The FBI has a history of dirty tricks including entrapment, false media leaks, wrongful imprisonment, and assassination. What about the planting of false evidence to frame a suspect?
While wondering if the Feds might have planted evidence in the Marathon Bombing case, I happened to see an AlJazeera America film called “Lockerbie: Case Closed.” The evidence for a frameup in this case, which did involve the FBI, seems pretty strong.
On Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded above the town of Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 people on board and 11 on the ground were killed. It was established that the bomb was in a suitcase in the baggage compartment. Two people were arrested: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, a manager at the Malta Airport. Fhimah was acquitted; according to the the AJ film: “The jury didn’t believe the CIA guy.” al-Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2009, his second appeal was dropped and he was released on compassionate grounds because he had developed prostate cancer. He died in 2012.
The “clincher” in the case was a fragment of a circuit board. This fragment was embedded in a shirt which was allegedly packed in the fatal suitcase. It was identified at the trial as part of a timer which had been sold to the Libyan military. The owner of Mebo, the company which manufactured the timer, complained that he was shown two fragments from two different timers, but was forbidden to talk about this discrepancy at the trial. “He later revealed that he had declined an offer of $4 million from the FBI to testify that the fragment was part of a Mebo MST-13 timer supplied to Libya.” A Mebo employee who identified the timer at the trial later admitted that he had lied.
A Maltese merchant named Tony Gauci testified that he sold the shirt and other clothing to a Libyan-looking man. Gauci “gave contradictory evidence about who bought the clothes, that person’s age, appearance and the date of purchase.” But later – after seeing a photo of the alleged bomber – he identified the man as al-Megrahi.
During al-Megrahi’s first appeal, it was revealed that a few hours before the explosion, a padlock was forced on the door to the baggage area at Heathrow Airport. So there was another option for when and how the bomb could have been planted. But this fact was not disclosed at the original trial. During the second appeal, defense counsel discussed “a number of documents that were shown before the trial to the prosecution, but were not disclosed to the defense.” Sound familiar?
In a 2009 film titled “Lockerbie Revisited,” a former FBI scientist described the FBI crime lab as a “crime scene” where evidence was routinely altered.
Could the FBI (or someone else) have planted false evidence to incriminate the Tsarnaev brothers? Apparently it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened in a high-profile terrorism case. I can think of two such items which could be trouble for the defense. They might be the “clinchers,” if the rest of the case made any sense (which it doesn’t).
1) The bomb squad examined the Honda at Laurel and Dexter and found a bag full of ball bearings and other bomb-making components. Opportunity to plant this evidence was certainly available. The Honda was sitting unattended for several hours while the brothers were tooling around in the van. Danny was not a hostage; the brothers left him unguarded at the Shell station. He set them up by reporting a carjacking, and he knew where the Honda was. And, there were Feds running around all over the place.
2) Al Qaeda literature, including a bomb-making recipe, was found on Dzhokhar’s laptop. When was this downloaded, and by whom? While Dzhokhar was on the run and in the boat (obviously in no position to be using a computer), an unknown person got into his Twitter account and posted a number of dramatic threats in Russian and English. “I will kill you as you killed my brother.” “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will kill you all.” etc. Hacker alert?
Alternatively, we have the comments of Dzhokhar’s friend Steve, quoted in the Globe’s lengthy biography. Steve claims that Dzhokhar browsed the Al Qaeda site purely out of curiosity. Some might find this hard to credit, but it doesn’t seem strange to me that a young Muslim waking up to political realities would be curious about where AQ is coming from and what they have to say.
The Lockerbie saga, with its recanted testimony and newly revealed evidence, gives us hope that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, even if convicted, might be vindicated in years to come. That is, if he isn’t executed first. According to the Boston Bar Association, if the death penalty is on the table, “the inevitability of error in criminal cases makes it overwhelmingly likely that innocent defendants will be executed.”
Other notes: Rose reports that the FBI has finished its “investigation” into the killing of Ibragaim Todashev, and is “eager” for the results to be published. I don’t subscribe to the Boston Globe, so will have to wait for the “surprising” details, if any, to be revealed elsewhere. The one we really want to see is the report of the Florida prosecutor, which is still to come. ?