TWA Flight 800 articles
Now for the truth about TWA 800
(Key Facts missing from CNN report)
© Jack Cashill
July 17, 2006
Today, July 17th, marks the 10th anniversary of the destruction of TWA Flight 800, the investigation of which represented the most conspicuous and consequential misdirection of justice in American history. This column is part of an in-depth look at the incident, presenting several compelling reasons why the investigation must be re-opened.
Now For The Truth About TWA 800
On Thursday I spoke at some length to Jim Polk, one of the producers of CNN’s misbegotten special on TWA Flight 800. Although gracious enough, Polk could do no better than repeat the authorities’ mantra, “There is no physical evidence of a missile strike.”
As I tried to explain, there was a reason why. The evidence had systematically been lost, stolen, concealed, erased, deleted, denied, or simply ignored. This is not a matter of conjecture. This is a matter of fact.
No fewer than four serious professionals within the investigation made specific allegations of evidence theft or tampering: Linda Kunz and Terrel Stacey of TWA, Jim Speer of TWA and ALPA, and Hank Hughes of the NTSB. Their allegations were taken seriously. Kunz and Speer were suspended from the investigation, Kunz permanently. Stacey was arrested. And Hughes was denounced by the FBI.
In addition, TWA’s Liz Sanders was convicted of conspiracy for introducing her reporter husband, James, to Terrel Stacey. James Sanders was also convicted for receiving information from Stacey.
From day one, certain key officials had been systematically subtracting data from the investigation’s information bank. As a result of this quiet calculus, officials were able to reduce the 116 suspicious pieces of physical evidence that the FBI admittedly sent to Washington for further testing to “not one scintilla” without attracting much attention.
The comprehensive listing of this evidence should not strike the reader as extraordinary. There is a binary quality to any such investigation. Yes or no. Open or shut. Explosive device or mechanical failure. Internal explosion or external explosion. To transform an external explosion into a mechanical failure someone has to alter or suppress every known variable, and that’s exactly what happened. A summary here is in order.
- Break-up sequence. In August 1996, investigators concluded that a narrow strip of the fuselage ahead of the right wing was the first to have been blown off the plane. By August 2000, the NTSB would make the fuselage strips along the right wing disappear altogether.
- Satellite data. The CIA video claimed that the infrared sensor of an American satellite captured the break-up sequence, a claim repeated at the CIA’s briefing with the NTSB. At the FBI’s final press conference on the same day, the word satellite was not mentioned once. Family members were told that all three satellites were malfunctioning on July 17.
- Radar data. On July 17, 1996, the FAA rushed the radar data to Washington, initiating a crisis meeting at the White House. In November 1996, the NTSB Chairman’s Report acknowledged that a high-speed projectile had “merged with TWA 800,” at least as it appeared on radar. The NTSB then leaned on the FAA to agree that it had not. Before the invetigation was through, the projectile would become alternately an “anomaly” or a “ghost” or the a Navy p-3.
- Naval presence. Despite at least six credible sightings of a Navy warship off Long Island after 3 p.m. on July 17, the Navy insisted it had none within two hundred miles of the crash site. Under duress in November 1997 the FBI admitted that the Normandy and now three submarines—Trepang, Albuquerque, and Wyoming—were in the “immediate vicinity” of the crash site.
- Mystery ships. For five months the FBI denied the existence of a “surface vessel” that it would later identify as being three miles from the crash site, having a speed between twenty-five and thirty-five knots, and fleeing the scene. The FBI finally admitted its presence but never identified it.
- The P-3. On July 17, the P-3 crew, one mile from the crash, allegedly saw and heard nothing. While official Washington was in a state of near war, the plane was dispatched to run a routine sub exercise off the coast of New Jersey and/or Virginia. In addition, the plane’s transponder was said to have been broken, allowing authorities to identify it alternately as the small plane that buzzed US Air 217 and the source of the mystery blip on the radar.
- Photographic evidence. The New York Times described one amateur photo image as a “cylindrical object with one end aglow.” The FBI quickly took custody of the photos and the negatives and would not even share the original with the NTSB. Another photo of a likely missile-exhaust trail was “microscopically analyzed” and judged to be a “speck of dirt,” a speck that appeared on only the one critical frame.
- Video evidence. One amateur video showing a missile attack made its way to MSNBC where it aired a few times before being seized by the FBI. Nelson DeMille built his novel, Night Fall, around this video.
- Underwater imagery. The FBI made sure that investigators could not take an unabridged look at the ocean floor as videotaped by the Navy. ALPA investigator Jim Speer learned the hard way. The FBI would not let him look at the unedited tape.
- Explosive residue. Traces of explosives were found inside the plane and out by EGIS technology at the Long Island site. The equipment had registered at least twelve confirmed hits for explosive residue, probably many more. On September 20, 1996, the FBI released the specious St. Louis dog-training story, and all residue became irrelevant, including that on the victims’ bodies.
- Residue trail. Capt. Terrel Stacey identified a reddish-orange trail across the cabin interior in rows 17 through 19. James Sanders had a sample tested. Ninety-nine percent of its elements were consistent with those in an incendiary warhead. After the story broke, officials would tell the media that there was no residue trail and that Sanders’ sample was actually a 3M adhesive. When tested independently, the 3M adhesive in no way matched Sanders’ sample.
- The scavenge pump. In late 1996, the scavenge pump was considered the prime suspect in the ignition of the alleged fuel-tank explosion. What made the pump so attractive was that it had not been found, at least not “officially.” In time, the NTSB would exonerate the pump, but the pump’s mysterious absence filled the information breach nicely for months. In fact, the pump had showed up on official documents early in the investigation. These documents are still classified.
- The nose gear door. “Jet’s Landing Gear Is Said To Provide Evidence of a Bomb,” declared the headline of the New York Times on July 31, 1996. The doors had not yet been found. If they had been blown inward, officials could hardly deny an external explosion. As it turned out, they were blown inward. In the summer of 1996 these revelations would have blown open the investigation. And so, although logged in during the month of August 1996, the doors were ignored for more than a year and “rediscovered” only after public interest in the story had waned.
- The right wing. ALPA investigator Jim Speer identified a leading edge wing-rib damaged in such a way he thought it merited testing for explosive residue. Maj. Fritz Meyer confirmed it. On July 23, 1996, Newsday added detail, reporting that “a chemical test showed traces of a rare explosive on a wing from TWA Flight 800.” After being sent to the FBI lab, says Jim Speer, “The part has not been seen since for five years now.”
- Witness drawings. Inexplicably, the FBI has been “unable to locate” thirty of these drawings. This has proved to be the standard FBI and CIA excuse for the failure to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act that prove either too embarrassing or too incriminating.
- Passenger seats. The seats had great evidentiary value. “Not to our surprise,” the NTSB’s Hank Hughes told a Senate committee, “we found that seats were missing and other evidence had been disturbed.” TWA employee Linda Kunz and two New York State Troopers caught certain NTSB officials changing tags on seat parts. Over TWA’s protests, Kunz was removed from the investigation and threatened with prosecution.
- Metallurgy. From the beginning, as investigator Jim Speer has attested, NTSB management attempted to interpret evidence in ways that denied the possibility of a missile, often to the point of absurdity.
- Keel beam. At its final hearing, the NTSB claimed that the “forward portion of the keel beam” was recovered from the Red Zone, the area closest to JFK. As FBI documents show, however, and as the New York Times reported, the keel beam was among the last parts to hit the water, not the first. It was subsequently relabeled to fit the exploding fuel tank canard.
- Flight data recorder. The FDR was likely removed, examined, replaced, and reconstructed for one purpose: to suppress evidence of an external explosion. “The NTSB cannot release the FDR accident tape from FL 800 for the purpose of independent read-out and analysis,” says audio expert Glenn Schulze, “without revealing their complicity in tampering with this most important piece of TWA FL 800 accident investigation.”
- Cockpit voice recorder. Like the FDR, the CVR allegedly could not be located for a week despite sitting in 120 feet of water just 10 miles off Long Island’s south shore. The Navy’s Captain McCord had argued that both “pingers” must have been “broken, destroyed or covered with sand or other material.” When found, the CVR was sitting uncovered on the ocean floor. Its pinger was clearly neither broken nor covered. The NTSB also found it necessary to withhold analysis done on the CVR in England. A vibration traveling through the frame of Flight 800 in excess of two thousand feet per second could not be explained as a fuel-air explosion.
- Medical forensics. As the Suffolk County coroner implied, the horrific injuries to certain passengers “took more force than even flying debris and 400 mph winds within the cabin could have produced.” FBI officials took exclusive hold on whatever knowledge could be gleaned from the foreign objects inside the victims’ bodies and won’t let go.
- Climb analysis data. Retired United pilot and ALPA investigator Ray Lahr requested through FOIA the calculations used by the NTSB to determine how TWA 800 could climb “several thousand feet with the nose blown off.” The CIA now says it can find no documentary evidence that any analysis of this subject was ever conducted by its employees.
- The center wing tank floor. The massive piece of flooring that photos had shown sweeping upward as a result of a likely missile blast had been mashed down for the reconstruction of the plane. Said the NTSB’s Hank Hughes of one FBI agent, “I saw him in the middle of the hangar with a hammer in the process of trying to flatten a piece of wreckage.”
- Eyewitness reports. The subtraction of eyewitness evidence is even more flagrant than that of the physical evidence. No eyewitnesses were allowed to testify at any NTSB hearing. The CIA attempted to remove all eyewitness reports from the realm of the credible with a single fifteen-minute showing of its animated video. The CIA reduced the 270 witnesses who had seen a streak to one, the man on the bridge, Mike Wire, about whom they fabricated a follow-up interview.
- MISIC analysis. Analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MISIC) arrived on the scene in Long Island just two days after the crash and interviewed a reported thirty-four key eyewitnesses. The MISIC analysis, however, has all but disappeared from the public record. In the FBI’s report, it barely merits a footnote.
I would be happy to sit down with the FBI, the CIA, and the NTSB, and certainly CNN to discuss what I know. Please contact me through my web site.
Read the previous installments in this series:
Part 1: "New data prove CIA 'zoom-climb' a fraud"
Part 2: "270 people saw plane shot out of the sky"
Part 3: "Richard Clarke's politicized exit strategy"
Part 4: "1 secret the Times has kept"
Part 5: "An inconvenient truth about TWA 800 "
Part 6: "Shrapnel evidence from victims holds key"
Part 7: "How the FBI misled the public"
Part 8: "What Jamie Gorelick knew "
Part 9: "The man on the bridge and CIA deception"