President Reagan bombed Libya in 1986 on less solid evidence of state-sponsored terrorism than the Justice Department and Scottish police have gathered in a remarkably tenacious joint investigation of the monstrous bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 with 270 deaths over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.
A station chief and ranking officer of Libyan intelligence have been indicted in the U.S. and charged in Britain, with a detailed account provided of how they did it. The British have handed warrants for their arrest to Libyan diplomats in New York. This comes two weeks after a French investigating magistrate accused four Libyans, including two very senior government officials, in the related bombing of a French airliner over the Sahara with 170 deaths on Sept. 19, 1989.
Under American law of dubious international legality, the U.S. gives itself authority to kidnap persons so charged. On occasion it has done so, though it admits no authority of other sovereignties to do the same in the U.S. So the stage is set for tense confrontation between the U.S. and Libya.