Advanced Warning of Pan Am 103 Bombing

Q: Is it true that the US government had advanced warning of the bombing of Pan Am 103, but chose not to tell the public?

Sounds like an Internet conspiracy hoax, but in fact this is correct. In early December of 1988 the US embassy in Helsinki, Finland, received an anonymous tip stating that a Pan American flight from Frankfurt to New York (PA103 originated in Frankfurt, with a stop in London) would be bombed in the coming weeks. The call was dismissed as a hoax by some, but the US government, while deciding not to publicize the threat, not only warned Pan Am, but even sent notice to its various embassies, presumably so their employees could make alternate travel arrangements. Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21 after takeoff from Heathrow. Until you-know-what, this represented the worst terrorist attack against civilians in US history.


This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.