing of Flight 103 again ground to a halt in December 1989. In a newspaper interview marking the first anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, Lord Fraser, conceded that 'we have not yet reached the stage where proceedings are imminently in prospect'. In other words, 'We know who did it but can't prove it in court.'

Touched by the general mood of frustration, he added that he had even thought of abandoning the hunt 'because we don't want to kid people that there is an active investigation if really policemen are just shuffling files around'. As a sop to 'serious public concern', he announced that a Fatal Accident Inquiry -- the Scottish equivalent of a coroner's inquest -- would be convened in the new year.

'Lord Fraser was initially opposed to such an inquiry,' wrote the Sunday Correspondent on 17 December, 'and his change of mind is indicative not only of intense pressure from victims' relatives but is also an admission that the inquiry, which has so far cost £7.75m, has reached a dead end. There is still no positive evidence to link the suspects firmly to the crime, although Lord Fraser did say in his interview that the investigation was in "a very active phase".'

George Esson, Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway, agreed. 'We are cautiously optimistic, based on the amount of evidence and information that we've already got, of identifying the culprits. Intelligence is one thing, but turning intelligence into hard evidence is quite another issue ... The gathering of the forensic evidence has been done, much of the analysis of that evidence has now been done. The obvious lines of inquiry are not exactly running out, but there's a limit to the time that can take and we are reaching that stage. You eventually exhaust the leads you have.'

Esson's caution and forbearance were remarkable, given that the investigation had become a political football. In the year since the disaster, his officers, led by Detective Chief Superintendent John Orr, had collected 12,402 names in the police computer at the Lockerbie Incident Centre, made 350 visits to 13 countries and launched inquiries in 39 others. (About the only people they had not talked to -- and never did -- were Juval Aviv and Lester Coleman.)

Otherwise, they had taken over 14,000 statements, logged about 16,000 items of personal property belonging to the victims, and taken some 35,000 photographs -- and the only solid lead they had left was a link between the bombing and four Palestinians who had just been convicted of terrorist crimes in Sweden.

One of them, Mahmoud Said al-Moghrabi, had confessed to the charges against him and, in so doing, had connected two of the others, Marten Imandi and Abu Talb, with the PFLP-GC cell in West Germany. Just before the BKA raids, Imandi's car, with Swedish licence plates, had been observed parked outside the bombers' apartment in Neuss, and in October 1988, Talb had visited Malta, bringing back samples of clothing that he told Ivloghrabi he intended to import from the island for Sweden's rag trade.

When the Swedish police raided Talb's apartment in May 1989, they found a calendar with a pencil ring around the fatal date, 21 December 1988, and when they returned later with the Scottish police on a second raid, they found some 200 pieces of clothing manufactured in Malta.

Reporting these developments in The Sunday Times, David Leppard, the most assiduous of the newsmen still working on the Lockerbie story, wrote:

Talb flew out of Malta on November 26 last year -- only three days after a man walked into a boutique in the tourist resort of Sliema and bought clothes which were later wrapped around the Pan Am suitcase bomb ... He also visited a flat in Frankfurt, West Germany, where the bomb was almost certainly built.

Talb is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), the group Western intelligence believes was paid millions of dollars by the Iranians to carry out the Lockerbie bombing.


By now, Leppard was also convinced that the bomb had been put aboard Flight 103 in an unaccompanied suitcase sent via Air Malta to Frankfurt, an 'exclusive' printed two weeks earlier (after the extraordinary resurrection of the airport's computerized baggage lists), but the Observer was not so sure. 'The Maltese connection is the strongest lead so far in the search for the bombers,' the paper conceded, 'although there is nothing to support newspaper reports that the bomb itself originated on the island.'

It fell to David Leppard to close out the media's coverage of the disaster for 1989. On 17 December, under the headline 'Police close in on Lockerbie killers', he wrote:

Police now have the necessary evidence to charge suspects with the murder of 270 Lockerbie air disaster victims. After a series of exclusive disclosures over the past seven weeks, The Sunday Times understands that officers heading the investigation -- despite a cautious attitude in public -- have told their counterparts abroad that under Scottish law, charges are now possible against certain persons ...

The revelation ... was made at a secret summit in Meckenheim, West Germany, of the heads of security services involved in the inquiry from Britain, West Germany, America, Sweden and Malta.


A week later, on Christmas Eve 1989, he added: 'Police hunting the bombers of the Pan Am jet which blew up over Lockerbie last year have uncovered important new forensic evidence linking a group of suspected Palestinian terrorists in West Germany to the bombing.

'Ministry of Defence scientists now believe a white plastic residue recovered from the crash site is the same material as that in alarm clocks bought by the group at a shop in Neuss, near Dusseldorf, two months before the bombing,' Scottish detectives, Leppard went on, 'believe the white residue provides "a hard link" between the bombs found at Neuss and Frankfurt and the Lockerbie bomb'.

A year later, the same forensic evidence and a hitherto discounted CIA report of a secret meeting in Tripoli in 1988 would serve to pin the blame exclusively on the Libyans, as was then required by changes in Middle East policy, but on the first anniversary of the disaster, there was no reason to doubt the sincerity of the Lord Advocate when he insisted that 'Our commitment and determination to bring the evil perpetrators of this mass murder to justice continues undiminished.'

The same commitment had been expressed a few months earlier by President George Bush in setting up his Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, with instructions to report by 15 May 1990. This, too, was in response to public pressure for results in the Flight 103 investigation, and, like the promised Fatal Accident Inquiry in Scotland, was offered reluctantly, lest its findings should conflict with the politically acceptable solution required by London and Washington.

In Britain, the government managed to put off the Scottish hearings until October 1990, and even then, no evidence was to be offered that might prejudice possible extradition hearings, which covered pretty nearly everything. In Washington, where the appearance of openness in government is more highly prized, the necessary political constraints on the president's Commission were built in with the choice of its members. With Ann McLaughlin, Reagan's former secretary of labor, in the chair, it included four career politicians, among them a former secretary to the Navy, and a retired Air Force general.

Though empowered to call witnesses and to subpoena records, the Commission dutifully concentrated, not on the criminal investigation, but on Pan Am's security lapses in Frankfurt and London and on the shortcomings of the Federal Aviation Administration. Even so, some revealing snippets emerged from the hearings. The panel learned, for example, from Raymond Smith, then deputy chief of the U.S. mission to the Soviet Union, that 80 per cent of the reservations made by Moscow embassy staff on Pan Am flights during the 1988 Christmas holidays were cancelled after the so-called Helsinki warning early in December.

'It named a carrier,' said Smith, 'It named a route. And it covered a time period when many Americans in Moscow would be going home for Christmas. Here, it seems to me, we have a moral obligation to let people know.'

On his responsibility, the warning was drawn to the attention, not only of diplomats, but of the entire American colony in Moscow. As Andrew Stephen wrote in the Observer, 'These revelations have helped to explain the mystery of why there were so many empty seats on Pan Am Flight 103 from Heathrow to New York on 21 December 1988.'

Also significant were reports of a clash between testimony given under oath by Thomas Plaskett, Pan Am's chairman, and Raymond Salazar, security chief of the FAA. Some months before the disaster, the airline had decided to allow unaccompanied baggage aboard its international flights with an X-ray check instead of the physical search seemingly required under the rules. Plaskett testified that the FAA had agreed to this at a meeting with Pan Am's security chiefs, but Salazar denied that any such exemption had been given, dismissing Plaskett's testimony as 'not credible'.

Credible or not, when the FAA fined Pan Am $630,000 for violations of its rules in Frankfurt and London during a five-week period beginning on 21 December 1988, it did not cite the airline for failing to search unaccompanied baggage or for failing to reconcile interline baggage with interline passengers.

Stung by Salazar's denial, Pan Am promptly accused the FAA of engaging in a cover-up.

That was in April. On 16 May 1990 -- two weeks after Lester Coleman's arrest on a trumped-up charge -- the report of President Bush's commission was duly published, and duly spared Washington and London any further embarrassment in their diplomatic courtship of Syria. Stopping just short of pronouncing Pan Am guilty, the Commission found that the airline's security lapses, coupled with the FAA's failure to enforce its own regulations, were probably to blame for the disaster.

'The destruction of Flight 103 may well have been preventable,' its report concluded. 'Stricter baggage reconciliation procedures could have stopped any unaccompanied checked bags from boarding the flight [sic] at Frankfurt ...'' On the other hand, the commission could not 'say with certainty that more rigid application of any particular procedure actually would have stopped the sabotage'.

Its caution was justified, although clearly there had been plenty of room for improvement.

Until interline passengers checked in at Frankfurt (the report observed) Pan Am had no record of them, or their baggage, in its computer. Nevertheless, Pan Am personnel made no attempt to reconcile the number of interline bags being loaded into any plane with the number of bags checked by interline passengers who actually boarded the plane. Bags with distinctive interline tags were simply X-rayed on the baggage loading ramp, taken directly to the aircraft and loaded.

Pan Am employees did not determine whether any given interline bag loaded on to Flight 103 was accompanied by the passenger who presumably had checked it onto an earlier flight into Frankfurt or for that matter, whether that bag had ever been accompanied by any passenger.


In his book, On the Trail of Terror, published in 1991, David Leppard described that statement as 'a searing indictment' of the incompetence of Pan Am's security staff at Frankfurt in letting the bomb through, but the Commission itself was less damning. An FAA inspector checking on the airline's security arrangements in October 1988, had written in his report that 'the system, trying adequately to control approximately 4500 passengers and 28 flights per day, is being held together only by a very labour-intensive operation and the tenuous threads of luck'. Nevertheless, 'It appears the minimum (FAA) requirements can and are being met.'

Six months after the disaster, as the commission noted, FAA inspectors were generally less accommodating. In June 1989, one reported that while the security systems of four other U.S. carriers at Frankfurt were 'good', Pan Am's was 'totally unsatisfactory' -- so much so that 'all passengers flying out of Frankfurt on Pan Am are at great risk'.

This change of attitude by a Federal government agency before and after the disaster may or may not have been influenced by a change in the Federal government's political requirements before and after the disaster, but there were other inconsistencies also in the commission's report.

The bombing had occurred against a background of warnings that trouble was brewing in the European terrorist community and 'nine security bulletins that could have been relevant to the tragedy were issued between 1 June 1988 and 21 December 1988'. Elsewhere, however, the commission insisted that no warnings specific to Flight 103 and no information bearing on the security of civil aviation in general had been received by U.S. intelligence agencies from any source around that time.

The report also solemnly recorded the CIA's assurances that its agents had not gone to Lockerbie after the disaster, but stopped short of denying that at least two of them had been among the victims.

After reviewing the findings of its nine-month inquiry, the commission made over 60 recommendations for improving airline security in general, for revising the Warsaw Convention and overhauling the machinery of inter-agency cooperation. Most of these were sensible but some were mere sabre-rattling.

'National will and the moral courage to exercise it are the ultimate means for defeating terrorism,' the report declared. It urged 'a more vigorous U.S. policy that not only pursues and punishes terrorists but also makes state sponsors of terrorism pay a price for their actions ... These more vigorous policies should include planning and training for pre-emptive or retaliatory military strikes against known terrorist enclaves in nations that harbour them. Where such direct strikes are inappropriate, the commission recommends a lesser option, including covert operations to prevent, disrupt or respond to terrorist acts.

'Rhetoric is no substitute for strong, effective action,' it added, with a certain poignancy, for rhetoric was all the president's Commission had to offer in the changing circumstances of the Bush administration's Middle East policy. In deference to the government's requirements, there was no mention in its report of Syria or Iran or even Libya, or of any terrorist group known to be backed by any one of them. Nor was there any mention of drugs or drugs smuggling from Lebanon through Frankfurt to New York, Detroit and beyond. This was still the one component of the Lockerbie affair that had not been publicly addressed by the authorities but which, nevertheless, refused to go away.

After the flurry of excitement aroused by the discovery of a Swedish connection, the investigation had again stalled. Marten Imandi and Abu Talb, both sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorist activities in Scandinavia, steadfastly declined to assist the Scottish police in their inquiries, and although the circumstantial evidence against them remained strong, the lead petered out in yet another dead end.

Worse still, in June, the Swedish government moved to deport to Syria ten Palestinians it had picked up on suspicion of involvement with terrorism, including two who had been identified as associates of Dalkamoni and Khreesat. According to the BKA, these two had arrived in Germany from Syria and stayed at the PFLP-GC apartment in Neuss until a few days before it was raided in October 1988. Getting out just in time, Imandi had smuggled them into Sweden by car, where they had gone to ground near Uppsala. As one of the two had since been identified as a former Syrian intelligence officer, the Scottish police were naturally keen to interview them in the hope of establishing further connections between the bombers and PFLP-GC headquarters in Damascus.

Reporting this development in the Observer, on 17 June 1990, John Merritt wrote that

... anger at their imminent deportation will be increased by the revelation that their links with the West German terrorist cell found in possession of Lockerbie-type bombs, and their whereabouts, have been known to Western intelligence services for 18 months.

Sources close to the Swedish investigation said intelligence agents were tipped off about the men's movements since leaving Syria and the way in which they were smuggled into Sweden a few weeks before the Lockerbie bombing. And they cannot explain why they have been arrested only now -- just to be sent back to Syria ...

Swedish investigators are also convinced that there is intelligence information on 'several other suspects' with material important to the Lockerbie investigation currently living in Sweden. But there is 'a reluctance' on the part of intelligence sources to reveal details to the police inquiry.


Answering, in effect, the question of why the two were being sent back to safety in Syria to join Khreesat and the other West German cell members, and why Western intelligence sources were reluctant to cooperate with the police, Merritt concluded his report by observing that 'with the British government entering fresh negotiations with Syria, and Damascus signaling its interest in sending an ambassador to Washington, Swedish investigators were last week asking how much other information is being kept from the police inquiry for political reasons'.

The Scottish police had been asking the same question from day one of the investigation.

Two weeks after his Swedish report, Merritt drove yet another nail into the coffin prepared for Pan Am. On 1 July 1990, he wrote:

Fresh evidence from the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing indicates that the suitcase containing the bomb was allowed on the doomed Pan Am flight because of a failure to match baggage to passengers.

Within the last week, detectives have established that only one item of luggage, pieced together from the wreckage after one-and-a-half years of painstaking forensic work, cannot now be positively linked with a passenger from Flight 103. That item is the Samsonite suitcase which held the bomb.

The clear implication ... is that the beleaguered U..S airline broke American aviation security law ... Written procedures under the Federal Aviation Act expressly prohibited the U.S. carrier from transporting any baggage not matched with a passenger who boarded the flight.


This was not the first time the media had made that mistake -- the requirement at the time was that unaccompanied baggage should be searched before going aboard -- but, as Merritt accurately surmised, 'This development will greatly strengthen the case for families of the dead who are suing Pan Am.'

The following month, Saddam Hussein of Iraq occupied the neighbouring sheikdom of Kuwait, Syria declared itself on the side of the allied forces committed to rolling back the invasion, and from that moment on, nothing more was heard from official sources on either side of the Atlantic about Syrian complicity in the Flight 103 bombing.

'The Syrians took a bum rap on this,' declared President Bush, pointing the Anglo-American finger at Libya, which was now to be solely to blame for taking advantage of Pan Am's "wilful misconduct' at Frankfurt airport.

Everything seemed safely wrapped up, except for the almost universal scepticism which greeted the news that the Libyans were the culprits and the still persistent rumours of drug smuggling via Pan Am flights from Frankfurt.

With half-buried Syrian tanks guarding the poppy fields of the Bekaa Valley; with the Syrian President's brother, Rifat Assad, controlling the production and export of Lebanese heroin to the United States; with the Syrian arms and drugs dealer, Monzer al- Kassar, identified as Assad's marketing manager, and with al-Kassar inextricably linked with Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC and other Syrian and Iranian-backed terrorist groups, any serious suggestion that drug smuggling through Cyprus and Frankfurt to the United States had been in progress during December 1988, could only re-implicate Syria and thereby undo all the good work of disinformation and obfuscation carried out by the octopus.

In the national interest, anybody promoting any such idea had to be severely discouraged.

On 25 September 1990, Marshall Lee Miller introduced his client, Lester Coleman, to Pan Am's attorneys in Washington, and dropped out of sight.

Coleman neither saw nor heard from him again.
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

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Chapter 10

Having successfully worked himself out of the job of CBN's Beirut correspondent, Coleman went back to the Middle East in December 1985, as Condor Television Ltd., a one-man production company with an 'office' in the Kastantiana hotel, Larnaca, Cyprus.

Set up by his guru, James McCloskey, as an offshore Gibraltar corporation, with bank accounts (Nos. 00569798 and 02843900) at the First American Bank of Maryland (a BCCI subsidiary), Condor was to be Coleman's front for resuming control of Tony Asmar's network of agents in Lebanon.

As before, his duties were to direct and evaluate the flow of intelligence data, channel it back to the DIA in Washington, and act as paymaster for what was now by far the most valuable Western intelligence asset in the Middle East. To avoid any possibility of its being compromised by payments traceable to the DIA, Coleman used Visa traveller's cheques drawn on BCCI, Luxembourg. These were delivered to him by DHL, the international courier company, in shipments containing ten packets of ten unsigned $100 cheques. Every month, Asmar's secretary would take the Sunboat from Jounieh to Larnaca to collect the payroll from Coleman for distribution within the network, each cell member then signing his cheques and counter-signing them on presentation to a Lebanese bank for payment.

No sooner had he set up these new procedures than Coleman was summoned to the American Embassy in Nicosia by the Department of Defense attache, Col. John Sasser, to whom he had reported on leaving Beirut as a CBN 'refugee' a few months earlier. Although Donleavy had told him to stay clear of American officials overseas in case they were under surveillance by foreign intelligence agencies, Coleman assumed that Sasser had cleared the meeting with Control and drove up from Larnaca to keep the appointment, expecting to be briefed on some unexpected emergency, Instead, Sasser showed him a home videotape of a Hezbollah demonstration in Beirut and asked if he could identify anybody.

Annoyed that his cover might have been jeopardized for such a trivial reason, Coleman left Sasser's office with the intention of coding an immediate complaint to Donleavy -- only to run into Micheal T. Hurley on the stairway. This was even more embarrassing, for Donleavy's strictures about keeping away from the embassy had focused particularly on the risks of associating with the Drug Enforcement Administration's 'cowboys', the DIA's contempt for the CIA under William Casey being exceeded only by its detestation of the DEA.

Greeting Coleman like an old friend, although they had met only once before, Hurley said Sasser had told him about Condor Television and its plans for covering events in Lebanon, and how about joining him for lunch? As much to find out how much Sasser had told him as to learn what Hurley was up to, Coleman agreed, and over a sandwich from the embassy canteen in Hurley's basement office, discovered that the DEA attache was trying to put together a videotape documenting narcotics production in the Bekaa Valley.

'Think you can help us out with that?' Hurley asked, 'You got anybody over there can shoot some pictures for us?'

'Well, I don't know,' said Coleman cautiously. 'We're just setting up here -- we don't have much equipment or anything yet. Why don't I get back to you when I have this thing up and running?'

When he reported this encounter to Control, Donleavy hit the roof and summoned him to Frankfurt,

They had met there before for face-to-face debriefings during Operation Steeplechase, and the routine was always the same. Coleman would check into the Sheraton airport hotel and call a contact number, identifying himself as Benjamin B, and almost immediately, Donleavy would call back.

"Howyadoin', buddy?' (He always called Coleman 'buddy'.) 'Have a good trip? Here's what I want you to do. In exactly thirty-five minutes, I want you to leave and go to the airport terminal. Take the escalator down to the lower level. Get on the train and get off at the third [or fourth or fifth] stop. Cross over and go back two [or three or four] stops. Get off, cross over again and come on in to the Meinhof. Get off, go through the gate, and I'll meet you, okay?'

'Okay?' Coleman shakes his head at the memory of it.

Like hell I was okay. Two stops, did he say? Is this the right train? I could have wound up in Wiesbaden for all I knew. But I'd get off at the Meinhof, looking straight ahead and keep on walking and I'd feel this presence move up beside me. In a trenchcoat. 'Hey, buddy,' he'd say, and get real animated. 'How's everything? How's Mary-Claude?' And there we were, two friends coming off the train together.

After leaving the station, we'd just walk around for ten or fifteen minutes, doubling back on our tracks, heading in through the lobby of a big hotel and straight out again through the rear entrance, until finally we'd come to some itty-bitty hotel in a back street with a desk in the hallway, and we'd do the elevator routine. Up to the fifth floor, then walk down to the third, where he'd taken a couple of rooms. It was always the same with him. I used to call it the spook walk.

And once we got there, the routine was always the same. We'd have a drink. He'd chain-smoke a couple of Merits while we chatted about what had happened since our last meeting and then he'd hand me over to the guy in the room next door for a routine polygraph. Happened every three or four months. 'See you later,' he'd say, and often it was five or six hours later. There would be the guy with the black box in a suitcase and the chair facing the wall that I would sit in while he sat in a chair behind me. He'd fit the electrodes to my fingers, a band around my chest and a blood-pressure gauge to my left arm and then we'd go at it, heat full up, windows closed, sweating like pigs because that was supposed to make the polygraph more accurate.

Same questions over and over again. A lot of them related to the data I'd been passing but also he'd want to know who I'd been talking to. Had I been in contact with officials of other governments? Any close contacts with foreign nationals? If so, when, how and why? The whole thing was designed to smoke out double agents, to make sure you hadn't gone over and started to work for the other side. I didn't mind. Seemed like a sensible precaution to me. After that, I'd take a shower, we'd have a meal sent up, get a good night's sleep, and start fresh in the morning.


Donleavy had thought seriously about the chance encounter with Hurley, and, on balance, had decided that they might turn it to account, although ...

He was mad at Sasser for calling me in [Coleman remembers]. 'In future, if he wants to know anything,' Donleavy said, 'he can go through channels.' And as it looked like Sasser had told Hurley something about me, Control passed the word that I had handled some contract work for the Defense Department in the past, just minor stuff, but that it was all finished now.

'So if Hurley asks you again if you can do something for him,' he said, 'tell him, okay. Otherwise he's going to get suspicious. But you don't tell him Condor is a DIA operation or let him think you're with DIA HUMINT. And under no circumstances do you tell him about any assets we have in place in Lebanon. If he wants to know who your contacts are over there, make 'em up.' 'Fine,' I said. 'And I'm going to have to make up the cameras and equipment, too, because we don't have any.'

'That's all right, buddy,' he said. 'Just string him along until we get things squared away. There could be a positive spin to it because now you can keep an eye on Hurley for us. We've been picking up some bad vibes on that guy. But watch yourself. That whole bunch is into cowboys and Indians. Just don't get too close.'


Returning to Cyprus on 16 February, Coleman engineered another meeting with Hurley and told him Condor would be glad to do what it could to help.

'Hey, that's great,' Hurley said. 'We heard some good things about you -- and you'll find we pay better than the military. We got all kinds of people shooting stuff for us out there. Mostly media people, so you probably know 'em already. One way or another, we get to see most of their stuff before it gets Stateside. So pass the word to your guys. Tell 'em we'll buy anything they can get on narcotics. People. Places. Labs. Illegal ports. We want the whole picture. And here's a few bucks to grease a few palms.'

Signed up as a 'contract consultant', Coleman was paid $4000 in the next two months for supplying Hurley with absolutely nothing. His 'guys' in Lebanon, the Asmar network, were not to be risked on routine intelligence for the DEA, and Coleman had no other contacts there that he cared to expose to the Syrian-backed heroin cartel in the Bekaa Valley.

"Donleavy was right [Coleman says]. They were cowboys. Rock'n' roll cowboys, with beards, long hair, leather boots and jeans -- the embassy people couldn't stand them. Not their sort of bridge partners at all. And to see 'em hanging out upstairs with the spooks in their tennis shorts -- God, what a picture. America in action overseas.

But Hurley was no fool. At first sight, he was the kind of big, bull-headed Irish-American you'd expect to see in a blue uniform directing traffic, but he had Cyprus pretty much in his pocket and was planning to retire there after he'd put in his twenty years. He was shrewd, in a self-serving way, and friendly enough. But if anybody crossed him, or if he thought the embassy establishment was trying to put him down, he'd stand on his desk and raise hell.

He was always screaming about how they dumped on him. How he had the worst office space in the building, and the worst housing of all the embassy staff. When Hurley got off on one of his tirades, Danny Habib, his number two, would stand in the doorway and roll his eyes, and Connie, his secretary, a typical career civil service type, would cluck around like a mother hen. 'Now, Mike, don't do that. Get off the desk. You just cool down now, you hear me?'

But nobody could tell Hurley what to do. Not Connie, not me and certainly not anybody in Washington. They were all assholes at DEA headquarters, according to Hurley. They'd never understood him or what he was trying to do, he once told me. That was in the beginning, during our honeymoon period. But after two months and $4000 and still nothing to show for it, he was getting a little hacked off at Condor Television."


Control came to the rescue. On 4 April 1986, Coleman was summoned to Frankfurt for another 'spook walk' and polygraph.

'How long since you were in Libya?' Donleavy asked, once the formalities were over.

Coleman shook his head. 'You probably know better than me,' he said. 'Not for years. Not since the late sixties.'

'Well ... Hasn't changed much. Think you can find your way around Tripoli?'

'I guess so. I still know some people there anyway. Why? What's going on?'

Donleavy seemed not to hear. 'Do you have a way to get in?' he asked. 'Or do we need to set something up? There isn't much time.'

'Well, I wouldn't want to use Condor. I mean, I still don't have any cameras or gear, do I?' It was getting to be a sore point. 'How about as a newsman? I can probably get freelance credentials. There's a couple of radio people I can call.'

'Okay. Sounds good. But get right on it, buddy. Because when I say go, I want you gone.'

He closed his briefcase. The meeting was over.

Coleman laughed. 'You mean, I'm not supposed to know why I'm going?'

Donleavy sat down again and lit another Merit. He had the air of a man about to break a rule of a lifetime.

'You're going in there to observe the effect of Operation El Dorado Canyon,' he said.

Coleman waited, but that was all. 'Okay. So what the hell's El Dorado Canyon?'

'We're going to give Gaddafi a slap,' said Donleavy. 'Maybe take him out.'

'No shit.' Coleman whistled. 'What's he done now?'

Control shrugged. 'They reckon the disco bombing was enough.'

'In West Berlin? The Libyans didn't do that.'

'I know,' said Donleavy.

Coleman flew back to Cyprus on 6 April to rejoin Mary-Claude in Larnaca. She was particularly glad to see him as she had just been told she was pregnant.

The next day, finding it difficult to concentrate on anything as mundane as a punitive airstrike against Gaddafi, he called Evelyn Starnes, managing editor of Mutual Radio, in Arlington, Virginia. Ms. Starnes, who had once worked for him in the news department of WSGN Radio in Birmingham, Alabama, agreed at once that he should cover pending events in Libya for Mutual Radio and promised to get the necessary credentials to him within 48 hours. He then called his father, now living in retirement at Lake Martin, and got the name of a former Libyan engineering colleague, whom Coleman immediately telexed, saying he was coming out for a visit.

Control said all that was just fine, and to stand by for instructions.

On 16 April, Coleman met Donleavy in Zurich for a last-minute briefing. His mission was now critically important, he was told, because the CIA had pulled its operatives out of Tripoli in advance of the attack. Never mind that they might have tipped off Gaddafi by doing so, there was nobody now left on the ground to report back directly to the United States government on the effects of the bombing. It was all up to Coleman.

Well, thanks, he said. Libya was a big country. Expect him back in six months.

He could have three days, Donleavy said. They were not so much interested in damage assessment. They could do that by satellite. What the bird couldn't do was measure the impact of the raid on Libyan morale. How would the population react? Would its response be positive or negative? If Gaddafi survived, would it weaken or strengthen his position as leader? Would the bombing succeed as a deterrent, discouraging popular support for terrorism, or would it provoke a desire for revenge? Coleman's job was to get out on the streets and talk to people, to come back with a feel for what the bombing had achieved.

Donleavy posed these questions as if, like Coleman, he knew what the answers were already.

In the wake of the F-111s that had flown out from their British bases to bomb targets in Tripoli and Benghazi, Mutual Radio's correspondent arrived on the scene on 17 April with a laissez passer from the Libyan Consulate in Zurich. He had no difficulty getting in. Mourning the death of his adopted daughter in the raid, Gaddafi was inviting the world to come and see what the Americans had done to him.

After dutifully inspecting the destruction at the El Azziziya barracks, where the Libyan leader lived, at the port of Sidi Balal and at Tripoli airport, as well as the damage done to the French Embassy and to civilian homes adjoining the target areas, Coleman left the media pack clamouring for phone lines at the El Khebir hotel or doing 'stand-ups' on the roof and went off on his own. (To avoid getting bogged down with routine reporting at the expense of his DIA mission, he had telexed Ms. Starnes from Zurich to say he had been denied entry, a diplomatic untruth that still gives him a twinge when he thinks of it.)

Luckily, his father's former colleague at Esso Libya invited Coleman to stay with him, for there had seemed a pretty obvious danger in starting a cold canvas of opinion so soon after the raid. Feeling was running high in the city against the American 'butchers'. Whatever internal dissent there might have been had clearly been silenced by a unifying sense of outrage over the city's 37 dead. Coupled with a wave of popular sympathy for Gaddafi as a bereaved father, resentment at what was seen as Washington's bully-boy tactics appeared to have rallied the Libyans behind him with a solidarity he had rarely enjoyed before.

Networking out through the families and friends of Libyans he knew, talking to people in their homes, in coffee shops, in the markets and on the streets, Coleman met no one prepared to acknowledge even the smallest justification for the American action. From all that he heard, it was clear that Gaddafi's position had been secured for him in a way that his palace guard and secret police could never have managed on their own. Any question of a coup or a move towards popular democracy had been snuffed out.

With his knowledge of Arab ways, Coleman was not surprised. What did surprise him a little, and which argued a political maturity that even sensitive Western observers were sometimes inclined to overlook, was that, in three days of systematic canvassing of Libyan opinion, he encountered little or no personal hostility. The anger and resentment expressed at every level, from street vendor to middle-class intellectual, was almost entirely directed at Washington, not at him as an individual American. It was almost as if they considered him to be as much a victim of his government as they were of theirs, as if he could no more be held responsible for Reagan's actions than they could for Gaddafi's.

He told all this to Donleavy on his return to Zurich on 19 April. They talked for hours, and as he piled on the detail in his report, so Donleavy became ever more thoughtful and preoccupied.

'Okay, buddy,' he said eventually. 'Send Hurley a postcard. Tell him you're not coming back.'

'Say again?'

'Deactivate yourself. I need you back home for a spell.'

'Okay. But why don't I tell him myself? I can call from Larnaca.'

'No, no. I want you to head right on out of here to D.C. We got a lot of debriefing to do.'

'Now, wait a minute, Bill,' Coleman protested. 'What about Mary-Claude? I can't just leave her behind. She's pregnant.'

'Sure.' Donleavy nodded. 'So give her a break. This way, she can take her time packing your stuff and follow on when she's good and ready.' He checked his watch. 'Call her. You got an hour. If you get your ass in gear, you can make it out of here tonight.'

'Hold on, Bill. What about Tony Asmar? I can't just leave him high and dry either. We got a shit-load of stuff coming through about the hostages.'

'I know, buddy, but this is more important. Call Mary-Claude and write Hurley goodbye. You'll find your ticket downstairs by the time you check out.'

Coleman sighed.

'Come to think of it,' said Donleavy, 'maybe it's not too smart to get a U.S. entry stamp in your passport right after this. You better fly back via Canada and go in on your Leavy I.D.'

Donleavy tried to make up for it later by arranging a champagne thank-you weekend for the Colemans at the DIA's expense in an exclusive little Georgetown hotel, but by then they were almost too tired to enjoy it. Mary-Claude's pregnancy had been troublesome from the start, even without the stress of a month's separation and having to cope by herself with the move back from Cyprus, and Coleman was exhausted from a grueling month of detailed debriefings by a stream of DIA officers and analysts at an assortment of Ramada Inns in the Baltimore/Washington area.

He was also for the first time vaguely troubled about the DIA's priorities in the Middle East, particularly with respect to the Western hostages in Beirut. As far as Donleavy and his masters were concerned, clearly nothing was more important than preserving the integrity of Tony Asmar's network of agents in Lebanon. They were Washington's eyes and ears.

"We could have gotten the hostages out any damn time we wanted to [Coleman insists], but nobody was willing to rock the boat with a rescue operation. We knew where they were. We knew who their guards were. We knew what they had for lunch. We knew when and where they were going to be moved before their guards did. But the DIA wouldn't risk any action based on information that might have been traced back to one of Asmar's people. If we'd blown the network because of the hostages we would have left ourselves blind in the middle of a minefield. So there had to be another way. And it was in trying for another way that the CIA let in people like Monzer al-Kassar and, without meaning to, set up the whole Lockerbie scenario.

One of the factors that led me to sign up with the DIA was the idea that I might be able to do something for my friend Jerry Levin, who had been taken hostage in Beirut by Hezbollah, but as it happened he was released before I got out there. He and I had met in Birmingham, Alabama, while he was news director of WBRC TV and I was news director of WSGN radio. When he landed the job of Beirut bureau chief for Cable News Network, I remember I said to a colleague that if Jerry was ever taken hostage, his kidnappers would probably wind up paying CNN to take him back -- and I was only half wrong. He had a wicked tongue when roused and could talk a blue streak. The story going around at the time was that he had ticked off the Lebanese bureau staff to the point where they sold him to Hezbollah for a bit of peace and quiet!

Officially, he was supposed to have escaped by sliding down bedsheets from an upper window, but the truth is that CNN's vice president, Ed Turner -- no relation to Ted Turner -- had to pay a hefty ransom for him. The deal was set up by Ghazi Kenaan, Syria's head of security in Beirut, who naturally took his cut off the top.

Another wave of kidnappings began soon after I got out there in 1985. Terry Anderson was taken, then Brian Keenan and John McCarthy in Apri1 1986, followed by Terry Waite in January 1987.

Waite was a special case, of course. It's no secret now that he hooked up with Oliver North and Bill Casey of the CIA in an effort to trace the hostages -- all of them unaware that the DIA, through Tony Asmar's network, already knew where they were. North wanted to have Waite wired to keep track of his movements electronically, but Waite, very sensibly, refused. So naturally they went ahead and did it anyway, without Waite's knowledge. Before he left Larnaca airport on a U.S. Navy helicopter for the hop over to the American Embassy in East Beirut, his briefcase was rigged with a microchip Gigaherz transmitter no bigger than a butter biscuit.

That was stupid, and typical of North's cowboy mentality. As soon as Waite vanished, the trail went cold, because the first thing his kidnappers did was separate him from his briefcase.

It took Tony Asmar a month to find out where he was. Islamic Jihad had stashed Waite in the basement car park of a four-storey building in Baalbeck, in the Bekaa Valley. After that, they moved him to a building near Rue Michelle Boutros, and later on to the cellars of two different hospitals in West Beirut, both of them supplied by Tony's company, AMA Industries.

These hospitals were funded by Iran to treat battle casualties -- Hezbollah, Amal militiamen and Syrian troops, depending on who happened to be fighting whom at the time -- and they were ideal places for holding hostages. Not only Waite, but Anderson, McCarthy, Keenan, Mann and most of the others were also hidden there at various times, housed underground on two soundproofed levels. There were reliable supplies of electrical power, food and water, and if anybody got ill, help was available just upstairs.

The hostages were also pretty well protected from the fighting in the city. After all, who was going to bomb or attack a hospital? And when it came to moving them around, who was going to take any notice of vehicles coming and going from a hospital? The set-up was perfect.

It was even good enough to ease the conscience of the people on our side who decided to leave them where they were. If the hostages were reasonably safe and reasonably well cared for, why jeopardize our policy and priorities in the Middle East by trying to rescue them by force? An armed raid on a hospital was bound to cause an international outcry, particularly if we came out empty-handed.

Even so, Waite had everybody worried. I remember one time I reported that he had developed a cough and back came a directive that we should try to make an audio recording of it. Can't imagine why. Maybe somebody in the Pentagon figured they could find out how ill he was just by listening to it. Another time they asked if the hospital had taken delivery of a large bed. The Lebanese being quite short and Waite being quite tall, I guess they thought that this would show if Islamic Jihad was treating him right.

With his respiratory problem, he was lucky they didn't move him much. As I recall, they took him out in a refrigerator once, but the usual method with the hostages was to wrap them in blankets or carpet, strapped up with grey plumber's tape, cover them in sheets, then wheel them out in the middle of the night and stuff them in a van or the boot of a car for the journey. Before, during and after each move, the signals would really fly between us and Washington. We had to keep tabs on Waite at all times.

Not so with John McCarthy. The Brits' attitude was, well, he was a journalist. He had been warned the night before not to attempt to go to the airport but had done so anyway. The impression we got was that they thought it was pretty much his own fault. Like Anderson, Keenan and the others, he was a low priority. If it hadn't been for Jill Morrell and the people at WTN, London would have left him to rot.

All the noise being made about the hostages at that time was just political rhetoric. Nobody could move in those Beirut sectors without the consent of the Syrian occupying forces. If the Syrians had not permitted Hezbollah to have a presence in the southern suburbs of Beirut, there would have been no Iranian presence there. When the Syrians said, 'We don't know where the hostages are but we'll be glad to help locate them,' all they had to do was pick up the phone. Never mind what the U.S. government says or what the public thinks -- that's how it worked. The hostages could not have been held for ten minutes without Syrian permission.

General Ghazi Kenaan, commander of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, was on top of every move the whole time. How do I know that? Because we had somebody living in his house. Because he was screwing one of Tony Asmar's Filipino operatives.

The truth is the hostages were cynically exploited by both sides for political and tactical purposes. Okay, so we couldn't afford to compromise the Asmar network with a rescue operation, but there was another reason, too, why we had to leave them where they were. We needed to keep Hafez Assad, the Syrian president, in place. He's probably the most astute politician in the Middle East, and we knew we could do business with him.

If we'd upset his applecart in busting out the hostages, then the radical fundamentalists might easily have taken over in Syria and given us a much worse problem. So, well before the Gulf War, when he turned out to be a useful counterpoise to Saddam Hussein, Assad was serving our purpose by keeping Ayatollah Khomeini quiet. Much easier for us to deal with a conniving, self-serving bastard like Assad than try to cope with a religious fanatic. Those were the priorities. The hostages had to stay where they were, and we had to play the game. But I can't say I enjoyed it."


After their weekend in Georgetown, the Colemans moved in to his family's lakeside cottage at Lake Martin, near Auburn, Alabama, to await his next assignment. Donleavy kept in touch by telephone, sometimes talking to Coleman's father by mistake as they both sounded very much alike.

'My Dad would say to Donleavy, "I think you want to talk to the other Les." Then he would hold the phone out to me and say, loud enough for Donleavy to hear, "Hey, it's the spook."

Although the DIA clearly had plans for him, it was evidently in no hurry to send him back to the Middle East. That summer, Donleavy arranged for Coleman to enroll for graduate study, with a teaching assistantship, at Auburn University, one of the many land-grant universities involved in secret government research. No one at the university was to know of his DIA connection, and to avoid any written record that might compromise his cover, Donleavy arranged for him to be paid during this period with American Express money orders drawn at 7-11 stores around Falls Church, Virginia.

On 31 August 1986, just three weeks before the Fall Term was due to begin, Donleavy called from Washington and told him he had to make an urgent trip to Lebanon.

'No way,' said Coleman. 'Mary-Claude is due in four weeks. I can't take her with me and I can't leave her here, so forget about it, Bill. I'm just not available until the baby's born.'

'I know how you feel, buddy. And I wouldn't ask you if we didn't have a real serious problem here. If there was anybody else we could send, I would, you know that. But it'll only take a couple of days.'

'Bill --

'Listen, I don't want to talk about it on the phone. Come on up here, and we'll work something out.'

On 3 September they met for dinner at the Day's Inn on Jeff Davis Highway in Crystal City, Virginia.

'Sorry to do this to you, buddy,' Donleavy said. 'But we got a national emergency on our hands with your name on it.'

'Bill, I'd like to help you out but --

'Well, we just don't have a lot of choice here. You'll be back in a week, I guarantee you. And Mary-Claude'll be just fine. Maybe you can get somebody to move in with her for a couple of days. Family, maybe.'

'Now wait a minute, Bill --

'We got you on a flight out of Dulles via Heathrow the day after tomorrow. That'll get you back here by the fourteenth.'

'That's not a week. That's ten days.'

'At the latest. Cut a few corners, and you can maybe pick up a day or two along the way.'

'Well, that depends on what you want me to do, doesn't it?'

Donleavy chuckled. 'You're going to like this one. But eat your steak. I'll tell you about it in the morning.'

This was the military. Orders were orders. Coleman ate his steak.

Next morning, Donleavy came up to his room to lay out the assignment.

'Two things,' he said. 'First, you're going to get the video equipment you want for Condor and take it out there. Tony Asmar's lined up a couple of people in Beirut to shoot some pictures for us near the airport. When they're through doing that, bring the equipment out again and come on home with the videotape.'

'Okay. Good.' Coleman looked at him curiously. A national emergency? 'So where is it? This equipment.'

'Here's what you do.' Donleavy opened his briefcase and placed an envelope on the bed. 'There's twenty-two hundred dollars. That'll buy you a Sony video system from Errol's Video Supply Store in Falls Church. Take a cab, have it wait for you, and you'll be back here in an hour.'

Coleman shook his head. But for his trust in Donleavy, he would have dropped out at this point, military or no military.

'You said two things. What's the other?'

'I'll tell you when you get back.'

An hour later, Coleman returned to the hotel with the Sony system from Errol's. He produced the receipt, Donleavy carefully itemized the equipment on a small yellow legal pad and Coleman signed for it with his code name, Benjamin B.

'Okay,' said Donleavy, putting the pad away in his briefcase. 'You're all set. Now here's the national emergency.'

He produced a Mattel Speak 'n' Spell toy computer, and Coleman sat down slowly.

'What the fuck is this? Some kind of joke?'

'No joke, buddy.' Donleavy was deadly serious. 'I want you to take this out to Tony Asmar.'

'Come on, Bill. Are you kidding me? I'm risking my marriage for this?'

'Remember a year ago?' Donleavy said. 'When you pulled the plug on CBN and the Contra deal? Well, this is it. The bottom line. This is where you get to wrap the whole thing up.'

'With that?'

'Yep.' He patted the toy. 'You got a little something extra in there.'

'Great.' Coleman weighed it in his hand suspiciously. 'It's not going to blow up on me, is it?'

'Nothing like that. We put in an extra chip, that's all. When you sit down with Tony, punch in your code word, he'll punch in his, and you'll retrieve the data we loaded in. He'll know what to do with it.'

'Oh, God. Suppose I forget the code word. You know what I'm like with those things.'

'You won't forget this one. You're from the South. What's the Southern slang word for peanut?'

'You mean, goober?'

Donleavy beamed.

Next day, Coleman flew to Heathrow with the camera equipment and the Mattel Speak 'n' Spell, arriving on the morning of 6 September. From there, he took a direct flight to Larnaca, Cyprus, and after four hours' sleep, caught the midnight ferry to Jounieh. Asmar's fiancee, Giselle, Mary-Claude's sister, met him off the boat, and as it was now Sunday, they joined the family for lunch at their house in Sarba.

On Monday, 8 September, Coleman got to work with Asmar in his office at Karintina. After testing the video equipment, they sent Asmar's volunteer cameramen off to start shooting the locations Control had specified in the western sectors of Beirut, places where, Coleman assumed, the hostages were being held. They then put the Speak 'n' Spell on Asmar's desk, set it up in accordance with the maker's instructions, and punched in their code words.

Out poured a detailed account of visits made by Robert McFarlane and Lt-Col. Oliver North to Iran, traveling on Irish passports, to organize the sale of TOW missiles and launchers to the Iranian government in exchange for the release of American hostages; details of money transfers and bank accounts, with dates and places -- most of it based on incidents and conversations that could only have been known to the Iranian or American negotiators.

'My God,' said Coleman. He had known North was seriously out of favour at the Pentagon, but here was another glimpse into the pit. 'What are you supposed to do with this stuff?'

Asmar looked at him soberly, and Coleman did not press the point.

He left Beirut with the camera equipment and videotapes on 11 September, arriving back in Cyprus on the 12th. Next day, he flew to Heathrow, and after an overnight stop in London, traveled on to Montreal, and from there, as Thomas Leavy, to Baltimore Washington International airport, where he checked in, as instructed, at the Ramada Inn. Donleavy, accompanied this time by another agent, arrived there early next morning, the 15th, for a full day's debriefing, and that night Coleman headed south for Alabama to rejoin Mary-Claude at the Lake Martin cottage.

On the 23rd, he began his postgraduate studies as a teaching assistant at Auburn University, and on 2 October, also on schedule, Mary-Claude presented him with a daughter, Sarah.

Meanwhile, one of Asmar's operatives had delivered the Speak 'n' Spell material to a relative who worked for Al Shiraa, Beirut's pro-Syrian Arabic-language news magazine. When the story ran on 3 November, it was picked up at once by the Western media, touching off an international scandal of such embarrassing proportions that President Reagan was forced to act. On 25 November 1986, he fired North, accepted the resignation of Rear-Admiral John Poindexter, McFarlane's successor as National Security Adviser, and spent the rest of his administration trying to dodge the political fallout from Irangate.

'Most people assumed it was the Iranians who blew the whistle on North, McFarlane and Poindexter,' Coleman says. 'Some even said it was the Russians who leaked the story after the failure of the Reykjavik summit. But it wasn't. It was the Pentagon. It was the DIA. It was me, with my little Speak 'n' Spell.'
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:12 pm

Chapter 11

Pan Am was getting a bad press -- rightly so for its slovenly security at Frankfurt, but wrongly so for its attempts to establish the truth of how the bomb got aboard. While the general presumption was that its negligence had let the terrorists through, the intelligence indications were that its security arrangements -- good, bad or indifferent -- had been bypassed.

In its sympathy for the families of the victims, the public was inclined to forget that any passenger aircraft with the Stars and Stripes on its tail would have served as a target as well as another. To that extent, Pan Am, its insurance underwriters and the 16 members of the Pan Am crew were also victims of an act of war against the United States.

It would therefore have followed civilized custom if the government of the United States had sought both to relieve the burden of the disaster on all those affected by it and to pursue and punish those responsible. But for reasons of its own, Washington in the end did neither. It sought, first, to exonerate itself from any general or particular blame for the tragedy and, second, to temper the pursuit of justice, for victims and murderers alike, with considerations of political expediency.

This failure to respond appropriately not only called the government's good faith into question, opening the way to all kinds of lurid speculation about its actions and motives, but further victimized Pan Am. No matter what the deficiencies were in its security arrangements at Frankfurt, the airline and its insurers were at least entitled to prepare their best defence against a charge of wilful misconduct. But with all the relevant documents and witnesses controlled by a government determined to evade any suggestion of responsibility for what had happened, no adequate defence was possible. Pan Am was delivered to the courts hamstrung, bankrupt and ripe for dispatch as a scapegoat.

When James M. Shaughnessy came to the case, ten days after the disaster, certain agents of the government already knew how and where the bomb had been placed on Flight 103. But it was soon evident that the government was not about to share any of its information or, indeed, to cooperate with Pan Am in any meaningful way. From day one, at a political level, the purpose of the investigation was, not to uncover the facts, but to 'prove' that Pan Am was to blame for letting the terrorists through.

Left with no choice but to accept the responsibility or to pursue its own independent inquiries, the airline instructed Windels, Marx, Davies & Ives to prepare its defence and to investigate the suggestions of government complicity that were already coming to light. If Washington was determined to show that Pan Am's deficiencies were solely to blame for the bombing, Pan Am's only defence was to show that Washington was at least equally at fault.

The telephone call on 29 December 1988, between Michael F. Jones, of Pan Am Corporate Security in London, and Phillip Connelly, assistant chief investigation officer of H.M. Customs and Excise, was the first substantial lead that Shaughnessy had to work with. With the methodical professionalism of a former detective sergeant with 20 years' experience in London's Metropolitan Police, Jones had made a full note of a conversation in which Connelly asked, 'Have you considered a bag switch at Frankfurt?'

A subsequent call, also noted down in detail at the time, established that before the disaster Connelly had attended a meeting in Frankfurt between various agencies monitoring a drug-trafficking operation through the airport which involved the switching of baggage. Follow-up inquiries leading to Cyprus ran into a dead end, however, when DEA Nicosia refused to discuss the matter on grounds of national security. (Two years later, Connelly would dispute Jones's recollection of these conversations, but by then the octopus had more or less got its act together. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, there was no reason why Connelly should not have been helpful or why Jones should have falsified an entry in his notebook.)

In April 1989, Shaughnessy learned from a colleague that Juval Aviv, an Israeli-American investigator with a reputation for getting results, had told him that some of his contacts in the intelligence community had important information about the crash of Flight 103. After nine prominent law firms had each recommended Aviv highly, Shaughnessy hired him and his company, Interfor, Inc. to develop those leads, and Aviv took off for Europe. Although some of his referees had said he was 'extremely zealous' and needed to be kept within specific guidelines, at the time, that had struck Shaughnessy as a commendation rather than a reservation.

Two months later, Aviv submitted his now notorious report.

Not surprisingly, Shaughnessy found it 'extremely disturbing, because it suggested serious wrong-doing by the government and suggested that Pan Am employees placed the bomb on Flight 103'. Whereas the pending liability suit against the airline depended on the theory that the bomb had penetrated Pan Am's security, the Aviv report indicated that it had circumvented Pan Am's security. As this conclusion was supported to some extent by the earlier Jones-Connelly conversations and other intelligence data, Shaugnessy and his colleagues now felt obliged to put Aviv's findings to the test.

'In order to properly defend our clients,' Shaughnessy explained later, 'we decided that we should serve subpoenas on a number of Federal agencies in an effort to determine whether the government had any documentation which would either confirm or dispute what Mr. Aviv had reported.'

Because of its sensitive nature, access to the report was confined to the attorneys working on the case. At Pan Am, only the chairman and chief executive officer, Thomas G. Plaskett, the senior vice president, legal, John Lindsey, and Gregory W. Buhler, deputy general counsel, were allowed to read it, and only they were advised of Shaughnessy's decision to subpoena government records. (On first hearing of Aviv's findings, Plaskett reportedly exclaimed: 'You mean to tell me the CIA has been using Pan Am planes to run drugs? I thought I was running an airline.')

Significantly, Plaskett later told Shaughnessy 'that he had personally informed Secretary of State James Baker and Director of Central Intelligence William Webster of the contents of Mr. Aviv's report and of our intention to serve subpoenas on a number of Federal agencies'.

Whether or not this advance notice had any bearing on the government's response, when the subpoenas were served on 29 September, the FBI, the DEA, the State Department, the National Security Agency, the CIA and the National Security Council each made it clear that they had no intention of complying with them.

And whether or not this advance notice had any bearing on the leak of Aviv's confidential report to Congressman James Traficant and the media in November, the subsequent publication of its findings around the world undermined the credibility of Shaughnessy's attempt to test the report's conclusions to the point where no one seemed inclined to take it seriously.

Angry at being put at such a disadvantage, Shaughnessy twice confronted Aviv about the leak, and twice Aviv denied having had anything to do it.

In November, the government moved to quash Pan Am's subpoenas before Chief Judge Thomas C. Platt in United States District Court, Eastern District of New York. Two conferences were held in an attempt to resolve the dispute, with the court attempting to determine what privileges, if any, the government was claiming.

Based on papers submitted for review in camera, Judge Platt felt the government might have a valid claim that the subpoenaed documents were protected from discovery by the state secrets privilege, but counsel for the government seemed unwilling to accept the suggestion. Indeed, the government showed so little cause for its refusal to provide discovery that the court felt it might have to stay the civil litigation against Pan Am until the conclusion of the criminal investigation. Chief Judge Platt then directed the government to search for documents bearing on how and where the bomb was placed on Flight 103 and on warnings received by the government before the night of the disaster.

Instead of complying with this order, the government 'distilled the specific accusations' it had identified in Aviv's report and instructed each of the Federal agencies to respond to that 'distillation' with declarations that there was nothing to support it. As this severely restricted the scope of what the agencies had been directed to search for, Shaughnessy felt confirmed in his suspicions that the government had something to hide and sought to obtain depositions from the officials who had signed the declarations. At a further conference, however, on 5 April 1990, the court ruled against him because the original subpoenas, and the government's motion to quash, were still outstanding.

With both sides now hopelessly deadlocked, the court convened another conference on 27 July. After advising counsel for the government that Washington could not keep on withholding relevant evidence, Chief Judge Platt ordered the government to produce all documents relating to how and where the bomb was placed on Flight 103 for inspection in camera by 1 October 1990.

Convinced that he was getting somewhere at last in his search for admissible evidence, Shaughnessy now turned to several other lines of inquiry. After the strange indifference of the police investigators to the results of the polygraph examinations of Tuzcu and O'Neill in Frankfurt, and the even stranger attempt by the FBI to intimidate the ex-Army polygraph expert who had carried them out, Juval Aviv had played no further part in the preparation of Pan Am's defence. Already something of an embarrassment after the publicity surrounding the leak of his report, he became something of a liability when the results of the polygraph tests also leaked out to the press. Confronted yet again by Shaughnessy, Aviv yet again denied any hand in the disclosure and on 31 May 1990, resigned as Pan Am's investigator, mainly because Shaughnessy refused to take his advice.

'Here I am, leading the charge up the hill,' he was reported as saying, 'and I look back, and where are my troops? They are hiding behind bushes, waiting to see how Juval makes out.'

After the leak of the Interfor Report, counsel for the victims' families attempted to take a deposition from Aviv but Shaughnessy moved to quash the subpoena on the grounds that Aviv's work was protected from discovery by the so-called attorney work-product doctrine. In reply, the plaintiffs argued that either Pan Am or Aviv had waived that protection by knowingly leaking the report to the media, and Chief Judge Platt referred the issue to Magistrate Judge Allyne Ross for a ruling.

After hearing several witnesses, including Aviv and the Observer's reporter John Merritt, who had interviewed him in November 1989, Magistrate Judge Ross found that Aviv had divulged at least part of his report to Merritt and had thereby waived work-product protection. In her written opinion, dated 27 July 1990, Ross described Aviv's testimony as 'not credible', which most of the media took to mean that his leaked report was 'not credible'. In fact, she was referring only to his denials of having leaked the report. At no time had she addressed herself to the credibility or otherwise of anything in the report. (Curiously, although Magistrate Judge Ross ruled that plaintiffs did have the right to take a deposition from Aviv, their counsel never attempted to do so. The widespread belief that Ross had declared the Interfor Report 'not credible' was, perhaps, of greater value to their case than anything Aviv might have sworn to.)

But even before Aviv dropped out of the picture, Shaughnessy had substantially broadened the scope of his inquiries.

'As might be expected in an investigation involving international terrorism, the murder of 270 innocent people and a possible government cover-up,' he told the court, 'most of the individuals we contacted or who contacted us, demanded complete anonymity. For me to reveal the identities of those individuals would not only be a breach of confidence and trust in me but, in some cases, might jeopardize the careers of those involved or even jeopardize their safety.'

Though he offered to identify his sources to Chief Judge Platt in camera, Shaughnessy was only too well aware that the certainty he felt about Flight 103 had yet to be converted into a certainty he could prove in court. A former DIA agent, for instance, had confirmed the involvement of the U..S intelligence community in narcotics trafficking, but not for attribution. Similarly, a former CIA agent had given him a detailed, off-the-record account of the agency's involvement with arms and narcotics trafficking in the Middle East.

More dramatically, in the spring of 1990, a senior DEA intelligence analyst confirmed that most of what Aviv had said in his report about narcotics trafficking through Frankfurt airport was true.

At about the same time, Shaughnessy also commissioned a former German intelligence agent to carry out an investigation for him in Europe. When his report was submitted, it dwelt at length on the key figure of Monzer al-Kassar and his involvement with Palestinian terrorist groups, supporting Aviv's assertion of al-Kassar's connection with the bombing of Flight 103. Of even greater interest was the flat statement that the BKA, working with German intelligence, had established that the bomb had been carried to Frankfurt from Damascus via Cyprus.

Four other sources provided documents and information, mainly about warnings received before the bombing. One also supplied a report entitled 'Pan Am Flight 103', prepared in January 1989 by the intelligence unit of the Lebanese Forces, which had to do mainly with the substance of intercepted telephone calls to and from the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.

On page 10, the report stated: 'Two days after the downing of Pan Am 103, the Iranian embassy in Beirut receives a phone call from the Interior Ministry in Teheran, intercepted, during which the ambassador is told to hand over to the PFLP-GC the remaining funds, size and scope not specified, and is being congratulated for the "successful operation".'

All four informants confirmed that the United States had the Iranian Embassy in Beirut under electronic surveillance prior to the disaster. They also confirmed that an American named David Lovejoy had made a series of calls to Hussein Niknam, the Iranian charge d'affaires, about a team of American agents, led by Charles Dennis McKee and Matthew Kevin Gannon, who had arrived in Beirut on a mission concerned with the hostages.

Lovejoy's last recorded call was on 20 December 1988, when he advised Niknam that the agents had changed their travel plans and would catch Pan Am Flight 103 from London next day, 21 December. Niknam at once put in a call to the Interior Ministry in Teheran and was monitored passing on Lovejoy's information.

One of Shaughnessy's sources, with close links to Israeli intelligence, actually claimed to have heard the tapes of these telephone intercepts, and another, well-connected with the U.S. intelligence community, confirmed not only that the Iranian Embassy's calls had been monitored at that time but also the substance of the Lovejoy-Niknam conversations.

Other documents to which Shaughnessy was given access included a series of DIA Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summaries (DITSUMs) issued in the second half of 1988 warning against renewed threats of attack on U.S. interests, particularly as a consequence of the shooting down of the Iranian Airbus in July. On 1 December, just three weeks before the disaster, a DIA DITSUM stated that 'reports of surveillance, targeting and planning of actions against U.S. persons and facilities are continuous'.

All four sources also independently confirmed that on 9 December 1988, Israeli Defence Forces had captured documents in a raid on a PFLP-CC base near Damour, Lebanon, which disclosed plans to bomb a Pan Am flight out of Frankfurt by the end of that month. One of the four said that Flight 103 was specifically mentioned, and all agreed that the Israelis had immediately warned the governments of the United States and West Germany.

The consensus was overwhelming, but Shaughnessy could call none of his informants to the witness stand, even if they had been willing to testify, because almost everything they had told him -- no matter how detailed and how well corroborated by information from other independent sources -- would have been ruled out as inadmissible hearsay.

Although there was little room to doubt that the government of the United States, with the assistance of the British and German governments, was engaged in the biggest cover-up of modern times, there was no possible way Shaughnessy could prove it to a judge and jury unless the US government opened its files, and thereby virtually incriminated itself.

Everything seemed to hinge, therefore, on Chief Judge Platt's decision to order the government to produce all documents relating to the bombing of Flight 103 by 1 October 1990, for his review in camera. But in December, Shaughnessy was astonished to learn that the subpoenas he had served on seven Federal agencies (the DIA had been added to the others in March 1990) had been quashed without further hearing of argument.

The circumstances were odd, to say the least. The court's order, signed 12 December 1990, showed that, after the 27 July conference, the government had approached Chief Judge Platt privately to suggest that, rather than produce the documents he had specified, its agents should simply brief the court on certain matters connected with the bombing.

Without advising Shaughnessy of this proposal, much less inviting his opinion of it, the court had agreed to the government's suggestion and, as Shaughnessy put it later, 'was briefed on undisclosed matters on unspecified dates by unidentified agents of the government ... I still do not know [September 1992] who briefed this court, when the briefings took place or what was told to this court during those briefings.'

All he knew was that 'in the end, this court quashed the subpoenas based upon ex parte in camera briefings given to it by the government'.

Chief Judge Platt had already shown signs of distress over the government's intransigence. A year earlier, when the discovery dispute was at its height, he had been asked to comment on the documents he had seen so far.

"I am troubled about certain parts [he had said], and I don't think anything can be -- there could be a redaction, but I think what was left after the redaction would be virtually useless. And I don't know quite what to do because I think some of the material may be significant. Some of the material I haven't seen, of course, because the government hasn't even shown me all of the material. They have just given me the reasons why, which, as I see it, I am not at liberty to reveal at this stage.

But depending on what is behind that material, those reasons, if you will, there may be -- it might change this case completely (author's italics). There is a possibility. I don't say that it's a reality. There is a possibility, depending on what hypothesis you assume and I have no way of knowing which hypothesis is correct ... "


A year later, he resolved his uncertainty in favour of Washington. But Shaughnessy had lost a battle, not the war. As any claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act had to be filed within two years -- in other words, by 21 December 1990 -- he obtained leave from the court to commence a third-party action against the United States government. The thrust of this was that if the passenger liability suits went against Pan Am, the airline would seek to recover the cost of the compensation awards from the government on the grounds that the Flight 103 disaster had been due to the misconduct of government agencies.

The complaint, filed on 19 December, stated that the government had had a duty to inform Pan Am of information in its possession that a terrorist organization was planning to place a bomb on a Pan Am flight from either Frankfurt or London, specifically on Flight 103 on 21 December 1988, and had 'negligently failed to inform Pan Am'.

Secondly, the complaint charged that the government had been 'negligent in supervising and controlling an operation utilizing criminals, terrorists and terrorist sympathizers at various locations, including Frankfurt Rhein-Main airport, which circumvented all baggage security controls and which was utilized by a terrorist organization to place the bomb on Flight 103'.

Support for this theory, of an unexpected kind, had been provided a few weeks earlier by network television.

On 30 October, NBC News reported: 'Officials of the Drug Enforcement Administration told NBC News today they are conducting an inquiry of a top secret undercover heroin operation in the Middle East to find out whether the operation was used as cover by the terrorists who blew up Pan Am 103 almost two years ago.'

The report went on to say that

NBC News has learned that Pan Am flights from Frankfurt, including 103, had been used a number of times by the DEA as part of its undercover operation to fly informants and suitcases of heroin into Detroit as part of a sting operation to catch dealers in Detroit.

The undercover operation, code-named Operation Courier, was set up three years ago by the DEA in Cyprus to infiltrate Lebanese heroin groups in the Middle East and their connections in Detroit. According to law-enforcement and intelligence sources, the Pan Am baggage area in Frankfurt was a key to the operation. Informants would put suitcases on the Pan Am flights, apparently without the usual security checks, according to one airline source, through an arrangement between the DEA and German authorities.

Law-enforcement officials say the fear now is that the terrorists that blew up Pan Am 103 somehow learned about what the DEA was doing, infiltrated the undercover operation and substituted the bomb for the heroin in one of the DEA shipments.


The following evening, 31 October, Pierre Salinger of ABC News, weighed in with a story of his own:

In 1987, the US Drug Enforcement Administration Set up a dummy company called Eurame here in Nicosia, on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. According to law-enforcement sources, it was part of Operation Corea, an undercover operation designed to track the flow of heroin. The DEA recruited undercover couriers who would be monitored as they carried the drugs from Lebanon, through Cyprus and Europe and on to drug dealers in Detroit. ABC News has confirmed that one of those couriers was a young Lebanese-American named Khalid Jafaar.

He was one of those killed aboard Pan Am 103.


The report went on: 'Operation Corea worked like this. German police would be notified that an undercover courier was arriving at Frankfurt airport. German agents would escort his baggage through all security checks, and one of them would personally place the baggage on the plane.'

Before the broadcasts, both Brian Ross of NBC News and Pierre Salinger of ABC News had contacted Gregory W. Buhler, deputy general counsel of Pan Am, to inform him that they had obtained evidence from sources within the United States government that a DEA undercover operation was involved in the crash of Flight 103.

They also told him that they had talked to Lester Knox Coleman, a former agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Middle East, seeking confirmation of certain details of the story before airing their reports -- in Salinger's case, at a face-to-face meeting in London.

A couple of months earlier, Buhler had been introduced to Coleman by Marshall Lee Miller in Washington, and since then had been urging Shaughnessy to talk to Coleman because he had a great deal of interesting information concerning the crash of Flight 103.

As they were both due in London in connection with the case, and as Coleman was also there seeing Salinger, Buhler suggested that it might be a good opportunity for the three of them to get together.

Shaughnessy agreed, and on 1 November 1990, met his first -- and so far his only -- independent witness for dinner at the Hyde Park hotel.
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:13 pm

Chapter 12

'You know, buddy, you don't have to do this if you don't want to,' Donleavy said. 'Those guys are bad news. Anything goes wrong, they'll just leave you face down in the shit.'

'So what else is new?'

It was already too late. Mary-Claude was hopping with excitement at the idea of showing off their new daughter to her family.

'Hey!' Donleavy did his best to look hurt. 'We're the guys who hate to make mistakes, remember? The DEA, hell -- it's just one big mistake. Which is why we want you out there. To keep an eye on 'em.'

'Sure.'

Heads we win, tails you lose. But there had been little doubt he would go from the moment Micheal Hurley had called during the Thanksgiving holiday to say he had at last been funded for a major operation in the Middle East and would Coleman be interested in going back to Cyprus as a DEA contractor?

Maybe, Coleman had replied cautiously, but it was not up to him. He had been involved in other things.

Hurley already knew that, but he was sure the logistics could be worked out if Coleman agreed.

So was Donleavy when Coleman told him about Hurley's call. The DEA had already expressed an interest in getting him back there, he said. If Coleman was willing, he was ready to second him to Hurley to protect the security of DIA's mission in the Middle East. While working on the DEA/CIA operation Hurley had mentioned, Coleman could keep tabs on DEA's Cyprus station and provide 'back channel' reports on what it was up to.

The Colemans were willing. During the first week of December 1986, Donleavy came down to the Windfrey hotel at River Chase, Alabama, just south of Birmingham, for the first of several briefing sessions.

The DIA was worried about DEA personnel getting caught up in secret intelligence missions, he explained. None of them had been trained in covert operations other than when dealing with criminals. Its misgivings dated from the DEA's links with the CIA under the late DCI William Casey, whose Contra operations, as Coleman well knew, had been childish and reckless.

In contrast, the DIA's covert activities had never been compromised and it had never become embroiled in public controversy. In order to keep things that way, the agency was obliged to keep track of other U.S. intelligence operations that might prove embarrassing and to head them off as necessary.

If Coleman accepted the assignment, under no circumstances would he permit anybody to have any direct contact with or knowledge of DIA operatives in the region or allow anyone to suspect that he was reporting 'back channel' to Donleavy in Washington.

'You'll also need a better cover story,' he added, 'if you're going to be seen around with Hurley and his crowd. So I want you to enroll for the winter term at Auburn for one course. Thesis Research. It's for your master's degree. And your thesis topic is "The Role of Illegal Narcotics Trafficking in the Lebanese Political Crisis".'

Coleman smiled.

Donleavy seemed pleased with it, too. 'Just tell your faculty adviser you got a research grant from the DEA, and you'll be spending the term at the American Embassy in Nicosia.'

And so it was.

In January, Donleavy called from Washington to say he had met with Hurley and his people to discuss Coleman's assignment to NARCOG Nicosia, and if he still wanted the job, he should collect the family's travel expenses and airline tickets from the DEA's Birmingham field office. In Cyprus, he would live in government housing, use a green staff pass to enter the embassy, and receive mail via FrO New York 09530, a federal postal address for U.S. government employees overseas. Anything else he needed, he should work out for himself with Hurley.

'Okay,' said Coleman. 'How much does he have to know?'

"About you? No more than he knows already. Just your vital statistics and your alternative I.D. In case they want to use you undercover.'

'The Thomas Leavy I.D.?'

'Right. He probably knows about it anyway. They're in pretty tight with Langley. But that's it. Not a word about me or the agency or anything you've done for us or why you're there or anything.'

'Fine,' said Coleman. 'And the back channel reports?'

'I'll come down and talk to you about that,' Donleavy said.

He arrived with a Radio Shack hand-held computer phone dialer and a two-speed microcassette recorder for Coleman to use, with the code that had worked so successfully before, based on a standard telephone touch-tone pad.

On 21 February 1987, the Colemans were met off the plane at Larnaca airport by Special Agent Dany Habib, Hurley's number two at DEA Nicosia.

An Arabic-speaking Tunisian-American, Habib was the son of Phillip Habib, a former government agent who had played a big part in breaking up the French Connection in Marseilles during the 1960s. Shrewd, devious and Arab-looking, Dany Habib and Coleman took to each other on sight, despite their professional caution, sensing they could work together.

Hurley was waiting for them on the tarmac near the terminal in his big blue BMW 520i. When the Colemans' baggage arrived, without the formality of having to clear Customs, Coleman jokingly observed that the DEA attache must have the island in his pocket, a suggestion that Hurley took quite seriously.

'You bet your sweet ass,' he said. 'I got customs and immigration working for me and the Cypriot National Police. Once you got that, you got the whole damn country by the balls.'

'So hearts and minds must surely follow,' said Coleman politely. Hurley did not improve on further acquaintance.

'You better believe it. Anybody gets out of line, we just run his ass clear off the island. So any problems, you come to me. I'm your sphincter muscle, okay? Everything passes through me. I'm your total interface with this operation.'

It was hard to tell if he meant this as a warning, a threat or an offer of assistance. Habib remained impassive, and Mary-Claude, with Sarah in her lap, looked out the window. She had long since realized her husband worked for the government, but he had never discussed it with her, much less told her he was a spy. The space between them was filling up with unasked and unanswered questions.

The Colemans were driven to Filanta Court, on Archbishop Makarios Avenue, and handed the keys of No. 62B, a large three-bedroomed apartment with a balcony overlooking the port of Larnaca from which everybody getting on or off the ferry from Lebanon could be observed through binoculars.

On the way in from the airport, Hurley had warned him that the back bedroom was full of electronic gear that nobody knew how to use. Coleman's first job for NARCOG would be to get it operational as a listening post to monitor Lebanese radio traffic and to keep track of shipping movements in and out of Lebanese ports. Among the equipment was a maritime receiver that automatically picked up ship transmissions while continuously scanning a preset frequency range and recorded everything on tape, including the position of each vessel.

'Taxi George' was waiting inside the apartment and 'Syrian George' arrived a few minutes later. While Mary-Claude saw to the baby and busied herself around the apartment, Habib made the introductions.

Syrian George would man the listening post every day, play back the tapes and provide translations as required. A former officer in the so-called Pink Panther Brigade under Rifat Assad, he held a master's degree from the University of Kiev and, as Coleman quickly discovered, worked harder than anybody because he was desperate to get to America and Hurley kept promising to get a visa for him if he made himself useful.

Taxi George, a likeable Iraqi Chaldean Christian who worked as an interrogator for the Cypriot National Police Narcotics Squad, was another key informant. Fluent in Arabic, Greek and English, he visited the U.S. several times a year as a DEA courier, making controlled deliveries of Lebanese heroin to dealer networks in and around Detroit, but had proved even more useful to Hurley as a taxi driver.

Lebanese drug traffickers visiting the island to close a deal would check into a hotel like the Palm Beach or the Golden Bay on Dekalia Road, and, on going out to dinner, would find Taxi George at the curb. With no reason to suppose he was anybody but a Greek-Cypriot, they would go on talking business in Arabic, and Taxi George would time their cab ride according to the intelligence value of their conversation.

Hurley had promised him a visa, too.

Then there was Ibrahim El-Jorr, who had an American passport already. An erratic Lebanese with a wife and family in Beirut and a Dutch mistress in Nicosia, he wore jeans and cowboy boots and drove around at high speed in a Chevy 4 X 4 with expired Texas licence plates. He claimed to have been at the Munich Olympics in 1972 while serving with the U.S. Army, and seemed particularly proud of a photograph of himself in officer's uniform (without apparently realising that the insignia were incorrect).

El-Jorr was Hurley's principal link to a network of DEA informants/CIA 'assets' in Lebanon, many of them members of the warring clans of the pro-Syrian Kabbaras and the anti-Syrian Jafaars in the Bekaa Valley.

Two of them, Zouher Kabbara and his cousin Nadim Kabbara, had unfortunately been arrested in Rome about a month before Coleman arrived on Cyprus, but he did meet Sami Jafaar, a short, stocky, fast-talking Shiite drug runner with a hairy chest festooned with gold chains and medallions.

Technically, Sami was a confidential informant (CI) for Michael Pavlick, the DEA's country attache in Paris, but he was to play a vital part in Operation Goldenrod, a project preoccupying the NARCOG task force in Nicosia when Coleman arrived there, and which was to touch off the chain reaction of events that exploded over Lockerbie 21 months later.

In January 1986, President Reagan had signed a secret directive -- 'They can run, but they can't hide' -- instructing the octopus to identify terrorists responsible for crimes against American citizens abroad and to bring them to justice in U.S. courts. By October, when the administration's Operations Sub-Group on Terrorism met in the White House Situation Room, the target list had been whittled down to one, Fawaz Younis, whom the CIA described as 'a key player in the back-street world of terrorism ... who reported directly to the leadership of the Shiite Amal militia'.

In fact, he was a Beirut used-car dealer who had once been a member of the Syrian-backed Amal militia headed by Nabi Berri, a Shiite Muslim cabinet minister in the Lebanese government (and a less well-known businessman in Detroit, Michigan).

Though not a high-level suspect, Younis was wanted in connection with the hijacking of a Jordanian airliner with three Americans aboard in 1985. He had also been identified as one of those who had guarded the hostages after the TWA 747 hijack in June of that year, which made him an accomplice in the murder of U.S. Navy diver, Robert Stetham. More to the point, he was the only accessible target the CIA had been able to find, and the DEA had an informant -- Sami Jafaar -- who was both willing and able to nail him.

Sami's cousin and business associate, Jamal Hamadan, had known Younis for six years. They had once shared an apartment in Beirut, and when Hamadan later moved to Poland to run the Jafaars' heroin export business to the Eastern bloc through their offices in Warsaw, Younis had paid him an extended visit there. The Jafaars' main competitor in Eastern Europe was, as always, the Assad cartel, which worked out of a front company on Stawkis Street and another, ZIBADO, on Friedrichstrasse in East Berlin.

Sami Jafaar was confident he could persuade Hamadan to renew his friendship with Younis, and that, between them, they could cook up some pretext to lure Younis out of Lebanon into neutral territory for an FBI snatch. Hamadan became equally confident they could do so when the CIA offered them both 'asset' status, which meant virtual immunity from prosecution or the risk of ever having to surface in court and testify as witnesses.

The Hamadan clan, like the Jafaars, had been involved in a losing struggle against the Syrian cartel ever since Rifat Assad and Monzer al-Kassar had taken over the Bekaa Valley in 1975 with the help of the Syrian Army. One of the reasons why Sami and Jamal were so happy to cooperate with the Americans was that Younis belonged to the Syrian-backed Amal militia, which had burned Jafaar and Hamadan poppy fields and destroyed their processing labs, and here was a chance for revenge.

The fact that the DEA and the CIA were heavily involved with both camps would have meant nothing to Sami and Jamal. As far as they were concerned, and like most Arab players in the narcotics game, the DEA was welcome to play one side off against another, so long as they could watch safely from the sidelines. Business was business.

By the time Coleman picked up the threads of the plot in February 1987, there was still no clear plan of attack, although it was generally agreed among Hurley and his colleagues that luring Younis into a drug deal was probably the key, and that a lot of political hassle would be avoided if he could be taken, say, in international waters. Precisely how he was to be enticed aboard a suitable vessel remained in doubt, particularly as the DEA neither owned nor controlled a suitable vessel.

Finding one was Coleman's first assignment for Operation Goldenrod, inbetween setting up a NARCOG listening post in his back bedroom and instructing the Cypriot Police Force Narcotics Squad (CPFNS) in electronic surveillance. At CPFNS headquarters near the Nicosia Hilton, a cupboardful of expensive audio and video equipment paid for by the U.N. Fund for Drug Abuse Control was gathering dust and Hurley was anxious to get it out in the field, even though wiretaps were strictly illegal in Cyprus.

No, it was okay, he said. The government would turn a blind eye if the targets were foreign nationals, and particularly a despised Lebanese like Fawaz Younis.

In 1986, Coleman had struck up a friendship at the Larnaca marina with Fohad Beaini, a lively boat-builder better known around the docks as Abou Talar. A short, wiry Lebanese in his fifties, Talar lived aboard a partially finished 81-foot yacht, King Edmondo, with a tall, blonde Danish woman who towered over him and was known locally as 'Foofoo', as she was thought to be somewhat strange. He had pumped all his savings into building the boat, using bits and pieces scrounged from all over the Middle East, and was suspiciously eager to part with it. When Hurley approved of Coleman's find and hurriedly arranged for the CPFNS to buy King Edmondo for $80,000, Talar pocketed the money, kissed Foofoo goodbye and disappeared into Lebanon before anybody thought to take the boat out on trial.

Although the funds had come from Hurley's budget, the yacht was bought in the name of Andreous Kasikopu, a retired Cypriot marine police captain who looked remarkably like Claude Rains. This was in the interests of deniability. The DEA was free to use it for any covert operation it wished, but if anything went wrong, Hurley could always say, 'Oh, you mean that Cypriot boat.'

In fact, something went technically wrong almost at once. A week after taking delivery, Kasikopu telephoned the American Embassy to report that the transmissions of both engines had broken down, and although new, were beyond repair. When Coleman checked with the American manufacturers in Indiana, he discovered that they were really tank engines which Talar had somehow scrounged from the Israeli Army.

After spending more of the taxpayers' funds to make the King Edmondo seaworthy, and to rig her out with state-of-the-art marine communications equipment, Coleman handed the boat over in late March to Hurley, who renamed her Skunk Kilo. At about the same time, Jamal Hamadan put in the first of the 60 telephone calls he would make from Paris to Fawaz Younis in Beirut before the trap was sprung.

As the plan now called for Jafaar and Hamadan to meet Younis in Cyprus before consummating their phony drug deal aboard Skunk Kilo, and as close electronic monitoring of their conversations would be essential to avoid last-minute surprises, Hurley was determined not to risk a breakdown in surveillance, after what had happened with the boat. Some sort of dress rehearsal was clearly required for the Cypriot police officers who were only just coming to grips with wiretap technology, and, right on cue, one of Hurley's informants passed the word that Abou Daod, a Lebanese drugs trafficker, was coming to Cyprus to set up a deal.

With CPFNS Inspector Penikos Hadjiloizu, Hurley rented several rooms in the Filanta hotel, across the street from Filanta Court and the NARCOG listening post in 62B. Under Coleman's direction, a carrier-current monitor, with microphones hidden in the sitting- room and bedroom table lamps, was installed in a first-floor suite facing the street. When the lamps were plugged in, the hotel's own electrical circuits carried the microphones' output to a receiver and voice-activated recorder in another room down the hall. As the telephone was also wired to interface with the bugs, any sound in the suite was thereby automatically recorded, the only human intervention required being a periodic change of tape.

All was in readiness when Abou Daod stepped off the Suny boat from Jounieh. Picked up by Taxi George, he was steered successfully to the Filanta hotel, where the receptionist duly assigned him to the 'hot' suite. And in the room down the hall, Sergeant Mikalis, the Cypriot police officer appointed by Inspector Hadjiloizu to sit on the wire and bring the recorded tapes across the road for translation, watched the reels begin to turn as Daod placed calls to his associates in Athens, Paris and Sofia.

A big, blustering, opinionated cop, full of self-importance, Mikalis soon grew bored with wiretap duty. After two days, in which it had become clear that Daod was organizing a drug shipment from Lebanon via Cyprus to Bulgaria, a well-worn route through the Eastern bloc into Western Europe, he decided to go home and sleep with his wife instead of staying on the job, as instructed, in case of overnight calls. At 11 p.m., he made sure there was still plenty of tape left on the machine and departed, returning at 8 a.m. the following morning to take it across the street to Syrian George.

After listening to it on his headphones for a few minutes, Syrian George stopped the tape, looked Mikalis up and down and turned to Coleman.

'Daod called Sofia at 3.03 a.m.,' he said, in Arabic. 'He told his contact he was on Olympic Airways' seven o'clock flight to Athens. You want to tell this dumb-fuck donkey son of a Shiite whore that Daod just left the country right under his nose?'

'What did he say?' asked Mikalis excitedly. 'Is there news?'

'Yeah,' said Coleman. 'He said to tell you that Mr. Daod's plane is just landing in Athens.'

The sergeant looked baffled. 'What is this meaning?' As it began to sink in, his eyes opened wider. 'He's gone? He's left Cyprus?'

'Without even saying goodbye. You want me to tell Penikos or will you?'

'No, no, no,' Mikalis said wildly. 'Gimme the tape -- I must investigate this. Gimme the tape.'

They had better luck with Fawaz Younis. By the time Jamal Hamadan, accompanied by Sami Jafaar, arrived in Cyprus to meet his old friend at the Filanta hotel, Sergeant Mikalis had been banished to police school in Germany, and his successors in the room down the hall from the 'hot' suite had been drilled by Coleman to within an inch of their lives. Every incriminating word that Younis uttered within range of the room bugs was meticulously recorded, transcribed and translated as evidence to be used against him in an American court.

Encouraged by Hamadan, Younis made much of the minor role Nabi Berri had assigned to him in the Air Jordanian incident and admitted he had helped guard the hostages after the TWA 747 hijack. He also allowed that the used-car business had failed to keep him in the style to which he had grown accustomed and rose to the prospect of a lucrative drug deal like a shark to a bucket of entrails.

To cement their renewed friendship, Hamadan then took Younis on a five-day spree through the bars and cabarets of Larnaca, topping off this dizzy round of DEA-financed hospitality by pressing $5000 into his hand as a parting gift -- an act of impulsive generosity that sent Hurley thundering upstairs to confront his CIA colleagues.

'I'm not gonna get hung with this whole thing out of my budget,' Coleman heard him insist, as did half the staff of the embassy. 'I'm just along for the ride, that's all. This guy belongs to you.'

As Coleman subsequently reported to Control, this pretty well summed up the relationship between Hurley and the spooks in Nicosia. With the national and strategic interest of the United States as part of its more elevated terms of reference, the CIA would co-opt DEA informants at will or take over a DEA operation that suited its purpose or use the DEA as a cloak for its own interests or activities without much regard for the lesser claims of law enforcement. It was already clear to Coleman from his analysis of the drugs-related intelligence coming out of Lebanon that the traditional heroin route to the U.S. via Cyprus, Frankfurt and London was used regularly by both agencies, that the traffic was not always in narcotics and that it moved both ways.

After visiting Hamadan twice more on Cyprus (to complete the softening up and the wiretap evidence), Younis was targeted for an FBI snatch on 13 September. A team from the Bureau's anti-terrorist squad flew out from Quantico, Virginia, a week beforehand to take charge of the arrangements and Hamadan placed his final call to Younis in Beirut, telling him to drop everything and come at once. He was to meet 'Joseph', a big-time drugs trafficker, aboard his yacht to conclude a deal that would solve all his problems forever.

Younis arrived in Larnaca on the 10th and joined Hamadan in another two-day, nonstop pub crawl that turned the knife in Hurley's wound and brought them, on schedule, to the Sheraton resort hotel in Limassol on the night of the 12th. Next morning, decked out like a sacrificial goat in his gold chains and designer finery, Younis left the Sheraton marina by speedboat with Sami Jafaar and Hamadan to meet the octopus.

The logistics of his complicated destiny involved not only Skunk Kilo, anchored by its FBI crew in international waters, but the USS Butte, a Navy ammunitions ship that had been shadowing the yacht by radar, the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, standing by with a Navy S-3 jet and an escort of two F-14 Phantoms to fly him to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., two KC-10 tanker aircraft to refuel the S-3 on the way, and 15 carloads of FBI agents to meet him on arrival.

Blissfully unaware that the full panoply of America's military might was about to deliver him up to the majesty of American justice, President Reagan's token terrorist was welcomed aboard Skunk Kilo by an undercover FBI team that was so wrought up by the occasion that in placing Younis under arrest they managed to break both his wrists, though he offered no resistance or showed any enthusiasm for the 12-mile swim back to Limassol. After that, it took the agents four days to extract a confession from their prisoner on the USS Butte before turning him over to the US Navy for the 13 hour 10 minute flight to Washington, a new solo record for a carrier-based aircraft carrying a second-hand car dealer.

After the arrest, Hamadan and Sami Jafaar returned to Limassol in the launch and were driven to the American Embassy in Nicosia.

Coleman recalls:

"It was mid-afternoon when they arrived at the compound's rear gate. Cypriot security guards checked the BMW's undercarriage with a large mirror, lowered the iron teeth into the pavement and waved them through. An Agent punched the buzzer next to the embassy's rear steel door. The men stepped inside, took the stairs to the right that led to the DEA office and rang the bell. Connie buzzed them in for a joyous greeting from Hurley, Colonel John Sasser, the Defense attache, and one of Buck Revell's FBI team, but there wasn't much time for celebration because Hamadan was wanted elsewhere for debriefing.

Hurley handed him a Turkish passport with a West German visa and he was escorted over the green line into Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. After spending the night at an embassy cottage in Kyrenia, he was put on a Turkish Air flight to Istanbul connecting with a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. He then spent three days at Fort King being questioned by people from the DIA, the FBI, the CIA and the DEA, and after that a bunch of U.S. Marshals took him away into the Federal Witness Protection Program. And as far as I know, Hamadan has never been heard of again from that day to this.

As for Sami Jafaar, the feeling was that he had not been compromised, although, with hindsight, it seems possible that Syrian intelligence had noticed his involvement. At any rate, he and his clan went to the top of the class as far as the DEA and CIA were concerned."


Back home, the massed ranks of the Federal government's press officers had been deployed to exploit the triumph of Goldenrod and the supposed deterrent value of President Reagan's 'They-can-run-but-they-can't-hide' anti-terrorist programme. To make sure that none of the macho details went to waste, the full, inside story of Washington's awesome display of military prowess was entrusted to Steven Emerson of U.S. News & World Report, who had shown in the past that he knew how to treat a government 'scoop' with respect, and who could be relied upon to resist the kind of sceptical impulse that sometimes afflicts reporters with a wider readership.

In the summer of 1987, while outwardly researching his master's thesis on Lebanese narcotics trafficking, Coleman met several newsmen of a less trusting nature, among them Brian Ross of NBC and his producer Ira Silverman. They already knew one another. Coleman had met Ross in 1981 while writing his book Squeal, in which he described how Las Vegas superstar Wayne Newton had sued Ross and Silverman over an NBC story connecting him with organized crime. The two had arrived in Cyprus, with the cooperation of the DEA, to prepare a documentary on 'The Lebanese Connection', and as Hurley did not want to be bothered, he deputed Coleman to look after them.

With his television news background and now intimate knowledge of Middle East drugs trafficking, Coleman helped Ross and Silverman prepare what was generally considered to be as balanced and authoritative a survey of narco-terrorism as the media had ever presented to the American public, a contribution which they both generously acknowledged on several occasions afterwards and which subsequently led to Coleman's appearance on NBC News after the Flight 103 disaster, although neither of them were aware then or before of his DIA/NARCOG affiliations.

For the most part, however, Coleman's experience with the media was disillusioning. While the intelligence community was specifically forbidden to compromise staff newsmen or to use media staff credentials as a cover for its agents, cutbacks and bureau closures had left most of the world's press, radio and television dependent on local freelance reporters and cameramen, to whom the restrictions did not apply.

Coleman himself had used freelance credentials supplied by Mutual Radio to get into Libya after Operation El Dorado Canyon a year earlier, and he would meet very few stringers during his various spells of duty in the Middle East who did not supplement their incomes from journalism by supplying material to government agencies like the DEA.

One morning, for instance, after monitoring radio traffic all night in the NARCOG listening post he had set up in his back bedroom, Coleman reluctantly opened his apartment door to a caller who introduced himself as David Mills, a British photographer for Newsweek.

It seemed they had a mutual acquaintance in 'freelance' W. Dennis Suit, president of Overseas Press Services, whom Coleman had met as a 'consultant' to Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network and with whom he had kept in touch, on DIA instructions, because of Suit's involvement with Oliver North's ragtag army of conmen, yahoos and armchair mercenaries from Georgia.

Mills had apparently met a very loquacious Dennis Suit in a bar in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and listened to him brag about the worldwide connections he had made in the course of his career as a self-proclaimed CIA agent. On hearing that Mills was headed for the Middle East, Suit had suggested he should look Coleman up in Cyprus because he was doing some research there and had a lot of good contacts.

'Oh,' said Coleman wearily. 'That's great. How are you? Come in. Would you like a cup of coffee?'

Doing his best to stay awake, he chatted to Mills until satisfied that the other was convinced of his academic credentials and then, to get rid of him before Syrian George arrived to transcribe the night's tapes and give the game away, sent him over to see Hurley, who wanted to know if Mills, in the course of his travels in and out of Lebanon for Newsweek, would like to shoot a few pictures for the DEA.

Seeing no conflict of interest in this, or any serious ethical problem in working covertly for the DEA, Mills joined the rest of the press corps on Hurley's freelance payroll and subsequently turned in some useful photo coverage of illegal port facilities in Lebanon.

Although Coleman still had qualms about the misuse of media credentials, foreseeing a time when immigration officials around the world would automatically assume that any visiting journalist was a spy, it would have been hypocritical to complain. But he did protest vigorously to Hurley when he discovered that a full-time British staff cameraman for a major news service was also secretly shooting stuff for the DEA, using his employer's equipment.

'There's a directive about that,' he said. 'I don't want to get involved. If Washington finds out, there'll be hell to pay.'

'He's a foreign national,' said Hurley impatiently. 'Fuck it.'

In the end, Coleman had to let it pass, although he contrived not to pay for the footage, and duly noted the DEA's systematic corruption of the media in one of his back-channel reports to Donleavy. It hardly mattered anyway, for in addition to his bootleg coverage, Hurley was also helping himself to anything he wanted in the legitimate footage brought out of Lebanon by television news teams.

As Coleman says:

"If CBS, NBC, ABC, the BBC -- anybody -- wanted to up-link video they'd shot in Beirut they could go either to Damascus or Nicosia. That was the choice. And a lot of times, particularly after shooting in the east, they were cut off from getting to Damascus so they had to put their tapes on the boat to Larnaca and up-link it from Cyprus.

Well, Hurley had this arrangement with Customs ... All those guys had DEA certificates of appreciation on their walls -- he'd greased the skids all the way. Anybody came in with videotape, Customs would grab it and say, 'Well, we have to look at this before you take it in.' 'But this is urgent news material,' the guy would say. Tough shit. He'd have to wait two or three hours while Customs ran it across the road to me so I could make a quick video dub for Hurley or his spook friends before they returned the original and let the guy on through to Nicosia.

Same thing with MEMO, Middle East Media Operations, just down the street from the embassy in Nicosia. It worked like a news bureau. You could rent office space and video equipment there. You could file your stories from there. They had secretaries, drivers, people to answer your phone -- it was a complete support operation on the ground, and most of the networks had a desk there. And everybody was working for Hurley, although most of them didn't know it. Anything going through MEMO ended up in the American Embassy. Assignment details. Progress reports. Private conversations. Notes. Videotape. Everything -- right down to scrap paper from the waste baskets. He had the whole thing fixed."


But NARCOG was not the only group using Cyprus as a base for its intelligence operations. When Beirut, the capital of Middle Eastern intrigue, was turned into a battleground in 1975 by the Lebanese civil war, the entire international espionage community moved out lock, stock and barrel to Nicosia. It used to amuse Coleman to saunter through the Churchill hotel around midday.

'It was like something out of an old Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet film,' he remembers. 'There were Libyans, Lebanese, PLO, KGB, Bulgarians, Romanians, British, Americans -- you could go by there and watch all the spooks watching each other have lunch.'

It was not so amusing, however, to have them on his doorstep.

One morning, it became clear that NARCOG was not the only group using Filanta Court as a base for its intelligence operations. Coleman had gone up on the roof the previous evening for one of his periodic checks of the antennae he had rigged for the listening post. All seemed to be in order, but next morning, after having trouble with one of the receivers, he went up again to make sure he had not inadvertently disturbed anything.

To his astonishment, a 30-foot latticework tower, neatly secured with guy wires, had sprouted there overnight, topped by a two-stack array of five-element, horizontally aligned, directional antennae, one pointed towards Nicosia, the other towards the Lebanese coast.

Was it possible that Hurley had forgotten to tell him they were putting in some decent professional equipment at last?

No, it wasn't possible.

Hoping no one was watching, Coleman climbed the tower's inspection ladder to look at the frequency allocation on the antennae. He then climbed down again, and followed the coaxial cables across the roof to the point where they went over the rear wall of the building and in through one of the bedroom windows of the apartment next to his.

Returning thoughtfully to his own back bedroom, he tuned one of his receivers to the frequency he had read off the antenna and hooked it up to a tape machine. Then he telephoned the embassy.

'Well, who the fuck did that?' Hurley demanded, when Coleman explained what had happened.

'Hell, I don't know. I got the frequency, so I'll ask Syrian George to listen in. See what he comes up with. And maybe you can get Penikos to find out who's renting the apartment.'

'Better than that, I'll have him kick their ass off the island.'

'Well, why don't we see what's going on first?' Coleman suggested. 'Whoever they are, these guys know their stuff. Could be interesting.

'Listen, you spotted them, maybe they spotted you. I don't want to take chances.'

'Don't worry about it.' Coleman was not used to such solicitude. 'Let's give it a few days. We'll be okay.'

'Hell, I'm not worried about that.' Hurley sounded astonished. 'I got a bunch of shitheads flying in from headquarters to take a look around. I told 'em about the listening post, so I don't want it compromised, okay?'

Over the next few days, Syrian George taped an assortment of Arab cab-drivers in Tel Aviv broadcasting on taxi frequencies with bits and pieces of low-level intelligence picked up from observations while driving around town and from eavesdropping on their fares' back-seat conversations. And twice a day, somebody would transmit a very brief, very high speed coded message from the apartment next door via the VHF array aimed at Nicosia.

Coleman recalls:

"I took the tapes up to the embassy for analysis, and sure enough, it turned out that Yasser Arafat's PLO had installed a listening post right next to ours. They had these cab-drivers in Israel using taxi frequencies to pass on intelligence to Cyprus, and as it came in, so they'd pass it up the line to the PLO office in Nicosia.

Hurley went dip-shit crazy. He had his top brass coming in from Washington to look at the operation and the first thing they'd see at Filanta Court was this 30-foot PLO radio mast. So he pulled all his strings, and although it was politically very sensitive, he got the Cypriots to close the Palestinians down and kick them off the island.

Well, he needn't have bothered. His guys showed up from Washington and they didn't want to see shit. It was a junket. When they came to the apartment, Mary-Claude was cooking up a storm in the kitchen, Sarah was squalling in her crib in the front bedroom and in the back it was wall-to-wall Star Wars, with all the electronic gear we had in there. So they walk in, wearing their Izod shirts and white walking shorts with clean sneakers, just like it was Miami Beach, and it was, 'Howiya? Howya doin'? Hey, what's going on here?' and all that bullshit, but what they really wanted to know was, where's the nearest topless beach?

I thought they'd probably want to see the video 1 was splicing together from the footage we were getting on opium growing in the Bekaa Valley, but these were cops on a government-paid vacation. They could watch that kind of stuff any time, back home at headquarters. They were there to get laid, that's all. It's an awesome sight, the U.S. government at work overseas.


The deputation from DEA headquarters had luckily chosen one of the cooler days of a very hot summer for their inspection visit. The NARCOG budget had apparently not stretched to air-conditioning, and there were times when life in Filanta Court was almost insupportable. At the height of the heatwave, with Hurley in Washington, Coleman finally had to notify the embassy that he was closing down the listening post and moving into the hotel across the street to save the equipment as well as the family from overheating.

But Donleavy, no less than Hurley, was anxious to get him back. From his response to the huge volume of encrypted data that Coleman was sending twice a week to his DIA number in Maryland, Donleavy was interested in his reports, not just for their own sake, but as a means of cross-checking the official inter-agency pooling of information by the DEA and CIA.

'Donleavy wanted to know everything. All he could get his hands on. Who the DEA were using and why. Names and descriptions of informants, their reasons for working with Hurley and the nature of their relationship. Details of DEA operations in Lebanon, cross-checked with whatever feedback I could get from my guys over there. Anything and everything to do with ongoing cases. Control wanted a complete run-down, and knowing the way Hurley operated, I think the DIA probably had a better handle on it from my back-channel stuff than DEA headquarters did through its own official channels.'

Although the principal objective of NARCOG remained the same, to piece together a detailed picture of Lebanese narcotics trafficking and its role in politics and terrorism, the emphasis in the DEA's contribution began to change after Dany Habib was reassigned to San Francisco in May. His replacement as Hurley's number two was Special Agent Fred Ganem, a tall, polite, soft-spoken Lebanese-American who had spent the previous five years in Detroit, on the receiving end of the Middle East narcotics pipeline.

While Hurley remained preoccupied with inter-agency projects like Operation Goldenrod, Ganem soon made it clear to Coleman that he had little patience with Hurley's intelligence operations. Ganem saw his role in Nicosia as an extension of his role in Detroit. He was interested primarily in law-enforcement, in using the pipeline through Cyprus to identify and arrest distributors of Lebanese narcotics in the United States. He was therefore interested in stepping up controlled deliveries, and for that he needed intelligent, well-motivated CIs who could pose as suppliers. Like the Hamadans and Jafaars.

Masked by the explosion in cocaine abuse, and by Washington's simple-minded preoccupation with the Colombian drug cartels, heroin addiction in the U.S. had risen steeply during the 1980s. Reflecting American demand, the acreage of the Bekaa Valley's opium poppy fields was doubling year by year. During the summer of 1987, Coleman helped identify 25 Lebanese laboratories with a combined annual output of six or seven metric tons of refined heroin, representing about half the country's gross national product.

Most of this was exported to the United States via the Cyprus-Frankfurt pipeline, nicknamed khouriah ('shit') by the couriers who used it, or via Turkey, the Balkans, central Europe and then on to New York and points west.

The profits were stupendous. Without needing to do more than put down sporadic resistance from the more independent clans, the 30,000 Syrian troops guarding the Bekaa for the heroin cartel were allowed to augment their pay by up to $1 billion a year in protection money. And this was chicken-feed next to the revenues earned by government- connected Syrians and Syrian-backed terrorist groups actually engaged in the traffic. Illegal narcotics contributed at least $5 billion a year to the Syrian economy, almost all of it in American dollars and other hard currencies. Without access to the American market for heroin and hashish, Syria and its Lebanese protectorate were as good as bankrupt.

But Washington's strategic interests in the Middle East ruled out the kind of interventionist policies pursued in Central and South America. With about 60 percent of its energy requirements supplied by a region racked with religious, ethnic and political conflict, the United States was as helpless in the face of state-sponsored narcotics trafficking as it was in dealing with state-sponsored terrorism. While Syria made the appropriate public disclaimers, insisting it was serious about eradicating drugs and denying sanctuary to terrorists headquartered in the Bekaa Valley, Washington could take no independent action without risking the charge of meddling in Syria's internal affairs and thereby still further inflaming Arab sensitivities throughout the Middle East.

In any case, with Muslim extremists threatening to dominate the region, the Western world needed Syria either in its camp or at least on the sidelines.

After watching DEA Nicosia at work, Coleman readily understood why the DIA felt it necessary to monitor Hurley's activities. Anything directed at rolling up narcotics distribution networks in the United States was politically neutral and therefore acceptable. The recruitment of 'mules' and CIs and their employment in a stepped-up programme of controlled deliveries down the pipeline offered little risk of embarrassment, provided the 'stings' were well organized and proper security precautions were observed. But the conversion of DEA informants into CIA assets, and their use in operations directed against Syrian nationals or Syrian-backed groups on the supply side of the narcotics traffic, was altogether more sensitive, and it was this area that, under Donleavy's direction, became Coleman's special study in the late summer of 1987.

Monzer al-Kassar and Rifat Assad were two of the names that cropped up most frequently in the cascade of raw intelligence from informants and intercepts that he was analysing for NARCOG and back-channelling to Donleavy. On principle, Hurley refused to share information with the Germans and British, except when he needed their cooperation for controlled deliveries through Frankfurt and London, but, braving his disapproval, Coleman made a point of renewing his friendship with Hartmut Mayer, the German police officer whom he had met in Munich during the 1972 Olympics and who was now the BKA's liaison officer on Cyprus.

Although the contact was more social than professional, the two inevitably talked shop when they met, and as Coleman zeroed in on al-Kassar as possibly the key player in the Middle East's narco-terrorist game, he decided to visit Mayer in his office at the German Embassy one day to see if his friend could be persuaded to take a more generous view of international cooperation than Hurley's.

Mayer obligingly pulled al-Kassar's file and, among other bits of useful information, told Coleman about two more of the Syrian's aliases, including the numbers of the passports held in those names, and details of al-Kassar's recent journeys to and from South America. These were of particular interest because they confirmed suspicions that Syrian traffickers were developing close commercial ties with the Colombian cartels, trading heroin base for cocaine base and bartering either or both as required for arms supplies to terrorist and revolutionary groups around the world.

Operating from one of several palatial villas in Marbella, Spain, al-Kassar was publicly one of the DEA's most wanted fugitives and privately one of the CIA's most useful 'capabilities', having supplied hundreds of tons of U.S. and Eastern bloc arms to Iran, as part of Oliver North's efforts to secure the release of American hostages, and to the Nicaraguan Contras as part of Oliver North's efforts to unseat the Sandinistas.

Though arrested in Denmark, Britain, France and Spain for narcotics and arms offences, al-Kassar had made himself too valuable an asset to European and American intelligence agencies for them to allow him to go to waste in prison, so that he went about his illegal business with a brazen assurance matched only among international criminals by his partner, Rifat Assad, younger brother of the Syrian president, who also owned a villa outside Marbella, and whose daughter, Raja, was al-Kassar's mistress.

After an unsuccessful attempt to depose his brother Hafez Assad from the presidency in 1984, Rifat had been banished to Paris, a punishment akin to being kicked out of purgatory and forced to live in paradise. Installed in a town house off the Rue St. Honore and accompanied everywhere in his armoured Mercedes by bodyguards armed with automatic weapons, he endeared himself to French society by throwing the kind of party that went out of style with Caligula while continuing to act as front man for the Syrian heroin cartel that underwrote his brother's fanatical Alawist regime in Damascus.

A volatile, erratic but undeniably charismatic figure, with a loyal following among the Syrian troops enriching themselves in the Bekaa Valley, among the Palestinian terrorists financed by Lebanese drug trafficking, and among Arabs living in Detroit and Los Angeles who distributed the product, Rifat Assad was also too valuable an asset to fear official displeasure from any quarter, Syrian, French or American.

Number three in Coleman's Syrian rogues' gallery was General Ali Issah Dubah, then chief of the Mogamarat, the Syrian secret service (and now President Assad's deputy chief of staff). One of Assad's closest confidantes (and Monzer al-Kassar's brother-in- law), Dubah was the cartel's principal enforcer, frequently co-opting Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC, the Abu Nidal faction and other Palestinian terrorist groups to do his dirty work as well as using them routinely as part-time agents in his 'legitimate' intelligence operations.

As the summer wore on and Dubah's name kept cropping up in raw intelligence data from DEA/NARCOG informants, Coleman eventually reported to Donleavy that, without ever leaving the country, the Syrian spymaster seemed to have his hand in the pockets of everybody engaged in the Bekaa's drug traffic, from Damascus to Dearborn.

General Ghazi Kenaan, head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, and a subject of Coleman's close attention from the day he arrived in Beirut as a DIA agent, was the fourth key figure in the heroin cartel. With Monzer al-Kassar and Rifat Assad fronting for the group in Europe, it fell to Kenaan, as the man on the spot, to supervise the supply end of the business, to keep the Bekaa peaceful and productive, to suppress dissent, discourage private enterprise and mediate disputes. With 30,000 troops at his disposal, and everybody dependent on drug revenues, including the Palestinian terrorist groups based in the valley, Kenaan was the most powerful man in Lebanon.

Having learned from his first assignment that the general effectively controlled the hostage situation in Beirut, Coleman now came to realize that, in a broader frame but in the same sense, Kenaan also controlled the nature and scope of narco-terrorism itself -- or, at any rate, could do so when it suited President Assad's purpose.

Next to Assad's Syria, Colonel Gaddafi's Libya had become little more than a refuge for Palestinian extremists, a useful quartermaster's supply depot for arms and explosives, and a convenient whipping boy for Western governments anxious to be seen taking a strong line on terrorism without risking their strategic interests in the Middle East.

It was also beginning to worry Coleman that while he and the whole NARCOG apparatus of government agents and informants were watching the Syrians, Syrian agents and probably many of the same informants were watching them. He had already advised Donleavy in his bi-weekly reports that Hurley's security arrangements were derisory, that all sorts of people with no clear allegiance were wandering in and out of NARCOG, ostensibly selling information but just as likely collecting it; that agents and bona fide informants were being put at risk because of this, and that future DEA or inter-agency operations might well be fatally compromised from the start.

But Hurley himself was apparently unmoved by any such fear. For one thing, he found it hard to accept that anyone who lacked the advantage of being American could pose much of a threat, and for another, he needed every scrap of material he could get from any quarter, even the newspapers, to sustain the nonstop barrage of reports he was firing into headquarters.

Coleman remembers:

"We burned up the Xerox machine. 'Gimme paper,' he'd say. 'The more paper we send 'em, the more money we're gonna get next year -- that's all those shitheads understand. So keep it coming, you hear? Never mind what you think about it, I want everything you can lay your hands on. Just make a copy and send it over.'

In the end, this passion of his for generating paper got to be so ridiculous that we had T-shirts made up, with the DEA logo and OPERATION MAKAKOPI in big letters across the chest. Couldn't find a size large enough for Hurley so we got him a nightshirt instead. Everybody in the embassy thought it was funny as hell, but he was pissed with it. Came out of his office, waving it in the air. 'Got nothing better to do, goddammit?'


Flushed with the success of Operation Goldenrod, in late summer, Hurley and his CIA colleagues lent Sami Jafaar and other members of his clan to the DEA office in Bern, Switzerland, for Operation Polar Cap, aimed at closing down an arms/drugs-dealing business run by Arman Jirayer Haser, a CIA asset and long-time associate of the Syrian cartel, who had been making millions out of secret American arms shipments to Iraq. A Turkish national living in Monaco on a Canadian passport, Haser had somehow attracted the attention of the Monte Carlo police and the CIA was nervous that if the arms operation had been blown, he might expose the agency's role in it.

The DEA's quid pro quo was to be a huge money-laundering operation run, under Haser's direction, by the Magharian brothers, Berkev and Jean, in Switzerland for Monzer al-Kassar. Besides handling a substantial slice of Syria's drug revenues, Haser and the Magharians also laundered drug profits for the Colombian cocaine cartels through a number of Swiss banks controlled by Arab interests. If Haser could be brought down by the Swiss for money-laundering, so the theory went, then he would have no reason to dig the hole he was in any deeper by embarrassing the CIA with gratuitous revelations about the agency's arms deals with Saddam Hussein.

Beginning in September 1987, the CIA's Department of Justice Liaison Officer, Richard Owens, began feeding evidence against Haser and the Magharians to the DEA so that its country attache in Bern, Gregory Passic, could pass it on to the Swiss authorities.

On 19 October, barely a month after the arrest of Fawaz Younis had made him a DEA star, Sami Jafaar was seen lunching in Marbella with Monzer al-Kassar and Stanley Lasser, a big-time money launderer with close ties to the Cali cocaine cartel in Colombia.

Jafaar was seeking a way in through al-Kassar to Haser and the Magharians, ostensibly to have them launder the clan's drug profits, and, through Lasser, to explore the unholy alliance that appeared to be in the works between the Syrian and Cali cartels whereby each would not only take the other's product but also share intelligence, smuggling routes and defensive tactics.

Jafaar scored with both barrels. With al-Kassar's blessing, he met the Magharians in Bern and Zurich to set up accounts for his family, each meeting taped and monitored by Coleman's assistant Syrian George, who had been flown in from Cyprus for this purpose. When the Swiss police agreed to tap Lasser's telephone in his Zurich apartment, Syrian George stayed on in Switzerland to sit on the wire while Sami Jafaar and other members of his clan kept watch to identify Lasser's Arab visitors.

On the strength of this, the Swiss issued arrest warrants for all the DEA/CIA targets, and before returning in triumph to Paris, Jafaar rounded off his winter's work by trapping Haser into a highly incriminating recorded conversation about heroin and morphine base shipments.

Over Christmas 1987, with his stock standing higher than ever, Sami introduced Michael Pavlick, the DEA country attache in Paris, to his cousin, another eager and potentially valuable recruit to the anti-Syrian cause. He was Kalid Nazir Jafaar, still in his teens, and the favourite grandson of the clan's patriarch, Moostafa Jafaar.

Though living with his father in Dearborn, near Detroit, Kalid visited his mother and grandfather in the Bekaa Valley several times a year, a family duty providing him with perfect cover for the job of courier in the DEA's stepped-up programme of controlled heroin deliveries. Too young to be hired as a full-blown Cl, he was signed up on the spot as a 'subsource', a convenient arrangement whereby he was paid by a DEA Cl, rather than by the agency itself, so that, in the interests of 'deniability', his name did not have to appear on any official payroll records.

Congratulating themselves, and the Jafaars, on a six-month run of unparalleled success, DEA Nicosia greeted 1988 in a mood of cavalier optimism. With the NARCOG anatomy of the Syrian cartel now virtually complete, with a major Lebanese clan working for them and a better organized monitoring and intelligence network feeding them more reliable information, Hurley and his CIA colleagues prepared for the new growing season in the Bekaa with a sense of having seized the initiative at last.

There was just one problem they knew nothing about.

The Swiss money-laundering network run for Monzer al-Kassar by Arman Haser and the Magharian brothers was altogether too valuable an asset for the Syrians to have left unprotected. As Coleman had feared, while the DEA and the Swiss police had been watching and collecting evidence, KGB-trained agents of the Mogamarat, commanded by al-Kassar's brother-in-law, General Ali Dubah, had been watching them. Although the Magharians were arrested, al-Kassar and Haser had been under protective surveillance the whole time and were both spirited away before the trap closed.

The Syrians had also observed the Jafaars. The link between Sami Jafaar and the DEA, suspected by the Mogamarat at the time of the Fawaz Younis affair, had been confirmed -- and the result, a year later, was catastrophic.
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:16 pm

Chapter 13

Suddenly Libya was solely to blame.

Along with other newspapers, the New York Times had signaled the change of tack a year earlier, on 10 October 1990, shortly before President George Bush met President Hafez Assad to discuss Syria's contribution to the multinational task force confronting Saddam Hussein in the Gulf.

New evidence, it reported, indicated that Libyan intelligence agents may have assembled and planted the bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103.

The 'new evidence' had been previously described by the French news magazine L'Express on 28 September. A fragment of plastic circuit board found at Lockerbie was said to be identical with the circuit boards used in timing devices seized with a quantity of explosives from two Libyans at Dakar airport in February 1988. Further inquiries, by the CIA, had established that these digital electric timers were prototypes, unique to Meister et Bollier of Zurich, who had made 20 of them for a Libyan intelligence organization in 1985.

'State Department officials were unavailable for comment,' the New York Times reported, thereby hinting at the source of the leak, but if the story had been aired as a trial balloon, it failed to lift off.

The Independent, in London, obliged with another blast of hot air. On 14 December, a week before the second anniversary of the disaster, it ran a six-column headline: 'Jet Bomb May Have Been Gadafi's Revenge.' Elsewhere in the paper, a seven-column headline, in even bigger type, stated, 'Libya Blamed for Lockerbie,' under the legend: 'Gulf crisis inhibits American action despite "conclusive proof" of bomb fragment's source.'

Under the first heading, the paper printed the text of a fax sent to Tripoli two months after the disaster by the head of the Libyan interests section at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London claiming the bombing as a victory for Libya.
'The dispatch of the fax appears to have been disregarded at the time by the team of detectives investigating the bombing,' declared the Independent, concluding, unwarily, that 'after two years of pursuing members of Jebril's West German cell, and their associates across Europe, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean, it appears that these men were not responsible for planting the bomb.'

Further proof of Gaddafi's guilt, in the paper's view, was the mysterious Libyan who had bought the clothes wrapped around the bomb from a boutique in Malta less than a month before the tragedy. Quoting from the L'Express story, the Independent described him as 'an associate of one of two Libyan secret agents picked up in Senegal in February 1988, in possession of a trigger device identical to the one recovered from the Lockerbie wreckage'.

Under the Independent's second major headline, this overstatement was partially corrected by reference to 'a detonator fragment' found at Lockerbie, but even so, this 'proof' that 'Libya was behind the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie' was described as 'conclusive' by the 'high-level sources' who had inspired the story.

To avoid 'alienating the Arab members of the Gulf alliance,' the paper went on, 'no indictments have yet been issued against the prime suspects, and the force of Scottish detectives in charge of the criminal investigation into the bombing has not formally been given the new evidence by other elements of the international inquiry team, which includes the FBI, CIA and German and British intelligence [authors italics].' (The 'new evidence' was greeted with derision in some quarters when it became known that the L 'Express story had originated over lunch with a senior official from the American Embassy in Paris. Suspicions of a CIA 'plant' deepened further when word leaked out that the matching of the Lockerbie circuit board fragment with the timers seized in Dakar was based on little more than a photographic comparison.)

A Libyan connection had, in any case, been assumed from the start, by Lester Coleman as well as most other experts aware of Libya's role as supplier of arms and explosives to terrorist factions around the world. In fact, the only genuinely new element in the Lockerbie investigation was Iraq's annexation of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, and the requirement this imposed upon the American intelligence community to put an acceptable face on Washington's alliance with Syria and its desired rapprochement with Iran.

With those two off the target list, the only available scapegoat was Muammar Gaddafi, always seen as a likely accessory before, during and after the fact of the Flight 103 atrocity, but never -- until December 1990 -- seriously proposed as the prime mover. From then onwards, all the 'evidence' offered as 'proof' that Libya was responsible for the mass murder at Lockerbie would come, not from the Scottish police or forensic scientists, but from the FBI and the CIA -- and they had to work hard.

Even after the Independent's uncritical puff for what it had learned from 'high-level sources', America's trial balloon was slow to take off. Two days later, Julie Flint in The Observer, shot it down.

'British and American experts believe that Libya's involvement in the Lockerbie disaster was only tangential,' she wrote. 'Despite last week's banner headlines claiming Libya "was to blame" for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 two years ago this week, it is still thought the outrage was almost certainly ordered from Iran and planned from Syria.'

Citing Paul Wilkinson, professor of international relations at St. Andrew's University and head of the Research Foundation for the Study of Terrorism, as a leading proponent of this view, she reported that he had known about the timer match for almost a year. As for the fax claiming the bombing as a victory for Libya,

... Professor Wilkinson said it was not 'disregarded' -- as the Independent claimed on Friday -- but 'given a low rating because it was such a piece of opportunist propaganda '.

'There is something suspicious about wanting to shift the entire focus to Libya when we have so much circumstantial evidence for the involvement of Iran, Syria, and the GC group, Ahmad Jibril's Damascus-based Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command [he said].

'A lot of fine forensic work will not be revealed until charges are brought to court, but the investigators have a pretty good idea about the sources of the case. There is also a pretty conclusive picture that here was a group -- the GC -- intent on bombing an American airliner.

'The truth is probably that there was an unholy alliance,' says Professor Wilkinson. 'Groups such as the GC have often been assisted by sympathetic groups, and it is not necessarily the case that the whole construction of the bomb was Libyan and that Libya was responsible for designing it.'


'Supporting this theory,' Julie Flint concluded, 'is the fact that the Libyans arrested at Dakar were not carrying a radio-cassette bomb, as the Independent claimed, but component parts -- ten detonators, 21 pounds of Semtex and several packets of TNT. Intelligence sources also say the CIA has evidence that Jibril designed much of the Lockerbie bomb.'

If so, the CIA was not about to admit it. With its trial balloon grounded again, the next attempt to patch it up came from Vincent Cannistraro, who claimed to have been in charge of the CIA's contribution to the Flight 103 investigation until his retirement in September 1990.

Having refurbished two bits of year-old evidence to support the new Libyan thesis, he now weighed in with a two-year-old intelligence report about a meeting in Tripoli before the bombing --in mid-November 1988 -- at which the Libyans were said to have taken over responsibility for the attack from the PFLP-GC after Jibril's West German cell was broken up.

According to Cannistraro, the report had been dismissed as unreliable at the time but now, in the light of the 'proven' Libyan connection, was the missing link that placed the blame squarely on Gaddafi.

He did not explain why the CIA had waited until December 1990, to draw this conclusion when the 'proof' had been available for at least a year, nor did he explain why no advance warning based on this report, reliable or not, had been passed down the line to those responsible for airline security. The so-called Helsinki warning, also dismissed as unreliable (and apparently for better reason), had at least saved the lives of those who would otherwise have occupied the vacant seats on Flight 103.

And possibly it was just a coincidence that Cannistraro's revelations, fully in keeping with the CIA's tradition of conducting America's secret business in public, were made at about the same time that his former colleagues in the Drug Enforcement Administration set out to discredit Lester Coleman as an obstacle to general acceptance of the Libyan/ Air Malta explanation of the Lockerbie disaster.

On 21 December 1990, Steven Emerson appeared on Cable News Network and in a broadcast received in 151 countries described Coleman as a disgruntled former DEA informant responsible for recent allegations in the media that the DEA was somehow involved in the bombing of Flight 103.

And possibly it was also significant that after the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) forensic team had identified the tiny fragment of micro-circuitry as part of the bomb's triggering mechanism, it was not the Scottish police who discovered the source of the murder weapon but the CIA's intelligence analysts. It was Cannistraro and his colleagues who pointed them towards Dakar and the timers seized from two Libyan intelligence agents.

It was Cannistraro and his colleagues who also identified the mysterious Libyan who bought the clothes in Malta to wrap around the bomb, based on a photofit picture produced by the FBI from the shopkeeper's phenomenally detailed description of his customer ten months after he saw him for the first and only time.

It was Cannistraro and his colleagues who also identified this man as an accomplice of the two Libyans arrested at Dakar (and subsequently released) who took over from Ahmed Jibril after he asked for Gaddafi's help.

And it was Cannistraro's CIA colleagues who, with the FBI, eventually identified two other Libyans who were later indicted for the bombing by an American grand jury.

But that was a year later. In December 1990, nobody was much impressed by America's trial balloon for there were serious problems of credibility with the Libyan theory.

All the forensic evidence showed in support of the theory was that the timer used in the Lockerbie bomb appeared to be identical with a batch sold to the Libyans three years before the bombing, and that the clothing wrapped around the bomb came from Malta, which had close links with Libya.

Forensic science had no answer to the question of what happened to the timer after it was supplied to the Libyans by the Swiss, any more than it could say with certainty what happened to the Semtex plastic explosive after that was supplied to the Libyans by the Czechs. Both could have passed through any number of hands before being finally installed in the Toshiba radio-cassette player used to house the Lockerbie bomb.

The same was true of the clothing around the bomb and the Samsonite suitcase that contained the device.

Given Libya's established role as quartermaster to the world's terrorists, the forensic evidence alone could -- and did -- point as readily to the PFLP-GC as to the Libyans themselves. It identified the components of the bomb -- not who made it or how it was put aboard Flight 103.

As accessories, the Libyans who supplied those components were as guilty as hell, as guilty morally and legally as anyone directly involved in commissioning or committing mass murder. But there was nothing in the available forensic evidence to prove that Libya was the sole author of the atrocity or even among the prime movers.

Beyond that, the official Libyan theory rested mainly on the proposition that the suitcase containing the bomb had been sent unaccompanied on an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, where, undetected by Pan Am's inadequate security arrangements, it was loaded on to a feeder flight to London and then transferred to a third aircraft for the New York leg of the journey.

Apart from the inherent improbability that trained intelligence agents would simply add an armed suitcase bomb tagged for New York-JFK to a pile of international luggage waiting to be loaded in Luqa and then trust to luck that, unescorted, the bomb would get through the baggage-handling and security arrangements of two other major airports and be loaded aboard the target aircraft before the timer triggered an explosion, there remained the problem with the provenance and reliability of the Frankfurt baggage-list that was said to have identified the suitcase in the first place.

Apart from the inherent improbability that the Lockerbie investigators never thought to ask for it, that it was left to a clerk to print out a copy on her own initiative before the computer wiped the record, only to return weeks later from holiday to find that still no one had asked for it, and that the BKA, after being given the list, sat on it for months before passing it along to the Scottish police, there remained the problem of the FBI teletype which left open the possibility that no such bag from Malta was ever loaded on Flight 103.

According to this five-page document, sent from the US Embassy in Bonn to the FBI director on 23 October 1989, 'From the information available from the Frankfurt airport records, there is no concrete indication that any piece of baggage was unloaded from Air Malta 180, sent through the luggage routing system at Frankfurt airport and then loaded on board Pan Am 103.'

The baggage computer entry 'does not indicate the origin of the bag which was sent for loading on board Pan Am 103. Nor does it indicate that the bag was actually loaded on Pan Am 103. It indicates only that a bag of unknown origin was sent from Coding Station 206 at 1:07 p.m. to a position from which it was supposed to be loaded on Pan Am 103.'

The handwritten record kept at Coding Station 206 was no more explicit. According to the teletype, 'the handwritten duty sheet indicates only that the luggage was unloaded from Air Malta 180. There is no indication how much baggage was unloaded or where the luggage was sent.' On the agent's reading of the evidence, 'there remains the possibility that no luggage was transferred from Air Malta 180 to Pan Am 103 and that a piece of luggage was simply introduced at Coding Station 206 [author's italics].'

The teletype also disclosed that, on a guided tour of the baggage area in September 1989, Detective Inspector Watson McAteer and FBI Special Agent Lawrence G. Whitaker had actually seen this happen. They had 'observed an individual approach Coding Station 206 with a single piece of luggage, place the luggage in a luggage container, encode a destination into the computer and leave without making any notation on a duty sheet'. From this they concluded that a rogue suitcase could have been 'sent to Pan Am 103 either before or after the unloading of Air Malta 180'.

Although one government-inspired commentator tried later to dismiss the FBI teletype as 'an early memo ... that sketched one possible scenario, as of October 1989', and which subsequent events had rendered 'irrelevant' and 'pointless', it was less easy to reject the categorical denials by Air Malta, the airport staff at Luqa, the Maltese police and the Maltese government that any unaccompanied bag had been sent to Frankfurt on 21 December 1988, or, indeed, that any Maltese connection with the Lockerbie bombing had been established at all, other than that the clothing in the suitcase bomb had apparently originated on the island.

There was a question also about the device itself. In the official view, the use of the Swiss timer pointed clearly to Libya, not only because it had been supplied to its security agency in the first place, but because the PFLP-GC favoured a barometric-pressure triggering system for its Toshiba bombs.

Thomas Hayes, however, the forensic expert responsible for identifying the tiny piece of Swiss circuit board, was not prepared to commit himself on this point. In his book, On the Trail of Terror, David Leppard wrote later that, privately, Hayes believed the Lockerbie bomb had been a dual device, triggered by a barometric switch and then running on a timer, but that not enough of it had been recovered to be sure.

The possibility that Khreesat or Abu Elias or some other PFLP-GC bombmaker had incorporated a Libyan timer as well as Libyan Semtex into the Lockerbie bomb remained open, therefore -- with the balance of probability tilted towards Jibril's group rather than the Libyans in view of its previous use of Toshiba radios as bomb housings.

But by now, the whole Lockerbie investigation was dogged by a sense of futility felt nowhere more keenly than at the Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry which, just before Christmas 1990, recessed for a month after hearing 150 witnesses in 46 days.

Ian Bell wrote in the Observer:

Before it adjourned, it heard former Pan Am employees accuse the airline of refusing to pay for adequate security measures. Disgraceful, if true, but almost irrelevant. Pan Am did not kill its own passengers. The inquiry is unlikely to tell us who did ...

Only a handful of reporters now cover the inquiry, and their stories slip day by day down the news schedules, overtaken by fresh nightmares and by disasters which are simpler, easier to comprehend. The iron laws of the press have prevailed. Predictably, the international media circus, with its Olympian disdain for the parochial, has long since moved on.

The words and images of 1988 are stored in the cuttings libraries and video vaults, sinking into history. The big world of geopolitics, where the truth about Lockerbie probably lies, demands the presence of the troupe elsewhere. For all we know, the political masters of those who destroyed Flight 103 are now our allies in the Gulf crisis. For all we know, they may have been our allies two years ago ... The only important fact to have emerged from the inquiry is that those who know the truth will never willingly give evidence ...

As the months have passed, it has become clear that something like a campaign of disinformation has been waged, for reasons which can still only be guessed at. With only the single, terrible fact of 21 December known for certain, journalists have scavenged and speculated. Some have been used. Hence the sense of futility haunting the Lockerbie inquiry.

Nothing said there, one feels, will approach the truth about Flight 103. The Scottish legal system, for all its solemnity, has neither the strength nor the resources to solve the puzzle.


Neither had the House Government Operations sub-committee in Washington which, a few days before Coleman was publicly denounced in a CNN broadcast, opened hearings into allegations that the DEA was involved in the fate of Flight 103.

On 18 December, Stephen H. Greene, assistant administrator of the operations division of the DEA, described at some length how a 'controlled delivery' worked and agreed that the DEA often used the technique. But he strenuously denied that anything of the sort had been going on anywhere in Europe around the time of the Lockerbie disaster.

Under pressure from Congress and the media, he said, the agency had reviewed its files and questioned its agents overseas to see if there was any basis in fact for the NBC and ABC newscasts and other media reports asserting that Khalid Nazir Jafaar had been involved in a DEA operation known as Corea or Courier.

The result, according to the DEA spokesman's sworn testimony, was a classified 350-page report, reviewed and confirmed by its sister agency, the FBI, showing that Jafaar had never been used as an informant or subsource and that no DEA agent or office had ever had any contact with him. Jafaar's two pieces of luggage had been identified by the Lockerbie investigators and neither showed any sign of explosives or drugs. Nor had there ever been a DEA operation or unit called Corea, or anything similar to that name. According to Greene, there had been three controlled deliveries through Frankfurt between 1983 and 1987, none involving Pan Am nights, and none after that.

This blanket denial might have been more persuasive if the report, or the files on which it was based, had been made available for inspection by some suitably qualified independent investigator, but the subcommittee fared no better in this respect than had counsel for Pan Am. Accused of hen-stealing, fox and vixen had once again insisted on going back to their lair alone to look for feathers.

If anything, suspicions of a cover-up were reinforced by the DEA's determination to act as counsel, judge and jury in its own cause, and nobody was much surprised when, three days before the deadline imposed by the Federal Tort Claims Act, Pan Am obtained leave from the United States District Court, Eastern Division of New York, to file a third-party liability claim against the US government in connection with the crash of Flight 103.

In an update of the story on the second anniversary of the disaster, Barron's, the American business magazine, quoted Vincent Cannistraro's dismissal of Juval Aviv's Interfor Report as 'absolute nonsense', and the more recent NBC and ABC newscasts that shared some of its conclusions as 'total rubbish and fabrication'.

Victor Marchetti, however, another CIA veteran, strongly disagreed. Formerly executive assistant to the deputy director under Richard Helms, Marchetti told Barron's he had always thought that 'the essence of the Interfor report was true ... I'm not concerned about a detail here or there that may be wrong'. With Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the enlistment of Syria in the alliance opposing Saddam Hussein, 'the cover-up is now more true than ever. Which is why the lid is really on.'

A Middle Eastern intelligence analyst, who asked for his name to be withheld as he was employed by another agency, was even more emphatic.

'Juval Aviv is a very astute investigator who has come up with some very plausible explanations,' he said. 'I could find nothing that I knew to be untrue. And I found many details that I knew to be true. Do I think the CIA was involved? Of course they were involved. And they screwed up.'

Asked to comment on the Independent's report that Libyan terrorists had put the bomb aboard Flight 103 by means of an unaccompanied bag sent from Malta, Aviv himself thought it was yet another attempt to distract attention from the truth.

"The timing of this story [he told Barron's] at the same time as the Lockerbie inquiry, on the eve of the second anniversary of the crash, just as the threat of a Pan Am lawsuit emerges, is not a coincidence. They had to try to take attention away from the accepted theory that Jibril and the Syrians were responsible. That theory was never disputed until three months ago.

"It does not make sense to send a bomb unattended from Malta through Frankfurt to London -- two stops where it could be found [he went on]. This means they just sent it off, hoping it would pass all the checks and get on the right flight. How often does a bag get lost and fail to make a connecting flight? Professional terrorists don't take such chances. Also, according to the Libyan story in the Independent, the detonator was just a simple timer -- not a barometric pressure trigger. What would happen if there was a delay somewhere on that long trip from Malta through Frankfurt to London?"


Preserving a balance throughout that had not been conspicuous in other media surveys of the Lockerbie investigation, Barron's concluded its article with a statement from Paul Hudson, a lawyer from Albany, New York, whose sixteen-year-old daughter had died in the crash. Without hard evidence, he remained sceptical of the Interfor Report's findings, but nevertheless called for a genuine public Inquiry.

'We're counting on the Congress to shed more light on this,' he said. 'The subpoenas that would have shed light have been blocked. What we're looking for is a congressional review of the DEA and the FBI investigations, and then, if they decide there is any basis to the allegations, a special counsel. Right now, the House and Senate judiciary committees have jurisdiction over the FBI and the DEA. But the congressional intelligence committees are like a black box. Things go in without anything coming out. They never issue any reports. They never hold any open hearings. They don't seem to be a vehicle that's going to get the truth out. Whatever they do is totally within the intelligence cloak.'

No such hearings were held, of course -- on either side of the Atlantic. Instead, Washington relied on the public's dwindling interest in the two-year-old disaster, the shortness of its memory, and what Ian Bell had described as 'the iron laws of the press' to blur the improbabilities that riddled the authorized version of events. Though it never really flew, the Libyan trial balloon had served its purpose. Eleven months later, the indictment of two Libyans for the mass murder of 270 people at Lockerbie struck most Americans as little more than a formality, giving practical effect to what they -- and most of the media -- already thought they knew.

It was now openly an all-American show, although Robert Mueller, assistant attorney- general, paid tribute to the Scottish police, who deserved, he said, 'the most unbelievable praise of any law-enforcement agency in the world'.

Believable or not, the praise was echoed by his boss, acting Attorney-General William Barr, who, coupling their work with that of his own investigators, congratulated the team on a 'brilliant and unrelenting operation'. Other American officials hailed the indictments as 'one of law enforcement's finest hours', but those who still cared were not convinced. Neither was Israel. Nor the PLO. Nor even Germany.

The official sequence of events, as set out in the American indictment, began with the sale of 20 custom-built Swiss electronic timers to the Libyan Ministry of Justice in 1985. In 1988, they were issued to Libyan intelligence agents abroad, many of them working under cover as employees of Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), along with detonators and plastic explosives.

Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, one of the two men named in the indictment, was said to have stored the explosives at Malta's Luqa airport, where he was LAA station manager, and to have built the bomb with the second defendant, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, Libya's chief of airline security, hiding it in a Toshiba radio.

On 7 December 1988, al-Megrahi was alleged to have called at the Sliema boutique and bought the odd assortment of clothes that were used to wrap around the radio bomb. On 15 December, Fhimah made a note in his diary, reminding himself to take some Air Malta luggage tags from the airport. On 17 December, al-Megrahi flew to Tripoli for a meeting, followed by Fhimah next day, and both returned to Malta on 20 December with a suitcase for the bomb. On 21 December, the fatal day, they were said to have placed the suitcase with its Air Malta tags among the luggage being loaded on to international flights from Luqa airport.

Besides the Libyan connections established by the forensic evidence, the US Justice Department now had two witnesses.

The first was known to be Tony Gauci, son of the owner of Mary's House, the boutique in Sliema from which the clothing in the bomb suitcase had allegedly been purchased. Gauci had remembered the sale so vividly that, almost ten months later, he had given the Scottish police a probable date for it, 23 November 1988, and provided a FBI videofit artist with a detailed description of his customer -- he believed, a Libyan.

According to reports in the media at that time, the resulting likeness was thought to be that of Abu Talb, a PFLP-GC terrorist who had visited Malta twice before the bombing and was subsequently arrested in Sweden while in possession of large quantities of clothing purchased in Malta.

In the indictment, however, the sale was said to have been made on 7 December 1988, and the purchaser was identified as Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi.

The government's surprise second witness was Abdu Maged Jiacha, described as a Libyan intelligence officer who had worked undercover as assistant station manager for LAA at Luqa.

In the autumn of 1991, he had defected to the United States -- 'for financial reasons' -- and identified Fhimah and al-Megrahi as the bombers.

The investigators had also come into possession of what was said to be Fhimah's personal diary, improbable though it must have seemed to them that a trained intelligence agent would keep one or put anything in writing, let alone the incriminating English word 'taggs' (sic) in the middle of an entry in Arabic and then, according to media reports, leave the diary behind for the investigators to find. (Jiacha's 'financial reasons' were understood to be a reward of $4 million and resettlement in California under the Federal Witness Protection Program.)

The issue of warrants for Fhimah and al-Megrahi on 14 November 1991 was accompanied by a statement from President Bush's spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, insisting that Iran and Syria were not involved. The Pan Am bombing, he said, was part of a consistent pattern of Libyan-sponsored terrorism that could no longer be ignored. President Bush was discussing a coordinated international response with other Western leaders and all options were open, including the forcible seizure of the two men from Libya.

Amplifying this statement, Washington officials claimed that Libya had tried in various ways to implicate Syria and Iran -- by using a Toshiba radio-cassette recorder, for instance -- but there was no evidence of their involvement. Everything, including intelligence data, pointed to a solely Libyan operation in retaliation for President Reagan's bombing of Tripoli in 1986.

'The Syrians took a bum rap on this,' President Bush famously declared.

Any suggestion that such a conclusion might have been politically directed was simultaneously rejected on both sides of the Atlantic. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, Scotland's Lord Advocate, said he would have resigned if exposed to political pressure, and Assistant Attorney-General Bob Mueller insisted that no one had even tried to influence the investigation.

The sceptics were not convinced.

'Does George Bush take us for fools?' asked Bonnie O'Connor, of Long Island, New York, when a Newsday reporter invited her opinion. Her brother had died in the wreck of Flight 103.

Dr. James Swire, who had lost a daughter at Lockerbie and was the leading spokesman for the British families, told The Times that he still believed the atrocity had been carried out by the PFLP-GC, acting as mercenaries for the Iranians, although he was anxious to see the two Libyans brought to trial by any means short of force. He thought Jibril had probably used them to confuse the chase.

Professor Paul Wilkinson agreed. 'There are no grounds for assuming that Libya was the only country involved,' he said, suggesting again that there had been 'an unholy alliance' between Iran, Syria and Libya.

The Israelis concurred. 'The revelation that Libya was involved does not necessarily mean that previous allegations against Syria and Iran are false,' said Anat Kurz, of the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv. 'It may be all three countries worked together.'

Yossi Olmert, head of the Israeli government press office, thought so, too. 'We are not surprised by the findings,' he said. 'It is what we call sub-contracting.'

Volker Rath, the German public prosecutor, tactfully said nothing at the time but later announced that Germany was suspending proceedings against the two Libyans for lack of evidence.

With the exception of a few journalists perhaps over-committed to the official Anglo- American view after following it so assiduously for three years, the press, too, was mostly unenthusiastic.

'The arrest warrants are unlikely to quell speculation that more than one country was involved,' wrote Alan Philps, diplomatic correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. Citing an additional reason for the change of tack, he went on to suggest that 'laying the blame at the door of Libya will lift a burden from the shoulders of diplomats working to reconvene the Middle East peace conference and to release the last remaining British hostage in Lebanon, Mr. Terry Waite.'

'Had either Syria or the Palestinians been shown to be involved,' he said, 'it would have added a complication to the peace conference, perhaps provoking an Israeli walk-out.'

The magazine Private Eye was more scathing, having already denounced the Thatcher and Bush governments for agreeing 'that they will not pursue any further the terrorists who bombed the plane over Lockerbie since they are known to be close to the Syrian government' (28 September 1991).

A week after the indictments were published, its 'Lockerbie Special Report' noted that

'... in recent weeks, Bush and Major have been under some pressure from the families of people who died at Lockerbie. One US group of families recently visited Britain and started to agitate for action. The statement about the two Libyans was the two governments' answer. The wretched Lord Fraser, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, was ordered to read out 'results' of his police inquiry which were completely different from those already read out to newspapers all over the world ...

In the House of Commons, Douglas Hurd went out of his way to exculpate the 'other governments' (Syria and Iran) which his colleague Paul Channon had denounced in March 1989.


(Sceptical from the start of official announcements about the disaster, Private Eye added this footnote to a later story [8 May 1992] about the suitcase of drugs found among the wreckage at Lockerbie: 'P.S.: Lord Fraser of Carmyllie has been promoted in John Major's new administration to be minister of state at the Scottish office.')

More temperately, Adrian Hamilton in the Observer reminded his readers 'that the US charges of Libyan complicity in the Rome bar bombing of 1986 -- used as a pretext for the US raid on Tripoli -- proved groundless. It was Lebanese terrorists, probably at the behest of Syria, who planted the device which killed an American serviceman ... The assault on Libya is all too conveniently timed to let Iran and Syria off the hook and speed the release of hostages.'

A.M. Rosenthal, in the New York Times, felt that too many people had taken part in the investigation for the truth to remain hidden for ever. 'Among those I have talked to over the past years,' he said, 'I have found none who believed that Libya alone paid for, planned and carried out the crime -- exactly none.'

Pierre Salinger of ABC News seemed equally unconvinced that it was Libya's sole responsibility after he went to Tripoli in December 1991 to interview the two accused and to discuss their indictment with Colonel Gaddafi. Though he had his doubts about al- Megrahi -- his 'answers to questions were not always convincing' -- he found Fhimah 'a simple man, and it was hard to believe that he had been involved in a terrorist case. Both Mr. Megrahi and Mr. Fhima told me they would be happy to meet Scottish or American investigators and talk to them about the case.'

Their willingness to do so was confirmed by Libya's foreign minister, lbrahim Bechari, who said that Western investigators were welcome in Libya and that the Libyan judge looking into the allegations, Ahmed al-Zawi, would like to have more US or Scottish evidence in the case so that he could conduct a solid interrogation of the two men.

Gaddafi himself, when questioned by Salinger, said: 'I am angry about the accusations against Libya, but I am satisfied that things are moving according to law. I am satisfied there is a legal way to deal with this.'

Donald Trelford, editor of the Observer, was told much the same thing by Gaddafi in a further interview a month or so later.

'He challenged the US and Britain to produce evidence against the Libyans,' Trelford wrote. "'The truth is, they don't have it," he added. Libya has arrested the two men named by the Scottish Lord Advocate last November ... and begun a judicial investigation of its own. Gadaffi invited British and US lawyers to attend the inquiry and interrogate the accused, and welcomed representatives of victims' families.'

Even the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), though working to a different agenda from that of other critics of the official line, felt that the Libyan contribution to the Lockerbie disaster had been of a low-level technical nature.

In an 80-page report leaked to the press on both sides of the Atlantic, the PLO described a number of meetings between Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, the Iranian minister of the interior, Ahmed Jibril of the PFLP-GC and other officials in the late summer of 1988 to plan a revenge attack on an American airliner. According to the PLO's sources, the Toshiba radio-cassette bomb used to destroy Flight 103 had been built by Khaisar Haddad, also known as Abu Elias, a blond, blue-eyed Lebanese Christian member of the PFLP-GC, who passed the completed device on to an Iranian contact in Beirut.

This suggestion fitted neatly with the BKA's identification of Abu Elias as an associate of Hafez Dalkamoni, head of the PFLP-GC's West Germany cell until the arrests of October 1988, and with the Lockerbie investigators' belief that Abu Elias took charge of the attack after that.

Whatever its motives in preparing the report, no one could seriously challenge the quality of the PLO's sources in the Palestinian community. Even for those most deeply committed to the official view, these revelations could only reopen the vexed question of why the Scottish police and the FBI had changed their minds so comprehensively after claiming for at least 18 months that the bombing had been carried out by Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC at the instigation of Iran and Syria.

There were other questions, too.

If Libya was solely responsible for the bombing of Flight 103, why did the US government resolutely refuse on grounds of national security to open the relevant files for judicial or congressional examination, if necessary in camera, in order to dispose of alternative theories, rumours and speculation about the real cause of the Lockerbie tragedy?

If Libya was solely responsible, why had the government lied to Congress and the media about the activities of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Cyprus?

If Libya was solely responsible, why had the US government gone to such lengths to silence one of its own intelligence agents on the subject of the DEA's operations in Cyprus, and when that failed, to discredit what he had to say?

If the government's hands were clean, why did it insist on hiding them behind its back?
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:21 pm

Chapter 14

At the end of August 1987, the Colemans returned home from Cyprus.

Mary-Claude was sad to leave because, after spending much of the summer visiting her family with Sarah, she was not looking forward to an indefinite stay in Alabama, where she knew hardly anyone and where, after Beirut and Larnaca, the sheer difference in the scale of everything made her feel uneasy and exposed. But as a dutiful wife, she managed to put a good face on it, particularly after her husband promised they would return again in the spring. And that was settled. Coleman had agreed to Hurley's request that he renew his DEA consultancy contract for the 1988 opium-growing season, and had cleared this with the DIA.

Donleavy was highly complimentary about Coleman's work that summer. The back-channel reports on DEA operations that he had transmitted twice a week from his arrival in Cyprus were on file in a classified computer data bank, codenamed EMERALD, at Bolling Airforce Base, near Washington, and the first order of business upon his return was a systematic debriefing at a hotel near Fort Meade to fill in the gaps. Knowing Hurley, Coleman was pretty sure that the DIA now had a better grasp of what was going on at DEA Nicosia than the DEA itself.

Concerned above all else with preserving the integrity of the Asmar cell in Beirut, Donleavy cross-questioned him closely about the calibre and affiliations of the DEA's network of Lebanese CIs, and in particular, about El-Jorr, the Kabbaras and Jafaars. Now that Coleman had been seen working with DEA agents in Cyprus, there was a clear risk that he might also have been identified by one of their Beirut informants as a friend of Tony Asmar's. In which case, if the informant happened to be working both sides of the fence, the connection might prove embarrassing for Asmar. Or worse.

As Coleman had been at pains to point this out before taking on the DEA assignment, he could hardly disagree, but the risk had seemed acceptable at the time and he had taken particular care to underline his academic credentials whenever he met Hurley's people. And there seemed little doubt that the results had justified the risk. The Kabbara case in Italy, for one, had proved of particular interest to the DIA, for it showed that DEA Nicosia, in conjunction with the CIA, was in the habit of operating outside its law-enforcement brief.

Zouher Kabbara and his cousin Nadim Kabbara had been arrested at Rome airport with half a kilo of heroin about a month before Coleman arrived on Cyprus. After hearing the evidence, the Tribunale Penale di Roma found that they had obtained the drugs from Hurley for the purpose of entrapping Italian nationals, among them Mario Cetera, the husband of Joan Schumacher, American heiress to the Prentice Hall publishing fortune.

Cetera was subsequently cleared (only to die later in mysterious circumstances) but the real worry, for the DIA, was that the Italian court also found that the drug trafficking had been merely a cover, to justify payments to the Kabbaras as DEA informants. Their real function, it went on, was to assist the CIA in selling military equipment to Iraq through their Rome company, Kabbara International Export (KINEX).

KINEX quoted several telephone numbers on its letterhead, one of which (80 49 88) was assigned to the American Embassy in Rome, which paid the bills for it. A link was also established with APEXCO, a DEA front company in Larnaca, when Zouher Kabbara told the court that he could contact Hurley there as necessary by telex.

Donleavy was equally intrigued by the DEA's relationship with the Jafaars, bitter enemies of the pro-Syrian Kabbaras, but like them, hiding their CIA status behind their cover as DEA informants. He took Coleman several times through Sami Jafaar's part in the Fawaz Younis affair and the circumstances of Jafaar's subsequent posting to Switzerland for Operation Polar Cap, which was just getting under way as the debriefing took place. As with the Kabbaras in Rome, Jafaar's involvement in Polar Cap for the DEA masked a deeper CIA interest in hiding its role as an arms supplier to Iraq.

The DIA was also anxious to get its hands on Syrian George, who had gone to Switzerland with Polar Cap to sit on the wiretaps. As a Russian-trained former officer in the Syrian Army, he had seemed to Donleavy a potentially useful source of background military and political intelligence from the moment Coleman first reported in about him.

'But he belongs to Hurley," Coleman said. 'You could ask him, but he'll turn you down.'

'You mean, he won't talk to us?'

'No, I mean Hurley won't hand him over. He's too useful.'

'Then how are we going to get hold of him?'

'Well, that's no problem -- if you're not worried about upsetting Hurley.'

Donleavy was so obviously unworried about upsetting Hurley that Coleman laughed.

'Fine,' he said. 'Hurley's always stringing him along, saying he'll get him a green card. If you give George a visa, he's yours. And once he's alone, what can Hurley do about it?'

'Okay.' Donleavy looked at him thoughtfully. 'Then we'll give him a visa.'

'We?'

'Well, you've got to do something this winter. And if you're going back to Cyprus next spring, you'll need a new cover.' He found the paper he was looking for in his briefcase. 'How does Director of the Office of Visiting International Scholars, University of Alabama, Birmingham, grab you?'

'Birmingham? My Mom'll like it.'

'Well, there you go. It's a good slot. Means you'll work with all kinds of academics from overseas -- scientists, graduate scholars, professors. And who knows what you'll pick up? Maybe you can find a few sources for us. You know, people we can persuade to keep in touch after they go home? And maybe keep us posted with scientific and industrial data? Stuff like that?'

Coleman nodded ruefully, and Donleavy smiled.

'Anyway,' he said, 'as director, you got the power to authorize J-1 visiting scholar visas -- it goes with the job. So you'll give Syrian George one of those when you get back.'

'My pleasure. Can't wait to see Hurley's face.'

'Okay. But first you're in for a couple of months in Florida. There's something you can do for us down there.'

'You know, said Coleman, 'working for you guys is a real strain.'

He found himself on loan to the faculty of the National Intelligence Academy (NIA) in Fort Lauderdale as director of Video Operations. The NIA was housed on the premises of Technos International, a manufacturer of electronic surveillance equipment sold only to US government agencies and countries with special export clearances.

After setting up NARCOG's listening post in Larnaca, training the Cypriot police to use their UN-funded radio equipment, fitting out police boats and King Edmondo with satellite tracking gear and installing short-wave transmitters in Beirut and Larnaca for DEA intelligence traffic, Coleman had acquired something of a reputation in the area of advanced electronics. At the NIA, until just before Christmas, he worked with Martin McDermott, on loan from the Irish police in Dublin, instructing mixed classes of US Army personnel, Federal agents and state law-enforcement officers in the latest audio and video surveillance techniques.

In setting up his assignment at the University of Alabama, Donleavy had assumed that Coleman would return to Cyprus with Mary-Claude and Sarah in February 1988, but analysing the personal histories of foreign scholars produced such interesting results that the DIA several times postponed his departure. Coleman had no objection. He felt it necessary in any case to establish himself on campus before leaving for Cyprus, in order to avoid arousing suspicion among his university colleagues, and to connect with the Fulbright Commission, which administered its scholarship programme through offices in American embassies overseas.

To further strengthen his cover, he also became a member of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, and attended its conference in Washington, taking advantage of the opportunity to confer with Donleavy and DIA agent Neal Miller, who later took over as Control for Operation Shakespeare. It was only when Hurley called Coleman direct at the end of March 1988, telling him to get his ass over there in a week or he would find somebody else, that Donleavy agreed to release him.

There was too much going on at DEA Nicosia for Control to risk losing the back-channel reports the DIA needed to maintain its overview of American operations in the Middle East. Nor could it afford indefinitely to be without a direct, local link with Asmar's network, which was still using the agency's video equipment to keep track of the hostages in Beirut as well as monitoring the activities of DEA/CIA operatives.

Exactly one week later, on 5 April 1988, the Colemans arrived back in Nicosia, moving into an apartment just vacated by Ibrahim El-Jorr, the Lebanese-American DEA informant whom Coleman had met briefly the previous year and who was now to be his co-worker in Operation Dome, reassessing the Lebanese narcotics trade at the start of a new opium-growing season.

The scene of operations had also changed. Instead of working from home or at the DEA office, Coleman was given a desk at the Eurame Trading Company Ltd., a DEA/CIA 'front' newly set up by the Cypriot Police Narcotics Squad in a luxury three-bedroomed penthouse apartment down the street from the US Embassy. It gave him the creeps from the start.

Intended as a place where DEA and CIA agents could meet unobserved with informants and clients, as a message drop for CIA arms dealers supplying Iraq and the Afghan rebels, as a waiting room for DEA CIs and couriers from Lebanon, and as a transit point, not just for heroin, but for cash, documents and bootleg computer software moving to and fro along the Beirut-Nicosia-US pipeline, Eurame, as run by El Jorr, was more like a low-life social club than a secret intelligence centre.

Coleman recalls:

"Officially, my job was to work with El-Jorr on raw intelligence data supplied by DEA sources in Lebanon. I had to evaluate this stuff and sit on his case because he was always behind with everything. People would come over and be debriefed in the office. Then we'd draft reports, prepare maps, collect photographs, collate lists of growers and traffickers, plot their relationships, determine which illegal ports they were using and who they were paying off, make eight copies of everything and finally send it up the street to the embassy.

We were monitoring everybody, from the opium farmer in the Bekaa to the end-customer in Detroit or Los Angeles. The DEA's on-going, controlled deliveries were going right past the end of my desk. 'Who are these people, Ibrahim?,' I'd ask him when the couriers came in, because I wanted him to introduce me. 'Mules,' he'd say. 'Carrying khouriah.'


As a place to observe what the DEA was up to in Nicosia, Coleman found the Eurame Trading Company ideal, but from his very first day on the job, he had an uncomfortable feeling that the same might be true for the opposition. Security was non-existent. All sorts of people, Cypriot and Lebanese, wandered in and out all the time, sometimes escorted, sometimes not, and although El-Jorr seemed to know most of them, there were clearly some who had simply been told to drop in and introduce themselves.

When Coleman took this up with Hurley, he brushed it aside. 'Listen, if I could trust Ibrahim to handle this alone, you wouldn't be here,' he said flatly. 'He's a flake. But he knows all kinds of people over there and he's getting me what I need. So don't worry about it. It's your job to evaluate the stuff and keep him on the ball. If he gives you any problems, lemme know and I'll kick his ass.'

'It's not Ibrahim I'm worried about, Mike. I'm talking about security. You're getting all kinds of people in there, including some he doesn't even know. And that's bad. So what 1 think we ought to do is --'

'Yeah, yeah. I'll take care of it. You just concentrate on getting those reports out. I want you to milk that sonuvabitch.' There was little Coleman could do in the circumstances except fill out an IAP-66 authorization form for Syrian George and take him over to the embassy for a J-1 visa to admit him to the United States for a course of study at UAB.

The expression on Hurley's face when George told him the news was reward enough in itself, but there was an altogether different reaction from the DIA when Coleman reported in about El-Jorr and his key role as the DEA CI fronting for Eurame.

"You could feel the pillars shake at the Pentagon [he recalls]. I got back a two-word coded message. 'Watch him.' So I did. I arranged for Tony Asmar to send over Walid, one of our best Muslim assets, to track him day and night. And sure enough, he watched Ibrahim visit the Lebanese Embassy several times a week, and he photographed lbrahim's Dutch girlfriend meeting with a member of the PLO delegation in a side street near the Churchill hotel. Turned out later she was a Mossad agent, but even so ... What the hell was going on?

"As Hurley obviously knew nothing about it, it began to look as if Ibrahim was working both sides of the street. When I reported this to Control, Donleavy told me to warn Hurley, who told me to mind my own business. I guess he was still mad at me about Syrian George. Anyway, when I saw he wasn't going to do anything about it, I figured it was up to me to make friends with Ibrahim and find out what he was doing.


The number of DEA-controlled deliveries of heroin down the pipeline to the United States had increased noticeably during the winter as a result of Fred Ganem's special knowledge of the Lebanese communities in Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles. Members of the Jafaar clan and other DEA couriers would arrive at Larnaca with suitcases full of high-grade heroin, white and crystal, and be met off the boat from the Christian-controlled port of Jounieh by officers of the Cypriot Police Narcotics Squad, who then drove them up to the Eurame office in Nicosia.

Greeted there by El-Jorr, they would gossip over coffee until summoned to the embassy to receive their instructions from Hurley. After that, the Cypriot police would take them out to the airport and put them on flights to Frankfurt, where the bag-switch routine used by 'legitimate' smugglers was employed to bypass the airport's security arrangements and load the 'dirty' suitcases on to trans-Atlantic flights.

On arrival in New York, Detroit, or points west, the DEA 'mules' would be met by DEA agents in the baggage claim area and escorted through Customs, the loads being kept under continuous surveillance until deals were struck and the heroin changed hands.

Hoping to enlist Coleman as an ally in his grievances against Hurley, which were many and various, El Jorr lost no time in describing his own experiences during the Christmas holidays in a 'sting' operation against drug dealers in Southern California. Posing as a Lebanese cocaine buyer, he had flown to Los Angeles with a suitcase full of counterfeit US currency provided by DEA Nicosia and checked into a room booked for him by the DEA at the Sheraton Universal Hotel.

Ten days later, when the agents moved in to round up their targets, El-Jorr checked out and returned to Cyprus, charging the hotel bill to his American Express card as instructed. But when he presented the bill to Hurley for reimbursement, Hurley refused to pay, insisting the DEA field office in Los Angeles should pick up the tab. And when El-Jorr sent the bill to them, they, too, refused to pay, claiming that most of the charges on it were unauthorized. Meanwhile, tired of waiting for its money, American Express cancelled his card.

It was a serious blow. El-Jorr felt the loss as keenly as he would have mourned his cowboy boots or his 4 x 4 Chevy with the Texas plates -- the card was a basic prop of his all-American image. When Coleman tried to console him, suggesting that the DEA had a reputation for screwing its informants, he was immediately overwhelmed with supporting case histories. Sometimes informants and subsources in Lebanon had to go for weeks without pay because of budget cuts and red tape, El Jorr complained, citing names, chapter and verse. Then, when word got out that Hurley again had a drawerful of money to pay for information, everybody in Beirut would try to get in on the act, making things up if they had to. And who got squeezed? El-Jorr, of course. And all the people who worked for him.

Coleman naturally lent a commiserative ear, and was soon able to provide Donleavy with a complete run-down on the DEA's network of informants in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley. Warmed by Coleman's sympathy, El-Jorr made a point of introducing him to all the CIs and 'mules' who arrived at Eurame on their way back and forth along the pipeline, including him in the conversation as they brewed up endless cups of Lebanese coffee.

Among the informants he met in this way was a Lebanese Army officer known as 'The Captain', with close connections to the Jafaar clan. Sami Jafaar's nephew, Khalid Nazir Jafaar, was a subsource of his, and one of whom El Jorr seemed particularly proud as he was the favourite grandson of the drug clan's patriarch, Moostafa Jafaar.

A strongly built, blue-eyed young man who had chosen to live with his father in Detroit rather than stay with his mother and grandfather in the Bekaa, Khalid Nazir was a regular commuter between Beirut and Detroit. In the two months Coleman spent at Eurame, he met him there three times, including one occasion when 'Nazzie' volunteered the information that he was on his way to Houston with a load.

When not debriefing El Jorr's subsources and evaluating intelligence data to meet Hurley's insatiable appetite for maps and quadruplicate reports, Coleman kept track of the other uses to which the pipeline was put. He had first reported to Donleavy on the use of counterfeit money for DEA stings during the 1987 season, after Dany Habib had produced a sample from his desk drawer, but it was soon clear from what he observed at Eurame that this, too, had become standard operating procedure in his absence.

Working with the Secret Service station at the American Embassy in Athens, DEA Nicosia now regularly employed huge sums of counterfeit US currency to make drug buys in Europe, the US and Mexico. When Coleman looked into this, DIA assets in Lebanon reported that much of it was being printed there, with large numbers of genuine $1 bills being bleached to provide the right paper for phony $100 bills. Fakes of even better quality, however, were coming out of Iran, where forgers had the advantage of using presses sold originally to Shah Reza Pahlevi's government by the US Mint.

Most of the counterfeit currency used by the DEA was supplied by Monzer al-Kassar, who received no separate payment for this service as it was covered by his regular CIA stipend deposited to his credit at the Katherein Bank, Vienna (A/c No. 50307495) and at the Swiss Bank Corporation in Geneva (A/c No. 510230C-86). From Hurley's point of view, this was a vast improvement on the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo required to obtain cash for flash rolls and drug buys from DEA headquarters. After a successful sting, like El-Jorr's in Los Angeles, the DEA agents would turn the counterfeit currency over to the Secret Service and both could claim credit for the seizure.

Thinking back, Coleman often wonders how many of Hurley's confidential informants in Lebanon were, in fact, paid with funny money.

The business of Eurame was not just drugs and cash, however.

During the previous summer, Coleman had acted as technical adviser to the Cypriot Police Force Narcotics Squad (CPFNS) and helped train its officers in the use of communications, surveillance and other electronic gear paid for by the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDAC). On returning to Cyprus that spring, he found that the march of technology had continued in his absence and that all the CPFNS field offices had been hooked into a central computerized database installed by Link Systems, Ltd., a US government 'cut-out' company set up to carry out the contract for UNFDAC.

At CPFNS headquarters, he saw several of the officers he had worked with unpacking software from boxes marked PROMIS Ltd, Toronto, Canada. Sensing another Hurley enterprise that would interest Donleavy, Coleman poked around discreetly and discovered that Eurame had supplied, or was in process of supplying, copies of this software to other national police and military forces in the region, including those of Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Turkey, Kuwait, Israel, Jordan, Iran and Iraq.

Puzzled as to why the DEA and CIA would choose to do this through a front operation in Nicosia rather than through official channels, Coleman duly reported all this activity to Control, but the response was so muted he could only conclude that the DIA knew about it already.

(Much later, he discovered that PROMIS had been developed for the US Department of Justice by Inslaw, Inc. of Washington, D.C., as an information system for law-enforcement agencies and government prosecutors with heavy workloads to keep track of their cases. The systems sold through Eurame, however, were bootleg copies, made without the knowledge of Inslaw, to which a 'backdoor' software routine had been added. No matter how securely the front door might be barred with entry codes and passwords, American operators, holding the key to the secret back door, could break into the PROMIS systems operated by Cyprus, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Turkey, Kuwait, Israel, Jordan, Iran and Iraq whenever they wished, access the data stored there and get out again without arousing the slightest suspicion that the security of those systems had been breached -- an incalculable advantage, not only in collecting and verifying intelligence data from those countries, but also in assessing the actual, as opposed to the professed, level of cooperation extended by their governments.)

Coleman had already transmitted to Control his first HOTSIT (hot situation report) to the effect that NARCOG and the Eurame operation, like everything else connected with DEA Nicosia, was coming unravelled. With Hurley's indifference to security, Coleman felt personally at risk.

"It was open house [he recalls]. From first thing in the morning until we closed at night, there were people drifting in and out all the time.

We'd get Cypriot narcotics cops stopping by for a free cup of coffee or to make a call to their relatives in England on Uncle Sam's nickel. We'd get the day's batch of informants from Lebanon, picked up in Larnaca off the morning ferry. We'd get all kinds of weird people.

From Asmar's reports, I knew that some of them were into arms trafficking as well as dope and that meant they had to have close ties with Syrian-supported terrorist groups like the PFLP-GC.

It was crazy. With El-Jorr coming off the wall from working both sides of the street, it was only a matter of time before the whole operation came unglued. And I didn't want to be around when that happened. In the Middle East, you can get yourself killed that way. So what did Control advise? 'Communicate your concern to NARCOG Director Hurley.'"


Coleman had already done that, but he tried again. At the embassy one day, he was talking to Fred Ganell when they were interrupted by a sudden commotion in the outer office. Moments later, an irate, gesticulating El Jorr was ushered through to Hurley's inner sanctum by the long-suffering Connie, who pushed him in, closed the door and leaned against it, pretending to mop her brow.

Almost at once, the decibel level inside soared from an angry mumble to a full-blown shouting match.

'I can't do this any more,' yelled El-Jorr. 'I can't. What you're asking is impossible.'

'Listen,' Hurley roared. 'You will do what I TELL you to do, WHEN I tell you to do it. I don't want to hear anymore of your SHIT, Ibrahim.'

'But no one will WORK for you anymore. What's the matter with you, Mike? Don't you understand what I'm saying? They're all fed up with this shit. You want us to work like dogs ... You want us to risk our lives, our families ... There's no money. You don't pay. How am I to pay my people?'

'That's YOUR problem,' bellowed Hurley. 'You get money. How do I know what you do with it?'

They went on in this vein for several minutes while Ganem, occasionally shaking his head in disgust, tried to continue his conversation with Coleman. Then El Jorr wrenched open the door and, ignoring everybody, left as abruptly as he had arrived, muttering to himself.

Hurley followed him out, and caught sight of Coleman in Ganem's office.

'You hear that?' he said gloomily. 'Either he's on something or Ibrahim's blown his stack. You better watch that guy pretty close.'

Coleman nodded. Even as they spoke, Walid was probably following El Jorr back to Eurame. 'I told you you had a problem there, Mike,' he said. 'Now you better do something about it, and fast. That place is wide open.'

Hurley bristled, but let it pass. 'Has he taken anything out of there?' he demanded. 'Any files?'

'How the hell should I know?' Coleman said. 'He's the one with the office key.'

'Well, I want you and Fred to go around to his house right now and bring back whatever he's got over there. Tell him we're putting all the files in one place, or some such shit. Tell him anything you like, but make sure the apartment's clean.'

'Okay. But you better watch him, Mike. Several people have told me he's been seen at the Lebanese Embassy.'

'Yeah?' Hurley looked at Coleman doubtfully. 'What do you think he's doing over there?'

'Hell, I don't know, Mike. Why don't you ask him?'

'And why don't you stick to what I pay you for?' he retorted irritably, heading back to his office. 'What are you -- some kind of wise-ass?'

Hurley had not forgiven him for the loss of Syrian George, and he was still under heavy pressure from Washington to show results, but in general Coleman made sure they got along for the sake of his back-channel reports to MC/10 Control. At a time when DEA Nicosia was so frenetically overextended in so many sensitive areas, he needed to stay close to Hurley, and the key to that was to make himself useful.

For that reason, he volunteered to look after Ron Martz, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and his 'primary assistant', Lloyd Burchette, when they arrived in Nicosia at the invitation of the DEA to work on a series of reports about international drug trafficking. Coleman knew them already -- they had been to see him at the University of Alabama while planning the trip -- and so it was natural enough that he should now take on the chore of shepherding them around the island during their stay.

The DIA was also interested in their visit.

In October 1987, at the agency's request, Coleman had looked up his best man, Michael Franks, a.k.a. Schafer, who by then was back in the United States and running a military supply business called Minihawks in the Atlanta area. Soon after his call, they met for a meal at Shoney's Big Boy restaurant where Franks/Schafer introduced him to Burchette, who was then working from home as a one-man security service, and to Jack Terrell, a former operative of Oliver North's in Central America. Affectionately known in the group as 'Colonel Flako', Terrell had acquired his military training by reading army field manuals while imprisoned in Alabama State Penitentiary. All three, it turned out, were close friends of Ron Martz, and it was as a result of this meeting that Martz and Burchette visited Coleman at UAB to solicit his help with their Cyprus trip.

The DIA's interest in them sprang from their association with a Chinese arms dealer named David King, also known as David Loo Choy, who represented the People's Republic of China and had played a part in the North network's illegal supply of arms to the Nicaraguan Contras in association with Monzer al-Kassar.

Though Coleman found out nothing more about him from Franks/Schafer and his friends, he would remember his conversations with them later when, after the Lockerbie disaster, it emerged that US intelligence agencies had intercepted a series of telephone calls to the Iranian Embassy in Beirut from an arms dealer and presumed double agent by the name of David Lovejoy (Loo Choy?) advising the charge d'affaires of the movements of the American intelligence team who died on Flight 103. (He would also discover later that an alias for David Lovejoy was Michael Franks!)

Even after the scene with El-Jorr, Hurley did nothing to tighten up on security for the NARCOG operation. Indeed, the last straw as far as Coleman was concerned was when Hurley took a group of his Lebanese CIs, whose identities he needed to protect at all costs, to lunch down the street at a cafe full of officials from the Bulgarian Embassy.

Coleman had had enough. On the morning of 18 May 1988, he hooked up his tape recorder to the telephone at Eurame and called Hurley at the embassy.

'Hello, Mike?'

'Yeah.'

'The situation here is getting out of hand.'

'What do you mean?'

'Well, we've got people coming in and out of here like a train station. Pinko's people bringing in all sorts -- I don't know who they are. Lebanese I know are close to the bad guys. Lebanese with names we have in the files, you know what I mean? We had an agreement. It really worries me that we are being exposed like this.'

As always, criticism made Hurley irritable. 'Let me worry about that,' he said. 'You just help Ibrahim get those reports out. I'll deal with the Cypriots. Who's over there now?'

'Just me and Ibrahim. Bitching and complaining as usual. Says he can't do this any more. Wants to quit. He's driving me nuts. Goddamn it, Mike, this isn't why I came back here.'

'You'll just have to do the best you can,' said Hurley.

'And what about protecting security? Me? Mary-Claude is in Lebanon.'

'That's your problem. I told you to come alone.'

'Wait a minute.' Coleman was taken aback. 'That was never our deal. We don't even have housing -- remember our agreement?'

'That was last year. You know things have changed. Budgets ...'

'Nice of you to tell me after I get back, after I haul myself over here,' he said angrily. 'Your promises, phone calls to me at the university .... "Come on back," you said. So I took leave. Now this is a mess. Do you know who these Lebanese are up here?'

'Look, Coleman,' Hurley shouted. 'Don't fuck around with me. Just get those reports finished. Stay on Ibrahim's ass.' He breathed out heavily, and they were both silent for a moment. Then he said, almost apologetically: 'Keep an eye on him. Is he taking anything out of there?'

'How the hell should I know? He could be. I told you he's making regular visits to the Lebanese Embassy.'

'Yeah, we know about that.'

'Doesn't that bother you?' asked Coleman, walking around the desk to see if El-Jorr was eavesdropping, but he was still busy at the computer terminal in the next room. 'Who is this guy, Mike? Phony pictures in a US Army uniform. Running around in a Chevy Bronco with Texas licence plates -- everyone has to know he's working for you. And that means they know I am, too. That was not our deal, Mike.'

'I'll worry about Ibrahim,' he said. 'just process the paper.'

'No, I don't like it. This is not what I bargained for. We're going home. I don't need this.' Coleman felt he was working himself up quite convincingly. 'Strange Lebanese walking through here. Crazy Ibrahim bouncing off the walls, appearing at the Lebanese Embassy, and you apparently don't give a damn. This operation is coming apart. The whole fucking island must know about Eurame. I feel exposed, and all you can say is, don't worry about it? Remember the PLO operation that suddenly appeared next door in Larnaca? Who found that? I did. Don't you give a shit about security?'

'This is a law-enforcement operation,' said Hurley, and Coleman was so astonished he took a moment to reply.

'Do you think people with several tons of TNT know the difference? Or care? Fuck it, Mike. I'm out of here.'

He looked up to see El Jorr standing in the doorway, looking at the wire that connected the receiver to the tape recorder on his desk.

'Don't fuck with me, Coleman,' Hurley roared, finally losing all patience. 'You'll never work for the government again. The Cypriots are already on my ass about you.'

'About what?'

'You ran off last summer and didn't pay the bill at Filanta.'

'That was your bill, goddamn it. I got clearance from Fred to move. The apartment was sweltering. We never got the a/c you promised. All the gear was overheating. My family was suffering from the heat --'

'You forgot the rule, Coleman,' Hurley interrupted. 'Fred doesn't approve budgets. I do.'

'You were in the States,' he yelled, genuinely angry now. 'What were we supposed to do? Sit in that hot apartment? Lose the gear? Shut down completely until you got back from leave? That's a lot of crap, Mike. Look, I'm not one of your Lebanese or Cypriots or Iraqi CIs. You requested my services, remember? And I was told, if I didn't like it, I could pull out any time. You talk to whoever you went to to get me involved in this candy-assed operation. Tell 'em -- or I'll tell 'em when I get back to the States -- I'm pulling.

'This is a disaster waiting to happen,' he added, in a prophecy that would come back to haunt him. 'Even your own people think this is bullshit.'

'Don't fuck with me, Coleman.'

There was another brief silence. 'I'm not fucking with you, Mike,' he said tiredly. 'I'm just leaving.'

'Let me speak to lbrahim,' said Hurley.

Disconnecting the wire, Coleman pocketed the recorder, handed the receiver to El-Jorr and walked out of the room.

A few minutes later, El-Jorr brought him a cup of coffee. 'You really pissed him off,' he said. 'You can't do that. He'll ruin you.'

'What did he say?'

'He wanted to know if you taped the call.'

'So what did you tell him?'

'I said I didn't know.'

Coleman threw the last of his personal things into his briefcase.

'Tell him the truth,' he said.

He encoded a message to Control saying he had decided to abandon the DEA assignment and would await clearance for departure. He had no intention of leaving immediately. Mary-Claude was in Lebanon with Sarah having too good a time with her family for him to wish to cut it short. The DIA was in no hurry either. When Control acknowledged his message, he was told not to leave until he had retrieved the video equipment from Beirut.

But then, on 26 May, everything changed.

When he called Mary-Claude, he learned that Tony Asmar had been fatally injured in a bomb explosion at his office in Karantina.

Coleman's dismay was profound. The unremitting pressure of their role in the politics and violence of Lebanon's civil war had bonded them into a partnership that meant as much to him personally as professionally. For once in the treacherous business of intelligence gathering, the question of mutual trust had been answered on sight. From the start, they had worked together like brothers, with respect and affection, and Coleman's grief was in no way lightened by a suspicion that the killers might have fingered Asmar through him.

To this day, he blames the Drug Enforcement Administration for Asmar's death.

'I blame it on the fact that someone linked me with the US government,' he says. 'And they were able to do that because DEA Nicosia used the Eurame office as a waiting room for unscreened Lebanese coming in from Beirut. My exposure exposed Tony Asmar, and I believe that is why he was killed. I blame the DEA for that.'

The murder was also a heavy blow for American interests in the Middle East. Asmar's death virtually closed down MC/10's operations in Lebanon by breaking off contact with his agents in place. From then on, the US government was blind in its policy-making about the Beirut hostages, for example, because there were no longer any reliable day-to-day reports about their location and condition.

This may well have had a bearing on Washington's decision later in the year to send out the hostage intelligence team, headed by Major Charles McKee of the DIA, who died in the bombing of Flight 103. Indeed, the loss of the Asmar network's continuing surveillance of NARCOG's operations in Lebanon may well have had a bearing on the bombing itself.

"After my warnings and reports, and then Tony's murder, [says Coleman] I assumed that somebody would have the CIA on the carpet and close NARCOG down. After all, the US had just lost one of its most valuable assets in the Middle East. Never even crossed my mind that Hurley would carry on like nothing had happened -- that he'd keep Eurame open and go on using the pipeline.

After NARCOG's security was blown, that was madness. But knowing the DEA, the attitude was probably that the fucking military was being fucking paranoid as usual and to hell with them. And I guess the DIA felt, well, go up in flames if you must but keep away from us. We're going to pull our agent and leave you to it. Because as far as I can see, that's all that happened. And then seven months later, everybody's in a jam because 270 innocent people died at Lockerbie -- and I'm odd man out."


For three days, while Asmar lingered on in a Beirut hospital, Coleman stayed in the apartment and slept with a gun under his pillow. On 28 May, the DIA video gear arrived from Lebanon, and on the 29th, he flew home alone with it, having been assured that Mary-Claude and Sarah would be protected until such time as they could join him in the States with Mary-Claude's sister Giselle. If Coleman was next on the hit list, they would in any case be safer travelling on their own.

Debriefed in fine detail by Donleavy and DIA agent Neal Miller, largely to see what could be done to patch up a new link with the Asmar network, Coleman was told to keep the video gear pending a resolution of 'this goddamn DEA fuck-up' and to take charge of Syrian George, who, as it happened, had arrived two days earlier on his J-1 visa and was staying at the International House on the University of Alabama campus.

To avoid giving the impression that he had been suckered into coming by US military intelligence, and any reluctance he might feel in consequence to talk freely, Coleman was told to take George home to the family lake house near Auburn, Alabama, and to set him up for questioning by saying that the FBI routinely interviewed all students from the Middle East. Suspecting nothing, Syrian George responded happily to his debriefing by DIA officers posing as FBI agents, and was afterwards turned over to Special Agent Robert Sleigh, of the FBI's C3 counter-intelligence section in Birmingham.

And that was it. When Coleman drove to Atlanta airport on 13 June to meet Mary-Claude, Giselle and Sarah off the plane from Lebanon, he had a distinct suspicion that his usefulness as a DIA agent in the Middle East was at an end. And in September 1988, Donleavy seemed to confirm this by placing him on the 'inactive' list and arranging for him to rejoin the Boy Scouts of America as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Chicago Area Council.

By then, the DIA had satisfied itself that Asmar's murder was the work of drug-trafficking elements in the Lebanese Forces, the ultra right-wing Christian faction whose secret war council complex was barely half a block from Asmar's office in Karantina. The Eli Hoobaka group, involved in the 1985 North/Contra/CBN arms deal, were prime suspects, and the likeliest motive, as Coleman had suspected all along, was that a DEA informant in the Lebanese Forces had identified him at Eurame as a friend of Asmar's.

If that was the case, it seemed unlikely that he would ever be able to return safely to the Middle East, but three months later, the DIA showed it still had plans for him.

Appalled by the Flight 103 disaster, perhaps more than most as a result of his recent experiences, but still entirely unaware of any possible connection between his Cyprus assignment and the bombing, Coleman appeared with Tom Brokaw on NBC's 'Nightly News' without realizing that, inactive or not, he was still expected to clear such engagements first with the DIA.

Although he had made it a condition of his NBC appearance that his whereabouts not be disclosed, Neal Miller called next day to say that he had taken over as his handler and to reprimand him for doing the broadcast without permission. For security reasons, he insisted that Coleman change his telephone number and arrange for a new mailing address.

Astonished he had not heard from Donleavy himself about Miller taking over, Coleman sometimes wondered afterwards, in exile, if Donleavy had been a code name for Matthew Kevin Gannon, one of the intelligence agents who had died with Major Charles McKee on Flight 103.

It would have been like Donleavy to try to clear up the Asmar mess himself. And besides the coincidence of his getting a new handler, without explanation, right after the disaster, Coleman could not help remembering the schoolboy password routine he had been given on joining the DIA.

'I'm a friend of Bill Donleavy's ...' his contacts were supposed to say. 'His friends call him Kevin ...'

In the end, he decided that, too, was just a coincidence. Gannon's reported age was thirty-four. If he were Donleavy, he would have had to have been at least ten years older than that to have served in Vietnam.

At any rate, Coleman soon realized that Miller's fears for his safety were well-founded. Immediately after the NBC broadcast, his mother received a series of calls on her unlisted telephone number threatening his life and the safety of Mary-Claude's family in Beirut.

After she changed the number, Coleman himself began to get similar calls at the apartment he had taken for the family in Palatine, a commuter train ride from the Boy Scouts' office on Lake Street, Chicago, although these, too, stopped after he took the DIA's advice and obtained an unlisted number. As his new Control explained, the faction of the Lebanese Forces involved in the aborted Contra arms-for-drugs deal in 1985 were known to have members who were DEA CIs, and they were probably tracking him through credit reports, listing his current address, employer and so forth, obtained through Bank Audi, a Beirut bank with a branch in New York.

With Mary-Claude pregnant again, that was worrying. It was one thing to suspect that he might be on a terrorist hit list, and quite another to realize that Asmar's killers knew where he was. The idea of being sent out again to the Middle East lost what little charm it had left.

"Knowing what I do now [he says], I think the DIA was looking for a way to get me back to Beirut to salvage what it could from the Asmar wreck. But what I didn't know, and what Control probably didn't know either, was that by then the DEA, as well as the terrorists, was gunning for me.

"You can see how it must have looked. I'd pulled out of NARCOG after a blazing row with Hurley. I'd turned up on NBC talking about Middle East narco-terrorism right after Flight 103 crashed. And now, in January and February 1989, Pan Am investigators start poking around in Frankfurt and Nicosia. I guess at that point DEA assumed I had jumped the reservation and was feeding information to Pan Am. But the fact is, at that point, I didn't even know I had any information to feed anybody. And even if I had known, as a DIA agent the only person I would have told was Control."


With a new mailing address and telephone number, the Colemans tried to get on with their lives. Mary-Claude still found it difficult to match the popular image of America with her experience of it. Living there undermined her self-confidence. The sheer scale of the country, its unpredictability, its generally unstructured attitude to life seemed to call everything she knew into question, turning her inward to the family for security and, for a social life, to other Lebanese who shared her sense of exile.

Being pregnant again helped in the first respect. When Coleman took her to the hospital for a routine scan, he said jocularly:

'What is it? Twins?'

'How did you know?' asked the obstetrician.

Breaking the three-generational run of Lester Knox Colemans, his sons, Joshua and Chad, were born on 16 September 1989, at about the same time as the DIA decided to dust him off for his next assignment.

Now experiencing at first hand with the Boy Scouts of America the role of 'spook-in- residence' that he had observed at a distance during his earlier incarnation as a BSA executive, Coleman was engaged mainly in recruiting local captains of industry as sponsors and committee chairmen. But whereas before he had seen scouting as a gateway of opportunity to the big time, 20 years on, the movement seemed narrow and provincial somehow, more concerned with preserving an America that was fast slipping away, if it had ever truly existed, than with helping to shape the country's youth to face an uncertain future.

Distracted also by his own uncertain future, he began to spend less time on Lake Street and more on getting back into journalism. If the Lebanese Forces were seriously gunning for him, there was nowhere to hide in any case. And if he surfaced again in the public eye, maybe the DIA would lose interest and decide to retire him permanently. He started to write a regular column for a Chicago weekly newspaper, and embarked on a series of radio interviews, talking about Syria's occupation of Lebanon and its involvement in narco-terrorism.

'After years in investigative reporting, years of exposing deceit, and then, from 1984 to 1990, years of creating it, I was fried,' he remembers. 'All I wanted to do at that point was change direction. I wanted to put all that two-faced stuff behind us and settle down with Mary-Claude to live a half-way normal life. I let it be known I wasn't really interested in going out again, and hoped they'd get the message -- that I was finished with it.'

But in New Orleans, he took part in a radio programme with Joe Boohaker, an attorney from Birmingham, Alabama, and the driving force behind the National Alliance of Lebanese Americans (NALA), a group determined to resist the drift of the Bush administration towards rapprochement with Syria.

Sharing Coleman's opinion of President Hafez Assad as the evil genius of state-sponsored terrorism, NALA had been formed to press for the withdrawal of Syrian and Israeli troops from Lebanon and for the restoration of democracy under the aegis of General Michel Aoun, who, in September 1988, had been appointed head of an interim military government in Beirut by outgoing President Amin Gemayel.

An austere Maronite Christian who commanded the loyalty of both Christian and Muslim brigades in the US-trained and equipped Lebanese Army, Aoun had many friends in the Pentagon but none in the State Department, which saw his ambition to let the Lebanese choose their own government without foreign interference as a threat to America's interests.

The fact that Aoun's position also commanded wide popular support among Lebanese otherwise determined to kill one another on sight merely reinforced his reputation in Washington as a troublemaker. And the Bush administration was confirmed in this judgment when, after it had refused to recognize his military government, Aoun turned to Iraq for help against the Syrians and the ultra-right Christian militias. As far as the State Department was concerned, Aoun was now clearly an obstacle to a satisfactory peace settlement in Lebanon -- satisfactory, that is, to the United States, Israel and Syria.

Finding they had much in common, Coleman and Boohaker arranged to meet after the broadcast, and their subsequent friendship would doubtless have flourished anyway, even if the DIA had not pulled Coleman's string in the autumn of 1989 and instructed him to cultivate the connection.

The agency now wanted him back in Lebanon for two reasons. The first, and hardest to resist, was that Charles Frezeli, another MC/10 agent, had just been assassinated in Beirut, leaving three others cut off from contact who had to be brought out before they, too, were killed or induced to talk.

The second reason, strategically more important, was that the Pentagon wanted a closer look at what was going on between Aoun and Saddam Hussein. There were signs that Iraq was withdrawing the military support it had sent in to bolster the Lebanese Army against the Syrians, and the reasons for this could be established more discreetly in Beirut than in Baghdad.

In November 1989, Coleman reluctantly agreed to resign his commission with the Boy Scouts of America, giving as his reason that he was returning to journalism with a job in Germany. To flesh out the story, the DIA provided him with a German mailing address, Postfach 1151, Geilhausen 6460, from which all correspondence, including anything from the DIA, would be readdressed to Coleman's maildrop in Barrington, Illinois.

The next move, planned at a series of meetings with Control at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C., was to use the Boohaker connection to worm his way into the heart of General Aoun's constituency in the United States as a stepping stone to the general himself.

Boohaker's NALA was one of several groups affiliated to the national Council of Lebanese-American Organizations (CLAO) headed by Joseph Esseff, of Los Angeles, California, whose wife Pat and brother, Monsignor John Esseff, ran the CLAO's associated relief operation, Mission to Lebanon. A Roman Catholic priest who had been in charge of the church's Beirut aid mission to orphans and refugees in the Middle East while Coleman was out there, Msgr. Esseff had returned to the US to become director of the Pontifical Mission Aid Societies, responsible for Catholic aid and refugee work globally.

In January 1990, Boohaker introduced Coleman to the Esseffs in California, and at Joe Esseff's suggestion, Coleman took on the job of freelance public relations adviser and lobbyist for the CLAO. In this capacity, he attended meetings around the country to organize opposition to American attempts to remove Aoun from office in favour of a new Syrian-backed president, and later that month conferred in New York with Dr. Muhallad Mugraby, Aoun's envoy to the United Nations, and the consul general for Lebanon, Victor Bitar.

Present at that meeting was Walid Maroni, officially an Iraqi member of the UN press corps, who told them that his government was prepared to support the CLAO financially as well as in other ways. Afterwards, Coleman urged his new colleagues to reject this poisoned chalice, but only the Esseffs heeded his advice. Unable to carry the rest of the council with him, Joe Esseff would later resign the chairmanship of the CLAO in disgust, but meanwhile, on 3 March, he took Coleman to Paris to introduce him to Aoun's senior advisers.

At 32 Rue St. Honore, they met with Raymond Eddi, a distinguished Lebanese parliamentarian in exile, and Marcel Boutros, Aoun's personal envoy, who invited Coleman to meet the general himself at the presidential palace in Baabda. When Coleman encoded a message to this effect to Control, he was instructed to conclude the arrangements at once, if possible before he left. He was then to return home at once via Montreal, using his Thomas Leavy identity on re-entering the United States so as to avoid any tell-tale entry stamp in his passport.

On 9 March, Coleman received a detailed encrypted message from Control setting up Operation Shakespeare, clearing his visit to Lebanon and instructing him to carry out the mission as Thomas Leavy, of Westinghouse Group W News.

The reason for this was that his real name was probably known to the Syrian forces controlling Beirut airport, and certainly to the pro-Syrian Christian Lebanese Forces under Shamir Geagea who controlled the port of Jounieh and had already threatened his life after the NBC broadcast.

Coleman was to proceed to Israel, cross into Lebanon, escorted by the Israeli-backed South Lebanese Army, and from there drive to Baabda under the protection of pro-Aoun elements in the Druze faction. Satisfied that these arrangements were as safe as any in the circumstances, Coleman decided to beef up his cover by inviting Peter Arnett, Cable News Network's correspondent in Jerusalem, to join him in interviewing the general -- without, of course, revealing his identity as an intelligence agent or even suggesting that there might be a hidden motive for the visit.

On 16 March, Coleman was summoned to Washington for a final briefing and to complete his Thomas Leavy documentation. After an overnight stay at the Washington Court Hotel (at the government rate as the reservation had been made by the Pentagon), he obtained a Washington driver's licence in the name of Leavy and was given a Social Security card (no. 326-84-2972) in the same name.

He remembers asking Control why he was not also given a Thomas Leavy passport, and being told that, as there was enough time for him to go through normal channels to get one, a legitimate passport was always a safer bet. Like the birth certificate, it would come in handy for future missions.

'If I survive this one,' he said, still uneasy about it, and Control had laughed dutifully.

Funds for Operation Shakespeare had been paid into Barclays Bank, Gibraltar, he said -- Account No. 35078565 -- and when the mission was over, the Colemans were to establish residence in Spain. The Koldon Moving and Storage Company should therefore ship their household and personal effects to Eglin Airforce Base in Florida, after which the Pentagon would take care of their delivery to a US base near Cadiz. As soon as the passport came through, Coleman should wait for the first convenient lull in the fighting in Beirut and then leave immediately. General Aoun was then engaged with the Syrians on the one hand and Shamir Geagea's Christian Lebanese Forces on the other.

On 26 March, back in Chicago, Coleman applied for a US passport in the name of Thomas J. Leavy, using the birth certificate given him by the CIA in 1982 and the documents issued in Washington. He then took the family south to Alabama for a short vacation before they all left the country. It had been agreed that Mary-Claude and the children would make their way independently to Spain, and wait for him to join them there.

On 12 April, Coleman went over to the courthouse in Jefferson County, Alabama, and for a $5 fee, legally changed his name to Thomas Leavy. He did this on the advice of his father, who shared his misgivings about travelling on a passport in that name. If anything happened to him during the mission, Coleman was worried there might be a problem in claiming on life insurance policies taken out in his real name. To make certain Mary-Claude and the children would have enough money to live on if any such problem arose, he took out some short-term life insurance in the name of Thomas Leavy.

But on 2 May, three armed FBI agents took Coleman into custody for 'wilfully and knowingly making a false statement in an application for a passport', and threw him into Mobile City jail.
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:21 pm

Chapter 15

Even after six months, it still felt like a mistake. At the back of his mind, he still half-expected Control to call one day and say the Justice Department had fouled up as usual but everything was all right now, that it was time to send him out again.

He didn't blame the DIA for what had happened, or for fading from sight when it did. Control had told him often enough that the agency would never surface in his defence if anything went wrong. If it acknowledged his existence, it would also have to acknowledge its own existence, thereby inviting precisely the attention it had to avoid. To do its job properly, the DIA needed to remain invisible.

Even so ... Coleman knew the power it could exercise behind the scenes, and went on hoping through the summer of 1990 that Control would somehow find the right strings to pull. The appearance of Marshall Lee Miller to handle his defence against the passport violation charge had seemed more than just providential. By introducing him to Pan Am's lawyers before bowing out again, Miller had broken Coleman's alarming sense of isolation and put him in touch with at least a measure of the support he needed, support that the DIA itself was unable to give.

And he needed all the encouragement he could get, for the threats had started again. Between June and September, his mother, Margie Coleman, in Birmingham, Alabama, received about 20 calls on her unlisted phone from men threatening to kill her son, to kidnap his wife and children and to harm her for taking them in. An elderly lady in doubtful health, she was terrified, particularly when the calls continued after her unlisted number was changed. From what was said, and the callers' apparent familiarity with his work in Cyprus, Coleman had little doubt that they were confidential informants of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

On 12 June, this impression was reinforced by a call from the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA's Birmingham field office, who strongly recommended that he plead guilty to the passport violation charge and at all costs 'don't get the DEA involved in your case'.

Angry now, Coleman travelled alone to Chicago on 21 June and, unrepresented, pleaded not guilty to the charge before Chief Judge James B. Moran after waiving a formal reading of the indictment.

"He asked me, 'Where's your attorney?' [Coleman recalls). So I said, 'I don't have an attorney, your honour. I came here to plead not guilty. Don't need an attorney for that.' So the hearing was over in two minutes. I picked up my briefcase, started out the door and asked the FBI agent on the case to see me downstairs to a cab because I didn't feel very safe in Chicago. He wanted to know why, so I asked him how much he knew about me. 'Well, we know a lot,' he said. 'But there's a lot more we'd like to know.' 'Me, too,' I said. 'But I can't tell you anything. And I'm sorry about that because we could probably settle this thing in twenty minutes.'


His display of independence seemed to make matters worse. The telephone threats became more frequent; he and Mary-Claude were often followed when they went out, together or separately, and word began to filter back that FBI agents were questioning his friends, neighbours and former associates.

On the other hand, the government seemed in no particular hurry to press its charges against him. At a case status hearing on 17 August, the court appointed a public defender to represent him and then adjourned the proceedings until a further status hearing on 3 January 1991, at which time a trial date would be set. As Coleman discovered later, it was not uncommon for the Justice Department to leave a case dangling over the head of a former government employee whom it wished to intimidate.

What finally persuaded him that, without allies or resources, he would never escape its clutches was the government's refusal to produce any of the material he needed for his defence, even his DEA file. When his court-appointed attorney, Michael Deutsch, filed a discovery motion on 30 August for documents that might show Coleman had been acting under orders when he applied for the Thomas Leavy passport, the DEA, the DIA and the CIA all declined to comply on grounds of national security.

By now he was under no illusions about the reason for the frame-up. Though nobody on the government side had shown his hand, it was hardly necessary. This was an obvious attempt to secure his silence in return for a plea-bargain and suspended sentence on the passport charge. If that failed, the next move would probably be to a Federal penitentiary where a fight in the yard or a sudden bout of pneumonia would secure his silence for good.

They could also get at him through his wife and children, as the threatening phone calls had made plain. Down to his last few hundred dollars, and with nothing but the good offices of a public defender standing between him and the octopus, it was time to evacuate the hostages. And to tell Pan Am what he knew.

Nobody else seemed to be interested. None of the agencies involved in the official investigation of the Flight 103 bombing, either British or American, had even attempted to question him about the activities he had observed on Cyprus, despite all the rumours of the DEA's involvement.

To save his neck and protect his family was perhaps not the noblest of motives for coming forward as a witness, but if the DEA had not sought to frame him under the misapprehension that he was feeding information to Pan Am and the media, and if the DIA had not lacked the will to protect him behind the scenes, the idea of coming forward would never have crossed his mind at all -- indeed, he might never even have known that he had a contribution to make to the Lockerbie investigation.

As a secret agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, his first, last and only duty would have been, as always, to the US government. But with his back to the wall, and with the octopus bent on destroying him through no fault of his own, his first, last and only duty was to his family. And yet he was still reluctant to make public his connection with the DIA.

By now he was convinced that it had merely acquiesced in the frame-up after his arrest. The likeliest explanation seemed to be that, in the autumn of 1986, Control had indicated to the DEA that Coleman had worked for the DIA in the past but, as he was no longer active, the agency had no objection to his taking up a consultant's job with Hurley on Cyprus.

As Coleman's real job was to file back-channel reports on the operations of DEA Nicosia, the DIA was hardly likely to have told Hurley that they were lending him a full-time agent. They never revealed the identity of their agents to anybody in any case.

As far as the DEA was concerned, therefore, Coleman had none of the status or protection of being a government agent; he was a civilian consultant on a short-term contract who, as instructed, and as a matter of courtesy, had provided the Cyprus country office with a copy of his alternative identity papers.

Without Coleman's knowledge, and without consulting the DIA (on this basis, they had no reason to do so), either Hurley or Dany Habib had subsequently used those papers -- in particular, the copy they had taken of Coleman's Thomas Leavy birth certificate -- to obtain a passport for one of their own people in Egypt, thus cocking the trigger for a possible violation alert when Coleman also applied for a passport in that name two years later.

No matter how paranoid he felt from time to time about the DIA, Coleman could not conceive that Control would have told him to get hold of a legitimate Thomas Leavy passport for Operation Shakespeare knowing in advance that it would blow the mission and lead to his arrest. He could only assume that, being unaware of his true status as a DIA agent, the DEA and its oversight agency, the FBI, had seen him as a soft target, and framed the passport violation charge as a means of silencing an awkward witness without realizing who he was or the damage they were doing.

He could even appreciate how tricky a situation this must have been for the DIA, although it did little to ease his sense of injury. The Pentagon would have been furious at losing an agent as well as a major mission, but there was little or nothing it could say or do to put things right without acknowledging that Coleman was an agent and thereby admitting that, for the better part of two years, the DIA had been spying, not on the country's official enemies, but on other agencies of the United States government.

On 11 September, Coleman petitioned the US District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, for a change in his bail conditions. To support himself and his family, now on the edge of penury, he urgently needed to resume his occupation as a freelance journalist specializing in Middle Eastern affairs, and for that, he had to be able to travel.

As the prosecution still seemed in no hurry to have a trial date set, Chief Judge Moran overruled the government's objections and ordered that Coleman's legal passport be returned, subject to his giving the prosecutor two weeks' notice of his intention to leave the country and to his reporting in to his pre-trial services officer every other week by telephone.

Two weeks later, Coleman arrived in Gibraltar to clear out the funds standing to his credit at Barclays Bank. He felt the government owed him that much at least -- and as the DIA had not seen fit to close the account, perhaps Control thought so, too. At any rate, he now had a little breathing space. As the DEA was plainly out to get him, and had blocked all access to the files he needed to clear himself, the only avenue open to him was to work with Pan Am, in the common interest of getting at the truth, using his training and experience to piece together the best defence he could.

But at a distance, and with some of the pressure off, Coleman began to wonder how much difference it would make if he did. The charge was such an obvious frame-up that he had to ask himself if there had ever been any intention to try him on it.

The central problem for the government was the central element in its case, the Thomas Leavy birth certificate. If the DEA had used it to provide a cover identity for somebody In Egypt, it could hardly admit that in open court or explain how it had come by the certificate in the first place. And yet, without showing prior use, how could the prosecution explain why Coleman's application for a passport in that name had alerted the passport office to a possible violation?

Compounding the problem was the fact that, as far as Coleman knew, no such person as Thomas Leavy had ever existed. How, then, could the government explain why he came to be in possession of a genuine birth certificate for a non-existent person without embarrassing the CIA, which had given it to him in the first place? And if the government had provided it for his use, why was it now prosecuting him for using it?

With so many awkward questions hanging over the case, Coleman found it hard to imagine that the government would take it into court -- and was not at all reassured by the thought. If the charge had been framed merely to intimidate, when it failed to do so, the octopus would presumably try something else. Perhaps something more drastic.

So far, Coleman's meetings with Pan Am's attorneys had been informal, and the information he provided fairly basic, but while poking about in Europe, he became aware that somebody else, either within the DEA or close to it, was also talking knowledgeably about a link between DEA Nicosia and the bombing of Flight 103.

"Based on information from some source within the government, both ABC and NBC were researching stories on the DEA connection [Coleman remembers]. ABC tracked me down after seeing some of the papers in my case and wanted to know if I could confirm what they'd been told. Oddly enough, one of Pierre Salinger's researchers, Linda Mack, while trying to check me out, had talked to another of their staffers, David Mills -- the former Newsweek photographer who'd looked me up on Cyprus in 1987 and sold some pictures to Hurley. Anyway, I met Salinger in London to go over the story with him and confirmed those parts of it I knew to be true. He was just checking his facts with me. He had the story already.

"So did NBC. Again, I don't know where they got their information from but I confirmed that the DEA had been running controlled deliveries through Cyprus while I was there and that its operations had been wide open from a security point of view. Brian Ross wanted me to go on camera to say so, but I refused. I figured the last interview I'd given them, right after the bombing of Flight 103, had probably been the root cause of why my life had been turned inside out, and I wasn't looking for any more trouble.

"Neither Salinger nor Ross knew of my role in Cyprus as a DIA agent, and I certainly didn't tell them. Nor did their broadcasts attribute any part of the story to me -- there was no reason for them to do that because I'd told them nothing they didn't already know. But I should have guessed that Hurley and his crowd would again put two and two together and make 22. Catch 22.

"After talking to the Pan Am legal team in London, I flew back to the States to be with my family, and a few weeks later, the DEA did do something more drastic. Apparently convinced that I was behind the ABC and NBC stories and the media follow-up around the world, they blew my cover in a television broadcast that also went out around the world. They set me up as a target. And my wife and babies, too."


On the second anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster, a few days after Pan Am obtained leave to file its third-party suit against the US government, Steven Emerson aired an 'exclusive' on Cable News Network about the wave of speculation linking the DEA with the bombing of Flight 103.

Favoured with the inside story of the Fawaz Younis kidnapping and other government 'exclusives', Emerson's special relationship with Federal law-enforcement agencies was again on display when he quoted unnamed Washington sources to the effect that allegations of DEA involvement in the Lockerbie disaster had been traced to one Lester Knox Coleman, a 'disgruntled former DEA confidential informant who was terminated'.

The terminology was interesting. 'Confidential informant', like 'cooperating individual', usually means that the snitch in question was, or is, engaged in drug trafficking and cooperating with the DEA in order to avoid imprisonment. Anything he has to say, therefore, even under oath, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The fact that Coleman was also said to have been 'terminated' further underlined the notion of his unreliability by suggesting that, even as a snitch, he was not to be believed.

More serious from the point of view of his personal safety, by blowing his cover and stressing that he no longer enjoyed the government's protection, the CNN broadcast, in effect, declared open season on Lester Coleman. It all but invited every cop-hating drug freak, every aggrieved drugs trafficker from the Bekaa Valley to Los Angeles, every ultra-right, gun-running, Contra-supporting machismo addict, and every thwarted narco-terrorist or Muslim extremist looking for a safe or cheap revenge to 'terminate' him also.

CNN also showed Coleman's picture.

From then on, any semblance of normal life became impossible. Without resources, unable to earn a living, at the mercy of at least two Federal agencies determined to silence him by one means or another, and now set up as a government-approved target for any stray kook or fanatic, Coleman had to find a more defensible position.

"Emerson's story sent everybody into a tailspin [he says], including Mary-Claude's family in Lebanon. I never saw the broadcast, but it seemed to be a clear attempt to discredit me. There was even a suggestion that I was one of Juval Aviv's sources for the Interfor Report, although I had never met the man or even seen his report at that point.

"The government's obvious intention was to identify me as the main source of all the criticism and speculation running counter to the official line on Flight 103 and then to destroy me. Or, if that failed, to destroy my credibility. So I said, Screw this -- I'm getting us out of here. And judging by the calls we got after the programme, there wasn't much time.

"The worst were those with Arab accents. 'Your son is dead.' 'We know where your children are.' 'If he ever comes to Lebanon, he's a dead man.' 'We're going to kill his wife's family.' 'We're going to take Sarah, grind her up and send her back as hamburger meat.' Stuff like that. And they weren't kidding. I know these people. They were working themselves up to do it. So I set up a little deception plan, charged my credit cards to the limit and smuggled Mary-Claude and the children out to Europe. I was pretty well broke by then, but thanks to the good offices of Msgr. John Esseff, they were taken in by the Sisters of Charity, the Most Reverend Mother Teresa's order, who hid them out in a convent in Spain.

"Now I had to do something about Mary-Claude's family, because after Emerson's broadcast, they started getting calls as well. And you don't fool with those because things are on a shorter fuse in Beirut. They didn't have any money either at this point, so to get them out, I had to slip back into the States without anybody knowing and sell off everything we owned -- all the furniture and household stuff. Even so, it was only just enough. And there we were. Hiding out in Europe. Penniless, homeless and exhausted. But at least we were still alive."


Though still seriously at risk.

Careful to avoid being declared a fugitive, Coleman had kept up the fortnightly calls to his pre-trial services officer in Chicago, reporting truthfully but contriving to leave his precise whereabouts in doubt. A trial date had finally been set for 17 June 1991, but given the obvious flimsiness of the case, he was still concerned that somebody within the DEA might be tempted into direct action. Its army of lowlife informants was not short of potential assassins. And for all he knew, pro-Syrian elements, the Lebanese Forces and other narco-terrorist groups were also still looking to revenge themselves for the damage that he and the Asmar cell had done to their drugs, arms and hostage-taking operations in Beirut.

The Colemans needed sanctuary.

On 17 April 1991, he met Pan Am's legal team for five days in Brussels. Until his family was safe, he had declined to make any formal statement, but now he went with them to the American Embassy and swore out an affidavit about what he had seen as a DIA agent assigned to DEA NARCOG, Nicosia.

He also described a call he had made later to his friend Hartmut Mayer of the BKA asking him if he knew how the bomb had been put aboard Flight 103. As he was not involved in the investigation, Mayer had put him in touch with a colleague, Bert Pinsdorf, in Germany, who, in answer to the same question, said the 'BKA had serious concerns that the drug-sting operation originating in Cyprus had caused the bomb to be placed on the Pan Am plane.'

Using a new set of genuine Thomas Leavy documents based on his legal name change --the last thing he supposed the Federal authorities would be on the lookout for -- Coleman then slipped back into the States, via Canada, for what he felt in his bones was probably the last time he would see his father and his country. After spending a few weeks there, he flew to Frankfurt on 29 May, where he rejoined Mary-Claude and the children, who had meanwhile been looked after by Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity.

From Germany, they travelled by train to Sweden, where he applied for asylum, the first American citizen to do so since the Vietnam War.
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Re: Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut To Lockerbie

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:25 pm

Chapter 16

The government's attempt to silence Coleman coincided with an attempt to intimidate Pan Am's counsel, by now almost the only serious challenger left to the official version of events before and after Lockerbie.

On 20 March 1991, three months after James Shaughnessy had filed suit against the US government, claiming it was culpable in the Flight 103 disaster, the Justice Department responded with a motion seeking either dismissal of the third-party action or summary judgment on the claim.

The sting was in an accompanying memorandum which recommended darkly that 'substantial' financial sanctions should be imposed on Shaughnessy and his law firm for daring to suggest the government was in any way at fault, and for what it alleged was a deliberate abuse of court procedures.

At this point, after successfully stone-walling all attempts to get at the evidence and saddling the airline's insurers with legal and investigation costs running into many millions of dollars, the government probably expected Pan Am to cut its losses: to abandon its own inquiries into the disaster and meet whatever level of compensation was awarded to the victims' families, rather than risk further millions of dollars in costs and sanctions, only to have to pay up in the end anyway.

And no doubt, if Pan Am, its underwriters and attorneys had mounted the third-party suit as a diversionary move, the calculation would have proved correct: for a commercial enterprise, however well funded, to have knowingly persevered with a lost cause against the Federal government, with its virtually limitless financial and legal resources, would have been, not just irrational, but in the insurance business, inconceivable. (It was even less likely in this case because, on 8 January 1991, Pan Am had finally crash-landed into bankruptcy.)

But the suit was neither a diversion nor a lost cause. It was based on the conviction that everybody but the guilty had something to gain from getting at the truth. On 22 April 1991, Shaughnessy went to the barricades with Lester Coleman's affidavit to oppose the government's motion.

The stakes were now very high. Shaughnessy had to satisfy the court that Pan Am's third-party suit had been filed, not just in good faith but on sufficient grounds to justify a reasonable expectation that the case could be won if the government were ordered to open its files.

He began his written argument by pointing out that 'the crash of Flight 103 was caused by a dastardly and cowardly criminal act of mass murder. That criminal act was not targeted at Pan Am, but at the United States.'

The reminder was necessary because, in that sense, Pan Am was also a victim of the attack and therefore entitled to whatever assistance the authorities could provide. As Shaughnessy observed, 'virtually all relevant discovery concerning prior threats to Pan Am Flight 103 and the methods by which the bomb was placed on that flight are in the exclusive custody of the government.' Besides controlling most of the witnesses, the government also held all the documents necessary to establish the facts, and 'for this reason alone', he argued, 'the government's motion should be denied until third-party plaintiffs obtain complete discovery.'

Shaughnessy's affidavit went on to review Pan Am's unavailing attempts to subpoena the records it needed, first, to prepare a defence against the negligence suits filed by the victims' families, and then to pursue its own claims against the government. Blocked for 18 months by the government's refusal to open its files and the court's refusal to compel discovery, Shaughnessy described how he had attempted to secure the documents by another route, by asking for them under the Freedom of Information Act.

In its reply, the National Security Agency had supplied copies of previous requests for the same documents, notably from Tom Foster of the Syracuse Post Standard and Emma Gilbey of the American Broadcasting Company, and copies of its response in each case. As these requests had employed virtually the same language as Shaughnessy had used in his original subpoenas, filed in September 1989, they added nothing to the pool, but the NSA's response to them was revealing.

In its reply to Foster and Gilbey, the agency stated that 'documents responsive to items 1, 3 and 4 of your request were located in our search for records.'

These items had to do, respectively, with prior warnings of terrorist attacks against American airliners at Frankfurt airport; with who put the bomb aboard the aircraft and how and when they did it, and with contraband shipments through Frankfurt airport, including Pan Am's baggage area.

Copies of the documents located by the NSA were not supplied, however, for reasons of 'statutory privilege' and 'state secrets'.

They were not supplied to Pan Am either, although included in the NSA's response to Shaughnessy's request was an internal NSA memorandum which read: 'These FOIA requests for documents related to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 include the specific items requested in the subpoena by Pan Am in connection with a civil suit against the airline by the families of victims of the bombing ... Documents related to items 1, 3 and 4 of the request were located.'

As Shaughnessy pointed out in his affidavit, this admission conflicted sharply with the government's denial that it had any knowledge or evidence of prior threats or warnings of terrorist attack.

'Once again,' he declared, 'one is led to the question: what is going on here? I respectfully submit that the answer lies in the documents -- documents which the government has told this court do not exist but which the NSA, in response to the Foster and Gilbey FOIA requests, admitted do exist, and which the government has steadfastly refused to produce.'

The affidavit then addressed itself to the role of Juval Aviv, whose Interfor Report had inspired Pan Am's original subpoenas but who later proved an embarrassment when Magistrate Judge Allyne Ross found that his denial of having leaked its findings was 'not credible'.

'The principal result of the report,' complained Shaughnessy, 'has been that plaintiffs' counsel [acting for the families] and the government have consistently characterized everything that third-party plaintiffs have done since September 15, 1989 [the date of the original subpoenas] as being based on the "discredited" Aviv report. Indeed, the government has sought, both in open court and on this motion, to tar third-party plaintiffs with basing their third-party complaint exclusively on the Aviv report. However, Mr. Aviv and his company resigned as investigators for me in June, 1990, and stopped doing any investigative work long before then.'

After touching on the Lockerbie investigators' curious lack of interest in the results of the polygraph examination of the three Pan Am baggage handlers in Frankfurt, the Shaughnessy affidavit turned next to a review of the information Pan Am had obtained from other sources in support of its claims.

"The information third-party plaintiffs have been able to gather, despite the government's stone-walling [he wrote] 'indicates that the government knew of plans to bomb a Pan Am flight out of Frankfurt during December, 1988, and even may have known that Flight 103 was the target. In addition, the information indicates that the terrorists used a government undercover heroin operation to place the bomb on Flight 103 ...

"While general warnings of the risk of terrorist attacks on American targets in reprisal for the shootdown of the Iranian airliner were passed on to United States flag carriers by the FAA, the government was in possession of far more specific information than the FAA disclosed. In early December, 1988, the Israeli Defense Forces (the IDF) raided a base used by Palestinian terrorist forces in Lebanon and captured documents which disclosed plans to attack and bomb a Pan Am flight in December, 1988 ... I have been told by four separate sources that this information was passed to the government."


His affidavit also cited the telephone intercepts of calls made by David Lovejoy to the Iranian Embassy in Beirut about the movements of the American agents who died in the crash as a further indication that the government knew from more than one source that Flight 103 would be the target of a terrorist attack 'yet failed to disclose this information to Pan Am'.

This brought him to Pan Am's claim for relief on the grounds that the government had also been negligent in supervising DEA's controlled deliveries of heroin through Frankfurt airport, an operation 'utilizing known criminals, terrorists and terrorist sympathizers'.

After the NBC and ABC broadcasts of 30 and 31 October 1990, Stephen H. Greene, the DEA's assistant administrator, operations division, had appeared before a congressional subcommittee to make a statement about the agency's activities in Cyprus. Having explained how controlled deliveries work, he stated, on oath, that the DEA had no ongoing operation in Europe 'during or immediately before December 1988' that 'even remotely resembled the one described in the media reports'.

Noting this denial, the Shaughnessy affidavit went on to list four cases involving Lebanese drug traffickers that the government had prosecuted in the Eastern District of Virginia before Greene's subcommittee appearance. In each case, the evidence had been obtained as a result of controlled deliveries 'using commercial airline facilities and connections in Frankfurt'. One of those convicted had been charged with running 'a heroin laboratory and trafficking operation in the Bekaa Valley' and 'had often shipped heroin to the United States using a shipping company in Cyprus'.

In all four cases, a key element in the prosecution had been a sworn affidavit by DEA Special Agent Hollis Williams, who described how checked baggage containing narcotics was shipped through Frankfurt airport en route from Lebanon to Detroit, where the defendants 'were major sources of supply for heroin'.

In short, Shaughnessy went on, the DEA admitted it had run controlled deliveries through Frankfurt prior to 21 December 1988, and had continued to do so during 1989, but supposedly not 'during or immediately before December 1988'.

'I respectfully submit,' he wrote, 'that the DEA's denial is incredulous [sic]. Moreover, I further respectfully submit that, based upon the other information contained below, it is simply false.'

The 'other information' included reports about the involvement of Turkish workers in placing the bomb aboard Flight 103, and the deposition of Michael F. Jones, of Pan Am Corporate Security in London, describing his conversation with Phillip Connelly, assistant chief investigation officer of H.M. Customs and Excise, eight days after the crash. (Pan Am had sought to obtain a deposition from Connelly himself but the British government had advised the court that, under UK law, government employees could not be compelled to testify. Later on, Connelly would dispute Jones's account of their conversation, but by then the Flight 103 investigation had become a political football.)

Shaughnessy's hammer in nailing the DEA's denial was the affidavit of Lester K. Coleman, sworn to on 17 April 1991. Here was direct, first-hand testimony about the DEA's activities in the Middle East that flatly contradicted the agency's public statements in almost every particular, and which drew attention to its glaring lapses in security while dealing with informants; and others known to be associated with terrorist groups.

"I respectfully submit [concluded Shaughnessy] that the information disclosed above and in the accompanying Coleman affidavit amply demonstrates that third-party plaintiffs have a valid basis for each of their claims against the government. I also respectfully submit, that information demonstrates that the government has, at the very least, been less than candid ... If the government wants this court, third-party plaintiffs and the public to believe that there is no basis for third-party plaintiffs' claims, then it should open itself up to complete and candid discovery.

"If the government has nothing to hide, then why is it hiding?

I respectfully submit that, despite the various grounds asserted by the government thus far, the government is hiding because there was a foul-up within the government. The government knows that it, and only it, could have prevented the murder of 270 people, but it is politically impossible for the government ever to admit that fact or to produce evidence from which that fact could be proven or inferred.


Strong stuff. Which evoked a strong -- and unexpected -- response.

The Coleman affidavit, describing what he had seen and done while seconded to DEA Nicosia, was precisely what the government had feared and tried so ineptly to avoid. Having failed to silence him, it could now either acknowledge the truth or redouble its efforts to discredit him, a choice that detained the DEA as briefly as it did Coleman. Knowing the government's overwhelming priority would be to brand him a liar, he had not expected the DIA to be of much help.

'I thought there was no way in hell I would ever be able to verify the fact that I was a Defense Intelligence agent,' he recalls. 'Standard operating practice is complete disavowal -- that had been made clear from the start. No record would be held of my name and affiliation with the agency. I was Benjamin B -- and all the subpoenas in the world would find no trace of any Lester K. Coleman. I remember telling Shaughnessy I would never be able to prove I had worked for them, but then they did it for me.'

On 7 June 1991, in response to Shaughnessy's affidavit, the government produced two significant declarations attacking Coleman's testimony. The first was sworn to by Micheal Hurley, former DEA attache to the American Embassy in Cyprus, and the other by Lieutenant-Colonel Terry E. Bathen, assistant general counsel to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Predictably, in the light of the DEA-inspired broadcast on CNN, Hurley's declaration made as little as possible of Coleman's association with DEA Nicosia. The gist of it was that he had been taken on as a DEA 'cooperating individual' on 31 January 1986, after he claimed he could establish a network of subsources to collect data on opium production in Lebanon. According to Hurley, Coleman received the standard admonitions given to all DEA CIs and 'was further advised that he had no official status, implied or otherwise, as agent or employee of DEA'.

Between then and 9 Apri1 1986, he was paid $4000 for information and expenses, after which Hurley received a postcard from Coleman in Switzerland, dated 19 April, which 'indicated that his DEA CI number was retired.' Nevertheless, he was not 'deactivated' until 1 November, when Hurley learned he had returned to the United States.

Though denying that the DEA asked the DIA for Coleman's help during the 1987 opium-growing season, Hurley admitted Coleman was 'reactivated' as a 'cooperating individual' on 20 February 1987, to carry on as before, providing strategic intelligence information and videotape coverage of Lebanese narcotics trafficking. From then until 11 August 1987, he was paid $53,070 for information and expenses, most of which 'was to be paid to Coleman's subsources for the information which they provided ...'

According to Hurley, he made a final payment of $6900 to Coleman on that date in the presence of a 'cameraman/subsource' who was owed $5500 for his work. Instead of giving him cash, Coleman paid him by cheque. 'In my presence,' stated Hurley, 'Coleman told the cameraman/subsource that they would go to his bank upon returning to the United States later that month, where he could get the cheque cashed.'

But the following spring, the declaration went on, Hurley heard from the cameraman/subsource that the cheque had been returned for 'not sufficient funds'. He also 'received information that Coleman may have approached the Soldier of Fortune magazine, trying to sell information which he had specifically collected for DEA'.

Nevertheless, after Hurley 'received assurances from Coleman that he did not provide any DEA information to any person/group outside the DEA,' he was reactivated for the new opium-growing season in February 1988, at which time he 'was representing himself a Director of International Studies at the University of Alabama ... directed Coleman to travel alone, without his wife and child, and to stay in a furnished apartment which had been specifically designated for Coleman's use.'

Later on, according to the declaration, Hurley discovered that Coleman had not only brought Mary-Claude and Sarah but had 'represented himself as a DEA/US Embassy employee in order to secure an outside apartment for himself and his family'. In the period from his arrival until 11 May, he was paid a further $4500 for information and expenses, but 'in May 1988, Coleman was deactivated as a cooperating individual by DEA for unsatisfactory behavior ...

'The incidents which led to Coleman's deactivation included his illegal and less than forthright behavior with one of his cameramen/sub-sources, his outstanding arrest warrant that the Cyprus Police had issued for him and the articles that appeared in Soldier of Fortune magazine which contained information which Coleman had obtained for DEA.'

The arrest warrant 'stemmed from Coleman's failure to reimburse his landlord in Cyprus for the international telephone calls which he incurred while living in the apartment with his wife and child. The bills were for several thousand dollars.' As a result of these charges he said, Coleman was declared an undesirable and banned from entry into Cyprus.

Turning then to the substance of Coleman's affidavit, Hurley declared, on oath, that

"... during the period of time that I was the DEA country attache in Cyprus [1984 to 1990], the DEA Nicosia Country Office was not involved in any controlled deliveries of heroin either originating in or transiting Cyprus wherein Frankfurt was utilized as a European transit point for a controlled delivery to Detroit.

"I do not know nor am I familiar with the word or name 'Khorah' in connection with any activity undertaken by DEA during my tenure as DEA country attache in Nicosia.

"Khaled Nazir Jafaar was never a DEA cooperating individual nor was he known to be a 'mule' (drug courier) for DEA. To my knowledge he was never a CI for any other agency during my tenure as DEA country attache in Nicosia ...

"I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

"Signed this 31st day of May, 1991, Micheal T. Hurley, Special Agent, Drug Enforcement Administration."


As Coleman explained to James Shaughnessy, after going over Hurley's declaration and correcting its deficiencies, this was no more than he had expected. The astonishing thing was that in the other declaration, by Colonel Terry Bathen, the DIA actually acknowledged that Coleman had been working for them -- and at a time when Hurley had declared that Coleman was working for him.

"I was very surprised they did that (Coleman says). It was the first admission that the DIA had been running intelligence operations that monitored and duplicated CIA operations and that there was hostility and suspicion between them. In fact, by acknowledging my existence, I think the DIA acknowledged its own existence for the first time in public.

"I also think it was a back-handed way of having a swat at the DEA for putting the skids under me with that phony passport rap. In making this disclosure, the DIA was sending them a message: 'Hey, one of our guys was watching what you did. We know what was really going on there, so watch your step.' The thing they were concerned about was the barter of drugs for arms. Narco-terrorism was a fact. The DEA and the CIA were involved in highly questionable relationships that could -- and did -- explode in their faces."


Apart from the key admission that 'Mr. Coleman was formerly associated with a Department of Defense intelligence activity', Colonel Bathen's declaration, like Hurley's, was concerned to minimize the nature and significance of that association. Appointed to the post of assistant general counsel long after the events in question, he numbered among his responsibilities 'the processing of litigation requests for classified national security information'.

'In response to the criminal and civil matters involving Mr. Coleman,' he declared, 'I personally reviewed the automated and documentary files of the Defense Intelligence Agency ... My review of Department of Defense HUMINT records reveals that ... on or about October 25, 1985, Mr. Coleman contacted Defense Intelligence Agency personnel by telephone and volunteered to provide information concerning the Middle East. Mr. Coleman's offer to provide videotapes associated with his travels in that part of the world was favorably evaluated, and he became affiliated with a classified Department of Defense Intelligence activity during December 1985.'

According to Colonel Bathen's review of the records, Coleman did not operate a network of intelligence agents, nor was he instructed to apply for a passport in the name of Thomas Leavy.

'Mr. Coleman received limited monthly compensation for his activities from July 16, 1986, until November 1986,' Bathen went on, 'when he was placed in a dormant status pending resolution of various actions by him which were inconsistent with any continuation of his intelligence-related activities. While Mr. Coleman's status was periodically reevaluated during 1987 and 1988, he performed no services for Department of Defense intelligence activities after 30 November 1986.'

This gobbledegook was followed by a denial that the DEA had ever asked the DIA for Coleman's help in the Middle East or that the DIA had ever directed him to break off his relationship with that agency. Colonel Bathen also denied that the DIA had reactivated Coleman in November 1989 or ordered him to proceed to the Middle East under the name of Thomas Leavy.

Content that the agency had acknowledged him, Coleman and Shaughnessy found the rest of the Bathen declaration more interesting for what it did not say. From the Hurley affidavit, the stamps in Coleman's passport and other documents and witnesses, it was clear that the operational arm of the DIA had not been entirely frank with its assistant general counsel.

"I'm supposed to have contacted the DIA by telephone to volunteer my services? [Coleman scoffs]. Where did I get the number from? The Yellow Pages? And why drop eleven months from the record? So as not to hurt Pat Robertson's feelings? I was recruited in December 1984, not '85.

"My passport shows I arrived in Lebanon in February 1985. I was under cover as an employee of the Christian Broadcasting Network. After that assignment, I came home in October '85 and met Control in McCloskey's home to set up Condor Television Ltd. And I'm not surprised the DIA described that as a classified intelligence activity because the agency had no Congressional authority at that time to set up front companies. What they did instead was use 'cut-outs' -- companies set up by individual agents or third parties but funded and operated by the agency. The DIA was the acknowledged master of the cut-out and the CIA had copied them. It was a great way of getting out from under Congressional oversight, raising plausible deniability to the level of an art form.

"But the interesting thing is that Bathen puts me with the DIA in December 1985 and Hurley says I went to work for the DEA in January '86. So according to their declarations, for four months, until I was pulled out to go to Libya in April, the government acknowledges I was working for both agencies at the same time -- without Hurley knowing it, of course.

"It's also interesting that DIA says I received limited monthly compensation from July until November 1986, while I was still on Hurley's books. In July, I was issued with a Sony camcorder. Bathen doesn't mention this but the DIA eventually admitted it to my attorney in Chicago. In September, I used the camcorder in Lebanon and brought it back to the States. On Control's instructions, I took it out again when I was assigned to DEA Cyprus in February '87 and left it behind with Tony Asmar's people in Beirut when I came home that August. The following spring, after Tony was killed, I retrieved it from Lebanon and returned with it.

"So there I was, working with the DIA's equipment all through '87 and the early part of '88, and guess what? The camcorder was still signed out to me when I was arrested in May 1990. Now they say I performed no services for them after November 1986? I was debriefed by Donleavy on each of those operations -- which I guess is what Bathen meant when he said I was 'periodically reevaluated' during '87 and '88. Plus there are all the back-channel reports I filed twice a week.

"It's obvious to me that the office of general counsel, for its own protection, is out of the loop as far as classified HUMINT operations are concerned. Like he says, Bathen's declaration was based on information made available to him. But I'm still grateful the DIA owned up to the fact that I worked for them. They didn't have to do that. It's what's known in the trade as a 'limited hang-out' -- admitting just enough of the truth to create an impression of candour without giving the game away."


Meanwhile, James Shaughnessy had been doing his best to get around the government's stonewall defence of its files by seeking Hague Convention letters of request to depose witnesses and suspects turned up by the Flight 103 investigation. In Frankfurt, on 6 May 1991, a series of written questions were put to PFLP-GC members Dalkamoni and Ghadanfar, who had been arrested in Germany in October 1988, and who were then on trial for a series of terrorist acts. Not unexpectedly, they refused to testify.

On 8 and 10 May, Shaughnessy attempted to depose Bert Pinsdorf and Hartmut Mayer of the BKA, with whom Coleman had discussed the Lockerbie disaster on the telephone. Under instructions from the German Ministry of the Interior, Pinsdorf refused to answer most of the questions put to him, while Mayer, who had originally referred Coleman to Pinsdorf, merely confirmed that he was the BKA's narcotics agent on Cyprus and that he knew Coleman had worked for the DEA there with Hurley and Ganem.

On 10 and 12 June, Shaughnessy went to Sweden to depose PFLP-GC members Abu Talb and Mahmoud Moghrabi, who were both serving prison terms for terrorist offences. They, too, declined to answer almost all the questions put to them.

Refusing to give up, Shaughnessy would later try, with no greater success, to depose Phillip Connelly of H.M. Customs and Excise; Dr Thomas Hayes, the scientist responsible for most of the hard forensic evidence in the Flight 103 investigation; and the two principals of the Swiss firm who made the timers sold to the Libyans; but meanwhile, on 7 June 1991, argument was heard in New York's Eastern District Court on the government's motion to dismiss Pan Am's third-party complaint.

After hearing both sides, Chief Judge Platt evidently shared Shaughnessy's view that the motion was premature for he declared that Pan Am was entitled to discovery from the government before the court ruled on the matter. Six weeks later, on 19 July, he went further and entered an order requiring the government to respond to Pan Am's subpoenas, for he had taken the point that, while the government continued to sit on all the evidence, Shaughnessy could neither proceed with his clients' claim nor prepare a proper defence to the civil suits.

For a while it looked as if the truth might finally come out, but by a series of manoeuvres the government now asserted the state secrets privilege. In Shaughnessy's absence --indeed, without his knowledge -- government counsel made a selective showing of documents to the court in camera, and at a conference called on 20 September, Chief Judge Platt reversed himself. Without identifying the documents he had seen, he told Shaughnessy that the government had validly asserted the state secrets privilege, that there was nothing in the documents to support third-party claims, and that he was therefore denying Pan Am discovery.

Whereupon, Shaughnessy asked if this meant that the court was dismissing Pan Am's third-party claims, as he had made it clear that he could not proceed without discovery. To his surprise, Chief Judge Platt declared that, to the contrary, he was denying the government's motion to dismiss the suit, that the government would be kept in the litigation until the conclusion of the liability trial, and that he was putting the government under the continuing duty to produce any evidence it developed bearing on the third-party claim. When Shaughnessy asked for leave to appeal this decision to the Second Circuit, the request was denied.

That was on 20 September 1991. After that, he concentrated on preparing for the civil liability trial and, to all intents and purposes, the case against the government was abandoned. Nevertheless, the ground had to be cleared, for the court now set provisional trial dates in April 1992, for both the passenger liability suits and the third-party claims.

On 20 March, Shaughnessy again applied to the court for an order either granting discovery and severing the third-party suit for trial later or dismissing the suit altogether. There was no way, he said, that Pan Am, with or without discovery, could prove its claim with admissible evidence at a trial scheduled to start in one month. Opposing the motion, government counsel demanded for the second time that the court impose punitive sanctions on Shaughnessy and his law firm.

Chief Judge Platt again declined to do this, but on 16 April, denied Pan Am's motion in its entirety, neither granting discovery nor dismissing the suit. As this was clearly unacceptable to both sides, a further conference was called on 24 April, three days before the trial date set for both actions, at which the government once again asked for Pan Am's suit to be dismissed.

In reply, Shaughnessy once again reminded the court that the government had never answered the complaint, and that, as discovery had been denied, Pan Am's claims could not be proved by admissible evidence. With this, Chief Judge Platt finally dismissed the third-party action, but with the proviso that he would reinstate the suit if evidence was developed to support it.

And there matters rested until 27 April 1992, when the trial at last began of the Lockerbie families' liability suit against Pan Am -- and when that week's edition of Time magazine promised its readers 'The Untold Story of Pan Am 103 '.

The response to Time's cover article, researched for five months by Roy Rowan, a veteran reporter and editor with 44 years' experience, ranged from the hysterical to the vindictive, with some of its more extravagant critics suggesting that Pan Am had somehow arranged for its publication on that date in order to influence the liability trial. Besides the timing of its appearance, Rowan's reliance on Juval Aviv and Lester Coleman as two of his sources was clearly the reason for all the excitement.

Lee Kreindler, lead counsel for the victims' families, immediately filed a motion for the discharge of the jury because of the unexpected publication of 'the most shocking and most prejudicial false information about the Lockerbie story'. This 'false information', he said, 'bears directly on the trial and it appears to have been given to Time by the defendants'. He asked for a judicial inquiry into the circumstances of its publication as, in his view, it was 'bound to poison the mind of every juror picked'.

Chief Judge Platt did not agree, and ordered the trial to proceed. He also banned all the attorneys in the case from speaking to the media, which had immediately pounced on the Time story and relayed its conclusions around the world.

In essence, Rowan's article had suggested that Flight 103 might have been targeted by Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC because of the American intelligence team on board, led by Major Charles Dennis McKee of the DIA. Still further undermining the official Libyan theory, Rowan also quoted at length from the FBI field report that cast doubt on the reliability of Frankfurt's baggage computer records, leaving open the possibility that a 'rogue' bag containing the bomb had been 'inserted in the baggage system'.

This rogue bag, he suggested, 'may have been placed on board the plane by Jibril's group with the help of Monzer al-Kassar, a Syrian drug dealer who was cooperating with the US's Drug Enforcement Administration in a drug sting operation. Al-Kassar thus may have been playing both sides of the fence.'

Much of the information about al-Kassar was provided by Juval Aviv, who still stood by his original assertion that a 'freewheeling CIA unit codenamed COREA was instrumental in allowing the PFLP-GC to engineer the baggage-switch. But Rowan had also unearthed a fresh piece of verifiable evidence which supported the FBI field report and showed how a rogue bag could have been exchanged for an innocent one and loaded aboard Flight 103.

Two identical Samsonite suitcases full of Christmas presents were among 11 bags belonging to passengers on a delayed Berlin-Frankfurt feeder flight that were left behind when their owners caught an earlier connection to London. These unaccompanied bags were entered into Frankfurt airport's computer system and sent on via Flight 103. But only one suitcase of Christmas presents was recovered at Lockerbie. 'The other was mysteriously left behind in Frankfurt, and arrived safely in Seattle a day later.'

Further undermining the government's contention that the bomb was contained in an unaccompanied suitcase from Malta was Rowan's revelation that James Shaughnessy had taken depositions from 20 officials who had been on duty at Luqa airport on 21 December 1988, 'including the airport security commander, the bomb-disposal engineer who inspected all the baggage, the general manager of ground operations of Air Malta, the head loader of Flight 180 and the three check-in agents. Their records showed that no unaccompanied suitcases were put aboard the flight, and some of the staff Shaughnessy interviewed are prepared to testify under oath that there was no bag that day destined for Pan Am Flight 103.'

Rowan next turned to what he had learned from Lester Coleman while researching the article, most of it echoing what Coleman had set out in his affidavit, and then came back to Juval Aviv's theory that Major McKee's intelligence team, learning of al-Kassar's connection with the CIA COREA unit, had decided to fly back unannounced to Washington to expose the secret deal between them.

'Apparently the team's movements were being tracked by the Iranians,' he wrote, citing the David Lovejoy calls to the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. 'Lovejoy's last call came on 20 December, allegedly informing the Iranians that the team would be on Pan Am Flight 103 the following day.' The result, Rowan suggested, was that the terrorists set out to kill them because of their planned hostage-rescue mission, although, he added, 'the FBI says it investigated the theory that McKee's team was targeted, and found no evidence to support it.'

Coleman does not believe it either, nor does he believe there was any freewheeling CIA unit codenamed COREA. From his personal observations, he believes that local CIA agents, working with local DEA agents, kept the khouriah pipeline open long after its security had been breached, and that the terrorists, who had been tracking the Jafaars, took advantage of one controlled delivery too many to switch a suitcase containing heroin for another containing a bomb. The deaths of five American intelligence agents, in Coleman's opinion, was an unexpected bonus.

But a contribution from another of Rowan's sources struck an eerie chord in his memory. The Time article described how Richard Gazarik, a reporter for the Tribune-Review, of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, had found in the lining of Major McKee's wallet, after it was returned to his mother, what Gazarik had assumed were the codenames of McKee's intelligence team: Chuck Capone (presumably McKee himself), Nelson, Dillinger, Bonnie (although there was no woman in the group) and Clyde.

During his first DIA assignment in Beirut, Coleman had serviced a dead drop for the Green Berets at Juicy-Burger, a hamburger stand in East Beirut. The owners were an American couple codenamed Bonnie and Clyde.

In London, the Observer greeted the Time cover story with barely concealed disgust. Two years earlier, its reporter John Merritt had interviewed Juval Aviv in New York and found him wanting, and Time had not mellowed his opinion.

'By Time's own admission,' he wrote, 'the article makes much use of the Aviv information. But it is not just its timing that raises questions. It is clear that Mr. Aviv's strange concoction remains the central plank of the insurers' defence. And therefore, as well as obscuring the issue of Pan Am's negligence with bizarre and unsubstantiated claims, it enables the defendants to claim an unfair hearing because the US government is "covering up" vital evidence.'

As Shaughnessy had been at pains to show that Aviv's connection with Pan Am had ended two years previously and that since then much other information had been assembled from many other sources, Merritt's strictures seemed unwarranted. Referring to the Interfor Report, he again insisted that 'both it and Mr. Aviv were discredited by an Observer investigation more than two years ago. The Observer subsequently gave evidence on Mr. Aviv in a New York hearing related to Lockerbie which led to him being "deemed not to be a credible witness".'

This could well serve as a textbook example of obfuscation. The Observer investigation had identified some minor flaws in the peripheral detail of Aviv's report and, on the strength of this, had simply poured scorn on the rest.

The purpose of the New York hearing 'related to Lockerbie' had been to determine whether or not Aviv's Interfor Report could be treated as a privileged work document after its findings had been leaked to the press. Merritt gave evidence which showed that Aviv had leaked at least some of its findings to him, and it was Aviv's denial that he had done so which Magistrate Judge Ross deemed not to be credible. The substance of the Interfor Report was not discussed.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Washington Post on 26 April 1992, carried a more measured, though still hostile, response to the Time article by David Leppard, of The Sunday Times. Though also committed to the official version of events, Leppard at least acknowledged that a few other people had contributed to Rowan's article besides Juval Aviv. Not that he set much store by what they had to say.

'The Time story, which laid out little new evidence, draws heavily on the case assembled by Pan Am's lawyers,' he wrote dismissively, before proceeding in his own article to draw heavily on the case prepared for the victims' families by 'veteran air-crash lawyer Lee Kreindler'.

'A review of the case files, evidence and other materials,' Leppard declared, 'shows that Kreindler's case is built on the premise that the bomb suitcase reached Frankfurt via Air Malta Flight 180 from the Mediterranean island and was transferred -- unaccompanied by any passenger -- to Pan Am 103 at Frankfurt. He will try to prove Pan Am committed the cardinal sin of airline security: allowing an unaccompanied, unaccounted-for bag into an airliner cargo hold. Kreindler's theory parallels the criminal conspiracy case assembled by the FBI and Scottish police ...'

Leppard then turned to the alternative theory that the bomb bag had been switched for another in the airport's baggage-handling area and duly noted, without comment, the 'previously undisclosed FBI memo' which concluded, after a review of the airport's baggage-handling records, that 'the possibility' remained that no luggage had been transferred from Flight 180 to Flight 103.

This reminded him of the polygraph tests that two of Pan Am's Frankfurt baggage-handlers flunked when questioned about a possible suitcase switch. 'When the airline later flew the two men to London on a pretext,' he went on, 'British authorities refused to interrogate the pair. Time's unstated implication: The British were cooperating with US intelligence to protect any covert links to the bomb plotters.'

Well? If Time had got it wrong, what did Leppard read into the British authorities' refusal? He did not say. Nor was he inclined to speculate about the conclusion drawn by the FBI memo which indicated a 'possibility' that the entire Libyan theory was wrong, if not a deliberate fabrication.

Demonstrating the 'unusual and controversial lengths' to which Pan Am's lawyers were prepared to go, he wrote, they had even tried through the London courts to 'force' him to divulge some of his own 'sources and materials'. As this was an attempt by Pan Am to clarify an opinion expressed to Leppard by Dr. Thomas Hayes, the lead forensic scientist in the Flight 103 investigation, and already published in Leppard's book, it is not clear why he would have wished to withhold this source material in the first place. Nor did he explain why he thought it 'unusual and controversial' for Pan Am to want to know more about Dr. Hayes's reported belief that the Lockerbie bomb was a dual device, incorporating both a barometric switch and a timer, when the Libyan/Air Malta theory rested in part on the bomb-maker's use of a Swiss timer alone.

As in any attempt to establish the truth, until the facts come out, who can say whose cause they will favour?

Certainly, Leppard appeared to favour the official line, for he went on to remind his Washington Post readers that a shopkeeper in Malta had identified one of the two Libyans indicted for the bombing as the purchaser of the clothing wrapped around the bomb (without mentioning that the shopkeeper had previously identified somebody else), and that a Libyan defector 'with detailed inside knowledge of the plot' was standing by to testify against his former colleagues (without referring to the reported $4 million reward for his testimony).

Leppard also subscribed to the government view that Juval Aviv was 'a primary source for Pan Am's lawyers'. While conceding that Time had not mentioned Khalid Nazir Jafaar in its article, he used Aviv's finding that Jafaar had been the unwitting instrument in getting the bomb aboard to link Aviv with Lester Coleman, whose affidavit supported that conclusion.

'Coleman in an interview told me he has no first-hand knowledge of the circumstances of Flight 103,' wrote Leppard. 'Moreover, if Aviv's bag-switch thesis is true, one of Jafaar's checked-in bags would have been left behind at Frankfurt and therefore unaccounted for in the Lockerbie debris. But both of Jafaar's checked-in bags were recovered undamaged from the crash scene. Scottish investigators who interviewed Frankfurt airport staff found no one who could recall him with a bronze Samsonite suitcase.'

When Coleman spoke to Leppard on the telephone, he certainly agreed he had no first-hand knowledge of the circumstances of Flight 103 -- he had been back in the United States for seven months when the attack occurred. But that was not all that he told him. He also said that he did have first-hand knowledge that Jafaar was a DEA courier making controlled deliveries of heroin to the United States in 1988 -- which was, after all, the point of his affidavit.

As for Jafaar's baggage, his father was reported to have said that Khalid had travelled with two soft holdalls that he would normally have taken with him into the cabin -- and Khalid's two soft holdalls were, as Leppard said, 'recovered undamaged from the crash scene'.

Given the inadequacy of Pan Am's baggage records -- a central plank in the plaintiffs' liability suit -- there is nothing to indicate that he did not also check in a Samsonite suitcase. And given that the terrorists did not expect him or the aircraft to survive the flight, there was no reason why they should have left a suitcase behind at Frankfurt. They would simply have added the bomb bag to the rest of the Flight 103 passenger luggage, relying on the explosion to destroy all the evidence, including any discrepancies in the loading list.

As the government's attorneys had insisted before Chief Judge Platt, just ten days before Leppard's article appeared: 'Pan Am's own records and procedures are in such disarray that the only thing they prove is that Pan Am had no idea what baggage was on the aircraft.'

Further evidence of this disarray, as Leppard noted, was the story Time had unearthed of the two unaccompanied suitcases full of Christmas presents that had been routed on from Frankfurt to the US via Flight 103. Unimpressed by the fact that one had unaccountably been left behind, he wrote: 'Time offers no evidence of how a quick-moving bomb plot could have hinged on the chance availability of an appropriate bag for the necessary switch.'

This was either disingenuous or he had missed the point. Time had not suggested any such connection. Rowan's article was concerned only with showing that a rogue bag could have been 'inserted into the automated baggage-control system, as the secret FBI report indicates was possible'.

And not just 'possible'. The report described how, in September 1989, Detective Inspector Watson McAteer and Special Agent Lawrence G. Whitaker actually witnessed a baggage-handler bring in a piece of luggage, encode a destination for it into the computer, and toss it on to the 'secure' conveyor without making any notation on the worksheet.

The procedure for bag-switching was in place, and had been used many times by narcotics smugglers and DEA couriers. But in this instance, as the terrorists expected Flight 103 to crash into the Atlantic, there was no reason for them to substitute one suitcase for another, let alone to leave anything behind that might give the game away. The only requirement was to get the bomb bag aboard.

Leppard concluded his article for the Washington Post with a dutiful nod to the Libyan theory by suggesting that the bombing of Flight 103 could as readily have been a revenge attack for the American air raids on Tripoli 1986 as an Iranian-inspired revenge for the downing of its Airbus.

'The assertions supplied by Aviv and Coleman,' he wrote, 'require a different explanation, one which Time relates to its readers.'

This is not so. As Coleman had been at pains to point out in his telephone interview with Leppard, he had always believed that the attack on Flight 103 was inspired and financed by the Iranians, and carried out by Syrian-backed terrorists using bomb components in all probability supplied by the Libyans. He had never subscribed to the Time/Aviv theory that the flight was deliberately targeted by Monzer al-Kassar because an American intelligence team was aboard, although he has no doubt that al-Kassar's drug-smuggling arrangements at Frankfurt were employed to put the bomb in the cargo hold.

'There is not a scrap of evidence that Kassar was anywhere near Frankfurt at the time of the attack,' Leppard concluded, 'nor is there a witness who will say that he conspired in the bombing.' (That is certainly true. No professional criminal would risk being caught at the scene of a crime if his presence was not required, least of all a CIA asset. And the only possible witnesses against al-Kassar are either his co-conspirators or his CIA control, none of whom seem likely to come forward voluntarily.)

'No other witness can testify to the real motives behind the attack.' (That, too, is true -- unless or until Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, Iran's former Minister of the Interior, or Ahmed Jibril, head of the PFLP-GC, decide to publish their memoirs.)

'Such are the Byzantine tales that await the jury in the case of Pan Am 103,' concluded Leppard, having himself contributed to some of them.

On the next day, 27 April 1992, jury selection began in the civil liability case before Chief Judge Thomas C. Platt, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York.
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