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Question of the Day
President Obama’s top counterterrorism aide denounced Scotland’s decision last year to release the Lockerbie bomber as a “travesty” and categorically denied a widespread report that the United States secretly endorsed the decision to free the Libyan terrorist, who was sentenced to life in prison.
Diplomatic tensions between the United States and Scotland were further strained over the Scottish government’s refusal to send officials to testify at a Senate hearing in Washington on Thursday on whether the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was tied to a $900 million oil deal between Libya and the London-based BP PLC.
The dispute led the Scottish affairs office at the British Embassy to postpone a reception Wednesday to release a plan on the future of U.S.-Scottish relations.
John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, this week wrote Frank Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, in response to a major British newspaper’s report Sunday that the Obama administration “secretly” agreed to al-Megrahi’s release.
The Sunday Times of London based its story on a letter dated Aug. 12, 2009, from Richard LeBaron, the top diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in London at the time, and Alex Salmond, the first minister of the Scottish government. Conservative talk-show hosts in the United States picked up the story the next day and accused Mr. Obama of being soft on terrorism.
Mr. Brennan said he personally made that position clear to Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, who freed al-Megrahi on “compassionate” grounds because of a cancer diagnosis that gave him only three months to live. Al-Megrahi received a hero’s welcome on his return to Libya and remains alive.
“The administration and the State Department went all out to put this phony story to rest,” he told Embassy Row.
The LeBaron letter says: “The United States maintains its view that in light of the scope of Megrahi’s crime, its heinous nature and its continued and devastating impact on the victims and their families, it would be most appropriate for Megrahi to remain imprisoned for the entirety of his sentence.”
The letter recognized that Scotland, which has wide autonomy within the United Kingdom, had the power to decide on al-Megrahi’s future. However, it asked that al-Megrahi be confined to Scotland should he be released.
Mr. Salmond last week called on the United States to release all of its documentation on the Lockerbie bombing and claimed that the LeBaron letter “vindicates” Scotland’s decision to release al-Megrahi.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...
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