Mueller lashes out over bomber's release

FBI Director Robert Mueller continued the stream of administration criticism over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, lashing out directly at the Scottish justice secretary in a letter.

"Over the years I have been a prosecutor, and recently as the Director of the FBI, I have made it a practice not to comment on the actions of other prosecutors, since only the prosecutor handling the case has all the facts and the law before him in reaching the appropriate decision," Mueller wrote in the letter dated Friday and addressed to Scottish Minister Kenny MacAskill. "Your decision to release Megrahi causes me to abandon that practice in this case."

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Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer implicated in the 1988 bombing over Scotland that killed all 259 people aboard -- including 180 Americans -- and 11 on the ground, was released this week on compassionate grounds. Al-Megrahi is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, but had served only eight years of a life sentence.

He was flown back to Tripoli by Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. The celebration thrown for al-Megrahi upon his arrival has angered U.S. and British officials.

"I think it was highly objectionable," President Barack Obama said Friday of the jubilant homecoming. "It is disturbing to see images suggesting that Megrahi was accorded a hero's welcome instead of being treated as a convicted murderer."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the celebratory images "outrageous and disgusting."

Several lawmakers sounded off against the decision to set the convicted bomber free, including those who had earlier penned a letter asking Scotland to keep him behind bars.

"Megrahi showed no compassion to the innocent passengers and Scottish villagers he murdered; he should not receive our compassion now," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said. "Justice is ill-served by his early release."

Gadhafi has since fueled the controversy by publicly thanking British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the British royal family for the Libyan's release.

Mueller took his frustration out directly on MacAskill, saying in the scathing letter that the decision to release al-Megrahi "makes a mockery of the emotions, passions and pathos of all those affected by the Lockerbie tragedy.

"You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution," Mueller added. "You could not have visited the small wooden warehouse where the personal items of those who perished were gathered for identification--the single sneaker belonging to a teenager; the Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by a college student returning home for the holidays; the toys in a suitcase of a businessman looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and children."

Mueller also slammed the Scottish minister for leaving his agency out of the decision to release al-Megrahi.

"Although the FBI and Scottish police, and prosecutors in both countries, worked exceptionally closely to hold those responsible accountable, you never once sought our opinion, preferring to keep your own counsel and hiding behind opaque references to 'the need for compassion,'" Mueller wrote.

The FBI director concluded: "Where, I ask, is the justice?"