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US Government Still on Ropes Over Lockerbie

by John Ash­ton
The Mail on Sun­day — Lon­don

There are two very dif­fer­ent the­o­ries about Locker­bie, the first is black and white; the sec­ond is murky and gray. The black and white ver­sion presents the bomb­ing as a vic­to­ry of ter­ror­ist cun­ning over Amer­i­can inno­cence. The gray ver­sion sug­gests that Uncle Sam has as much blood on his hands as the bombers. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, it is the first ver­sion that the US and British gov­ern­ments came to believe.

The con­flict­ing accounts are now the heart of an extra­or­di­nary bat­tle to pre­vent a book from being pub­lished in the US Trail Of The Octo­pus by Don­ald God­dard and Lester Cole­man first appeared in Britain in 1993, but no major Amer­i­can pub­lish­er would touch it. “If the book’s alle­ga­tions prove to be cor­rect,” says Dr. Jim Swire, who lost his daugh­ter Flo­ra at Locker­bie, “it will make Water­gate look like vic­ar’s tea par­ty.”

Like Spy­catch­er, it is a sen­sa­tion­al whistle­blow­er’s account of alleged excess­es by the spooks. But where­as Spy­catch­er prompt­ed a gov­ern­ment to launch a clum­sy legal attempt at cen­sor­ship, Trail Of The Octo­pus is being resist­ed by a col­lec­tion of pri­vate indi­vid­u­als. This has made the cur­rent bat­tle much more low-key; but it is no less hard fought.

A firm of dis­trib­u­tors has already pulled out of han­dling the book. “I’ve known noth­ing like it for 20 years,” says War­ren Hinck­le, head of its own small pub­lish­er Arg­onaut Press. A vet­er­an of many cen­sor­ship bat­tles, Hinck­le is now plan­ning to do up the stakes. In doing so, he intends to expose a sev­en year cam­paign by gov­ern­ment agen­cies against those who have chal­lenged the offi­cial ver­sion of Locker­bie. If he is suc­cess­ful the reper­cus­sions could be immense.

Some of the facts about Locker­bie are not dis­put­ed. The most obvi­ous is that on Decem­ber 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb built into Toshi­ba radio cas­sette play­er. All 259 peo­ple on board were killed, along with 11 res­i­dents of the Scot­tish town.

Then there is the Iran­ian con­nec­tion. In July 1988 the US Navy bat­tle cruis­er Vin­cennes acci­den­tal­ly shot down an Iran­ian Air­lin­er over the Per­sian Gulf, killing all 290 peo­ple on board. With­in days hard-lin­ers with­in the Tehran gov­ern­ment had com­mis­sioned a Syr­ia based group, the Pop­u­lar Front For The Lib­er­a­tion Of Pales­tine, Gen­er­al Com­mand (PFLP-GC), to car­ry out a revenge attack. Led Ahmed Jib­ril, it had spe­cial­ized in blow­ing up planes since 1970.

By mid-Octo­ber 1988, Jib­ril had every­thing in place. His bomb-mak­er, Mar­wan Khre­cat, had been dis­patched to Ger­many and had assem­bled five bombs designed to det­o­nate at alti­tude. How­ev­er, the Ger­man police were watch­ing Kreesat’s moves. On Octo­ber 26, he and 14 oth­er PFLP-GC sus­pects were round­ed up in an oper­a­tion code named Autumn Leaves. One of the air­craft bombs was seized. It had been built into a Toshi­ba radio-cas­sette play­er.

It is at this point that the two ver­sions begin to diverge. Accord­ing to the first ver­sion, Autumn Leaves halt­ed Jib­ril’s plan and opened a win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty for the Libyan leader Colonel Gadafy. West­ern intel­li­gence sources main­tain that he was des­per­ate to avenge 1986 Amer­i­can raids on his coun­try. It is claimed that the action sud­den­ly shift­ed to Mal­ta where two Libyan agents, work­ing under­cov­er for Libyan Arab Air­lines, are alleged to have assem­bled a bomb in anoth­er Toshi­ba radio-cas­sette play­er. They then man­aged to smug­gle it on board a flight to Frank­furt, in an unac­com­pa­nied suit­case labeled to New York. At Frank­furt it evad­ed Pan Am’s secu­ri­ty and, still unac­com­pa­nied, was loaded on a first leg of flight 103 to Heathrow, where it joined the ill fat­ed jum­bo jet. This ver­sion became offi­cial in Novem­ber 1991, when the British and Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment issued indict­ments against the two alleged agents: Abdel Bass­er Ali Al-Mer­grahi and Lamen Khal­i­fa Phimah.

Accord­ing to alter­na­tive ver­sions, Autumn Leaves were a mere hic­cup in Jib­ril’s plans. Four more air­plane bombs were still at large, and, with­in days, most of the sus­pects, includ­ing Kreesat had been freed.

It is on the ques­tion of what hap­pened over the next two months and, in par­tic­u­lar, how the bomb got on the flight 103, that the alter­na­tive ver­sion becomes too con­tro­ver­sial. Its sup­port­ers allege that Jib­ril used an unwit­ting dupe; a young Lebanese-born Amer­i­can Khalid Jafaar. The Jafaar clan was one of the major drug-pro­duc­ing dynas­ties in the Syr­i­an occu­pied Bekaa val­ley. It is claimed that Jafaar walked aboard flight 103 believ­ing him­self to be car­ry­ing hero­in, but that he had been dou­ble-crossed by Jib­ril’s men. Hav­ing learned of the drug ship­ments through the treach­er­ous world of the Bekaa, Jib­ril real­ized that they pro­vid­ed an ide­al means for get­ting the bomb on the plane.

Under nor­mal cir­cum­stances it might have been detect­ed in a rou­tine secu­ri­ty check, but, so the sto­ry goes, this was drug-traf­fick­ing with a dif­fer­ence. It was part of a shady bar­gain struck between ele­ments with­in the CIA and the Syr­i­an over­lords of Lebanese nar­co-ter­ror­ism. In return for the Syr­i­an using their influ­ence to free the remain­ing Amer­i­can hostages, the CIA helped them to safe­ly trans­port their hero­in on transat­lantic flights. Jafaar had a foot in both camps; as well as bring a mule for the drug barons, he was secret­ly an asset of the CIA.

Com­ing as it did on the heels of Iran­gate (which also involved shady deals over hostages), the CIA was des­per­ate to keep the oper­a­tion secret. For this rea­son, it is claimed, it sought cov­er behind the US Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion (DEA). At this point the Trail Of The Octo­pus comes in.

The book tells the sto­ry of its co-author Lesi­er Cole­man. Orig­i­nal­ly a jour­nal­ist, in the mid-Eight­ies he began to work as a con­tract con­sul­tant for the DEA’s Cyprus office. At that time Cyprus was the nerve cen­ter of efforts to mon­i­tor drug pro­duc­tion in Lebanon. It was no ordi­nary assign­ment because Cole­man was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly employed by the US Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA), the ultra-secre­tive mil­i­tary spooks. Accord­ing to Cole­man, the DEA was des­per­ate for infor­ma­tion about Lebanon, but it also want­ed to keep a dis­creet eye on the DEA and CIA, both of which it viewed with sus­pi­cion.

By the time Cole­man arrived in Cyprus, the flow of drugs out of Lebanon was so great that the best the DEA could hope for was to mon­i­tor where it was going to in the US to catch the deal­ers there. In order to do this, he claims, he relied on a tech­nique called con­trolled deliv­ery. This involves an agent, or infor­mant, car­ry­ing a spe­cial­ly marked bag con­tain­ing drugs. The ship­ment is mon­i­tored by the DEA and, through coop­er­a­tion with oth­er coun­tries, is allowed to pass through secu­ri­ty and cus­toms unhin­dered.

Trail Of The Octo­pus claims that the con­trolled deliv­er­ies pro­vid­ed the CIA with its fig leaf. Not only that, but the DEA allowed its net­work of infor­mants to dou­ble as the CIA’s eyes and ears in Lebanon. It was this mix­ing of roles, Cole­man asserts, that proved fatal. The infor­mants were not trained agents; worse still, he believes, some of them were report­ing back to the Syr­i­an backed ter­ror­ists. Secu­ri­ty, thus, was a sham. Cole­man insists that he tried to raise the issue with the head of the DEA Cyprus, Michael Hur­ley, but was ignored. Ten­sion between the two men grow and Cole­man even­tu­al­ly left the island in May 1988. Before depart­ing, he claims to have warned Hur­ley, in a taped tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion that the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion was a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen. Hur­ley has accused Cole­man of edit­ing in the phrase, and says that Cole­man was sacked by the DEA for unsat­is­fac­to­ry behav­ior.

Despite his avowed prophe­cy, Cole­man says that it was not until months after Locker­bie that he realised the dis­as­ter might be con­nect­ed to drug-traf­fick­ing. He claims the real­iza­tion was trig­gered by the dis­cov­ery that Khalid Jafaar was among the vic­tims. “The kid was one of those I saw com­ing through the office in Cyprus,” he says, “I knew fro
m the con­ver­sa­tions around me in 1988 that he was involved in con­trolled deliv­er­ies — there’s no doubt in my mind about that at all.” The DEA denies any con­nec­tion with Jafaar.

Cole­man was not the first to hint at the alter­na­tive ver­sion. In the days after the dis­as­ter rumors were rife that Jafaar had been duped into car­ry­ing the bomb. The rumors were fueled by the fact that large quan­ti­ties of hero­in were found among the debris. These finds were lat­er denied by the British and Amer­i­can author­i­ties.

In 1990 the ceil­ing fell in on Cole­man’s world. He was arrest­ed by the FBI and charged with pass­port fraud. Although he admit­ted apply­ing for a pass­port under the name Thomas Leavy, he main­tains that he was act­ing under orders from the DIA, which he says, had just reac­ti­vat­ed him for an under­cov­er assign­ment. When he tried to call his DIA con­tact num­bers, he says, the num­bers were dead. Then the anony­mous death treats start­ed. Rather then wait­ing around for a tri­al, he decid­ed to flee to Swe­den. On arrival, he became the first Amer­i­can cit­i­zen to apply for polit­i­cal asy­lum since the Viet­nam war.

Cole­man presents him­self as a lat­ter-day ver­sion of the man who knew to much, but to his detrac­tors the pass­port charges show that he is a trick­ster and a con man. They point out that he has yet to pro­duce the hard evi­dence to prove his claims. Chief among his ene­mies, pre­dictably, is old DEA boss Michael Hur­ley. In May 1994 Hur­ley issued a libel writ against the book’s British pub­lish­er, Blooms­bury. The case has still to come to court.

Cole­man coun­ters his crit­ics by point­ing out that they too have yet to make pub­lic proof of their alle­ga­tions. He is adamant that he could proof his case in an instant, if the US Gov­ern­ment allowed him access to doc­u­ments relat­ing to him and to the DEA’s con­trolled deliv­ery oper­a­tions. In 1990 he request­ed under the US Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act. The appli­ca­tion was refused on the grounds of “Nation­al Secu­ri­ty’; a curi­ous response from a gov­ern­ment which claims it has noth­ing to hide.

What Cole­man does have, in spades, is evi­dence that the Amer­i­can authors have played dirty. In 1992 the FBI applied to the Swedish gov­ern­ment to have him extra­dit­ed. Among the papers it sub­mit­ted was an “inves­tiga­tive sum­ma­ry” con­cern­ing the pass­port case. It claimed the FBI had been alert­ed to the fraud by the pub­lic records office in the town of New Lon­don, Con­necti­cut. Sus­pi­cions had been raised, the report stat­ed, when some­one iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as Thomas Leavy had request­ed a copy of his birth cer­tifi­cate. He list­ed his date of birth as July 4, 1948. Accord­ing to the FBI, when the records office ran a com­put­er check, they dis­cov­ered “that the real Thomas Leavy had died in New Lon­don, Con­necti­cut, two days after his 1948 birth.” The impos­tor, the FBI sug­gest­ed, was Cole­man.

The FBI was lying through its teeth. In Jan­u­ary 1995 Cole­man’s lawyers obtained a sworn state­ment from the reg­is­trar of pub­lic records in New Lon­don. It stat­ed that “after a dili­gent search of the records...neither a birth record on or about July 6, 1948, nor a death record, on or about July 6, 1948, of one Thomas Leavy was record­ed.’

On Sep­tem­ber 21, 1993, the US gov­ern­ment issued anoth­er indict­ment against Cole­man this time for per­jury. The alleged offens­es were con­tained in an affi­davit he had sworn for Pan Am’s lawyers in 1991. To those won­der­ing why the gov­ern­ment would wait two years before act­ing, Cole­man points out that the charges came just days before Trail Of The Octo­pus was pub­lished in Britain. “It was a bla­tant spoil­ing oper­a­tion,” says his co-author Don­ald God­dard. “They even announced the charges in a press release.” The indict­ment once again showed the gov­ern­ment to have been care­less. Its first count alleges that Cole­man lied about his abil­i­ty to speak Ara­bic. In fact, he speaks three dialects of the lan­guage quite com­pe­tent­ly. “If the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment is pre­pared to lie about Cole­man,” says Jim Swire, spokesman for the British Locker­bie rel­a­tives, “then who is to say the offi­cial ver­sion of Locker­bie is not also a lie?’

In 1993 I began to inves­ti­gate Locker­bie for a TV doc­u­men­tary called, “The Mal­tese Dou­ble Cross”, made by an inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned film-mak­er, Allan Fran­covich. The project attract­ed con­tro­ver­sy because it was ini­tial­ly fund­ed by Lon­rho plc, which had busi­ness ties with the Libyan gov­ern­ment, and lat­er by the com­pa­ny’s for­mer chief exec­u­tive, Tiny Row­land. Fran­covich, only agreed to be involved on con­di­tion that there was no inter­fer­ence from Row­land or Libya. The con­di­tion was met.

Before long we came across alarm­ing evi­dence that Cole­man was not the only one whom the author­i­ties had tried to silence. I made it a pri­or­i­ty to find police­men and vol­un­teers who had the grim task of scour­ing the Scot­tish hill­sides for debris. Five years on, it was hard to get peo­ple to talk. Most ret­i­cent were those who had searched the area around Tun­der­garth, where the nose sec­tion of the plane had land­ed, and the hero­in was found.

The day after the crash, the area was swarm­ing with plan-clothed Amer­i­cans, Searchers told me, off the record, that the agents seemed des­per­ate to find some­thing. Although the search effort was sup­posed to fol­low the strict rules of evi­dence gath­er­ing, they seemed to have been giv­en carte blanche to do their own thing. In the mean­time junior police offi­cers and vol­un­teers were warned that, under the Offi­cial Secrets Act, they must nev­er reveal what they had seen.

The film even­tu­al­ly con­clud­ed that the alter­na­tive ver­sion of Locker­bie was cor­rect. Despite all the new evi­dence we uncov­ered, we were nev­er approached by the Scot­tish police, or FBI, to help with their inquires. It was due to be pre­miered at the 1994 Lon­don Film Fes­ti­val, but, for the first time in its 38 year his­to­ry, the fes­ti­val pulled out at the last minute owing to fears of legal action. Fol­low­ing the deci­sion, a num­ber of screen­ings were orga­nized by an anti-cen­sor­ship cen­ter in Birm­ing­ham called the Angle Gallery. The day after the first screen­ing both the gallery and the home of the orga­niz­er were bur­gled. Noth­ing of val­ue was tak­en, but office files had been rifled. A few weeks lat­er, the gallery orga­nized a fur­ther screen­ing. This time it suf­fered an arson attack.

Chan­nel 4 even­tu­al­ly agreed to show the film on May 11 last year. The day before the broad­cast the British and Amer­i­can gov­ern­ments launched an extra­or­di­nary assault. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, the Scot­tish Crown Office and the US Embassy in Lon­don sent every nation­al and Scot­tish news­pa­per a press pack. It con­sist­ed of a series of unsub­stan­ti­at­ed smears against four of the film’s inter­view­ers. Among them, inevitably, was Lester Cole­man. Great play was made of the fact that he was a fugi­tive from jus­tice but the FBI’s bla­tant lies were ignored.

Also tar­get­ed was a New York based inves­ti­ga­tor called Juval Aviv. In 1989, at the rec­om­men­da­tion of a num­ber of pres­ti­gious law firms, he was hired to inves­ti­gate the bomb­ing by Pan Am. After three months he deliv­ered a report based on anony­mous intel­li­gence sources, which was the first detailed incar­na­tion of the alter­na­tive ver­sion. A few weeks lat­er it was leaked to the media. Some of the lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the Locker­bie rel­a­tives played hell, accus­ing Aviv and Pan Am of cook­ing up a sto­ry that would exon­er­ate the air­line’s faulty secu­ri­ty.

Ever since that time, Aviv claims, he has been a marked man. He alleges a series of break-ins at his Madi­son Avenue offices. “They rarely took any­thing, but they left signs of their pres­ence. It was like they were say­ing, “Don’t step out of line again,”” he says. He also claims his clients have been approached by FBI agents and advised to sev­er con­tact with him. This may sound like the stuff of para­noid fan­ta­sy, but he points to the fact that, since the report was leaked, all his con­tacts with gov­ern­ment agen­cies have dried up.

With­in days of “The Mal­tese Dou­ble Cross” being broad­cast, Aviv was indict­ed on fraud charges. The alleged offense had o
ccurred—you’ve guessed it—years ear­li­er. He is adamant that it was trumped up to help the gov­ern­ments spoil­ing oper­a­tion against the film (indeed it was trailed in the press pack). His lawyer, Ger­ald Shargel, applied for the case to be dis­missed on the grounds of selec­tive pros­e­cu­tion. In an affi­davit sub­mit­ted last Sep­tem­ber, he wrote; “In all my (25) years of prac­tice, I have nev­er seen the resources of the FBI and the US Attor­ney’s Office devot­ed to such an insignif­i­cant, incon­se­quen­tial, iso­lat­ed, four-year-old mat­ter.” The judge turned down the appli­ca­tion last month, but not before con­demn­ing some of the pros­e­cu­tion’s argu­ments “pathet­ic” and “dis­hon­est’.

Despite the legal set back, there is now dra­mat­ic evi­dence of the gov­ern­men­t’s vendet­ta against Aviv. It is con­tained in a report pro­duced by Mar­tin Ken­ney, a New York based inter­na­tion­al lawyer who spe­cial­izes in seri­ous finan­cial crime. Ear­li­er this year he, Aviv, and one oth­er part­ner, set up an asset search and recov­ery com­pa­ny in Bermu­da called Inter­claim Ltd. The plan was to uti­lize Ken­ney’s legal skills and Aviv’s inves­tiga­tive know-how.

They lined up a hand­ful of dis­tin­guished legal and com­mer­cial fig­ures from Britain and the US to become both investors and mem­bers of the com­pa­ny’s board of direc­tors. The also approached an invest­ment bank­ing firm from the City of Lon­don and three major accoun­tan­cy firms. All were enthu­si­as­tic about Inter­claim. Aviv was com­plete­ly open with Ken­ney about the out­stand­ing charges. Ken­ney con­duct­ed his own inves­ti­ga­tion into the alle­ga­tions and into Aviv’s back­ground. He con­clud­ed, “I found the incon­gruity between the fact of the indict­ment, and the qual­i­ty and con­tent of Mr. Aviv’s pro­fes­sion­al back­ground, stand­ing and pro­fes­sion­al and client ref­er­ences to be remark­able.’

Sud­den­ly, last month, Ken­ney regret­ful­ly asked Aviv to step down from the com­pa­ny. Accord­ing to Ken­ney’s report, the bankers, accoun­tants, and at least one of the direc­tors, had sud­den­ly got cold feet and there was a dan­ger that they would aban­don the ven­ture. The rea­son, Ken­ney claims, is that most of them had been warned by unnamed US gov­ern­ment offi­cials that Aviv was a man not to be touched.

The US gov­ern­men­t’s dirty tricks may just be about to unrav­el. The cat­a­lyst could be the remark­able bat­tle cur­rent­ly being waged over Trail Of The Octo­pus. War­ren Hinck­le agreed to pub­lish it last year and by Feb­ru­ary of this year it was at the print­ers. Then the bar­rage began. His dis­trib­u­tor, Pub­lish­ers Group West Inc.(PGW), was bom­bard­ed by fax­es demand­ing the com­pa­ny pull out of the deal.

They were most­ly from Michael Hur­ley, who warned that the book “is high­ly defam­a­to­ry of myself and many oth­er US cit­i­zens and is cur­rent­ly the sub­ject of libel pro­ceed­ings in the UK’. Legal threats were also made by Ron Martz, a jour­nal­ist on the Atlanta Con­sti­tu­tion news­pa­per, who was referred to in the book.

Join­ing in the assault were Daniel and Susan Cohen from New Jer­sey, who lost their daugh­ter Theodo­ra on flight 103. Their fax warned: “If this book appears in the US we can assure you that we will not sit by qui­et­ly. We will ener­get­i­cal­ly denounce not only the book and its scum-bag author, but all those who seek to make mon­ey on our daugh­ter’s death.”

This is not the first time the Cohen’s had used such tac­tics. When Chan­nel 4 first showed inter­est in The Mal­tese Dou­ble Cross, it was besieged by fax­es and phone calls from them, which var­i­ous­ly accused us of being “scum’, “bas­tards” and of “whor­ing for Gadafy’. Jim Swire used to be on friend­ly terms with the cou­ple, but they have ostra­cized him ever since he announced he was keep­ing an open mind about the book and the film. “In effect they want­ed to impose cen­sor­ship,” he says. “To my mind that’s wrong because the pub­lic should have a chance to see and read for them­selves, and make their minds up on the bases of that.’

Anoth­er oppo­nent of the film to become embroiled in the cur­rent con­tro­ver­sy is ex-CIA offi­cer Vin­cent Can­nis­traro.

As the head of CIA’s Locker­bie inves­ti­ga­tion until Octo­ber 1990, Can­nis­traro had helped pro­vide the intel­li­gence that point­ed the fin­ger away from drug-run­ning and towards Libya. Pre­vi­ous­ly he had worked along­side Colonel Oliv­er North in a secret pro­gram designed to desta­bi­lize the Gadafy, regime.

Nev­er­the­less, the cam­paign to halt the pub­li­ca­tion of Trail Of The Octo­pus appeared to be work­ing. On March 11, PGW told Hinck­le that it would not be dis­trib­ut­ing the book. The com­pa­ny had pub­lished many con­tro­ver­sial books in the past, but it had nev­er faced such an onslaught. A few days lat­er, British pub­lish­er Blooms­bury attempt­ed to revoke its license agree­ment with Hinck­le.

If the book’s oppo­nents think they have won the bat­tle, they should think again, they have cho­sen to tan­gle with the wrong man. As edi­tor of the inves­tiga­tive mag­a­zine Ram­parts in the Six­ties, Hinck­le was fre­quent­ly involved in sim­i­lar scrapes. Now he’s tak­ing the gloves off again. He intends to press ahead with pub­li­ca­tion come what may. The counter-offen­sive is being tak­en to Wash­ing­ton. Two con­sti­tu­tion­al rights groups have shown an inter­est in the legal action and the renowned Amer­i­can lawyer Alan Der­showitz is report­ed to be look­ing into the case. With their help, Hinck­le hopes to use the case to inves­ti­gate whether the cam­paign against the book has been encour­aged in any way by the gov­ern­ment.

And that’s not all. Hinck­le plans to force a Con­gres­sion­al inquiry into gov­ern­ment smear tac­tics against Cole­man, Juval Aviv and oth­ers. He has already made a for­mal approach to the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, which is sup­posed to mon­i­tor the spooks. He believes that, once the pat­tern of dirty tricks is made clear, mem­bers of Con­gress will go after the per­pe­tra­tors with a vengeance. “Some­one, some­where in the dark recess­es of gov­ern­ment has been coor­di­nat­ing all of this,” he says, “I intend to see these bas­tards forced onto the wit­ness stand and made to sweat.” Once the Amer­i­can pub­lic is treat­ed to such a spec­ta­cle, its faith in the offi­cial ver­sion of Locker­bie may well crum­ble.

Hinck­le plans to team up with yet anoth­er vic­tim of the US gov­ern­men­t’s under­hand tac­tics. Until four years ago Dr. Bill Chasey was one of Wash­ing­ton DC’s most suc­cess­ful polit­i­cal lob­by­ists. After 22 years in the game he had many influ­en­tial con­tacts in gov­ern­ment and his clients includ­ed some of Amer­i­ca’s largest cor­po­ra­tions. A con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can by instinct, he had ear­li­er spent nine years as a US Marine Corps offi­cer. In short, he was the ulti­mate Estab­lish­ment fig­ure.

In 1992 he took on what, for him, was a slight­ly unusu­al con­tract, with an Amer­i­can com­pa­ny called Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­age­ment (ICM). It had been hired by the gov­ern­ment of Libya to help nor­mal­ize rela­tions with the US, in the wake of the Locker­bie indict­ments and the result­ing UN sanc­tions. When he was first approached about the assign­ment, Chasey felt uneasy, As a loy­al cit­i­zen, he had no rea­son to doubt his gov­ern­men­t’s account of the bomb­ing. How­ev­er, on reflec­tion, he fig­ured that the assign­ment was not nec­es­sar­i­ly unpa­tri­ot­ic. Nor­mal­iz­ing rela­tions need not involve accep­tance of Libya’s inno­cence. In any case, the US did busi­ness with plen­ty of the world’s more unsa­vory regimes.

Chasey agreed, on con­di­tion that every­thing be played by the book. Under US law, any­one rep­re­sent­ing a for­eign gov­ern­ment in this way must reg­is­ter as a for­eign agent. If the assign­ment was in breach of the UN sanc­tions, he assumed that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice would deny his reg­is­tra­tion. It did not, and he became reg­is­tered as For­eign Agent num­ber 4221.

Over the com­ing weeks, Chasey met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Libyan regime, who assured him that the US gov­ern­ment had delib­er­ate­ly cov­ered up the truth about Locker­bie. He did­n’t believe them but became con­vinced that they deserved a fair hear­ing on Capi­tol Hill. Before he was able to make any head­way, his world fell apart.

On Decem­ber 3, 1992, the US go
vern­men­t’s Office of For­eign Assets Control(OFAC) Issued him with a for­mal order to stop work on the con­tract. He was told it was in breach of UN sanc­tions and that he would be liable to crim­i­nal charges. Chasey was bemused; if the con­tract was ille­gal, why had he been allowed to reg­is­ter as a for­eign agent? Nev­er­the­less, he agreed to coop­er­ate with OFAC and felt sure every­thing could be sort­ed out ami­ca­bly.

Two weeks lat­er as he was about to leave on a Christ­mas ski­ing vaca­tion, his wife Vir­ginia phoned, in pan­ic, to tell him that their bank account had been frozen. He imme­di­ate­ly called OFAC to find out what they were play­ing at. An agent explained that it was because he had breached sanc­tions by accept­ing Libyan mon­ey. Chasey again point­ed out that the mon­ey had come from an Amer­i­can com­pa­ny, ICM, but to no avail. OFAC refused to budge and the account remains frozen today.

Chasey believes while all this unfold­ed, he was being close­ly mon­i­tored. “When­ev­er I arrived in Wash­ing­ton, the FBI would greet me at the air­port. How could they have known my trav­el plans with­out mon­i­tor­ing my calls?” He also claims to have received anony­mous phone calls, in which a man with an Arab accent warned him: “There are a lot of peo­ple who don’t want this case reopened. If you want to stay alive, stay away from Pan Am 103.’

Even­tu­al­ly, in May 1994, OFAC fined him &50,000. He was nev­er allowed a hear­ing to put his case. By that time his lob­by­ing busi­ness had been bad­ly hit. As with Juval Aviv, a num­ber of clients were approached by the FBI and told that he was under inves­ti­ga­tion for fraud. Last year he final­ly wound down the com­pa­ny and got out of Wash­ing­ton. He lost his homes there and in Cal­i­for­nia, and, at 55 years old, was forced to rebuild his life from scratch.

With hind­sight, Chasey believes his sto­ry demon­strates that the Libyans were right all along. “They went after me because they were wor­ried that I might stum­ble upon this almighty cov­er-up and tell my friends in con­gress about it.” Four years ago he would have viewed some­one like War­ren Hinck­le with dis­taste, but now the pub­lish­er is a valu­able ally.

Like Lester Cole­man, Chasey was moved to write a book about his expe­ri­ences. Called For­eign Agent 4221: The Locker­bie Cov­er-Up, it was launched in Wash­ing­ton on April 22 last year. As he entered the city’s air­port to return home to Cal­i­for­nia, there was anoth­er encounter with the FBI. An agent served him with a Grand Jury sub­poe­na for all his busi­ness records dat­ing back to 1989. He also ques­tioned Chasey about the Okla­homa bomb­ing three days ear­li­er. He asked if Chasey had any con­tacts with the Libyans and warned that if he did not report any future con­tact with them, he would be pros­e­cut­ed.

Amer­i­ca took lit­tle notice of the book and it sold just a few thou­sand copies on the fringe con­spir­a­cy mar­ket. Now he’s updat­ed it and renamed it Pan Am 103: The Locker­bie Cov­er-Up. It is about to be pub­lished for the first time in the UK. It begins with a quote which sums up his expe­ri­ences “I love my coun­try, but I fear my gov­ern­ment.” The sen­ti­ment will be shared by all those who have probed the dark secrets of flight 103.


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