Brian Duffy
Brian Duffy
The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation
ISBN: 0399135219
The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation
The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation resulted from Duffy and Emerson's 15-month investigation into the December 21, 1988 airplane crash in Scotland. The explosion and crash killed 259 persons. The book describes the efforts of 10,000 law enforcement officials from the FBA, CIA, Scotland Yard, Scottish police, and West Germany's BKA. The authors said this comprised the largest international terrorism investigation ever undertaken.
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The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation
Program Air Date: May 13, 1990

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Brian Duffy, co author of "The Fall of Pan Am 103." Susan Katz Keating in The Washington Times has a review of your book, and her final paragraph says, "For all the tragedy and human suffering surrounding the Pan Am bombing though, little appears to have been accomplished in the way of averting repeat performances." Do you agree with that?
BRIAN DUFFY, AUTHOR, "THE FALL OF PAN AM 103: INSIDE THE LOCKERBIE INVESTIGATION": Yeah. I think the evidence supports that conclusion. It's nearly a year and a half after Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie. The security problems have continued to plague the airlines, both here and overseas. The FAA has documented, still, repeated problems with Pan Am security arrangements in Frankfurt, and those were gone into by the presidential commission that has been appointed to look into Flight 103, which will deliver its report to President Bush next week, I think.
LAMB: Steve Emerson, are you afraid to fly overseas now?
STEVEN EMERSON, AUTHOR, "THE FALL OF PAN AM 103: INSIDE THE LOCKERBIE INVESTIGATION": No, I'm not. If I think that there's any risk -- there's risk involved in all types of travel, whether it's plane or even by car. The fact of the matter is, the terrorists who blew up Pan Am 103 were not successful in blowing up other airlines, as they had desired and intended to do. And for all of the tragedies surrounding Pan Am 103 -- and it is a terrible tragedy and it's a scandalous tragedy, because we believe it could have been prevented. Nevertheless, there still have not been that many plane bombings. Now one plane bombing is one too many, but I am not averse to flying.
LAMB: There are so many names in your book, it's impossible to deal with all of them here, but I want to ask a general question. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys once you went through your investigation for this book?
EMERSON: Well, you want to divide up good guys and bad guys or bad guys and good guys? I'll take the bad guys and Brian can take the good guys. I think the bad guys are the government of Iran, which commissioned this act of revenge -- an act of revenge induced by the downing of an Iranian air bust last July. And they paid for it umpteen millions of dollars -- we don't know exactly how much -- to a Palestinian terrorist group named The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. All we have to know about that group is that it's based in Damascus. They had a wide infrastructure throughout Europe. Those are the two principle bad guys involved in Pan Am 103.
LAMB: Good guys?
DUFFY: The good guys are the Scottish detectives, who took the lead in the investigation, and the American FBI, which has given no quarter. They've left no stone unturned. Having a jet go down in a small Scottish village just a few days before Christmas, the Scots, the smallest police department in the United Kingdom, mounted the largest counterterrorism investigation in history and one of the most complicated detective -- pieces of detective work I think I've ever taken a look at or even heard about -- over 1,000 investigators; they travel to more than 40 countries and four continents; interviewed nearly 15,000 people; rebuilt, basically, most of the plane to determine where the bomb had been placed in the baggage hold. Truly, an incredible story of detective work and one that would not have been possible had they not been as dedicated in bringing these people to justice.
LAMB: When was the last day that you were able to put some information in this book?
EMERSON: I think, technically speaking, it was in January.
LAMB: Of this year?
EMERSON: Of this year.
LAMB: And has anything changed since you wrote it?
DUFFY: Not very much at all. I think the investigation is proceeding. The investigators have been back to Malta, which is the key placein terms of putting together the whole scenario of how the bombing was carried out. They are still working hard, and the investigation, as far as we can determine, is sort of at a quiescent stage where there's not much news coverage. That doesn't mean that a lot of hard work is not being done. It's difficult to say when they'll reach a point when we may see indictments, but we both think that indictments will be forthcoming at some point.
LAMB: When did you two decide that you were going to do this book?
EMERSON: I think it came about after I started and Brian started reporting for it for US News & World Report, where I used to work, and Brian still is. And we decided that it was not a story that could be simply reported in the typical Washington mode: you put a day here; you put a day there. There are too many other leads coming in from all over the world, including one of the most fascinating areas of exploration, what happened on German soil in October of 1988. That, in itself, required us to immerse ourselves full time. The only way you could do something like this full time is to write a book.
LAMB: And do you remember the first day you two talked about doing something like this?
DUFFY: I remember being struck by the fact that the more we'd looked into it, the more we asked questions, the more that the people we were talking to -- the investigators here, primarily at the first instance -- were puzzled by things. And that sort of gave us an indication that all was not well with this investigation. Steve mentioned the German connection. Initially, the FBI and the Scottish detectives were unable or, they were unsure of the information that was coming from Germany. There had been some arrests in Germany seven weeks before Lockerbie. A group of terrorists operating there were rounded up in an operation the German police called Autumn Leaves. They arrested 15 people, and within days, most of those people were released, including the man who made the bomb that subsequently blew up Flight 103. Among those others released were people with long histories of terrorist activity and criminal activity. The FBI went back and said, "Who are these people? We'd like some information." American intelligence officials made similar requests of their counterparts in Germany. And the answers they were getting were not things that they had great confidence in, and that's when we began to think that this was worth looking at a little bit more closely.
EMERSON: But if I could add one thing. One of the most interesting parts, in the very beginning, for us was our discussions, initially, with FBI officials. As much as they were disturbed by this, this was their first opportunity to get involved in such a large counterterrorist intelligence investigation, and they opened the doors for us, for us to sort of be flies on the wall, which was unique for the FBI to do that. Now eventually, the story of our reporting was such that we did too good a job and the faucet was shut, not because the FBI was angry with us, but because the Central Intelligence Agency was a little bit upset that we might be getting too much information.
LAMB: How did you divide up your responsibilities?
DUFFY: Initially, we just did it haphazardly, and then we began to break off areas. Steve, who's covered terrorism for longer than I, went to the Middle East and gathered a lot of information on the backgrounds of those people who the investigators identified as being responsible. I went to Scotland and to Germany and to England on numerous occasions and spent a lot of time with the Scottish investigators who, because the plane crashed on their territory, they were the lead agency in the investigation. And we broke that along roughly parallel lines, and then we both wound up spending a lot of time trying to figure out what had happened in Germany.
LAMB: How did you divide up the writing responsibilities?
EMERSON: I have to give Brian most of the credit here. I am a plodding writer and Brian has a swift pen. And even though some critics have criticized the newsmagazine style, I have to say that Brian is probably one of the most talented writers at the magazine and in Washington.
DUFFY: Thank you.
LAMB: One of the interesting things, Steve Emerson -- in your background is that you used to work, at one point or another, for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. What did you do for them and when did you work there?
EMERSON: I was a staff investigator from 1978 through 1981, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and I participated in some of the international investigations, such as oil pipeline conspiracies to find Rhodesia, some of the international human rights investigations. It was there that I really became, I guess, familiar and I was taught some of the skills of investigations, which I then took -- and I think luckily and successfully -- to the area of journalism.
LAMB: Where's home, originally?
EMERSON: Home is where I was born, which is New York City.
LAMB: And how did you get from there to here? In other words, where did you go to school, when did you start writing for a living and how did you get to work for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?
EMERSON: Well, let me just preface it by saying that in my sophomore year at Brown University, where I went to school, it was my last English course I took, and I got a response from one of the English TA's, teaching assistants, saying, "You are the worst writer I've ever encountered. Stay out of this business," which was rather a jarring conclusion to be drawing at such an early age. So I left writing. And, in fact, when I left Brown, I had received a master's from Brown as well, all in an effort to defer becoming a lawyer. And so far, I've been successful in deferring that act. I came down to Washington, landed a job at a small magazine, thoroughly hated it and then ended up becoming a speechwriter for Senator Frank Church on Capitol Hill. He didn't take too long to discover that I couldn't write a speech, so I ended up doing other things that I felt good at and he felt that I was good at, and that became investigations.
LAMB: And when did you go to work for US News?
EMERSON: I went to work for US News around four years ago. I had written my first book in 1985 called "The American House of Saud," and as I'm fond of saying, I became independently poor at that point. So I had to take a real job in journalism, and US News gave me a good opportunity to do so.
LAMB: What was "The American House of Saud"?
EMERSON: That was a book about Arab oil money and petro dollars in the United States, and that was the heyday of the petro dollar investments in the US. And I looked at some of the political strings attached to it. It was there that I found the nexus between intelligence and terrorism to be intertwined and where you have a situation where it's hard to clear the smoke and the trap doors and to really find out what you're looking at until you get the large picture. That's why I like bookwriting. You're able to amass all this information. You don't have to run with it immediate -- like at a newspaper or at a daily newsmagazine show. You can wait six months, a year, and then assess it, evaluate it, test it and then write it.
LAMB: "Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era" is another book of yours?
EMERSON: Second book that I wrote; got released two years ago. And that was about some of the commando teams operating in the basement of the Pentagon, some authorized, some not authorized. Again, there was a clear instance where, if I didn't have the appropriate time to spend on that book over a year and a half, I would have come up with some very erroneous conclusions in my reporting.
LAMB: And when did you leave US News? And what are you doing now?
EMERSON: Right now, I am freelancing. I've left US News now -- it's about seven months. And I am working for publications as diverse as Penthouse magazine to the Wall Street Journal. I am also going to be a, looks like a consultant to one of your competitor networks, and I'm ...
LAMB: Which one?
EMERSON: Cable News Network.
LAMB: When does that start?
EMERSON: That should be starting momentarily.
LAMB: Is that all a part of the new investigative unit?
EMERSON: Yes, that is.
LAMB: Brian Duffy, where's home for you? Where did you go to school? And what was your first job?
DUFFY: Home for me is also in New York. My family still lives there. I attended Fairfield College in Connecticut and got a master's from Northwestern University in Chicago. My first job in journalism was at the Miami Herald in Florida, where I was one of a two person bureau in Key West, Florida; worked six days a week. I wrote about a zillion news stories every week and greatly enjoyed it. And within a year of starting that job, I had latched onto a major project that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won numerous national reporting awards. It was essentially a billion dollar land development that was being built in a federal wildlife refuge. It had all the elements of a good story. And since then, I've pretty much always been tagged as an investigative reporter. And spent six years in Miami. I enjoyed every one of them, and have been with US News now for four years covering national security in the intelligence community. For a time, I was the national editor of the magazine, and I've gone back to reporting pretty much full time now.
LAMB: "The Fall of Pan Am 103" is the book. Steve Emerson and Brian Duffy are the co authors. Who is the little girl in the red dress?
DUFFY: The little girl in the red dress is someone who I think your viewers who remember Lockerbie may remember this story most clearly. She was a little girl who was returning from an uncle's wedding in India. On the first leg of Flight 103, from Frankfurt to London, she struck up a conversation with another passenger, an older man. He disembarked in London. The plane, as we all know, disintegrated over Lockerbie. And he was just devastated. To my knowledge, the man's name has never been made public. He didn't know the name of the girl, but he had so enjoyed her company on the plane that he sent a bouquet of flowers to the town hall in Lockerbie the very next day and he said, "To the little girl in the red dress, you did not deserve a fate as awful as this." I don't remember the exact wording, but a very able Scottish radio reporter, who was freelancing, I think, for CBS News, saw this in the massive pile of flowers and that it had come from around the world three days before Christmas and broadcast the story. I remember driving the car and hearing it, and it was one of the most touching things out of all this tragedy, this, I think, really struck the most responsive chord that I can recall.
LAMB: In the opening of your book, you tell a lot of stories about people and the personal tragedy they were involved in. How did you find it all out? And did you find yourself getting close to any of these families in the middle of your investigation? .
DUFFY: Oh, I went to Lockerbie several times, and we had a very good researcher who lived in Lockerbie for a time who helped us on that part of the reporting. And I remember the first time I went to London. On my way to Lockerbie, I had her come down to London to meet me and tell me how things were going. This was a woman named Julienne Sanford, a British reporter who used to work with us, with Steve and I at US News. We're sitting in this hotel. She said, "Is there anything we can do for those people? They're just devastated. Their lives will never be the same." And she really found herself being emotionally caught up with them. And I, having spent just a few days there, just found myself kind of getting the same sense, that this was this little village that was pretty much out of time, off the beaten path, very decent, good, hard working people. And the way they responded to this tragedy is almost beyond imagination. They opened their homes. They forgot about Christmas Day. Even to this day, families of the victims make a pilgrimage to Lockerbie and they know that they will have a welcome there, that people will take them around, show them what is to be seen, answer any questions they can. They are truly an extraordinary people who were just ordinary folks brought together by terrible tragedy.
LAMB: I don't know which one of you -- and anytime I mention some name, just jump in if it's more familiar to you than the other. But there was a Pan Am pilot whose wife was on the flight and he wasn't, and at some point, I remember reading in your book that he was pretty upset because he couldn't get just plain old information about where she was.
EMERSON: He couldn't get his wife's body released. His name was Bruce Smith -- who, by the way, just made the newspapers and the television in the United States this past week, or the last two weeks, because he single handedly pushed through an increase in the counterterrorist reward money that the United States now is offering to anyone for conviction or arrest of terrorists, from a half million dollars to $2 million. Single handedly, to push the US bureaucracy, from the Congress to the State Department, is no mean feat, but Bruce Smith is an unusual individual whose wife was killed and who demanded that the Brits release his wife's body and all her possessions. And because of their own legal complications and their desire to test every single body for explosive residue and to perform an autopsy, they had not released it in the first week and a half.

He finally forced them, by court order, to release -- or threat of a court order. A unique individual, but one, which I might add, who is not that unique in terms of everyone else who has responded to this tragedy. I know that I have gotten close to at least half a dozen -- particularly close to half a dozen family members, all of whom live and breathe this tragedy every day. They've lost their kids or their wives or their husbands on this every single day, they're actively involved in trying to arrange for better US airline security and forcing the US government not to forget who did this. And unfortunately, in the past couple of weeks, with the issue of hostages and the issue of the president saying goodwill begets goodwill and a possible implication that the president will forgive Iran if all the hostages come home, these families are saying, "Hey, wait a minute. There has to be some type of culpability for the downing of Pan Am 103."
LAMB: Two hundred and fifty nine killed.
EMERSON: On the plane.
LAMB: On the plane.
EMERSON: And 11 killed on the ground.
LAMB: There was another character in the book, 29 years old, worked for Pan Am -- or the Alert Management Company or whatever it was -- tell me again if I'm wrong -- who was a security agent in Frankfurt. You're describing as being a ... well, you describe him. Don't let me try.
DUFFY: Well, he was someone who a lot of people focused on. Right after the crash in Lockerbie, the FAA assigned investigators to go both to Frankfurt and to Heathrow. They worked undercover, as they always do, to examine what the security situation was there. Very quickly, this man -- I think you're referring to Ulrich Webber -- became a subject of great interest. He had hired people, according to the investigators who examined the security operations there, who had no obvious expertise in security or anything having to do with security. There were stories of, you know, just lax operations. He hired one woman who was interviewed. The investigator said he had hired her because he liked her eyes. And I think you can miss the larger question by focusing on just one individual.

The problems with the security situation in Frankfurt and in Heathrow were endemic, I think. They went beyond one individual or one group of individuals. There was a situation where there was not accountability for every piece of luggage that was going onto a plane, for the busiest airport in Europe, which the Frankfurt Main Airport is, with flights coming in from Asia, Europe, North Africa. It seems to me to be a reasonable expectation that a security system would be able to account for every bag. In fact, because it was not, the investigators assigned to the Lockerbie crash still have not been able to determine, with 100 percent accuracy, how the bag that contained the bomb was placed on board in Frankfurt Main Airport.
LAMB: If you go to Frankfurt Main Airport today and the Pan Am gates and the baggage process and all that -- is it safer?
EMERSON: Vastly improved, although the presidential commission will release information -- has released some information already showing that five months after the crash of Pan Am 103, security precautions had not changed nearly one iota at Frankfurt by Pan Am and several other air carriers. That has changed dramatically. They have taken some very serious steps toward improving air security. But I would like to add one thing. If a determined terrorist wanted to smuggle a bomb made of plastic explosive, which is odorless and not detectable to airline security devices for the main, he will be able to smuggle that onto the plane. Now this is where the intelligence agencies come in. It just so happens that in the two months prior to the bombing of Pan Am 103 the German government actually had, under surveillance and arrested, 14 members of a terrorist cell, and in their possession was a terrorist bomb -- a barometric bomb, the same type of device that blew up Pan Am 103. They let those gentlemen go. Why? It's still one of the enigmas that we're trying to unravel. We think we know why, based on what the FBI and the Scottish police have figured.
LAMB: Now they didn't let them all go, did they?
EMERSON: No. Two of them are still in jail. They are content not to talk, apparently being treated very nicely.
LAMB: Their names?
EMERSON: Hafez dal Khomoni, who is their ringleader, and Gandenfahr, who was the person who was the money man for the operation -- supplied money from the Palestinian group throughout Europe, provided bank accounts in half a dozen different cities.
LAMB: Where are those two gentlemen from?
EMERSON: Both of them originally -- well, their last place of residence was Syria, although they hobnobbed around the world. Dal Khamuni spent 10 years in an Israeli jail after being convicted of a terrorist act. Gandenfahr himself, we don't believe, was arrested, although certainly, the Israeli intelligence had known about his activities for the previous two decades.
LAMB: Now this all happened on December the 21st, 1988, and we're now in the month of May, 1990. Do you both think this investigation has been done properly -- the terrorist commission here in the United States, the Scottish government, all that -- did this thing move fast enough for you?
DUFFY: It's hard to imagine how -- the problems with the German participation notwithstanding -- it's hard for me to imagine how they could have done a better job of building the evidence. Steve made the point earlier, which is a good one, that they didn't pick a name out of a hat and say, "This guy must have did it. We suspect him"; they literally built this case piece by piece, brick by brick. We see so much in this country about police shows, about police procedure, about how detectives go about doing their job. If, you know, anyone is interested in seeing what a world class police investigation is all about, I think we document it in the book. It's building evidence, examining it, testing it and then basing your conclusions on that evidence. It's the forensic work, for example, this is space age technology. It's just beyond belief in some instances.
LAMB: This is a photograph, published in New York Times Magazine a couple weeks ago, which had an excerpt from your book. Is this Pan Am jet, as reconstructed here, somewhere still in a warehouse?
DUFFY: This is in a warehouse in the south of England. I believe it's been transferred from where they initially began the reconstruction project. This jet that is -- the skin of the fuselage has been draped over a massive metal scaffold. And they didn't do this just for show, just so a photographer could come in and take a picture and run it in the New York Times Magazine; they did it because they needed to determine scientifically where the bomb blew up in the plane. And the chief investigator in this case, John Boyd, described it to me as a massive jigsaw puzzle. They've had parts of the plane, and when they started from the nose and they built it way back to the tail. And when they had a missing section in the forward luggage hold, that's how they identified where the bomb had been placed. It's...
EMERSON: To a certain extent, that picture is a metaphor for the investigation itself ...
DUFFY: Yeah.
EMERSON: ... because they've had to reconstruct everything in this investigation: how the bombs were made; who made the bombs; how the plastic explosive was smuggled from Iran into Yugoslavia into Germany and be a diplomatic pouch; how the barometric fuses were smuggled, apparently, on Syrian Airline into Munich; how the bomb itself was taken out of dal Khomoni's apartment in Frankfurt. So all of that picture itself is really -- you multiply that picture 1,000 times and you have this investigation. They have reconstructed almost everything to do with how this plane -- the most investigated -- I think, the most investigated international terrorist crime ever done.
DUFFY: Yeah.
EMERSON: The problem right now is how to make the case stick in court.
DUFFY: Yeah. Brian, you asked earlier why we decided to take a look at this, and the other reason that we thought it was important to do this is that this is really the first time where the terrorists who we've been reading about from the Middle East for the past decade or more really reached out across oceans and murdered a group of ordinary American citizens. One of the investigators put it better than I could. He said really what you had on that plane was a microcosm of America. You had college students, businessmen; you had new immigrants to this country who had become naturalized citizens; you had rich people, poor people. And because of the strife of the Middle East, because of the -- something most of those passengers probably had little knowledge about, they were victims of a terrorist act. And the second thing is that because of a 25 minute delay at Heathrow, the plane did not explode over water, as the terrorists had hoped it would. It exploded over the village of Lockerbie. But it gave the police and the intelligence agencies an opportunity to collect evidence, to build a case against those responsible. And it is, without parallel in the history of the United States in the Western war against terrorism. This case is a hallmark case.
LAMB: In reading your acknowledgements, and correct me again if I'm wrong, but you thanked a lot of people. But I couldn't find you thanking anybody in Germany -- a German. You cited that you got most of your information on what went on in Germany through documents -- public documents or documents that somebody gave you. Why no help from German individuals?
EMERSON: We can assure you that the people who did provide us assistance would not have wanted to be named publicly. The thing about Germany was that there really was an internal police scandal. I shouldn't say police scandal, because -- we don't believe the government of Germany is culpable for what we call a screw up. We think that there was a serious problem within the intelligence services themselves and that one intelligence service basically had an informant in the terrorist cell and was lied to by that informant. That informant told the German intelligence service, `Everything's fine. You've intercepted us in October. Now let -- let us go.' And basically, the Germans let them go. The German police were -- had gotten the same information from this intelligence service. So ultimately, the German police were misled as well. Now we found that there was a lot of disagreement, disgruntlement, bitterness within Germany, to the extent that those documents surfaced to us -- was directly as a result of the bitterness that erupted within German intelligence circles. But we had to withhold any type of identification of those individuals who provided us information. Look, we didn't thank anyone in the Central Intelligence Agency as well.
LAMB: There are so many countries named, from Malta to Sweden and from Yugoslavia to Great Britain, and also Israel. And because a lot of the people involved have Iranian connections or Syrian connections or Lebanese connections, and then it goes all the way back to their feelings about Israel. Any problem with the Germans -- going all the way back to Israel -- on their feelings about Israel and -- mixed up in this?
EMERSON: No. I don't think so at all. I think there were some suspicions, initially, but I think the German government basically had this terrorist cell under surveillance for a while. They cut a deal, we believe, at quid pro quo, not in a formal deal, but rather, it was an effective arrangement, not only between Germany, but particularly German government allowed a terrorist cell to flourish on its soil, like other European governments have, in exchange for those terrorists not carrying out attacks on that soil. And that was the deal that basically allowed dal Khomoni and as many as 35 other members of the PFLPGC to reside and operate in Germany for up to a year prior to the downing of Pan Am 103.
LAMB: You said earlier that 14 of these terrorists were let go by the Germans. It was a judge that let them go. And would that have happened in our society under our judicial system?
EMERSON: That's a good question. We doubt that very much. We doubt very much that it should have happened in Germany. There was certainly enough evidence to sustain keeping those men in jail.
LAMB: Evidence from what?
EMERSON: From the allegations that surfaced from other intelligence agencies, from the files on these men.
DUFFY: What they...
LAMB: Yeah, but what had they done? In other words, what did these...
EMERSON: I'll give you one example. A man named Adnan Unas, who had lost his eye, partially disfigured his arm in several previous terrorist acts, was one of the people under surveillance. He was known to be consorting and talking and meeting secretly with dal Khomoni for up to a month prior to the arrests in October. He was immediately let go. There was no effort at all to ascertain what he was doing. They knew that his story that he provided for the police was full of contradictions. Why not hold him a little bit longer? Why the rush to get rid of him? That's the question that Americans asked immediately.
DUFFY: Simply, if you confine your the question to what the investigators in Germany had to work with and absent anything that, you know, other intelligence services might have told them, what you had when they arrested these men was a known bombmaker, a man named Marvin Kreschott, with this man, dal Khomoni, and in their car, a barometer triggered bomb. For days prior to the arrest the German police themselves had had these people under surveillance. They had documented meetings between this man Kreschott, dal Khomoni and a host of these other people who were arrested. Given the fact that they retrieved the bomb that was designed to do one thing and one thing only, which was blow up an airplane at altitude, it would seem wise to at least find out what their target was to have been, and that was not done. These people were released very, very quickly.
LAMB: And there's so much that you want to talk about, but yet, we haven't got very much time. At one point, you point out that this happened on the 21st of December, that they were planning and I'm not tracking here, but there were, like, four attempted -- they were going to try to blow up...
EMERSON: As many as four other airplanes. They had built a total of five bombs. The Germans only intercepted one in October. Believing that was the only one they the terrorists had constructed, they figured they had successfully stopped this terrorist group.
LAMB: The plan to blow them up when?
EMERSON: Well, we don't know for sure, and with the information we received, we could not ascertain what the hard evidence was. The investigators believe that one of the target dates may have been the American Election Day in November. And certainly, that plan was disrupted by the German arrests. So we have to give credit where credit's due. The thing is, those four other bombs -- or, rather, three other bombs, since one blew up Pan Am 103; one was intercepted -- there were three others staying in Germany for up to four months. Repeatedly, from January through April, the American FBI and other intelligence agencies demanded that the Germans search certain apartments for those missing bombs. And the Germans kept saying, "No. They're not here. We've looked. We don't believe there are any more bombs." Finally, April 14th, they found three other bombs. Tragically, as they tried to remove one of those bombs, it exploded prematurely, killing a German technician.
LAMB: Chapter 18. "There is virtually no disagreement among investigators or intelligence officials involved in the Lockerbie inquiry that Ahmed Jabril's organization was responsible for the bomb that blew up 103." Who is Ahmed Jabril? Mr.
DUFFY: He is the leader of a radical Palestinian group in the Middle East called The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command. They have a fairly simple agenda: They would like the Middle East map to be redrawn without Israel there. They carried out this bombing, the investigators believed, at the behest of the Iranian government. You recall, we all do, July of 1988 -- the United States warship in the Persian Gulf was under attack by Iranian gunboats. It detected on its radar screens what it identified as a hostile attacking aircraft from Iran. In fact, that was not so; it was a commercial airliner from Iran. It blew up the commercial airliner and 290 people died. Elements of the Iranian political leadership believed and still believe, evidently, that that was done deliberately. It was not; in fact, it was a tragic mistake. And the United States has offered to make reparations for that. That notwithstanding, the Iranians commissioned this man, Zhabril, to go after an American aircraft and blow it up as a means of retaliation, and that is the underlying story of Pan Am Flight 103.
LAMB: Where is Zhabril today?
EMERSON: He's in Damascus.
LAMB: Have you ever met him?
EMERSON: Never met him, and we've actually tried.
DUFFY: We've tried repeatedly to reach him and to communicate with him by phone. If you can believe this, he has a fax machine. You can send a fax to him, request a meeting. But we were unlucky in ever arranging such a meeting. But we would and would still like to talk about what was done here.
LAMB: You...
EMERSON: So would American FBI investigators.
LAMB: Did I read that you said that he's told people that he was born in Jaffa, right outside of Tel Aviv?
EMERSON: Exactly.
LAMB: But there's no proof of that?
EMERSON: There's no proof of that, but he has repeatedly told the Israelis that he has probably been one of the most wily and irritating adversaries to the Israelis, not only for the carnage, but for the fact that he has been able to tweak the Israeli psyche. In 1985, he single handedly was able to get the Israelis to release 1,000 terrorists in exchange for three Israeli soldiers being held captive by his group. He is a very good card player. The fact of the matter is, however, he's a terrorist; he's protected by the Syrian government and the United States, in our opinion, has a responsibility to hold Syria -- not just Iran, but Syria also, accountable for the actions of its denizens.
LAMB: Zhabril is in Damascus. How big is his organization and where does he get his money?
EMERSON: Organization -- correct me if I'm wrong, Brian -- is about 800 or so.
DUFFY: It's not that large. It's not that large. It has gotten money in the past from Libya. Zhabril supported Libya's war against Chad. When that war was ended, that source of income for Zhabril dried up. Intelligence services here believe, I think, that he was making roughly on the order of $20 million a year from Libya. That ended. He was out $20 million a year. He was also increasingly unsure about his base of support in Damascus. You recall, Abu Nidal was exiled from Damascus after repeated US pressure and sent to Libya. Zhabril had no reason to think that might not happen to him. All of that goes into his reasoning to solicit this new client -- that being the government of Iran -- and to carry out a terrorist act on its behalf. So money and support was what he was looking for.
LAMB: Mm. Zhabril's relationship with Yasir Arafat?
EMERSON: Very, very adversarial. There have been contracts out on Arafat's life by Zhabril.
DUFFY: Zhabril has offered publicly to murder Yasir Arafat, as I recall.
LAMB: When was the last time Zhabril was seen in public?
EMERSON: Zhabril actually gave some television interviews in the last eight months and heatedly denied that he was involved in trying to blow up Pan Am 103. He claimed that he bombs -- the barometric bombs found in his people's possession in Germany were aimed for Israel and they were going to be transported to an Israeli mountain, where they would blow up an Israeli installation. It was such a patently absurd explanation. It's clear he has felt the heat. The Syrian government has felt the heat. Now I don't know what's going to happen. I think the Syrians, to a certain extent, are trying to engender goodwill by facilitating the release of American hostages.
LAMB: What drives people like Ahmed Jabril and dal Khomoni, and was it Gandenfahr, who is in -- both of those gentlemen in German prisons. What's driving them?
EMERSON: I think, to a certain extent, what drives the leader, Ahmed Jabril, is a certain amount of demand for respect. Here is a guy who clearly has been involved in other terrorist groups. In each other terrorist group, he's basically left or kicked out the number two guy because he can't play second banana to anybody. He wants to be taken seriously. I remember being told by an Israeli intelligence officer that on the morning that they were supposed to exchange 1,000 terrorists for the three Israelis, there was a radio report in Israeli in which a criticism was made of Zhabril. It was a report in Israel -- not in Damascus, but in Israel. Apparently Zhabril heard it and threatened to hold up the entire release because he was so offended by the criticism. So here's a man that, for all his acts of carnage and genocide and murder, is still acutely aware and sensitive to criticism.
LAMB: You know, we know when terrorists are successful -- witness the Pan Am 103. How often are they not successful because of security measures? Do you know?
DUFFY: I think they're not successful more often than we think. I don't think we can ever say precisely, but basically, I think the intelligence agencies do a pretty good job of tracking the activities of these people. I think the international police cooperation is very good. There have been a number of arrests, some by the American FBI, some by law enforcement overseas. It's hard to say how often they're not successful, but it's not shooting fish in a barrel, by any means. There are security problems, which we've gone into, and they're real and they make the terrorists' job easier. But it's not a given that if they decide today to blow up an airliner tomorrow that they will be successful. There are people out there whose job it is to prevent that, and I think they do a pretty good job.
LAMB: One of your reviews said that anyone who's traveling or in an airport doesn't want to pick this book up and read it before they get on an airplane. What was your reaction to that?
EMERSON: I think there's a little bit of daunting material in this book, although I was told that up in New York and Newark Airport, one of the biggest purchasers of the book are the pilots of several airlines. So apparently, they want to read about it and they're the ones flying. I think it's important to know what you're up against, and I think that's why it's of interest to airline readers.
LAMB: Are you surprised, Brian Duffy, that this is a best seller?
DUFFY: I'm not surprised. I think it's complicated in terms of the story. You mentioned Malta, Sweden, different police agencies, different intelligence agencies. Basically, though, you can break down the story of Flight 103 into two halves. One is a world class police investigation -- just gathering evidence, just gumshoe work and, you know, high tech forensic detectives doing their job. The other half of it, as we've been discussing, is the intelligence side of things. You know, lots of Americans love espionage fiction. Well, this is the real thing. This is the story of informants in a terrorist group working in the heart of Europe, an intelligence service making the wrong guess and then getting into trouble the way people always get into trouble. Watergate was the story of a president who covered up. The Germans covered up and they got into trouble. If you think of it in terms of those two things, the police work on the one hand, which is magnificent, and the intelligence counteropposition among the various groups, I think you get a pretty good fix of what the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing is all about.
LAMB: From what you know about the American commission on terrorism that's studying this problem and what they're about to release, what is your reaction to the effort they've made?
EMERSON: I think they've made a good effort in terms of airline security; not a strong enough effort in terms of intelligence issues. I think that is where, clearly, we have decided that that is not a technical problem. You can put in thermal TNA detectors to detect plastic explosives. You could have better inspection systems. What you can't do, unless you're willing to do it by fiat, is to improve the sharing of information and intelligence by intelligence services. That, to my mind, is the failure that led to the blowing up of Pan Am 103. Had the Germans been more forthcoming about what they had uncovered and, perhaps, shared their information and then we could have looked at some of it -- not just us, but other intelligence services -- maybe we could have said, "Hey, you're missing something here. Don't let these guys go and don't think you've caught all of the bombs."
LAMB: Someone who is aware of the terrorism report and aware of your book suggested to me in a private conversation that the difference between the two is that you all dealt with the intelligence and the CIA situation and they didn't. Do you agree with that? And if that's the case, why didn't they deal with it?
EMERSON: Their mandate was not really to deal -- I mean, they had a funny mandate. Their mandate wasn't just a Pan Am commission, but it was a presidential commission on aviation security and terrorism. Now aviation security is purely a technical issue. Aviation security and terrorism has to deal with intelligence. And yet, they felt they were not under a mandate to do that. Having said that, they had to get involved with that. There's no way of avoiding that. And so I think they went in halfway. It provoked a lot of internal dissent. I think your viewers will be hearing about that this week. I think there's going to be a lot of controversy surrounding that report.
LAMB: The Federal Aviation authority is supposed to come in for some strong criticism. Why?
DUFFY: Well, I think -- I'm not so sure exactly what the conclusions of the commission will be, but the FAA may come in for criticism, perhaps, for failing to keep these airlines up to standard and monitor. They have standards which are very specific, in terms of what airlines and their security companies ought to be doing. If, in fact, Pan Am was operating for long periods of time -- or another airline was operated for long periods of time outside of those guidelines, I think they're fair game to be criticized. I don't know precisely what they found, but if that's what they found, I think they're due for some criticism.
LAMB: At what point in writing this book and doing the research did one or the other of you call and say, "You aren't going to believe what I just found"?
EMERSON: I think numerous times.
LAMB: What was the most exciting thing that you found, if you can remember it? Mr.
EMERSON: For me personally, it was the discovery that the United States had a back channel toward the informant that the Germans had used -- the informant who fled Germany and then went to Jordan. That, to me, was the largest, most startling discovery: that we were not getting our information only from the Israelis or only from the Germans; that, in fact, we had a back channel directly to this informant who, in turn, turned out to have provided false information to the Germans. And that, in turn, we believe, led to the downing of Pan Am 103.
LAMB: How about you, Brian? Can you remember a moment when Steve called?
DUFFY: There were a few. There were a few. And maybe it's the old police reporter in me, but I remember being astonished, when you think of the evidence and wreckage they had to sift through that they could, in a matter of months, have an investigator standing in a specific clothing store on the island of Malta and getting a detailed description of the man who had purchased a grab bag assortment of clothes several months before that and having that lead them to Sweden. That following that chain of evidences -- it's a good detective's dream come true. But it only happened because there were good detectives involved in this and they never gave up. It was the sheer doggedness that led them to where they are to this date which we both believe is very close to eventual indictment, is still astonishing to me. It boggles the mind.
LAMB: If there is an indictment, where would it come?
DUFFY: Well, that's a matter of some discussion. The Scots have legal authority to indict, but as one of the Scottish investigators put it to me, "We don't need to cross that bridge yet. Let's just build the case and see what happens." They fully recognized that this was an American aircraft. Most of those who were murdered were Americans and they appreciate that fact. My own bet would be that it would be tried in this country and in the district of Washington, DC, in the federal courts here.
LAMB: There were two people that talked to you a lot, and you credit them, John Boyd and Buck Revell. Is that the way you pronounce ...
EMERSON: Buck Revell, right.
LAMB: Who knows the most about John Boyd?
DUFFY: I guess I do. John Boyd ...
LAMB: Tell us about him.
DUFFY: John Boyd is a very unusual individual. He does not like to appear in public. He does not like to speak in public. He has been a police officer his entire life. He's not in a field where there are a lot of glad handers and camera hogs and showboats. He's just a good policeman. And what he did in this case is, he determined that there would be no obstacle put in his way that would prevent him from going forward with this investigation. He's an unusual man in that he doesn't like the publicity. He probably would not appreciate me or us giving him all this credit. But he is an honorable man and he has done an amazing piece of work in this investigation.
LAMB: In this picture in the New York Times Magazine, he's in the uniform here?
LAMB: Tell us more about him. Where is he from and how did he get involved?
DUFFY: He was, the night that the plane went down, in Lockerbie. As he described it to me, he was standing in his kitchen, somewhat precariously on a chair, attempting to hang wallpaper. He had just been promoted a few days before to a higher job as -- the title is Her Majesty's Inspector of Police, which is a very important police position in the United Kingdom. And he was preparing, eventually, to move from the little village near Lockerbie, where he lived, to Edinburgh, where he was to take up his new job. He heard a television announcer from the TV, which was on in the next room, say that a jumbo jet had crashed in the village of Lockerbie, and he said to himself in his inimitable Scottish accent, "My God, that's wrong. That can't be true." And then, about a minute later, his local police desk sergeant had called in and said, "Yeah. It's true." So he raced the 14 miles from his house to Lockerbie and, within minutes, had begun summoning, literally, the Scottish police have that authority under British law, summoning the army, the navy, whoever, you know -- getting whatever help he could. And he had Royal Air Force morticians on the way -- literally thousands of people moving within an hour, and he was the point man on this.
LAMB: When you read that first couple chapters, you keep asking, "Who in the world was in charge and how did they keep it together at that time, during those moments right after the crash?" Who was in charge?
DUFFY: John Boyd was in charge. John Boyd had...
LAMB: Who determined that he was in charge?
DUFFY: Well, as the chief constable in this little district, which was called Dumfries and Galloway, there was no real question of who was in charge. The FBI legal attache in London was -- he raced back from a restaurant to the embassy in Grosvenor Square and he said, "My God! Who should I call? We need to offer assistance and get this investigation under way."
LAMB: You're talking about our embassy in London?
DUFFY: Our embassy in London. And he telephoned up -- he thought it was in one police jurisdiction, but even he had no question. Whoever's jurisdiction the plane landed in, that was who was going to be in charge. But that notwithstanding, John Boyd and the FBI worked so well together that there was no question of, "I'm the boss. You're the boss." He appreciated every bit of amazing help and support that the FBI gave him.
EMERSON: There were five Scottish police stationed here in Washington for most of the investigation and we had people stationed there. So, I mean, it was really an intertwined investigation.
LAMB: Who's Oliver "Buck" Revell?
EMERSON: Oliver "Buck" Revell is -- I guess if you had to compare him to a movie actor, he would be a Gene Hackman type. He gets the job done. He believes in his cause. He cuts the corners sometimes. He riffles some of the wrong feathers sometimes. But he's a very, very dedicated long term FBI veteran, been there over 25 years, in charge of this investigation and all counterterrorist investigations.
LAMB: Where was he the night of the explosion?
EMERSON: He was in his office watching another competitor, Cable News Network, when the report of the downing came over. He didn't know what it was, but he said 747s just don't disappear out of thin air. He knew, at that point, that -- even in the absence of any type of evidence, that it must have been some type of bomb.
LAMB: Speaking of CNN, you mention them a lot in the early part of this book. Why? I mean, what role did they play in this?
DUFFY: They didn't really play that much of a role. Ollie North used to joke that CNN is faster than NSA, the National Security Agency up at Ft. Meade that listens in to electronic communications around the world. I think it's just the age in which we live. Something happens and, minutes later there's a TV image and there's a live report with the sketchiest of information.
EMERSON: It doesn't have to go through four or five channels. In other words, the first reports on the crash of Pan Am 103 took four or five hours to get back to Washington. It came through CNN in a matter of minutes. So here we have the age of instant communication, instant media, and that's why we mentioned it. I mean, it's an all news network.
LAMB: Do either one of you intend to follow up on this in any way? Is there a second book or another major article? And is there more to talk about?
EMERSON: I think both of us are very committed to this cause. First of all, we've gotten very attached to the families. I personally believe -- and I know reporters aren't supposed to have personal beliefs -- that the government can't just wipe the slate clean. The US government ought not wipe the slate clean with Iran and Syria, even if all the hostages come home. There has to be accountability.
LAMB: You suggested that there was a possibility that on Election Day, 1988, there were going to be four or five of these attempted blow ups of airplanes. How come we haven't seen anything like this since December 21st, 1988?
DUFFY: I think someone put it very well in one of the reviews we've had, which is, when a bomb blows up an airliner somewhere, the terrorist problem just begins. And I think that's what we're seeing with this investigation. They had hoped that this airliner would have gone down over the ocean. There would have been no -- we've all heard and know of other airliners that have been blown up -- the Air India jet, for example. There would have been an attempt, but probably no likely successful attempt to gather evidence and to build the kind of case that had been built here. The quality of Ahmed Jabril's statements from the Middle East indicates that he's sweating this one. President Assad in Syria has indicated that if there's credible evidence, he will take appropriate measures against Zhabril. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen. I think I can speak for what I know of the evidence, and the evidence is credible and it's overwhelming. And as Steve put it, I think, you can't wipe the slate clean. Two hundred and seventy people were murdered and those governments and, certainly, those people who are responsible ought to be brought to justice, if that can be done. But those governments that supported them ought to be brought to task as well.
LAMB: How often did you go to Lockerbie?
DUFFY: I was in Lockerbie on three different occasions, and we had a researcher living there for close onto two months. It was terrific.
LAMB: What's the residual impact on that community today?
DUFFY: They're rebuilding. I don't think the village will ever be the same. It's a small village of about 3,000 people. The trauma can't really be described in terms of what they experienced. Eleven people in Lockerbie just disappeared in the fireball when the jet crashed. They're changed for the good in some ways, I think, in that it's a closely knit village. They have come together in a way that is really pretty extraordinary. And they're also not just wallowing in the grief of what happened to their friends, neighbors and family members. They're assisting in a very active way with the families of the victims who come to Lockerbie. And I have nothing but the greatest admiration for them.
LAMB: What about our residual relationship with the Germans?
EMERSON: We've had some problems, and I think that the disruption and the feelings of enmity over the charges of cover up and obstruction of justice which were leveled against the Germans by some FBI officials and other intelligence officials have resulted in serious bitterness. Now I don't think that's disrupted our relationship, entirely, but I think there has been a problem that has to be ameliorated before the battle on terrorism really will win out in the West.
LAMB: This is what the book looks like. It's in your bookstores and on the best seller list, "The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation," by Steve Emerson and Brian Duffy, our guests for the last 60 minutes. Thank you both.
DUFFY: Thank you.
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