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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TO GATHER FURTHER EVIDENCE that the bomb was not contained in an unaccompanied bag from Malta, Pan Am lawyer Shaughnessy recently interviewed under oath 20 officials who were in Malta on Dec. 21, 1988, including the airport security commander, the bomb-disposal engineer who inspected all the baggage, the general manager of ground operations of Air Malta, the head loader of Flight 180 and the three check-in agents. Their records showed that no unaccompanied suitcases were put aboard the flight, and some of the staff Shaughnessy interviewed are prepared to testify under oath that there was no bag that day destined for Pan Am Flight 103.

Although Shaughnessy subpoenaed the FBI, CIA, DEA and four other government agencies for all documents pertaining to both the bombing of Flight 103 and the narcotics sting operation, he has been repeatedly rebuffed by the Justice Department for reasons of national security. Even so, with the help of investigators hired after Aviv, he has managed to obtain some of the documents needed to defend Pan Am's insurers in the trial scheduled to begin April 27 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The stakes are enormous, and the incentive is high for Shaughnessy to demonstrate the government's responsibility for the bombing. In addition to defending against the compensation claims of $7 billion, he is bringing a claim against the government for failing to give warning that Pan Am had been targeted by the terrorists.

The man who has been Shaughnessy's key witness in these proceedings is hiding in fear of his life in a small town in Europe. His real name is Lester Knox Coleman III, although as a former spy for the dia and DEA he was known as Thomas Leavy and by the code name Benjamin B. A year ago, the stockily built, bearded Coleman filed an affidavit describing the narcotics sting operation that Shaughnessy claims was infiltrated by Jibril.

It wasn't until July 1990, when Coleman spotted a newspaper picture of one of the Pan Am victims and recognized the young Lebanese as one of his drug- running informants, that he realized he might be of assistance to Pan Am. He was also looking for work. Two months earlier he had been deactivated by the DIA after being arrested by the FBI for using his DIA cover name, Thomas Leavy, on a passport application. Coleman claims that the DIA instructed him to do this. "But such trumped-up charges are frequently used to keep spooks quiet," says A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a Pentagon whistle-blower and a director of the Fund for Constitutional Government in Washington, which has been looking into Coleman's case.

Coleman spent three days in jail. His official pretrial services report, filed with the U.S. District Court of Illinois for the Northern District, began, "Although Mr. Coleman's employment history sounds quite improbable, information he gave has proven to be true."

Raised in Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia, Coleman, now 48, was recruited by the dia and assigned to the still classified humint (Human Intelligence) MC-10 operation in the Middle East. In early 1987 he was transferred from Lebanon to Cyprus, where he began his work for the DEA. However, he says he was instructed not to inform the DEA there of his role as a DIA undercover agent. By this time even the DIA suspected that the freewheeling narcotics sting operation was getting out of hand.

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