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New suspects identified in Lockerbie bombing case

Scottish prosecutors say they have identified two suspects in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and are asking the Libyan government to allow them to be interviewed. That comes just two days after the final episode of Frontline's “My Brother’s Bomber,” which reexamined the case in search for new information. Jeffrey Brown speaks to filmmaker Ken Dornstein, whose brother was killed in the bombing.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Scottish prosecutors announced today that they have identified two Libyan suspects in the 1988 bombing of a passenger jet over the town of Lockerbie.

    Scotland and U.S. — Scottish and U.S. authorities are asking the Libyan government to allow Scottish detectives and FBI officers to interview the suspects in Tripoli, Libya. The Washington Post is reporting, according to a U.S. official, that the two individuals are Abdullah al-Senussi, a former intelligence chief for ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and Abu Agila Mas'ud, an alleged bomb-maker.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The development comes just two days after "Frontline" aired the final installment of "My Brother's Bomber," a three-part documentary by Ken Dornstein that went back and reexamined the files from the Lockerbie case.

    Here's a short clip of part three, where Dornstein is following the trial in Libya of former Gadhafi officials by the new government.

  • MAN:

    In Libya, a trial has begun for the sons of Moammar Gadhafi and more than two dozen of his ex-officials.

    KEN DORNSTEIN, Filmmaker, "My Brother's Bomber": At the same time in Tripoli, the new government was continuing its trial of former Gadhafi officials.

  • MAN:

    The ruler's ex-spy chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, was among the defendants fenced off behind bars from corruption to war crimes related to the 2011 uprising.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    The Libyans were interested in crimes during the revolution, but I was listening at home for details about the men on my list.

    Then, in the middle of the trial, a photo arrived by e-mail from Musbah Eter. It was poor quality and came with no explanation, but in the center of the frame was a dark-skinned man. The blue jumpsuit and prison bars made it pretty clear that he was one of the men on trial in Tripoli, so I went looking for every photo I could find of these men on trial.

    And there in one of them, behind Abdullah al-Senussi, the former intelligence chief, was the dark-skinned man. The more I looked, the more photos I found of him.

    I captured these images and sent them to Musbah Eter in Berlin. He said this was indeed will bomb expert, Abu Agila, 100 percent. It was hard to believe I was now looking at the man I had been trying to find for so many years.

    But I still wanted more confirmation. So, I connected with a human rights worker who'd been monitoring the trials in Libya.

  • WOMAN:

    Hi, ken.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    Hey, how are you?

  • WOMAN:

    We can attempt cameras, but I'm not sure it's going to last.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    I told her who I was looking for. At first, she couldn't find Abu Agila's name on the list, but then:

  • WOMAN:

    Wait, wait, wait. Wait. I have a name. It's just written slightly differently.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    What does it look like to you?

  • WOMAN:

    I think it's defendant number 28 in this case. So, his first name is Abu Agila. That would be his first name. And as to my understanding, the biggest case against him seems to be bomb-making in relation to the 2011 conflict, charges of setting up bombs in vehicles.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    Wow. That sounds like him.

  • WOMAN:

    Yes. I would say that's for sure the same person.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    The main trial of these guys, there's 36, 37 of them, and they're there for what is more or less a show trial.

  • MAN:

    Right.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    That's Abdullah Senussi.

  • MAN:

    OK.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    But if you look behind Abdullah Senussi…

  • MAN:

    There's a dark-skinned man.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    There's a dark-skinned man. You pull all the images, and you keep finding a dark-skinned man.

  • MAN:

    Right.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    But I still would like to know more. So, I said, is there — there's 36 men on trial. Is there a charge sheet here?

  • MAN:

    Yes, what are they charged with? Yes.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    Number 28 on the charge sheet. And I translate it, and you can even grab it, and put it into Google Translate, and it's Abu Agila Mas'ud. And the charge is bomb-making.

  • MAN:

    My goodness.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Up until now, only one person has ever been convicted in connection with the Lockerbie bopping.

    To talk about today's development is writer and filmmaker Ken Dornstein. His older brother was killed in the attack.

    So, Ken, two new suspects, but not officially named. Do you have any information that links them to the two people that you identified that we just saw in that clip?

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    I don't have any information from the Scottish government or from the U.S. government, but everything I know about the investigation and everything I know about the 36 men being held by the Libyans would suggest to me that the two men who have been alluded to in today's news are Abdullah Senussi, and the man who I identified as the bomb expert for the Lockerbie case, Abu Agila Mas'ud.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Tell us a little bit about them, first with the latter, the bomb expert. What do you know about them?

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    Yes.

    This is a figure who was a mystery, was a ghost. The original Lockerbie investigators had gathered information about him. There was information about him from a CIA informant who was speaking to the CIA in the months before the bombing, and in the cables that were produced from the — from the time with that informant. This person was named. And this person was named in connection with Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, who I think you mentioned is the one person who had been convicted for the bombing.

    He was tied to Megrahi at several key moments in the weeks and months before the bombing, including records indicated that he had been at the airport in Malta where the bomb was said to have originated on the morning of the bombing. The CIA thought he was a technical expert, that that's what you find in the CIA cables.

    Beyond that, they didn't know. They had his landing card when he landed in Malta, and it had his fingerprint on it and there was a passport number, as any of us who travel to a foreign country have to fill out landing cards, where you say the flight you came in on and your passport information. And they had that passport number.

    And, really, that is what I clung to for several years to really match the fingerprint and that passport number to a flesh-and-blood real person who I felt that, if I could prove he existed and fully flesh out who he was, I thought I would solve any of the remaining questions there were about who carried out the bombing.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And the other figure, Abdullah Senussi, was a more known character, right, as head of intelligence in Libya?

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    Yes. Abdullah Senussi is a very well-known figure. He is the brother-in-law of Moammar Gadhafi. He was arguably the second most powerful man in the country at the time, at the end of the regime.

    He had been linked to many crimes against Libyans themselves, including a massacre at a prison in the '90s that killed 1,500 people. He also was linked to a number of foreign attacks, including the bombing of a French passenger plane. He was tried and convicted in absentia by the French for bombing a French passenger plane or for helping conceive of that.

    So, the list of charges against Senussi is long. The list of parties who are interested in having Senussi tell them the full truth is also long. And he was well-known. And the U.S. government may or may not have already spoken to him. He's been in detention in various forms for a number of years, but it's Abu Agila Mas'ud who really was the target of what I did and what "Frontline" just put out.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, you went back to look at this, of course, in part because of the personal connection, I assume, but also through a sense that this was incomplete. Right? What happened to the investigation? Do we know whether either of these characters were ever spoken to, were ever investigated?

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    They both came up in the original investigation. That's not new to me.

    I started, from a sense, from the original investigators, most of whom are now retired, a sense from them of how unresolved the whole case was, that they had a number of people in their sights. They were only able to indict two, and after that indictment, which was way back in 1991, the FBI would continue to say that it's an ongoing investigation, but there had been no other public announcements. There had been no other indictments in the 25 years.

    I think that was a source of frustration to some of the original investigators. And the particular character who I focused on, this Abu Agila Mas'ud, as the bomb expert, I think he was a ghost. I mean, I — on the Moby-Dick analogy, he was the white whale that everyone was pursuing.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Yes.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    And they never got a chance to really identify him.

    And I ultimately did.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    OK.

    Ken Dornstein, thank you so much.

  • KEN DORNSTEIN:

    Sure. Thank you.

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