The Obama administration apparently did communicate that they would prefer that the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, remain in a Scottish jail, which is good. But given the choice between continued incarceration in Libya via prisoner transfer and release they actively encouraged release as "far preferable," according to "documents obtained by The Sunday Times."
THE US government secretly advised Scottish ministers it would be "far preferable" to free the Lockerbie bomber than jail him in Libya.
Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison.
The intervention, which has angered US relatives of those who died in the attack, was made by Richard LeBaron, deputy head of the US embassy in London, a week before Megrahi was freed in August last year on grounds that he had terminal cancer.
The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama's claim last week that all Americans were "surprised, disappointed and angry" to learn of Megrahi's release.
When Mr. Obama made that claim, that the release was a surprise to Americans, he could not have included himself in that number. The Lockerbie bombing took 280 lives, of whom 193 were Americans, including my at the time 22 year old brother. Given those numbers, and having dealt with Scottish officials for 22 years since my brothers death, there is absolutely no way such an eventful decision would be made without deep consultation within the State Department and the White House. They all knew, the President knew; it was not a surprise.
In the letter, sent on August 12 last year to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and justice officials, Mr LeBaron wrote that the US wanted Megrahi to remain imprisoned in view of the nature of the crime.
The note added: "Nevertheless, if Scottish authorities come to the conclusion that Megrahi must be released from Scottish custody, the US position is that conditional release on compassionate grounds would be a far preferable alternative to prisoner transfer, which we strongly oppose."
And now there is proof of these consultations, demonstrating that not only was the administration not nearly serious enough about the loss of those American lives, but that Mr. Obama was not fully honest. Surprised? I think not.
Now, in looking at the contents of the letter, I'll take a most generous view that the U.S. felt that only three options were on the table: a) continued incarceration in Scotland, b) release but with the convicted to remain in Scotland, and c) transfer to a Libyan prison, and that d) release to freedom in Libya, was even felt to be plausible. It does seem that Mr. LeBaron indicated the U.S. first choice was a), but that b) was preferable to c). Why would release be preferable to continued incarceration wherever it was? Compassionate, indeed.
It's also apparent that failure to take a strong stand, and simply and clearly state that the U.S. favored al-Megrahi's continued incarceration in Scotland - end of story - opened the door to the release. It opened the door to the ongoing joke of a convicted mass murderer with "three months to live" now living freely in his home country nearly a full year since his release.
So of course the U.S. knew, and we once again see the inability to take a strong stand in favor of what's right and necessary in dealing with terrorism.