twa 800 back in the news

Thought this was interesting –\

  Some of you may remember back in 2001 the LPSF plan to sponsor a
showing of Jack Cashill's documentary – `Silenced'. It
was considered conspiracy theory back then of course. And then we had to
cancel the event due to 9/11, as movies about blowing up planes were
considered in poor taste.

  Of course I don't see any mention of Cashill's work in these
new reports.


Conspiracy theorists are never satisfied until and unless their suspicions are vindicated. The fact is we do not know what caused the explosion and likely will never know. Usually the theories of the conspiratistas have their ambiguities and inconsistencies also.

Once I was on a jury in a product liability lawsuit. First the plaintiff's experts came in and said one thing. Then the defendant's experts came in and said the exact opposite. The jury was hopelessly confused. We tossed a coin to decide the issue. The defendant won.

The conspiracy theorists on the Kennedy assassination are still at it 50 years after the event. No one is able to prove conclusively whether there were other assassins or not.


Let’s just say there is enough evidence to clearly demonstrate the official story is inaccurate or vastly incomplete in favor of potential perpetrators associated with the government.<>!

The evidence LBJ did it is compelling.

Interesting article below about TWA 800


Exposing FBI's red herring, part 1

Editor's note: James Sanders, a former police officer turned investigative reporter, co-writes this report with Jack Cashill. Sanders is the author of "The Downing of TWA Flight 800" and "Altered Evidence," among other books.
© 2001
No one pursued the story behind the crash of TWA Flight 800 more doggedly than Don Van Natta Jr. of the New York Times, certainly not in the first few months after the crash.
On Aug. 14, 1996, just four weeks after the incident, Van Natta reported, among other crucial findings, that "residue consistent with an explosive" had been identified by chemists in 10 field tests at Calverton, the center of the investigation on Long Island.
Van Natta added the Times' imprimatur to prior reports on likely explosives from a variety of news sources. As early as July 22, CNN had reported that explosive residue had been detected "on the trailing edge of one wing near the rear baggage compartment of the jet."
On July 23, CNN quoted White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta as saying that investigators were "close to finding out what happened" to TWA 800. CNN also referenced Panetta's admission that "chemical residues had been found on some of the bodies and plane parts."
On July 23, Newsday reported that "a chemical test showed traces of a rare explosive on a wing from TWA Flight 800." Added one senior federal official on the condition of anonymity, "The divers reported pitting in the external metal portion of the section."
On July 31, Reuters reported that "samples of apparent residue found on the landing gear have been sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
On Aug. 1, CNN strongly implied that explosive residue had been found not only on the wreckage of the plane but also on the victims' bodies. When asked to respond to this allegation, FBI agent-in-charge James Kallstrom answered, "I haven't said I haven't found it. I just haven't commented on it."
By the end of August, the explosive residue story was well established. On Aug. 30, for instance, CNN reported that investigators had "admitted" that a second chemical had been found on the plane – chemicals officially identified by an FBI Lab report as cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX) and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). The CNN story stated that the residue had been found not only in the passenger compartment but also in the cargo area.
CNN acknowledged, too, that rows 23-26 seem to have taken the brunt of the hit. Rows 24 and 25 were missing and seats in row 23 had "fist-sized holes" punched into the back of them. These seats were located just a few feet behind the front edge of the right wing, "where the wreckage shows the greatest amount of fire damage."
Yet within three weeks, CNN would all but drop any reference to explosive traces found on the plane. So would the other major media. So even would Van Natta and the New York Times.
Curious as to why, we called Van Natta and asked. His comments did not point the way to a grand media conspiracy. But they did lead us indirectly to a key witness not yet heard from in this investigation. We refer here to the St. Louis police officer who unknowingly planted what would prove to be the ultimate "red herring" of this whole investigation.
The phrase "red herring" has a long history. It derives from the practice by 17th century English foxhunters of using actual smoked herring to test and improve a hound's sense of smell. The pungent odor of the fish was a powerful distraction, but a well-trained hound could identify it, filter it out, and continue the pursuit of the fox being trailed.
The phrase here works much too well. In mid-September 1996, the NTSB reported that the officer in question had carelessly spread explosive residue on the Flight 800 plane during a June 1996 dog training session and left it there. Van Natta admitted that this revelation sidetracked his pursuit of the explosives angle. It may have even confused Van Natta's sources within this highly-compartmentalized investigation, the ones who, weeks before, had been "absolutely convinced" that something other than a mechanical problem had caused Flight 800 to explode.
Van Natta's admission made us aware of just how critical a role the dog training story had played in the success of the cover-up. If it could distract the Times, it could easily send the rest of the media pack yelping in the wrong direction. And it did.
CNN is a case in point. On Sept. 20 the network was reporting the dog-training story cautiously, acknowledging that "at least some of the residue was found in the curtain in the rear cargo hold where test packages were never located." But by the next day, CNN had fully snatched the bait. The headline of that article, "Investigators: Test explosives set back TWA bomb theories," well summarizes its slant.
A few months later, Van Natta was promoted, transferred to Washington, and taken off the story. It is highly unlikely that his bosses did this to silence him. By this time, the trail had grown cold, and it would take more time, resources and good fortune than even the New York Times could muster to heat it up, especially with a government intent on throwing the media off the scent.
In fact, had not the Internet emerged as a popular force just about the time of the Flight 800 disaster, the story would have died with the 230 good souls on board. As no other medium before it, the Internet has enabled hundreds of interested citizens, many of them with a high level of aviation and/or investigative expertise, to participate in the unraveling of this, the most complex cover-up of our time.
One of those citizens, a retired New Jersey homicide detective, volunteered to serve as a liaison between us and the St. Louis police officer. Just as this article was going to press, the detective relayed to us the officer's anxieties about his continued participation in our efforts. (We had asked to interview him on camera for an extended version of "Silenced" <> planned for theatrical release.) We chose to withhold his name from this story but to include his initial observations.
As the official story goes, the FAA traced a likely source of the explosive residue to training exercise at the St. Louis airport on June 10, 1996. Given the almost random state of documentation for these exercises nationwide, this had to have been a laborious task.
On Sept. 20, 1996, the FBI found its way to the officer who oversaw the exercise. As it happens, this is the same date that stories about the dog-training exercise began to appear in the media. In other words, the Feds were leaking this particular story even before anyone had talked to the officer in question – compelling evidence the FBI was committed to pulling the media off the explosive residue story regardless of the facts. They already knew the truth. Now they had to create the lie.
According to the FBI, airport management told the officer that a "wide body" was available for training at Gate 50 that day. The officer then withdrew some exercise "aids" from departmental supplies and drove to Gate 50. Once there, he walked up the exterior jetway staircase and boarded the plane. This information is documented in a letter from Assistant Director in Charge James K. Kallstrom to Rep. James A. Traficant, dated Sept. 5, 1997.
According to the FBI, the officer "made no notations regarding the tail number of the aircraft, as it was not his policy to do so." As the officer told us, he made no notation of the gate either. He did tell us, however, that he listed specific start and stop times on the training form.
The officer told us and the FBI that he saw no TWA crew, cleaners, caterers or passengers when he boarded at 10:45 a.m. nor at any time when he was on board the 747.
According to the FBI account, the officer concealed the training aids in specific places throughout the passenger cabin in a "zig-zag" pattern. The officer then returned to his car to retrieve the dog and reentered the plane with the dog at 11:45 a.m. According to the FBI, "the exercise lasted 15 minutes, and the dog located all the explosives." The officer then climbed back down the jetway with the dog, secured the dog in his car and climbed back up to retrieve the training aids from various locations throughout this large aircraft. He placed each aid on the galley counter before carting them all back out. The officer estimated that this activity took 15 minutes.
Based on the scenario developed by the FBI, the officer could not have left the plane earlier than 12:15 p.m. Given the time spent climbing up and down the jetway, a 12:20 or 12:25 p.m. exit is more likely. During this time, the officer saw no one else on board the plane. He did not expect to. He carried out these daily exercises in as "sterile" environment as possible – that is, without anyone present.
Existing records play serious havoc with the FBI scenario. They show that Capt. Vance Weir of Fallbrook, Calif., piloted TWA No. 17119 – the plane that would become Flight 800 – from St. Louis to Hawaii that day and Thomas D. Sheary of Seminole, Fla., was first officer. Weir's "Pilot Activity Sheet" from June 10, 1996, adds important detail. It indicates that on this day and on this plane he flew out of St. Louis for Honolulu at 12:35 p.m. Please note the time of departure.
Federal officials were aware of this time as well. The letter from Kallstrom to Traficant referenced above makes this clear:
The FAA in St. Louis provided the FBI with a copy of a TWA document listing gate assignments for June 10, 1996. This document, a copy of which is attached, shows that a 747 bearing TWA # 17119, which is the number for the 747 that was Flight 800, was parked at Gate 50 from shortly before 700 hours (7 AM) until approximately 1230 hours (12:30 PM) on that date.
In other words, the plane that would become Flight 800 left the gate between 12:30 and 12:35 p.m. The police officer, however, did not leave the plane until 12:15 p.m. at the earliest and saw no one. To clean the plane, stock it, check out the mechanics and board several hundred passengers would take more than the 15-minute window of opportunity the FBI's own timetable presents.
Much more. TWA regulations in effect in 1996 – provided by a TWA source for this article – mandated that the crew of a wide-body report for briefing 90 minutes before scheduled takeoff. The crew therefore had to report to the TWA airport briefing room no later than 10:20 a.m. for a scheduled 11:50 a.m. departure.
Crew members had 30 minutes to complete their briefing and board the 747 as the regulations also mandated that they board one hour before scheduled takeoff. This means that the crew was most likely on the plane by 10:50 a.m.
In the rare circumstance that a "scheduled" delay was known to be in effect during the 10:20 a.m. briefing, and the crew knew the length of the delay, they could have waited to board until 11:35 a.m., 10 minutes before the patrolman is alleged to have brought the dog onboard.
In other words, the crew, the pilot, the first officer, the engineer and a minimum of 14 flight attendants were on board the 747 no later than 11:35 a.m. They would have been preparing the plane for a full load of passengers – stowing their belongings, performing safety equipment pre-flight, and checking food and beverage supplies. Besides a crew of at least 17, there would have been maintenance, food service and gate agents coming and going during the exact same period that the officer was alleged to be exercising his dog and seeing no one.
David E. Hendrix, an investigative reporter for the Riverside, Calif., Press-Enterprise newspaper, interviewed Captain Weir personally and First Officer Sheary by telephone. They told him they saw no dog or officer on the plane that day. How could they be so certain? As they told Hendrix, they have each flown commercial aircraft for 20-plus years, and neither has ever seen a dog training exercise on their plane in all that time. Nor, they said, have they ever had take-off procedures delayed because of such exercises.
So if not the 800 plane, which "wide body" could the officer possibly have used? Gate 50 and 51 at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, (now gates C-36 and C-38, respectively) are at the end of Concourse C. According to TWA records provided by the FBI, the future Flight 800 aircraft was indeed parked at gate 50. Parked at Gate 51 was another 747, Number 17116, the sister aircraft, a veritable clone.
According to TWA records, both aircraft normally operated out of JFK in New York but were shifted to St. Louis for that day because other 747s were undergoing maintenance work. This second plane – bound for JFK International as TWA Flight 844 – would not leave the gate until 2:00 p.m. This later departure would have allowed TWA staff ample time to load and board the plane after the officer finished the training exercise at about 12:15 or slightly later.
To be sure, this second plane was not parked at Gate 50 where the FBI conveniently alleges the exercise took place. But how could either management or the officer remember the site of a daily exercise performed 70 days prior? No known documentation puts the officer and his dog at this gate or on the Flight 800 plane. No one had anything but memory to call on. The officer told us that he believes the exercise took place on a plane other than the one to become Flight 800. In other words, he believes he boarded the 747 at Gate 51. All evidence suggests he's right.
Federal officials had searched the nation, and probably the world, to find an airport at which a dog exercise had taken place on a day when the Flight 800 plane was parked there. If the time of day did not square – and they knew it didn't – so be it.
FBI agents chose not to interview Capt. Weir or First Officer Sheary. They couldn't. They did not want to hear any truth that would undermine the story they were ordered to create. Theirs was not a search for evidence. It was a search for an alibi. The murky documentation that made the search difficult for the feds would make it nearly impossible for a media that did not have access to it.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is just the half of it.

Exposing FBI's red herring, part 2

Editor's note: In September 1996, the NTSB claimed that a dog-training exercise a month before the crash of TWA 800 was responsible for the explosive residue found on the plane. In Part 1 the authors argued that this claim is a classic red herring </news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=24270>. A check of the records and a conversation with the officer responsible for the exercise leads one to believe that the exercise took place on another plane.
James Sanders, a former police officer turned investigative reporter, co-writes this report with Jack Cashill. Sanders is the author of "The Downing of TWA Flight 800" and "Altered Evidence," among other books.
© 2001
From day one, despite ample eyewitness testimony and troubling FAA radar data, federal authorities suppressed virtually all talk of a missile. When, however, it was revealed that explosive residue was found on the plane, the authorities had to at least allow for the possibility of an explosive device. For a variety of reasons, none of them related to the evidence, those in charge preferred a bomb to a missile.
To this end, Robert Francis, the NTSB vice chairman in charge of the investigation, served as the chief disinformation officer. The word "missile" never seems to have passed his lips, even though all evidence pointed in that direction, including the PETN and RDX which are found in missile warheads and in solid fuels as well as in bombs.
Even when Francis mentioned "bomb," he inevitably did so in the negative. As testament, consider his comment to CNN on Sept. 21, 1996, "If there was a bomb on the plane, there's going to be evidence that transcends what we're talking about here."
Before news of the dog training broke, Francis had been sounding increasingly shrill and out of touch. When Don Van Natta Jr. of the New York Times reported on Aug. 14 that recent findings had dealt "a serious blow to the already remote possibility that a mechanical accident caused the crash," Francis stuck grimly to the spin. He told Van Natta, ''I don't think anything rules out anything at this point.''
After news of the dog exercise broke, the story began to spin back Francis's way. A Sept. 20 subhead from CNN – "Bomb not ruled out" – reveals just how matter-of-factly the media had begun to parrot the false dialectic between bomb and mechanical. It also suggests that "mechanical" was now the favored theory, at least by the NTSB and CNN.
Still, the NTSB needed more. The media may have been accepting the fiction that a dog training exercise had taken place on the Flight 800 plane, but this was not enough. As CNN casually reported on Sept. 20, the training aids were "well-wrapped packages of explosives." If the explosives remained well wrapped throughout the exercise, the NTSB and the FBI could not make a convincing case that these training aids were the source of the residue.
They had to go further. They would have to convince the media that there was not only an exercise on board, but that it was a sloppy, incompetent one. To pull this off, they needed a scapegoat and found one in an innocent African-American police officer with 17 years on the force, two of those dedicated to daily dog-training exercises.
The feds could have cared less about his experience or his reputation. As they told the story, the officer was ill-trained and careless, spilling explosive material all over the plane and leaving it there.
The NTSB summarized its findings on this case in February 1997 in a letter from Chairman Jim Hall to acting FAA administrator Barry Valentine. "The dog handler," wrote Hall of the officer, "had spilled trace amounts of explosives while placing training aids on board the aircraft during a proficiency training exercise."
This same officer, Hall added, "told investigators that he was aware that he had spilled trace amounts of explosives."
"Based on interviews with the dog handler," the letter continued, "the safety Board determined that he had conducted the training exercise without taking adequate time and precaution when handling the explosive training aids."
The letter goes on to chastise the officer, claiming that he had likely spilled residue from at least two different sources, all of which he had admitted to the authorities.
Says the officer of his treatment at the hands of the feds, "I am pissed off to this day." Although shaken by the experience, and understandably wary of the authorities, the officer tells a dramatically different story than the one served up by the NTSB.
"I never lost any," he says of the explosives. "I never spilled any." The officer related this to us with clarity and conviction. He adds, "There was never any powder laying loose." As to his alleged confession of the same, he answers, "I just hate that they twisted my words. I know what I did and how I did it."
To give further cover to this elaborate charade, Hall had to pretend that the St. Louis episode exposed some larger system-wide problem. In the letter, he demanded that the FAA "develop and implement procedures" to assure "an effective K-9 explosives training program." In much the same way, the NTSB would later argue for changes in the wiring and in fuel tanks to avoid explosions that never happened.
In this same letter, however, Jim Hall makes a curious admission: "During the recovery of wreckage from TWA Flight 800, trace amounts of explosives were found on the interior surfaces of the cabin and cargo area."
Unexplained by Hall is how explosives could possibly have been found in the cargo area, an area in which no one claims the officer ever planted training aids.
Even more problematic, the residue found within the passenger cabin – in an area that runs roughly from rows 17 to 27 on the right side of the plane – in no way matches the "zig zag" pattern in which the officer placed the aids. In fact, the officer made no placements within that area.
The NTSB and the FBI had little need to explain anything. The major media had given up the hunt. Their lack of pursuit had allowed conjecture to harden into dogma without the benefit of added fact. By the time the FBI pulled out of the investigation in November 1997, it could say the following without fear of being challenged:
On June 10, 1996 the St. Louis Airport Police Department conducted canine explosives training aboard the victim aircraft. The residue collected after the explosion of Flight 800 was consistent with the explosives utilized during the exercise.
This was brazen. The FBI was claiming that the four training aids placed by an experienced officer in "well wrapped packages" accounted for confirmed residue traces across a wide swath of the right side of the passenger cabin and in the cargo hold as well as reported traces on the wing and the front landing gear.
The only explosive residue that no one could possibly blame the officer for was that reportedly found on the victims' bodies, reports attested to by no less than Leon Panetta and James Kallstrom. Is it no wonder that the forensic reports on these bodies seem to have vanished?
(FIRO, an independent research group headed by Dr. Thomas Stalcup, filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for all documents related to the "foreign bodies," i.e. shrapnel, removed from at least 89 victim bodies and turned over to FBI agents who stood by at each autopsy to seize it. The FBI says it cannot find even one page related to the seizure and testing of the shrapnel. We have found some of these documents as well as FBI documents revealing where some of the shrapnel was sent for further analysis. FOIAs have been filed.)
A year earlier, two months after the interview with the St. Louis police officer, James Kallstrom had been far less conclusive about the dog training. In his conversation with Jim Lehrer on the PBS "News Hour," Kallstrom admitted that he was not "absolutely" sure "that that's how the chemicals got there."
The real proof, Kallstrom acknowledged, would be in the "evidence of the metal – the forensics to go with that." This is the "evidence that transcends" to which Robert Francis had alluded. As one source told the AP right after the dog training had been revealed, "Now we would definitely need pitting or blast damage to prove there was a bomb placed on board."
That's what it all would come down to – physical evidence of pitting or blast damage. There had been numerous, highly credible accounts of such damage. These accounts seem to center on two areas. One is the right wing which reportedly had shown signs of heat blast, pitting and explosive traces on the outside as well as explosive traces and damaged seats in the passenger cabin alongside the wing. Not surprisingly, the wings were left off the reconstructed plane at Calverton.
The other is the area of the front landing gear. This area had also reportedly shown traces of explosive residue. Perhaps more importantly, its doors, as even the NTSB admits, had been blown inwards and off at the very start of the breakup sequence – this despite their location well forward of the center wing tank.
Was the FBI capable of removing such evidence? Senior NTSB investigator Henry Hughes certainly thought so. In May of 1999, he testified before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on administrative oversight and the courts chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley.
"Another problem that occurred," Hughes told the committee, "and it was recognized about 2 months into the investigation, was the disappearance of parts from the hangar."
Please note that it was almost exactly "2 months into the investigation" when the dog training story was introduced. Those responsible now understood that the proof of a missile attack might all come down to the "evidence of the metal – the forensics."
As Hughes told the Grassley committee, on one particular day his team took a complete inventory of the hangar to see if anything would come up missing the following day. "Not to our surprise," he told the senator, "we found that seats were missing and other evidence had been disturbed."
Soon after, in something of a sting that Hughes encouraged the FBI to set up, the FBI caught two or three of its own agents in the hangar without authorization at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning. "I supervised that project," said Hughes of the work underway in the hangar, "and these people had no connection to it."
According to Hughes, a "serious leadership problem during the course of the investigation" had plagued the NTSB. He referred here specifically, and by name, to one Robert Francis.
"I have participated in over 110 major transportation accident investigation while with the NTSB," wrote Hughes to the committee at a later date, "and the TWA-800 investigation is the only one in which the NTSB Board Member in charge was never available to the investigative staff."
In 1995, in that most desperate year of his political career, Bill Clinton plucked Robert Francis out of an obscure FAA posting in Europe and designated him as vice chairman of the NTSB. Why Clinton picked Francis, we do not know. But the role he played in this investigation is unmistakable.
For the first several months, he worked relentlessly to steer the media away from a missile or even a bomb. That accomplished, he more or less disappeared from the most controversial airline disaster ever, undermining his own staff and leaving the criminal obstructionists within the investigation to their work.
At a public forum some time later, Air National Guard pilot and crash eyewitness Maj. Fritz Meyer gave a very telling account of his own meeting with Francis in September of 1996, most likely before the dog story materialized:
During that time I had an opportunity to fly over with a friend of mine to the hangar at Calverton where we landed in the grass. This friend of mine is an employee in the FAA and he is also a weekend warrior with the air guard unit. He took me into the hangar and he introduced me to Bob Francis who was the person in the NTSB in charge of the investigation for the NTSB. He had known Bob when Bob had worked in the FAA – so they are old buddies and he introduced me. "This is Fritz Meyer. He is the pilot who was flying the night the plane went down."
So we started talking and we got separated from the people – Adm. Christiansen – who had flown over to the hangar, and I was talking with just 4 people together. There was my friend, Bob Francis, a young lady from the NTSB – I can't remember her name – and myself. As we walked along Bob Francis turned and looked away from me and sort of collected himself, and he turned back to me and he said: "You know, we're getting away from that missile theory."
I laughed in his face, and he was crestfallen – he was distraught – and after that when I just laughed right at him we began to have a frank discussion. As we walked along we walked up to a nose wheel casting, and it was all ripped and shredded – the tire was completely shredded, and it was lying on a table or a frame of some kind in the hangar and we had had a more or less candid discussion about the crash and as we walked up he showed me this thing – and it had striations across it – great deep cuts through the alloy of the wheel casting. And he said: "You know my people tell me that this is sign of a high velocity explosion."
Those were his words. I made a mistake – I told this to a reporter about three months later, and he picked up the phone and called Bob Francis, and Bob Francis denied he had ever met me – had seen my face on television but he had never met me in person.
Encoded in Meyer's encounter with Francis is the DNA of the entire investigation: a conscious steering away from the obvious missile explanation, a begrudging acknowledgment of the physical evidence, a denial of everything afterwards, and the failure of the media to follow up.
What causes a presumably good man like Francis to serve his staff and his nation so badly? In our experience, it is much less often lust for money or power than it is fear, a fear that can paralyze when citizens lose confidence in the media.
Consider, for instance, the following e-mail we received from the New Jersey homicide detective who served as our liaison to the St. Louis officer just as we were wrapping up this article (capitalization his):
Rec'd a call today from [the St. Louis officer]. I wasn't here, so he left a message in my voice mail. Thanked you and I for our support of him. BUT, it seemed apparent from what he said that the powers-to-be have come down on him and he's been told (read: ORDERED) to stay away from anything to do with TWA-800, and he mentioned specifically that he's been told not to assist you (with your next videotape). Unlike the first time I spoke with him, he hesitated frequently during his message, and I was left with the distinct impression that he was a little nervous, a bit uptight, maybe even a little scared. That was my cop-to-cop impression. Also, there was an implication during the message that should he violate the order against involving himself in anything TWA-800 related, then he might find his job in jeopardy. Thought I would pass this on FYI.
If you ever wonder why it is that "people just don't come forward," here is the answer in a nutshell. The power to silence dissent runs deep and far because we allow it to. But the sad truth is that when America ceases to be the home of the brave, it will also cease to be the land of the free.

Ther ongonig operational question is the same: is the government out of control?

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"Government investigation". what more needs to said to conclude it could be anything.