Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PT35 MOVE CLAIMS, pt. two

[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
October 27 2009
last update/edit 11/5

Shuttling: The First 17 Months
Part one of this series covered the 2008 interviews revealed in Tegenlight: Lockerbie Revisited, which showed a contradiction in whether the fragment of circuit board, PT/35(b) was taken to the United States. FBI SCOTBOM chief Richard Marquise and identifying FBI agent James “Tom” Thurman both told interviewer Gideon Levy that the fragment was brought to Washington and examined there, whereas British authorities and Marquise (after a short-lived change of memory) refuted the claim, insisting it stayed in the UK. This part will cover the entanglement of this evidence and agent Thurman throughout the Lockerbie case and beyond, drawing largely from the writings of Marquise. The special emphasis is on clues about whether Thurman worked from a photograph of the evidence or from the real item, as he told the documentary.

A 1991 Miami Herald article reported that Thurman was first sent to Lockerbie, on behalf of the FBI SCOTBOM investigation, two days after the December 21 explosion to help in “combing the countryside for clues." He worked right through Christmas, and in “about two months at the scene,” the article continues, he “pored over thousands of pieces of evidence.” [1] According to FBI task force chief Richard Marquise, however, the intrepid special agent had returned from Scotland by Jan 19 1989, when he gave a briefing to the FBI confirming prior assumptions that a bomb was responsible. [2, p.35]

Thurman returned to Lockerbie several times, shuttling across the Atlantic and even further out into the field, as initial clues converged on a PFLPGC attack perhaps involving Jordanian agent and bomb-maker Marwan Khreesat. Marquise reveled that “Thurman had been part of the team that interviewed Khreesat” in Jordan, November 1989. [2, p.60] This special interview, carried out with CIA brokerage, and its (reportedly ambiguous) results were kept from Scottish investigators, causing some tensions later.

On Jan 10 1990 new Senior Investigating Officer Stuart Henderson (who replaced John Orr) presented at a meeting in the UK. He did not mention the timer fragment to all, but off to the side told Marquise and FBI’s ASAC John Kelso about it. They showed interest in helping find a match, but Henderson insisted on going it alone. “This decision cost us six months,” Marquise writes. [2, p.58]

On Cloud Nine: June1990-November 1991
Actually it was five months delayed; it was at an investigator’s conference in Virginia on June 11 when Marquise relates how the Scottish authorities finally made their puzzlement over the fragment known to all – 55 companies checked to no avail. Thurman “approached Henderson and asked if he could take photographs of PT-35 and attempt to identify it. Henderson, who believed the Scots had done all they could do, agreed.” [2, p 60] This passage is crucial to move claims, and rather ambiguous. It seems to read that Thurman, in Arlington, was allowed to take a picture of evidence Henderson had there with him. It could also mean a request to retain one of the photo-prints there, or to take a picture of the single photo they brought, or fly to Scotland to photograph PT/35(b). The last option seems out, given the mechanics of identification that followed. I remain agnostic on the reading here, and on its value as one of Mr. Marquise’s sometimes confused recollections.

The Herald decided after talking with Thurman that he “meticulously compared the picture of the fragment to hundreds of other devices,” a lengthy-sounding process. [1] The agent told the show Air Crash Investigation (in early 2008?): “I spent, uh, months, literally, looking through all about the files of the FBI on other examinations that we had, uh, conducted over many many many years. […] After a period I just ran out of leads” and was forced to look “outside the physical FBI laboratory.” [3]

But Marquise said “what Thurman did yielded fruit within two days. […] Henderson and his colleagues were on an airplane headed back to Scotland;” having just left from the Virginia conference, and the discovery “would turn Henderson around quicker than he ever imagined,” putting them back stateside within 24 hours of the discovery. Further evidence against Thurman’s months claim is his own well-memorized “day that I made the identification,” recalling it as one would a wedding anniversary: June 15 1989. He had four days tops to get this grueling season of cross-checking out of the way.

What Thurman did, Marquise sums up, is know where to look. He took the photo to a CIA explosives expert “Orkin” (real name unknown), who helped locate files on a possible fit – a circuit board style found in an unclear number of timers confiscated, by the CIA, in African nations Togo and Senegal in 1986 and ‘88 respectively. The Senegal timer had somehow gone missing, although there was a photo of its circuit board, but the Togo timer was physically available for Thurman to look at the board inside. Upon confirming the similarity, “within a few minutes, literally, I started getting cold chills,” he told Air Crash Investigation, a feeling that still haunts him since he “can still see that moment so vividly in my mind.” [3] That he got these chills only after getting access to the CIA’s special stores is proof the Agency is right to claim much of the credit, for the discovery, as they have in places: “the CIA’s most important contribution in helping secure the conviction” was “when a CIA engineer was able to identify the timer […] shifting the focus of the probe from a Palestinian terrorist group to Libya.” [4]

Later a marking saying MEBO, scratched out, was identified on the Togo timer’s board. Thurman has claimed he and others labored over this, contacting manufacturers trying to identify “M580” for some time before accepting that it was Mebo, the name of a Swiss firm supplying timers to rogue governments, including Libya. Thurman said they had “some inkling that’s what it was from the beginning, but we didn’t want to say okay, it’s Mebo’s exclusive, anything else, until we were absolutely certain” that the letters on there were indeed M-E-B-O. [5] Then they decided it was definitely Mebo’s exclusive for Libya only and only usable by Libyans and unable to fall into anyone else’s hands. Except the CIA, but they can still account for 50% of the ones they’ve been known to intercept.

Marquise later enthused how Thurman’s immaculate forensic work “quickly put us on a new track leading to the eventual solution,” a solution that shaped up into the indictments of al Megrahi and Fhimah on Nov 13 1991. This was Thurman’s prime-time moment and he seized it, doing his now-famous Nov 15 interview with ABC News, followed by other moppings-up of public adoration, like that Miami Herald article (Nov 30), where he sounded like a laid-off Don Henley lyricist: "We're the blacksmiths of the FBI. The nuts and bolts. We get extremely dirty, actually, filthy dirty. … your adrenalin is pumping. You can't sleep." Driven by “his curiosity, coupled with a sense of duty and empathy for the victims … he didn't stop until he linked the bomb to the Libyan government.” [1] Once he had done so with “conclusive proof,” he told ABC, what he felt was "absolute, positively euphoria. I was on cloud nine." [6]

After the High: 95 to Present
This euphoric winning streak continued for Thurman, and he went on to big things, like pursuing the domestic terrorists behind the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. But somehow, extended highs like this are often followed by a crash; starting in autumn 1995 charges were publicized that agent Thurman and his explosives unit “routinely” manipulated findings to favor the prosecution in at least two cases, including OKC. A 1997 Justice Department Inspector General investigation found Thurman to have no expertise in explosives at all, being a political scientist, not forensic, by training. After this he was formally barred from working in the crime lab or giving expert testimony in trials, and then “retired” from the bureau. [7]

This casts new light on his statements to ABC in '91; upon the match, “I knew at that point what it meant. Because if you will I‘m an investigator as well as [read political scientist instead of] a forensic examiner. I knew where that would go.” He told them the board pattern similarity “really just jumps out at you … when you look at it under a microscope.” It is always startling the first time you look into one, isn’t it? Upon leaving the bureau, Thurman went on to teach explosives investigation at East Kentucky University - sort of an honorarium it seems.

It was there that the now-bearded professor accepted an interview from the BBC program Dispatches. Aired for the 10th anniversary in December 1998, the interviewer challenged him, as Levy later would: “I’m surprised that you only worked from a photograph. Umm, this can’t be ideal, um, an ideal way (inaudible).” [8] Considering with real physical evidence you can examine it in 3-D, measure its layering composition, and the nature of blast damage (gas pitting, etc.), this is a rather good point. But Thurman, missing that completely, responded quite differently than he would ten years later: “Actually, in a case like this it’s much better than the actual item. Because the photograph enlarged it, how many times? Uuuh… a number of times. So you can see the detail with the naked eye in that photograph, that you can’t see on the actual item, without the aid of a microscope.” [8]

Later he told the interviewer “See, the only thing I have is the photograph.” When challenged “but you said a photograph’s as good as the fragment,” he said “yeah, but at the same time, you can’t - it’s difficult to make an actual measurement through - through here (tapping pictures)” [8] There is so, and it’s called “scale.” What you can’t tell is things beyond the surface pattern similarities - the actual forensic details. All he did was look at a photo and a model timer and decided they were the same pattern, as any six-year-old and some dogs could do. Questioning his credentials in this area seems a little disingenuous, to say the least.

Then of course we have his 20th anniversary story shown in Lockerbie Revisited, where he told Levy “I did the real thing ... I had the real piece of evidence. … The photograph was the first thing, then the real piece of evidence was brought over … It wasn’t just a photograph.” He’s done too many interviews, giving us many points to analyze patterns. The guy clearly has a penchant for emphasizing the reality, the intensity, of things in a way suggesting some underlying dissociation. (eg, heavy use of “actually,” “literally,” “physically,” and absolutes: “absolutely,” “positive,” “certain,” “forensic,” etc. ) He seems to harbor few, but loud memories that like to exaggerate themselves. They change over time in detail, but not in volume or the tone of self-congratulation for his own rigorous diligence. Or are these really memories?

[1] Roser, Ann. “'Nuts and Bolts’ Work Pays Off in Lockerbie Probe.” The Miami Herald. Published November 30, 1991. Link.
[2] Marquise, Richard. SCOTBOM: Evidence and the Lockerbie Investigation, Algora Publishing. Sept. 1, 2006. 268 pages. Google Books.
[3] Air Crash Investigation: Lockerbie. Season 6, episode one. Aired 2008. Youtube link.
[4] http://www.afio.com/sections/wins/2001/2001-06.html
[5] The Maltese Double Cross - Lockerbie. Film, Hemar Enterprises, 1994, 156 minutes. Written, produced, and directed by Allan Francovich. Wikipedia page - Google video (1hr, 6 min in)
[6] Biewen, John and Ian Ferguson. “Shadow Over Lockerbie: Mass Murder Over Scotland.” American Radio Works, National public Radio. March 2000. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/lockerbie/story/printable_story.html
[7] Peirce, Gareth. “The Framing of Al Megrahi.” September 24 2009. London Review of Books. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n18/peir01_.html
[8] Dispaches: The Lockerbie Trial. Reporter: David Jessel. A Just television production for Channel Four Television. Aired December 1998. Video (MP4)

Friday, October 23, 2009

PT/35 MOVE CLAIMS, pt. one

[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
October 23 2009
last update 10/28

The recent hubbub regarding overly-mobile Lockerbie evidence started with Dutch journalist Gideon Levy’s early 2009 video Tegenlicht: Lockerbie Revisited. It’s a well-made video, with good music, some informative bits, and an unusual format of having interviewees watch and respond to recordings of others. Its prime focus was the crucial evidence PT/35(b), the Mebo timer fragment “tying” the bombing back to Libya. It’s therefore a little embarrassing that Levy announces another famous fragment, of general Toshiba circuit board displayed on a fingertip – as the article in question. This confusion surfaces elsewhere in the film, but manages to not become a big deal.

The main attraction that has generated some buzz was a curious discrepancy revealed and captured regarding the whereabouts of this historic find during the course of the investigation. As evidence from Scottish soil it was, should have been, in control of the Scottish police investigation, headed by the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), a spot first held by Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS) John Orr (Strathclyde police, now Sir John Orr), and then by Orr's deputy, DCS Stuart Henderson (Lothian and Borders police, whom we meet below). The Scots would work in tandem with – but not give their evidence to – the American FBI's task force for the "SCOTBOM" investigation.

Officially the fragment was definitely taken outside Scotland - in the proper hands - to a RARDE lab at Kent, England and, as we’ve more recently had confirmed, to a private lab in Germany, both times for forensics testing. The understanding of then-Lord Advocate Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, which should have been quite good: “As far as I’m aware it’s always been in the UK,” he told Levy’s camera in 2008. He obviously didn’t know everything.

Besides the trips to England and Germany, which neither Lord Fraser nor Gideon Levy seemed aware of, there’s an alleged journey by this little blue key across the big blue sea to the United States. In the first of two interviews with Levy, FBI SCOTBOM chief Dick Marquise casually states that this one crucial piece of evidence, and nothing else, physically was brought to the FBI’s main lab in Washington.
“I’ll just tell you, not one piece - no I shouldn’t say that – the evidence – no, I’m not choosing my words carefully, I just want to make sure I say the right thing – all the evidence that was found in Lockerbie never made its way to be examined by the FBI laboratory. PT/35, as far as I remember, was the only piece of evidence that made its way to the laboratory, in the possession of a RARDE examiner. He brought it, he did the comparison, and he’s a scientist, and he took it back.”

Well that's an interestingly worded twist to the story. FBI Special Agent James “Tom” Thurman, the man publicly credited with making the identification of the fragment as from a Libyan-supplied MST-13 timer, on June 15 1990, also made an appearance. Levy caught up with him, wearing his years well in retirement, at a December 2008 ceremony to marking the 20th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster. Levy came across a bit wormy, in my opinion, using the solemn ceremony mostly to make Thurman squirm and deny he was dismissed from the FBI for altering evidence. More to the point, he challenged Thurman if comparing with a photo – as he has previously stated – was really scientific. Thus provoked, he responded:
Thurman: I did the real thing ... I had the real piece of evidence.
Levy: That pointed to Libya.
Thurman: Absolutely. Absolutely. The photograph was the first thing, then the real piece of evidence was brought over. And at that point –
Levy: It was – it was on your finger, the chip was on.
Thurman: At that point - then there was a one-to-one identification made. The real piece of evidence, to the timer, the MST-13 timer, was made in the FBI laboratory. It wasn’t just a photograph. The photograph started it, and then the authorities from England brought over the real piece of evidence. That piece of evidence was examined in the FBI laboratory, along with the MST-13. That examination was verified in the forensic science laboratory, in England. So, it wasn’t only my examination, it was verified by other peoples’ examination as well.
Suspicions condensing around the Thurman link here is natural; PT/35(b) was apparently taken outside normal channels to his lab, and put under the grip of a known manipulator of evidence. Problem is, the charges against him were not over physically altering physical evidence, but for his explosives unit allowing conclusions to be overstated in the prosecution’s favor, in multiple instances unrelated to this one. Agent Fred Whitehurst told Levy how Thurman altered his reports when he deemed that his own political science training trumped Whitehurst’s chemistry smarts.

This will and certainly should cast doubt on Thurman's general investigative even-handedness and his certainties over his own lab work (“I knew we had it,” it "absolutely, absolutely" implicates Libya, etc.). In fact why Thurman was selected is beyond me – any idiot with the two photos could affirm they’re the same, and this selectee has become a real liability. All the rage at the 1991 indictment, he was discredited and never called as a witness by the time of the big trial at camp Zeist in 2000.

But presenting this side-by-side with concerns over the “tampering with” of this evidence once taken somewhere dangerous is quite leading. The fact is, I can see no sign of tampering with the evidence, nor much of a reasons to suspect it. The problem is the thing itself, not where it was taken and who touched it in these dark corners.

At that same chilly cemetery, as the people were leaving to more private venues, Levy caught up again with Mr. Marquise, as it so happened accompanied by his Scottish counterpart DCS Henderson. When standing side-by-side with the prime guardian of that fragment Marquise was of a different recollection altogether from his first interview. Levy was granted an answer to one question, and that's about what he asked, for almost four minutes.
Levy: When I asked Lord Fraser about the circuit board, he said something that contradicted what you said. He said it had never been to the United States. And if it was in the United States, then he would have known.
Marquise: No, I don’t know that I told you the circuit board was in the United States.
Henderson: The circuit board was never in the United States.
Marquise: Let’s back up, we’re talking two different things. There was a circuit board of MST-13 timer in the United States, but the fragment PT/35 was never in the United States. Photographs of it were in the United States.”
Levy: It was never in the United States? (murmured agreement) Oh, I thought it was…
Marquise: No the fragment never came to the United States, but the circuit board was in the United States, because we had the MST-13 timer, which we turned over to the police in Scotland.
Levy: Ah, but but… Tom Thurman, who was here today, also said it was in the United States.
Marquise: No, he never said that.
Levy: No?
Marquise: The fragment PT/35 was not in the United States.
Levy: But it was in England, but it came…
Marquise: It never came to the United States
Levy: It never came to the United States.
Marquise: I don’t believe so – I’m 100% sure it was not here.
Levy: Oh, it has never been here.
Henderson: Never released out of evidence control of ourselves. Couldn’t afford to let something like that …
Levy: I thought it was brought in the possession of Alan Feraday.
Marquise: Feraday’s over in RARDE. He’s in England. It’s in his possession.
Levy: Yes, yes, but I thought he came – I thought you told me that it came in his possession to the United States.
Marquise: I don’t know that…
Henderson: His possession and my possession. But it was never released for any reason (inaudible).
Levy: And who are you?
Henderson: Detective Chief Superintendent Henderson, I conducted the investigation.
Levy: Okay. My name’s Gideon Levy, and I’m from Holland - from the Dutch television. So it has never been in the United States.
Henderson: Confirmed

From the video: Levy, Henderson, Marquise (l-r) discuss whether or not it was ever in the United States. But it wasn't? No, wasn't it?
Levy: At all.
Henderson: Couldn’t be, ‘cause it was such an important point of evidence it wasn’t possible to release it. It had to be contained to be produced to the Court, therefore you couldn’t afford to have it waved around for everybody to see because it could have got interfered with.
Levy: Aha
Henderson: So it was far too valuable to be other than made available – couldn’t be.
Levy: Okay
Henderson: Very valuable piece of evidence.
Levy: (shouting over) But you said it was in the possession of Alan Feraday and brought to the United States.
Marquise: You know, its – you’ll have to talk to Alan Feraday about what he brought to the United States. I don’t remember…
Henderson: Alan Feraday had it in his possession with me, but he did not release it to anyone
Marquise: No, no, no, he said bring it with him. Did he bring it to the, I don’t remember.
Henderson: No, they came to us to see it.
Marquise: Yes. I saw it – I saw it in London.
Levy: Oh, you saw it in London?
Henderson: They came to where we had it, see. Because it wasn’t possible to remove any evidence out of the jurisdiction of the – Scottish control.
Levy: So you were the same – you were the FBI investigator and you were the Scotish investigator. Ultimate inestigators.
Both: affirmations
Levy: Okay.
Henderson: That’s why I’m here, to go and see the relatives.
Marquise: We need to go.
Henderson: We’ll have to go. Pleasure to meet you, gentlemen.
Levy: Thank you very much.
Henderson: And by the way, there is no hidden holes to find because the culprit is in custody. (with a smile and wink) Take my word for it. Okay?

So I would come away from this with an impression that it may well have not been in the United States, whatever Marquise and Thurman said to same guy ten minutes earlier. But I’m weird hat way, denying Henderson’s bait that I imagine was dangling there. A more normal reaction would be to get a little confused, and for many to solve that by taking their own default position. Some would just dismiss this all as faulty memory two decades on, while others will surely latch onto it as more proof of a cover-up, or at least something to make some more noise over.

My main concern with PT/35(b) is that this much-fretted over fragment may have been planted outright to begin with, or at least has been overstated as direct evidence pointing only to Libya. This hullabaloo about where the possible fraud was carted to adds little to an understanding of either level of worthwhile inquiry.

Update, 10/28: Something I saw later that fits best here: Marquise's unacknowledged about face here was short-lived. In September 2009, months later with Henderson not present, he again affirmed an American trip. This was in a response to Gareth Peirce, and sent into Robert Black's blog. I haven't been able to verify it, so do please take a grain of salt:
Once he identified the fragment, he asked Alan Feraday to come to Washington. Feraday brought the original fragment of the timer with him and they both examined it under a microscope. They independently agreed it was identical to the MEBO timer. The fragment was never out of the control of Mr. Feraday and returned with him to the lab at RARDE.

Second update, Nov 24 2009: Mr. Marquise responds to the confusion that indeed the fragment did come to the US, and he and Henderson were both confused by the tone of Levy's Arlington ambush. Again from Black's Lockerbie Blog:
With regard to the "travel" of PT-35-- once again-- it was the sharing of information which led to the solution of this case. If the fragment had remained behind in Scotland, never shared, it would possibly be unidentified today. No one would ever have discovered it was a piece of one of 20 timers given to Libyan intelligence. It is clear no one ever attempted to "cover" that up-- I freely admitted it in my book, Mr. Henderson stated such in his precognition and I again said so to Mr. Levy. My "confusion" at Arlington last December over whether it had come to the US or not, was due more to the tone of the question, the setting and the allegation I may have lied to him when he first interviewed me. Unlike Mr. Megrahi, I do not tell lies when it comes to the evidence in this case. I said it right when Mr. Levy first interviewed me. We had nothing to hide because we did the right thing and there has never, never, never been one scintilla of proof that PT-35 was altered or changed in any way.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
October 21 2009
last edited 10/22

Recently attention has come back onto the MST-13 timer fragment, upon which the Lockerbie investigation solidified its case against Libya, with statements the other day by Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) Christine Grahame. Following suspicions raised by Gideon Levy’s 2009 film Lockerbie Revisited, people are asking like never before was this key evidence, pulled from a shirt collar months after the attack and designated PT/35(b), taken outside of Scotland? Outside Great Britain? Outside Europe and across the Atlantic? As the BBC reported:
Ms Grahame said: "The Crown Office have confirmed to me that the fragment, PT-35, the piece of evidence that it was claimed linked Libya to the attack, was also sent to Germany in April 1990, as well as the US. [...] If there was any suspicion that the fragment had been tampered with, it could have undermined the entire prosecution case.

Clearly this is big news that people will Google, and find things like this, posted last year by Edwin Bollier, co-founder of Mebo, the timer’s makers:
Inspector Keith Harrower (Scottish Police) visited on the 27th of April 1990, this the MST-13 fragment the electronic company Siemens AG in Munich, Germany. Engineer Brosante sawed this first brown original MST-13 fragment into two parts and confirmed: "standard brown PC-platine with 8 layers of fiberglass." The green machine made MST-13 timers delivered to Libya consisted of PC-boards with 9 layers of fiberglass.

So when these “new” questions start leading right to Mr. Bollier’s claims of tampering and worse, some clearing of the waters might be useful. I turn my attention to false or dubious claims, pushed by Bollier and a handful of others, about the fragment being planted or swapped-out with a clearly different fragment, during the process of investigation.

His claims on the board being different colors at different times are too convoluted to fully explore here, but Bollier has been swearing lately that a brown prototype handed to Swiss authorities had been used as the evidence, somehow clearly visible in the first known photograph from 1989 (left), while the later photo (mid-1990, right) of an altered PT35(b) are of a replacement green board.

The MTS-13’s designer, Ulrich Lumpert, apparently spawned this with his 2007 affidavit, by which he handed the brown board over to Swiss investigators who in turn gave it to SCOTBOM, who used as evidence. Engineer Brosante also agrees it was brown, judging by Bollier’s quote (that’s the first I’ve heard of him, so don’t ask me). The official story is of course that it’s always been the same green fragment they found in the wreckage of 103.

It is true that green here seems to mean blue, and the later photo is more blue than the first. However, this (as I found it online) shows clear signs of global photo-tinting and once corrected, the color matches up quite well with the original – dark muted blue-gray, like a green/blue board that had been burnt. It does seem possible some of the carbonized surface material has been cleaned off in the latter view, but otherwise there is no hint of brown I can see in either of these photos, and no color-based sign of meaningful alteration or replacement.

Considering comparison photos of PT/35(b) alongside an intact model board (links above), There are allegations of the curved edge not matching or the “1” touchpad and its relation to the “true edge” differing. But when the outlines are superimposed to scale (right), we find a perfect fit presuming the fragment is missing a sliver off the top. And here we can see a difference with the first photos and later ones – the top is present at first, giving it the right curve of an intact board. Later, it’s gone. Two prominent cuts at right angles also appear, apparently part of forensic examination carried out so controversially in Munich, to check the board’s layering style. This apparently severed a corner piece, put back in place and displayed as separate evidence item DP/31. But the removed top is not so displayed. It’s reasonable to surmise this tiny section – app. 1cm by 1/8cm – was simply ground off to get a profile, but mysteries remain... It's not clear how many layers were really found, but as it appears a green machine-made board, I'm guessing nine.

Among Mebo the clown’s most enthusiastic claims of proven forgery is how “the letter "M" was carved into” the original “brown” item sideways next to the touch pad, while “in the duplicate no. PT/35(b) (fake) it can be clearly seen that no letter “M” was carved into it!” Lumpert mentioned but disowned this in his affidavit: “I had nothing to do with the letter "M" (possibly an abbreviation of Muster 'sample'), which appears." To true scale (at left), this tiny M seems strangely small to use as a marking, nestled in next to the “1.” In reality, as JREF forum member Ambrosia showed with the enhancement below, the M casts a faint but visible shadow, and would seem to be a 3d object, a tiny ziggy fiber of presumably shirt stitching.

Beneath this alleged etching are three small light patches bracketing the solder lines, visible above. Of these Lumpert said “I clearly recognize the scratched remnants of the soldering tracts on this enlarged digital police photograph.” A poster available online shows a blowup with German text, perhaps based on something, labeling these as “Kratzstellen von Ing Lumpert,” scratches by Lumpert. That any villains would have chosen to cut out and display as evidence just the small corner that Lumpert had marked with random micro-abrasions and could identify raises some questions.

What exactly these really are is a minor mystery – perhaps more fibers of a different kind snagged on the solder. Whatever they are they’re as gone later as the M – either the political engineers sanded these off or painted them over, or replaced the board down to he tiniest details except for these scratches, as alleged by recent Mebo pages, or they were some inconsequential surface debris since removed.

And for a preview of what lies at the bottom of this rabbit hole, realize Bollier's claiming a green replacement for a brown original fake of an alleged green Libyan timer; A 'technical report' commissioned on actual graph paper suggests for no reason I can fathom the final PT/35(b) photo is of the green replacement except the corner DP/31, which is actually a matching corner from the original Lumpert-supplied brown fake! And they didn't even use the corner with the irreplaceable "M!" (lower right corner of right view below - the part that's the same blue/green as the rest).

So to summarize, as the graphic above pretty well does, the verifiable changes were the removal of surface debris, perhaps removal of some of the charred layer, loss of a small bit of solder, an apparent flake of damaged plastic (tan under-layer?), minor changes to the touch pad surface, and the obvious cuts and/or grinding to the board consistent with cross-section analysis. Nothing else about it changed, and there’s no evidence that anything misleading was done with this after its initial fraudulent insertion into the evidence chain.

Did everyone catch that? Don’t get distracted, then, is the main point here. There are still intelligent questions to ask.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
October 14 2009
last update 10/15

"The records from Frankfurt were by no means complete."
- Denis Phipps, former head of security, British Airways, in The Maltese Doublecross

The Frankfurt Connection: A Grand Narrative
As connective tissue in the fraudulent case against al Megrahi and Libya as the perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing, nothing carries more weight than the faint line from one plane to another traced by an odd little computer printout from Frankfurt, West Germany. I’ve already noted the most poignant aspect of this evidence for me; that it was received in such an abnormal way AND not in any of the standard, proper ways. This suspect but key evidence is said to show a piece of unaccompanied interline luggage, thought to be the one with the bomb in it, moving through Frankfurt Airport’s system on that fateful December 21, 1988, onto PanAm103A. This was a feeder flight into the real Flight 103, a separate plane waiting at Heathrow Airport in London, ready to shoot for New York.

In actuality it takes a few documents aside from this main printout to put the whole link together, as explained below. But the picture that emerges is quite precise; to summarize the Opinion [PDF link] of the special Scottish Court at Camp Zeist, delivered in 2001 after examining the available records and testimony:

Air Malta flight KM180 arrived from Luqa Airport, Malta, and reached its parking position at 12:48GMT. The plane was unloaded between then and 13:00, and one wagon of baggage from it arrived, at 13:01, at one of two main luggage facilities, designated “V3.” This baggage and nothing else was then coded at station 206 within V3 starting in three minutes at 1304 and running probably six minutes until 1310. One particular item was coded at 13:07 into container no. 8849. It was then routed down to one of several luggage stores, HS33, for two hours until moved at 15:17 to gate B044 and later, presumably, loaded onboard 103A before its 16:53 departure. No passenger transferred from the air Malta flight to the PanAm one, so the bag thus illustrated was of the dreaded “unaccompanied” variety.

The System (I Think)
From what I gather of the whole airport system, it could be broken down to two parts; the topside is a zone of tarmac and wheels, counters, hands, wagons, and airplane cargo holds. Hard paperwork is kept for topside transactions, and activities are overseen by actual people held responsible. The Court explained “baggage for most airlines was handled by the airport authority, but PanAm had their own security and baggage handling staff.” This is key to record-keeping; the airport and the airline each would then have responsibility for keeping track of their own efforts, and both should be called on in the investigation.

From the planes, luggage is carted to a coding station, where items are placed on bar-code numbered trays (containers), one item per tray, and the computers take over. The bottomside then is what the Court described as “a computer controlled automated baggage handling system” that I gather ran beneath the airport. This vast electro-mechanic system automatically routed coded items along roller conveyors and through switching stations, at key spots scanned and logged. This system connected coding stations to the various stores, and apparently up to gates, after which they re-emerged topside and then to the connecting aircraft’s hold. Not bad for 1988.

On the paperwork kept to track this complex arrangement, the court explained “the computer itself retained a record of the items sent through the system so that it was possible, for a limited period, to identify all the items of baggage sent through the system to a particular flight. After some time, however, that information would be lost from the system.” [emph mine] One would presume law enforcement and investigative agencies would be aware of that fact.

Records on the KM180 End
Production 1068: The court’s point [29] denotes this for “the evidence of Joachim Koscha, who was one of the managers of the baggage system at Frankfurt in 1988” It was his evidence that established KM180’s arrival and unloading time, 12:48-13:00. They do also cite a “record,” but provided no direct citation. It almost seems they’re just citing his memory, when normally paper records were kept.

Denis Phipps, former head of security, British Airways, who has closely inspected the primary records of different airlines and airports connected to the disaster. He said in The Maltese Doublecross [video, 1994] “the records from Frankfurt were by no means complete." Among his concerns:
“There was no record of who unloaded that flight KM180 when it arrived at Frankfurt. We don't know who the loaders were. There was no record of the number of bags that were actually unloaded from that flight. There were no records that I could find.”
He was trying to bolster Air Malta’s reasonable claims that all 55 bags on that flight were accompanied and claimed by its 39 passengers, and none could have gone on to 103. Thus the official story here is that there was one more bag than Air Malta admits to. That Phipps found no records to support that, and the court failed to specify any, are bad omens for that damning charge.

production 1092: This is an “interline writer’s sheet” filled out by Andreas Schreiner was in charge of monitoring the arrival of baggage at V3 That bears to record one wagon of baggage from KM180 arriving at V3 at 13:01.Within V3 are seven coding stations, where luggage is placed into bar-code numbered trays to enter bottomside. They cite the sheet’s contents in table form and it seems like they had these records at hand.

Mr Schreiner’s evidence expanded beyond this, to explanations for the the Lords of how coding “would generally begin three to five minutes after the arrival of the baggage at V3,” and that “luggage was always delivered from one flight only” at any given time. The basis for these points must be taken on the man’s word, but they help simplify the Prosecution’s case. Station 206 at 13:04-13:10 means KM180 baggage and nothing else. Simple common sense would dictate a breach of this standard MO is at least possible. A stronger retort was published in Time magazine in 1992, relating a FBI memo following a look at the airport’s records and methods:
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."
This bag would thus appear to investigators to have been part of whatever planeload they were coding there at the time. The same could be at work with our item 8849. The conclusion of this report, sent back to Washington: “"There remains the possibility that no luggage was transferred from Air Malta 180 to Pan Am 103."

Production 1061: This was identified by witnesses Mr Schreiner and Mr Koscha “as a work sheet completed by a coder to record baggage with which he dealt.” The name of the coder in question was Koca, who was not called as a witness.” Pity, since the document shows us little detail. The court again showed this data in tabular form. Here thanks to Mebo I have an image of the evidence in question [see below]. The signatures alternate Koca and Candar, listing either container numbers or numbers of wagons of luggage, the flight number it’s from, time they started coding, and stop time. The relevant line is the last one – one wagon of luggage from KM180 started coding at 13:04, and ended at a time disputed as 13:10 or 13:16.

The difference between the a 1310 reading and a 1316 one does not affect the link with the central printout showing 8849 coded at 1307. But as eminent investigator Paul Foot notes “If the end-time was 13.16 this left a gaping hole in time when other bags may have been encoded through the same station that did not come from Malta at all.” With the worksheet here we can compare some previous codings “Beginn” to “Ende” for the previous six flights: 5 min, 5 min, 3 min, 9 min, 5 min, and 6 min, to process one wagon or one container of baggage. (the apparent “4” is probably a “1” written over a dash). And finally, either six or twelve minutes for one wagon from KM180. Unless there was something weird that screwed up the pattern (which is entirely possible), I’m calling the end time 13:10 and moving on. The hole was as big as it was, other things could well get through, but the most likely item at 206 in that time is still a bag from Malta.

Records on the PA103A End: A Blanked-Out System
Production 1062: This is the court’s code for some unspecified “documentary evidence” that “the aircraft used for PA103A arrived from Vienna (as flight PA124) and was placed at position 44, from which it left for London at 1653.” I’ll accept that as valid, but note the ambiguity of citation.

Production 1060:
This is the famous printout of the late-sought tracking data on bags destined for the PanAm flight, on a whim saved from oblivion by the diligent Mrs. Erac. [see left – r-click, new window for readable size] Obviously this covers the broad computer-managed middle stage rather than “the 103A end.” But as it is, this is the only known link showing that item 8849 continued towards the fatal feeder flight. It’s the single document that allows “the inference," drawn by the Scottish Judges, "that an item which came in on KM180 was transferred to and left on PA103A.”

It’s not that there should be more; the one record is to be expected. The unexpected is no one official got to it before it was deleted, and we had to rely on a memento copy from someone’s locker. We’re told. And the investigation was lucky to get that after a curious delay of 7-8 months.

What it shows, briefly, is 111 items listed numerically by container no. The relevant portions are highlighted in the condensed version below. PA103A is referred to herein as F1042. The relevant item 8849 was coded at station S0009, which it’s been determined means station 206, at 1307. That is a fit with KM180’s load. It then goes to Gate B044 at 1523, the same few-minute span most of it arrived. What happened from there is outside the computerized system and not recorded here.

Production Null: This is the designation – none – given to PanAm’s loading records for flight 103A. Holding to previous patterns, we’re back to tarmac and wheels space, and there should be records kept at gates 44 and 41 regarding the luggage items received and loaded onto the planes at each gate. There should be a verification that item 8849 was among them, and that it was then loaded to the plane.

Obviously the Airport authority couldn’t offer this to the court, as it wasn’t their job to load a PanAm plane or to log what they don’t do. There’s no mention in the Court’s opinion of what PanAm provided to the case; they went bankrupt in late 1991, so it’s natural they didn’t send anyone to the 2000 trial. But judging by Marquise, they also added nothing to the 1989-91 investigation, at least regarding the crucial Frankfurt link. The court adds nothing to that, only citing "evidence [...] that no baggage was left at the gate" in reasoning that " it can be inferred that all items sent there were loaded." Again, a non-admission admission that they don't really have the evidence they should.

Positive confirmation of this lack of records can be found in The Maltese Double-Cross (same section linked above). According to Michael Jones, Pan Am’s security chief with the London office [emph mine]:
I went to Frankfurt airport on 23rd of January 1989, to look for documents in relation to the preparation of Flight 103 from Frankfurt to London, and particularly the cargo and baggage loading plan, who was responsible for loading the plane and what their duties were, but these documents were missing from the daily file. … If the original documents had been taken by the authorities, and by that I mean the police, then it would be normal practice for a copy to be retained in the Pan Am file.

We have a date – one month after the disaster, and the crucial files for this plane are reportedly gone by this time. No one I know of has reported seeing them since. The computer tracking system was also gone to nearly all eyes as of January and on through August before it resurfaced to lead the case in a new direction. It would appear that investigators before that clue had no data on what went onto that plane that fed into the other plane. This in itself is a little-known but major scandal, quite likely its own crime scene that could not be traced back to foreign terrorists. Therefore, it’s to remain little-known.

Graphic Representation

- Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield, MacLean, Case No: 1475/99. OPINION OF THE COURT delivered by Lord Sutherland in causa HER MAJESTY’S ADVOCATE v ABDELBASET ALI MOHMED AL MEGRAHI and AL AMIN KHALIFA FHIMAH. Delivered January 31 2001. PDF or txt file available at: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/library/lockerbie/index.asp
- The Maltese Double Cross - Lockerbie. Film, Hemar Enterprises, 1994, 156 minutes. Written, produced, and directed by Allan Francovich. Wikipedia page
- Rowan, Roy. Pan Am 103: Why did they Die? Time. April 27 1992http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,975399-1,00.html

Thursday, October 8, 2009


[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
October 8 2009
last update 10/9

Collectively, the evidence used to convict Abdelbaset Al Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am 103 indicates a Libyan-made bomb, placed by the "Libyan intelligence operative" into a specially packed brown Samsonite suitcase at Luqa airport onto Air Malta flight KM180, tagged to be transferred unaccompanied onto Pan Am 103 to blow up right around the Scottish coastline. The results could only be approximately controlled, given potential delays between thee planes and three airports.

To date the only positive evidence such a bag was even on the first of the three alleged planes is the tenuous conclusion that it later left that plane onto the second and third. The case linking back to Libya via Malta (Libya’s “backdoor to the West”) is entirely based on circumstantial clues, starting with the clothing of Maltese make, apparently packed around the bomb, followed by the timer fragment found to boldly point to Libya. Eventually some testimony was bought/mangled from witnesses like Gauci and Giaka to support the middle link of a loose bag from Malta traceable to Libyan *super-spook* al Megrahi. But this wasn’t pursued until after they had secured some kind of evidence for the bag itself.

In between Malta and the fields of southern Scotland, there might have been, and probably should have been, nothing but speculation to flesh out the official story. As it turns out, or so we’re told, Frankfurt Airport, which had supplied a feeder flight to 103, routinely destroyed its computerized luggage tracking records after a short period of just one week. Unless this means an office-fridge-style cleanout (say, every Friday at 5:00) we can presume a logical 7-day storage – enough time to retrieve anything in a special situation like this. But no one retrieved it in time, even for Pan Am 103, which had been loaded with passengers and luggage partially at that airport and was all over the news well within 24 hours for having blow the heck up.

Not that it mattered; apparently, no attempt was even made to look at such records in the first months after the incident. But by luck and fate an anomalous copy did surface, fairly early in the (looong) investigation, and made its own way to the German police and thence onto the FBI SCOTBOM investigation. It showed just the bag that the other points could later lean against to strengthen the case that emerged. “That was a key part of the investigation, which allowed us to link a bag from Malta to Frankfurt, through London and then obviously on to Lockerbie,” FBI SCOTBOM chief Richard Marquise has said [CF 6:50]. And it’s a half-decent clue, just far from conclusive and perhaps not even honest.

This was provided, primarily, by Bogomira Erac, a computer programmer and baggage handler there on the fateful day. Her paperwork and testimony were pivotal to the prosecution case when brought before the Scottish Court at camp Zeist. Scottish revisionist Ian ferguson claims she “testified at the original trial under the pseudonym Madame X.” [IF] I can find no support for that, and the final verdict (opinion of the Court, issued Jan. 2001) referred to her by name.

Having “realised that PA103A had departed during her period on duty,” the Court summarized therein, Erac “was interested in the amount of baggage on the Frankfurt flight, and on the following morning she decided to take a printout of the information as to baggage held on the computer.” She was looking for "any useful information," but "did not at once identify any.” [OC, point [30]] She could not likely know what this data did or didn’t say without other data sources, and she did not hand it over to those who could put it in context, so its vital clues lingered unrealized.

Investigative journalist Paul Foot, one of the few people to sit through the whole Lockerbie trial, came away with about the same impression as the court, in that Erac had printed this out herself for informational purposes. Referring to the record, he wrote in his seminal 2001 report Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice:
“This was printed out on the day after the Lockerbie bombing by Bogomir Erac, who was in charge of the software for the baggage system at Frankfurt. She recovered the print-out in case it revealed anything interesting about the luggage loaded on to flight 103A to Heathrow, which linked to the separate and doomed flight 103.” [PF 18]
FBI SCOTBOM chief investigator Ricahrd Marquise, in his 2006 book, took a different view of Bogomira’s interest in the facts; “more for curiosity than anything else, she kept it in her desk for about three weeks. She was later asked by her supervisor to look for baggage records in the computer, but they were purged every week.” [RM 210] But apparently this request came after these three weeks, showing up this unnamed supervisor as both a sluggish thinker and epically ignorant of their own storage policies to bother pursuing this avenue so late. Luckily there was still the paper copy, again no thanks to procedure.

Mrs. Erac told the BBC in a 2008 video interview (see left) that not only was the data deleted, their paper backups were tossed in short order as well. “We usually destroyed all the printouts. And I was just about ready to do that with this one,” the “diligent” Mrs. Erac told the camera sent for The Conspiracy Files. [CF 5:42] Had she simply forgotten that she had specifically printed this one for factual reference? But of course she didn’t clear out this deadwood; “on the spur of the moment, I just picked it up and put it on the table,” perhaps remembering why it existed. She then decided to hold onto it for sentimental reasons “in memory of the people who were on the plane." With moist eyes scanning towards Gott in Himmel she recalls this, “and then I threw it in my locker.”

In this version, it wasn’t until much later that she changed gears on the issue; “the weeks went by and to Bogomira’s surprise, no one came to ask for the printout,” the video’s narration runs. “Realizing it could be useful, she eventually went to her supervisor.” Having reversed the initiative for the meeting from that reported above, Erac next has the supervisor protesting “but the baggage list doesn’t exist anymore!” When she handed it over, “he was very, very surprised.”

So sometime in January 1989 these two were aware of this list’s existence but presumably not its implications. The unnamed supervisor then turned it over to the BKA German Federal Police who in turn sat on it awhile before handing it over to the Lockerbie investigation sometime in August 1989, at least seven months after they’d started work. [CF 4:45]

It was a breakthrough in the case, as FBI chief Marquise wrote in his 2006 book SCOTBOM, “her printout was the only record. This was as much a key to the solution of the case as Tony Gauci or the Mebo chip.” [RM 210] He neglected to mention a fourth key, the damning testimony of witness Giaka. In fact, the evidence from Frankfurt is crucial in that without it they had no evidence (aside from Giaka) for the bomb being anywhere but Heathrow to Lockerbie. And like these other key points (aside from Giaka), which all came after the printout, there are question marks over this evidence.

1) No backup records: Deleting all copies of the data in question sounds like a dubious policy. That this one list is just good luck is itself a bad sign. That the policy was not abridged in the case of this flight, with a copy saved for investigators, is just bizarre or untrue.
2) Corollary lack of interest in looking for such records: officially the bomb in the biggest terrorism investigation in ever got on PA103 via Frankfurt, Even with a week and all the world's investigating agencies to think about it, no one checked the relevant records to see if that might be the case? The official story here, that no one checked and were dismayed by the lack of records is itself dismaying. I’m not at all sure this is really the case.
3) Conflicting stories: Did the supervisor ask Erac to look up info, or did he presume it was gone until she approached him? Did she print this out herself, or save a regular print-up? Did she save it as a memento, for personal research, or for the investigation? Time is obviously a factor, but is it the main one in these shifting details?
4) Long delays: They add up – three weeks, a few moths, and collectively, the time from unknown to openly known stretches into something like a year. Coincidentally, this could provide time to track down the info desired, to run through possible cases and scenarios and implications, and for what was desired to settle into place. If the FBI worked that way. Politically.

The printout timeline thus bears a strangely parallel course to that of the MST-13 timer chip; first found in January 89, realized as evidence in May, and puzzled over for a full year, documented with well-spaced memos, before identified as “Libyan.”

Questions about its provenance aside, the paperwork is not as clear as made out and far less decisive. Showing only a bag originating at a certain place (station 206 of “V3”) at a certain time (13:07GMT) before being put on the feeder to London. Other records would have to be called on, linking KM108 and its bags to this station 206 in order to form the full Air Malta-Pan Am link that emerged. Apparently these more obscure records, not directly touching PA103A, were not routinely destroyed, and were made available to the prosecution with no luck cited. What all these airport records say and what they can’t say will be the subject of another post.
[CF] The Conspiracy Files: Lockerbie. BBC Two. Aired 31 August 2008. Prod/Dir Guy Smith, Ex Prod Sam Anstiss, Narr Caroline Catz. Youtube posting, part 3, time stamps indicated above.
[IF] Ferguson, Ian. "The judges got it wrong" From the Sunday Times, Malta. May 10 2009. Reposted at Robet Black's blog: http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com/2009/05/from-sunday-times-malta.html
[OC] Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield, MacLean, Case No: 1475/99. OPINION OF THE COURT delivered by LORD SUTHERLAND
in causa HER MAJESTY’S ADVOCATE v ABDELBASET ALI MOHMED AL MEGRAHI and AL AMIN KHALIFA FHIMAH. Delivered January 31 2001. PDF file available at: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/library/lockerbie/index.asp
[PF] Foot, Paul. Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice. PDF, 32 pages, published 2001, Private Eye. 6 Carlisle Street, London, W1D 3BN. Available for purchase (5£) https://secure2.subscribeonline.co.uk/PEYE/digital_downloads.cfm
[RM] Marquise, Richard. SCOTBOM, 2006.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
October 5 2009
last update/edit 11/2/09

In this post I will relate all direct visual evidence, gathered from different sites, relating to the circuit board fragment found in the evidence of the Lockerbie bombing. These should be official photographs and documents, mostly from the British side of the investigation. My sources are a few, but mostly websites run by Mebo, the board’s manufacturers and confusing advocates in the trial and its controversies. At the risk of accepting bad evidence, I will accept these as accurte, if not the commentary, and simply lay them out in approximated chronological order with some of the available information on them.
The fragment was allegedly first gathered by DCs Gilchrist and McColm, unseen within a piece of cloth logged in mid-January 1989 as item PI/995, “Cloth (charred).” Anomalously, the label was later changed with “debris” written right over “cloth.” In the 2000 trial, Gilchrist was asked about the overwriting; the judges found his explanations "at worst evasive and at best confusing," but found no "sinister connotation" in this (and neither do I, in particular). Note also how the date (13/1/89 as on the left side) seems faintly penciled in for "introduction in case against," and the loaction found line seems written over with invisible ink. The resolution on these is not good - here I took the full tag and a clearer zoom-in (original images page) and merged them for the best effect.

One signature on this cluttered tag seems to be Dr. Thomas Hayes [wiki] of RARDE (Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment), who analyzed this material more closely on May 12, 1989, according to his lab log (on page 51, left - r-click new window for readable view). This was the first mention anywhere of the pivotal timer fragment, as item b) at left. Reportedly, the pages following this in Hayes’ journal were renumbered, which he was unable to explain in later testimony. This could well mean this page was inserted after the fact, as widely speculated, to introduce a backdated paper trail for a later plant. It's a little sloppy to my eyes, and doesn’t add much detail to the record; there is nothing about the board other than a simple note of “a fragment of green coloured circuit board." He offers no drawing, no details. Note that the paper fragments, carefully re-sketched here (five sheets, 2 sides each, lower half of page), were identified early and given the evidence no. PT/2. The exploded electrics of items a-c, on the same page here, are "raised" collectively as PT/35 “assorted materials RECOVERED from clothing PI995.” (caps in original) I think this means 31 pieces of evidence were catalogued between these identifications allegedly noted on the same day.

The first photograph to be taken of the fateful fragment was reportedly taken, on or around September 12 1989, by Hayes, or by “RARDE photographer Heines.” according to different web pages sponsored by Mebo, the board’s confusing makers. (Hayes version, Heines version). This is three days prior to the September 15 Feraday letter (see below), leading some to suspect he took the picture then. Its acual date of capture seems to be prior to Hayes' May 12 entry, as the lumpy shape to the right of the fragment seems to be the paper fragments prior to being separated and drawn therein. The famous photo shows the shirt collar and all the evidence taken from it, with the circuit board chunk circled in red in the publicly available version. Considering the quality of blow-ups possible from this (see below) it is presumably 35mm, and not one of the "polaroids" mentioned below. (Original Image)

At left is the best blow-up of this available, from a higher resolution original than is up anywhere on the Internet. Here can be noted the “1” shaped touch pad, twin solder lines beneath this, the intact top edge, rounded corner, crumbly edges. The "etched" sideways “M" and "scratches" beneath it have been called clues of forgery, but likely are fibers of fabric like those clustered on the left side. The color of this board's coating plastic, described as green by RARDE people, and as evidently BROWN by Mebo missives, seems to me no particular color, but more precisely off-black or muted dark gray-blue with a slight greenish hue. It's probably supposed to be burnt, so green-blue seems closer than brown. (source)

Another to take a crack at this fragment was Alan Feraday [wiki] the director at the time of DERA (Defense Evaluation and Research Agency), who at some point made a study using another shot, straight on, with another view of it flipped over on its back. Using enlarged photos (“approx X 3”), perhaps photocopied on paper, he added notes around the mirror-flipped dark shapes - the following are my best reading:
"straight edge" pointing to the straight top edge.
"curved edge" pointing to curved edge
"trimmed copper" pointing to solder lines. ("track pattern on underside" added)
"Green top surface" pointing to back view.

There isn’t much resolution here to work with, but that back view is totally unique. So I used a separate layer with maxxed out contrast to pop out all details (below, right). There seems to be a small bump corresponding to the middle of the touch pad, and some roughness (fracture? bubbling?) around the edges, quite a ways in at bottom and right. Otherwise little can be seen. image source

On September 15 1989, judging by the header, Feraday sent a memo to Detective Inspector William Williamson, a counterpart in the Dumfries and Galloway police (along with the FBI, they were the official investigators). This was to explain “some Polaroid photographs of the green circuit board,” which he found "potentially most important," depending on what ID the D&G could come up with. Feraday apologized for the quality of these pictures, noting “it is the best I can do in such a short time.” Some have presumed he was sending the circled photo above, but the use of plural photographs, could mean what he sent was the analysis above, having two photos in it. It’s not entirely clear what the rush was all about or why that precluded better pictures. (source)

Following this is a long gap in the timeline of what I've sorted out, from later '89 into early 1990. Investigators analyzed the fragment (though not for explosives residue), searched for matching board patterns, and so on. According to a Mebo site, on February 8, 1990 “a needle-thin section” was removed from the evidence, apparently for forensics work, “by Mr. French from CIBA-Geigy." Four days later, the site continues,
“Mr. Roderick MacDonald, withness no. 589, had been called into Strathclyde police-station to take some photographs of an allegedly Lockerbie-recovered MST-13 timer fragment with the allocated no: PT/35 (evidence: production no:1754) According to Court-documents, the alleged MST-13 timer fragment PT/35 was at that time no longer in its orginal condition and in one piece!” (source)

For a good trans-Atlantic, Anglo-American (sorry, Scots-American) investigation, it only seems appropriate to bring in some expertise from across the pond. Investigator Paul Foot (Flight from justice, PDF, page 11) reports a July 1990 call from FBI forensic authority and political scientist James "Tom" Thurman [wiki] offering a lead to DCI Williamson on the fragment Feraday told him of. Reportedly Feraday and Williamson both went to Virginia to meet him. Although some have said this fragment was physically taken there, and the controversy recently upped with Levy’s Lockerbie Revisited video, the preponderance of testimony suggests to me, so far, that it was just a photo. I may sort it out in a separate post.

At any rate, Thurman was able to get pictures also of a captured Libyan MST-13 timer and, on June 15 as he recalls (not July as Foot reported) found a perfect match to the fragment from Scotland. He kept some photos on file to show reporters later, including a giant blow-up, heavily blue-tinted, of the fragment, perhaps MacDonald's view. This is shown alongside a comparison board with unfilled solder lines and some odd spatterings off the touch pad. (this Mebo photo seems to be the same board Thurman compared to, here in odd color, a different angle, and labeled). The image at left also is from a Mebo graphic, with the backdrop only altered by me for aesthetic reasons. (Original Image) This is the earliest view I know of showing he top sliver missing, as well as the lower right corner cut out or at least deeply scored. Otherwise, it appears to be the same piece, if perhaps a bit bluer, probably due to photo tinting. Also note, the “M” is missing, supporting the idea it was a transitory fiber since cleaned off.

I’m still vague as to when the famous trial photo below was taken. Showing evidence PT/35(b) and, apparently, the separated corner labeled DP/31, compared to model DP/347(a), an intact MST-13 timer. This might seem the photo taken by MacDonald on Feb 12, which would leave one wondering why the trip to America if they already knew what to put it alongside. It may have been after Thurman’s ID in June, as a verification with cleaner sample, and done in 3-D. Or as some have stated, this side-by-side was done by Thurman himself, with access to both real items. Whenever, wherever, and by whomever it was captured, again with intense blue tinting of the whole evidence photo. Here I’ve color-corrected to the best (app) nexus of natural whites, standard blue backdrops, and fragment plastic color. I’m not sure where this model is from, but it’s clearly different from the one Thurman used for comparison.

In the end, counter-claims aside, the fragment looks the same throughout, other than the noted diminishings, so if any planting happened it was at the beginning, which could be later than the paperwork suggests. But the case was made and handed to us thusly: this was from the wreckage, near the bomb, perhaps part of it. It was handled carefully by trained and diligent professionals leaving a clear paper trail. It was rigorously matched, with photos AND microscopes, to a style used by Libyan operatives. And it all came down to a fragment of circuit board, and wound up appealing to the kind of late-90s popular TV fiction mentality needed to win crucial public/political support for the indictment. As agent Thurman bragged to the TV news just after the 1991 indictment, "when that identification was made, of the timer, I knew that we had it." Whether by accident or staging, it was brilliant theater.