Pan Am 103 Why Did They Die?

Washington says Libya sabotaged the plane. Provocative evidence suggests that a Syrian drug dealer may have helped plant the bomb -- and the real targets were intelligence agents working for the CIA

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But regardless of the bomb's design, al-Kassar still didn't know how and when Jibril planned to use it. A Mossad agent, according to Aviv, first tipped off U.S. and West German intelligence agents that a terrorist attack would be made on an American passenger plane departing from Frankfurt on or about Dec. 18. Al-Kassar quickly figured out that Pan Am Flight 103 was the most likely target and, playing both sides of the fence, notified the COREA unit. His warning corroborated an earlier bomb threat, involving an unspecified Pan Am flight from Frankfurt, telephoned to the U.S. embassy in Helsinki.

Precisely how a rogue bag containing the bomb eluded the Frankfurt airport security system, Aviv doesn't know. Presumably this required the help of baggage handlers there. So in January 1990 he and a former U.S. Army polygraphist flew to Frankfurt, accompanied by Shaughnessy. At the Sheraton Conference Center, adjoining the airport, the polygraphist administered lie- detector tests to Pan Am baggage handlers Kilin Caslan Tuzcu and Roland O'Neill. Pan Am had determined that they were the only ones who were in a position to switch suitcases and place the bomb-laden bag aboard Flight 103.

Tuzcu took the test three times, and O'Neill took it twice. As the polygraphist later testified before a federal grand jury in Washington, Tuzcu "was not truthful when he said he did not switch the suitcases." The polygraphist also told the grand jury, "It is my opinion that Roland O'Neill wasn't truthful when he stated he did not see the suitcase being switched, and when he stated that he did not know what was in the switched suitcase." The two men continued to claim ignorance of a baggage switch.

After flunking their lie-detector tests, both were sent on a bogus errand by Pan Am to London, where it was assumed they would be arrested. But British authorities refused to even interrogate the pair. According to Leppard, Tuzcu and O'Neill were simply "scapegoats" and were never "considered serious suspects." They returned to Frankfurt that same night.

If the bomb-laden luggage replaced an innocent bag, what happened to the displaced suitcase? On Dec. 21, 1988, the day of the bombing, one of Pan Am's Berlin-based pilots was about to head home to Seattle, Washington, for Christmas when he received orders to fly to Karachi first. He had with him two identical Samsonite suitcases full of presents. At the Berlin airport, he $ asked Pan Am to send them directly to Seattle. "Rush" tags, marked for Flights 637 to Frankfurt, 107 to London and 123 to Seattle, were affixed to the bags.

It so happened that the flight from Berlin to Frankfurt was delayed. While all the passengers ultimately made the connection to London, 11 suitcases, including the pilot's two bags, remained behind in Frankfurt. They were entered into the airport computer system and rerouted via the Pan Am flight. But only one of the pilot's suitcases was recovered at Lockerbie. The other had been mysteriously left behind in Frankfurt, and arrived safely in Seattle a day later. That story, which TIME has corroborated, doesn't prove Pan Am's claim that terrorists used al-Kassar's drug pipeline to pull a suitcase switch in Frankfurt. But it does support the theory that a rogue bag was inserted into the automated baggage-control system, as the secret FBI report indicates was possible.

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