FBI agents and international investigators combed the
countryside on hands and knees looking for clues in
virtually every blade of grass, eventually turning up
thousands of pieces of evidence. They also traversed the
globe, interviewing more than 10,000 individuals in
dozens of countries.
Participating in the investigation were an array of
international police organizations from such countries
as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and, of course, Great
Britain (including Scotland).
Ultimately, forensic specialists from the FBI, the CIA,
and elsewhere determined that one of the fragments found
on the ground, no bigger than a thumbnail, came from the
circuit board of a radio/cassette player. That tiny
piece of evidence helped establish that the bomb had
been placed inside that radio and tape deck in a piece
of luggage. Another small fragment, found embedded in a
piece of shirt, helped identify the type of timer.
This evidence led to two Libyan intelligence operatives.
In November 1991, the U.S. and Scotland simultaneously
indicted the pair for planting the bomb. On January 31,
2001, after years of working to extradite the men and
bring the case to trial, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi was
found guilty of the crime. The co-defendant was found
not guilty and released.
Libyan government formally accepted responsibility for
the bombing and has agreed to pay nearly $3 billion to
the victims' families.
FBI Director Robert
Mueller, who headed up the investigation while Assistant
Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the
Department of Justice, described the impact the case had
on him personally:
"The constables in charge of the Scottish end of the
investigation had constructed a small wooden warehouse
in which were stored the various effects of those who
were on the plane when it broke apart in the skies: a
white sneaker never again to be worn by the teenager; a
Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by the
Syracuse student, and other such everyday pieces of
clothing and personal belongings. These ordinary items
brought home to me, and came to symbolize for me, the
pain and the loss felt by those whose family, friends,
or colleagues died that evening."
It is that loss that we remember and honor today.
And it is horrific cases such as these that
strengthen the FBI's resolve to help prevent acts of
terrorism in the future.