East German Stasi spies questioned for evidence on Lockerbie bombing

Lockerbie air disasterFive former officers of East Germany’s State Security Service, known commonly as the Stasi, have been questioned in Berlin over the Lockerbie air disaster at the request of British prosecutors. A total of 270 people died on December 21, 1988, when Pan Am flight 103, flying from Frankfurt to Detroit, exploded in mid-air over the Scottish village of Lockerbie. In 2001, a British court sitting in the Netherlands ruled that the bombing was carried out by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, former head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines. Al-Megrahi was also believed to have been an officer of Intelligence of the Jamahiriya —Libya’s main intelligence service. He claimed he was innocent of the crime until his death in 2012 from cancer.

But Scotland’s independent public prosecution agency, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, has always claimed that several other Libyan intelligence operatives helped Megrahi bring down Pan Am flight 103. Last December, the Crown Office said that it was continuing to pursue a criminal inquiry into several individuals —other than Megrahi— who were “involved in the conspiracy” to bomb Pan Am flight 103. As part of the inquiry, Crown Office prosecutors have interviewed potential suspects and witnesses, including Abdullah Senussi, former head of Libyan intelligence.

On Thursday, the German news agency DPA said that five former officers of the East German Stasi —all of them in their 70s and 80s— had been interviewed in connection to the Lockerbie bombing. The news agency said that the interviews had been conducted by German intelligence officers at the request of Crown Office prosecutors in Britain. Later on Thursday, the Berlin office of the German state prosecutor confirmed that the unnamed five individuals had been interviewed “as witnesses, not as suspects” throughout the past nine months. It gave no further information, saying that “it would be inappropriate to comment on a developing criminal investigation”.

All five former Stasi officers are believed to have provided evidence at the trial in the Netherlands that resulted in Megrahi’s conviction. Among other things, they told the court that the Libyans had contracted a Swiss businessman who manufactured the timer that detonated the Lockerbie bomb. Moreover, the 2014 documentary My Brother’s Bomber, directed by the American filmmaker Ken Dornstein, whose brother died in the Lockerbie bombing, claimed that the Stasi had closely monitored the activities of Libyan intelligence in West Germany in the years leading up to the downing of Pan Am flight 103. Some believe that the Stasi had evidence of a conspiracy by several Libyan intelligence officers to carry out the bombing.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 March 2019 | Permalink

Gaddafi’s spy chief could be executed before revealing Libya’s terror past

Abdullah al-SenussiA group of American, British and Irish citizens are pressuring their respective governments to prevent the impending execution of Libya’s former intelligence strongman. Abdullah al-Senussi, 65, led Libya’s intelligence services during the regime of the country’s late dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi. Last week, however, he was sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli for his role in “inciting genocide” during the 2011 civil war that toppled Gaddafi’s regime. American, British and Irish officials are being urged to intervene to stop Senussi’s execution, so that he can help shed light on Libya’s role in international terrorist plots in the 1980s and 1990s.

Senussi rose rapidly through the ranks of Gaddafi’s regime in the 1970s after marrying the Libyan leader’s sister-in-law. Eventually, he became one of Gaddafi’s most trusted aides, escorting him on most international trips and seeing to the medical needs of the dictator. Throughout that time he is believed to have led at various times Libya’s internal security agency, its external spy organization, and the country’s military intelligence agency. It is unclear however, whether he actually held any official posts in the Libyan government, especially after 1977, when Gaddafi abolished official titles and declared that his country was a Jamahiriya —a “state of the masses” not ruled by officials, but by “revolutionary” popular councils and communes.

During Senussi’s reign, especially in the 1980s, Libya deepened its connections with militant groups in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, prompting some European and American officials to describe him as “the world’s most wanted man”. On Tuesday of last month, Senussi was among nine former Gaddafi aides and officials to be sentenced to death by a court in the Libyan capital. They include one of Gaddafi’s sons, Seif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, as well as the late Libyan dictator’s Prime Minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi. Ironically, the sentence imposed on Gaddafi’s son cannot be implemented, as he is being kept prisoner by a militia in western Libya, which has refused to surrender him to the central government in Tripoli since 2011. Senussi however, is being held in Tripoli, having been captured at the Nouakchott International Airport in Mauritanian in March 2012 in what is believed to have been a successful French-led intelligence operation.

Critics of Libya’s past dealings with terrorist groups believe that the jailed former spy director is aware of crucial details relating to the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people in 1988. He is also thought to possess information relating to Libya’s support for the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The militant group is said to have received training, weapons and cash from the Libyan government in the 1980s and 1990s. Victims of IRA operations and their families have continued to pressure London to intervene to prevent Senussi’s execution since his extradition to Libya from Mauritania in 2013. The Libyan government has said that it intends to execute Senussi in September.

News you may have missed #790

Abdullah al-SenussiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New report reopens CIA torture allegations. A report from Human Rights Watch, which was released last week, said that Libyan fighters opposed to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques while in US custody overseas, during the administration of George W. Bush. The accusations, if substantiated, would suggest wider use of waterboarding than US officials have previously acknowledged. The report, which is based on documents and interviews in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, includes a detailed description of what appears to be a previously unknown instance of waterboarding by the CIA in Afghanistan nine years ago.
►►Analysis: What does Gaddafi’s ex-spy chief know about Lockerbie? Abdullah al-Senussi became a hate-figure in his home country as head of an intelligence machinery responsible for the mistreatment of thousands of opponents of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, his brother-in-law. He is nicknamed the “butcher” and known as Gaddafi’s “black box” because of the secrets he supposedly holds. The new Libyan regime had been negotiating for months with Mauritania where al-Senussi had fled following the fall of the Gaddafi regime last September. But now that al-Senussi has been flown back to Libya by private jet, he may at last be able to face questions by British police about Lockerbie.
►►Chinese hardware manufacturer denies spying allegations. The Chinese hardware-manufacturing firm Huawei has released a 24-page report, written by John Suffolk, a former British government chief information officer who has now turned Huawei’s global security officer, which states that protecting the network security of its worldwide customers is one of company’s “fundamental interests”. The report follows allegations in the United States, Australia, India, and elsewhere, that the company maintains close operational ties to China’s intelligence establishment.

News you may have missed #736

Abdel Baset al-MegrahiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Convicted Lockerbie bomber dies. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer who was the only person ever convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, died at home in Tripoli Sunday, nearly three years after he was released from a Scottish prison to the outrage of the relatives of the attack’s 270 victims. He was 60. Scotland released Mr. al-Megrahi on Aug. 20, 2009, on compassionate grounds to let him return home to die after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Anger over the release was further stoked by subsequent allegations that London had sought his release to preserve business interests in the oil-rich North African nation, strongly denied by the British and Scottish governments.
►►Federal appeals panel to hear CIA leak case. A federal appeals panel in the United States will hear the case of ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who has been charged with leaking classified information about Iran’s nuclear program to New York Times reporter James Risen. Prosecutors say Sterling was a key source in Risen’s 2006 book, State of War. They are also challenging the court’s decision to strike two government witnesses and allow disclosure of the identities of covert CIA operatives to Sterling’s lawyers.
►►New study of British Empire’s spies published. British newspaper The Guardian has published a review of William Beaver’s newly published book, Under Every Leaf: How Britain Played The Greater Game From Afghanistan to Africa. Much of the book concerns the creation in the mid-1850s of the British War Office Intelligence Department. According to the review, the book does much to restore the “missing dimension” to Britain’s military-imperial history between 1855 and the creation of her modern intelligence agencies in the early 1900s.

Declassified documents reveal US-Libyan spy war in Malta

Libya and Malta

Libya and Malta

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A batch of declassified CIA reports from the late 1980s point to the Mediterranean island-nation of Malta as a major battlefield between American and Libyan intelligence operatives. According to the reports, which date from between 1988 and 1991, Malta served as a “primary launching point” for Libyan intelligence and paramilitary units on their way to Germany, Britain, and other countries in Western Europe. Most of the reports, which number over 250 pages in total, contain intelligence from a CIA informant named Abdul Majid Giaka. Referred to as “P/1” in the CIA documents, Giaka was a Libyan employee of Libyan Arab Airlines stationed in Malta. In 1988, however, he walked in the American embassy in the Maltese capital Valetta, and offered to work as an agent-in-place for the CIA. In exchange for his services, he requested regular financial compensation, as well as a promise of eventual relocation to the United States for him and his Maltese wife. Eventually, the intelligence collected by Giaka formed a major component of the prosecution’s case in the Lockerbie bombing court hearings. Giaka’s testimony directly led to the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, who was released from a British prison in August of 2009 on compassionate grounds and is now in Tripoli. The declassified documents show that, in return for Giaka’s services, the CIA arranged a fake surgery for him in 1989, in order to help him secure an exemption from serving in the Libyan armed forces. The CIA’s initial assessment of Giaka was that he was dependable “intelligent, serious and fairly well composed”. Later, however, Giaka’s CIA handlers began questioning his commitment after he started appearing with new information only when in need of money. Read more of this post

Suspicion mounts as US unlocks Moussa Koussa’s foreign assets

Moussa Koussa

Moussa Koussa

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Eyebrows were raised in intelligence circles on Monday, after the United States lifted its freeze of foreign assets belonging to Libya’s former intelligence chief, who defected to London last week. Libya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moussa Koussa, who headed the country’s intelligence agency from 1994 to 2009, managed to escape to the UK from Tunisia on a Swiss-registered private airplane. He is currently reported to be in an MI6 safe house in England, allegedly being interrogated about his inside knowledge of the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. But Koussa is also thought to be the mastermind behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed nearly 300 people. The 57-year-old defector is also believed to have facilitated Libya’s funding of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and to have authorized the assassination of several Libyan dissidents living in Britain. In light of that, the news that Washington lifted its sanctions on Koussa’s sizeable fortune abroad is worth noting. It is also interesting to note that Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is reportedly pressuring European Union member-states to follow the US’ example in also unfreezing Koussa’s foreign assets. Read more of this post

Interview with alleged CIA spy in Iran

A Time to Betray

A Time to Betray

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
US government-owned Radio Liberty has aired an interview with an Iranian defector who claims to have worked as a CIA agent in the 1980s and early 1990s. The defector, who goes by the pseudonym Reza Kahlili (codename ‘Wally’), has authored what appears to be a CIA-sanctioned book, entitled A Time to Betray, in which he says he was a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The IRGC is a sizable branch of the Iranian military that is ideologically committed to the defense of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Kahlili, who now lives in California, says he concluded his studies in the US and returned to Iran shortly after the Revolution. But he quickly became disillusioned with the Islamic regime, and in 1981 met with the CIA in the United States and offered them his services. Read more of this post

Gaddafi’s son employed former spies’ firm to research PhD thesis

Saif al-Gaddafi

Saif al-Gaddafi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of Libyan ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi’s seven sons employed a firm staffed by former British intelligence agents to carry out research for his PhD thesis. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, 37, who is seen as the leading candidate to succeed his father, recently submitted his doctoral thesis at the London School of Economics, where he was a PhD candidate for four years. A preliminary note in his thesis, which is now available at the Senate House library of the University of London, reveals that he employed the Monitor Group, a research and consultancy company that includes at least two well-known former British spies among its ranks, to conduct interviews required for his thesis. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0102

  • NSA helped UK arrest convicted bomb plotters. Email correspondence intercepted by the US National Security Agency in 2006 helped lead to the arrest and conviction of three Muslim militants, who were planning attacks in Britain. IntelNews learns that this case was brought up by American intelligence officials who recently threatened to terminate all intelligence cooperation with the UK, in reaction to the release from a Scottish prison of convicted Libyan bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
  • Bush Administration tried to alter “enforced disappearances” international treaty standards. The aim of the global treaty, long supported by the United States, was to end official kidnappings, detentions and killings like those that plagued Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and that allegedly still occur in Russia, China, Iran, Colombia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. But the documents suggest that initial US support for the negotiations collided head-on with the then-undisclosed goal of seizing suspected terrorists anywhere in the world for questioning by CIA interrogators or indefinite detention by the US military at foreign sites. So the Bush Administration tried to alter the language of the treaty from 2003 to 2006, reveals The Washington Post.

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CIA furious over UK-Libyan bomber release deal

Al-Megrahi

Al-Megrahi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The CIA has threatened to stop sharing intelligence with UK spy services in protest over the recent release from a Scottish prison of a Libyan intelligence agent convicted for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, according to a British newspaper. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who is now back home in Tripoli, was released by British authorities on August 19 on compassionate grounds, after medical tests allegedly showed he is suffering from terminal cancer. Many observers, including former CIA agent Robert Baer, voiced suspicion about the reasons behind al-Megrahi’s release, while several British newspapers, including The London Times, alleged that the release was part of a lucrative oil exploration deal between British Petroleum (BP) and the Libyan government. Now an article in British newspaper The News of the World claims that the CIA leadership has vowed to terminate intelligence cooperation with the UK over the Libyan’s release. Read more of this post

Lockerbie bomber’s release was part of UK-Libyan oil deal, says paper

Al-Megrahi

Al-Megrahi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Negotiation difficulties between British Petroleum (BP) and the Libyan government over an oil exploration deal were resolved soon after London decided to authorize last month’s release of a man convicted for his role in the 1988 Lockerbie air disaster, The London Times said on Sunday. Former Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was released on August 19 by British authorities on compassionate grounds and is now in Tripoli. The paper says that documents in its possession show that the decision to release al-Megrahi was the culmination of a two-year-long negotiation between the British and Libyan governments, as well as regional authorities in Scotland, where al-Megrahi was imprisoned. Read more of this post

Libyan’s release prevented “explosive” appeal hearing, says ex-CIA agent

Robert Baer

Robert Baer

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As intelNews anticipated, Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was released last week by British authorities. Al-Megrahi, who allegedly has terminal cancer, was convicted in 2001 for his role in the Lockerbie air disaster, but has now been allowed to return to Libya in order to die in his homeland. But former CIA agent Robert Baer has repeated charges that the Libyan prisoner was released so at to prevent his legal team from filing an appeal, which Baer believes would have proven beyond doubt that Iran, not Libya, was behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. As The London Times has reported before, al-Megrahi’s legal team is in possession of several US government documents on the case, including a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which says that the attack was “conceived, authorized and financed” by Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur (alternative spelling: Ali-Akbar Mohtashamipur), Iran’s Minister of Interior during the early years of the Islamic Revolution. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0075

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Document reveals US spies saw Iran behind Lockerbie bombing

Al-Megrahi

Al-Megrahi

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US intelligence report available to the lawyers of a Libyan former intelligence agent convicted for his role in the Lockerbie air disaster blames Iran, not Libya, for the attack. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who intelNews hears will be released from jail on compassionate grounds, had instructed his legal team to present the document in court if his release appeal failed. Al-Megrahi is one of two Libyans jailed for their alleged role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people. But the report, produced by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), says that the attack was “conceived, authorized and financed” by Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur (alternative spelling: Ali-Akbar Mohtashamipur), who served as the Iran’s Minister of Interior during the first years of the Islamic Revolution. Read more of this post