FBI Director Mueller scorches Scottish prosecutor over release of terrorist

Ethel C. Fenig
Robert S. Mueller, lll, director of the FBI, sent a scorching letter to Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, berating him for freeing convicted PanAm bomber Abdel al-Megrahi on "compassionate" grounds. Mueller felt compelled to ignore the usual diplomatic niceties of not criticizing the actions of another prosecutor, especially one in a foreign country,

because I am familiar with the facts, and the law, having been the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation and indictment of Megrahi in 1991. And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of "compassion."

He continues
Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world who now believe that regardless of the quality of the investigation, the conviction by jury after the defendant is given all due process, and sentence appropriate to the crime, the terrorist will be freed by one man's exercise of "compassion." Your action rewards a terrorist even though he never admitted to his role in this act of mass murder and even though neither he nor the government of Libya ever disclosed the names and roles of others who were responsible.

Your action makes a mockery of the emotions, passions and pathos of all those affected by the Lockerbie tragedy

He concludes scathingly

[M]ost importantly, your action makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own on December 21, 1988. You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution. You could not have visited the small wooden warehouse where the personal items of those who perished were gathered for identification--the single sneaker belonging to a teenager; the Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by a college student returning home for the holidays; the toys in a suitcase of a businessman looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and children.

You apparently made this decision without regard to the views of your partners in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Lockerbie tragedy. Although the FBI and Scottish police, and prosecutors in both countries, worked exceptionally closely to hold those responsible accountable, you never once sought our opinion, preferring to keep your own counsel and hiding behind opaque references to "the need for compassion."

You have given the family members of those who died continued grief and frustration. You have given those who sought to assure that the persons responsible would be held accountable the back of your hand. You have given Megrahi a "jubilant welcome" in Tripoli, according to the reporting. Where, I ask, is the justice?

The families of the survivors also repeat Mueller's heartrending cry "Where is the justice?" And although it won't bring back the victims--and Libya will continue to celebrate its triumph--some survivor families and others have launched a boycott of Scotland and England. That is their attempt at justice and their compassion to the victims' memory and to the anguished survivors they left behind.


Robert S. Mueller, lll, director of the FBI, sent a scorching letter to Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, berating him for freeing convicted PanAm bomber Abdel al-Megrahi on "compassionate" grounds. Mueller felt compelled to ignore the usual diplomatic niceties of not criticizing the actions of another prosecutor, especially one in a foreign country,

because I am familiar with the facts, and the law, having been the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation and indictment of Megrahi in 1991. And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of "compassion."

He continues
Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world who now believe that regardless of the quality of the investigation, the conviction by jury after the defendant is given all due process, and sentence appropriate to the crime, the terrorist will be freed by one man's exercise of "compassion." Your action rewards a terrorist even though he never admitted to his role in this act of mass murder and even though neither he nor the government of Libya ever disclosed the names and roles of others who were responsible.

Your action makes a mockery of the emotions, passions and pathos of all those affected by the Lockerbie tragedy

He concludes scathingly

[M]ost importantly, your action makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own on December 21, 1988. You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution. You could not have visited the small wooden warehouse where the personal items of those who perished were gathered for identification--the single sneaker belonging to a teenager; the Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by a college student returning home for the holidays; the toys in a suitcase of a businessman looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and children.

You apparently made this decision without regard to the views of your partners in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Lockerbie tragedy. Although the FBI and Scottish police, and prosecutors in both countries, worked exceptionally closely to hold those responsible accountable, you never once sought our opinion, preferring to keep your own counsel and hiding behind opaque references to "the need for compassion."

You have given the family members of those who died continued grief and frustration. You have given those who sought to assure that the persons responsible would be held accountable the back of your hand. You have given Megrahi a "jubilant welcome" in Tripoli, according to the reporting. Where, I ask, is the justice?

The families of the survivors also repeat Mueller's heartrending cry "Where is the justice?" And although it won't bring back the victims--and Libya will continue to celebrate its triumph--some survivor families and others have launched a boycott of Scotland and England. That is their attempt at justice and their compassion to the victims' memory and to the anguished survivors they left behind.