Remarks by Ken Dornstein, speech at Dec 21, 2015 memorial

(Note: Ken is the Brother of victim David Dornstein, and producer of the documentary series, "My Brother's Bomber". 
This is the original script Dornstein wrote, although he did not read all of it when speaking at Arlington, in the interest of time.)

Thank you.... Over the past few months, with the launch of my documentary series about the bombing, I’ve been doing a lot of talking about Lockerbie. Often I nd myself speaking to TV or radio reporters who need to be reminded about who bombed Flight 103 and why. For some people, even the details of the 9/11 attack are beginning to seem a little fuzzy. But this is a unique opportunity to speak to a very different audience.

This is a group that has lived the Lockerbie story from the beginning. In my FRONTLINE series, I tell the story of the decades-long search for justice in the Lockerbie case as if it were mainly my family’s story, but I hope you all know that this was just a necessity of storytelling. Through the years I spent making this lm, I was always acutely aware that my brother was just one of 270 people killed that terrible night in Scotland. And that the same pain and grief that hit my family also impacted so many hundreds and thousands of others.

So, I want to start by saying thank you to the other Lockerbie families and relatives for letting me tell your story through the lens of my own.

Also, in this same vein, I want to take the opportunity to express my deep appreciation to the original investigators, prosecutors, and others who developed the original case against the Libyans, and ultimately took it to trial. Many of you, I see, are here today. Often, in recent months, I’ve been given credit for “solving” the Lockerbie case in some significant way, but I’m always quick to point out that much of what I was able to establish was built from the evidence that was gathered decades before I ever headed to Libya. I wasn’t the one who painstakingly picked up every scrap of metal and paper across 850 square miles of Scottish countryside. I wasn’t the one who digitized the landing cards of every Libyan who ew in or out of Luqa airport in Malta in 1988 to find the one or two needles in a haystack that mattered. I didn’t match a tiny fragment of circuit board to an office in Zurich where the timer that I believe blew up Flight 103 was assembled. This was the work of hundreds of others who worked on the case without public recognition for years.

So before moving on, I want to say a very clear and sincere thank you to all of you. It’s only because of the work of so many for so long—family members who lobbied to keep the story alive in the press and the halls of Congress, as well as the investigators and prosecutors who built the original case against Libya—that I was in a position to have any success when I finally set out for more answers a few years ago.

So what can I add in my brief time today that might help move us forward?

I have to confess that one of the most gratifying aspects of the airing of my lm has been the spotlight that is now being put on one of the most mysterious gures in the bombing—a man who has been almost my singular focus for the last four years.

If you had Googled this man’s name just a few months ago, you would have gotten almost no hits. Now there are thousands of stories that mention his name as the man who likely connected the wires on the bomb that blew up Flight 103.

If you had looked through all of the evidence gathered by the Scottish and American investigators in the Lockerbie case, you would have found not a single photograph of this man. Now his picture has been circulated around the world.

The man’s name is Abuajila Mas’ud, and I believe he is one of the few people left alive who can answer the remaining questions about Lockerbie: Where did the components for the device come from? Who helped assemble it and get onto Flight 103? Were elements of any other group or state involved?

It’s because this man could potentially be so valuable that the Libyans always denied he existed. When Scottish investigators came to Libya to interview potential witnesses,
they were told they had no information about Mas’ud, even when given a passport number he was using in 1988. The same thing happened when German investigators came to Tripoli to ask about Mas’ud in connection with the 1986 bombing of the La Belle disco in Berlin that killed several American soldiers. A Libyan participant in that attack testified that Mas’ud was the bomb expert in that case, but the Libyans said they’d never heard of him.

Abdel Baset al Megrahi was asked many times about Mas’ud because records indicated that the convicted Lockerbie bomber had traveled with Mas’ud on several occasions in Malta before the bombing, including the morning of the 21st, when he just happened to board the same flight as Megrahi from Malta back to Tripoli, presumably after helping to arm the bomb that would blow up Flight 103 later that night. Megrahi, of course, denied any knowledge of Mas’ud, and his defenders continue to claim that Megrahi’s connections to Mas’ud in the run up to the bombing are sheer coincidence. But I think the facts say otherwise.

Even members of Megrahi’s original defense team, in statements they made to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, said that they were suspicious about Megrahi’s relationship with Mas’ud. “The key to the case is Abuajila Mas’ud,” one of Megrahi’s lawyers testified. “I had come to the conclusion that Mas’ud may have been involved, and I tried to broach this gently with [Megrahi], but he would not have anything to do with the suggestion that any Libyan was involved.”

So Mas’ud slipped through the net. He was the one of the key suspects who got away. That is, until now.

Despite decades of denials by the Libyans, we now know that Mas’ud exists... and he’s alive and well in a Libyan prison. It turned out that Mas’ud, long suspected in several high-pro file bombings against the West in the 1980s, was still making bombs in 2011, when he was caught attempting to boobytrap the cars of people trying to topple the Qadda regime. Mas’ud was likely captured in late 2011 or early 2012 and has been held by the Tripoli government ever since.

This past summer Mas’ud was sentenced to 10 years for his bombmaking activities. News reports that followed the broadcast of my FRONTLINE series suggest that the Scottish authorities have now reached out to question Mas’ud directly about Lockerbie. But unfortunately there has been no movement on this request so far.

When I’m interviewed about the story, I am inevitably asked if I think anything will ever come of this request—whether Mas’ud will ever be properly questioned, indicted, or tried for his role in the bombing. Libya is a mess, they say. It’s a state with at least two rival governments, one in the East and one in the West—and, after this week’s action by the United Nations, there may actually be a third entity claiming legitimacy as the Libyan government. Besides, the argument goes, there are more urgent issues to concern us in Libya, as ISIS is reportedly taking advantage of the power vacuum there to establish a base from which all sorts of attacks against the West may be launched.

In this context—at this particularly challenging moment—can you really expect anyone to do much more to gain access to a suspect in a 27-year-old bombing carried out by a regime that no longer even exists? Of cially, we are always reminded that this is an ongoing investigation, but I’m often asked if, practically speaking, is this really the end of the line? All roads lead back to a key suspect in Libya and Libya, at least for the foreseeable future, is a dead end.

I understand all of this, of course. After three trips to Libya myself, I know there’s nothing easily done here. But, while I have the ear of so many important people today, I want to make my best pitch for why this is the perfect moment to press hard for access to Mas’ud. In the chaos, I have often found, lies opportunity, and right now, I believe, is the last best chance to get the full truth about the bombing.

Interestingly, in just the past few years, the United States has managed to get hold of a number of terror suspects in Libya, starting with one of the masterminds of the Al Qaeda attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa in the late 1990s: At the time of the man’s apprehension in 2013, the Secretary of Defense told reporters, “This operation sends a strong message to the world that the United States will spare no effort to hold terrorists accountable, no matter where they hide, or how long they evade justice.”

A year later, in 2014, when U.S. forces captured a suspect in the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, President Obama said, “When Americans are attacked, we will find you. No matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible, and we will bring them to justice.”

In the case of Lockerbie and the bomb expert Abuajila Mas’ud, no one is suggesting a special forces raid, of course. But, at least to my mind, there are two much less risky and complicated steps that could be taken right away.

First: There is a witness in Berlin who has first-hand knowledge of the Lockerbie plot. He has confessed in a German court to working with Abuajila Mas’ud in the bombing of the Berlin disco back in 1986, and he has said that Mas’ud told him personally of his involvement in Lockerbie.

To my knowledge, this man would be the best witness to date in the case, and he is willing to cooperate with the United States to help prosecute the remaining Libyan suspects. But, after almost three years of meetings with American investigators and prosecutors, it’s my understanding that this witness’ full cooperation has still not been secured. German government bureaucracy is no doubt to blame for a lot of the difficulty. The German government does not seem enthusiastic about re-opening these old files and, behind the scenes, they seem to be doing everything they can to quietly make the case go away. But my hope is that there are people gathered here today who could strongly impress upon their German counterparts the urgent need to act before this window to achieve full justice in the case slams shut.

Once upon a time, great efforts were made to lock in another Libyan intelligence of cer willing to testify in the Lockerbie case—Abdel Majid Giaka. Some would later question Giaka’s value as a witness, or the price tag for his years of cooperation, but, in my investigation, the information that originally came from Giaka—especially the detailed reports of Giaka’s meetings at a CIA safe house in Malta months before the bombing of Flight 103—were what initially pointed me toward Mas’ud in the first place, and gave me the confidence that Mas’ud was the critical figure in the case to pursue. I believe this current witness in Berlin is just as vital. My most sincere hope would be for the U.S. to make a major push to lock in his cooperation if any potential, future prosecution is ever to be realized.

My second hope would be that U.S. and Scottish officials would redouble their efforts—and think creatively-- about engaging with those in Tripoli who are holding the suspected bomb expert in the case, Abuajila Mas’ud.

I know that there is nothing easy or straightforward about this. The security picture on the ground in Libya remains grim and chaotic. But there are some signs of hope. Just last week, the leaders of Libya’s two main, rival factions--including the one controlling the Tripoli prisons--came together in Malta to sign an agreement to form a unity government. They were largely ignored by the media, which focused instead on the signing of a United Nations-backed agreement that, unfortunately, few believe will carry much weight inside the country. But these two Libyan leaders may now be looking to show that they are willing and able to work with the United States and Europe on areas of mutual interest, like slowing the flood of migrants across Libya’s borders, and stopping the spread of ISIS. And cooperation over Lockerbie could well be a small but important symbolic gesture in that direction. These leaders frequently meet in Malta, of all places, a place where all sides can come together and work out solutions, and, at least in my experience, these Libyan state actors are more willing to engage with the United States than one might conclude from the media.

There are obviously lots of question marks around this kind of negotiation, but on the relatively narrow question of the Libyan bomb expert, Abuajila Mas’ud, there may actually be some common ground. Mas’ud not only helped Qadda bomb targets in the West—like Lockerbie, La Belle, and potentially even a French passenger plane that killed several hundred more, nine months after Lockerbie. But, Mas’ud also targeted the very Libyans who are now in control of the government in Tripoli. And, by birth, Mas’ud is not Libyan, so he has no real defenders at the local or tribal levels.

Again, I’m not suggesting that any of this is easy. But to paraphrase the words of an American president who is buried not far from this spot here in Arlington, “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard... and because this challenge is not one we are unwilling to postpone.”

President Kennedy was talking at the time about landing a man on the moon. My hope in speaking here today is to stir support for a significantly more modest, but still deeply meaningful goal—to take this rare moment in history to finally finish the long project of justice for the victims of Flight 103. If we do it right, and identify some of the pragmatists in today’s Libya-- instead of just focusing on hitting the extremists with bombs--perhaps we can also help this former state sponsor of terror from becoming a breeding ground for an even more dangerous new threat. That, in the end, strikes me as goal worthy of the legacy of all those who died that night 27 years ago in Scotland.

I’ll close with one more personal reflection. A few weeks ago I was looking through my Lockerbie papers in preparation for donating them to the archives at Syracuse University. I came across an envelope from Scotland that I didn’t recognize. It had been sent to my father in the months after the bombing. It was photograph of my brother David’s body, laying as it fell in the backyard of Ella Ramsden’s house in Lockerbie. Over the years, I think I had maintained a false image in my mind of David having fallen intact—the whole person I knew and loved, fully clothed, maybe still strapped to his seat holding a book that he was no doubt reading at the time of the explosion. But this is not at all what I saw. And the revulsion I felt at
that image reminded me that the bombing of Flight 103 was an act of murder on a massive scale, a true horror perpetrated against 270 innocent people. And this basic fact should never be lost over the decades is taking to achieve full justice.

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to speak today.