19 October 2010

US Senate hearing on Megrahi release...

The other day, I found myself wondering what those valiant seekers after truth, Senators Menendez, Lautenberg, Gillibrand and Schumer were up to these days. There was plenty of coverage of Scottish and Westminster Governments' refusals to be put to the question by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the American Senate on the compassionate release of Mr Megrahi. As regular readers will recall, while styling themselves humble servants of clarity, throughout these American politicians have behaved disgracefully, cooking up wild allegations, deliberately misunderstanding processes, impugning the integrity of people unable to respond on the same public terms, persisting in their innuendos once furnished with the correct facts - and generally showing the worst of bad faith. I certainly accept that folk have a right to ask questions, to dispute the justness of decisions, to make up their own minds. I'm no tyrant of the mind and accept that reasonable people can reasonably differ on the compassionate release. A fair-minded exploration of the facts and an attempt to understand what transpired has not been much in evidence here. Instead, Menendez and friends delivered an amateur dramatic troupe's rendition of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. That said, Scottish advocate Jonathan Mitchell QC also makes a series of vital points about the Scots law and policy on compassionate release, including the real possibility that if MacAskill had rejected Megrahi's application, the decision could be judicially reviewed - and reviewed successfully. Moreover, the looming pachyderm in the chamber is the more fundamental question - never raised in the U.S. Senate hearing - whether Megrahi was properly convicted or whether he was the victim of a miscarriage of public justice.

Alex Salmond rebuffed their innuendos and allegations in a series of stingingly clear letters, many of which I've replicated here before for your information. Rather less attention was paid to what actually transpired in Washington in the absence of Hague, Straw, Salmond or MacAskill. Helpfully, our American friends extensively cover and archive the operations of their legislature on C-SPAN, so finding the relevant footage was  rather straightforward. Menendez convened a small clutch of his fellows and took evidence on the 29th of September in the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Needless to say, our friendly senators lived down to expectations...


  1. Jumping Jehoshaphat two hours and sixteen minutes of this inane snake oil salesman and his cohorts slithering and squirming. Thank goodness for the ffw button!

    Isn't it time the Scottish Parliament held an inquiry into the mistakes the USA made in bombing Hiroshima?

  2. Nae doot aboot that, Mark. If not exhaustive, then certainly an exhausting proceeding.

  3. The deliberate skirting around the truth to mask their real intentions is truly boak inducing.

  4. With my legal hat on, I particularly appreciated Menendez' clueless attempt to interpret the Scotland Act 1998.

    "It doesn't take a rocket scientist".

    What a man.

  5. Dear God, I'm only five minutes in so far, and I'm already wondering where to begin.

    "we are so sorry to inconvenience those who would rather sweep this under the carpet"

    Well, if it's the Scottish government being referred to there, isn't it curious that Alex Salmond has been more than a little keen to publicise his letters to Menendez? In any event, in refusing to directly testify he was considerably more concerned about principle than 'convenience'. Just as well for Menendez that was the case, actually - the outcome of a direct exchange between the two of them at a formal hearing wouldn't take much guessing.

    Incidentally, why didn't Menendez come to Scotland himself instead of sending a staffer to unearth the crucial piece of fictitious evidence? Perhaps it was because it was too "inconvenient" for him to make the trip? Heaven's sake, man, "what about the victims"?

    "if found guilty, they would serve their sentence in the United Kingdom...the language of the agreement could not be any clearer"

    Just as well it was followed to the letter, then.

    "if those conditions had been met...I would have respected the respected the right of the Scottish government to exercise its jurisdiction"

    Well, there it is in a nutshell - Menendez openly declares that he does not respect the right of the Scottish government to "exercise its jurisdiction". What was that he was saying just thirty seconds earlier about "the rule of law"?

    "But as we will see as the testimony unfolds..."

    The words 'Flanders pigeon murderer' and 'I love a fair trial' are springing to mind...

  6. As I suspected, Senator Menendez is Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit - the one who dropped the squirming shoe into the acid bath.

    This is the kind of 'justice' recognised by the Senator Menendezes of this world. He was nonplussed by the notion of 'compassionate release' by the Scottish government for such a concept is certainly alien to this man and his fellow scrutineers.

    His shock and awe that anyone would fail to co-operate with this pantomime is rich given the US's long history of non-cooperation in all manner of international incidents.

  7. I am not a fan of the posturing of US politicians; far from it. However, fortunately all this seems to have left the average American quite unmoved. As a wee piece of unscientific evidence, I count the Vatican's millions every week at our local church. We have had more $100 bills in the plate this year than ever before, and they seem to peak at times of maximum Menendez posturing...

  8. I thought you might find watching this a vexing experience James, given your earlier remarks on the subject. You put your finger on one of the bizarre dimensions of the remarks - where rhetoric of the "rule of law" means ... er ... not following the substantive Scots law (set out so ably by Jonathan Mitchell) and an "affront to the rule of law" means MacAskill doing his legal duty. Crackers.

  9. Lena,

    What struck me was how sparsely attended the hearing appeared, in contrast to the stuffed benches that met Galloway. Indeed, as I understand Mendendez' concluding remarks - that's it. Fin. No more hearings. A rather short panto in one Act, it seems.

  10. Am Firinn,

    I discussed exactly that point here some time ago and am not surprised.

  11. Nope. I really couldn't manage any more than a couple of minutes, so James beat me hands down for perseverance. However, I've enjoyed your piece and the comments of your readers who have a lot more staying power than I do.

  12. Tris,

    Forgiveable. It took me several goes to get to the end of it and Menendez' self-effacing pronouncement that "the truth will set your free".

    No doubt he has a flunky to polish his brass neck for him...