COVER STORIES: PAN AM 103 WHY DID THEY DIE?
Washington says Libya sabotaged the plane. Provocative
evidence suggests that a Syrian drug dealer may have helped plant the bomb
-- and the real targets we
Reactions to this TIME article 1992
''FOR THREE YEARS, I've had a feeling that if Chuck
hadn't been on that plane, it wouldn't have been bombed,'' says Beulah
McKee, 75. Her bitterness has still not subsided. But seated in the
parlor of her house in Trafford, Pennsylvania, the house where her son
was born 43 years ago, she struggles to speak serenely. ''I know that's
not what our President wants me to say,'' she admits.
George Bush's letter of condolence, written almost four months
after the shattered remains of Pan Am Flight 103 fell on Lockerbie, Scotland,
on Dec. 21, 1988, expressed the usual ''my heart goes out to you'' sorrow.
''No action by this government can restore the loss you have suffered,''
he concluded. But deep inside, Mrs. McKee suspects it was a government
action gone horribly awry that indirectly led to her only son's death.
''I've never been satisfied at ( all by what the people in Washington
told me,'' she says.
as the U.S. spearheads the U.N.-sanctioned embargo against Libya for not
handing over two suspects in the bombing, Mrs. McKee wonders if Chuck's
background contains the secret of why this plane was targeted. If her suspicions
are correct, Washington may not be telling the entire story. Major Charles
Dennis McKee, called ''Tiny'' by his Army intelligence friends, was a burly
giant and a superstar in just about every kind of commando training offered
to American military personnel. He completed the rugged Airborne and Ranger
schools, graduated first in his class from the Special Forces qualification
course, and served with the Green Berets. In Beirut he was identified merely
as a military attache assigned to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency
(DIA). But his hulking physique didn't fit such a low- profile diplomatic
post. Friends there remember him as a ''walking arsenal'' of guns and knives.
His real assignment reportedly was to work with the CIA in reconnoitering
the American hostages in Lebanon and then, if feasible, to lead a daring
raid that would rescue them.
McKee's thick, 37-page Army dossier contains so many blacked-out
words that it's hard to glean the danger he faced. Surviving the censor's
ink was his title, ''Team Chief.'' Under ''Evaluation,'' it was written
that he ''performs constantly in the highest-stress environment with
clear operational judgment and demeanor . . . Especially strong in accomplishing
the mission with minimal guidance and supervision . . . Continues to perform
one of the most hazardous and demanding jobs in the Army.''
For Beulah McKee the mystery deepened six months after Chuck's
death, when she received a letter from another U.S. agent in Beirut. It
was signed ''John Carpenter,'' a name the Pentagon says it can't further
identify. Although the letter claimed that Chuck's presence on the Pan
Am plane was unrelated to the bombing, Carpenter's message only stirred
her suspicions. ''I cannot comment on Chuck's work,'' he wrote,
''because his work lives on. God willing, in time his labors will bear
fruit and you will learn the true story of his heroism and courage.''
Chuck had given no clues about his work. Back home in November
for Thanksgiving three weeks before he perished, he wouldn't even see his
friends. ''I don't want to mingle, so I don't have to answer any questions,''
he told his mother. ''Anyway, he didn't have time,'' she recalls.
''He stayed up till 3 every morning studying reports. And when
he flew back to Beirut, all he said was, 'Don't worry, Mom. Soon I'll be
out from under all this pressure.' ''
Almost immediately after the Pan Am bombing, which killed the
259 people aboard the plane and 11 more on the ground, the prime suspect
was Ahmed Jibril, the roly-poly boss of the Popular Front for the Liberation
of Palestine-General Command (P.F.L.P.-G.C.). Two months earlier, West
German police had arrested 16 members of his terrorist organization. Seized
during the raids was a plastic bomb concealed in a Toshiba cassette player,
similar to the one that blew up Flight 103. There was other evidence pointing
to Jibril. His patron was Syria. His banker for the attack on the Pan Am
plane appeared to be Iran. U.S. intelligence agents even traced a wire
transfer of several million dollars to a bank account in Vienna belonging
to the P.F.L.P.-G.C. Iran's motive seemed obvious enough. The previous
July, the U.S.S. Vincennes had mistakenly shot down an Iranian Airbus over
the Persian Gulf, killing all 298 aboard.
Suddenly, last November, the U.S. Justice Department blamed
the bombing on two Libyans, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa
Fhimah. The scenario prompted President Bush to remark, ''The Syrians
took a bum rap on this.'' It also triggered an outcry from the victims'
families, who claimed that pointing the finger at Libya was a political
ploy designed to reward Syria for siding with the U.S. in the gulf war
and to help win the release of the hostages. Even Vincent Cannistraro,
former head of the CIA's investigation of the bombing, told the New York
Times it was ''outrageous'' to pin the whole thing on Libyan leader Muammar
A four-month investigation by Time has disclosed evidence that
raises new questions about the case. Among the discoveries:
* -- According to an FBI field report from Germany, the suitcase
originating in Malta that supposedly contained the bomb may not have been
transferred to Pan Am Flight 103 in Frankfurt, as charged in the indictment
of the two Libyans. Instead, the bomb-laden bag may have been substituted
in Frankfurt for an innocent piece of luggage.
* -- The rogue bag may have been placed on board the plane by Jibril's
group with the help of Monzer al-Kassar, a Syrian drug dealer who was cooperating
with the U.S.'s Drug Enforcement Administration in a drug sting operation.
Al- Kassar thus may have been playing both sides of the fence.
* -- Jibril and his group may have targeted that flight because
on board was an intelligence team led by Charles McKee, whose job was to
find and rescue the hostages.
Investigators initially focused their efforts on examining the
procedures in the baggage-loading area at Frankfurt's international
airport. But risking the transfer of an unaccompanied, bomb-laden suitcase
to a connecting flight did not jibe with the precautions terrorists usually
take. Security officers using video cameras routinely keep watch over the
area. An intricate network of computerized conveyors, the most sophisticated
baggage-transfer system in the world, shunts some 60,000 suitcases a day
between loading bays. Every piece of luggage is logged minute by minute
from one position to the next, so its journey through the airport is carefully
monitored. The bags are then X-rayed by the airline before being put aboard
But the U.S. government's charges against al-Megrahi and Fhimah
don't explain how the bronze-colored Samsonite suitcase, dispatched via
Air Malta, eluded Frankfurt's elaborate airport security system.
Instead, the indictment zeroes in on two tiny pieces of forensic evidence
-- a fingernail-size fragment of green plastic from a Swiss digital timer,
and a charred piece of shirt.
Even though investigators previously thought the bomb was probably
detonated by a barometric trigger (considered much more reliable, especially
in winter, when flights are frequently delayed and connections missed),
a Swiss timer was traced to Libya. The shirt, which presumably had been
wrapped around the bomb inside the suitcase, was traced to a boutique in
Malta called Mary's House. The owner identified al-Megrahi as the shirt's
purchaser, although he originally confused al-Megrahi with a Palestinian
terrorist arrested in Sweden.
It was the computer printout produced by FAG, the German company
that operates the sophisticated luggage-transfer system, that finally nailed
down the indictment of the two Libyans. The printout, discovered months
after the bombing, purportedly proved that their suitcase sent from Malta
was logged in at Coding Station 206 shortly after 1 p.m. and then routed
to Gate 44 in Terminal B, where it was put aboard the Pan Am jet. But a
''priority'' teletype sent from the U.S. embassy in Bonn to the FBI director
in Washington on Oct. 23, 1989, reveals that despite the detailed computer
records, considerable uncertainty surrounded the movement of this suitcase.
TIME has obtained a copy of the five-page FBI message, which
states, ''This computer entry does not indicate the origin of the bag
which was sent for loading on board Pan Am 103. Nor does it indicate that
the bag was actually loaded on Pan Am 103. It indicates only that a bag
of unknown origin was sent from Coding Station 206 at 1:07 p.m. to
a position from which it was supposed to be loaded on Pan Am 103.''
The FBI message further explains that a handwritten record kept
by a baggage handler at Coding Station 206 was even less specific about
what happened to the suitcase. ''It is noted,'' the teletype continues,
''that the handwritten duty sheet indicates only that the luggage was unloaded
from Air Malta 180. There is no indication how much baggage was unloaded
or where the luggage was sent.'' The FBI agent's report concludes,
''There remains the possibility that no
luggage was transferred from Air Malta 180 to Pan Am 103.''
Also described in the teletype is an incident that ''may provide
insight into the possibilities of a rogue bag being inserted into the baggage
system.'' On a guided tour of the baggage area in September 1989, it
was disclosed, detective inspector Watson McAteer of the Scottish police
and FBI special agent Lawrence G. Whitaker ''observed an individual
approach Coding Station 206 with a single piece of luggage, place the luggage
in a luggage container, encode a destination into the computer and leave
without making any notation on a duty sheet.'' This convinced the two
investigators that a rogue
suitcase could have been ''sent to Pan Am 103 either before or after
the unloading of Air Malta 180.''
Lee Kreindler, the lead attorney for the victims' families, who
are suing Pan Am for $7 billion, says he can prove that the suitcase from
Malta was put aboard Flight 103. He charges that a gross security failure
by Pan Am, which went bankrupt in January 1991 and later folded,
contributed to the disaster.
But it was the rogue-bag theory that was pursued by Pan Am's
law firm, Windels, Marx, Davies & Ives, representing the airline's
insurers. To piece together their version of how the bomb was planted,
Pan Am's lawyers hired Interfor, Inc., a New York City firm specializing
in international intelligence and security. If it hadn't been for the government's
implausible plottings revealed during the Iran-contra hearings, Interfor's
findings might be dismissed as a private eye's imagination run amuck --
especially considering the controversial background of the company's
president, Juval Aviv.
Now 45 and an American citizen, Aviv claims to have headed the
Mossad hit squad that hunted down and killed the Arab terrorists who murdered
11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Israeli and U.S. intelligence
sources deny that Aviv was ever associated with Mossad. However,
working for Pan Am, he spent more than six months tracking the terrorists
who the airline now alleges are responsible for the bombing. While his
report has been written off as fiction by many intelligence officials,
a number of its findings appear well documented.
The central figure emerging from the Interfor investigation
is a 44-year-old Syrian arms and drug trafficker, Monzer al-Kassar. His
brother-in-law is Syria's intelligence chief, Ali Issa Duba, and his wife
Raghda is related to Syrian President Hafez Assad.
Al-Kassar has many passports and identities. Most important,
he was part of the covert network run by U.S. Lieut. Colonel Oliver North.
During the Iran- contra hearings, it was revealed that al-Kassar was given
$1.5 million to purchase weapons. Questioned about al-Kassar, former
U.S. National Security Adviser John Poindexter said, ''When you're buying
arms, you often have to deal with people you might not want to go to dinner
It was through al-Kassar's efforts, or so he claimed, that two
French hostages were released from Lebanon in 1986 in exchange for an arms
shipment to Iran. The deal caught the eye of a freewheeling CIA unit code-named
COREA, based in Wiesbaden, Germany. This special unit was reported to be
trafficking in drugs and arms in order to gain access to terrorist groups.
For its cover overseas, COREA used various front companies:
Stevens Mantra Corp., AMA Industries, Wildwood Video and Condor Television
Ltd. Condor paid its bills with checks drawn on the First American Bank
(account No. 2843900) in Washington, D.C., which was subsequently discovered
to be a subsidiary of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
According to Aviv, agents in COREA's Wiesbaden headquarters
allowed al- Kassar to continue running his smuggling routes to American
cities in exchange for help in obtaining the release of the American hostages
being held in Lebanon. At about the same time, al-Kassar's drug-smuggling
enterprise was being used by the U.S.'s DEA in a sting operation. The DEA
was monitoring heroin shipments from Lebanon to Detroit, Los Angeles and
Houston, which have large Arab populations, in an attempt to
nail the U.S. dealers.
By the fall of 1988, al-Kassar's operation had been spotted
by P.F.L.P.-G.C. leader Ahmed Jibril, who had just taken on the
assignment from Tehran to avenge the U.S. downing of its Airbus. A CIA
undercover agent in Tripoli reported that Jibril also obtained Gaddafi's
support. According to Mossad, Jibril dined with al-Kassar at a Paris restaurant
and secured a reluctant promise of assistance in planting a bomb aboard
an as yet unselected American transatlantic jet.
Al-Kassar's hesitancy was understandable. He wouldn't want anything
to disrupt his profitable CIA-assisted drug and arms
business. Presumably he was also worried because West German police had
just raided the Popular Front hideouts around Dusseldorf and Frankfurt.
Among those arrested: the Jordanian technical wizard and bombmaker Marwan
The bomb that ended up on the Pan Am jet could have been assembled
by Khreesat. However, last month the Palestine Liberation Organization
reported that it was built by Khaisar Haddad (a.k.a. Abu Elias), who is
also a member of Jibril's Popular Front. Haddad purchased the detonator,
the P.L.O. said, on the Beirut black market for more than $60,000.
The detonator, in fact, is considered one of the main keys to
the bombing puzzle. Thomas Hayes, a leading forensics expert, did the main
detective work on a minute piece of timer recovered from the wreckage by
Scottish authorities. In a recent book about the Lockerbie investigation,
On the Trail of Terror, British journalist David Leppard reports that ''Hayes
is not prepared to commit himself publicly on whether the bomb that blew
up Pan Am 103 was originally made by Khreesat and subsequently modified
by timers of the sort found in possession of the Libyans.'' In fact,
adds Leppard, ''his authoritative view is that not enough of the bomb's
timing device has been recovered to make a definite judgment about whether
it was a dual device containing a barometric switch and a timer, or a single
trigger device, which was activated by just a timer.''
James M. Shaughnessy, Pan Am's lead defense lawyer, has tried
to drive a wedge into this opening left by Hayes, thereby casting further
doubt on Libya's responsibility for the bombing. Britain's High Court ruled
that Pan Am's lawyers could depose Hayes. However, in a last-minute legal
maneuver by the Scottish authorities, the deposition was blocked for reasons
of national security. Pan Am's lawyers are now appealing that
But regardless of the bomb's design, al-Kassar still didn't know
how and when Jibril planned to use it. A Mossad agent, according to Aviv,
first tipped off U.S. and West German intelligence agents that a terrorist
attack would be made on an American passenger plane departing from Frankfurt
on or about Dec. 18. Al-Kassar quickly figured out that Pan Am Flight 103
was the most likely target and, playing both sides of the fence, notified
the COREA unit. His warning corroborated an earlier bomb threat, involving
an unspecified Pan Am flight from Frankfurt, telephoned to the U.S. embassy
Precisely how a rogue bag containing the bomb eluded the Frankfurt
airport security system, Aviv doesn't know. Presumably this required the
help of baggage handlers there. So in January 1990 he and a former U.S.
Army polygraphist flew to Frankfurt, accompanied by Shaughnessy. At the
Sheraton Conference Center, adjoining the airport, the polygraphist administered
lie- detector tests to Pan Am baggage handlers Kilin Caslan Tuzcu and Roland
O'Neill. Pan Am had determined that they were the only ones who were in
a position to switch suitcases and place the bomb-laden bag aboard Flight
Tuzcu took the test three times, and O'Neill took it twice.
As the polygraphist later testified before a federal grand jury in
Washington, Tuzcu ''was not truthful when he said he did not switch
the suitcases.'' The polygraphist also told the grand jury, ''It
is my opinion that Roland O'Neill wasn't truthful when he stated he did
not see the suitcase being switched, and when he stated that he did not
know what was in the switched suitcase.'' The two men continued to
claim ignorance of a baggage switch.
After flunking their lie-detector tests, both were sent on a
bogus errand by Pan Am to London, where it was assumed they would be arrested.
But British authorities refused to even interrogate the pair. According
to Leppard, Tuzcu and O'Neill were simply "scapegoats'' and were never
''considered serious suspects.'' They returned to Frankfurt that same night.
If the bomb-laden luggage replaced an innocent bag, what happened
to the displaced suitcase? On Dec. 21, 1988, the day of the bombing, one
of Pan Am's Berlin-based pilots was about to head home to Seattle, Washington,
for Christmas when he received orders to fly to Karachi first. He had with
him two identical Samsonite suitcases full of presents. At the Berlin airport,
he $ asked Pan Am to send them directly to Seattle. ''Rush'' tags, marked
for Flights 637 to Frankfurt, 107 to London and 123 to Seattle, were affixed
to the bags.
It so happened that the flight from Berlin to Frankfurt wasdelayed.
While all the passengers ultimately made the connection to
London, 11 suitcases, including the pilot's two bags, remained behind in
Frankfurt. They were entered into the airport computer system and rerouted
via the Pan Am flight. But only one of the pilot's suitcases was recovered
at Lockerbie. The other had been mysteriously left behind in Frankfurt,
and arrived safely in Seattle a day later. That story, which TIME has corroborated,
doesn't prove Pan Am's claim that terrorists used al-Kassar's drug pipeline
to pull a suitcase switch in Frankfurt. But it does support the theory
that a rogue bag was inserted into the automated baggage-control system,
as the secret FBI report indicates was possible.
TO GATHER FURTHER EVIDENCE that the bomb was not contained in an unaccompanied
bag from Malta, Pan Am lawyer Shaughnessy recently interviewed under oath
20 officials who were in Malta on Dec. 21, 1988, including the airport
security commander, the bomb-disposal engineer who inspected all the baggage,
the general manager of ground operations of Air Malta, the head loader
of Flight 180 and the three check-in agents. Their records showed that
no unaccompanied suitcases were put aboard the flight, and some of the
staff Shaughnessy interviewed are prepared to testify under oath that there
was no bag that day destined for Pan Am Flight 103.
Although Shaughnessy subpoenaed the FBI, CIA, DEA and four other government
agencies for all documents pertaining to both the bombing of Flight 103
and the narcotics sting operation, he has been repeatedly rebuffed by the
Justice Department for reasons of national security. Even so, with the
help of investigators hired after Aviv, he has managed to obtain some of
the documents needed to defend Pan Am's insurers in the trial scheduled
to begin April 27 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of
The stakes are enormous, and the incentive is high for Shaughnessy
to demonstrate the government's responsibility for the bombing. In addition
to defending against the compensation claims of $7 billion, he is bringing
a claim against the government for failing to give warning that Pan Am
had been targeted by the terrorists. The man who has been Shaughnessy's
key witness in these proceedings is hiding in fear of his life in a small
town in Europe.
His real name is Lester Knox Coleman III, although as a former spy
for the dia and DEA he was known as Thomas Leavy and by the code name Benjamin
A year ago, the stockily built, bearded Coleman filed an affidavit
describing the narcotics sting operation that Shaughnessy claims was infiltrated
by Jibril. It wasn't until July 1990, when Coleman spotted a newspaper
picture of one of the Pan Am victims and recognized the young Lebanese
as one of his drug- running informants, that he realized he might be of
assistance to Pan Am. He was also looking for work. Two months earlier
he had been deactivated by the DIA after being arrested by the FBI for
using his DIA cover name, Thomas Leavy, on a passport application. Coleman
claims that the DIA instructed him to do this. ''But such trumped-up
charges are frequently used to keep spooks quiet,'' says A. Ernest
Fitzgerald, a Pentagon whistle-blower and a director of the Fund for Constitutional
Government in Washington, which has been looking into Coleman's case. Coleman
spent three days in jail. His official pretrial services report, filed
with the U.S. District Court of Illinois for the Northern District, began,
''Although Mr. Coleman's employment history sounds quite improbable,
information he gave has proven to be true.''
Raised in Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia, Coleman, now 48, was
recruited by the dia and assigned to the still classified humint (Human
Intelligence) MC-10 operation in the Middle East. In early 1987 he was
transferred from Lebanon to Cyprus, where he began his work for the DEA.
However, he says he was instructed not to inform the DEA there of his role
as a DIA undercover agent. By this time even the DIA suspected that the
freewheeling narcotics sting operation was getting out of hand. In Nicosia,
Coleman saw the supposedly controlled shipments of heroin, called kourah
in Lebanon -- inspiration for the CIA operation's code name COREA -- grow
into a torrent.
The drugs were delivered by couriers who arrived on the overnight ferry
from the Lebanese port of Jounieh. After receiving their travel orders
from the DEA, the couriers were escorted to the Larnaca airport by the
Cypriot national police and sent on their way to Frankfurt and other European
The DEA testified at hearings in Washington that no ''controlled deliveries''
of drugs through Frankfurt were made in 1988. Coleman's DEA front in Nicosia,
called the Eurame Trading Co. Ltd., was located on the top floor of a high-rise
apartment near the U.S. embassy. He says the intelligence agency paid him
with unsigned Visa traveler's checks issued by B.C.C.I. in Luxembourg.
Additionally, the DEA country attache in Cyprus, Michael Hurley, kept a
drawer full of cash in his office at the embassy, which he parceled out
to Coleman and to a parade of confidential informants, known by such nicknames
as ''Rambo Dreamer,'' ''Taxi George'' and ''Fadi the Captain.''
Hurley admitted in a Justice Department affidavit that he paid Coleman
$74,000 for information. The informants, Coleman reported, were under the
control of Ibrahim el-Jorr. ''He was a Wild West character who wore
cowboy boots and tooled around in a Chevy with expired Texas plates,''
he says. ''I was told ((by el-Jorr)) that in the Frankfurt airport the
suitcases containing the narcotics were put on flights to the U.S. by agents
or other sources working in the baggage area. From my personal observation,
Germany's BKA ((Bundeskriminalamt, the German federal police)) was also
involved, as was Her Majesty's Customs and Excise service in the United
After deciding to become a witness for Pan Am, Coleman phoned a friend,
Hartmut Mayer, a German intelligence agent in Cyprus, and asked if he knew
how the bomb got aboard Flight 103. Mayer suggested calling a ''Mr. Harwick''
and a ''Mr. Pinsdorf,'' who Mayer said were running the investigation at
the Frankfurt airport. ''I spoke with Pinsdorf,'' says Coleman.
''From his conversation I learned that BKA had serious concerns that
the drug sting operation originating in Cyprus had caused the bomb to be
placed on the Pan Am plane.''
Mayer and Pinsdorf gave depositions last year at the request of Pan
Am. But the German Federal Ministry of the Interior ruled they couldn't
discuss law-enforcement matters relating to other nations. Mayer did say
he knew Coleman. ''It took three informants just to keep tabs on al-Kassar,''
claims Coleman. He said the informants reported that al-Kassar and the
Syrian President's brother Rifaat Assad were taking over drug production
in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, under protection of the Syrian army. Coleman
also says he learned that the principal European transfer point for their
heroin shipments was the Frankfurt airport.
In December 1988 al-Kassar picked up some news that threatened
to shut down his smuggling operation. Charles McKee's counterterrorist
team in Beirut that was investigating the possible rescue of the nine American
hostages had got wind of his CIA connection. The team was outraged that
the COREA unit in Wiesbaden was doing business with a Syrian who had close
terrorist connections and might endanger their planned rescue attempt.
Besides McKee, a key member of the team was Matthew Gannon, 34, the CIA's
deputy station chief in Beirut and a rising star in the agency. After venting
their anger to the CIA in Langley about al-Kassar, McKee and Gannon were
further upset by headquarters' failure to respond. Its silence was surprising
because Gannon's father-in-law Thomas Twetten, who now commands the CIA's
worldwide spy network, was then chief of Middle East operations based in
Langley. He was also Ollie North's CIA contact.
MCKEE AND GANNON, joined by three other members of the team,
decided to fly back to Virginia unannounced and expose the COREA unit's
secret deal with al- Kassar. They packed $500,000 in cash provided for
their rescue mission, as well as maps and photographs of the secret locations
where the hostages were being held. Then the five-man team booked seats
on Pan Am 103 out of London, arranging to fly there on a connecting flight
McKee's mother says she is sure her son's sudden decision to fly home
was not known to his superiors in Virginia. ''This was the first time
Chuck ever telephoned me from Beirut,'' she says. ''I was flabbergasted.
'Meet me at the Pittsburgh airport tomorrow night,' he said. 'It's a surprise.'
Always before he would wait until he was back in Virginia to call and say
he was coming home.''
Apparently the team's movements were being tracked by the Iranians.
A story that appeared in the Arabic newspaper Al-Dustur on May 22, 1989,
disclosed that the terrorists set out to kill McKee and his team because
of their planned hostage-rescue attempt. The author, Ali Nuri Zadeh, reported
that ''an American agent known as David Love-Boy ((he meant Lovejoy)),
who had struck bargains on weapons to the benefit of Iran,'' passed information
to the Iranian embassy in Beirut about the team's travel plans. Reported
to be a onetime State Department security officer, Lovejoy is alleged to
have become a double agent with CIA connections in Libya. His CIA code
name was said to be ''Nutcracker.''
Lawyer Shaughnessy uncovered similar evidence. His affidavit, filed
with the federal district court in Brooklyn, New York, asserts that in
November and ; December 1988 the U.S. government intercepted a series of
telephone calls from Lovejoy to the Iranian charge d'affaires in Beirut
advising him of the team's movements.
Lovejoy's last call came on Dec. 20, allegedly informing the Iranians
that the team would be on Pan Am Flight 103 the following day.
In his book, Lockerbie: The Tragedy of Flight 103, Scottish radio
reporter David Johnston disclosed that British army searches of the wreckage
recovered more than $500,000 cash, believed to belong to the hostage-rescue
team, and what appeared to be a detailed plan of a building in Beirut,
with two crosses marking the location of the hostages. The map also pinpointed
the positions of sentries guarding the building and contained a description
of how the building might be taken. Johnston also described how CIA agents
helicoptered into Lockerbie shortly after the crash seeking the remnants
of McKee's suitcase.
''Having found part of their quarry,'' he wrote, ''the CIA
had no intention of following the exacting rules of evidence employed by
the Scottish police. They took the suitcase and its contents into the chopper
and flew with it to an unknown destination.'' Several days later the
empty suitcase was returned to the same spot, where Johnston reported that
it was ''found'' by two British Transport Police officers, ''who in
their ignorance were quite happy to sign statements about the case's discovery.''
Richard Gazarik, a reporter for the Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Tribune-
Review, spent many months probing the major's secret mission. He found,
hidden inside the lining of McKee's wallet, which was retrieved from the
Pan Am wreckage and returned to his mother, what he assumes was McKee's
code name, Chuck Capone, and the gangster code names (Nelson, Dillinger,
Bonnie and Clyde) of the other team members.
The theory that Jibril targeted Flight 103 in order to kill the hostage-
rescue team is supported by two independent intelligence experts. M. Gene
Wheaton, a retired U.S. military-intelligence officer with 17 years' duty
in the Middle East, sees chilling similarities between the Lockerbie
crash and the suspicious DC-8 crash in Gander, Newfoundland, which killed
248 American soldiers in 1985.
Wheaton is serving as investigator for the families of the victims
of that crash. ''A couple of my old black ops buddies in the Pentagon
believe the Pan Am bombers were gunning for McKee's hostage-rescue team,''
he says. ''But they were told to shift the focus of their investigation
because it revealed an embarrassing breakdown in security.''
The FBI says it investigated the theory that McKee's team was targeted
and found no evidence to support it. Victor Marchetti, former executive
assistant to the CIA's deputy director and co-author of The CIA and the
Cult of Intelligence, believes that the presence of the team on Flight
103 is a clue that should not be ignored.
His contacts at Langley agree.
''It's like the loose thread of a sweater,'' he says. ''Pull
on it, and the whole thing may unravel.'' In any case, Marchetti believes
the bombing of Flight 103 could have been avoided. ''The Mossad knew
about it and didn't give proper warning,'' he says. ''The CIA knew
about it and screwed up.''
The CIA may still be trying to find out more information about why McKee
and Gannon suddenly decided to fly home.
Last year three CIA agents, reportedly following up on their hostage-rescue
mission, were shot dead in a Berlin hotel while waiting to meet a Palestinian
Beulah McKee has given up trying to find out if Pan Am's bombers were
after her son, although she says, ''The government's secrecy can't close
off my mind.'' Twice she called and questioned Gannon's widow Susan,
who like her husband and her father Tom Twetten worked for the CIA. ''The
last time, I was accused of opening my mouth too much,'' says Mrs.
Yet memories die hard, and mothers never quite get accustomed to losing
a child. Beulah McKee keeps her son's bedroom all tidied up, as if she
still expected him to come home. His pictures, diplomas, miltary awards,
even his chrome-plated bowie knife, decorate the walls. In a cardboard
carton under the made-up bed are the heavily censored service records of
her son, which may contain the secret of why Pan Am 103 was blown out of
the sky over Scotland.
ROY ROWAN, COVER STORIES: PAN AM 103 WHY DID THEY DIE?
Washington says Libya sabotaged the plane. Provocative evidence suggests
that a Syrian drug dealer may have helped plant the bomb -- and the real
targets we., TIME, 04-27-1992, pp 24.
Reactions to this TIME article 1992
The TIME article caused considerate reactions among relatives and other people involved into the crash of Pan Am 103 and the investigation. TIME MAGAZINE received (and receives still!) many comments, letters and messages regarding this article. Even a libel suit had been filed against TIME from the side of relatives.
LETTERS: PAN AM 103., TIME, 05-18-1992, pp 8.
''Are we once again left simply to accept deception from the U.S.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
UNFORTUNATELY, WE WILL PROBABLY never know if the material in
TIME's skillfully detailed article on Pan Am 103 is true ((COVER
STORIES, April 27)). As in so many similar situations in the dismal
past, those who demand access to the facts will be stonewalled by a
chorus of protests that it ''endangers the national security.'' With
so many covert cowboys running unchecked around the world -- myriad
agencies conducting their operations at cross-purposes, untold
bungling that can be conveniently covered up, an entire intelligence
community operating with no accountability -- Washington should wake
up! This is the threat to national security!
Kenneth C. Banes
EVEN DURING THOSE TERRIBLE FIRST hours after the Pan Am explosion
over Lockerbie, Scotland, it was obvious that the hunt for the
bombers was going to be incredibly difficult. As a journalist, I have
become dedicated to seeking the truth. For more than three years,
information sources pointed to a connection involving Syria, Iran and
the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
When warrants were issued charging two Libyans with the bombing, I
was deeply disturbed. To point at Libya, despite frenetic denials,
was the biggest volte-face in history. It was very convenient, given
the scenario that it was necessary to reward Syria for its support in
the gulf war. Roy Rowan's article has shed some very powerful light
in some very dark corners.
I, ALONG WITH MANY OTHER KIN OF THE 248 men and women killed in
the plane that crashed at Gander, Newfoundland, in 1985, have been
requesting, imploring, begging the U.S. government to find the real
cause of the untimely death of hundreds of America's best, including
my youngest son. I sold some of my war souvenirs to pay my fare to
testify before a congressional subcommittee and plead with its
members to tell the next of kin the reasons for that tragedy. But,
except for a very few, no one is listening.
Lewis Lee Millett Sr.
Colonel, U.S.A. (ret.)
TIME ASKS ME TO ACCEPT THE PREMISE that the government is
smuggling drugs into the U.S. in order to establish credibility with
foreign governments that would then presumably have provided us with
a chance to rescue American hostages. You ask me to believe our
government knows the real reason this plane, these lives, were
destroyed. Are we once again left simply to accept deception from the
U.S. government? It's time for the truth to every story.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
WOULDN'T IT HAVE MADE SENSE FOR A terrorist group to say openly
that the reason for committing a murderous act was to kill
intelligence agents, on the assumption that this claim would then put
some blame on the U.S. government? Why would terrorists keep this a
secret, allowing the world to think they were targeting innocent
Valerie A. Campbell
THE U.S. TREATS ALL THE UNPLEASANT Muslim leaders as if they were
Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Terrorists must be punished, and
justice must prevail; the world has not forgotten the brutal attack
by the U.S. on an Iranian Airbus that caused 298 deaths in 1988.
Where was justice then? Your articles seem to have an anti-Islamic
Tariq A. Rana