I would like to thank you, Senator Sarbanes for the opportunity to testify before the Banking Committee today on this most important issue.
I am here today to support extension of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act because my husband, Michael S. Bernstein, was one of 270 people, including 189 U.S. citizens, murdered in the Lockerbie bombing on December 21, 1988. This savage crime was placed squarely at the feet of the Libyan government on January 31 of this year, when a high level Libyan intelligence operative was convicted of 270 counts of murder.
My husband was a federal employee: he was the Assistant Deputy Director of the Office of Special Investigations at the Department of Justice. This office finds, denaturalizes, and deports those who participated in Nazi atrocities during World War II. Mike graduated with distinction and high honors from the University of Michigan, and received his law degree from the University of Chicago, where he was an associate editor of the law review. He was 36 years old.
Mike was a valued member of the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, where he was given the Department's Special Achievement Award in 1986. In a memo to Criminal Division employees after Mike's death, Assistant Attorney General Edward S.G. Dennis wrote that after joining the department from the Washington firm of Covington and Burling, Mike "quickly established himself as an outstanding trial lawyer whose persistent but low-key approach to his work won him the respect and highest praise from both his colleagues and his adversaries." Colleagues at the Justice Department wrote in a memorial notice placed in the New York Times that Mike was a "lawyer's lawyer, whose clarity of purpose, intellectual gifts, sound and ethical judgment, exceptional wit, and boundless compassion and good will earned him a place of deep affection and respect in the hearts of all who were privileged to know him."
Mike chose to use his gifts in the service of his country as an example for our children, who were ages 7 and 4 at the time he was murdered. In a letter to my daughter, Sara, Assistant Attorney General Edward Dennis wrote that her Dad "expressed his love for you, in part, through his work and his efforts to build a better world through service to the public good."
I have told you a little about Mike because I think it is important to convey the scale of the mayhem committed by the government of Libya on December 21, 1988. As The Lord Advocate of Scotland stated on January 31 during his remarks to the Scottish Court prior to the sentencing of the defendant, Abdel Basso al-Megrahi:
"More than 400 parents lost a son or daughter; 45 parents lost their only child, 65 women were widowed; 11 men lost their wives. More than 140 children lost a parent and 7 children lost both parents."
The Scottish Court wrote in its opinion that Megrahi was acting under orders from the Libyan government.
"The clear inference which we draw from this evidence is that the conception, planning and execution of the plot which lead to the planting of the explosive device was of Libyan origin." (p. 75)
Since the verdict, the Bush administration has been firm in its public insistence that Libya abide by the terms of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. These require that Libya accept responsibility for the bombing, disclose all it knows about the bombing, fully renounce international terrorism, and pay appropriate compensation to the families.
In addition, the administration has indicated that the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing is still open. This was conveyed to me and other family members in meetings held over the last several months with Secretary of State Powell and Attorney General Ashcroft. Indeed, Secretary Powell stated that:
"However we resolve this and however we move forward from this point on, we reserve the right to continue to gather more evidence and to bring more charges and new indictments- So accepting responsibility as a leader of a nation, and as a nation, doesn't excuse other criminals who might come to the fore and be Subject to indictment," (February 8, 2001).
Unfortunately, pressures on the Administration from the oil industry have revealed cracks in this resolve. Shortly after the verdict, a draft report of Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force was leaked, and we learned that one of the options under consideration was dropping the unilateral U.S. sanctions against Libya. Although these sanctions pre-date the Lockerbie bombing, the families felt that such a move would send the wrong message to the Libyans. After protests from the families and from our allies in the Congress, this was dropped from the final report.
More recently, in arguing for a two year rather than a five year extension of ILSA, a senior State Department official was quoted in a Reuters article as saying that our government has begun to "reassess" Gaddafi:
"He's older and wiser and more mellow in his old age. We have been fairly clear in documenting the change."' (Reuters, 6/8/01)
This new and mellow Gaddafi is news to me. I wish that the unnamed senior official could have been present on March 16 of this year at a conference on U.S. Libya relations after the Lockerbie trial sponsored by the Atlantic Council, the Middle East Institute, and the Woodrow Wilson Center. I was a speaker at the conference, along with Ambassador Dorda, the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, who was allowed by the State Department to travel to Washington for the day to participate.
With the exception of myself and a Libyan expatriate, the remarks of the other presenters were measured and extended a hand to the government of Libya to rejoin the family of civilized nations once the conditions stated in the U.N. sanctions were met. Ambassador Dorda responded with a lengthy tirade stating that the United States was responsible for many of the bad things which have happened to Libya over the last 200 years, beginning with U.S. forces fighting the Barbary pirates. He said that there was no evidence that Libya was involved in the "so-called" Lockerbie bombing. In commenting on the U.S, bombing of Libya in 1986 after the La Belle Disco bombing by Libya, Dorda, who was slightly wounded in the U.S. retaliation along with his son asked- "Who is the terrorist and who is the victim?"
Dorda said that the indictment of the two Libyans for the Lockerbie bombing in 1992 was "only political," and designed to pressure the Security Council. He went on to say, however: "let's forget about the past."' Dorda described the unilateral U.S. sanctions as "useless," stating that Libya can get anything it wants from anywhere. He referred to allegations that the Libyan government has been involved in terrorist activity as "so-called terrorism." He denied that his government has ever trained, financed, or supported terrorists. "We never supported terrorism."
This tirade by Ambassador Dorda was no doubt fueled by Libyan allies in the international community such as Nelson Mandela, who helped arrange the agreement which persuaded Gaddafi to turn the suspects over for trial. After the verdict, Mandela accused the U.S. and Great Britain of having "moved the goalposts" on the issue of lifting the U.N. sanctions.
"The condition that Gaddafi must accept responsibility for Lockerbie is totally unacceptable. As President for five years I know that my intelligence services many times didn't inform me before they took action. Sometimes I approved, sometimes I reprimanded them. Unless it's clear that Gaddafi was involved in giving orders it's unfair to act on that basis." The lndependent, 2/09/01)
Unfortunately, the Libyans have been given succor by the U.S. oil industry as well. In February of this year, Archie Dunham, the Chairman and CEO of Conoco, said that he was "very optimistic" that the Bush administration would lift the unilateral sanctions against Libya, in part because of the President and Vice President's ties to the industry.
International pressure, influence from the oil industry, and the intransigence of the Libyan government all argue for a five year extension of ILSA. I am concerned that a two year extension will send a message to the Libyans that we are not serious about seeing that they live up to their obligations, allowing them to run out the clock. It is important to add that the impact of ILSA on Libya will end immediately if the President determines that Libya has met the requirements of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions dealing with the Lockerbie bombing. It is up to the Libyans.
In addition, I urge this committee to support two changes in the existing law. First, I believe that we must close the loophole which has permitted oil companies to add on to contracts signed prior to enactment of ILSA. Second, we must reduce the threshold for violation of the law from $40 million of investment to $20 million, as is the case with Iran. These changes in ILSA are supported by my group, Justice for Pan Am 103, as well as by Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, the largest group of family members.
For 12 and a half years the Lockerbie families and our allies in Congress have kept pressure on three administrations to find and hold accountable those who carried out the bombing of Pan Am 103. Our support in Congress has been bipartisan. Our supporters understand that the bombing of Pan Am 103 was an attack on the United States, and that we must show countries like Libya that when they attack our civilians they will not enjoy the benefits of participating in the community of nations which abide by the rule of law. Our supporters understand that doing business with terrorists is not good business. Those who have stood by us know that "constructive engagement," or whatever diplomatic terms are used to pretty up, our dealings with regimes which murder innocents around the world, will not prevent future terrorist attacks, and will only expose our naivete and worse, our citizens, to further attacks.
The next several months will be critical. Megrahi's attorneys have filed an appeal. There will be attempts by the Libyans and their supporters to get the families to back off On February 13 of this year. A London based attorney who has advised the Libyans was quoted as follows;
"The more the United States sticks to the original agreement that the aim of the process was the surrender and trial of the two accused, the more the Libyans will cooperate and compensate the families." (Reuters article, 2/13/01)
The Lockerbie families do not see justice as something for which we bargain in the bazaar. The suggestion that the families would trade the pursuit of justice for money is cynical -and dishonors the memories of our loved ones.
A British expert on Libya was quoted in the same article as follows:
"Gaddafi knows he's going to have to pay compensation. The question is whether he can control the domestic agenda and curb his own tongue over the next few months, and whether extremists on the other side of the Atlantic among the families and their supporters in Congress can be kept under control."
I hope that you will join me and other Lockerbie family members in showing the Libyans and their apologists that, when it comes to pursuing justice, we will not be "kept under control. "
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