“Where, I ask, is the justice?”

That is always a good question, but the way it was posed by Robert S. Mueller 3rd, the Director of the FBI, an agency of a Department of “Justice” strains credulity.

Before I get into discussing the responses to his letter to Scottish authorities, a letter that the Herald in Glasgow found “savage,” may I remind us all that his polemical questions criticizing Scotland’s compassionate release of convicted Lockerbie airplane bomber and former Libyan intelligence agent, Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, was coming from, shall we say, a tainted source?

Mr. Mueller had worked on the case in the early 90’s and so seems to have had a personal and emotional stake in it, perhaps a desire for vindication. The press in Britain believes that his angry denunciation of Scottish judge Kenny MacAskill could not have been sent without authorization from the White House.

President Barack Obama said Friday that al Megrahi’s warm reception was “highly objectionable.” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called it “deeply upsetting.” Notice, they don’t seem to be commenting on the ex-spy’s release as much as the public response to it, by the rarely diplomatic Colonel Quadaffi who was playing to public opinion in Tripoli, as he readies that country for the 40th anniversary of the coup that put him in power.

Western outrage is mounting. It is now a political issue in pre-election Britain. There are calls for a travel boycott of Scotland, denunciations of what we are in our country also call a “compassionate release” of a prisoner doctors expect to die soon.

It’s almost as if our media which has been turning up the heat on health care reform, with its many debates on –so-called “death panels,” has turned into a just such a panel demanding that the Libyan be punished more fuming, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

Needless to say, the media in our country has also joined in the breast-beating against England, Scotland and Libya. There is no reporting on the questions raised about the trial or why this “terrorist” claims to have been falsely convicted.

In parts of Africa—not just Libya— he is considered a scapegoat. I am not suggesting that he is innocent—I don’t know–but when we have a righteous wave of indignation like this, it might be worthwhile to actually reexamine the issues. Lost in the shrill debate is the claim by the Scottish Judge that they did consult with the US and the families of victims before releasing him.

It is not unusual for one part of our government not to know what the other part is doing.


Back to all this in a minute because the very same question posed by the G Man in chief had earlier, and will again, be posed to Mueller’s agency, especially after a court in these United States had just, with active lobbying by FBI alumni, once again turned down an appeal for the release of Native American leader Leonard Peltier.

This story was documented years ago by singer Little Steven (Van Zandt) in his stirring and informative song that poses the same question about a man many see as an American victim that Mueller raises about a Libyan. This song asks, “WHERE IS THE JUSTICE FOR LEONARD PELTIER?”

Here’s the most recent news peg from the French agency AFP. This was a much bigger story outside the borders of the United States of Indignation. No surprise there.

“American Indian activist Leonard Peltier, who has spent more than 32 years in prison serving two life sentences for the deaths of two FBI agents, was denied parole by US authorities on Friday.

“Peltier was convicted in 1977 for the execution-style murders of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, who were gunned down at point blank range during a confrontation with American Indian Movement (AIM) members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“Although he has admitted being present during the June 1975 incident, Peltier has denied he shot the two men and insisted he was framed by the FBI during numerous unsuccessful appeals.”

Here are some background articles from a point of view not covered very much in our self-styled objective media:

Peltier: His Life

A Refresher on American Indian History

His Parole: An Exclusive Interview (with Leonard Peltier)


This story, in turn, follows by a few weeks the excited response in the United States of the politically charged release from North Korean prison of two American journalists brought back with much fanfare by former President Clinton amidst one-note hostility and denunciations of the North Korean government in our media. Their act of compassion was ridiculed here even as we gloated at their release.

No one then questioned the idea of compassionate release in a case involving Americans held in a foreign prison. (The release is now being questioned by South Koreans who charge that the crew from Current TV were sloppy in hiding the identities of the people they were reporting on with many later experiencing retaliation from Chinese authorities at North Korea’s behest.)

I wonder if North Korea’s Kim considered the hand slapping high five-ing response here as “highly objectionable” as President Obama believes the reception was in Libya.

Quadaffi denounced all the indignation with a quip, “Do we not also have feelings? Are we donkeys and not humans?” Leave it to the Colonel—who the West was praising not so long ago for giving up his nuclear ambitions– to push all the buttons we don’t want to hear.

And as for Libya, forever a rogue nation in our press, have a look at former foreign correspondent Uli Schmetzer’s account of his visits there after a bombing ordered by Ronald Reagan following a disco bombing in Berlin by parties that still seem to be unknown. It challenges the way our media miscovered that earlier big story. The book is Times of Terror.)

So there is plenty of reasons to disbelieve what you read. In fact, this whole issue is partially a media problem. The Lockerbie trial was covered in detail in Scotland and the UK, but not in the good guys versus bad guys frame that passes for coverage here. (Ironically the Peltier case also got more detailed attention outside this country than in it.) So once again, public opinion reflects what people know and don’t know or aren’t told. I was watching the CBS lionization of the late great Don “tell me a story” Hewitt on 60 Minutes last night. Do you think “Sixty” would be willing to tell ALL sides of this story?


Now, on to the case of the convicted Libyan terrorist who claims that he was not guilty? First, let it be said, as if it needs to be said, that raising questions DOES NOT excuse the horrific bombing of that Pan Am Flight, or suggest that I agree with the Libyan’s claims. I have not investigated the case, nor claim to be an expert on it. I so have real compassion for the victims and their families and believe its perpetrators should be brought to justice. It was a disgusting and pointless act. I am sure we all agree.

But, unknown to most of us, those who have looked more deeply into Mr. al-Megrabi’s concerns have questions too. Last June, before this drama flared, the Herald in Glasgow asked if we will ever know what really happened over Lockerbe and who was responsible? Just asking that question suggests there is more to the answer.

“Justice for the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing was placed in doubt again last night after the conviction of a former Libyan intelligence agent was seriously undermined by a new ruling.

“The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said there were no fewer than six grounds on which Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice, and granted him leave to launch a second appeal.

“Its verdict, after a three-year investigation, proved highly embarrassing for the Crown Office team which brought the case against Megrahi seven years ago, and for the judges who decided his guilt at the trial and first appeal in the Netherlands.

“Despite Megrahi’s conviction, there have been persistent claims that Libya was not responsible, that some evidence was rigged, and that the finger of suspicion pointed elsewhere – in particular to Palestinian terrorist groups.”

By this time Megrahi was in a terminal phase of cancer, and withdrew his appeal. But understand, in many media outlets in other countries , he is seen as a scapegoat, a concept not acknowledged by the FBI which has been in the business of creating scapegoats since its formation, since the deportations of outspoken immigrants in the l920’s (Emma Goldman anyone?), “ the Red scares of the l950’s, the Cointelpro programs of the 60’s etc. and so forth.

So we can’t take the word of the FBI Director as the only source on Megrahi’s guilt.

To return to that Herald story;

“The commission also concluded yesterday new evidence about the unreliability of key witnesses, and the non-disclosure to the defence of important and classified information, were strong grounds to refer the case back.

“Sir Oliver Miles, former British ambassador to Libya, said he doubted whether the full facts of Lockerbie would ever be known. He told the BBC: “No court is likely to get to the truth, now that various intelligence agencies have had the opportunity to corrupt the evidence.”

“Some relatives of Lockerbie victims welcomed the decision, saying they believed Megrahi was probably innocent, based on the evidence presented at his trial.

“Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the victims, said: “It’s no good trying to have closure on false foundations if they are false. A house built on sand cannot stand.”

Not all the American victims felt this way, but some did. That is significant, It is also significant that we do have compassionate release programs in US prisons. I know someone who being considered for just such a release because of his medical condition. (The Times reports the BBC saying we have no just provisions. Not True.)


AP: Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told BBC Radio that it was wrong to assume that all those affected by the bombing were opposed to al-Megrahi’s release.

“I understand the huge and strongly held views of the American families, but that’s not all the families who were affected by Lockerbie,” Salmond said. “As you’re well aware, a number of the families, particularly in the U.K., take a different view and think that we made the right decision.”

…Some bereaved relatives, particularly in Britain, dispute al-Megrahi’s 2001 conviction, and a 2007 Scottish judicial review of his case found grounds for an appeal. He was convicted largely on the evidence of a Maltese shopkeeper, who identified al-Megrahi as having bought a shirt — scraps of which were later found wrapped around the bomb.

Al-Megrahi has maintained his innocence, but last week dropped his appeal so that he could be released on compassionate grounds.

The British and Scottish governments have denied that they struck a deal with Libya to free the Lockerbie bomber in return for greater access to the country’s oil and gas.

GUARDIAN: SCOTLAND DEBATE CONTINUES: Government There Says It Acted Legally

Privately, SNP ministers argue that their critics have wrongly confused the UK government’s policies and interests with MacAskill’s use of separate Scottish legal procedures to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

Senior legal and political figures have rallied round to defend MacAskill, accusing the FBI director, Robert Mueller, of making an unjustified and intemperate attack on the Scottish government and judicial system, SCOTTISH SNP GOVERNMENT COULD BE BROUGHT DOWN ON THIS ISSUE

At the same time, the inflamed political reaction to this issue, the suggestion that support for compassionate release is the equivalent to backing or legitimizing terrorists could topple the Government in Scotland, according to the Times of London.

Another irony, many prisons in America are now freeing senior “lifers” who have served long sentences in order to cut costs because of budget crises. These people are not political but in many cases were sentenced for serious crimes.


Africa Source, an online website calls Al-Magrahi, who had lived in the United States for what that’s worth, a “scapegoat” and quotes him as saying:

“I had to endure a verdict being issued at the conclusion of that trial which is now characterized by my lawyers, and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, as unreasonable. To me, and to other right thinking people back at home in Libya, and in the international community, it is nothing short of a disgrace.

“This horrible ordeal is not ended by my return to Libya. It may never end for me until I die. Perhaps the only liberation for me will be death. And I say in the clearest possible terms, which I hope every person in every land will hear: all of this I have had to endure for something that I did not do.

“The remaining days of my life are being lived under the shadow of the wrongness of my conviction.

He thanked prison and nursing staff for their kindness and made clear that he harbors no ill feeling towards Scotland. He said he shares the frustration of those who wished to see the appeal continue and, for those relatives of the victims “who can bear to hear me say this”, he sent his most sincere sympathy.”

Where is the truth? Where is the justice?’

News Dissector Danny Schechter is the blogger-in-chief of Mediachannel.org

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