Yesterday, I wrote how Britain's Sunday Telegraph claimed that Libya paid three doctors to give the Scottish government medical evidence that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 57, the convicted Lockerbie killer, had only two or three months to live, when in fact he may have more.
The British Mail on Sunday, meanwhile, queried America's outrage over Megrahi's release as being "disingenuous," suggesting that, of course, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had known all along what was cooking -- as had the Department of Justice and President Obama. The paper quoted Whitehall sources as being annoyed at what they perceive as the faux reaction this side of the Atlantic. They thought it was being overdone.
My column endorsed Tory Leader David Cameron's call for an investigation into what smells like a pyramid of intricate double-dealing, with the defiant British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on its top.
Every day that passes, with Brown refusing to acknowledge that Britain's interests in Libya's oil had anything to do with Megrahi's release -- while his aides leak otherwise -- the more tenuous his position atop Britain looks.
I got so many emails about this column, some agreeing with the Mail, that the Americans must have known, that I made some calls this morning to the US State department, the US Justice Department and Kenny MacAskill's office. I found some answers to the allegations thrown out by the British press over the weekend. All of them contradicted what had been reported.
First, to deal with the Mail: According to MacAskill's parliamentary office, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill on the phone a week before he made his decision about Megrahi on August 20th. MacAskill told Sec. Clinton he had not yet made up his mind what to do. She reiterated to him that the American position was clear. Megrahi must not be released. He had American blood on his hands. Enough to drown in. He must serve his sentence in a Scottish jail.
The two had no further contact until the day of Megrahi's release, says MacAskill's office. (It being a holiday here, the State department said they'd have to call back tomorrow to confirm this). MacAskill's office says on August 20th he called the US embassy in London to say he'd be speaking in ten minutes and to ask what he would say. Secretary Clinton publicly and privately expressed her outrage. So, too, did President Obama.
MacAskill has written back to Sec. Clinton. So far, the contents of that letter are private.
Then to the Telegraph: MacAskill did not receive the reports of the three Libyan doctors stating Megrahi had only three months to live until after he had released Megrahi, says MacAskill's office, so whatever they said was in vain. "He based his decision on prison services doctors," says MacAskill's office. "Those letters didn't even get here on time."
Finally, to all those who would love to think that the Americans are secretly endorsing the British on this: I refer you to the spokesman in the US Justice Department this morning. "We most certainly did not know what they'd decided," he said. He told me of a female FBI officer who had "worked very closely with the victims families and still does... when she found out, as MacAskill was speaking, that Megrahi was being released, what she had to say was unprintable."
So once again, I reiterate what I wrote yesterday. David Cameron must be allowed to hold the swift investigation he wants and retrieve the facts about this whole messy affair. And perhaps Britain's Mail on Sunday should look for "disingenuousness" within its own country's government -- before pointing fingers over here.
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