The Hull Thread
Chronology of Events From July 2000 - September 2000
(Articles from news sources have been placed
within for educational, research, and discussion purposes
only, in compliance with "Fair Use" criteria established in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976.)
July 2, 2000 Newsmax.com
Accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden has pulled up stakes and moved his base from Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan to a safer spot in the country's interior, the Washington Times has reported. Afghanistan's Taliban leaders moved the Arab multimillionaire to a base in Bamiyan province west of Kabul formerly run by pro-Iranian terror group Hezb-Wahdat. The Taliban feared U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies had discovered bin Laden's underground lair and a missile attack could be imminent, the paper reported. The Taliban urged bin Laden to move quickly with 450 followers and as many as 2,000 bodyguards to avoid detection by the CIA and FBI. A Taliban source told the paper there are no immediate plans for bin Laden to leave Afghanistan. "He is safe only in Afghanistan. There is no guarantee for his safety outside of Afghanistan," the source said.
July 2, 2000 Message posted to TWA 800 website by Skip Speer
I work at TWA and I know a fellow employee who has a son stationed on a submarine and this son will not discuss what happened to TWA Flt# 800. This is unusual in two respects. First this is a TWA brat, with a long association of travel on TWA flights. My own childern broached the subject by asking if they had ever been on that particular aircraft. This father visited his son in October following the accident and for three days nothing was mentioned about the flight, finally the father brought it up in just the normal course of conversation and the son grew silent and refused to talk about it, acting as if it had never happened. A very unusual situation due to the fact that this father and son have been very close. The father does recall that the information about the sons submarine operations put him off the coast of New England and New York at the time of the downing of TWA Flt. 800 and he was and is a ships radio operator. One other disturbing bit of information that surfaced after the downing of Twa Flt 800 and during TWA's Internal investigation was the fact that the FBI was bugging the Phones at TWA Engineering, Confirmed by a meeting held by the manager of TWA engineering with all engineering staff advising them that the phones were being tapped and care should be exercised when discussing the downing of TWA flt 800. I have personally talked with a structures Engineer involved with the investigation and he assured me that our maintenance or the design of the aircraft was not responsible for the downing of TWA Flt 800. He did indicate that there was strong evidence of an entry and exit hole. He also indicated that pieces of the recovered wreckage were loaded onto flatbed trucks but did not make it to assembly building.
Note from website author: My position on TWA 800 is that the U.S. government knew that terrorist missile launches were occurring in the Long Island area prior to, and after, the TWA 800 incident and had tried unsuccessfully to prevent them. Circumstantial evidence shows that TWA 800 was brought down by the Osama bin Laden organization and the downing was one of a series of missile attacks in the NY metropolitan area from November 1995 through the summer of 1997. At the time of the TWA 800 downing Osama bin Laden had a "formal" agreement with the government of Iran to attack American and Israeli interests. A war with Iran in 1996 was not in the long term interest of the United States given that in the Iranian elections a government more inclined to open a dialog with the West was moving into power under Present Khatami. Thus in my opinion the United States government decided to declare that the center fuel tank of the TWA 800 aircraft exploded from an ignition source which is unknown and leave matters at that.
Now read this interesting article
July 3, 2000 NewsMax.com U.S. Sides With Iran
Over Terrorist Victim
The Clinton-Gore administration admits destroying 900 subpoenaed records needed to force Iran to compensate an American family whose daughter died in a terrorist attack. The victim's father is alleging the Justice Department got rid of its own files deliberately to avoid having to seize Iranian frozen assets to pay a $24 million judgment against Iran that the New Jersey family won in 1998. The administration is making an effort to placate the new government of Iran, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist states. The issue of Iranian financial assets frozen in the United States is key to Washington's hopes of resolving amicably its differences with Tehran. According to the World Tribune: Stephen Flatow's daughter, Alisa, was killed in 1995 in Gaza during an attack on an Israeli bus by the Islamic Jihad terrorist group under orders of Iran. He said his family had requested the 800 to 900 documents, related to licensing of U.S. transactions with Iran, as part of the family's effort to seize part of the Iranian frozen assets as compensation to satisfy the judgment. Flatow said a Justice Department attorney, Andrea Cohen, wrote to him that those files were destroyed due to lack of storage space. "We are beyond shock," Flatow said. "We are disgusted. And, if it turns out that the destruction was purposeful, I am going to see to it that heads roll at Treasury."
July 10, 2000: Newsmax.com
Independent investigator James Sanders has new evidence that could amount to smoking-gun proof of a cover-up in the investigation into the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800. While on Long Island this week to interview eyewitnesses to America's worst unexplained air disaster, Sanders tipped NewsMax.com to his latest find - photographs of crash investigators tampering with key evidence as they reassembled the plane's carcass at Long Island's Calverton air base. Sanders himself was prosecuted last year for receiving seat fabric from the reconstructed plane from a TWA employee, which he promptly had analyzed by a California lab. The result? The red streaks on the fabric were found to be consistent with rocket fuel residue. When the government claimed the residue was glue, the mainstream press looked the other way - denying Sanders the vindication that would have rendered any prosecution moot. Both Sanders and his wife Elizabeth were found guilty of conspiracy by a New York court last April. They are currently appealing their convictions. But after Sanders goes public with his new TWA 800 evidence next week, government officials may find they have a lot of explaining to do. For four years the FBI and NTSB have maintained there was no compelling physical evidence that showed the plane was hit by a missile, arguing instead that TWA 800 went down after the center fuel tank exploded. But Sanders told NewsMax.com late Monday, "I now have photos showing investigators in the process of bending the metal down so that they could say the explosion was caused by an internal event." The new cache of evidence sounds voluminous. "It's stacks of pictures and documents, I think it must be about a half-pound worth of material," Sanders said. Next Monday, on the anniversary of the crash, the Association of Retired Aviation Professionals is holding a press conference in Washington, D.C., where Sanders will reveal the photos and other compelling documentary evidence pointing to a cover-up. If the photos are as dramatic as they sound, it may not be so easy this time for the mainstream press to bury its head in the sand.
July 13, 2000 World Tribune.com
Islamic sources said U.S. special forces have arrived in Afghanistan in a mission to capture Saudi billionaire fugitive Osama Bin Laden. Amanat Nangarhari, a member of the central council of the newly-established Hizb-e-Milli-e-Mubarizeen, said Bin Laden has not taken any step to end the war in Afghanistan. "As an Islamic fighter, Osama should have taken steps to stop the fratricidal war in Afghanistan," Nangarhari said. Nangarhari's statement was the first criticism made of Bin Laden by any Afghan leader. The Afghan leader said Bin Laden has remained silent while innocent people were being killed in the country. He said foreigners come to Afghanistan practice terrorism under the guise of jihad, or holy war. Maulana Fazl Rahman, head of the Pakistani-based World Islamic Association, said U.S. commandos arrived several days ago in Afghanistan. He said the forces are near Kabul in an area controlled by the Russian-backed opposition to the ruling Taliban movement. Rahman said the commandos are moving toward a base believed to be where Bin Laden is residing. The Islamic leader said the U.S. forces plan to abduct Bin Laden and spirit him out of Afghanistan. "I believe the U.S. use of force in this connection and its attitude is absolutely wrong," Rahman told German radio. "We have been receiving reports that U.S. commandos have started arriving there [Afghanistan] and that they have tightened their siege around Osama." The sources said the military government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf has approved the U.S. operation to abduct Bin Laden. They said Musharraf was heavily pressured by Washington to use Pakistan as a base from which to launch operations against Bin Laden. The U.S. mission apparently hopes to exploit the current fighting in Afghanistan. Opposition troops have made advances against Taliban-controlled areas near Kabul. Afghan sources said a Taliban assault on Sunday on villages north of Kabul was repelled by opposition forces. About 250 people have been killed in the latest fighting, the sources said. In neighboring Pakistan, Moulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the leader of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, has asked Islamabad to establish a ministerial commission to discuss the issue of terrorism with the ruling Taliban faction in Afghanistan.
July 17, 2000 Press Release
A citizen research group is suing the FBI and the NTSB to obtain accident data still being withheld four years after the worst aviation disaster in U.S. history, TWA 800. On July 17, 1996, Flight 800 mysteriously exploded killing all 230 people aboard. Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization (FIRO) is filing a FOIA suit in U.S. District Court, Springfield, Mass. FIRO is seeking an injunction against the FBI and the NTSB to release accident data so that all parties to the investigation can finally perceive and review the total picture. Incredibly, there are many instances of data being withheld from other official parties to the investigation. The FBI even refused to share such material when requested at Congressional Oversight Hearings. FIRO is specifically seeking the FBI's forensic analytical results, which describe over 100 shrapnel-like objects, and which were never revealed to any other parties of the official investigation. Similarly, radar data seized by the FBI from the Sikorsky facility on Long Island is being sought. Last August, FIRO attracted national TV coverage (C-Span) of their press conference revealing previously unreleased NTSB radar data showing many unexplained vessels in the vicinity of the crash. There has still been no official response or explanation as to what these 30+ mystery vessels were, and why, despite being some of the closest, they did not contribute any of the 755 witness reports. FIRO is suing to obtain the rest of the radar data to determine where these vessels came from and went to. It is FIRO's contention that by continuing to keep such data secret and isolated from the official record, the FBI and the NTSB are themselves undermining their conclusions, their credibility and the overall official inquiry process. Such unnecessary secrecy creates skepticism and lends credence to allegations of a cover-up. The NTSB will formally release their report on the accident in August with a conclusion based upon a hypothetical and spontaneous spark in the center fuel tank. To date, NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE has been found to support the "spark" theory. After years of delay the NTSB has finally released the FBI's redacted eyewitness reports. These revealed that there were actually 755 witness reports despite FBI Asnt Director James Kallstrom's sworn testimony to a Congressional Hearing in 1997 that misrepresented the total number as "over 200 witnesses". The Witness data and a summary can finally be viewed at: www.twa800.com The recent official TWA report to be included in the final NTSB report notes wryly that "These (witness) observations did not comport with the (upward) trajectory … as depicted in the CIA videotape". Unfortunately the whole direction of the NTSB's investigation and conclusions are seriously compromised by this perception: that the CIA's and the FBI's analyses lack credibility even among official parties to the investigation. FIRO has studied the CIA animation and related NTSB simulations in detail. All are in significant conflict with FAA radar that tracked the true path of Flight 800. FIRO also obtained a copy of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) final report to the NTSB which also attests to serious flaws in the NTSB's process and conclusions. The IAMAW report actually repudiates the NTSB conclusion, and states that the physical evidence indicates that the fuel tank explosion was not a primary cause of the breakup of the aircraft. FIRO therefore contends that the NTSB cannot reasonably conclude the official inquiry without acknowledging and seriously addressing all these many conflicts, anomalies and unexamined details. See also FIRO's testimony submitted to the House Aviation Subcommittee Hearing in 1998 included on FIRO website at: http://flight800.org FIRO wishes to draw attention to this preposterous investigative process where so many of the critical pieces of the puzzle have been hermetically isolated from the diverse technical groups who now need to evaluate the big picture. Until that is done, it is ludicrously premature to conclude that the primary cause is indeterminable. Public safety is the potential victim in this mysteriously mismanaged investigation. It is time for the media to start asking the FBI and the NTSB to show the factual basis and source materials their theories and conclusions are based upon. Blustering assertions of scrupulous diligence from high government officials should no longer be uncritically accepted. Aviation safety depends on the official inquiry process being done well and being done credibly. On close examination, this investigation itself looks like an aviation disaster. An associated current development in the story can be read about at: http://www.newsmax.com/showinsidecover.shtml?a=2000/7/10/182203
About FIRO : FIRO is a group of over 50 citizen researchers who have been pursuing an independent investigation into the crash of TWA Flight 800 over the past two years. The group includes members with diverse backgrounds and expertise, including university researchers, engineers, technical, military, and aviation professionals.
July 17, 2000 ABCNews.com
Today is the fourth anniversary of one of the most mysterious, tragic and controversial air crashes in U.S. history the explosion of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island, which killed 230 passengers and crew. It is also roughly a month before the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is scheduled to announce the conclusions of its four-year investigation into the cause of the crash. The government’s investigation of the TWA 800 crash, considered the largest and most expensive in commercial air disaster history, has been controversial from the start. In the days following, nearly 100 of more than 700 eyewitnesses interviewed by the FBI described seeing a streak of light move from the Earth leading to an explosion, which seemed to suggest a missile had struck the Boeing 747. Initially, law enforcement officials also strongly believed a criminal act either a bomb or a missile was the likeliest explanation for the catastrophic explosion, which severed the plane’s front end, including the cockpit, from the rest of the fuselage. But now, government officials from the FBI, CIA and, privately, the NTSB, say they are fairly convinced no such thing occurred. All that investigators will say they know for sure is that the plane’s center fuel tank blew up. To date, no single source of ignition for that explosion has been identified, although investigators say they have closed in on several possibilities. So why have government officials dismissed the missile theory? How could so many eyewitnesses be wrong? Largely because of the absence of any physical evidence supporting the theory and the unreliability of memory, current and former officials say. But ABCNEWS.com’s examination of the main arguments and evidence used by various government agencies to dismiss the missile theory reveals a degree of conjecture, along with disagreements about key eyewitness accounts.
Compelling Eyewitness Accounts
The most compelling case for the missile theory is made by the 755 FBI records of eyewitness interviews, which were recorded on standardized FBI “FD-302” forms typically used by the bureau in court. Recently posted on the Internet and given little notice by the press, the FBI records seem to tell a dramatic story of a missile striking the plane. Ninety-six of the eyewitnesses from boats, from the Long Island shore, and from a nearby jet and helicopter described seeing a streak of light or what appeared to be a flare moving up from the Earth and eventually leading to an explosion over the Atlantic, according to the FBI reports.One eyewitness, for instance, described “what he thought was a shooting star traveling west to east, coming form the south shore, over Fire Island,” an FBI agent wrote. The “object he observed was more like a bottle-rocket with a dull orange glow to it” and he “further stated that the glow moved faster than an aircraft.” Yet another witness on Long Island’s south shore said she observed “what appeared to be a ‘contrail’ which appeared to be coming from an object which was flying toward the plane which she had been watching,” according to another FBI record. That eyewitness said she thought the object originated from somewhere on the ocean. Some of the eyewitnesses in the days after the crash, lent weight to the missile theory by describing what they saw to TV news. “It was a bright, reddish orange color. It appeared to be a flare going up,” witness Lou Desepoli told a news camera. “If you take the time and read through [the witness reports], you’re gonna be a believer. I mean, a hundred people can’t be seeing this stuff without something being there,” says retired Navy Commander James Donaldson, who was a crash investigator for the service and is currently the most vocal critic of the government’s investigation and a strong advocate of the missile theory. Donaldson has posted the FBI forms, obtained from the NTSB, on a Web site, http://twa800.com/witnesscd/witnesscd.htm.
FBI Stops Investigation
Sixteen months after the crash, the FBI’s Kallstrom held a press conference to announce that the bureau was suspending its extensive criminal investigation, saying no evidence had been found to suggest the accident was due to a criminal act. The eyewitness testimony initially pointed the FBI in the direction of the missile theory, said Kallstrom. “But the reality is, eyewitnesses seeing things in the sky does not make evidence. It can point you in directions. You can’t bring that kind of testimony into a court of law. In the final analysis, the evidence of what hit the plane is in the plane itself. And there was no evidence,” he said. So the agency turned to a CIA analysis for a way to explain what the witnesses had seen.
CIA Challenges Theory
The CIA, at the FBI’s request, produced an analysis concluding it was improbable eyewitnesses saw a missile strike the plane.The CIA argued that witnesses who described seeing a streak of light leading to an explosion instead probably saw the aircraft already on fire, suddenly climbing 3,000 feet from an altitude of 13,800, after the plane’s nose broke off. The sudden weight loss propelled the rest of burning plane abruptly upward, trailing flames, they concluded. The streak that 98 eyewitnesses said they saw originate from the Earth actually started high in the air, the CIA said. The CIA briefed the FBI on its final analysis in October 1997 and the FBI, at a press conference the following month, released a video produced by the CIA to explain its theory titled, TWA Flight 800: What Did the Witnesses See? Parts of the video were broadcast widely on network TV news.
Doubts About CIA Analysis
But some critics charged the CIA analysis an unusual endeavor for a commercial air disaster investigation seemed curiously non-comprehensive. The analysis, for instance, did not take into account all of the eyewitness testimony. It was produced as the FBI gradually fed the CIA just 244 of the 755 eyewitness accounts, a CIA official later acknowledged. Also, CIA officials told an NTSB panel their theory about the crash was largely supported by the testimony of a single eyewitness to the crash, whose account appeared at odds with many others, but whom analysts had determined was highly reliable. Moreover, that key witness’ testimony at first didn’t fully support the CIA’s theory, a CIA analyst told the panel. The witness at first told the FBI that the streak of light originated from the Earth. Only when interviewed for a third time did the eyewitness give the FBI an account that better matched the CIA theory also based on radar, satellite, physical and other evidence that the light had originated high in the sky. The CIA’s theory drew some skepticism from the NTSB panel, called the Witness Group, during the briefing. “My concern is that when all 755 statements are made available to the public, you and the public will see numerous statements that appear to be excellent witnesses that don’t agree with [the CIA’s key witness],” said Jim Walters, with the Air Line Pilots Association, according to an NTSB transcript of the briefing. The CIA analyst responded that those witnesses who saw something ascend steeply and lead to an explosion that then split and fell to Earth were probably mistaken. “[W]e are confident that even though they thought what they saw was something originating perhaps off the ocean’s surface, streaking up and hitting the plane, that in fact, what they really saw was a fire trail in the sky which culminated in the breakup of the plane.” he said.
Theory Not Discarded
The NTSB Witness Group a section of the investigation composed of representatives from NTSB, FAA, TWA, Boeing, a pilot’s association and an aerospace union has not wholly rejected the missile theory. It noted, for instance, that 38 eyewitness accounts of a streak of light appearing to rise straight up from the Earth, or nearly so, and noted that those did not correspond with the calculated flight path of the crippled aircraft.
Eyewitness Can’t Forget
William Gallagher is one of nearly 100 witnesses to the crash of TWA Flight 800 who says he saw something streaking upwards from the surface, followed by an explosion. An FBI agent interviewed him three days later. Even though it’s been four years since the crash, the commercial fisherman says his memory of those few seconds remains clear. Unfortunately, he says, his memory of the crash does not coincide with the government’s explanation of the tragedy so far.Gallagher, who was at sea about 10 to 12 miles west of the 747 when it crashed, wrote down his observations a few days after the tragedy and drew a diagram of what he saw to make sure he would not forget the terrible details. “It looked like a red flare heading up into the sky from the horizon. Then the flare became a big white ball of light. Out of that came two orange streaks. One went down and the other arced up a little before coming down,” he said. Gallagher was heading toward his homeport, Point Pleasant, N.J., on his way back from a squid fishing expedition on July 17. He said he was standing on his boat facing east, and estimates he was close to four miles from the New Jersey shore, when he saw the single red streak shooting up. He believes that red streak could have been a missile, but admits, “no one really knows what happened.” Although he has read reports of the government’s explanation this far, those reports don’t account for the red streak he saw heading up, and not down, he says. “I know what I saw,” said Gallagher, who was never called back for a follow-up interview by the FBI. “I just wish the government and the media would really investigate what I and a lot of other people saw. I think they’re waiting for us to forget.”
July 17, 2000 Reuters
A group of independent investigators who remain convinced a missile brought down a TWA jumbo jet off New York four years ago filed suit on Monday against the government alleging several agencies have refused to disclose findings about the crash. The Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization charged that authorities have ignored Freedom of Information Act requests for radar data and analysis of metal found in crash victims' bodies. TWA Flight 800 fell into the sea in flames shortly after takeoff from New York to Paris on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 people on board. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has ruled out a missile or bomb as the cause of the crash, attributing it to an explosion of fuel fumes in the Boeing 747's center fuel tank. The exact cause of the blast has not been located but investigators have focused on a possible electrical fault. The safety board has said it has found no intrusion damage or explosives residue consistent with a missile or a bomb. But the group which filed the suit in Springfield, Massachusetts District Court insists the disaster was caused by one or several heat-seeking missiles and have charged the government with hiding or altering data to fit its conclusion. Dozens of the 755 witnesses interviewed by the FBI shortly after the TWA 800 crash reported seeing a streak of light rising from the ground or ocean and heading toward the plane. "The center wing tank theory will never explain an object rising from the surface,'' said Tom Stalcup, chairman of the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization that filed the suit. The NTSB said in March that the eyewitness accounts were of little use, as the questions had been framed by FBI investigators with a missile theory in mind. Over a year after the accident the FBI officially abandoned the theory that a bomb or missile was involved. A final hearing on the crash is scheduled for August 22-23. A spokesman for Fairness and Accuracy in Media, a media watchdog group, said that his organization was planning to file a similar suit, seeking the identity of 30 ships in the area on the night of the crash.
July 17, 2000 AIM Press Conference, Washington D.C.
The press conference began at 10:30am with a family member, Marge Gross, who lost her brother on the flight, expressing her belief that the NTSB and FBI were not were not telling the truth about the loss of Flight 800. She also related a story about how FBI Deputy Director Kallstrom, early in the investigation, told her "It was definitely a missile, but I'll deny it if you quote me." She said she was stunned, but that there were other witnesses present who could corroborate her story.
Next was Master Chief Dwight Brumley, the passenger on USAir Flight 217, who saw a streak of light coming from behind his plane (the USAir flight), going faster than Flight 217, end in a small explosion that subsequently grew to a large fireball. His aircraft was traveling approximately north and Flight 800 was traveling east. The CIA distorted his statement, after reading a short FBI 302 form, and said his view of the streak was consistent with the flight path of Flight 800. In fact, his view of the streak was at a 90-degree angle to Flight 800's path and could not have been the burning aircraft as claimed by the CIA.
Next was Michael Wire, the eyewitness on a bridge. Although only the FBI interviewed him, the CIA based their entire video discrediting the eyewitnesses, on his written FBI 302 statement. Mr. Wire stated that the CIA video bears no resemblance to what he saw. He proceeded to describe seeing a flare rapidly rise from the surface, arcing up leaving a squiggly smoke trail, and then disappear for a second and erupting into an explosion. During the Q&A it was clear that what the CIA video showed was not what Mr. Wire saw.
Next was James Sanders who presented photographs from the Calverton hanger. He discussed how metal was bent during the reconstruction to fit the CWT explosion theory. He presented quite a few photographs with a discussion of how the missile went through the aircraft.
July 20, 2000 Report of IAMAW to the NTSB
The International Asssociation of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has submitted their report to the NTSB as Parties to the investigation. The report states that the explosion of the center wing tank was the result of an external high pressure event in the area of the left wing which breached the fuselage. Highlights of the report may be read here and the full report may be accessed here. It is obvious from the IAMAW's report that they clearly do not buy the NTSB's explanation that the Center Wing Tank blew up spontaneously. It was blown up by some external event. In fact, they point out that if the CWT explosion was the initiating event, there is no indication that the force of the explosion could have been enough to rupture the hull, much less decapitate the strongest aricraft ever built. It is significant to note that the NTSB did not make this document available on its website for a mass audience. It was found on an obsecure "reading room" computer at the NTSB headquarters along with thousands of document, buried in the shear volume of information. In addition, it is not possible to make electronic copies from that computer, you must print it page by page. We obtained a printed copy, scanned it and converted the document to Acrobat for mass distribution. This is something the NTSB should be doing and has a legal obligation to do under their charter.
July 30, 2000 Dans Papers Jerry Cimisi
Amidst such events, as the National Transportation Safety Board readies for its final hearing on the Tragedy of TWA Flight 800 in Washington on August 22 and 23, various parties to the investigation have been submitting their own reports on the matter. In a recent article (June 9) we detailed the report submitted to the NTSB by Boeing. The aircraft manufacturer had found no evidence of electrical arcing that might have been the ignition source of the center wing fuel tank explosion, which the NTSB has contended as the probable cause of events. Now the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) has submitted their report on Flight 800 - and it further defies the NTSB analysis of events.
In its introduction to the report, IAMAW asserts that its own investigators were at first stymied by the FBI. "We must comment on the Federal Bureau of Investigation… We were judged to be a criminal element, and not worthy of participation in this investigation…. It wasn't until all avenues were exhausted that the FBI requested our help. The threats made during the first weeks of investigation were unwarranted and are unforgivable! [Emphasis added.]"
The introduction concludes: "We felt then and continue to feel that if the investigation had been conducted per established protocol, possibly we could have completed it earlier."
In its section on wiring, the report reads, "The one wire noted as having evidence of arcing remains in dispute. Further inspection of wire bundle 332 on March 14, 2000 revealed no evidence of arcing or chafing. This wire is not mentioned in the field notes…protocol demands that findings are to be witnessed by a majority if not the entire participating group. Therefore we find any mention of reliance on this item should be dismissed."
In regards to the fuel aboard Flight 800, the reports states: "Studies of the fuel actually aboard the aircraft at the time of the accident do not suggest any abnormal conditions."
This prefaces the section titled "Fire and Explosion," which makes some telling statements.
"An explosion did occur within the center fuel tank during the flight of TWA Flight 800. We have not been a party to any evidence, wreckage, or tests that could conclude that the center tank explosion was and is the primary contributor to this accident."
The NTSB has contended that the explosion of the center wing fuel tank was the originating event that brought down the plane; many independent investigators have concluded that the fuel tank exploded as a result of another event, such a bomb or missile.
The report goes on, referring to an NTSB report, "The Fire and Explosion Group Field Notes on Splatter Deposits…state; "The temperatures associated with the deposit generation process exceeded the auto-ignition temperature of the fuel in the WCS, possibly by an appreciable margin." In other words, the temperatures required to produce the splatters of metal investigators found were as a result of a higher temperature than would have been produced by the exploding tank."
The section "Maintenance Records" states. "Nothing in the maintenance records indicate that any maintenance was performed in an improper manner…we do not believe that a link can be proved as a contributing cause of the accident."
IAMAW questioned the protocol in inspecting and tagging wreckage. In the section "Cabin Interior" the reports states that in the course of the investigation "cabin wreckage began to disappear from the cabin wreckage hangar. Indications were that the disappearance was due to the removal of the wreckage by the FBI. Field notes from the Cabin Documentation Group (CDG) stated this fact."
This - and other sources - confirm the fact and not surprising dissatisfaction by many parties to the investigation that the FBI was harboring evidence and not allowing qualified personnel to inspect it.
The IAMAW goes on: "The Chairman's factuals for the Cabin Documentation Group omitted this information from the group's field notes…the CDG has not received a list of the wreckage items that were taken, the tests that were done, the results of the tests and when and if the wreckage was ever returned. [Emphasis added.]
The NTSB kept a database on the tagged wreckage, but the IAMAW questioned the accuracy of that database: "Inadequate documentation procedures…"
Meetings were "held to resolve the validity of the tag database," but "two meetings held at the Calverton hangar did little to resolve the validity issues. A final meeting October, 1997 at the NTSB offices in Washington "raised a much larger issue…it was revealed that Mr. Paul Harkin, working for the government had entered the Calverton hangar and tagged at least 100 pieces of wreckage. Mr. Harkin did not and has not provided a list of wreckage items that he tagged or any documentation as to why these items should receive the tags he supplied.
"The NTSB has left the validity issue remain unresolved while at the same time using the tag data to support several groups [within the NTSB]… We now have at least two groups drawing conclusions on data that has at least a ten percent chance of being wrong. Adding Mr. Harkin's tagging wreckage without any documentation or records and the conclusions that used the tag data for support become suspect."
The report concludes: "A definite cause cannot be determined at this time." Though the report adds that the explosion of the fuel tank was caused by a "high pressure event" breaching the fuselage…. The explosion was a result of this event!" [Emphasis in the report.]
"It appears to the IAM that a major event may have occurred on the left side of the aircraft."
Although the many investigators who believe that Flight 800 was brought down by a missile will find much to support their conclusions in this report, in a section titled "Witnesses to the Accident," the report reads, "It is our conclusion that no witness saw the actual explosion nor can any witness state conclusively that an object other than the aircraft was present…."
Graeme Stephon of the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization (FIRO) remarked to this reporter that he wondered if the International Association of Machinists had seen the newly released 750 plus eyewitness reports.
FIRO is in the process of filing a Freedom of Information Act suit in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts. The organization is trying to get the FBI to release forensic data on shrapnel-like objects found in many of the passengers and crew. FIRO is also seeking radar tapes from the Sikorsky plant in southern Connecticut.
At a press conference last August, FIRO revealed the existence of hitherto unreleased radar data showing more than thirty vessels in proximity or relative proximity to the crash. In a press release about the FIOA suit, FIRO states, "There has still been no official response or explanation as to what these thirty plus mystery vessels were, and why, despite being some of the closest, they did not contribute to any of the 755 eyewitness reports."
This past winter FIRO presented these questions and many others in a letter to Suffolk County District Attorney James Catterson, asking him to open an official inquiry into the tragedy. As of this writing Catterson's office has made no move to do so.
James Sanders has published two books on Flight 800: The Downing of Flight 800 and Altered Evidence. Much of the basis of his first book, an analysis of two swatches of seat fabric that Sanders contends is consistent with the ingredients of missile or rocket fuel, nearly landed Sanders and his wife Elizabeth (a former TWA flight attendant supervisor) in prison. Because Sanders had accepted evidence from an investigator (from a TWA pilot, an authorized agent to the investigation, in the Calverton hangar) he and his wife were found guilty in federal court in April 1999, though ultimately were not sentenced to serve any time in prison. They are appealing the conviction.
On Friday, July 14, Sanders, on a Connecticut TV station, presented what he said was proof that the government altered evidence in the course of its investigation into Flight 800. He followed this with a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, July 17, the fourth anniversary of the crash.
At the National Press Club, Marge Gross, who had lost a family member, spoke to the media. "She is really the first family member to stand up before the media and ask them to not follow the government line," said Sanders.
He added that although most of the major media was represented only Fox News gave the press conference ample coverage.
Two eyewitnesses, Dwight Brumley and Michael Wire relayed what they had seen. Travelling in a commercial plane above Flight 800, Brumley, a naval warfare expert, had seen a missile-like flash that culminated in an explosion. Michael Wire had been working on a bridge in Westhampton when he had witnessed a streak of light asacending upward and culminating in an explosion. He has expressed surprise that the CIA had apparently based their analysis of how Flight 800 had acted after the explosion from his testimony. During a CIA-NTSB meeting in April, 1999, that the CIA said it had used Wire's eyewitness account for the "animation" which showed the plane rising after it exploded. Wire has said that what he saw that evening was not in agreement with the CIA's version of events.
In a recent telephone interview, Wire said that in retrospect it seemed more likely than not that the streak of light he had seen rise upward that July 17, 1996 had been a missile.
At the conference, Sanders, who asserts Flight 800 was brought down by a military accident, displayed photos "that show beyond any doubt the missile path entering the center wing tank on the right front side, coming up under the floor. It knocks the floor of the center wing tank all the way up to the passenger cabin and goes out the top of the plane. Every piece of wreckage from the center wing tank makes sense when you realize it was blown up, not down."
Sanders also displayed photos which he said show the wreckage of these pertinent parts of the plane being bent back the other way. "They had to make it look like something that it wasn't."
Sanders remarked that the gathered media did not display the usual scorn and arrogance toward the "missile theory" that had been the norm until recently. "I believe the media finally thinks they may have missed something. And I think that those of us who want the truth to come out have a month's opportunity before the NTSB hearing to keep bringing out important things in the press. The focus of the media is not going to go away just because the anniversary has passed."
August 4, 2000 CNN.com
A group of skeptics is suing the government for details of its inquiry into the TWA Flight 800 crash four years ago, including radar data and details of material found with some of the victims' bodies. The Freedom of Information Act lawsuits are the latest challenge of the government's version of the crash. "A missile is the only object I know of that fits the characteristics that the eyewitnesses saw," said Tom Stalcup, chairman of a group of independent researchers studying the crash. The group, known as the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization, sued in U.S. District Court in Springfield July 17. The group includes experts from the world of aviation and engineering.
August 7, 2000 CNN.com
Boeing Co. has settled 52 of 175 lawsuits brought by families of passengers who died when TWA Flight 800 exploded off the New York coast in July 1996, a plaintiffs' attorney said on Monday. Lee Kreindler, lead plaintiffs' lawyer in the litigation, declined to specify the settlement amounts despite a news report quoting another lawyer pegging some at several million dollars. Kreindler's firm is handling 85 cases, of which 32 have been settled. "Right now we're all settling cases pretty quickly," Kreindler said. "We're moving forward rapidly."
August 10, 2000 Reuters
Boeing Co. said on Thursday a four-year, $32 million in-house investigation had failed to pinpoint even so much as the possible spark of the 1996 mid-air explosion of TWA Flight 800, one of its jumbo jets, that killed all 230 people on board. But the wreckage showed no signs of the Boeing 747-100's having been bombed nor hit by a missile, contrary to conspiracy theories that have circulated widely, company officials said in summarizing their part of the largest transportation accident probe in history. Briefing reporters in suburban Arlington, Va., company officials said on Thursday they had been unable to determine the ignition source and declined to name any likely candidates. "We're going to leave that'' to the five-member safety board, which is to consider on August 22-23 its final report on the probable cause of the crash, Ron Hinderberger, director of aircraft safety for Boeing's commercial airplane group, said. "There would be nothing that would please us more than to say 'we found it','' Hinderberger said, referring to whatever sparked the explosion. Not uncovering it was "bothersome,'' he conceded. Although Boeing declined to name a suspected cause, it said none of the recovered fuel system components showed any evidence of having sparked the events suspected of blowing up the airliner. Similarly, no evidence was found that any of the 747-100's fuel quantity indicators, probes or wiring were the culprits, the company said in its report to the safety board. "Boeing's examination of the recovered wreckage did not reveal any evidence of bomb damage on the structure or damage that could be expected from a missile impact,'' Hinderberger said. He said Boeing was "in agreement'' with a conclusion by the head of a safety board-appointed task force that witness accounts were of scant value in determining the cause. In March, the safety board's "witness group'' said it had reviewed 755 interviews carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, calling them "poorly suited for purposes of an aircraft accident investigation.''
August 11, 2000 The Associated Press
The head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday the agency isn't yet ready to conclude what caused the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990. "That analysis will be compiled in the future,'' James Hall said. But Hall did release publicly some 1,660 pages of documents that authorities have compiled in the months since the Oct. 31 tragedy off the coast of New England. "These documents represent the hard work of investigators'' from the United States and Egypt, he told reporters. U.S. investigators have suggested that a co-pilot of the jetliner may have deliberately plunged the plane into the sea - an assertion that has been vehemently rejected by Egyptian officials. There was no indication Friday that the board was backing off from that suggestion. And Egyptian officials scheduled a news conference at the Egyptian embassy to follow the NTSB's release of the documents. Hall acknowledged continuing areas of friction between the U.S. and Egyptian authorities. "Where they have disagreements, they have been allowed to submit them in writing,'' he said. Mohsen El Missiry, the head of the Egyptian group assisting in the investigation, said, "We will continue to work to find an answer to this tragedy.'' The Egyptians believe further analysis is needed of the plane's elevator control system, which is used to point the nose of the plane up or down, he said. El Missiry also said further review is needed of radar data collected at the time of the crash. He said the Egyptians were displeased with speculation regarding the cause of the accident. "This is painful for the family,'' El Missiry said. It is possible that, ultimately, the United States and Egypt will cite evidence to support their separate theories as the investigation continues into the reason the Boeing 767 plunged into the sea off the coast of the Massachusetts island of Nantucket. In Cairo, El-Batouty's family angrily denounced the published allegations. "They are running out of things to say, so they are ruining the guy's reputation,'' Walid El-Batouty, the co-pilot's nephew, told The Associated Press. "They are trying to raise anything to divert people from the real reason (for the crash).'' An air traffic control recording released earlier showed no radio transmissions from Flight 990 to controllers or other aircraft in the final minutes before the plane crashed. The last word was a routine "good morning'' signoff. The flight data show the plane's elevators were uneven during the rapid descent, indicating a major problem. The elevators are designed to operate in unison. Investigators are trying to determine if the split was caused by the plane's breakup, a jamming problem in one of the elevators, crew panic or even a struggle for control by two people in the cockpit.
August 12, 2000 The New York Times
Reinforcing suspicions that a suicidal co-pilot was responsible for the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 last fall, the nation's top air safety investigator said today that there were no safety issues in the crash that would require a public hearing to resolve. At a news conference, the official, James E. Hall, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, released 1,700 pages of documents, including F.B.I. reports that showed that the co-pilot had been accused of a variety of sexual improprieties at a Manhattan hotel during visits there in the year before the crash. The investigation of the crash became an international problem for the United States almost immediately. When some investigators indicated early in the board's 10-month investigation that it suspected that a co-pilot had deliberately crashed the plane, Egyptian officials reacted with outrage and demanded a broader investigation of the airplane's flight control systems. That the matter remains sensitive was evident today in the fact that safety board officials emphasized that they had still not reached any final conclusions. Mr. Hall said there were "no unresolved safety issues" that would require a formal public hearing ... But Mr. Hall also said, without elaboration, that the board thought the F.B.I. witness reports were relevant and should be included. Several women who worked at the hotel told security officers that Mr. Batouti repeatedly propositioned them sexually. In another incident, two teenage girls accused Mr. Batouti of following them and exposing himself through a window. American experts representing EgyptAir, including a former safety board chairman, said the documents contained extensive evidence that argued against the crash being a murder-suicide. It was clear again today that the Egyptian side was uncomfortable with the results of the inquiry to date. An Egyptian investigator, Capt. Mohsen el-Missiry of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, said pointedly, "Additional work remains to be done, particularly in assessing the design of the Boeing 767 elevator control system." At the news conference, at one point an Egyptian reporter asked Mr. Hall why the accusations of sexual misconduct were relevant to the cause of the crash, and then he began discussing President Clinton's sexual activities in the Oval Office. And asked how his assertion today that the board had made no conclusions on the crash squared with his statement on Nov. 15, that the board was considering turning the case over to the F.B.I. because the crash might be a crime, he simply referred the questioner to a statement posted on the safety board's Web site. (The statement, on Nov. 19, said that after consultation with the F.B.I. and the Egyptians, the board concluded that more work had to be done.) Board officials said today that they would let the documents they had released speak for themselves. But those documents formed a sort of Rorschach test, with experts hired by the Egyptian side drawing contradictory conclusions from the material, which, like much evidence in crash reports, was ambiguous in some places. For example, EgyptAir believes Mr. Batouti was never alone in the cockpit; safety board investigators believe he was. Twelve minutes before the end of the recording, the cockpit tape captures three syllables. The five Arabic-speaking people who helped prepare the transcript agree it was not an Arabic word; four of them believe they heard words similar to "control it." One English-speaking member of the committee thought it might be "hydraulic." Five others say it is unintelligible. Carl Vogt, a former safety board chairman and a lawyer here who now represents the Egyptians, pointed out that according to data released today, the tail elevators, the devices that change the plane's pitch, never moved to the maximum extent they are able to, indicating that the dive was not deliberate. And, Mr. Vogt noted, the flight data recorder captures someone in the cockpit cutting engine power. "When the nose of your airplane goes down, to maintain constant airspeed and not accelerate, you always pull off power," Mr. Vogt said. "That to me is compelling evidence against any intent to do anything but preserve the airplane and fly it." Some government investigators say, however, that they do not understand why someone -- presumably Mr. Batouti -- turned off both engines as the plane screamed toward the water, approaching the speed of sound. But Mr. Vogt made another point that other pilots have also raised, that diving is not the fastest or surest way to crash a plane. "You'd turn the thing over, and apply power to make it go faster," he said. "This flight crew maintained wings level."
August 12, 2000 MSNBC.com
Walid El-Batouty, a lawyer, told reporters that members of his family would hold a news conference on Tuesday to respond to accusations in the U.S. media. NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said investigators had not drawn any conclusions about what caused the jet to slam into the ocean, but the report cast continued suspicion on the co-pilot, citing alleged lewd behavior. “Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that the report on his behavior came only hours before the official report was released?” the co-pilot’s nephew said Friday. “They said my uncle recited Islamic verses from the Koran on the plane. So on the plane he was a Moslem fundamentalist and in the hotel he was a man going after women?”
August 12, 2000 San Francisco Chronicle
An Egyptian investigator, Capt. Mohsen el-Missiry, of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, said pointedly, "Additional work remains to be done, particularly in assessing the design of the Boeing 767 elevator control system.'' Capt. Shaker Kelada, vice president of safety for the airline, who headed the EgyptAir team that worked closely with NTSB investigators, said metallurgical analysis of Flight 990 wreckage showed that rivets on two of three bell cranks in the right elevator were sheared in a direction that would force the elevator down. Elevators are two small wing-like surfaces on the tail assembly that control the up-or-down angle of the nose.
Pilots Final Words:
Capt. Gameel el-Batouty (co-pilot of relief crew): Look, here's the new first officer's pen. Give it to him please. God spare you.
Unidentified voice: Yeah.
El-Batouty: To make sure it doesn't get lost.
Capt. Mahmoud el-Habashy (pilot in command of departure crew): Excuse me, Jimmy, while I take a quick trip to the toilet . . . (sound similar to cockpit door operating).
El-Batouty: Go ahead please.
El-Habashy: Before it gets crowded. While they are eating, and I'll be back to you. (sound similar to cockpit door operating, then several clicks and thumps).
Unidentified voice: Control it. (Arabic translators believe that they heard words similar to this; one English analyst believes that he heard a word similar to "hydraulic''; other words were unintelligible.)
El-Batouty: I rely on God. (long series of thumps and clicks). I rely on God. (one loud thump and three faint thumps). I rely on God. I rely on God. (four tones similar to Master Caution aural beeper). I rely on God. I rely on God. I rely on God. I rely on God. (sound of loud thump). I rely on God.
El-Habashy: What's happening? What's happening?
El-Batouty: I rely on God. (sound of numerous thumps and clicks continue for approximately 15 seconds; repeating tone similar to Master Warning aural beeper starts and continues to end of recording). I rely on God.
El-Habashy: What's happening? What's happening, Gameel? What's happening? What is this? What is this? Did you shut the engine(s)? Get away in the engines. Shut the engines.
El-Batouty: It's shut.
El-Habashy: Pull. Pull with me. Pull with me. Pull with me.
(End of recording)
August 13, 2000
CAIRO (AFP) - - Egyptian aviation officials are asking to see radar information witheld from the probe into last year's EgyptAir Flight 990 crash to explain high-speed radar images near the plane in its final moments, AFP learned Saturday. An AFP review of 1,665 pages of documents relating to the crash revealed a letter from Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority chief Abdel Fattah Kato complaining that apparently "classified" US Air Force data had not been made available. In the documents, released on Friday and presented on the website of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Kato does not give credence to a theory that the plane was hit by a missile, but stresses "the need to investigate fully what the Flight 990 crew might have seen. "The investigation of this accident has produced radar data showing three high-speed returns in the area of, and along the path of, Flight 990. The data shows these returns crossing Flight 990's path just before the airplane began its dive," he wrote to US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on June 18. Such radar images could be planes with their transponders turned off, missiles or atmospheric clutter or "strobing." Kato said air traffic controllers had cleared Flight 990 to pass through military "Warning Areas 506 and 105A just prior to the accident. "It is difficult to understand why data concerning the characteristics of radar used in connection with United States civil aviation is classified and why it is unavailable to analyze apparent targets that were in the vicinity of Flight 990," he wrote to FAA administrator Jane F. Garvey. Mohsen el-Missiry, an Egyptian investigator into the accident, which killed 217 people off the US coast last October, told reporters in Washington Friday that Egypt was continuing to request more radar data. "Additional work remains to be done, particularly in ... gaining additional radar information," he said at a press conference to announce the release of the information. "Egypt will continue to pursue the truth behind this tragedy," he said. In his letter, Kato also wrote that "it is apparent from the ATC (air traffic control) transcript that no FAA controller was actually watching Flight 990 at the time of the accident and for several minutes after." Note from website author: Take a look at this radar data from October 31 1999. http://members.xoom.com/_XMCM/flashradar/OCTOBER31.htm
August 14, 2000 Airwise News
The head of the Egyptian pilots' federation yesterday accused U.S. investigators of withholding key evidence in the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 off the U.S. coast last October, according to Reuters. Walid Murad called for the release of radar images and the evidence of two pilots who said they saw missiles in the area where the plane went down, killing all 217 people on board. He told reporters that U.S. investigators said they were denying access to the radar images because they contained military secrets. "This is a weak excuse," he said. "This American stance is evidence of concealing facts, and we demand the release of these radar images and to hear the testimony of the two pilots, one German and one Jordanian, that they saw missiles where the Egyptian plane crashed," he said. EgyptAir flight 990, headed for Cairo from New York, suddenly plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on October 31. Information from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders led to assertions by some U.S. investigators that relief co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti deliberately caused the crash. Egyptian officials have rejected that line of inquiry and worked on a theory that the plane's elevator panels on the tail, which control whether the nose points up or down, may have jammed. Murad said the Egyptian pilot's federation demanded the recovery of the remaining parts of the aircraft and the completion of an investigation to determine whether there were technical problems in the tail section. By concealing and leaking information, Murad said, the U.S. investigation risked losing credibility.
August 15, 2000
TWA FLIGHT 800 crash witnesses fed up with the official investigation formed the "TWA 800 Eyewitness Alliance," which published a full-page ad in the Washington Times today demanding that the government tell the truth about the crash. In bold-face type they proclaim: "WE SAW TWA FLIGHT 800 SHOT DOWN BY MISSILES AND WE WON'T BE SILENCED ANY LONGER ... We, the eyewitnesses know that missiles were involved. We don't know who launched them, but we know that for some reason our government has lied and tried to discredit all of us to keep that question from being addressed. ... The claim that our evidence is worthless is false and we want to know who is behind it. Hundreds of us SAW what happened. The FBI, the CIA and the NTSB must not be allowed to get away with this cover-up by defamation of the eyewitnesses."
August 17, 2000 BBC News
EgyptAir says it is almost completely sure that mechanical problems, not pilot suicide, caused the crash of one of its airliners last October. Chairman Mohammed Fahim Rayan spoke out after calls from the US Federal Aviation Administration for extra inspections of the elevator controls of 767s, which are used to point the planes up or down. Mr Rayan said: "We are 99% sure that there was something (wrong) in the elevator system." He said the whole course of the investigation into Flight 990 now needed to be changed. A 1,650 page report by America's National Transportation and Safety Board last week came to no conclusions about the cause of the crash, but Egypt was angered that it included FBI reports alleging sexual misconduct on the part of Mr Batouti. The Egyptians said they were irrelevant, unsubstantiated and designed to cause embarrassment. On Thursday, however, Mr Rayan had only praise for the chairman of the NTSB, Jim Hall, who he said was a good, co-operative man. He said Mr Hall had responded positively to Egypt's request for further probes into possible mechanical problems.
August 17, 2000 Reuters
EgyptAir Chairman Mohamed Fahim Rayan said on Thursday he was “99 percent sure” a technical problem and not a suicidal pilot caused an EgyptAir plane to crash last October, killing all 217 people aboard.“We are 99 percent sure that there was something (wrong) in the elevator system,”. The NTSB’s 1,665-page assessment appeared to dismiss Egyptian theories of technical problems but did mention alleged lewd behavior by the relief co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti. Rayan mocked the allegations as irrelevant, otherwise “50 percent of men would commit suicide,” he said. Rayan said the suicide theory did not fit with the plane’s controlled descent, mentioned in last week’s NTSB report. He said that the switching off of the plane’s autopilot just before its fatal descent did not constitute evidence for the theory because it had disengaged itself three times during the plane’s earlier flight from Los Angeles to New York. “There is a meeting in Washington today between the Egyptian and American sides to discuss some of the issues that the Egyptian side requested,” Demiri said, adding a “final picture” of what happened would be clear by November. “The Egyptian side has demands which must be seen through, such as radar and air traffic control information... There are mechanical issues about the hydraulic bell cranks and elevators,” he said. The Egyptian Pilots’ Federation said last week it wanted U.S. authorities to release radar images and to question an air traffic controller on duty at the time of the crash, as well as three pilots from Germany, Jordan and Britain, said to have seen missiles while flying in the area where the plane went down. Last week EgyptAir said metallurgical analysis of wreckage showed that the rivets on two of the three bell cranks in the right elevator were sheared in a direction that would force the elevator down. The rivets on the other bell crank were sheared in the opposite direction, a pattern EgyptAir said was consistent with the possible failure or jam of power control units that would cause the aircraft to pitch down. Mechanical links called bell cranks are connected to hydraulic controls that move elevators on the tail-piece. The Egyptian Pilots’ Federation said on Monday the NTSB should turn its inquiry over to a third party unless it releases what the federation views as key evidence.
August 19, 2000 NY Times
American agents have arrested a Pakistani, Muhammad Abass Malik, in Los Angeles. He was wanted by the Argentine authorities for questioning in the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and of a Jewish cultural center there in 1994.
August 22, 2000 Agence France Presse
WASHINGTON: 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 (FIRO), the official investigators had concealed crucial pieces of information from a final report to be presented Tuesday and Wednesday. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report is expected to argue that the crash which killed 230 people off Long Island, New York, was most likely caused by an explosion in the plane's central fuel tank. Many former investigators, military experts, and airline pilots continue to insist the Boeing was shot down by a missile. "Thirteen witnesses have seen an object strike the plane," FIRO president Tom Stalcup said in a press conference here. Stalcup also argued against the investigators' theory that the plane had gained altitude following an initial explosion. "The magic climb theory contradicts the laws of physics, the radar data which recorded the flight path, and the witnesses accounts," he said. Moreover, Stalcup continued, there were numerous ships within five kilometers (3.6 miles) of the area, but only one that had never been identified and which continued on its path as if nothing had happened.
Aviation consultant engineer Glen Schulze, who analyzed the so-called "black boxes," also claimed that information was missing. "Four seconds of data has been removed from the Flight Data Recorder when the FBI was in charge of the investigation," he said. Lending his weight to the argument of possible foul play, retired United Airlines pilot Richard Russell claimed he had received a copy of radar data showing a small object flying next to the plane that indicated a possible missile. "An (air traffic) controller has identified the target as potentially being a missile," Russell said, declining to identify his source of information.
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. Six months after the catastrophe, the NTSB concluded that chemical analyses of metal from the fuselage showed no proof of damage caused by a bomb or missile. Nevertheless, after four years of recovering debris from the ocean floor and partially reconstructing the plane in a huge hangar, investigators are preparing to close this most mysterious chapter in aviation history -- but without giving a definitive answer. "It's a mystery, but a manufactured mystery," insisted Graeme Sephton, a projects engineer at the University of Massachusetts office of Information Technologies.
August 22, 2000 Newsmax.com Reed Irvine
On July 17, the fourth anniversary of the TWA 800 tragedy, a group called the TWA 800 Eyewitness Alliance sponsored a news conference together with independent investigators of the crash. Two eyewitnesses to the crash, Michael Wire and Dwight Brumley, spoke. They were both singled out as excellent witnesses by a CIA analyst in a document that was released by the National Transportation Safety Board last April together with the FBI reports of its interviews of 755 eyewitnesses. Wire and Brumley were amazed and angry to find that the CIA had misrepresented what they told the FBI.
The unnamed CIA analyst suggested that their accounts had provided a basis for the CIA video simulation of the TWA 800 crash. The video claimed that all the eyewitnesses who said they had seen anything that could be interpreted as being a missile had seen only the badly damaged airliner either climbing or falling, trailing burning fuel. These two eyewitnesses are at a loss to understand how the CIA could have so completely misrepresented their descriptions of what they saw.
Michael Wire was standing on a drawbridge on the south shore of Long Island gazing out over the water when he saw what he described at first as a "cheap firework" rising from behind a house not far away that was blocking his view of the horizon. He called it "cheap" because it kind of zigzagged as it went up. It didn’t behave like a Roman candle. When it got high in the sky it leveled out and sped out to sea. He lost sight of it momentarily, when near the spot where he last saw it there was an explosion so strong that when the shock wave hit several seconds later, it shook the 70-ton bridge. He then saw a fireball that fell toward the ocean.
The CIA analyst, who was speaking to the experts making up the NTSB witness group, said that Wire was perhaps the only eyewitness who had seen the entire event from beginning to end. But one thing in his FBI interview bothered them. He had told the FBI that he saw the "firework" rising from behind that house. Since TWA 800 was at an altitude of nearly 14,000 feet, a two-story house could not have blocked Wire’s view of it for even an instant. The CIA asked the FBI to reinterview the witness and that Wire in the second interview said "that the light ... did appear in the sky," not from behind the house.
This is fiction. The first interview with Wire was on July 23. The second and last interview was six days later. That was five months before the CIA analyst said he hit on the idea that no witness had seen anything except the burning plane. The second FBI report said Wire first saw the white light going skyward from the ground just above the roof of the house.
Dwight Brumley, a retired Navy electronics warfare expert, was a passenger in a northbound airliner that was abut 7,000 feet above TWA 800 when it blew up. Looking out his window on the right side of the plane he caught sight of a bright light below that was moving north at a high rate of speed. He said that as it peaked and pitched over he saw two explosions, one after the other, followed by a fireball that elongated as it fell into the sea. The passenger in the seat behind him, a Mr. Nugent, told him he had seen the cabin lights of an airliner before it blew up. The light Brumley saw speeding north could not have been TWA 800, which was flying east. It was the plane whose cabin lights were seen by Nugent just before the explosion.
The TWA 800 Eyewitness Alliance, representing these and others with similar stories, has run two full-page ads in the Washington Times demanding that the NTSB hear from them before it closes its investigation at its board meeting Tuesday and Wednesday. The NTSB board has not heard a single eyewitness, and its witness group has interviewed only a handful. People who have seen the Washington Times ad, which has been posted on the Internet, are calling from all over the country expressing their shock and anger at the treatment of the eyewitness evidence. Some have provided inside information confirming that the Navy knows that missiles were involved and that the NTSB investigation has been a sham. As Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said, this cries out for a congressional investigation.
August 22, 2000 IRVINE THROWN OUT OF TWA 800 HEARING
The government so fears that the truth will come out about what brought down TWA Flight 800 four years and a month ago that it literally carried Accuracy in Media's 78-year-old chairman out of the building where the final hearings into the crash are going on. AIM Chairman Reed Irvine was in the building at L'enfant Plaza near the nation's capitol building this morning to distribute a full-page advertisement that had run for several previous days in The Washington Times. He was in the lobby, handing copies to those entering the auditorium. The ad was placed by an association of eyewitnesses to the crash. They say they plainly saw missiles flying up, exploding in white lights of high explosive ordinance, followed by the orange flames of the airplane and its jet fuel as they exploded and fell to the sea. They say that the government has ignored, twisted, and misrepresented the information they have given.
They have noted that in a criminal trial, the word of just a few eyewitnesses is enough to convict, but here the government has totally discredited what hundreds of credible people saw. The ad demands that the government consider what they have to say. Mr. Irvine says he was approached by a security guard in the building who told him he could not hand out information inside the building and would have to leave. Irvine invoked his First Amendment right of free speech and said that since it was a government building, he had the right to pass out information. The guard consulted with his superiors and returned to say that it was government-leased space in a private building, and Irvine would have to leave.
Irvine again said that he had a right to free speech and to inform and educate the public about what the eyewitnesses saw. He said that if they wanted him out of the building, they would have to carry him out. He thereupon sat down on the floor. Two security guards carried him out and set him down on the sidewalk.
If the idea was to silence him or to keep the public from getting the information, it didn't work. There were television cameras from six different national stations, and Irvine explained to them what it is the eyewitnesses want the American people to know. He also told them that his expulsion proves that the government is trying to silence the eyewitnesses' accounts.
The accounts are very convincing. A national Guard helicopter pilot, flying near Long Island Sound had an unobstructed view of the whole scene. He has seen many missile tests and many detonations of high-explosive ordinance. He says he saw the missile come up and strike TWA 800. He was so close that his helicopter was on the scene before all the pieces rained into the ocean. He then spent time searching the area for survivors. A construction engineer nearby saw the flame trail of something he can best describe as resembling a firework rocket rise up and explode in a blinding white flash. A second orange explosion followed. The first detonation was so violent that the 70-ton bridge he was building shook with the concussion. A Navy officer on a plane 17,000 feet above TWA 800 saw a missile rise from below and blow up. Almost immediately an explosion destroyed the passenger craft. More than a hundred other people around the area tell of similar sightings. Private investigators have coordinated the locations from which they say the saw the missile rise and have determined the probable launch site of at least one missile.
The National Transportation Safety Board, the FBI and the CIA continue to ignore the witnesses and to discredit their stories. Irvine's point is that it makes no sense unless the government does not want the truth known.
August 23, 2000
A NTSB board member, addressing the public said: "One of the things that we don’t know about these witnesses was what their condition was at the time they made these observations. You mentioned someone at a yacht club on an evening during the summer - I suspect that I know what some of their conditions might have been."
August 23, 2000 Associated Press
A Gulf Air Airbus A320 on a flight from Cairo crashed Wednesday night in the Persian Gulf as it tried to land in Bahrain, officials said. State-run television said there were 143 passengers and crew on board U.S. Navy helicopters from the 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, joined the nighttime search and rescue effort in the Gulf waters, according to the Pentagon. The television said some aircraft wreckage had been found at the site of the crash 3 or 4 miles off shore. There was no word on survivors. An air traffic controller at the Bahrain airport, reached by telephone, described watching the plane from the tower circle the runway twice in an attempt to land, then on the third attempt plunging into the sea and exploding into flames. The controller, who spoke on condition his name not be used, saw no flames or sign of trouble before the crash and could not immediately explain why the plane circled before landing. He said the plane's crew did not report anything out of the ordinary. Gulf Air is owned by Bahrain, the Gulf states of Oman and Qatar, as well as Abu Dhabi, the largest of seven sheikdoms making up the United Arab Emirates. Based in Bahrain, it flies to 53 international destinations. In January, a Kenya Airways A-310 crashed into Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to Lagos, Nigeria. Ten people survived, and 169 died.
August 23, 2000 Report from Tom Stalcup, FIRO Chairman, on NTSB
The NTSB Board meeting on TWA 800 was slanted heavily toward the spark theory, as many FIRO members expected. The NTSB spent an inordinate amount of time and effort researching and discussing possible ignition sources, leaving their knowledge of the details of other theories severely lacking. This was most evident in their discussion of the eyewitnesses. NTSB Witness Group chairman Dr. Mayer made many mistakes while attempting to discredit eyewitnesses, including those published by TWAEWA (TWA Eyewitness Alliance) in the Washington Times full page ad.
Board member Black suggested that the eyewitnesses who reported seeing a missile or ascending object were drunk. The audience gasped and murmured after this insinuation. Prior to this, Chairman Hall asked Dr. Mayer, "Is it your conclusion that the witnesses that said they saw a streak of light didn't see a streak of light?"
Earlier in the day, David Neal and I met with Chairman Hall privately in his office. His personal secretary was also present. David and I informed the chairman of our dissatisfaction with his opening statement--specifically when he singled out the independent investigators, saying that "they do a disservice to us all, but most especially to you, the TWA 800 families, who have suffered so much in this tragedy." I informed the Chairman that there are several family members that deeply appreciate our work and think that is the NTSB who is performing the disservice.
David and I also discussed some other differences. Chairman Hall appreciated our position and offered to meet privately with David, FBI Director Louis Freeh, and myself some time soon, in an attempt to help answer any remaining questions that we may have. Two separate times during the day, Hall told David and me that he is committed to setting up the meeting. We will definitely do our best to make this meeting happen.
At 6:00 PM today, at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, we held a press conference to give our response to the NTSB meeting. Family member Marge Gross joined us in the press conference. C-span covered this press conference, which is scheduled to air later tonight at 2:45 AM, after the NTSB coverage. Marge Gross looked into the camera and spoke directly to Chairman Hall, reversing his opening comment about the independent investigators "with their own agendas." I presented evidence the NTSB overlooked regarding the eyewitness testimony and highlighted inaccuracies in the NTSB Witness presentation by Dr. Mayer. I also blasted member Black for his statement about his suggestion that the "streak of light" eyewitnesses were drunk.
Family members Michel Breistroff and Donald Nibert were also present at the press conference and were scheduled to make statements. Each declined during the press conference, and appeared quite disturbed after a family member meeting with Chairman Hall.
Yesterday, I attempted to bring 25 copies of a letter to the Senate from NTSB investigator Hank Hughes into the board meeting. In the letter, Hughes complained about "an inexcusable absence of leadership" in the NTSB investigation, among other things. NTSB security would not let me bring any in, but I objected because there were 10 individuals seated with me who wanted to see the letter. NTSB allowed me to bring in 11 copies of the letter.
Moments later, Reed Irvine (head of Accuracy in Media) was *carried* out of the meeting room for handing out copies of a full-page ad from the eyewitnesses, and refusing to leave on his own. Irvine (> 80 yrs.) laid on the floor before being carried out by NTSB security. Strict control over information was obviously a top priority for the NTSB.
The first FIRO press conference, on Monday, was packed with cameras and media reps. from CNN, ABC, NBC, AP, AFP, TF1, local D.C. stations and others. Many questions were asked of nearly all the presenters, but surprisingly, there was little to no splash made in the airwaves.
August 24, 2000 The Associated Press
Ali Ahmedi, a spokesman and an acting vice president for Gulf Air, said it was too early to speculate on what caused the plane to crash as it circled the airport before coming in to land. But he said there was no indication the pilot was anticipating an emergency landing. "The pilot did not make any kind of statements of problems in the plane,'' Ahmedi said. Gulf Air said 135 passengers and eight crew members were on board. They included 64 Egyptians, 36 Bahrainis, 12 Saudi Arabians, nine Palestinians, six from the United Arab Emirates, three Chinese, two British and one each from the United States, Canada, Oman, Kuwait, Sudan, Australia, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, India and Morocco. The American killed in the crash was 31-year-old Seth J. Foti, a diplomatic courier carrying classified information in yellow pouches, the State Department said.
August 26, 2000 NewsMax.com
The man who boasts he was responsible for killing 243 U.S. Marines and thousands of others is coming to the United States, with nary a protest from the Clinton State Department. Mohsen Rezaii, former commander in chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is due to arrive in the United States as part of an Iranian delegation to a conference of the Interparliamentary Union to be held at the United Nations Aug. 30 through Sept. 1. The delegation is headed by Sayad Mohammed Khatami, Iran’s president, who the Clinton-Albright State Department has been selling as a "moderate" since his election on May 23, 1997. According to the Washington Times’ columnist Arnold Beichman, however, the real power in Iran is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rezaii was named to his notorious command in 1981 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, revolutionary founder of the Iranian theocracy, after he had organized the Guards Corps intelligence section. He was the Corps commander in chief for 16 years and is credited with a number of terrorist coups. Rezaii, who once said "The day will come when, like Salman Rushdie, the Jews will not find a place to live anywhere in the world," is blamed for the 1983 suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 243 Marines. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said the terrorist attack was the work of "Iranians with sponsorship and knowledge and authority of the Syrian government." Rezaii took full credit for the atrocity when he told the Iranian newspaper Ressalat (July 20, 1987): "Both the TNT and the ideology which in one blast sent to hell 400 (sic) officers, NCOs, and soldiers at the Marine headquarters have been provided by Iran." He has also been cited as the man behind the hostage-taking in Lebanon, the Times reports, citing a Kuwaiti newspaper, Al Qabas, which wrote on January 30, 1988: "Diplomatic sources in Beirut say that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Commander in Chief Mohsen Rezaii constantly travels to Beirut. He has become the ultimate authority in anything related to the Western hostages. These sources add that all 17 hostages in Lebanon are under the complete control of Rezaii and Hezbollah." "With this kind of record, the question to be raised with the White House and the State Department is whether Mr. Rezaii should be allowed into this country even with a diplomatic passport and visa," Beichman wrote. "This isn't quite your ordinary terrorist, as can be judged from Mr. Rezaii's declaration Oct. 21, 1991, in an Iranian newspaper, Kayhan: 'The Muslims' fury and hatred will burn the heart of Washington someday and America will be responsible for its repercussions.' Secretary of State Madeleine Albright might call Mr. Rezaii's words overheated rhetoric but this man shoots to kill." Noting that Rezaii will be present at the U.N. Millennium Assembly that opens Sept. 5., along with President Clifton, Beichman asks "Should the president of the United States be in the same United Nations chamber with Mr. Rezaii, Iran's assassin in chief, who boasts that he is responsible for the deaths of 243 U.S. Marines?"
Note from website author: Rezaii's son apparently defected and claimed his father had given him inside information on Iran's terrorist activities as this item below indicates
August 11, 1998 The Wall Street Journal
Last Friday's simultaneous bombings against U.S. Embassy buildings in Kenya and Tanzania are ample proof that the U.S. is facing a large, sophisticated terror network that most likely benefits from the assistance of a state. "We stand united against terrorism," President Clinton declared on Saturday. But unless that "stand" is accompanied by a willingness to retaliate, such words will only embolden terrorists and the states that give them support. ..... But no one should forget the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose rulers may not be so easily cowed as Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Iran has not felt the sting of U.S. retaliation since Mr. Reagan sank two-thirds of its navy in 1987 in response to Iranian attacks on civilian maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf. The Islamic regime still bears a grudge for the accidental U.S. shooting of an Iran Air jetliner over the Persian Gulf in 1988, which killed 200 Iranians. Tehran still believes the shooting was intentional. Despite the attention given to Iranian "moderates" and a thawing of U.S.-Iranian relations, it is plausible that Iran could be behind a terrorist attack on U.S. targets. Indeed, the bombings may be a deliberate attempt by Iran's radical clerics to reverse the thaw started by President Mohammed Khatami. Mr. Khatami has taken a courageous stance in favor of civil liberties and the rule of law, and is seeking Western investment and a rapprochement with the U.S. But he is being opposed every step of the way by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who retains control of the military, internal security, the intelligence services and the foreign terrorist apparatus. Mr. Khamenei and his allies are desperately seeking to frustrate a U.S.-Iranian dialogue, which they perceive as a threat to their own power.
Numerous Iranian defectors, including a former top-ranking intelligence operative known as Abolghassan Mesbahi, have provided Western intelligence services with detailed and strikingly similar accounts of how Iran uses non-Iranians to carry out terrorist operations around the world. Just two weeks before the twin embassy blasts, 22-year-old defector Ahmad Rezai, the son of former Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, told me that Mr. Khamenei and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani had personally ordered terrorist attacks. One of the Iranian regime's goals, repeated publicly by officials at every opportunity, is to drive the U.S. from the Persian Gulf. According to Mr. Rezai, it was for this reason that hard-liners ordered the bombing of the Khobar Towers building in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, in 1996 that killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
Mr. Rezai says that his father (who is still in Iran, and who told his son he fears for his life) provided him details of the bombing inthe hope he would tell the story once he escaped. In the Dhahran bombing, Mr. Rezai alleges, the Iranian regime turned to Saudi and other Arab dissidents, including networks run by former Saudi financier Osama bin Laden.Mr. bin Laden has a long history of anti-U.S. attacks.
Trained in the 1980s as an anti-Soviet fighter in Afghanistan, Mr. bin Laden soon turned against the Saudi government and against its primary backer, the U.S., once American troops were stationed on Saudi soil to defend the kingdom against Saddam in 1991. An international investigation I conducted for Reader's Digest (published in July) uncovered evidence not only of Mr. bin Laden's involvement in the Dhahran bombing, but of at least eight attempts against U.S. and Saud targets since then that were foiled by Saudi intelligence operatives. (Mr. bin Laden has denied direct involvement in the Dhahran bombing while applauding those who did it.)
My investigation also uncovered convincing evidence that Mr. bin Laden financed the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, training master-bomber Ramzi Yousef and sending him on what he hoped would be a world-wide terror spree, from New York to Manila, and finally to Pakistan. This past February, Mr. bin Laden issued a religious order, or fatwa, telling his followers to carry out attacks against American civilians and military personnel wherever they could around the world. Mr. bin Laden commands a far-flung network of former Afghan fighters who have been involved in terrorist attacks and "liberation" struggles from Algeria to the Philippines.
According to Ahmad Rezai, the Iranian government transmits orders and explosives to the bin Laden networks through high-level intelligence emissaries it dispatches to Syria. No orders are transmitted by telephone, for fear of U.S. communications intercepts. Saudi dissidents close to Mr. bin Laden told me that members of his networks were involved in the 1996 Dhahran bombing; some are still being held in a Saudi jail. When the Saudis threatened to execute them last year, the Clinton administration intervened, anxious to bring them to trial in the U.S. instead. U.S. and Saudi intelligence sources said that the sophisticated military timing device used in the Dhahran bomb was unequivocal evidence that Mr. bin Laden had not acted alone. "We have absolutely no doubt that Iran was ultimately behind the bombing," a senior Saudi source told me.
But the Clinton administration does not want to hear evidence of Iranian terrorist activity. Intelligence information and warnings of Iranian terrorism have systematically been either ignored or overruled. On three separate occasions before TWA flight 800 went down off the Long Island coast in July 1996, the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration received explicit warnings that Iran was planning an attack against a U.S. airliner "originating in Athens, Greece." TWA 800 arrived in New York from Athens, before being refueled for its flight to Paris on July 17. Although one of the sources was "not deemed credible" by U.S. intelligence agencies, a second, independent warning was received of the impending attack. Just two weeks ago, a former U.S. Navy pilot, William Donaldson, released a 96-page report on the TWA crash, pointing to a foreign terrorist attack. Although Mr. Donaldson's conclusion was widely criticized before he released his report, former National Transportation Safety Board member Vernon L. Grose said that listening to Mr. Donaldson "changes my mind" about the crash. Mr. Donaldson cited new evidence he said proved the plane was hit by two shoulder-fired missiles, probably launched from small boats off the Long Island coast. There is a pattern here. Time and time again, when the U.S. is attacked, the Clinton administration has instructed the FBI to pursue a forensic investigation aimed at making a criminal case in the U.S. courts--a standard of evidence and public disclosure that goes way beyond the type of proof needed for effective foreign policy or national defense. Terrorism is a criminal act, and the courts are an appropriate venue for justice. But terrorism sponsored by a foreign government is also an act of war. If solid evidence this time points to Iran, its government must pay a high price.
August 28 Kelly Patricia O’Meara firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, showed during its two-day wrap-up meetings on the cause of the July 17, 1996, explosion of TWA Flight 800 that even a $40 million investigation can’t ensure satisfactory answers in an atmosphere of obfuscation, arrogance and secrecy. It isn’t a great shock that the lead investigative body for aviation accidents concluded its four-year investigation in late August with the finding that the Paris-bound 747 exploded in midair off Long Island, N.Y., because of a spark from a mysterious ignition source inside the aircraft’s center fuel tank. In fact, what would have been shocking and what would have made news is if even one of the men and women who worked on the investigation had disagreed publicly with so much as one of the official conclusions. It wasn’t difficult to understand what was going on when NTSB Chairman Jim Hall made it clear in his opening remarks how he felt about anyone who disagreed with the safety-board’s conclusions as he briefly paused, put on his best we-would-never-lie-to-you face and told the packed auditorium, “It is unfortunate that a small number of people, pursuing their own agendas, have persisted in making unfounded charges of a government cover-up in this investigation. These people do a grievous injustice to the many dedicated individuals, civilian and military, who have been involved in this investigation.” Going on and on about how complex the investigation was, Hall began to repeat himself lest the merest tyro miss his concern about “those who consistently distort the record and persist in making unfounded charges of cover-up.” While these are strong words directed at the independent investigators who have questioned many of the NTSB’s conclusions, there was nothing new about the arrogant tone. In fact, even the words being used were not unlike those of the former lead FBI investigator, James Kallstrom, who made a guest appearance at the meetings.
Early in the FBI’s investigation of this bizarre explosion it was Kallstrom who left open the door to the possibility that a missile downed the aircraft, just as it was he who later referred to the independent investigators who continued along that path as “bottom-feeders.” Given the simplistic conclusions that came out of the two-day meetings, it is hard not to wonder why so much time was devoted to admonishing those who consistently have requested answers to legitimate, evidentiary questions. For example, the NTSB concluded that the witnesses to the explosion all 736 of them did not see what they reported seeing. In fact, what has been concluded is that these witnesses, rather than seeing a flare-like object rise from the water and culminate in a huge fireball, actually witnessed only what has come to be referred to as the “fuel-falling-from-plane scenario.” That’s right. What the witnesses thought was ascending actually was, according to the NTSB, descending. And the eyewitnesses simply were discounted if their statements didn’t jibe with the NTSB master theory based upon its “evidence.” This makes no sense in light of the fact that the NTSB acknowledged it has no physical evidence to support its theory that a spark initiated the explosive event in the center wing fuel tank.
Then there is the interesting concept of the 747-nose-falling-off-the-plane-but-continues-to-climb scenario. This conclusion has left most independent investigators scratching their heads, as it is widely recognized that such a feat defies the laws of physics. Nevertheless, the NTSB has concluded that the powerless and shattered aircraft continued to gain altitude. The radar data long have been a point of contention between the NTSB and independent investigators, and the conclusions put forward in this final public performance by the official investigators did little to ease concern about outright deception. Most notably, the NTSB still has not publicly explained the nearly 22 surface ships shown on radar heading into a military warning zone just minutes after the explosion of TWA Flight 800. But the NTSB’s lead radar expert, Charley Pereira, did provide a unique slide show, describing one slide as an average afternoon between 18:30 and 18:40, or 6:30 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. This slide was intended to prove that there usually are lots of boats on the ocean around the time of that explosion. Considering, however, that the explosion of TWA Flight 800 occurred two hours later around dusk this particular slide seems pointless. Unless Pereira selected the irrelevant time to avoid showing a snapshot at the exact time of the explosion when the scene was very different. Any photo at the time of the explosion would reveal what every sailor knows which is that at dusk coastal vessels normally are returning to port, rather than heading out to sea, as is the case of the nearly two dozen ships conspicuously heading into that live-fire warning area. Pereira’s radar discussion was about as helpful as the safety board’s warning to the flying public that older aircraft such as the 747 that exploded off the coast of Long Island may have serious problems with their wiring. If this faulty wiring is responsible for the explosion of TWA Flight 800, and the flying public is to take Hall at his word, why have those aircraft not been grounded and the alleged electrical problems corrected?
August 29, 2000 Reuters
Muslim rebels have kidnapped a 24-year-old American in the southern Philippines and the guerrillas said Tuesday they would kill him if three Islamic extremists held in the United States were not freed. Robert Aventajado, the Philippine government's chief hostage negotiator, told Reuters the man was kidnapped in the city of Zamboanga Monday and taken to the island of Jolo, where the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas have been holding six Europeans captive for months. Local officials in Zamboanga said a U.S. citizen who had been living in the city since March was missing and identified him as Jeffery Edwards Craig Schilling from Oakland, California. His wife, a Filipina, said Schilling was abducted after the couple went to Jolo on a visit. "It is confirmed,'' Aventajado said of reports of the kidnap. "He was brought to the camp of Radulan yesterday afternoon.'' Radulan is one of several commanders of the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas based on Jolo, where the rebels have hideouts in the hills and where they hold six Europeans and a Filipino hostage. Ivy Osani, a local Muslim woman who said she was married to Schilling in April, said she and her husband went to Jolo of their own volition to meet an Abu Sayyaf leader she was related to. "But when we were there, the atmosphere changed,'' she told a local radio station. ``I don't know why.'' "They did not hurt him,'' she added. ``They did not hurt us when I was still there. I don't know now.'' Osani said she returned to Zamboanga Tuesday. A rebel spokesman told a radio station that guerrilla leaders were meeting to discuss their demands for freeing Schilling, who he said was a CIA agent. But the caller said one demand would be the release of three Muslim militants jailed for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. "If the U.S. government and (Philippine President Joseph) Estrada does not (intervene) here, we may liquidate this man,'' the caller said. "Then next week we will get another hostage and do the same thing to him. The Americans may think we are afraid of them but we are really determined to get an American.'' The Abu Sayyaf demanded the release of those jailed in the World Trade Center bombing after kidnapping more than 70 children and teachers in March from two high schools on the island of Basilan, near Zamboanga. The government did not accept the demands and the military attacked their Basilan camp after the rebels beheaded two adult captives. Most of the hostages were released or rescued but at least four were killed in a shoot-out between the rebels and troops. (Note from website author: See Strange Links and From Dublin to Oklahoma City to understand how this group in the Phillipines is linked to the World Trade Center, the Oklahoma City Bombing, and TWA 800.)
August 30, 2000 The Globe and Mail
Pinpointing the origin of the fire aboard Swissair Flight 111, which crashed into the sea near Peggys Cove, N.S., killing all 229 people on board, may prove impossible, Canadian crash investigators acknowledge. After spending $50-million and two years of painstaking effort, including salvaging nearly two million pieces of the shattered MD-11 from the sea bottom, Canadian Transportation Safety Board investigators have failed to find the cause of the fire. "Finding the origin of the fire is only one aspect of this investigation," said Vic Gerden, who heads the TSB team conducting the largest and most expensive probe in Canadian history. In an interview, Mr. Gerden said the origin -- perhaps an arcing wire, perhaps something else -- "could be the size of a fingernail." The board released one of its periodic status reports yesterday, just four days before the second anniversary of the crash on Sept. 2, 1998. In the report, investigators say they are still attempting to find a way to "distinguish between arced wires" to determine if one of them was the origin of the fire, or whether they shorted only after fire burned through their insulation. But it "will be difficult to be conclusive without finding the piece" that caused the fire, Mr. Gerden said.
August 31, 2000 Associated Press
The government lacks direct evidence that a Palestinian immigrant being held three years as a suspected terrorist had raised money for a terror group or had helped organize any violence, a federal agent acknowledged. That admission came Wednesday during a bond hearing for Mazen Al-Najjar, who has been jailed without charges on the basis of secret evidence. The former University of South Florida Arabic instructor is seeking to be released while he appeals a deportation order. The Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested him in May 1997 after the order was issued. On Wednesday, INS attorney Daniel Vara played a 13-minute videotape of various gatherings organized by the Islamic Committee for Palestine as evidence Al-Najjar had consorted with known terrorists. Al-Najjar was an officer in the committee and helped organize the conferences, some of which were attended by leaders of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad. The tape was compiled from nearly 500 hours of video seized in 1995, but INS agent William D. West was unable to offer any example of Al-Najjar soliciting money for the Islamic Jihad or advocating terrorism. At one gathering shown on the tape, a Muslim prayer leader identified the charity as the ``active arm of the Islamic Jihad,'' but Al-Najjar was neither present at, nor organized, that event, West acknowledged under cross-examination. ``What's become clear is that the government has no case against Mazen Al-Najjar,'' his lawyer, David Cole, said afterward. Cole said the government's case was an extension of its focus on Al-Najjar's brother-in-law, Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian incorporated the Islamic Committee for Palestine and the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a think tank associated with the University of South Florida. Al-Najjar's primary work was with the think tank, Cole said. Al-Arian, a legal permanent resident, is free and has remained in the courtroom after testifying. On Monday, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 99 times. Over Cole's objections, the INS has presented a series of photographs taken at think tank conferences in the early 1990s showing Al-Arian and Al-Najjar seated at a table with suspected terrorists. One 1991 photo depicted Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On Wednesday, Cole asked West why Al-Najjar is considered a security risk but not Al-Arian. West answered that he considered both to be security threats but Al-Arian has not created any risks while Al-Najjar has been imprisoned. None of the secret evidence against Al-Najjar has been introduced. The INS showed classified material to Immigration Judge R. Kevin McHugh in May 1997, prompting him to order Al-Najjar detained as a national security threat. Al-Najjar is one of several immigrants held on secret evidence nationwide. An Egyptian in New York, a Palestinian in New Jersey and an Iraqi in California were released after rebutting terrorist allegations.
September 1, 2000 Ananova
The Egyptian pilots' union has named Bill Clinton in a lawsuit over the FBI investigation into the EgyptAir Boeing 767 crash. The union is said to be furious at leaked reports which suggest co-pilot Gamil al-Battuti crashed the plane into the Atlantic, killing 217 people, in an act of suicide. The action is being taken through the Egyptian courts and accuses investigators of ignoring other possible reasons as to why the New York to Cairo jet crashed. It calls on Mr Clinton to relaunch the inquiry and look at possibilities including one that a land-to-air missile brought down the aircraft. Union officials have delivered a copy of the lawsuit to the US embassy in Cairo reports Channel Africa News.
September 1, 2000 Letter from a retired Pilot to Cmdr. Donaldson
Even though I was forced to retire from _____ by the FAA Age 60 Rule in '99, I'm still flying, now in corporate jets. Here's a personal encounter that you might be interested in regarding 800. While staying at a hotel on an Executive Jet layover last spring, I was referred to a Manager to discuss a minor problem that I had with my room. When the Manager found out in the course of discussion that I was a retired TWA Captain, she told me that it was she who was at the south Long Island shore outdoor patio party, and who had taken the photos of the party facing to the south, and had accidentally captured our 800 trajedy in the background. When she did her "civic duty" and called the authorities to show them the photos, she said that two carloads of FBI Agents came to her home, and verbally terrorized and intimidated her for approximately 2 hours. They then made her sign a full release, turning the photos and negitives over to the FBI, and promising never, ever, to try to recover them. When I told her that I had contacts whom I was sure could help her retreive the photos under the Freedom of Information Act, she was STILL so terrified and visibly upset enough by what ever the FBI Agents had told her almost 3 years before, that she said that she would not want me to make any effort to help her to get them back. I gave her my card and home phone #, in case she changed her mind, but she has not contacted me.
This, plus what an FBI Agent/husband of a TWA Flt. Attendant at an 800 Memorial at TWA's JFK Hanger 12 said, "If the truth were known by the public about what 'really' happened, there would be such an undermining of confidence in U.S. air travel, that no one would want to fly", has convinced me personally that there is, most certainly, a coverup by our authorities of what really happened to TWA 800.
I knew, personally, most of the 2 full 747 crews who were on 800 - both pilots and Cabin Teams. I do not think that they will ever fully 'rest in peace' until the truth is known, and I cannot thank you enough for your efforts to uncover that truth. I hope we both live long enough to hear it, and I think we will. It's not a matter of "if" --- it's just a matter of "when".
Happy Labor Day Weekend to you and yours,
Setptember 2, 2000
The "Aviation Week and Space Technology" website poll on the NTSB's investigation of the TWA Flight 800 disaster has concluded. The question was: "Are you satisfied that the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board correctly identified the cause of the TWA Flight 800 crash?" The final tabulation was: No: 66.40 % Yes: 33.40 %
September 8, 2000 Dan's Papers - Long Island
It is no surprise to anyone on either side of the TWA Flight 800 controversy that the National Transportation Safety Board declared at its final, just concluded hearing that the doomed plane that exploded four summers ago was brought down by an electrical spark which had ignited vapors in the empty or near empty center wing fuel tank. Unfortunately, the NTSB said, its investigators have not been able to locate the spark or wire that originated the explosion. Among the many who contest the NTSB scenario is the last pilot to fly the 747 and live to talk about it.
In a phone interview some days after the NTSB hearing, now retired TWA pilot Al Mundo, who had brought the plane into New York from Athens late on the afternoon of July 17, 1996, explained not only the fuel system of the plane, but detailed his reasons why the center wing fuel tank would not have been the initiating cause of the explosion or explosions that destroyed Flight 800. "We had left Athens that Wednesday morning," said Mundo. "The center wing tank would have been full." The center wing fuel tank is just that: a tank of fuel that is directly in the middle of the plane, beneath the passenger cabin.
Before going into the reasons why the fuel in that tank would not have been full on arrival in New York, Mundo explained the fuel system of the 747. "There are four main tanks of fuel, and two reserve tanks, to feed into four engines. If you're sitting in the cockpit, from left to right, you have on the edge of the left wing, the number one reserve tank. Then, in sequence, you have the number one main tank, number two main tank, number three main tank, number four main tank, then on the tip of the right wing, the number four reserve tank."
Mundo went on to say that the fuel flow of the plane is maintained so that the weight of fuel throughout the wing span will be balanced. Fuel is normally fed from each tank to its corresponding engine, although, said Mundo, when the combined fuel in the number one main tank and its reserve, and the number four main tank and its reserve equals 25,000 pounds (the fuel is measured in pounds, not gallons), cross feeding fuel procedures are initiated. "We turn on both of the center wing tank fuel pumps. The center wing tank has two pumps, which work at twice the capacity of the other four main tank pumps; their fuel flow is at fifteen pounds per square inch (psi), the center wing tank pumps put out fuel at thirty psi.
"The cross feed valves are open, which allow fuel from the center wing tank pumps to go to the number one, two, three and four engines. We shut off the pumps from the number one main and its reserve and the number four main and its reserve. We leave the pumps on from two and three as back up, though because they are working at a rate only half that of the center wing tank, it's the center wing tank that is supplying fuel to the engines. At that point the two and three main tank feed is there as a backup. Anyway, at this point the center wing tank is supplying fuel to all the engines. "Eventually, as the center wing tank burns down to about 3,000-4,000 pounds of fuel, the fuel begins to feed from the number two and three main tanks." When the fuel quantity in the center wing tank gets low, a light for each pump begins to blink on the flight engineer's panels. "When the light gets steady," said Mundo, "you turn off the pump for that light. "Then you turn on the fuel/water scavenge pumps in the center wing tank to drain any liquid remaining. "
With the feed from the center wing tank now turned off, all four engines are being fueled from the number two and number three main tanks. At the point where there are about 25,000 pounds of fuel in each of the main tanks (again, with number one main and reserve tanks and number four and reserve tanks totalling 25,000 pounds each), so there is an even balance across the wing. Cross feeding is terminated so that main tank one and its reserve will be going into its respective engine, number two into its respective engine and so forth. Mundo went on: "When the plane landed in New York, the center wing tank guage in the cockpit would have read zero pounds. It is possible that the underwing center wing tank fuel gauge could have read 300 pounds, which would be about fifty gallons. This is not an unusual discrepancy."
In the first few days after the Flight 800 investigation Mundo asked a TWA official what exactly the fuel use log had shown in regards to the quantity of fuel in the center wing tank upon arriving in New York. "He told me," Mundo said, "that the log, which is placed in the Flight Document Envelope and normally kept for ninety days, could not be found. This was an abnormality." He added that whatever level of fuel existed in the center wing tank at that time would not be entirely composed of fuel. "All fuel contains some water. It's the same with the gas in your car. Fuel is 6.7 pounds per gallon; water is heavier, 8.34 pounds, so the water goes to the bottom of the tank. This combination of water and fuel is what the scavenger pumps transfer to the number two main tank."
Mundo said, "When 747's undergo a heavy maintenance check, and the nose wheel strut is deflated which tilts the plane downward, all the liquid in the center wing tank fuel goes to the front of the tank where it is drained out. The amount drained is usually close to fifty gallons or around 300 pounds." In sum, the center wing tank of the plane that was about to become Flight 800 was empty or nearly empty before leaving New York in the late afternoon prior to its evening takeoff to Paris. Because of prevailing winds, planes usually carry more fuel when going west than when going east. "And then," said Mundo, "you also have to consider the distance you're travelling. Athens to New York is a lot farther than New York to Paris."
Now we get to one of the crucial points of the NTSB theory about the volatility of the center wing tank. Mundo said, "There is the assumption by the NTSB that the fuel was heated by the air conditioning packs below the plane to a temperature that caused the fuel and fuel vapors to reach an explosive level." This is an assessment with which the majority of the media concur. A New York Times article from Wednesday, August 23, the day after the NTSB hearing began, stated, "the nearly empty tank, which had been heated to an explosive state while the twenty-five year old jet sat baking in the sun for nearly three hours before taking off."
Mundo said, "I left two of the packs running, as was common practice." He added that with the flight time between Athens and New York at about ten hours, "for at least nine and half hours the metal of the tank was, at the altitude we had been flying, exposed to temperatures that were about minus fifty-five degrees Celsius. Now metal will cold soak ” when your car is outside through the night in January you know it takes the metal some time to warm up. "This is something they should have tested, but they didn't, exactly. The NTSB flew a plane across the continental United States, trying to duplicate the conditions of the Athens to New York flight, but in the summer the air over the land would be warmer than over the North Atlantic” and of course the plane would not be in the air for as long as on an Athens to New York run. Nobody knows exactly what the temperature in the fuel tank was when Flight 800 took off from New York. Commander Donaldson took a reading from a 747 at Kennedy the summer after the accident, and he found the temperature of the fuel drained from the center wing tank which had been on the ground an equivalent amount of time as 800 was, to be a degree above the ambient [outside] tempertaure." (Retired Navy Commander William S. Donaldson has been a longtime critic of the government's investigation of Flight 800.)
"Flight 800 took off for Paris at about 8:15 p.m. on the evening of July 17, 1996. A nearly empty tank has more fuel vapor than a tank that is full. Government investigators speculate that the vapor-ridden center wing full tank was ripe for an explosion” instigated by the as-yet unfound electrical source. But Mundo pointed out that the center wing fuel tank is vented to relieve the pressure inside the tank. "With an aircraft in flight," Mundo said, "you have a Venturi effect over the vent outlet. The more the speed, the less the pressure. When you're in a car and someone's smoking and you open a window, the air pressure outside is less than the pressure inside and the greater pressure inside pushes the air outside; the smoke will be sucked out of the car. The air rushing outside the plane would create a great suction that should have decreased or eliminated any buildup of vapor in the tank."
Former TWA pilot Al Mundo then talked about another aspect of the electrical spark theory: on Good Friday, 1995, when he was flying the plane that would become Flight 800 in July, 1996, the aircraft was struck not once but twice by lightning. The plane did not explode. "We were descending into Rome. We were at about 13,000-11,000 feet. There were two strikes of lightning, about three minutes apart. There was a loud bang, and a yellow flash; initially there was no indication of anything wrong in the cockpit." But a photoelectric cell activated an inerting gas whose purpose was to smother any fire or smouldering that could be caused by an electrical spark. This was done on the first lightning strike. Mundo said, "Upon landing it was discovered there was not only substantial damage to the right wingtip, it was also found that an electrical charge had gone all the way into the wing area, causing circuit breakers in the cockpit to pop and the wheel brake temperature indicators to register full scale when the brakes had scarcely been used. It is quite evident from this that a strong surge of electricty went through the wing. "The damage incurred was extensive. The plane was out of service for a week," said Mundo. But despite the damage that had been inflicted by the two lightning strikes, the plane was able to land safely. The inference is obvious: if the plane that expolded fifteen minutes out of JFK in the summer of 1996 was brought down by an electrical spark igniting the center wing fuel tank, why didn't two lightning strikes, which would certainly supply infinitely more voltage to the electrical system of the plane than the theorized stray spark, cause the aircraft to be blown apart?
Early on in the Flight 800 investigation, Mundo learned that there had been sooting found on the right wing vent system. "It seemed strange to me that if the explosion was initiated by the center wing tank, why would there not be sooting on both sides of the wing? I contacted personnel in the investigating team and suggested they check those records from the 1995 flight to determine if the sooting came from the lightning strikes. I was later informed that the records could not be located." Mundo was questioned by investigators "about five days after Flight 800," he said, but the extent of the questioning was solely on the character of the Athens to New York Flight. The former pilot continues to feel that government investigators have not pursued the obvious lines of inquiry raised above” or, if they have, such tests or studies have not been made public.
September 13, 2000 The Village Voice
As the National Transportation Safety Board's recent public meeting to discuss its final report on the July 17, 1996, crash of TWA Flight 800 drew to a close, one could almost hear the thunk. Transforming itself into a gigantic rubber stamp, the bureaucracy validated the theory that a mechanical failure, not a missile, brought down the plane. The NTSB, along with every agency with clear jurisdiction over the crash, and a few others besides, had spoken with one voice. The $50 million investigation, if not the controversy, was over. It was no surprise that the NTSB's technical staff had decided that the event that tore apart the Boeing 747 and sent 230 people to their deaths over the ocean eight miles south of Long Island was "an explosion of the center wing tank resulting from the ignition of a flammable fuel/air mixture. The source of ignition could not be determined with certainty." Yet the NTSB had not succeeded in papering over the cracks in its investigation. During two days of discussion, at August 22 and 23 board meetings, the NTSB staff . . .
1) failed to explain some mysterious dark brown spongy material, called "splatter" in an NTSB report, found in several places, including on top and inside the center wing tank;
2) disregarded results of their own tests and paid scant attention to more than 30 years of government research into fuel flammability;
3) failed to explain how the pressure from a fuel tank explosion could have broken through the much stronger fuselage skin and split the plane apart;
4) accepted only eyewitness accounts that, they said, conformed to their theory of how the plane broke up, and simply dismissed the rest by claiming that witnesses' memories must have played tricks on them;
5) failed to share the results of analysis done on the brief, loud sound signature at the end of the cockpit voice recorder tape.
The splatter issue is one more anomaly in an investigation that has shrugged off many. On the 22nd, in answer to a board member's question, NTSB director of aviation safety Dr. Bernard Loeb admitted that some investigators had questioned what could be the source of the brown specks of spongy material. Tests determined that temperatures above 490F had melted plastic foam insulation from around an air-conditioning duct that runs fore and aft outside the tank, over the top of the left side of the tank roof just below the passenger cabin floor. After extensive analysis, Loeb said, "We determined it was fully consistent with the scenario we have given you [i.e., with the breakup of the center wing tank]." But the "Splatter Deposits Study," a never released report obtained by the Voice, appears to challenge Loeb's statement. The report says the melted foam was splattered over an eight-foot-long section of the tank roof and inside the shattered air-conditioning duct. The splatter was thrown forward with enough force to break through the roof of the tank, landing on two fragments of the front spar (between the wings and under the seats) that were ejected very early in the breakup sequence. Splatter was also found on the fuselage and floor structure just in front of the front spar, and on passenger seats above. The investigators "explored possible airplane sources of higher than normal heat incoming to the area of the splatter," and found none.
In introducing its own endeavors, the NTSB in Washington ignored existing research into Jet A aviation kerosene. "Basic information was not available when we began," said Dr. Joseph Kolly, an NTSB engineer. Kolly's statement was baffling, because in fact there is a wealth of data on the flammability characteristics of aviation fuels, including Jet A, available in studies published by the navy, the air force, and a body called the Coordinating Research Council. Many of these studies are even referenced by the NTSB in its reports. For some reason, though, the NTSB felt compelled in Washington to present its own prolific work on Jet A as groundbreaking. Some of the claims Kolly made for that work do not stand up under scrutiny. For example, when he displayed a slide illustration showing temperatures recorded at many locations inside the center tank of a 747 used for a so-called TWA 800 Emulation Flight test, it was noticeable that none of the temperatures recorded at the altitude at which the plane exploded were below 110F. But temperatures that appear in the published version of that illustration are as low as 101F. Kolly said "the average high temperature" inside the tank at the altitude of the explosion was 120oF. But the average inside the tank, going again by the NTSB's published figures, was actually 111.5F. These temperatures are significant because they are central to the NTSB case that the center tank exploded and caused the accident. Lacking any evidence of an ignition source, the Safety Board did the flight test and other tests to show that the atmosphere inside the tank, with possibly 50 gallons of fuel, was flammable. But even if a flame is produced, that does not necessarily mean an explosion will follow. "The mere existence of a normal flame does not by itself imply the beginning of an explosion," notes a NASA addendum to the NTSB's Systems Report.
A spark is just one link in a chain. For an explosion to happen, a spark has to ignite all the fuel-air mixture in a very rapid burning reaction. But this cannot be counted on, especially in a large container like TWA 800's center tank, where there was so little fuel to begin with, and where temperatures varied widely. In such a situation, with some temperatures hovering down near 100F, a small spark may simply have puffed and gone out, according to Kurt H. Strauss, a nationally recognized aviation fuel expert. Whether an explosion happened "would depend on total energy released when that ignition goes off," said Strauss.
Given that the tank exploded, the NTSB's rationale connecting the blast to the fuselage damage rests on surprisingly shaky ground. According to Jon Hjelm, a Federal Aviation Administration engineer and member of the Sequencing Group, who contributed pages of stress calculations as a kind of reality check on the deliberations of the group, an enormous force, equivalent to more than the thrust produced by one of the 747's jet engines, acted on the bottom of the tank to produce the cracking that sundered the fuselage in front of the tank. Hjelm said he came up with his figure for this force using assumptions he made about the distribution of the pressure from the explosion. Hjelm said that in order for his calculations to confirm the breakup sequence, he made another assumption. The force had to remain, pushing down inside the tank, after the explosion had ruptured the front of the tank. For how long? "Maybe some number of seconds. Way more than one second," Hjelm said. What if the the pressure all dissipated in under one second? Hjelm said, "That's a question I feel uneasy to deal with." Yet according to the results of the NTSB's own explosive testing and scientists questioned by the Voice, not to mention the account of the breakup sequence given by Sequencing Group chairman Jim Wildey at the NTSB's Baltimore hearings in 1997, the initial explosion was certainly over within one second. Wildey said in Baltimore that the Sequencing Group had relied upon Hjelm's calculations, which constitute apparently the only available engineering analysis of the breakup sequence. Boeing (according to its submission to the NTSB) did not complete a project to create a computer model of the breakup.
Dr. David Mayer, who holds a doctorate in applied experimental psychology, drew on studies by psychologists to suggest that influences acting on eyewitnesses in the aftermath of the crashthe chatter of friends, TV reports, even the leading questions of the FBI agents who interviewed themmight have led them to embellish their memories of the crash. And when they reported seeing the initial explosion, which the NTSB says was contained "inside an intact airplane," and thus could not have been visible to witnesses miles away, that was understood by investigators not as a reason to reexamine their theory, but to assume the witnesses must have been mistaken. Thus the accounts even of seasoned airline pilots who reported to air traffic control (ATC) in the first moments that they saw the plane explode were essentially discounted. In this regard, there is an unexplained apparent discrepancy between the account of the pilot who first reported an explosion and the official ATC transcript. According to the transcript, Captain David McClaine of Eastwind Airlines reported the explosion at 8:31 and 50 seconds, which is 38 seconds after the NTSB says the plane exploded, at 8:31 and 12 seconds. But McClaine states in a written account he gave the Witness Group that after the explosion he "immediately called Boston ATC and reported an inflight explosion out over the water." When he was questioned by the group, he said in answer to a question from Mayer that roughly 10 seconds passed after the explosion before he made his first radio call to ATC. Ten seconds seems a reasonable pause between seeing something so dramatic and doing something about it. Thirty-eight seconds appears rather long to wait before making the call to air traffic control. But the apparent time lag could be used to support the notion, suggested by both the NTSB and the CIA, that McClaine, for example, saw only a later stage of the airplane's breakup, not the initial explosion. As for those witnesses who saw a rising streak of light, Mayer said they probably saw the burning plane climb after the explosion. When the chairman asked him, if the plane did not climb, would that affect his analysis? Mayer said no, it wouldn't. "But we believe it climbed," he said. However, McClaine had been closely questioned about this very issue by the Witness Group, and repeatedly said the plane did not climb; he saw only falling debris after the explosion.
Investigators said, when they first examined the two "black boxes" a week after the crash, that neither device provided clues to explain what happened. But there is indeed a marked sound signature, lasting less than two-tenths of a second, on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) tape. That signature has never been explained, leading the Air Line Pilots Association in its submission to the NTSB to bemoan the lack of follow-up after a series of tests done in Bruntingthorpe, England, in 1997. The submission notes that research done at the University of Southampton shows that analysis of a sound signature can yield information about the type of explosion (whether a high explosive detonation or a lower-energy fuel-air explosion) and its location within the fuselage. Jerry Rekart, a clearly unhappy ALPA chief investigator and a TWA pilot, told the Voice he is still frustrated at the NTSB's failure to publish any details of its sound spectrum analysis, as it is called. A Sound Spectrum Group met once, before Bruntingthorpe, but never since, he said, despite repeated requests from ALPA. The data recorded at Bruntingthorpe was sent to Southampton, the ALPA submission says, but "the Sound Spectrum group has never been briefed regarding the analysis of the data completed by the University of Southampton, nor has the group met to finalize any type of report of its activities in relation to the investigation of TWA 800." But at last month's board meeting James Cash, the NTSB engineer responsible for that analysis, strove to give the impression that no questions remain about the CVR sound. "We did all we could to glean whatever we could get out of the cockpit voice recorder," he said. Responding to Cash, board member John J. Goglia added, "Every single thought that every single person has on our teams gets explored. We don't overlook anything. I visited you in your lab, and never once did I leave with the impression you haven't turned over every stone."
Not everyone shares Goglia's rosy view of the NTSB's investigation to determine the cause of the crash. Michel Breistroff, whose son was killed on Flight 800, might have been speaking for them all when he said, "What I need is that someone from the team will tell me, 'That's the wire [which caused the explosion].' "We the families are not technical," he told the Voice. "We need true evidence, not only words."
September 13, 2000 NY Times
Ms. White's office filed a new indictment in the terrorism case. The indictment charged a former taxi driver from Orlando, Fla., with perjury and criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury. The defendant, Ihab M. Ali, 38, had been held on civil contempt charges for 16 months at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan for his refusal to testify in May 1999. He has defended his position on religious grounds. Prosecutors have offered few details about Mr. Ali. In the letter to Judge Patterson, Ms. White's office described Mr. Ali, a naturalized American citizen, as a sworn member of al Qaeda, which it says is a terrorist group led by Mr. bin Laden and "responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people." The indictment said that prosecutors were also seeking to determine if Mr. Ali was taking part in terrorist activities by al Qaeda when he trained as a pilot in Oklahoma in 1994, or when he traveled abroad. Yesterday, Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis of United States District Court in Manhattan ordered Mr. Ali held without bail pending further proceedings. In the brief hearing, Mr. Ali entered no plea. One of his lawyers, Ashraf W. Nubani, said by phone that his client denies any wrongdoing.
September 25, 2000 Phil Weiss The NY Observer
I turn to my favorite government story, the one that tells us about TWA 800. The fascinating thing about this case is the way that the skeptics have been isolated in this country, notwithstanding their considerable stature. Begin with a member of the official government investigation that has bravely challenged the findings: The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has virtually ridiculed the claim that old wiring initiated the blast, and pointed to holes in the fuselage that seem to suggest a high-energy explosion outside the plane. You will never read about that in the mainstream press. The machinists join an impressive company of marginalized critics. On the center right, there is the Association of Retired Aviation Professionals (ARAP) and former staffers to Congressman Michael Forbes, whose district the plane went down in (notably his former administrative assistant Kelly O'Meara, now a reporter for Insight). There's former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Thomas Moorer, there's Accuracy in Media. There's the Village Voice and the widow of a Lockerbie victim who was appointed to a select Presidential commission on airline safety and who has now sued the government, saying her dissent on TWA 800 was cast aside. On the lib-left, there are Dr. Tom Stalcup and Graeme Sephton, who have brilliantly analyzed the government's radar data for the Flight 800 Independent Research Organization (or FIRO). There's former CBS producer Kristina Borjesson, who went out the door in part over this case. Not to mention all the eyewitnesses on Long Island, whose accounts are insulted in the latest National Transportation Safety Board report.Some of the questions these people raise are so compelling four seconds of crucial data from the flight data recorder seem to have been removed, says former TWA pilot Howard Mann that any reasonable person who hears them has to at least question the official version. These questions have been taken up in countless places outside the mainstream. The French and Australian press have covered Stalcup and Sephton, for instance. Or, there's the respected travel writer Joe Brancatelli of biztravel.com, who has attacked the FBI for bullying the NTSB and corrupting the investigation. A poll by Aviation Week lately found that two-thirds of its respondents did not believe the government findings on TWA 800. But the Clinton court cannot abide the skepticism. The critics are routinely written off as conspiracy theorists, their points blacked out. The idea that our government might lie about, say a blown military exercise off Long Island is simply too preposterous, and damaging to world progress, to ever be discussed. It's Wen Ho Lee all over again. Ralph Nader has called this a "democracy gap." In which affluent corporations want you to spend your citizen-time this fall arguing whether the journey of an overstuffed daddy's boy from Tennessee is more compelling than the journey of a moronic mama's boy from Texas, much as you spent August arguing whether the corporatist Richard Hatch or the bleeding heart Kelly Wiglesworth should get the $1 million on Survivor.