The Progressive Review Archives
NEW EVIDENCE OF HAND HELD MISSILE IN TWA 800 CRASH AREA
JACK CASHILL, WORLDNET DAILY - More than six years after retired United Airline captain Ray Lahr launched his Freedom of Information Act petition into the fate of TWA Flight 800, the FBI has shown him - likely by accident - one seriously smoking gun. The Boeing 747 blew up off the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996. One of the FBI documents received recently by Lahr and his attorney, John Clarke of Washington DC, details a communication that took place six days after the crash:
"On Tuesday, July 23, 1996, a representative from the Defense Intelligence Agency advised [the FBI] that after a visual analysis of both the videotape as well as a number of still photographs taken from various portions of the tape, the phenomenon captured by [name redacted] appeared to be consistent with the exhaust plume from a MANPAD [Man-portable air-defense] missile."
"The FBI guy who looked at this must not have read it, or not have realized what it would reveal," says Lahr. "Otherwise he would have redacted most of it as before.". . .
The earlier, unedited FBI document reports that a fellow and his friend on Long Island were attempting to videotape the sunrise when they saw and recorded "a grey trail of smoke ascending from the horizon at an angle of approximately 75 [degrees]." So compelling was the visual that the fellow made a comment to his friend, heard on the tape, "They must be testing a rocket." The fellow calculated that object was heading towards the Atlantic Ocean.
On the document Lahr first received, the story of the video ends right there. The next two paragraphs had been fully redacted.
This current unedited version shows that the FBI took the video seriously enough to bring in the DIA for further analysis. As mentioned above, the DIA found the video image to be "consistent with the exhaust plume from a MANPAD."
What is shocking is that the authorities not only removed all reference to this video from the official record, but they also removed just about all reference to the DIA. . .
An important component of the DIA is the Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC), which is located in Huntsville, Alabama, and is charged with gathering intelligence on enemy surface-to-air missiles and short-range ballistic missiles.
During a Senate inquiry in May 1999, the FBI's number two man on the investigation, Lewis Schiliro, conceded that MSIC analysts had arrived on the scene in Long Island just two days after the July 17, 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 and interviewed eyewitnesses. "They reported to us," Schiliro told the senators of the MSIC analysts, "that many of the descriptions given by eyewitnesses were very consistent with the characteristics of the flight of [surface-to-air] missiles.". . .
When FBI officials shut down the criminal investigation in November 1997, they publicly discredited the eyewitnesses and fully ignored the work done by the MSIC analysts. At the final press conference, The FBI's James Kallstrom discussed only two images of a possible missile captured in flight. Both were photographic stills, and he cavalierly dismissed these as well.
There was no reference at all to the video analyzed by the DIA. In fact, there was no public mention of the DIA. The MSIC analysis was relegated to a footnote.
Nor, of course, was there any mention of the video shot on the night of July 17. From the beginning, there has been ample evidence that an amateur video had been taken of TWA Flight 800's destruction.
2005. . .
NINE YEARS AFTER TWA 800 CRASH, GOVERNMENT HASN'T CORRECTED ALLEGED CAUSE
[Another possiblity: this wasn't the cause of the crash and the FAA knows it. Link to our TWA 800 archive at the end of this clip]
REUTERS - U.S. aviation officials should quickly order airlines to reduce the risks of fuel tank explosions like the one that brought down TWA Flight 800 off the coast of New York almost nine years ago, U.S. transport safety officials said on Wednesday. . . After the TWA crash, the NTSB urged the Federal Aviation Administration to order airlines to immediately change operating procedures to cut the chance of the tanks exploding as well as require aircraft design changes, which would take longer.
While the acting NTSB chairman, Mark Rosenker, said fuel tank explosions were "rare events," he pressed the FAA to stop dragging its feet, particularly since the agency said early in 2004 it was close to proposing design changes
OUR TWA 800 FILE
9/11 AND TWA 800: THE UNREPORTED STORY
CONNECTING THE DOTS
NICK WELSH, INDEPENDENT - In his book Lance claims that in 1996, high-ranking FBI and Justice Department officials turned a deliberate blind eye on documentary evidence provided by a high-ranking mob snitch that a key Al Qaeda terrorist, Ramzi Yousef, behind bars for the original bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, was actively plotting to blow up what turned out to be TWA Flight 800, which exploded 13,000 feet in the air above Long Island in the summer of 1996, killing all 230 passengers and crewmembers on board. After a 16-month investigation, the FBI blamed that tragedy on mechanical failure. Given that Yousef's uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was one of the masterminds behind the September 11 plot, Lance contends the FBI blew yet another golden opportunity to prevent 9/11 from ever occurring. . .
In 1995, a Philippine colonel named Rodolfo Mendoza informed American authorities that he'd obtained a confession from Abdul Murad, a close associate of Yousef's, who revealed then that Yousef - in addition to assassination plots against the Pope and President Bill Clinton - was working on plans to send a hijacked airliner crashing into one or more of six possible targets in the United States. These included the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, a nuclear power plant, the Sears Tower in Chicago, and the Transworld Building in San Francisco. No date was set. In addition, Mendoza said Murad told him that Yousef had enrolled his accomplices in flight-training schools. Lance claims Mendoza's warning clearly establishes the official beginning of the 9/11 plot in 1995, not 1998 as outlined in the 9/11 Commission's report. . .
When the TWA Flight 800 blew up, investigators found trace explosives favored by Yousef on the plane, but rejected sabotage as a cause in favor of mechanical failure. Lance suggests that decision was based solely on political considerations rather than the forensic evidence. . . Lance contends that high-ranking officials, like Jamie Gorelick - now the FBI's chief counsel - shut down the criminal investigation into the crash of TWA Flight 800 for fear that their outstanding cases against various mobsters would unravel.
9/11 COMMISSION NIXED INQUIRY INTO TWA 800 CONNECTION
NEWSMAX - The 9/11 Commission rejected evidence that al-Qaida may have played a role in the 1996 downing of TWA Flight 800, investigative reporter Peter Lance claims. What's more, says Lance, the evidence of an al-Qaida link was first presented to 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick when she was deputy attorney general under President Clinton.
On Thursday, Lance shared details of his new book, "Cover-up: What the Government Is Still Hiding About the War on Terror," with ABC Radio Network's John Batchelor. Documents uncovered by the former network news reporter show that weeks before TWA Flight 800 exploded off the coast of Long Island, Ramzi Yousef - mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bomb plot and the author of the blueprint for the 9/11 attacks - warned the FBI he was preparing to blow up a U.S. airliner.
"They had an informant in a federal prison cell in lower Manhattan who'd been passing notes to the FBI from Ramzi Yousef," Lance told Batchelor.
While in jail Yousef was befriended by fellow inmate Greg Scarpa Jr., who was awaiting trial on a racketeering charge and who occupied the cell between the al-Qaida bomber and his partner, Abdul Hakim Murad. Scarpa, who saw a chance to reduce his sentence by sharing what he found out with counterterrorism probers, agreed to act as a conduit for messages passed between Yousef and Murad
The Justice Department's decision to keep Yousef's warnings to Scarpa under wraps during the Flight 800 investigation was political, said Lance - a bid to cover up tracks that should have been followed but weren't.
REED IRVINE, WORLD NET DAILY - Those who accept the government's claim that the crash of TWA Flight 800 was caused by a fuel-tank explosion dismiss the evidence that the plane was shot down accidentally by missiles launched in a Navy exercise off the Long Island coast. They say that such an accident could not have been covered up because a lot of Navy personnel would have known about it, and some of them would have talked. One of them has finally done so. He recently said in an interview that I recorded that he was on the deck of a Navy submarine very close to the crash site and saw TWA 800 shot down. He was brought to my attention by an acquaintance of his who told me that this retired Navy petty officer had said he was "underneath TWA 800 when he saw a missile hit it and the 747 explode overhead." He had told this acquaintance that he had given a statement to the FBI when they returned to their port, and that the FBI had checked all their torpedo tubes and all their missile silos to make sure they had all the missiles on board that they had when they left port. Asked if there were other military vessels in the area, he had said, "Yes, several." . . . There are hundreds of Navy and Coast Guard personnel, as well as some FBI, CIA, FAA, NTSB and former White House employees who know that the real cause of the crash of TWA 800 was papered over with a tissue of lies. Two of them, James Kallstrom and George Stephanopoulos, have made statements that indicate an official cover-up . . . MORE
REED IRVINE, NEWSMAX - The National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, has secretly sent a large part of the wreckage of TWA Flight 800 to a Long Island junkyard for recycling. Millions of dollars were spent recovering the wreckage from the ocean and transporting it to Calverton, where the fuselage was assembled as a mock-up to impress the public with what a thorough job the investigators &SHY; the NTSB and the FBI &SHY; were doing. That was for show, but there was other wreckage that they didn't want shown. Journalists and private investigators were not allowed inside the Calverton hangar to inspect the bulk of the recovered wreckage, but even members of the official investigating team were not allowed into a special area where the FBI secreted items that they didn't want the representatives of the NTSB, TWA, Boeing and the interested unions to see. The fuselage mock-up will be preserved, together with one of the four engines. The destruction of the rest was carried out in July and August of this year. The recycler says that he had to pledge to keep it secret to get the contract. Long Island's News Channel 12 learned about it only recently . . . The NTSB denies that it kept the demolition secret, but it's clear that it did so. It knew that there were many people interested in the TWA 800 case who would have strenuously objected to the destruction of evidence that they believed would prove the NTSB and FBI had covered up the real cause of the crash &SHY; hits by missiles that were seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses. MORE
IN AN AMAZING and disturbing sidebar to the World Trade Center attacks, a number of prominent figures have appeared on TV referring to the TWA 800 in the same category as other terrorist incidents:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC: There are facilities in the White House, not the normal situation room, which everyone has seen in the past, has seen pictures of. There is a second situation room, behind the primary situation room, which has video conferencing capabilities. The director of the Pentagon, the defense chief, can speak from a national military command center at the Pentagon. The Secretary of State can speak from the State Department, the President from wherever he is, and they'll have this capability for video conferencing throughout this crisis. In my time at the White House it was used in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, in the aftermath of the TWA Flight 800 bombing, and that would be the way they would stay in contact through the afternoon."
[According to Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid, Jim Sanders, in his book "The Downing of TWA Flight 800," says that there was a meeting in the White House situation room that night. He was told that high officials were watching in real time a video transmission of a Navy test of an anti-missile missile that went awry.]
FORMER FBI INVESTIGATOR JAMES KALSTROM on TV: This is the first time since TWA 800 [referring to the WTC attack]
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC: Do you think the US is still under the threat of terrorist hijackings, of aircraft being used as flying bombs? With your knowledge of the terrorism business, do you think they won't just move on to another mode of delivering terror? . . . ISAAC YEFFET, FORMER DIRECTOR OF SECURITY FOR EL-AL AIRLINES: We thought in the past, in the '70's, that what happened with the US air carriers, this would be the end of the terrorist attack. Look what happened since Lockerbie, Pan Am 103? What happened to TWA 800? Look now what happened. Who can guarantee us that the terrorists will decide no more attacks in the US, unless somebody will tell me that we took control over the terrorist organizations and we let them know that here, they cannot come."
JAMES SANDERS, WORLDNET DAILY: In the last few weeks several political insiders have forgotten themselves and referred to TWA Flight 800, the airliner, which exploded in July of 1996 just east of New York City, as a terrorist incident. But only one has done it twice. That person is Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Appearing on "Larry King Live" on Sept. 11 of this year, Kerry suggested that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by a terrorist act. The second admission took place on Sept. 24 on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. On this occasion, Kerry casually recited a number of terrorist attacks against the United States, among them TWA "Flight 800." Like Larry King before him, Chris Matthews either did not catch the remark or chose to let it pass. We have been asked a number of times whether these remarks by Kerry and others were purposeful, perhaps a signal that the time was right to come clean on the all-but-indisputable shoot down of TWA 800 and the undeniable cover-up that followed. Our temptation has been to say "no." These admissions seemed more or less innocent and accidental, the first time anyhow. But not the second. In Kerry's case, one of his aides had to have caught his initial reference to TWA 800. If a mistake, it seems highly unlikely that it could have happened again. But it did. There is more evidence to consider. On Sept. 20, one mainstream newspaper released the story of how the so-called Gore Commission failed conspicuously to address airline safety. The paper claimed that this failure "represents the clearest recent public example of the success that airlines have long had in defeating calls for more oversight." The paper traced that failure to a series of campaign donations from the airlines to the Democratic National Committee in 1996 in the wake of the crash of TWA Flight 800, donations likely solicited by Al Gore himself. That newspaper just happened to be John Kerry's hometown Boston Globe. This was a damning revelation, certainly to Al Gore. The Boston Globe was the only medium to the left of the Washington Times to have released this information, and the Times did so at least a year before the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon
William S. Donaldson, 56, a leading investigator into the TWA 800 cover-up, has died of a brain tumor. He founded the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals and started a website, twa800.com, to document the many discrepancies in the official version of the crash and to the end remained committed to proving that the aircraft was shot down.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE: An independent panel of experts on Monday lambasted the results of an official investigation into the 1996 fatal TWA Flight 800 crash, and maintained its theory the plane was downed by a missile. According to the Flight 800 Independent Research Organization, the official investigators had concealed crucial pieces of information from a final report to be presented Tuesday and Wednesday . . .
Many former investigators, military experts, and airline pilots continue to insist the Boeing was shot down by a missile. . . NTSB investigators have explained that bystanders may have been looking at an arc of fire in the sky that occurred after the airplane broke in two and a part of the fuselage was briefly hurtled into the sky in flames. The FBI initially tried to probe the missile theory, but later abandoned it and withdrew from the investigation altogether in the fall of 1997.
JOE BRANCATELLI, BIZ TRAVEL: A day after the downing of TWA 800 four years ago this week, an executive of an international airline invited me to lunch. From the moment I slid into the banquette at his stodgy private club, I knew this was going to be a different kind of lunch altogether. "What's your take on TWA 800?" he asked before I could settle in . . .
"Well," I stammered. "There's no 'good' news here. If it was a missile, there's gonna be hell to pay. If it was terrorism, the recriminations and the security measures will be positively fascist. And if it was mechanical, it was catastrophic failure like we've never seen before."
"It was a missile," the executive said evenly. "Friendly fire. We kept telling the military this would happen one day. And the bastards just kept doing it and doing it. And now hundreds of people are dead" . . .
Grimly, the executive laid out his theory: TWA 800 took off, was picked up on radar by US fighters, and then made the "target" by a giddy pilot. As so often happens, this military pilot was playing an ad hoc war game: lock onto a commercial jet, make believe it is an enemy plane, then blow it out of the sky. Only this time, the executive insisted, something went terribly wrong and the game turned real. "For years we've been complaining about the military locking onto commercial jets and using them for target practice," the executive said. "We go down to the Pentagon and bitch and they promise it'll never happen again. Then, when it does happen again, they say, 'no harm, no foul.' I think they just fouled."
Over the course of this very peculiar lunch, the airline executive also laid out several eerie scenarios: watch the government attempt to discredit, then ignore, then awkwardly explain away the eyewitness accounts that support the "missile theory." Watch the President make an unprecedented gesture to the families of the TWA 800 victims. Watch how the cockpit recorders will reveal no signs of crew comments indicating mechanical failure. Watch how a mechanical problem will be vaguely blamed, yet no 747s will be grounded.
NEWSMAX.COM: Freelance investigative author James Sanders has a new book coming out on the TWA Flight 800 disaster entitled 'Altered Evidence.' But given his recent experience at the hands of federal prosecutors, Sanders has decided to take some extraordinary precautions. Why? Because, when he penned 1997's 'The Downing of TWA Flight 800,' the Clinton Justice Department went after everybody associated with the book's publication in search of evidence against Sanders and his wife Elizabeth . . . Sanders was convicted last year of conspiracy to remove evidence from the Calverton, Long Island, hanger where wreckage of TWA 800 had been reassembled. A TWA employee had voluntarily given Sanders seat fabric from the plane, which he promptly subjected to lab analysis. Tests revealed rocket fuel residue . . . Because Mrs. Sanders had spoken by phone several times with her husband's source, she was prosecuted as well.
SEATTLE TIMES: Boeing said this week that the lack of evidence as to what sparked the blast that downed TWA Flight 800 three years ago points to an "external source," such as a bomb or missile. Boeing's statement in court documents Tuesday is the strongest to date revealing an aggressive legal defense that blames the 747 crash on a bomb or missile - which the FBI and National Transportation Safety Board long ago ruled out. "That the NTSB in over three years of exhaustive investigation has been unable to identify any potential ignition source aboard the aircraft suggests that an external source caused the explosion," Boeing said. "Unless and until such time as a cause is determined, ignition sources external to the aircraft - of any type - cannot be ruled out."
BOEING STILL QUESTIONS
TWA 800 THEORY
The Seattle Times reports disapprovingly that "Boeing has actually refused to rule out a bomb or missile in the July 1996 TWA crash." The Times accused Boeing of continuing "a quiet pursuit of far-fetched theories" in the crash. "Boeing was continuing to pursue evidence of foul play in the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island, N.Y. Two years after the FBI and federal aviation investigators ruled out a bomb or missile in that crash, Boeing has refused to abandon the sabotage theory. Safety officials have concluded that the jet's center fuel tank exploded but have yet to identify the ignition source."
The Times claims that "Boeing's refusal to eliminate a bomb or missile as a cause of that earlier crash is a strategy that appears to be coming largely from company attorneys, including those at the Seattle firm Perkins Coie, which is defending Boeing in a lawsuit filed by family members who lost loved ones in TWA Flight 800 .... But the legal message also is being echoed by Boeing's top official, Chairman Phil Condit, who told The Seattle Times last week that the bomb-or-missile theory "is improbable at this point. But until you find a probable cause, you are never sure."
Boeing is conducting chemical metallurgical tests, reviewing FBI interviews with witnesses, many of whom saw something apparently streaking towards the plane before the crash.
While discrediting those who question government statements and findings is increasingly common in the American media, it is a bit unusual to find a corporation as large as Boeing or a law firm as big as Perkins Coie lumped among the conspiracy theorists.
PHILIP WEISS, NEW YORK OBSERVER: [The "30-knot track"] is the official radar designation of the boat that was closest to the plane when it crashed -- three to four miles away in the Atlantic Ocean. After the crash, this boat behaved bizarrely. At a time when many mariners saw the fireball in the sky and rushed to give assistance, this boat went straight out to sea at a fast clip even as debris fell behind it. According to the last known radar reading, the boat reached speeds of more than 40 miles per hour, on a south-southwest course, into the night. The government has tried to will this boat away. When the FBI closed its criminal investigation into the crash, two years ago, then-assistant director James Kallstrom said repeatedly that it had left no stone unturned. Of greatest concern, he said, were boats near the crash .... One critic says this boat was a "getaway car." .... The NTSB's explanation of the radar track has been lame. Goelz of the NTSB told me it is reasonable to conclude that no one on the vessel was aware of the crash because it happened behind them, over their right shoulder. But the explosion in the sky rattled windows in Center Moriches, 10 miles away. It would have thumped a boat three miles distant and caused a sun-like radiance in the twilight sky.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESS: Two groups that claim a missile brought down TWA Flight 800 in July 1996 said Friday that just-released radar data showing an unidentified ship near the blast back their theory .... The data, obtained in June from the National Transportation Safety Board, show many ships in the area, including one five kilometers from where the plane went down. "There were 30 surface vessels in the area. Only one, the closest, has not been identified," Tom Stalcup, the director of the Flight 800 Independent Research Organization, told a press conference. "After the explosion that everyone could see 20 miles around, the ship, about 2.9 nautical miles away, did not turn around," he said .... Some 130 witnesses said they saw a glowing arc climb into the sky -- like a rocket or a missile -- seconds before the aircraft exploded, he added.
WILLIAM NEUMAN, NEW YORK POST: Libyan strongman Moammar Khadafy personally ordered the bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland - and the British government has known about his role for years, it was reported yesterday. The Sunday Times of London reported that the government had slapped the paper with a gag order preventing it from revealing details about the alleged intelligence cover-up. "We have known for a long while that Khadafy gave the order," an unidentified former senior intelligence officer told the Times.
PHILIP WEISS, NEW YORK OBSERVER: The third anniversary of the crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 is July 17, so it's a good time to look into what even the government reluctantly concedes is a mystery about the crash: "the 30-knot track." The 30-knot track is the radar trail of a boat that was the closest vessel to the 747 when it exploded and that then headed out to sea on a beeline from right under the burning wreckage. "That boat is extremely suspect," said William S. Donaldson, a retired Navy commander who supports the missile theory of the plane's destruction. "He not only doesn't turn to render assistance, he runs." "It's like the getaway car," said Graeme Sephton, an electrical engineer who is active in an Internet researchers organization that is highly critical of the Federal investigation . . .
OBSERVER STORY http://www.observer.com/pages/frontpage6.htm
ROBERT DAVEY, VILLAGE VOICE: As the investigation's third anniversary passes, the [TWA 800] mystery is deepening. A few months ago, a retired army officer bearing impressive credentials approached the Voice as an intermediary for a missile expert with a story to tell. This expert is extremely fearful of losing his job -- for more than 20 years he's been a military engineer who specializes in infrared missile technology. Assured of anonymity, he submitted to lengthy interviews by telephone and e-mail, detailing why he believes the investigation of TWA Flight 800 is a cover-up .... Prior to the official embrace of this mechanical explanation, the missile expert was among several scientists invited by FBI agents to explore the missile theory. He was made privy to evidence suggesting that TWA 800 could have been shot down, consisting of eyewitness accounts of a "flare-like object" shooting skyward moments before the plane exploded. Later he examined the debris in the Calverton hangar. The missile expert has also been in contact with military labs where, he says, the chemists have been unable to make jet fuel vapor explode as the NTSB says it did in TWA 800's center fuel tank. "The labs told the NTSB there's a big problem -- it can't happen." The NTSB wouldn't listen. He says, "They were adamant that [the labs] had to find something." The evidence adds up, the missile expert believes, to a "70 percent chance" that TWA 800 was downed by a shoulder-launched missile.
VILLAGE VOICE http://villagevoice.com
Those seeking answers in the TWA 800 crash may just have to be patient. For example, after seven years of cover-ups and denials, an official report on the crash of an El Al jet into an apartment area of Amsterdam has finally linked the accident to medical problems suffered by nearby residents. The Israeli government finally admitted last year that the cargo included chemicals used to make sarin nerve gas.
Brigadier General Benton Partin USAF Ret did the initial design, development and test of the first of several continuous-rod warheads for the MOMARC missile in the 1950s. He says of the TWA crash: "A proximity fused, continuous-rod missile warhead is the only target destruction system I know that would be consistent with all damage assessment information I have seen in the open media. The destructive mechanism is unique to that type of warhead. You would not see blast or blast-frag damage. Neither would you see residuals from explosives. The instantaneous kill is unique to that warhead type." There are illustrations and more information at Ken McCarthy's Brasscheck
The latest developments in the TWA 800 indicate that for some period of time, the FBI, CIA and BATF had dramatically different views of what happened in the crash. The FBI is now being blamed for not having quickly accepted the view prescribed by the CIA, BATF, NTSB and much of the media, namely that the crash was due to structural faults, pursuing instead the still highly likely possibility that the plane was brought down by a missile.
The current extraordinary public attack on the FBI for having considered the missile theory is another sign of growing institutional anarchy in Washington. As generals take swipes at the White House for its Kosovo disaster and the military blames the CIA for bad targeting information, one gets the sense of being in the middle of the most dangerous game of office politics ever played.
There are new rules. Consider, for example, that one hour after the House of Representatives voted to conduct the impeachment inquiry, the CIA released the declassified version of Volume II of the investigation into agency dealings with drug traffickers, a report that seriously implicated the Republican predecessors of Clinton. There are few if any parallels for such a direct, high-level CIA interference in domestic politics.
Regarding the TWA 800 mystery, are some key points to keep in mind:
-- The open controversy is a sign of highly unstable leadership not only in the White House but elsewhere in the government.
-- Major media outlets such as The Washington Post and New York Times have long attempted to squash any consideration of a missile attack. The Times early went after such a possibility as the fantasy of conspiracy theorists, even though it is now known that among those considering such a possibility were the FBI and the plane's manufacturer. The Post and Times coverage has been counter-journalistic, aimed at suppressing doubts about the investigation.
-- There is at least reasonable evidence to support the theory that the plane was brought down by a hand-held missile known as a MANPADS. The main proponent of this theory -- which was also apparently held by the FBI until it caved to the government consensus -- is a retired Navy Commander, William S. Donaldson, who has collected an impressive array of facts challenging the official explanation.
-- Key to Donaldson's theory is the eyewitness accounts of over 100 persons who saw a streak of light moving towards the plane before it crashed. These witnesses have been discounted, ignored, and ridiculed by law enforcement and the media. They have been given a modified version of the treatment experienced by the president's former girlfriends. No final judgement of the cause of the crash can be made until the testimony of these witnesses has been given a fair hearing.
-- The highly anti-FBI story was broken by the CIA-cozy Washington Post, which suggested that the FBI's failure to accept the view of the agency, the ATF, and the NTSB had delayed needed repairs to the 747s' central fuel tank. The article ended with this gratuitous scolding: "Under Director Louis J. Freeh, the FBI has been trying to change its image as the playground bully of law enforcement, but the TWA probe is unlikely to enhance its reputation for getting along with other agencies."
Here is just some of what Commander Donaldson has charged:
-- The administration knew surrogates from rogue states had access to MANPADS or shoulder-fired missiles in mid-eastern weapons bazaars. $5,000 would acquire the least capable model, the Russian SA-7. $50,000 would buy the most capable, the Chinese Vanguard, a deadly new missile upgraded from US Stinger technology transferred to the Chinese in the early 90's.
-- The administration was aware that, worldwide, MANPADS missiles had already claimed 26 civil transport aircraft and it was only a matter of time before a U.S. flag carrier would be targeted and hit. They knew the Maryland State Police had found a fully armed French Mistral MANPADS missile ready to fire on its tripod directly under a busy northeastern air route.
-- "We can provide testimony that immediately after Flight 800 was shot down, Mr. Clinton called an FBI command post supporting the Olympics and informed them Flight 800 was downed with shoulder-fired missiles."
-- "The White House, the CIA and the FBI political leadership have waged an unrelenting disinformation campaign from the onset. This has ranged from the White House spokesman stating, 'Anyone in government that says this was a missile only has half a brain,' and to the CIA cartoon that libeled hundreds of eyewitnesses."
-- At the NTSB Public Hearing in December of 1997, the word "witnesses" was not even mentioned.
-- "We have access to 107 witnesses on 4 aircraft, 19 boats, and 31 locations ashore. They were located in a 360° circle around the missile engagement. Their live testimony alone will prove the aircraft was shot down."
-- "In December 1996, FBI missile team members told military experts that two separate commercial fishermen dredged up and threw back a MANPADS first stage, the missile ejector-motor can. The ejector motor, about the size of a Coke can, fires in the tube, ejecting the missile, then drops in the water when the missile 2nd stage booster ignites."
-- "The $5 million trawling operation was funded by NTSB, contracted to civilian scallop boats through the Navy Supervisor of Salvage from 4 November 1996 until it was suddenly terminated on 30 April 1997. The trawlers were manned 24 hours a day by teams of FBI agents. Up until 30 April 1997 the scallop boat captains had been told the operation would continue indefinitely for months or even years. FBI agents got the word via cell phone to shut down the operations. On two of the boats, when the captains refused to stop until the Navy contractor on board told them to, the agents threatened force to make the captains shut down. The first agent backed down when the captain told him he would go anywhere at gunpoint, but the agent could expect to be charged with piracy on the high seas when they got ashore. The second agent backed down when the captain informed him that he was armed also and he was the captain and they weren't going anywhere."
Is Commander Donaldson's theory wrong? We don't know for the simple reason that no one in the Clinton administration, law enforcement, intelligence, or Capitol Hill -- and few in the media -- seems to want to find out. We do know that the government has responded to attempts to get at the truth in a deceitful, harassing, stonewalling and illogical fashion, one that sadly has become a pattern over the past few decades. Once again, if the government is not covering up, it is certainly acting as though it is.
TWA 800 CASE BACK. . .
The Village Voice has joined those seriously questioning the conventional wisdom on the TWA800 crash. The VV piece by Robert Davey says:
-- 128 eyewitnesses have been tallied by the NSTB who saw a "streak if light ending in a fireball, flash, or an explosion.
-- Proper tests were not performed on possible explosive debris found in the wreckage.
-- A police investigator claims that tags identifying the location of certain seats were changed in order to bolster the official version of the crash.
For a report by Commander Williams S. Donaldson III USN (ret) that challenges the official explanations of the event:
Incidentally, Cmdr. Donaldson calculates that if 50 persons on average are accurate in their observations only 10% of the time and all say they saw the same thing, there is a 99.5% probability that they are right.
INQURING MINDS WISH TO KNOW. . .
What 100 pounds of cash, 4.5 pounds of diamonds, 4.5 pounds of watches, and 11 pounds of other jewelry were doing on Swiss Air Flight 111 which crashed off Nova Scotia recently on its way to Switzerland. The airline isn't saying.
BOEING TO PUSH
Kelly Patricia O'Meara in Insight reports that the Boeing company, in an attempt to limit its liability, may argue in court that TWA 800 was brought down by a missile. TPR has previously reported that Boeing was not in lockstep with the federal investigation that discounted such a theory. Says Insight: "Boeing's legal team already has raised the missile claim as a tool to chip away at the resolve and ultimate financial demands of the victims' families, hoping to reduce settlements by half. . . . . 'At this point, Boeing is seeking a 50 percent discount on each case because of its belief that a jury will conclude a missile downed Flight 800,' declares one of the secret legal memos obtained by Insight. As a well-placed source explains: "Boeing attorneys will try to plant reasonable doubt and make a jury believe that a missile downed TWA 800."
CONSPIRACY THEORISTS AT TWA, BOEING. . .
At least that is what Newsweek seemed to imply in a story that began, "Conspiracy theorists who still believe that TWA Flight 800 was shot down by a missile will get a boost when statements of more than 400 eyewitnesses collected by the FBI after the crash are released. . . ."
Newsweek then proceeds to buy into the CIA's dubious theory that all four hundred were victims of an optical illusion but then ends by saying "lawyers for TWA and Boeing, anticipating the accounts' release, have told the court handling lawsuits against them that they cannot rule out the possibility of a missile." You've got to watch out for those conspiracy theorists. They're all over the place.
TWA and Boeing have asked a federal judge for assistance in getting information out of the criminal investigation on TWA 800 -- including eye-witness statements. The FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board have so far denied the companies the information
Although much of the media is acting as though the case is just about closed, in military circles the crash of TWA 800 is still attracting serious concern. For example, a group of retired Navy officials, led by former Chief of Staff Thomas Moorer, held a news conference to question the official findings and to suggest that the most likely cause of the crash was a missile explosion outside the aircraft's forward cabin. Admiral Moorer is a missile expert. Also skeptical of official findings was retired Commander William Donaldson, a former Navy plane crash investigator. Says Donaldson, there was either a train wreck in the sky or a missile explosion.
Meanwhile, Col. David Hackworth's newsletter raises a number of critical matters:
- Over 150 persons saw a streak of light heading for the plane before it exploded. These included two airline pilots, and two National Guard pilots, one of whom has stated that "I saw what I swear to God was military ordinance explode."
- For the first time in history the FBI seized control of the investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board,.
- After the crash, President Clinton issued an executive order denying whistleblower protection to Navy divers.
- The FBI washed off recovered debris with high pressure hoses before examining for explosive residue.
- The FBI removed some debris without signing it out and stored part of the debris in a hanger off limits to other crash investigators.
TWA joins conspiracy theorists
Conspiracy theorists crop up where you least expect them. For example, a story in Aviation Week finds TWA still interested in the possibility that a missile might have brought TWA 800 down. "We are not convinced there was a spontaneous explosion in the center tank," Mark Abels, TWA's vice president of corporate communications, told Aviation Week. "We won't be until there is an ignition source identified and there is proof it set off the explosion. All we see now is circumstantial evidence."
The FBI's work "doesn't mean there wasn't a missile, it means the FBI has not found evidence of one," Abels said.
Also messing up plans for a PR-smooth accident investigation is news in the Washington Post that an unarmed cruise missile went off course during a routine test in the Utah desert "clipping two unoccupied trailers containing scientific equipment and falling short of military facilities that house deadly chemical and biological agents." Some suspect a similar accident in the TWA crash.
Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board is managing to conduct its hearings on the crash without testimony from any of the over 200 witnesses to the incident, a truly remarkable form of fact-finding.
For the full Aviation Week article: http://www.aviationweek.com/aviation/avi_air.htm
For the record
Here is part of a statement issued November 18 by Boeing on the FBI's TWA 800 investigation:
"The FBI's assessment that it has not found any criminal evidence in the investigation of the loss of TWA Flight 800 does not change the role of the Boeing Company in the continuing effort to determine the cause of this tragedy . . . Boeing provided information about the design, operation and performance of the 747 to the FBI throughout their criminal investigation. However, Boeing was not involved in the production of the video shown today, nor have we had the opportunity to obtain a copy or fully understand the date used to create it. While we provided basic aerodynamic information to assist in the CIA's analysis of the airplane's performance, we are not aware of the data that was used to develop the video. The video's explanation of the eyewitness observations can be best assessed by the eyewitnesses themselves. Since the beginning of the investigation, Boeing had never subscribed to any one theory. . . ."
TWA 800: WHO'S
A CONSPIRACY THEORIST?
When TWA 800 crashed, the White House and the media rushed to the conclusion that it was a result of a terrorist attack, explicitly or implicitly one of Middle East origins. With great flapping of its wings, Congress joined Clinton in producing anti-terrorist legislation while the crash investigation was still in its infancy. This was viewed as normal and sensible by major media. As soon as independent investigators and journalists began raising the possibility that the plane might have been the victim of friendly fire, however, they were labeled paranoid nuts and conspiracy theorists.
As it turned out, the first set of conspiracy theorists (the government and the media) had to quietly fold their tents on the terrorist scenario (while, of course, leaving all new security plans in place) even as they were denouncing the second set of conspiracy theorists (independent investigators pursing the possibility of friendly fire) for daring to have an alternative hypothesis.
In order to believe the government's argument, however, you have to believe the main sources of that argument, namely the FBI and the CIA. The latter, of course, was chartered to deceive and nothing in its recent history suggests that it has lost the inclination. The former agency, once highly regarded, has been in tailspin of esteem over the last few years, especially since Clinton (for the first time in history and on the flimsiest grounds) removed a director in the midst of his statutory term of office. The FBI's record of veracity at Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, and in the Vince Foster death has been dismal, especially the tendency of its agents to fiddle with witness memories and statements. It's not just the high profile cases, either. The Hartford Courant recently reported that a 16-year-old investigation into the mob killing of a businessman had been thwarted because the FBI was protecting prime suspects in the case. And on the west coast, a federal judge has ruled that FBI agents must stand trial for what is alleged to have been a deliberate attempt to disrupt, discredit and intimidate in the wake of a bombing directed at Earth First! activists.
There is also the problem that the FBI's description of what TWA 800 witnesses saw conflicts with what they said they saw. While it is possible that some of more than 150 witnesses mistook the meaning of what appeared to be the trail of an object that eventually ended in an explosion, the wide spacing of these witnesses alone militates against them all suffering the same illusion. Here are some of the early news and witness reports:
Several witnesses . . . saw a bright, flare-like object streaking towards the jumbo jet seconds before it blew up (Washington Times 7/24/96)
"We saw what appeared to be a flare going straight up. As a matter fact, we thought it was from a boat. It was a bright reddish-orange color. Once it went into flames, I knew that it wasn't a flare." (Lou Desyron on ABC 7/21/96)
"It looked like a big skyrocket going up, and it kept going up and up, and the next thing I knew there was an orange ball of fire." (New York Daily News 11/09/96)
"Victor Fehner wondered who was shooting flares in the sky . . .Then he saw a flash overhead and watched a fireball that grew larger and larger. (St Louis Post-Dispatch 7/1/8/96)
And it wasn't just amateurs who saw the phenomena. For example, two helicopter pilots also witnessed the streak, described initially by one as a missile and later as a shooting star. The other pilot, still employed by the government, has been barred from elaborating on the matter.
One can perhaps explain such experiences as a form of mass delusion, which is essentially what the FBI and the CIA have done, but in the end, of course, this opinion is just one more theory and the case is still open.
Despite the media's discrediting of those favoring the errant missile theory of the TWA 800 downing, these folks have friends in high places. Like the FBI. On May 13, Mrs. Dee Muma of Riverhead NY received a fax from Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical that was intended for the FBI's Long Island's office. The fact noted that the FBI had contacted TRA because it suspected certain debris found among the wreckage might be parts of a bright orange target drone built by the firm and used by the Navy and Air Force. The fax indicated that the debris was not part of a TRA drone. Mrs. Muma called the FBI and told them of the errant fax. The answering agent's response: "Oh shit."
TWA 800: Scott Holleran, whose parents' last minute flight change saved them from traveling on TWA 800, recently wrote the Wall Street Journal about the nation's second worst, and still unsolved, air disaster. In his piece, he pointed out that "the investigation thus far is at a dead end; according to the FBI it is neither an accident nor a crime. There are no explanations and no suspects. In the wake of repeated assertions that an unarmed Navy missile brought Flight 800 down, federal spokesmen present a weary demeanor to the press, as if their task is growing tedious and they shouldn't have to answer questions from those outside the investigation. . .The usual circumstances of airline crashes did not occur with Flight 800. There were no convincing terrorist claims of responsibility, no engine fires, no signs of panic in the cockpit, no mysterious passengers or luggage, no excessive insurance claims, no shoddy mechanical maintenance, no wind shear, lightning, fog, aircraft defects or poor air traffic commands. . . If the FBI can't figure out what happened, the agency should stand aside and invited independent investigators to assess the evidence."
Aviation Week and Space Technology reported last month that two Air National Guard pilots, "with the best view of the crash of TWA Flight 800" both believe a violent explosion tore the plane apart "propelling some of its passenger high enough that they did not hit the water's surface until 3-4 minutes after the initial explosion."
We cannot allow terrorists to intimidate a free society -- George Williams, a member of a air transportation commission that had just recommended unconstitutional search procedures for passengers in the wake of the yet-unexplained crash of TWA 800.
AND NOW ON TO TWA 800
Authorities have finally admitted to a Dutch parliamentary inquiry into a 1992 crash of Boeing 747 what they have known all the time: the plane that crashed into a block of Amsterdam flats was carrying explosives, ammunition and flammable and toxic gases. The official line was blown out of the water by a air traffic control tape in which an El Al official warned authorities of the plane's contents. The tape has remained in a safe ever since the incident. The 43-death crash was the worst in Dutch history and became the subject of revied inquiry because of accident site residents reporting unusual sickness.
In the TWA 800 crash, important radar tapes were given to the White House before that were provided the National Transportation Safety Board . . . The FBI early assumed roles normally carried out by the NTSB . . . The FBI has also gagged an Air National Guardsman who witnessed the explosion of TWA 800 and repeatedly told authorities he thought a missile had hit the plane.
TWA 800: Despite attempts by officials to knock down such speculation, the New York Post recently reported that "more than 150 'credible' witnesses -- including scientists -- have told the FBI and military experts they saw a missle destroy TWA Flight 800. " Said one top federal official, "Some of these people are extremely, extremely credible. " The Post story was at odds with one five days earlier in the New York Times headed, "Conspiracy Theories Rife on Demise of Flight 800." The article came down hard on speculation that the plane had been hit by friendly fire from a military land or ship based missile, labeling it a "conspiracy theory." Since friendly fire is presumably unintentional, the Times' use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" in this case is curious. Perhaps the term is slipping into NYT usage as anything that questions the conventional wisdom.
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