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Tags Lockerbie bombing , Pan Am 103

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Old 15th September 2009, 02:19 PM   #1
Rolfe
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Was the MST-13 timer fragment planted in the wreckage of Pan Am 103?

Imagine, just for a moment, that you are a terrorist. Your one aim in life is to cause a transatlantic flight from London to New York to fall out of the sky. You're not a suicide bomber though, so getting on the plane yourself is out. How would you set about it?

By the way, it's winter. Just before Christmas.

Suppose you have a neato electronic timer, that can be set for any time you like from 1 minute to 999 hours. And you have a bomb disguised as a radio-casette player, and a suitcase of clothes to put it in.

Do you decide to introduce the unaccompanied bomb into the system in Malta, on an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, there to negotiate the baggage system to get itself on to a Pan Am flight to Heathrow, where it will be unloaded again and transferred to the actual transatlantic flight?

And then do you set the timer to so short a time that if anything delays the timetable for only an hour, the bomb will almost certainly go off on the ground somewhere?

Terrorists are not stupid, why would anyone decide on a plan like this?

First, the bag is going to have to get through not one airport security system but three, each one with its own x-ray surveillance, and each one liable to pull an apparently suspicious or even unaccompanied bag out for closer examination. And second, the bag is going to have to manage not to get lost - probably not so hard on a single leg, but with two changes of plane, what are the chances? And third, not just one but three flights are going to have to be up to time and running on schedule - in late December, in northern Europe.

And the one thing you might do to hedge against delays, which is to set the timer so that the explosion happens perhaps half an hour before the flight is scheduled to reach Newfoundland, so that even if it's two or three hours late it'll already be over the ocean - you choose not to do. You set the timer for only one hour into the on-time flight.

And yet that's what we're led to believe was the cunning plan that brought down Pam Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988.

In fact nothing much went wrong with the plan, if that's what it was. The flight was delayed, but only by 25 minutes. The crash happened over southern Scotland, rather than the Outer Hebrides or maybe Ireland. But does it make any sense to devise a plan with so many opportunities for it to fall flat on its face?

Note that this argument is the same irrespective of the identity of the terrorists. Palestinians, Libyans, Al Qaida, IRA, doesn't matter. Why would you choose to send your carefully-placed bomb on such a chancy journey?

Of course, there have been allegations that the bomb could have got on board in Frankfurt, or at Heathrow. This makes better sense, especially the latter. Only one flight to worry about catching. Only one set of security surveillance systems to negotiate. Much less chance of the luggage doing what luggage does only too often - go astray.

So maybe that's what happened. Maybe it really was smuggled on at Heathrow. So, does the problem go away?

Not really.

You still have that cool elecronic timer. You can set it for any time you like up to nearly six weeks in advance. It's still December in northern Europe. And by the way, it's the rush hour. Planes are not exactly guaranteed to take off on time, even if the luggage has been loaded on schedule.

So you set it to go off only an hour after the scheduled take-off time. In a flight that should last nearly eight hours.

Really?

That's why the presence of the MST-13 timer in association with the Lockerbie bombing makes no sense at all. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about some daft scheme to get the thing through the continental airport baggage system on three different flights, or a direct up-load at Heathrow. It makes no sense to set such a versatile timer to such a short fuse, under these circumstances, no matter who you are or where the bomb began its journey.

Consider in contrast the original assumption for why the crash happened so early.

In October of 1988 a Palestinian terrorist cell was busted in Frankfurt. Four improvised explosive devices were seized, all constructed from Toshiba radio-casette players, and apparently intended for attacks on airliners. For reasons that might be interesting later on if this turns into a LIHOP, the ringleaders (including the bomb maker) were released after only a few days. It was known or suspected that a fifth bomb existed that had not been seized.

The seized devices didn't have your spiffy electronic timers. They had things called "ice-cube" timers, much less sophisticated in that they had a pre-set time in them that the operator couldn't vary. They were however sophisticated in a different way. They incorporated aneroid barometers, so that they would be safe indefinitely at sea level but would start to tick if the atmospheric pressure fell below 950mB. These things were deadly if smuggled on to airliners, and it didn't matter when the plane actually took off, the explosion would happen at the pre-determined time into the flight. The devices seized at Frankfurt were set to explode between 35 and 45 minutes after takeoff.

Maid of the Seas
blew up 38 minutes after taking off from Heathrow.

The suitcase and the clothes and the radio-casette bomb and its triggering device were scattered all over Dumfriesshire and points east. It was something of a miracle that fragments of anything so close to the explosion were recovered, but they were. Enough to identify the make and style of the suitcase, and the model of radio-casette player, and trace the origin of the clothes. It was even determined where exactly in the hold the suitcase had been when it exploded.

Then, at some time in 1989, or possibly 1990, a small fragment of a MST-13 timer was allegedly identified in the debris collected.

The confusions surrounding that tiny fragment of debris are legion. The label of the original collection bag was altered, by an unknown party. The notes relating to its examination in England appear to have been falsified, appearing on an extra page interpolated into a loose-leaf folder, with subsequent pages re-numbered to compensate. Oh yes, and the "scientist" doing the examination was the same guy as was responsible for the false conviction of the Maguire Seven.

Then things get even murkier. Was the circuit board green or was it brown? Was it hand-made or machine-made? Was there solder on the terminals showing it had been connected to a bomb, or not? Was the fragment shown to the manufacturer at the trial the same item as the fragment allegedly found embedded in a shirt collar at the crash site? Was the manufacturer playing silly buggers in the witness box (and if so, why?), or was he genuinely confused by mysterious changes that had taken place in the fragment? Is it even possible for an object of that nature to have survived at all, so close to that amount of Semtex going up?

Why did the shopkeeper swear two affidavits saying that he hadn't sold a shirt to the purchaser of the other clothes, and then suddenly change his mind and declare that he had sold him a shirt of the right make in a later statement?

This seems to be the nub of the CT surrounding Lockerbie, once you've got past the point of realising that Megrahi was quite obviously framed by the prosecution, who were being fed information from the US investigators into the case. Re-examining the evidence brings you smack against the MST-13 timer every time. Nobody who had such a timer would have taken the risk of setting it to explode only an hour into an eight-hour flight.

And yet a fragment of such a timer was allegedly found in the wreckage. This then became the "breakthrough find", that diverted the investigation away from the Palestinian/Syrian/Iranian line of enquiry, and switched to implicate Libya.

Is the suggestion that the timer fragment was planted in order to obfuscate the investigation and eventually lead on to the indictment of Libya for the crime entirely fanciful?

Why not leave the thermite and the holographic planes for a bit and look at this one?

Paul Foot's 2001 Private Eye investigation is a good place to start - Flight from Justice. It's behind a £5 paywall, but worth the money.

There are a number of documentary films covering the issues, all taking rather different lines. And none of them are made by Dylan Avery.
The Maltese Double Cross (2hrs 30min, and actually quite hard to follow despite having won a film festival prize)
Lockerbie and the CIA (Aspect ratio problem, but interesting and watchable)
The Conspirady Files: Lockerbie (This BBC production seems a bit too trusting of the Official Version in one or two places.)
Flight into Darkness Part 1
Flight into Darkness Part 2
The Lockerbie Cover-up (shortened version of "Flight into Darkness", but with extra material at the end)

And for a lot more information and links, the best source is probably the web site of the official UN observer at the trial of the "Lockerbie Bomber" in 2000-2001.
Dr. Hans Kochler

The senior academic lawyer who was responsible for getting the trial at Camp Zeist organised has a blog on the subject with a collection of relevant articles.
Professor Robert Black

Megrahi was framed. That seems indisputable. However, was this simply over-enthusiastic investigators cavalierly pinning the crime on someone who happened to be handy due to pressure to "get a conviction"? Or is it more sinister than that?

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 02:30 PM   #2
TriskettheKid
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Can you connect the dots, please, because I'm not seeing it.
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Old 15th September 2009, 02:34 PM   #3
dudalb
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Methinks someone has become obssesed with a case.
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Old 15th September 2009, 02:43 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
Methinks someone has become obssesed with a case.
It happens, and sometimes it results in a guilty verdict being justifiably overturned. Many times, in fact.
Sheer pressure of logic can work.
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Old 15th September 2009, 02:55 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TriskettheKid View Post
Can you connect the dots, please, because I'm not seeing it.

Oh dear, sorry. I thought I was being clear.

It makes no sense at all to set a timer with a range of about 6 weeks to go off only 1 hour into an 8-hour flight. Even if you don't want the plane to drop into the Atlantic and so render the evidence unrecoverable, the risk that the plane might be delayed by an hour or so, leading to the device detonating relatively harmlessly on the ground, is simply not worth taking. Not when you have the means to set the timer for, say, six hours into the flight.

And yet, a tiny fragment of just such a timer was allegedly found on the ground after the crash of Pan Am 103.

The provenance of the fragment is extremely peculiar, involving alteration of evidence records, a witness changing his sworn testimony, and forensic "scientists" with very dubious pedigrees. It has been suggested, alleged and downright asserted that the fragment was planted, probably by the CIA. Is this a tenable position?

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Old 15th September 2009, 02:59 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
Methinks someone has become obssesed with a case.

And this is a problem because?

If this forum can rake over thermate and thermite and holographic planes and flyovers and whether mobile phones can connect from airliners in flight and all the rest of the 9/11 stuff, I can't think of a better place to figure out what might or might not be plausible as regards an earlier, similar atrocity.

If you're not interested, don't read the thread.

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 03:03 PM   #7
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Great, this is the "movie version." At the moment I'm too busy to dig in, but I'm seeing a mammoth OP and a need for point-by-point progress. I hope other members will read it if not comment. I'm not sure what to ask about first... I'll be back.

Oh, and I lean towards "something more sinister," but I'm open to where this goes.
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Old 15th September 2009, 03:10 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Oh dear, sorry. I thought I was being clear.
Actually, I thought Triskett was being ironic -- you couldn't possibly have connected the dots any more clearly.

Quote:
It makes no sense at all to set a timer with a range of about 6 weeks to go off only 1 hour into an 8-hour flight. Even if you don't want the plane to drop into the Atlantic and so render the evidence unrecoverable, the risk that the plane might be delayed by an hour or so, leading to the device detonating relatively harmlessly on the ground, is simply not worth taking. Not when you have the means to set the timer for, say, six hours into the flight.
I have to say, this is an exceedingly interesting and valid point. Pure timing doesn't seem to make sense given the vagaries of air travel. Something triggered by air pressure is far more reliable.


Quote:
And yet, a tiny fragment of just such a timer was allegedly found on the ground after the crash of Pan Am 103.

The provenance of the fragment is extremely peculiar, involving alteration of evidence records, a witness changing his sworn testimony, and forensic "scientists" with very dubious pedigrees. It has been suggested, alleged and downright asserted that the fragment was planted, probably by the CIA. Is this a tenable position?
Tenable, yes. Compelling, perhaps. But why attribute this to the CIA, couldn't it have been just about anyone? And although planting evidence is an absolute wrong, and it calls into question the legality of the trial, how much does it call into question al-Megrahi's actual guilt? Was this tiny fragment the only thing connecting him to the bombing? (I'm afraid I'm not well versed on the exact particulars of the case, so I really don't know.)
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Old 15th September 2009, 03:20 PM   #9
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Rolfe, I don't know about most of the questions you pose, but one thing that I do know: whether a PC board was machine-soldered or hand-soldered would be instantly apparent to any knowledgeable techie. In fact, if you show me a PC board which has not yet been stuffed and soldered, I could tell you at a glance if it was intended to be machine-soldered or not.
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Old 15th September 2009, 03:32 PM   #10
Caustic Logic
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Originally Posted by Stellafane View Post
Tenable, yes. Compelling, perhaps. But why attribute this to the CIA, couldn't it have been just about anyone?
A good question to start with. The CIA is supposed to have pressured witnesses too. I'm curious what we know pointing to specific parties like CIA. Aside from the evidence that it was planted by someone and thus not good evidence.

Quote:
And although planting evidence is an absolute wrong, and it calls into question the legality of the trial, how much does it call into question al-Megrahi's actual guilt? Was this tiny fragment the only thing connecting him to the bombing? (I'm afraid I'm not well versed on the exact particulars of the case, so I really don't know.)
But this is a better point yet vis-a-vis this discussion. Where does the circuit board fit in with the other evidence? From what I gather, it's one of three main pieces, the others being Giaka's testimony that was tossed out as bogus (thus the accomplice let off), and the shopkeeper's testimony (which never matched al Megrahi anyway). There are probably other bits of evidence of lesser importance, but none of greater. Rolfe will be baack by now I'm sure anyway...
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Old 15th September 2009, 03:34 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ktesibios View Post
Rolfe, I don't know about most of the questions you pose, but one thing that I do know: whether a PC board was machine-soldered or hand-soldered would be instantly apparent to any knowledgeable techie. In fact, if you show me a PC board which has not yet been stuffed and soldered, I could tell you at a glance if it was intended to be machine-soldered or not.

I have to confess, I don't entirely follow that part of the evidence. I note the court threw out Bollier's evidence as unreliable, and Bollier does indeed seem to be a slippery customer. However, I'm not clear what reason he had to lie at the trial, unless of course it was just the prospect of that damn $4 million reward offered to anyone who provided evidence to convict Megrahi and/or Fhimah. And I have recently read an article which implies that Bollier was simply completely thrown by the fact that the fragment was different every time he was shown it.

That one's quite a long way down the rabbit hole though, and I have some difficulty swallowing it.

But look at the piece Robert Black blogged about today.

Quote:
For example, consider the case of the Lockerbie bomber. One piece of "evidence" that was used to convict Megrahi was a piece of circuit board from a device that allegedly contained the Semtex that exploded the airliner. None of the people, who have very firm beliefs in Megrahi’s and Libya’s guilt and in the offense of the Scottish authorities in releasing Megrahi on allegedly humanitarian grounds, know that circuit boards of those days have very low combustion temperatures and go up in flames easily. Semtex produces very high temperatures. There would be nothing whatsoever left of a device that contained Semtex. It is obvious to an expert that the piece of circuit board was planted after the event.

Here's the full original article, dated yesterday. Is this a valid point?

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 03:45 PM   #12
Caustic Logic
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
Methinks someone has become obssesed with a case.
And I just had to say something on this. It seems someone is displaying a pointed interest to not learn more. I'm willing to bet you don't even know enough about this case to know what's actually wrong about it. I do thank you for piping up to make this attitude visible and present in this thread. Beyond that, you could help by digging in and bringing any debunks you can find. Let's check this stuff out. Passive willful ignorance is not compatible with skepticism.
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Old 15th September 2009, 03:51 PM   #13
Caustic Logic
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
that damn $4 million reward offered to anyone who provided evidence to convict Megrahi and/or Fhimah.
Yeah, imagine if Randi quadrupled the prize and all the applicants had to do was not contradict themselves too bad. And it's testing ad libbing abilities, not psychic. Giaka didn't make the cut, tho I think he got paid anyway, as much hush money as anything, but it looks like two other finalists scored.

Honestly, I'm talking out my ass and don't know the details of this part. So maybe the science of the board should be the main focus - all evidence and descriptions available. We don't have any photos or sketches, do we? I'm not much good there either but others here might be...
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Old 15th September 2009, 03:57 PM   #14
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I note Ktesibios said something quite pertinent about this early in the previous thread (just showing you were way ahead of me).

Originally Posted by ktesibios View Post
One thing that has always struck me as odd about this case is the idea of a national secret service designing a bomb around a timer that's a special order which, if identified, will lead directly and inescapably back to them.

That's a dumb move just on G.P.; when you consider that designing a timer that's more than accurate enough for the application, from parts available off the shelf from ordinary electronics distributors, would be trivial for anyone with an associate-degree level of training, it becomes indescribably stupid.

The MST-13 timer was, as you say, some sort of special order. Traceable.

Not a huge problem if you plan on the evidence all ending up in the middle of the Atlantic. And you have a three or four hour window which will allow you to achieve exactly that. All you have to do is set the timer to detonate at the time the flight ought to be about half an hour east of Newfoundland.

So you set it to detonate only one hour after takeoff, when the plane would barely have cleared Scotland (or Ireland), in the rather unlikely event of its actually taking off on time.



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Old 15th September 2009, 04:01 PM   #15
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There are pictures. Put MST-13 Lockerbie into Google images.

Though I have to say, it's the timing of the various events between January 1989 and June 1990 (outbreak of the First Gulf War) that is intriguing me, as related by Paul Foot.

I seriously advise giving the Eye its fiver.

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 04:13 PM   #16
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I know little of this case, but it does sound odd to rely on a timer alone.
Combining a timer with a pressure sensor would be much more reliable.
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Old 15th September 2009, 04:16 PM   #17
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My first thought is that I would have definitely chosen to check the bomb through at Malta over either Frankfurt or Heathrow for a couple of reasons: at the time airport security at the Malta was far more porous than at the other airports and it would be far easier to make myself scarce after checking the bag (My logic here is based upon my personal experience - I flew in and out of all of those places many times in the early 1980s.) At the same time I could put a lot of time and geography between me and the scene of the crime in the interval between my placement of the bomb and its expected detonation.

The decision to plant the bomb in Malta with my ultimate target sortieing from Heathrow many hours later drives my choice of detonating devices - it must be able of detonating reliably many hours hence.

Not knowing how the MST-13 was set I do not know how easily it could be miss-set. It is possible that the timer was miss-set in Malta and was intended to detonate much later.

FWIW the Malta and detonator selections do not, at first blush, bother me.
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Old 15th September 2009, 04:21 PM   #18
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The thing is, the evidence given is absolutely in contradiction to that. Luqa airport was the most secure of the three involved, with the least possibility of a suspect case having gone on. In contrast, there was very concrete evidence of a breach in security at Heathrow, and the possibility of a stray bag from Damascus or Warsaw getting on at Frankfurt.

ETA: Here's an excerpt from the actual judgement at Camp Zeist dealing with this issue. Starts at paragraph 38.

Quote:
Luqa airport had a relatively elaborate security system. All items of baggage checked in were entered into the airport computer as well as being noted on the passenger's ticket. After the baggage had passed the sniffer check, it was placed on a trolley in the baggage area to wait until the flight was ready for loading

When the flight was ready, the baggage was taken out and loaded, and the head loader was required to count the items placed on board. The ramp dispatcher, the airport official on the tarmac responsible for the departure of the flight, was in touch by radiotelephone with the load control office. The load control had access to the computer and after the flight was closed would notify the ramp dispatcher of the number of items checked in. The ramp dispatcher would also be told by the head loader how many items had been loaded and if there was a discrepancy would take steps to resolve it.

In addition to the baggage reconciliation procedure, there was a triple count of the number of passengers boarding a departing flight, that is there was a count of the boarding cards, a count by immigration officers of the number of immigration cards handed in, and a head count by the crew.

The records relating to KM180 on 21 December 1988 show no discrepancy in respect of baggage. The flight log (production 930) shows that fifty-five items of baggage were loaded, corresponding to fifty-five on the load plan.

On the face of them, these arrangements seem to make it extremely difficult for an unaccompanied and unidentified bag to be shipped on a flight out of Luqa.

If therefore the unaccompanied bag was launched from Luqa, the method by which that was done is not established, and the Crown accepted that they could not point to any specific route by which the primary suitcase could have been loaded.

The absence of any explanation of the method by which the primary suitcase might have been placed on board KM180 is a major difficulty for the Crown case.

After a British TV company broadcast a documentary showing someone putting a bag on board at Luqa then sloping off, Air Malta sued for libel and won, convincing that court that such a course of events was impossible.

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 04:27 PM   #19
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Your one aim in life is to cause a transatlantic flight from London to New York to fall out of the sky.

Rolfe, why is this assumed to be my one aim in life? Why wouldn't I settle for an 80% chance of crashing the plane, a 10% chance of detonating the bomb in the plane while it was delayed at the gate or on the taxiway, a 7% chance of detonating the bomb in the baggage-handling machinery, and a 3% chance of having the bomb be discovered by security personnel and safely disposed of?

I mean, I'm a terrorist, right? I'm not obsessed with knocking airplanes out of the sky, like an arsonist who can't live without fire. I'm obsessed with causing terror, with disrupting the complacency of the drones and sheeple of a society I despise. Any attack that stands a good chance of doing that is suitable.

Taking down a plane in flight is ideal, but there are several less-spectacular outcomes that would still be satisfactory trade-offs between maximal damage and maximal avoidance of capture.

Your entire argument hinges on the assumption that the means and the end are blatantly unsuited to each other. I don't see where you justify that assumption in any meaningful way.
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Old 15th September 2009, 04:36 PM   #20
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You say yourself, blasting a plane out of the sky would be ideal. And as for your motives, you're either acting under orders from Gadaffi to exact revenge on the US for the bombings of Tripoli and Benghazi in which his infant adopted daughter was killed, or you're being paid $10 million by Iran specifically to knock out a US airliner in flight as revenge for the shooting down of the Iran Air airbus by the Vincennes. Absolutely nothing to do with drones or sheeple or despising a society.

Why would you "settle for" a chance of not knocking out a US airliner, but instead maybe causing a non-fatal explosion in a baggage hall in London? When all you have to do is set the timer to go off at midnight GMT instead of 7pm?

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 04:59 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post

But look at the piece Robert Black blogged about today.

Quote:
For example, consider the case of the Lockerbie bomber. One piece of "evidence" that was used to convict Megrahi was a piece of circuit board from a device that allegedly contained the Semtex that exploded the airliner. None of the people, who have very firm beliefs in Megrahi’s and Libya’s guilt and in the offense of the Scottish authorities in releasing Megrahi on allegedly humanitarian grounds, know that circuit boards of those days have very low combustion temperatures and go up in flames easily. Semtex produces very high temperatures. There would be nothing whatsoever left of a device that contained Semtex. It is obvious to an expert that the piece of circuit board was planted after the event.
Here's the full original article, dated yesterday. Is this a valid point?

Rolfe.
To me this smells an awful lot like troofers claiming that Satam Al-Suqami's passport should have been incinerated in the crash of AA11. First, he neglects the question of how long the board would have been exposed to high temperature from the detonation of the bomb, how good the heat transfer would have been and what temperature the PCB material would actually have reached.

Second, his claim that 80s-vintage PCBs "go up in flames easily" is specious. Flammability standards for plastics used in electronic equipment, e.g. UL 94, have been around longer than that.

My own experience is that I have encountered epoxy-glass PCBs which have been subjected to sustained high temperatures by components mounted on them which burned out and were charred to the point that I had to pronounce them unrepairable because the epoxy had become so carbonized that the board substrate was no longer nonconductive- with no flaming or sustained combustion. I have also encountered 70s-vintage PCBs made of paper-reinforced phenolic (cheap consumer-grade material) where the copper traces had been vaporized by fault currents, with no burning or other damage to the substrate- because it happened too quickly to transfer sufficient heat to the substrate to damage it.

While I don't qualify as an expert, neither is Roberts, and I have many thousands more man-hours spent observing the results of electronic combustion than he has.

Rather interesting to see a white-supremacist Web site like vdare openly pushing 9-11 troofer woo. Not surprising, but somewhat interesting.
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Old 15th September 2009, 05:10 PM   #22
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I have to admit, I only read the paragraph Black quoted in his blog, then linked to the original as an afterthought. I didn't even notice the source as such.

This is a lot of the problem. Like so much CT discussion, you have to sift out quite a bit of accretion of spurious claims and suggestions to find the genuine issues. For example, I suspect Ludwig de Braeckeleer is quite a way down the rabbit hole, but that doesn't mean all of his alleged facts are spurious. Hard to tell where the paranoia takes over though.

In fact, I just realised Tam Dalyell has come right out in print with a LIHOP accusation. That is Tam Dalyell MP, former Father of the House, chairman of parliamentary committees on the affair. Hans Kochler, Robert Black, Tam Dalyell - are they all completely barking?

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 05:12 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The thing is, the evidence given is absolutely in contradiction to that. Luqa airport was the most secure of the three involved, with the least possibility of a suspect case having gone on. In contrast, there was very concrete evidence of a breach in security at Heathrow, and the possibility of a stray bag from Damascus or Warsaw getting on at Frankfurt.

ETA: Here's an excerpt from the actual judgement at Camp Zeist dealing with this issue. Starts at paragraph 38.




After a British TV company broadcast a documentary showing someone putting a bag on board at Luqa then sloping off, Air Malta sued for libel and won, convincing that court that such a course of events was impossible.

Rolfe.
My experience was a few years earlier; this is perhaps why it was not at all in accord with what you describe. In one instance I disembarked at the port and was on a flight to Rome no more than thirty minutes later, my carry on bag never having been inspected, either entering the country or leaving.

In fact, it is the ease with which I could have taken anything that would fit in my carry on bag off of my barge and onto the plane that largely informed my opinion. My risk of exposure prior to boarding the aircraft could be conceivably reduced to mere minutes in Malta (the explosives being in country no more than 40 minutes of so).
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Old 15th September 2009, 05:27 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I have to admit, I only read the paragraph Black quoted in his blog, then linked to the original as an afterthought. I didn't even notice the source as such.

This is a lot of the problem. Like so much CT discussion, you have to sift out quite a bit of accretion of spurious claims and suggestions to find the genuine issues. For example, I suspect Ludwig de Braeckeleer is quite a way down the rabbit hole, but that doesn't mean all of his alleged facts are spurious. Hard to tell where the paranoia takes over though.

In fact, I just realised Tam Dalyell has come right out in print with a LIHOP accusation. That is Tam Dalyell MP, former Father of the House, chairman of parliamentary committees on the affair. Hans Kochler, Robert Black, Tam Dalyell - are they all completely barking?

Rolfe.
Tam Dalyell has been kinda drifting off the rails since Iraq.

The timeing doesn't mean much. Too easy for it to have been a mistake or just lack of thinking things through.

It's survival would be unremarkable. Short of atomic weaponry it's fairly common to find things that were near the explosion that survived.

Getting through the security? These things happen no matter how good your system is.

The weak documentation trail and the amount of weigh the case placed on it are more problematical.
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Old 15th September 2009, 05:33 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Metullus View Post
My experience was a few years earlier; this is perhaps why it was not at all in accord with what you describe. In one instance I disembarked at the port and was on a flight to Rome no more than thirty minutes later, my carry on bag never having been inspected, either entering the country or leaving.

In fact, it is the ease with which I could have taken anything that would fit in my carry on bag off of my barge and onto the plane that largely informed my opinion. My risk of exposure prior to boarding the aircraft could be conceivably reduced to mere minutes in Malta (the explosives being in country no more than 40 minutes of so).

But how would your carry-on bag get into the interline system? The Official Version requires the bag to have tags on it that will take it through the baggage system unaccompanied from KM180 onto PA103A at Frankfurt, then from that on to PA103 itself at Heathrow.

It appears that not only was there no evidence of an unaccompanied bag at Luqa, there was positive evidence that there was no unaccompanied bag at Luqa.

In contrast, the system at Frankfurt was relatively chaotic, with one particular luggage tray (contents unknown) going on to PA103A from an uncertain feeder flight. It theoretically might have come from Luqa (except for the pesky evidence that nothing of the sort came in on KA180), but it could have come from any one of a number of other flights including Damascus and Warsaw.

And to cap that one, a Heathrow baggage handler gave evidence of two pieces of luggage having mysteriously appeared in the actual baggage container involved, before PA013A landed, and one of these pieces was - a brown Samsonite hardshell. And then again, there was a breakin into that very area of Heathrow airport the previous evening, sawn-off padlock logged in the incidents file.

But leaving that aside, given the vagaries of airline timekeeping, and luggage getting lost, why choose a route with two changes of planne and three security systems to negotiate.

But more important, even if you did that, why set that timer for 7pm?

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 05:37 PM   #26
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I'm detecting a trend here. The logic of Rolfe's leading point (ie first up) about the logic of the trigger mechanism, is either flawed or not entirely clear to everyone and we're getting hung up on it. I can't say what makes most sense, Obviously it wasn't the best design for this instance as it was doomed to either blow up over or dangerously near land, which means the evidence will be more available to track you down.

but Rolfe pointed out that this bomb behaved just like the PFLP bombs, in detonating so many minutes after reaching a set altitude. I'd like to see some more info on where we know this from. This should have made the bomb origin pretty clear, but then this other timer showed up...

And the question here is was that planted. I think also covering the direct evidence for that is most helpful. Like where was it found, when, how was it handled as evidence, etc. I'll be back on this tonight with some quote boxes and links if they aren't there already.

Great thread so far, maximum input per views! It's going somewhere.

Oh and Rolf, sorry, could you also clarify the evidence field against Megrahi and where this fits in? Was my three-point breakdown about right?
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Old 15th September 2009, 05:40 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Tam Dalyell has been kinda drifting off the rails since Iraq.

I'm not exactly banking on him. It's just that there's an awful lot of smoke here, and he's not the only one.

Originally Posted by geni View Post
The timeing doesn't mean much. Too easy for it to have been a mistake or just lack of thinking things through.

Duh? You really think so? O.... K....

Originally Posted by geni View Post
It's survival would be unremarkable. Short of atomic weaponry it's fairly common to find things that were near the explosion that survived.

Yes, I think we're coming to that conclusion. I didn't really think otherwise until I saw that piece from yesterday, and I didn't realise it was from a source that was also wittering on about thermite residues.

Originally Posted by geni View Post
Getting through the security? These things happen no matter how good your system is.

Well, yes. Obviously. However, would you rather have your case x-rayed once or three times, under these circumstances?

Originally Posted by geni View Post
The weak documentation trail and the amount of weigh the case placed on it are more problematical.

The positively surreal documentation trail. And once you realise that Gauci never did identify Megrahi, the entire weight of the case seems to rest on it.

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 05:51 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Duh? You really think so? O.... K....
Terroists don't have the best of records (the IRA's better results were due to a lot of years of experence). Intelligance agencies don't exactly have a great record either. A poor choice of timer settings is within what could be expected.

Quote:
Well, yes. Obviously. However, would you rather have your case x-rayed once or three times, under these circumstances?
Depends what I could get acess to. If I'm an intelligence agent who wants to stay close to my support network points of acess may be limited.

The security is of interest since it makes the attack rather difficult but not the point where it is unreasonable to expect an intelligance agent/terrorist to try it.

People choseing less than ideal approaches is pretty common in the case of terrorism. If you look at the better documented campains (the french resistence say) you tend to run into situations where the terrorists make what appear to be really stupid mistakes.
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Old 15th September 2009, 05:51 PM   #29
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Hmmm. Case against Megrahi.

Giaka first named him, as far as I can see, and came out with other stuff that was quite obviously invented - not necessarily for the $4 million reward, but because he was already in the USA on a CIA witness protection programme he'd got on by lying about his importance and contacts, and he knew he was in danger of being dropped if he didn't deliver some useful intelligence.

He was in Malta quite openly on 7th December, and while all the rational evidence pointed to the clothes having been bought from Gauci on 23rd November, it was just possible to torture the facts to suggest the sale might have been on 7th December.

Gauci originally identified Abu Talb as the purchaser, while the authorities were still pursuing the PFLP-GC line, and persistently stated that the purchaser was over 50 and over 6 feet tall. (Megrahi was 36 and 5 feet 8 inches.) Nevertheless he managed to say that Megrahi "looked quite like" the purchaser, which was as far as it went. He was unable to pick Megrahi out in court.

Megrahi was in Malta travelling on a "coded" passport (security services undercover sort of thing, rather than an illegal false passport) on 21st December, so if there had been any possibility of a rogue suitcase on KM180 (which there really wasn't), he might have been able to put it there.

Oh yes, and he did have dealings with MeBo, quite a lot of dealings with MeBo. Never proved to have had an MST-13 timer in his possession, but he did have dealings with the company.

You see how everything comes down to that fragment?

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 06:02 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
People choseing less than ideal approaches is pretty common in the case of terrorism. If you look at the better documented campains (the french resistence say) you tend to run into situations where the terrorists make what appear to be really stupid mistakes.

So setting the timer for 7pm instead of midnight was just a "stupid mistake", that just so happened to detonate the bomb pretty much to the minute that a barometric device with an ice-cube timer would have detonated following the delayed take-off.

Coincidences happen, but that's a biggie.

Of course, if the fragment is genuine, then some sort of explanation along these lines must be the case. However, this is what I'm trying to figure.

I'm going to have another read at the Private Eye report, because it's the best of the lot as far as it goes, and I take back every word I said about barnacles on that. Given the confusing and contradictory accounts available elsewhere that one is a model of clarity that never seems to go beyond what can actually be supported. The only thing is, it's 8 years old and events and priorities have moved on.

I don't want to bilk the Eye by mirroring the report outside their pay-wall, come on, it's only a fiver. Oh, and their short 2007 follow-up piece on the timer issue has actually escaped, nothing to do with me, so look at that too.

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 06:02 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
...

Well, yes. Obviously. However, would you rather have your case x-rayed once or three times, under these circumstances?




The positively surreal documentation trail. And once you realise that Gauci never did identify Megrahi, the entire weight of the case seems to rest on it.

Rolfe.
Rolfe:
If the bags were being transferred, within the airport itself--never leaving airline custody--would they have been x-rayed at each transfer point?
I really don't think they would do that back then.
But I could be wrong.
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Old 15th September 2009, 06:28 PM   #32
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It's in the evidence. Yes, I was surprised too, but apparently that was SOP. As Megrahi (or indeed anyone planning such an attack) would certainly have known.

Rolfe.
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Old 15th September 2009, 06:48 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
It's in the evidence. Yes, I was surprised too, but apparently that was SOP. As Megrahi (or indeed anyone planning such an attack) would certainly have known.

Rolfe.
I stand corrected.
It is strange that that would happen (or, to be accurate, that it was SOP), but then, stranger things go on...
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Old 15th September 2009, 09:03 PM   #34
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I wasn't being ironic.

I honestly don't see the connection here.


I mean, didn't Libya apologize? Were they in on it?
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Old 15th September 2009, 09:19 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
But how would your carry-on bag get into the interline system? The Official Version requires the bag to have tags on it that will take it through the baggage system unaccompanied from KM180 onto PA103A at Frankfurt, then from that on to PA103 itself at Heathrow.

It appears that not only was there no evidence of an unaccompanied bag at Luqa, there was positive evidence that there was no unaccompanied bag at Luqa.

In contrast, the system at Frankfurt was relatively chaotic, with one particular luggage tray (contents unknown) going on to PA103A from an uncertain feeder flight. It theoretically might have come from Luqa (except for the pesky evidence that nothing of the sort came in on KA180), but it could have come from any one of a number of other flights including Damascus and Warsaw.

And to cap that one, a Heathrow baggage handler gave evidence of two pieces of luggage having mysteriously appeared in the actual baggage container involved, before PA013A landed, and one of these pieces was - a brown Samsonite hardshell. And then again, there was a breakin into that very area of Heathrow airport the previous evening, sawn-off padlock logged in the incidents file.

But leaving that aside, given the vagaries of airline timekeeping, and luggage getting lost, why choose a route with two changes of planne and three security systems to negotiate.

But more important, even if you did that, why set that timer for 7pm?

Rolfe.
I was not suggesting that my carry on would somehow get in the baggage interline system. I was only commenting that in my experience the security in Malta was piss-poor; I was only suggesting that judging from the fact that I was able to disembark from a marine vessel at the port unchecked, that I could travel to the airport and board an international commercial flight after what can be generously described as a cursory glance at my passport and a somewhat more detailed review of my ticket, and that I could carry on to that flight a large leather bag (roughly 24" x 10" x 10") that was never inspected by any authority whatever since arriving in Guinea Bissau 4 months prior, all in the space of 30 minutes plus or minus, it is not unreasonable to extrapolate that security overall is less than optimal.

Not, I submit, an unreasonable observation I think.

As to the choice of Malta over the other cities: I have a keen sense of self-preservation. I can easily see how someone with my experience of these airports and port facilities might decide that whatever the operational disadvantages the indirect attack might well give me a much better chance of getting away unscathed and unidentified. If I was able to get the bag onto the plane I could well be clear of not only the airport but also the country on an anonymous marine vessel before the plane had even cleared the runway. I would also quite like the idea that getting the device into the country and to the airport would entail little risk and less difficulty - I could build the damn thing in the machine room of my barge or boat with little fear of attention from security forces and I could carry it off the boat and directly to the airport with little fear of discovery in a very short period of time. Much safer, in my experience, than doing so in Frankfurt or Heathrow.

This is all I am saying.
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Old 15th September 2009, 11:00 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post

Terrorists are not stupid, why would anyone decide on a plan like this?
Whoooa! They aint necessarily clever either.

If there's one thing we should take from debating with 'truthers' it is that what we perceive as common sense doesn't necessarily apply in the real world and we should be careful about the assumptions we make on the back of it.

Does blowing the plane out of the sky over the ocean really provide the best result for a terrorist?

Plane lost in mysterious circumstances, hardly any wreckage found, possible mechanical fault etc etc

Or plane blown out of sky over dry land with lots of evidence that it was a bomb wot dun it?

Perhaps the perp shot his wad too early and messed up setting the timer?

Perhaps....maybe.... and so forth.

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Old 15th September 2009, 11:05 PM   #37
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MST-13 timer is made by MEBO a Swiss company.

Quote:
Furthermore, Mr. Edwin Bollier, head of the Zurich-based company MEBO, today confirmed vis-à-vis Dr. Koechler that during a visit to the headquarters of the American FBI in Washington DC at the beginning of 1991 he was offered an amount of up to USD 4 million plus a new identity (name) in the United States if he would testify in court that the timer fragment that was allegedly found on the crash site around Lockerbie stemmed from a MST-13 timer that his company had delivered to Libya.
[ link - BBC interview from Oct 2007 with Dr. Hans Koechler

this document which is apparently a summary of MEBOs official position/analysis of the recovered fragment, makes interesting reading.

Quote:
in Spring of 1998 MEBO received from a third party a video-recorded interview with FBI forensic expert in the Lockerbie case, Tom Thurman. In this video Thurman is showing exactly the same photograph, explaining that he knew on June 15, 1990 that this fragment was part of a MST-13 MEBO timer that allegedly triggered the Lockerbie bomb. .... FBI forensic expert T.Thurman demonstrates in his video that the alleged Lockerbie-fragment is part of a handmade MST-13 timer circuit-board! Clearly visible markings show the hand-soldered tracks, sawed curvings, etc. An independent British forensic expert: Mr. Owen Lewis, declares in 1999 in two seperate TV airings: "Despatches" by channel 4, and "60 Minutes" by CBS the quite obviously visible differences between the hand-made and the industrially produced circuit-boards of these MST-13 timers.

E.Meister and E.Bollier can today clearly declare that the MEBO-MST-13 timers delivered to Libya were fitted with green-clored[sic], machine-printed circuit-boards. Therefore we also know that the MST-13 timer fragment that was allegedly discovered in Lockerbie can not be from a MEBO MST-13 timer that was sold to Libya.

Just a reminder: thephotograph no.4 that was first shown to E.Meister and E.Bollier clearly shows a carbonated, hand-made segment from a brown-laquered circuit-board: (T.Thurmans fragment of July, 1990)!
Then we have Ulrich Lumpert
Quote:
Ulrich Lumpert, formerly an electronics engineer with Mebo AG, Zurich, has signed an affidavit admitting he committed perjury before the Scottish Court in the Netherlands.

In his affidavit he states that he stole a handmade sample of an "MST-13 Timer PC-board" from Mebo in Zurich and handed it over, on June 22 1989, to an "official person investigating the Lockerbie case."

He further states that the fragment of the timer, cut into two pieces for "supposedly forensic reasons," which was presented in court stemmed from the same piece.

He further states that when he became aware that this piece was used for an "intentional politically motivated criminal undertaking" he decided, out of fear for his life, to keep silent on the matter.
[ link ]


Thomas Thurman, the FBI agent who identifies the fragment in the first place, who appears in the Maltese double cross, was criticised in this report and in this report both from 1997, for altering evidence.

In Gideon Levys film "Lockerbie Revisited" interviews with lab personnell reveal that the MST-13 fragment itself was never tested for explosives residue. link Dutch language but most of the interviews are in english.

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Old 15th September 2009, 11:20 PM   #38
Caustic Logic
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I didn't really think otherwise until I saw that piece from yesterday, and I didn't realise it was from a source that was also wittering on about thermite residues.
Paul Craig Roberts is a conservative former Reagan admin economist anti-neocon guy. Otherwise all I know is he's expressed some Truther beliefs, but not near as stupidly as most GOP defectors (orders of magnitude saner than Morgan Reynolds). I'd consider him potentially correct on some things, but not reliable or trustworthy. The science of a chip's destructibility might be worth studying up on, but absent that, I'm inclined to leave the question probably irrelevant and look at other aspects.
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Old 15th September 2009, 11:29 PM   #39
Caustic Logic
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Originally Posted by TriskettheKid View Post
I wasn't being ironic.

I honestly don't see the connection here.


I mean, didn't Libya apologize? Were they in on it?
Yes, they did apologize and pay massive damages as if responsible. Apparently this was also a political move. They've always asserted al Megrahi's innocence, but vaguely "took responsibility" anyway and paid up, largely to end UN sanctions put in place to force them to do so. They also disbanded their nuclear program and renounced any remaining terrorist links or moral support. They did all these things in the period following al Megrahi's final conviction and first failed appeal(s), and September 11. It seems whatever they were or weren't guilty of they were determined to show they were a responsible state and not part of that axis thing. I think it was a wise investment that is now paying off. The record may be revised too to show they semi-atoned for a sin they didn't commit. I'm still learning even the basics, but it's definitely an unusual story...
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Old 16th September 2009, 12:36 AM   #40
Caustic Logic
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It's bad form I know, but given my schedule, I'm going to have to do a few posts in a row.

So I found some images of the fragment and of an intact MST-13 circuit board. Both are shown in exhibit-like old photo context, at this site. apparently the real deal, photographed by FBI's agent Thurman. The site's analysis noted how the fragment's shape doesn't match the model.
photo comparison
On first blush they don't seem to exactly match, but I put them into Photoshop to compare. The black outline here is a "find edges" filter applied to the intact model. The fragment was then stretched (kept in scale) under it until the "1" matched up. I also rotated it about 1 degree. You'll note the whole thing matches, with a slight overall warp. So we're dealing with a properly-scaled forgery or the real thing. (the "smart blur" is mine too. It destroys nothing but the offset dot matrix).


Not that that was an issue, just a side-note. So this is the the exact style of a Mebo-made MST-13 board. It looks kind of blue-gray to me, but is that an overall tint issue? It does seem that way. The fragment was said to be brown, compared to green if from Mebo via Libya, re: the sources I'm seeing here. Okay. Got it. .. yeah. hit submit.

It was reportedly found at the scene in January 1989. These details next...
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