In just a little more than a week, it will be 29 years since Pan Am Flight 103 exploded at 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, Scotland – killing all 243 passengers, 16 crew members and eleven citizens on the ground. Also, aboard that fated flight were 35 Syracuse University students returning home for Christmas following a semester abroad. And in just a few days it will be a full year since the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC) heard the case of a group of Pan Am Pilots seeking compensation for the domino effect that resulted from this tragedy. Guess what’s happened since then?
Nothing, nada, zip. Not even so much as a response.
Those appearing before the FCSC, known as the Abbott Group, consist of former Pan Am Pilots who lost everything when the airline went under. In one fell swoop their pensions, healthcare not to mention livelihoods went up in smoke. The pilots were uniquely impacted by the airline’s bankruptcy given the federally mandated age 60 retirement rule for pilots with an average tenure of 23 years with the air carrier. Unable to get new jobs due to their age and length of time on the job, these pilots lost it all and their appearance before the FCSC was their one and only chance to be compensated.
Managing Partner of Washington based Kirstein & Young PLLC and plaintiff Attorney, Joanne Young told Liberty Nation in an exclusive interview this week, “After working for decades to be heard, we find it outrageous that any victim of terrorism, particularly elderly individuals who have served in our armed forces, have to wait over a year to receive a decision from their government. They truly are the forgotten Americans.”
Did Flight 103 Cause Pan Am to Bite the Dust?
Pan Am was forced to declare bankruptcy on January 8, 1991. At issue is whether the Lockerbie disaster was a principal cause of Pan Am’s financial woes. Of course, there are always multiple explanations regarding why a company fails – but there is good reason to believe the Lockerbie disaster had more than just a hand in the airline’s demise.
At last year’s hearing before the FCSC not one, or two but three former Pan Am Executives testified that Lockerbie was part and parcel of the airline having to go out of business. Among them were the former CEO and Senior VP – Finance who testified that the bombing and sensationalized media coverage that ensued was an antecedent and significant factor in the airline’s collapse.
The U.S. Got $1.5 Billion from Libya
The 2008 U.S.-Libya Settlement Agreement was specifically intended to benefit victims of the Lockerbie bombing. If Pan Am went bankrupt as a result of Flight 103 – and executives say it did – then these elderly pilots have a right to at least something in terms of compensation. Young says, “Not a dime of taxpayer money is involved. Rather these claims are from blood money given to the United States by Libya for victims of its state-sponsored terrorism. The FCSC even takes its administration costs out of these funds.”
In terms of the money involved, we’re talking $1.5 billion coughed up by then-Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi. Indeed, the strongman tried to play nice with a whopping monetary settlement as well as giving up his nuclear weapons program in order to return to the community of nations and regain the protection of sovereign immunity from lawsuits. Of course, playing nice in the sandbox with the U.S. often doesn’t work out too well. It certainly didn’t for Mr. Gaddafi.
On December 14th of last year the Abbott Group finally got their day in court, so to speak. The hearing had to be moved to a Federal District Courtroom since the FCSC did not have space large enough to hold the family, friends, and others interested in attending what turned out to be an eight-hour presentation of evidence. The pilots meanwhile have not seen a plug nickel to date. In the meantime, three of the pilots involved in the Abbott Group have passed away.
Everything has been a struggle for this small band of aging pilots. Even the route to get in front of the FCSC was a circuitous one – going through – you guessed it – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Sweet Hillary Did Nothing
A referral from the State Department to the FCSC was required for the Abbott Group’s claim to be heard. Despite substantial efforts by the pilots – efforts that went as far as Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills – the Hillary Clinton State Department failed to refer their claims to the FCSC. Indeed, the Abbott Group had advised the State Department of their claims in 1999 and of their litigation against Libya – a lawsuit that had been joined with the families of the death victims – yet State had overlooked their letter. Imagine that.
Despite another lackluster performance by Mrs. Clinton the case finally went before the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The FCSC is made up of two Obama appointees and as of this writing has not seen fit to give these impoverished pilots the dignity of a final decision. The Commission’s determination, by the way, is final and cannot be appealed to any court.
One way or another these Pan Am pilots deserve – at the very least – an answer from this all-powerful commission. One wonders if these Obama appointees plan to keep on with their delay tactic until every single pilot kicks the bucket. It’s time for the FCSC to get off their respective rear-ends and make a final decision on the Abbott Group’s claim.
After all, justice delayed is justice denied.