The Hull Thread
Chronology of Events From January 2002 - June 2002
(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.)
January 5, 2002 The New York Times
Investigators looking into the crash of an American Airlines flight in Queens in November have so far found no pre-existing flaw in the jet's tail section and are now focusing on the performance of the pilots, who they believe triggered the airplane's wild rolling and yawing in the seconds before it went down. The data recovered from American Airlines Flight 587 showed that the plane hit turbulence from a plane in front of it and seconds later, began to swing violently and break up before it fell 2,900 feet to the ground, killing 265 people. The vertical tail of the plane, and the rudder attached to it, were the first parts to break off, and investigators began to look early on at whether that caused the crash, possibly because of some undetected flaw. But now, after extensive testing of the tail, they have found no pre-existing problem. And so they are intensely exploring whether the pilots, in trying to correct and control the plane after the turbulence, might have put more stress on the tail than it was designed to handle. "A brand-new tail would have broken," said one investigator, underlining his belief that the effort by the pilots to control the plane set in motion the fatal series of events. Another investigator involved in the National Transportation Safety Board's inquiry pointed out that it is possible to take an airplane in perfect condition and maneuver it into a breakup, just as a driver could take a sport-utility vehicle in perfect condition and make a radical maneuver at high speed that results in a rollover or other accident.
The plane that crashed, an Airbus A300, is a long airplane 177.5 feet and with the fuselage acting like a long lever, sudden movements from side to side produce powerful pressures at the end, where the vertical tail sits. By international regulation, the tail is supposed to be able to withstand a force 50 percent stronger than the largest it is likely to ever encounter, and Airbus officials said that the A300 tail exceeded even that standard. But investigators now believe that the tail was overstressed. The latest developments in the investigation come eight weeks after the American Airlines plane bound for the Dominican Republic went down in Belle Harbor, on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, shortly after takeoff from Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 12. And although investigators are interested in the latest theory, they emphasize that they are far from declaring a definitive cause. Indeed, some are still trying to determine if the rudder moved differently from the way the pilots intended. The investigation is being led by the N.T.S.B., with the participation of the F.A.A., Airbus, American Airlines, the union that represents American Airlines' pilots and other aviation experts. Investigators had focused originally on the rudder and the vertical portion of the tail to which it attaches, both of which fell off the plane. The tail is made of carbon-reinforced plastic, a composite material that has come into common use in airplane structures only in the last 15 years and investigators have relatively little experience with it.
The Safety Board had the tail trucked to a NASA laboratory in Hampton, Va., for analysis. But the lab has turned up no sign of fabrication error or damage to the tail before the accident, according to people involved in the investigation. Now, investigators think it tore off because of the increased strain placed on it by the pilots' maneuverings rolling and skidding the plane in the air. The Airbus had hit the wake of a Boeing 747 that was about five miles ahead of it, which is considered a safe distance. That preceding plane created what investigators say was a minor bump, but the encounter may have prompted the Airbus crew to try to compensate. "They thought they had something from which they thought they needed to recover quickly," said one investigator, reflecting the current hypothesis. At the controls of the jet was the first officer, Sten Molin, 34. Mr. Molin was an experienced pilot, with 4,400 hours of flying time, 1,835 of them as co-pilot of an A300. After using the flight controls to steady the airplane, the objective normally would have been to bring it back to its previous orientation in this case climbing and banking slightly to the left in its first turn out of Kennedy. "Before they could do that, something else happened," the investigator said.
Several investigators said the training of pilots would be carefully examined. Crews at American were trained in the mid-1990's to use the rudder to recover from "flight upsets," but Airbus, Boeing and the F.A.A. later warned against this practice, saying it could produce dangerous stresses. American said it changed its training in 1999 to de- emphasize use of the rudder. Evidence recovered from the plane's data recorder indicates that the pilots were using the rudder to try and stabilize the plane. The investigators are finding their work slowed by limitations on their tools. One tool is a computer-driven simulator owned by Airbus, which can predict what happens to the plane with each change in rudder or other control surfaces. But the computer does not make good predictions at dangerous angles, because it is difficult to conduct test flights to gather such data. "You don't do extremely weird things to airplanes" to gather such data, one investigator said. As a result, he said, "When you get in a situation way outside the envelope of the airplane, you don't know."
January 7, 2002 The NY Post
New Yorkers who believe they saw American Airlines Flight 587 explode in flames before its tail sheared off have accused crash investigators of ignoring their eyewitness accounts and prematurely ruling out a terrorist attack. Six witnesses, including a recently retired police lieutenant, an FDNY deputy chief and a former firefighter, have written to the National Transportation Safety Board, demanding they be called to testify at a public hearing. Tom Lynch, 59, a retired firefighter, said he had also spoken to 18 other people who saw the Airbus A300 flying on fire before it crashed into houses in Belle Harbor, Queens, on Nov. 12, killing 265 people. "The NTSB is not publicly acknowledging the many eyewitness accounts of the in-flight fire or explosion, many from people who are adamant that the fire occurred before any tail or engine breakups," he told The Post. Lynch, who organized the letter, said he was standing on Rockaway Beach Boulevard when he saw a bright orange ball of flame streaming from the right side of the plane. Two or three seconds later, he said, he saw a larger eruption of flames consuming the entire right side of the plane's fuselage. "There were no falling parts until the second explosion of flames - I'll go to my grave with that," he said. The witnesses said they were surprised NTSB Chairwoman Marion Blakey was able to say, only hours after the crash, that all indications pointed to an accident, rather than a terrorist attack. "How could that statement be made while the flight-data recorder had not been recovered, the crash-investigation team had not yet showed up and initial eyewitness reports included many accounts of one or two explosions in flight?" Lynch said. Another witness not involved with Lynch's group, Michael Benjamin, said he saw a huge orange fire engulfing the front third of the plane's right side while he was driving along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn with his wife and two children. Benjamin, who works for the Oversight, Analysis and Investigations Committee of the state Assembly, said he had attempted to contact the NTSB but had not received a return call. Preliminary reports written by the NTSB have not mentioned in-flight explosions, but have focused on air turbulence, the composite materials used to build the jet's vertical tail, and sudden rudder movements. An NTSB spokesman said more than 200 eyewitness accounts had been recorded and were being considered as part of the investigation. But he said if the NTSB decided to conduct a public hearing, it would most likely seek opinions from air-safety and aeronautical-design experts rather than witnesses. The people who signed the letter, in addition to Lynch, are retired NYPD Officer James Conrad, FDNY Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, retired transit cop Richard Kvies, sales manager John Power and food-services manager Ellie Scholfield.
January 7, 2002 Letter to NTSB from Group of Eyewitnesses to the Crash of Flight 587
National Transportation Safety Board
490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594
Subject American Airlines Flight 587
Dear Board Members,
News releases concerning the progress of your investigation of AA Flight 587 on 12 November 2001 have not mentioned the possibility of fire or explosion aboard the aircraft prior to its disintegration. Obviously, your investigators are working on many aspects of the crash which may not be reported publicly as yet.
Those of us whose names are listed below were eyewitnesses to the accident. Further, we all witnessed one or more explosions while the aircraft was still airborne and prior to any portions of the aircraft leaving it on its way down.We understand that the NTSB will conduct a public hearing as part of its investigation. Please accept this as a formal request on our behalf that we will be called to testify in that hearing regarding what we witnessed. This request is made in the spirit of response by all citizens called for by the President immediately following the crash.
A map that indicates each of our locations from which we observed the aircraft is enclosed. In addition to those listed below, we have spoken with eighteen others who witnessed the aircraft on fire while still airborne.
Further, we respectfully request that you advise us as to the process you employ to solicit eyewitness accounts during your public hearings on major accidents so that we can prepare to provide whatever information you will require.
Thank you very much for consideration of our request.
James Conrad NYPD retired police
Peter Hayden NYFD active Deputy Chief
Richard Kvies NYTP retired Lt.
Thomas Lynch NYFD retired Fireman
John Power Sales Manger
Ellie Scholfield Food Service Manger
January 12, 2002 NY Times Report Says Iran Gave Terrorists U.S.
Iran purchased American-built Stinger antiaircraft missiles in Afghanistan in 1994 and turned them over to a Lebanese-based terrorist organization, but the missiles proved to be defective, according to United States intelligence reports. Iranian agents then conducted further negotiations in Afghanistan for additional Stinger missiles, according to another intelligence report. It is not known whether the Iranians were able to buy any more of the advanced shoulder-fired weapons. The classified reports, which were provided to The New York Times, offer the first evidence that Iran had ever purchased the missiles, or that it had ever given them to terrorists who were considered willing to use them against American aircraft. For years, many American analysts have warned that terrorists might be able to get some of the missing Stinger missiles the Central Intelligence Agency supplied to Afghan rebels in the 1980's when they were fighting the Soviet Army. The fear has been that terrorists could then use the weapons against American or Israeli aircraft, perhaps including passenger planes. A United States official confirmed the reports today, but stressed that there was no evidence that the Stingers obtained by the Lebanese-based terrorist organization, the Islamic Jihad, actually worked. The documents report that in September 1994 an operative from the Islamic Jihad, an offshoot of Hezbollah, went to Tehran to receive the shipment of Stinger missiles, considered among the most dangerous weapons in the American arsenal. United States officials say the Islamic Jihad has conducted a series of terrorist operations against the United States and Israel since the 1980's, with the backing of Iran. The C.I.A. began supplying the Stingers to Afghan rebel groups fighting the Soviets in 1986, and the missiles played a crucial role in the outcome of the Afghan-Soviet war. After losing several aircraft, the Soviets were forced to curtail their use of air power, a shift that helped turn the tide of the battle. When the Soviet Army withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the United States ended its support for the Afghan rebels as well. But when the Americans left, many of the Stingers remained unaccounted for, left behind in the hands of warlords across Afghanistan. Ever since, the C.I.A. has had a secret program to recover the Stingers from Afghanistan, but in recent years American officials have estimated that as many as 200 have not been located. American Special Forces and C.I.A. officers operating in Afghanistan since Sept. 11 have tried to track down the missing weapons, but it is not known whether they have had any success. The missiles that the Iranians delivered to the Islamic Jihad operative had been purchased in July 1994 in Afghanistan by agents from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, a militant Iranian intelligence agency, according to one of the intelligence reports. Later, after the Iranians and Islamic Jihad discovered that the Stingers did not work, Iranian operatives contacted the representative of an Afghan warlord to try to open talks about buying others. But the Iranians were told that the United States had learned about the 1994 missile purchase, complicating any further negotiations, according to an intelligence report. According to one of the intelligence reports, Fuad Shukr, a Lebanese- based operative for the Islamic Jihad, traveled to Tehran in September 1994 to pick up the shipment of Stingers. At another point, according to the report, agents from Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security also tried to buy Stingers from the government that ruled Afghanistan before the Taliban came to power in 1996. That effort was apparently unsuccessful. It is unclear exactly what made the Stinger missiles defective or what happened to them once the problem was discovered, although there are indications, the intelligence reports say, that they were returned to the sellers. But in July 1996, according to the reports, operatives from the intelligence ministry approached an Afghan who represented Ahmed Shah Massoud, a leader of the Northern Alliance opposed to the Taliban. Although Mr. Massoud had not been involved in the 1994 sale, the Iranians asked if his organization could sell 6 to 10 Stingers, according to an intelligence report. But the Iranians were told that the United States had found out about the 1994 sale, thus making it difficult to hold any further sales negotiations. Mr. Massoud was killed on Sept. 9, two days before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and American officials have said they believe he was murdered by Al Qaeda operatives sent by Osama bin Laden. The same policy appears to have been followed in another terrorist attack funded by Iran.
January 12, 2002 Associated Retired Aviation Professionals http://twa800.com/news/aa587-wit-1.htm
Eyewitness Report sent to NTSB
On 11/12/01 at approximately 9:16 a.m. I was in the bathroom of my home on the second story and about to shave. I live at 194 Beach 114th Street with second story windows looking west towards Belleharbor. I heard a very abrupt and loud bang which appeared to be "elevated" or originating from the sky and very different from the sound of two cars colliding. The sky at that time was clear and completely cloud free. I immediately looked westward and saw a large aircraft heading south towards Belleharbor, flying out of Kennedy at approximately 2,000 feet. Flames and smoke were clearly visible in the rear door area and debris ( some large parts) could be seen falling to the earth. The smoke, debris etc was occurring within one second or almost simultaneously with the abrupt bang I heard. At that point the aircraft seemed to hesitate and drop a few hundred feet in the sky continuing for a few seconds on the same flight path, heading south towards the beach and Atlantic Ocean. Over Belleharbor it suddenly made a sharp turn to the left and nose dived into the ground behind some houses. I was deeply shocked and prayed for the unfortunate passengers. I did notice, before the plane hit the ground that the wings seemed to be relatively intact. The aircraft looked beautiful in the last seconds of its life with the morning sun glinting on the fuselage. I had my cell phone and immediately called the 100th precinct. I took note of the time which was approximately 9:17 a.m. I then called the NTSB with an account of what I had seen and ran to the crash site. As a Catholic Priest (retired) I got as close as I could to the impact zone and gave a general blessing and absolution to the dead. I feel I am a reliable eyewitness with a deep interest in aircraft. My nephew is presently a captain with Irish Air Lines (Aer Lingus.)
January 27, 2002 Time.com
Frustrated investigators looking into the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 have an important new piece of evidence. Government sources tell Time that analysts at the National Transportation Safety Board last week got their first look at a remarkable videotape of the deadly accident. Recorded by a surveillance camera at a New York City area tollbooth, the tape captures nearly the entire catastrophe that sent the Airbus A300 crashing into a residential neighborhood in Queens less than 3 min. after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 12. According to an NTSB source, the plane can be seen "flying along normally and intact, and suddenly things start to go very wrong." The video records the plane as it begins its descent. The crash is obscured, but the tape continues to run and smoke can be seen rising from the scene. Experts at the NTSB are optimistic that the tape will help answer critical questions about the precise sequence of events as the plane began to break apart, and exactly how and when the tail section separated from the body of the plane. This is the second video record the board has obtained of the crash, but the first one was virtually useless because the plane could be seen only as a tiny speck.
January 31, 2002 WorldNetDaily.com By Reed
Those who accept the government's claim that the crash of TWA Flight 800 was caused by a fuel-tank explosion dismiss the evidence that the plane was shot down accidentally by missiles launched in a Navy exercise off the Long Island coast. They say that such an accident could not have been covered up because a lot of Navy personnel would have known about it, and some of them would have talked. One of them has finally done so. He recently said in an interview that I recorded that he was on the deck of a Navy submarine very close to the crash site and saw TWA 800 shot down. He was brought to my attention by an acquaintance of his who told me that this retired Navy petty officer had said he was "underneath TWA 800 when he saw a missile hit it and the 747 explode overhead." He had told this acquaintance that he had given a statement to the FBI when they returned to their port, and that the FBI had checked all their torpedo tubes and all their missile silos to make sure they had all the missiles on board that they had when they left port. Asked if there were other military vessels in the area, he had said, "Yes, several." When Pierre Salinger, at a press conference in March 1997, declared that TWA Flight 800 had been shot down accidentally by a U.S. Navy missile, this former presidential press secretary, U.S. Senator and ABC News correspondent, was mercilessly attacked by his former colleagues. They accused him of peddling unsubstantiated Internet gossip. Salinger said that his information had been confirmed by a source who learned of the Navy's involvement from a friend who had a son in the Navy. The son was said to have personal knowledge that a Navy missile had downed the plane, but his father did not want to be identified, fearing his son would suffer retaliation for disclosing information the Navy was hiding.
There are hundreds of Navy and Coast Guard personnel, as well as some FBI, CIA, FAA, NTSB and former White House employees who know that the real cause of the crash of TWA 800 was papered over with a tissue of lies. Two of them, James Kallstrom and George Stephanopoulos, have made statements that indicate an official cover-up. Stephanopoulos, a Clinton adviser who is now an ABC News correspondent, mentioned on the air a secret meeting in the White House situation room "in the aftermath of the TWA 800 bombing." Kallstrom, who headed the FBI's TWA 800 investigation, told me and I have this on tape that three radar targets close to the crash site were Navy vessels on a classified maneuver. We know they were submarines because the radar tracks disappeared when TWA 800 crashed. Our newly found talker was on one of those submarines. The Navy claims that it was at least 80 miles from the crash site, but he says it was very close, and that is confirmed by the radar tracks. In our taped interview, he was more guarded than he had been with his acquaintance. He said he didn't want to do anything that might "mess up" his retirement.
He said he saw "something come up." "I don't know what in the hell it was," he said, "but that's what it looked ..." Not completing what he started to say, he said, "You know, something went up." He estimated that it went up about a mile from his location, which was only a few miles from the shore. He said there were a couple of other subs nearby. When told that the radar tracks of all three disappeared because they submerged when the plane went down, he said, "Yeah, that's what we did." He acknowledged that a number of Navy vessels were heading for W-105, a large area of the ocean south of Long Island that is used for naval maneuvers. He said that nothing they did off Long Island was classified, but he was not comfortable in discussing it. When I called him a few days later, he was scared to death. He feared the Navy would withdraw his pension if I reported what he had said. It was not possible to convince him that the Navy couldn't do that. Not wanting to worsen his anxiety, his name and other details are being withheld as we try to get his and other interview reports that the FBI has withheld.
(Note by website author - While this witness saw at least one of the missiles that were fired at TWA 800 he does not claim to know if it was fired by the navy or by terrorists. The presence of naval ships below TWA 800 has been well documented on a classified manouver which was probably an anti-terrorist deployment. Click the link to listen to the telephone conversation to which Irvine refers in his comment "and I have this on tape".)
February 7, 2002 Fox On The Record with Greta Van Susteren - Interview With Dick Morris
MORRIS: Clinton then continued -- Clinton then continued to waive the imposition
of sanctions, the three times that something like that happened. In 1996,
when we had the Air 800, when we had the Olympics and when we had Saudi
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, stop right there, since...
MORRIS: ... and there was decisive evidence that these were caused by terrorists...
VAN SUSTEREN: Dick -- Dick, wait a second. Wait a second.
MORRIS: ... Clinton absolutely refused...
VAN SUSTEREN: You can't...
MORRIS: ... to look at this issue!
VAN SUSTEREN: Dick, you can't say...
MORRIS: Greta, how many times have you sat...
VAN SUSTEREN: Dick, no. Dick, listen to me.
MORRIS: ... in the White House with Bill Clinton?
VAN SUSTEREN: Dick, you can't...
MORRIS: How many times did you participate...
VAN SUSTEREN: Dick, wait a second.
MORRIS: ... in domestic meetings with him?
VAN SUSTEREN: Dick, if you're going to start talking about terrorism and TWA flight 800, I think most people agree. Listen to me. Most people agree that...
MORRIS: In '96, we all thought that was terrorism.
February 14, 2002 Open Letter to Chairman of NTSB from Victor Trombettas
(The name of the witness mentioned below (Witness Alpha) has been deleted because he/she is adamant they want no attention whatsoever from anyone. The NTSB has the real name and contact information. The map mention in the letter may be viewed at Trombetta's website)
I just want to confirm that you have Witness Alpha's testimony.
Alpha, a former Special Forces member familiar with ordinance and now a retired New York City Uniformed Officer, spotted the doomed flight very early in it's ascent. This makes Alpha--and others like Alpha (like John and Jackie Power) who spotted the plane as it neared and attained its peak altitude before it spun out of control and lost the rudder and tail--key witnesses.
Alpha was in a backyard, relaxing, and looking up at the southern sky, watching the planes takeoff from JFK on the morning of Nov. 12th. Alpha was at (deleted) Avenue and 1 block east of Cross Bay Blvd. If you look at the attached picture of a map of the area (with Alpha's location marked with a red X on the far left), Alpha was just a little more than 1 mile north of JFK. Flight 587 crossed Alpha's line of sight just as it was nearing and passing Cross Bay Bridge/Blvd; initially the plane looked just fine. After a short while, Alpha noticed a white and yellow explosive flash appear behind the right wing in the fuselage. Alpha knows what ordinance explosions look like, and to Alpha that's what this appeared to be. The flash was followed by a stream of smoke. This appears to be the stream of smoke John and Jackie Power spotted at least 5 seconds before the plane spun violently, and then began its descent into Belle Harbor. Prior to that initial flash, the flight of 587 seemed perfectly normal.
If John Power's estimate that he witnessed at least the last 22 seconds of the flight is accurate, then Alpha saw more than that (since John Power was standing west of Alpha, and the first thing John saw was the smoke from the right side). In fact, Alpha saw this plane in distress so early in it's flight, Alpha was on the phone with emergency services before the plane hit the ground.
Here's what I, and many others, have trouble with Mr. Chairman. The NTSB had this testimony (and similar accounts) very soon after the crash. Yet, the NTSB has "all but ruled out" criminal or terrorist activity (based on comments Marion Blakey made to National Public Radio on January 8th). Since November 12th, the official word has been that Flight 587 was being treated as an accident. The only way the NTSB can reach such conclusions would be if:
(a) the NTSB doubts the veracity of any of these witness testimonies.
(b) the NTSB has a sound mechanical explanation (such as compressor stalls), consistent with an accident, for all these fire and explosion reports, but for some reason has decided not to share those educated speculations with the public. We've heard educated speculations about possible pilot reactions and use of the rudder, so some educated speculations about what many witnesses saw would not be inappropriate. They would help to dispel terrorism concerns and concerns of disregard for witnesses.
(c) as some people have speculated, including at least one former NTSB Board Member, the NTSB was under political pressure to conclude an accident was the cause.
Thanks for your consideration, and I look forward to your reply.
February 21, 2002 'Rockets' reported fired at two jetliners Tom
Ramstack THE WASHINGTON TIMES
An Alexandria woman said she saw a "flare or rocket" ascending toward a US Airways flight landing at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport last month, similar to a report from a Southwest Airlines pilot landing at Baltimore-Washington International Airport Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a report by the pilot of Southwest Flight 454 that he saw what looked like a model rocket pass on the left side of his aircraft Sunday evening. The FAA says it has no reports of the rocket sighting by the Alexandria resident, Joyce Mucci. The trade association public relations coordinator said she observed the incident while driving home from work Jan. 20 at sunset near Reagan Airport. "It was like a rocket, kind of a reddish thing that came up from the river bank," Mrs. Mucci said. "It was aimed toward the back of the jet. Maybe the pilot didn't see it." Mrs. Mucci said she doubted it was a model rocket. "It did not look like any model rocket I've ever seen," she said. Her son used to play with model rockets when he was a child. "When he was a kid, we used to make model rockets, and they don't look like that. It was right toward the back of the jet, right behind the engine. It went at an angle like it was aimed at the jet." She added, however, that the object did not get close enough that it could have brought down the airplane. "It may be nothing, but it's important for somebody to follow up on this," Mrs. Mucci said. She said the "flare or rocket" rose from a spot down the slope of the Potomac River beyond the jogging trail next to Reagan Airport, halfway between Memorial Bridge and the airport. She said she called a Federal Aviation Administration telephone number the next day. She left a message on voice mail but received no reply. After news accounts of the incident at BWI Sunday, Mrs. Mucci called the FBI yesterday. "The FBI guy said, 'Hold on a minute,'" Mrs. Mucci said. "Then a woman in the background said, 'I don't want to talk to another psychic.' Then I was put through to somebody's voice mail and I didn't leave a message." FAA Eastern Region spokesman Jim Peters said he had no information on Mrs. Mucci's January report. "We have no record of receiving a call from Mrs. Mucci on or about that day," Mr. Peters said. He also said he had "no idea" of how often other people say they have seen rockets near airplanes. FBI spokesman Chris Murray said, "Our office is unaware of that incident."
Southwest Flight 454 was on approach 12 to 14 miles southeast of BWI at 3,000 feet at 7:10 p.m. Sunday when the pilot said he saw the rocket. The FAA acknowledged the incident at BWI publicly for the first time Tuesday. Mr. Peters said yesterday the agency was looking into it. Fraser Jones, spokesman for the national office of the FAA, said reports of rockets flying toward airplanes are rare. "We don't tally those that I'm aware of," Mr. Jones said. "I have not heard of reports of that kind before." Local airport authorities also said they are unaware of a "flare or rocket" near Reagan Airport in January. "I haven't heard anything about that," said Tom Sullivan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Reagan and Washington Dulles International airports. "If it was reported by our tower, our police would have been alerted." Mrs. Mucci's report was the first time he heard of someone seeing a projectile apparently fired at a commercial airplane in the Washington area. Occasionally, passers-by mistakenly report "near misses but not rockets," Mr. Sullivan said. The only similar report of a rocket fired at a commercial airplane in the United States followed the explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of New York on July 17, 1996.The National Transportation Safety Board explained the witness' reports by saying that after the front part of the plane broke off during an electrical fire and fuel-tank explosion, the wings and rear part of the fuselage continued climbing at a sharp angle, creating an upward streak of light.
February 26, 2002 E-mail to author of this website from Joyce Mucci
who provided the information to the Washington Times mentioned above
Jack Cashill forwarded your email to me after my story was published in the Washington Times. I called the newspaper out of frustration with the FBI (in particular) and the FAA. Needless to say, I do not have to tell you that I "saw what I saw". However, I am convinced that unless you are a paid informant, pilot, law enforcement officer or lawyer, the FBI and the FAA have no use for your information. So much for the public relations outreach by the administration. The area that I witnessed the "rocket, flare or whatever" is inaccessible by car. Additionally, if someone was down there with a missile no one from the bike path or the road would see them. The rocket was on a trajectory out and up toward the aircraft (just aft of the right engine). It seems complete nonsense to believe that it was a kid's rocket. Someone fired something at the jet while on final approach to Reagan. It also interesting to note that the area from where the rocket came is between the Memorial Bridge and the 14th Street bridge. It would be difficult to fire a missile on planes approaching from the south because on the east side of the Potomac is Bolling Airforce Base and on the west is Old Town Alexandria. Keep up the good work. By the way, if my plane is shot down coming out of the Reagan, tell everyone it was not a center fuel tank explosion.
March 24, 2002 Reuters Egypt vows to find cause of
Egyptian investigators vowed on Sunday to continue looking for what caused an EgyptAir plane to crash off the U.S. coast in 1999, saying their American counterparts had jumped to conclusions in blaming a co-pilot. "We will pursue the investigation and try to reach some knowledge of what caused this accident,'' said Shaker Kelada, EgyptAir safety vice president and a senior member of the investigation team. "We are going to pursue all angles.'' The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board concluded last week the actions of co-pilot Gamiel El Batouty probably caused the Boeing 767-366 ER to nose dive into the Atlantic, killing all 217 people on board. The American investigators said they explored numerous reasons for Batouty's actions but could not pinpoint intent or motive. Egypt has rejected the U.S. conclusions of the probe, which has strained relations between the United States and its close Middle East ally. "Disagreements do happen,'' Kelada told reporters. "I think they were rushing to judgement in the first place and then they wanted to stick to what they said.'' "The evidence gathered in this investigation does not support the conclusion that the first officer deliberately took the aircraft into the ocean,'' said the statement, issued by Egypt's civil aviation authority. "To the contrary, the factual evidence indicates that... elevator control malfunctions may have occurred causing the crash,'' the statement said. The report also said Batouty might have been seeking to manoeuvre the plane out of a "perceived dangerous situation'' when it dived from 33,000 feet (10,058 metres), adding that investigators needed further information from military and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration radar. Walid El Batouty, the co-pilot's nephew, said U.S. investigators had failed to present evidence to support their view that his uncle was to blame. "It is not that I accept or don't accept (the report). It is not in my hands. What I am saying is bring facts,'' he told Reuters.
March 29, 2002
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
CAPTAIN H. RAY LAHR, Plaintiff, vs. NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD Defendant
COMPLAINT FOR TWA800 ZOOM-CLIMB INFORMATION REQUESTED UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) AND DENIED BY THE NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD (NTSB).
Plaintiff is a resident of the State of California, County of Los Angeles with a mailing address of 18254 Coastline Drive, Malibu, CA 90265-5704, and lives within the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for Central California. District courts have exclusive jurisdiction to “enjoin the agency [the NTSB] from withholding agency records and to order the production of any agency records improperly withheld from the complainant” FOIA 5 U.S.C. Art.552(a)(4)(B)&(C).
On the evening of July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 exploded off the shoreline of Long Island, New York, and all 230 passengers and crew were lost. The FBI interviewed about 750 eyewitnesses, most of whom only saw the latter stage of the crash. However, about 100 eyewitnesses saw a bright streak rising towards TWA800 prior to the explosion. In order to explain away the bright streak, the CIA proposed that the 100 eyewitnesses saw the stricken aircraft zoom-climbing from 13,800 feet to 17,000 feet. This CIA scenario required that all of the 100 eyewitnesses missed seeing the initial center fuel tank explosion which blew off the nose of TWA800, and they only looked up in time to see the noseless aircraft zoom-climbing and trailing flames prior to a secondary explosion which occurred precisely at the top of the zoom-climb. Now that requires imagination. Never mind that the witnesses saw the streak rising from the surface and not a point two and a half miles in the sky. Furthermore, two very well qualified pilots were looking directly at the aircraft when the fuel tank exploded, and they are adamant that the wreckage fell downward out of the fireball, not upward. Nevertheless, both the CIA and the NTSB prepared animated cartoons depicting this hypothetical zoom-climb.
Plaintiff is a former Navy pilot, a graduate engineer, and a retired airline captain. Based on his knowledge and experience, such a zoom-climb was aerodynamically impossible. The reason is as simple as the teeter-totter that we played on as kids (Exhibit A). To keep a teeter-totter in balance, a heavy rider sits close to the center of the board and a light rider sits near the opposite end of the board. The same principle of balance applies to an aircraft. The aircraft’s center-of-gravity (CG) is slightly ahead of the wing’s center-of-lift (CL), and a downward balancing force is generated by the tail of the aircraft. This balance principle applies to all aircraft from a toy balsa wood glider to the supersonic Concorde. Now we all know what happens to a teeter-totter if the heavy rider jumps to the opposite side of the board. The board pitches up and both riders slam to the ground. That is what happened to TWA800. When the nose was blown off, the CG jumped to the other side of the CL. TWA800 immediately pitched up, stalled, and fell out of the sky. There is no way that TWA800 could have remained in a balanced attitude so that the wing could develop enough lift to climb 3,000 feet. The zoom-climb never happened.
Boeing provided the pertinent weight and balance information to the NTSB and the NTSB published it in the TWA800 accident report. PLaintiff used this Boeing information to make the calculations shown on Exhibit A. Then the Plaintiff presented the results to the NTSB and repeatedly asked the NTSB how it had calculated its zoom-climb. The NTSB refused to discuss the zoom-climb claiming that it involved information proprietary to Boeing. Concsequently, Plaintiff submitted FOIA requests for the zoom-climb information to both the CIA and the NTSB. The CIA responded that, “We have researched this matter, and have learned that the pertinent data, and resulting conclusions, were provided by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)” Exhibit B. The NTSB responded that it couldn’t release the information because it was based on data that was proprietary to Boeing. Exhibit C. But when the CIA cartoon was shown on national television, Boeing issued a press release saying, “While we provided basic aerodynamic information to assist in the CIA’s analysis of the airplane’s performance, we are not aware of the data that was used to develop the video.” Exhibit D.
All of the trails to the source of the zoom-climb calculations lead back to the NTSB. Normal accident investigation procedure required that the NTSB form a group to analyze the TWA800 flight path, including the hypothetical zoom-climb. Since the zoom-climb was one of NTSB conclusions, all of the parties to the investigation such as ALPA and TWA and Boeing should have participated in that conclusion, and the report of that group should have been a part of the public record. However, the NTSB did not form such a group. Instead, the NTSB seems to have assigned this task to only one individual within the NTSB. This is what the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) had to say in its 43 pages of comments to the NTSB. Exhibit E. “Furthermore, although ALPA does not doubt the technical capability of the NTSB, we are concerned that this analysis was essentially accomplished by only one individual at the Board, with little or no party input or participation.” There was no peer review of the zoom-climb calculations. That is an abysmal breech of accident investigation procedures.
The FOIA provides some exceptions whereby an agency may withhold disclosure of requested information. However, the only reason advanced by the NTSB for withholding disclosure of the zoom-climb calculations was that some of the data used by the NTSB is proprietary to Boeing (See 49 U.S.C. 1114(b). However, the important Boeing data (the weight and balance information and the moment of inertia) had already been released by the NTSB.
That Boeing data plus Newton’s laws of motion prove that the zoom-climb was impossible. Frankly, in light of Boeings previous public disclaimer about any knowledge of the data used for the zoom-climb, Plaintiff doubts that Boeing submitted additional secret data to the NTSB supporting the zoom-climb, and that Boeing considers the secret data to be proprietary, and that Boeing refuses to release the secret data to the public. That is not the way Boeing usually operates in a public accident investigation. But the laws of physics are not unique to a Boeing 747. Any aircraft under similar circumstances would have immediately stalled and fallen out of the sky. There is nothing “proprietary” about the way an aircraft reacts when the nose is blown off and the center-of-gravity moves well behind the center-of-lift.
Plaintiff has written a series of letters and appeals to the principal officers of the NTSB, to his Congressional representatives, and even to the President. In a letter dated March 20,2002, Ronald S. Battocchi, NTSB General Council, advised Plaintiff that “you have exhausted your administrative remedies under the FOIA system” Exhibit F.
It is with reluctance that the Plaintiff now turns to the legal remedies offered under the Freedom of Information Act 5 U.S.C. @552 (a)(4)(B)&(C).Exhibit G. The relief sought by Plaintiff is the method used by the NTSB to calculate the zoom-climb of TWA800 after the nose was blown off in its fatal accident on July 17, 1996. If Boeing objects to this disclosure on the basis of secret “proprietary” data, then Plaintiff asks that the NTSB show how any commercial aircraft could have zoom-climbed under similar circumstances. The public is entitled to know how the NTSB came to its erroneous conclusion. The public deserves to know the truth about TWA800. Plaintiff seeks no monetary rewards or damages.
Dated: March 29, 2002 Respectfully submitted,
Captain H. Ray Lahr
April 5 - 11, 2002 LA Weekly by Jim Crogan
In response to articles published in the L.A. Weekly and Indianapolis Star, U.S. Representative Dan Burton, (R-Indiana) is planning to hold congressional hearings into whether a conspiracy, with Middle East connections, was behind the 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. Burton, the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, is "hot to move on this," said David Schippers, a high-powered Chicago attorney and lifelong Democrat, who ran the House impeachment inquiry into former President Clinton. Schippers said he found the evidence put together by former Oklahoma City TV reporter Jayna Davis compelling. For the past year, he unsuccessfully pushed the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to reopen the case. "I've tried to reach [U.S. Attorney General] John Ashcroft a number of times. But I've never heard back from the DOJ," said Schippers. Last month, Burton called and asked him to head up the Oklahoma inquiry for his committee. Burton had already met with Davis. But Schippers told the congressman that his law practice had gotten too busy, and he couldn't take on the assignment. Instead Schippers suggested hiring Jeff Pavletic, another Illinois lawyer, who served with him during the impeachment hearings. Recently, Schippers and Pavletic flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with Burton and his staffers. Pavletic could not be reached for comment. "We were supposed to meet with the congressman, but he had a family emergency. So we met with five staffers." They questioned Schippers closely. "For instance, they asked me how Davis' witnesses, who said they saw McVeigh in the company of Middle Easternlooking men, could remember details seven years later. Schippers reminded them those witnesses were interviewed on tape by Davis seven years ago, when their memories were fresh. Since Schippers returned from D.C., he's had another call from Burton reaffirming his intention to hold hearings. "He said the American people deserve the truth, and he intends to discover whether the investigation was botched. He also wants to know if there is an active terror cell operating in Oklahoma City that might have links to the bombing and the 9-11 terror attacks," emphasized the attorney. Burton's interest in the alleged conspiracy was heightened by a series of Indianapolis Star articles that appeared in February. The L.A. Weekly story, "Heartland Conspiracy," was published on September 28, 2001. Those stories focused on the bombing investigation done by Davis, a former KFOR-TV reporter. "I was called by Burton's office on February 23. They asked me if I would come to Washington and meet with them," explained Davis. "I told them I would." Armed with 2,000 pages of documentation and tapes of her KFOR-TV stories, Davis and her husband met with Burton, his staffers and committee staffers for an hour on February 28 and again with staffers, the next day. "Burton stayed in the first meeting about 15 minutes, and asked very pointed questions. He was intensely interested," she said. "And he seemed committed to getting the truth." Davis told the Weekly she explained to the congressman and his people how she got into the investigation and reviewed her findings' most sensitive points. "They seemed especially interested in the Philippines connection to Terry Nichols." Davis said she found her congressional audience "receptive and open-minded." She also gave Burton's staffers the names and numbers of her witnesses, and said they would participate in hearings. Since she's returned to Oklahoma, Davis received several follow-up calls from a committee staffer. Davis, who's investigated the bombing for the past seven years, obtained 22 signed affidavits from witnesses putting McVeigh in the company of a group of Iraqis working for a local property-management company, in the weeks before the bombing. Davis turned those affidavits over to a 1997 Oklahoma County grand jury. Davis focused her attention and stories on one Iraqi, who appeared to match the third FBI sketch of John Doe No. 2, a man noted in police-radio traffic moments after the explosion. Some of Davis' witnesses said they had seen a man who resembled John Doe No. 2 riding with McVeigh in the bomb-laden truck. This person, Hussain Al-Hussaini, later came forward and publicly demanded an apology and retraction. Davis and KFOR management refused. Al-Hussaini then sued them twice, first dropping his state suit and then refiling it in federal court. A federal judge dismissed the action as baseless. Al-Hussaini appealed, and a decision is pending. Davis, who's since left KFOR, has tried twice to give her material to the FBI. In 1997, DOJ attorneys rejected it, allegedly claiming they didn't want more material to turn over to McVeigh's and Nichols' defense attorneys. In 1999 she gave the material to FBI agent Dan Vogel, who unsuccessfully tried to get the Oklahoma Bombing Task Force to accept it. Vogel, now retired, was subpoenaed to testify about Davis' material at a recent pretrial hearing for Nichols' upcoming state murder trial. But the DOJ refused to let him take the stand. (For further background on this development see From Dublin to Oklahoma City)
April 19, 2002 Insight Online World Exclusive by Kenneth
R. Timmerman (Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight
The retirement of career FBI Special Agent Danny Defenbaugh, accused by defense attorneys and plaintiffs in the Oklahoma City bombing case of withholding key evidence, wasn't the only dramatic development in the continuing controversies surrounding the April 19, 1995, attack that killed 168 people. Insight has learned that the widow of Philippine-government intelligence agent Edwin Angeles has provided audiotaped testimony to an investigator working for the American victims' families that directly ties Iraqi intelligence agents to Terry Nichols, the man sentenced in 1998 to life in prison for his role in bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Building seven years ago. Elmina Abdul is the 27-year-old widow of Angeles, one of the cofounders of the Abu Sayyaf group, a Muslim separatist terrorist organization in the Philippines whose members trained in Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. Her astonishing story, revealed in this exclusive story for the first time, could blow the lid off what a growing number of people believe is a U.S. government cover-up of vital evidence in the Oklahoma City bombing case.
With the knowledge that she was dying of liver disease, Elmina agreed to meet with Dorian Zumel Sicat, a Manila Times correspondent serving as an investigative liaison in the Philippines and the Pacific Rim for Oklahoma City lawyer Mike Johnston, who represents the victims' families. "I want to tell the truth of what I know of my late husband," she said in a taped audio statement. Angeles was "what they call a 'deep-penetration agent'" who was working for "some very powerful men in the DND," the Philippine national defense-intelligence agency, Elmina said. Angeles was arrested in 1995 after he had negotiated a deal to turn himself in to the Philippine authorities. By that point, the Abu Sayyaf he had helped create in 1991 with bin Laden protégé Abdurajjak Abu Bakr Janjalani had carried out a series of terrorist attacks. These included a failed assault on a U.S. Information Agency library in Manila in January 1991 that was part of a worldwide terrorist campaign against U.S. interests orchestrated by Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. "Does the name 'Ramzi Yousef' mean something to you, Mr. Sicat?" Elmina asked. Angeles had extensive meetings with Yousef and two Americans, including one whom he called "Terry" or "The Farmer," she said.
Angeles ultimately was cleared of terrorism charges at trial, when documents proving he was working as a government agent were produced. He was released from prison in 1996 - but not before he provided astonishing details during a videotaped interrogation by Philippine police authorities of his activities with Abu Sayyaf, including the secret meetings with Iraqi intelligence agent Yousef, Nichols and the second American identified in the document as John Lepney. The earliest meetings took place at a Del Monte canning plant in Davao in late 1992 and early 1993 - just prior to the first World Trade Center bombing. Later meetings with Nichols, Yousef and the second American - whose name has never been revealed until now - took place at Angeles' house in late 1994, according to a report on that interrogation which has been obtained by investigators working for attorney Johnston, who has been joined by Judicial Watch in representing families of those murdered in the Oklahoma City bombing. Angeles also revealed the meetings to Elmina, who became his third wife in 1997, "because he knew that he would soon be killed," she said in her audiotaped statement with Sicat, which was witnessed by a Philippine-government official. "He wanted me to know everything so that if anything happened to him I could tell others." Also present at those meetings was a half-brother of Yousef, who was using the pseudonym Ahmad Hassim, she said. "They met almost every day for one week. They met in an empty bodega [warehouse]. They talked about bombings. They mentioned bombing government buildings in San Francisco, St. Louis and in Oklahoma. The Americans wanted instructions on how to make and to explode bombs. He [Edwin] told me that Janjalani was very interested in paying them much money to explode the buildings. The money was coming from Yousef and the other Arab." When asked if Angeles had told her the results of those conversations, Elmina replied: "He told me that the Americans exploded one bomb in Oklahoma in 1995, after he was arrested and after we first met."
Later in the interview, she chided Sicat for not knowing that Yousef was "representing Iraq and Saddam Hussein." "Did Edwin tell you that?" Sicat asked. "Not only Edwin, but others that were close to us, before he was killed," Elmina said. "One time, a [Philippine-army] soldier and Edwin were talking secretly. I was there because Edwin demanded [it]. The soldier ordered Edwin never to tell anybody about the Iraqis." On Jan. 14, 1999, Elmina was waiting for her husband in an open-air market in Isabela, the provincial capital of Basilan province. Suddenly, as he emerged from a nearby mosque, she watched as two of his former associates walked up behind him and, with .45-caliber automatics, pumped six bullets into him. He staggered toward her and died in her arms.
The video interrogation linking Nichols to Yousef, bin Laden and Iraq initially was obtained by Stephen Jones, the defense attorney who represented convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. But at the insistence of federal prosecutors, trial judge Richard P. Matsch refused to admit it into evidence. The judge also refused to admit into evidence the testimony of Yousef coconspirator Abdul Hakim Murad, who was a federal prisoner at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. Murad was awaiting trial for his part in Project Bojinka, a plot hatched up by Yousef to blow up 11 U.S. 747 jetliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. On the day of the Oklahoma City bombing he told his jailers that Yousef had orchestrated the plot. "Why should Murad be believed?" Johnston asks rhetorically. "For one thing, Murad made his 'confession' voluntarily and spontaneously. Most important, Murad tied Ramzi Yousef to the Oklahoma City bombing long before Terry Nichols was publicly identified as a suspect." Johnston informed Jones last week he would be serving him with a desk subpoena to obtain this and other materials that were either sealed by the court or not admitted as evidence in the McVeigh trial. Shortly after Johnston got off the phone with him, Jones received threatening calls from federal prosecutors in Denver and Oklahoma City, warning him not to release the materials, Insight is told by a close associate of the lawyer. Jones did not return several calls by press time.
FBI spokesman Bill Carter tells Insight the FBI was unaware of a "foreign terrorist connection" to the Oklahoma City bombing. "There is no evidence of a foreign connection in our files," he says. "The Oklahoma City bombing was investigated thoroughly by the FBI; no evidence was found that would tie it to any foreign terrorist group. If we had found any evidence, it would have been presented." That statement, like so many others from the government in this murky case, appears to be extraordinarily misleading to the families of victims still not convinced that they or the American public know the full story of what happened seven years ago.
In the Philippines, the real story of the Abu Sayyaf and its ties to Iraq, bin Laden and to former president Ramos - who is planning a comeback into Philippine politics - is a dangerous topic. In his videotaped interrogation, Angeles says Yousef first approached him in July 1989 as the "personal envoy" of bin Laden to set up a new base for regional Islamic expansion on the Muslim island of Mindanao. At the time, bin Laden's brother-in-law, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, was operating commercial front companies in the Philippines for bin Laden. This apparently led to the creation of the Abu Sayyaf. A former CIA station chief in Manila confirms to Insight that bin Laden came to the Philippines personally in 1992 and was flown down to Mindanao in a government C-130 aircraft by then-president Ramos. "Bin Laden presented himself as a wealthy Saudi who wanted to invest in Muslim areas and donate money to charity," the former CIA officer says. While Yousef was collecting money from bin Laden, he was taking orders from Iraq and is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to have carried out the June 20, 1994, bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in Mashad, Iran, on orders from Iraq. Yousef reportedly carried out that attack with help from his own father and a younger brother, Abdul Muneem, in conjunction with an Iraqi front group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran.
Angeles "knew he was going to be killed by his own people once he was released from jail," Sicat tells Insight in a telephone interview from Davao, a city on Mindanao. "The question is, who were his own people? Abu Sayyaf, or the cabal who had Angeles help set them up?" Angeles' second wife, who had prepared the meals for Nichols and Yousef, was gunned down during a government raid on an Abu Sayyaf safe house in 1996. Elmina died last month just days after giving her taped audio statements to Sicat, who tells Insight that he has received death threats and been shot at in recent weeks by unknown assailants. He recently has been given round-the- clock police protection by the government, which is investigating the attacks. If the remaining witnesses live long enough, the only question left is whether the Bush administration will order the FBI to reopen its files. Or, as some of the lawyers in the case and their clients fear, the administration will endorse what they believe - and testimony now in hand suggests - was a wider conspiracy that was hidden by the Clinton administration and Janet Reno's Justice Department. It may require full and open congressional hearings if the current administration refuses to help or otherwise blocks the federal courts from re-examining the case to find out why the U.S. government shut down preliminary investigations into possible overseas links to the murder of Americans in downtown Oklahoma City.
(For further background on this development see From Dublin to Oklahoma City)
May 2, 2002 NY Times Bin Laden Relative Linked to '93 Trade
In supporting its arrest of the leader of an Islamic charity this week, the Justice Department has made public new information tying a wealthy Saudi businessman, who is Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law, to several people convicted in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 or in unsuccessful plots to bring down airliners and assassinate the pope. An affidavit filed in Chicago by an F.B.I. agent accused the businessman, Mohamad Jamal Khalifa, of being "directly linked" not only to Ramzi Yousef and others convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing but also to the Chicago-based Benevolence International Foundation and its director, Enaam M. Arnaout. On Tuesday, the government arrested Mr. Arnaout and accused the foundation of secretly funneling money to Al Qaeda. It also charged Mr. Arnaout with lying under oath about his connections to Mr. bin Laden. The affidavit, also filed Tuesday, links Mr. Khalifa, who is married to Mr. bin Laden's sister, to a web of Islamic militants who have operated from the Philippines to Bosnia to Chechnya to Illinois. Mr. Khalifa's whereabouts are uncertain, and repeated calls to the Saudi embassy in Washington were not returned yesterday. But the affidavit publicly expands the list of his reported ties to terrorists and details at least one contradictory statement he has made about them. The government has been interested in Mr. Khalifa since he was detained by immigration authorities in December 1994, two weeks after he entered the United States on a visa issued in Jidda, Saudi Arabia. Steve Emerson, a terrorism expert, said Mr. Khalifa was given a visa even though he had been sentenced to death in Jordan, in absentia, on charges of conspiring to commit terrorist acts. Jordan had accused Mr. Khalifa of involvement in plots to bomb public places in Jordan, including movie theaters. Two of the main participants in those bombings had spent time with Mr. Khalifa in the Philippines, according to the F.B.I. affidavit filed in Chicago. Mr. Khalifa was extradited from the United States to Jordan, retried, and acquitted of the bomb plot charges. At the trial in Jordan, Mr. Khalifa admitted that he had known the bombers and had sent them money, though he said the payments were for past services. During his detention in San Francisco, the F.B.I. affidavit said, Mr. Khalifa admitted knowing and training the bombers but said he had disassociated himself from them upon learning they were violent. The affidavit disclosed that American law enforcement authorities had copied some of Mr. Khalifa's materials during his detention and that later investigations showed that he was tied to several of the 1993 World Trade Center plotters. For instance, the affidavit said, when Mr. Khalifa was detained, he had in his phone book and his electronic organizer the beeper number of Wali Khan, who was convicted in a mid-1990's plot to bomb 12 flights from Southeast Asia as they flew over American cities. There were also calls between Mr. Khan's apartment and the cellular telephone of Mr. Khalifa in November 1994. The affidavit said that Mr. Khalifa also possessed documents referring to the assassination of bishops and bombings of churches at a time when Mr. Khan and others were planning to kill the pope during a planned visit to the Philippines in 1995. The affidavit focuses on Mr. Khalifa, who is not charged in the Chicago case, as part of its effort to show the extent of the ties between Mr. bin Laden's associates and Mr. Arnaout and his Benevolence International Foundation. The document also notes that Mr. Khalifa traveled in 1994 with Mohamed Bayazid, who, according to the affidavit, tried to secure uranium for a nuclear bomb for Mr. bin Laden in 1993-1994. Saudi officials told The New York Times last October that Mr. Khalifa had been arrested after the Sept. 11 attacks and was being held in jail. But the president of the Philippines said about the same time that Mr. Khalifa had offered by letter to help negotiate the release of two Americans being held hostage by a militant Islamic group in the Philippines.
May 7, 2002 Fox News O'Reilly Factor - Interview with Larry Johnson
who was a former CIA officer, deputy director of the U.S. State Department
Office of Counterterrorism, 1989-1993, and now heads the consulting firm
The O'Reilly factor interviewed Larry Johnson, formerly of the CIA, who revealed that the identity of John Doe #2 in the Oklahoma City bombing to be Hussain Al-Hussaini, a former member of the Iraqi Republican Guard Guard. He worked for Samir Khalil who was linked to the 'charitable organization' "The Holy Land Foundation" which was declared by the Bush administration to be sending funds to terrorists. John Doe # 2 was seen with Timothy McVeigh three days before the OKC bombing, the morning of the bombing, getting out of the Ryder truck after it pulled up in front of the Murrah building, and he was seen driving away from the building. In 1996/1997 when he left Oklahoma City Al-Hussaini went to work at Logan airport in Boston from which several of the September 11, 2001 hijackers left. McVeigh's accomplice, Terry Nichols, an unemployed guy, made several trips to the Phillipines with unexplained sources of cash (See the book 'Others Unknown' by Stephen Jones, McVeigh's original attorney) where he was associated with Osama bin Laden's Al Quaeda organization, Abu Sayyaf. Additionally, the owner of the motel in which McVeigh stayed prior to the bombing of the Murrah building reported to the FBI that three of the September 11, 2001 hijackers attempted to book rooms at the motel in late July or early August 2001 telling him they were taking flight training. These were Mohammed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Zacarias Moussaoui, who is presently in Federal Custody as the possible 20th hijacker.
May 11, 2002 AP
Security has been tightened at a Saudi Arabian air base used by U.S. planes after the mysterious discovery of an empty tube from a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile, Pentagon officials said. Earlier this week, Saudi security guards at Prince Sultan Air Base found the 4-foot-long launcher for a Soviet-made SA-7 missile, said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. The tube was found was about two miles from the nearest runway, inside the base's outer perimeter fence and near an inner fence, Quigley said Friday. A cover on the front of the launch tube was intact, but there were scorch marks on the back of the tube, indicating it could have been used to fire or try to fire a missile, Quigley said. The discovery has U.S. military officials puzzled and worried. No pilots reported seeing, hearing or detecting any missiles fired, and Quigley said he had no reports of any threats against the air base. About 4,500 U.S. troops and an unspecified number of American warplanes use the base in the Saudi desert. "Right now it's a mystery about what it all means, whether it was used or meant to be used,'' said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan. Someone firing an SA-7 from the spot where the tube was found could possibly have hit a plane taking off or landing at the air base, Quigley said. Various versions of the missile can hit planes up to about 3.5 miles away. "It's not an ideal spot to put yourself if you wanted to shoot down a plane. You could do better,'' Quigley said. "It's hard to know what to make of it.'' Quigley said he did not know what day Saudi forces found the missile tube. He said Saudi forces photographed the tube and destroyed it before U.S. officials could examine it. First used in 1969, the SA-7 missile has been a favorite of Third World militaries and terrorist groups. Both Iran and Iraq reportedly used them against each other's planes during their war in the 1980s, for example. Afghan forces fighting the Soviets during their 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan reportedly fired more than 500 of the missiles, shooting down 47 Soviet aircraft. Palestinian forces in Lebanon also used the missiles to shoot down an Israeli fighter in 1982. The SA-7 missile is relatively primitive. Its heat-seeking sensor hones in on the hottest object it can sense, making the missile vulnerable to locking onto the sun (it automatically explodes after about 20 seconds if it doesn't hit a target) or even hot rocks.
May 21, 2002--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FROM: Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization (FIRO)
SUBJECT: TWA Flight 800 Petition Filed for Probable Cause Reconsideration
CONTACT: Tom Stalcup, Ph.D. FIRO Chairman, email@example.com
FIRO releases today a thoroughly documented petition that exposes erroneous findings within the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB's) Final Report on TWA Flight 800. Physical, forensic, radar, metallurgical, debris field, and eyewitness evidence is presented in the petition proving that key findings in the NTSB's Final Report are erroneous. Eight attachments, including an FBI report formerly classified as "secret," an FBI radar analysis contradicting the NTSB's official crash sequence, and official eyewitness drawings of an apparent missile engagement follow the petition. Today, the petition was informally submitted to NTSB Chairperson Blakey, and FIRO will formally submit the petition to the NTSB after the parties to the investigation (e.g. Boeing, TWA, etc.) receive their copies. Anyone may view the petition (in Adobe Acrobat PDF format) at http://Flight800.org/FIRO_Petition.pdf NTSB Regulation §845.41(a): "Petitions for reconsideration...will be entertained only if based on the discovery of new evidence or on a showing that the Board's findings are erroneous." Erroneous findings in the NTSB Final Report are now exposed in the most complete official filing to the NTSB that challenges the probable cause for the crash of TWA Flight 800.
May 30, 2002 CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Although it has had no specific warnings, the FBI is alerting law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for any signs of terrorist plans to use shoulder-fired missiles against U.S. targets, especially commercial airliners. The alert comes after investigators concluded al Qaeda operatives might have tried to shoot down a U.S. military plane in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. The FBI warning stressed the United States had no specific intelligence that al Qaeda is planning an attack using shoulder-fired missiles. "The FBI possesses no information indicating that al Qaeda is planning to use 'Stinger' missiles or any type of MANPAD [portable anti-aircraft] weapons system against commercial aircraft in the United States," the warning said. "However, given al Qaeda's demonstrated objective to target the U.S. airline industry, its access to U.S. and Russian-made MANPAD systems, and recent apparent targeting of U.S.-led military forces in Saudi Arabia, law enforcement agencies in the United States should remain alert to potential use of MANPADs against U.S. aircraft." On May 10th, CNN first reported the discovery of a tube that could have been used to launch a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. The unit was found by a Saudi security patrol inside a fence at the Prince Sultan Air Base, but at that time military officials told CNN it was unclear if the Russian-made SA-7 missile had been fired in an attempt to shoot down a U.S. plane. But a May 22, 2002 FBI "intelligence bulletin" -- obtained Thursday by CNN -- says, "Subsequent investigation suggests that the discovery is likely related to al Qaeda targeting efforts against U.S.-led forces on the Arabian Peninsula." Blast marks indicated there may have been an attempt to launch it, but the cover of the tube was still intact, indicating the missile did not fire or perhaps misfired. The missile tube was found a few miles from where U.S. planes take off and land at the remote desert base, within range of shoulder-fired missiles -- typically specified as up to 3.5 miles and 13,000 feet.
May 31, 2002 Washington Times
The U.S. government has alerted airlines and law enforcement agencies that new intelligence indicates that Islamic terrorists have smuggled shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles into the United States. Classified intelligence reports circulated among top Bush administration policymakers during the past two weeks identified the missiles as Russian-made SA-7 surface-to-air missiles or U.S.-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles obtained covertly in Afghanistan, said intelligence officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Authorities are looking for three types of "manpads," or man-portable, air-defense systems, including SA-7s and Stingers, the officials said. The SA-7s have a range of more than 3 miles and can hit aircraft flying at 13,500 feet. Stinger missiles can hit aircraft flying at 10,000 feet and 5 miles away. The FBI sent out an intelligence alert two weeks ago warning about the missiles. The officials said the warning is based on intelligence and not a specific threat that the missiles are in the United States. "We don't have information that al Qaeda is planning to use these against commercial aircraft in the United States," an FBI official said. "However, we are passing the information along for people to remain alert to the potential use." The official said an FBI intelligence alert was sent to law-enforcement authorities about two weeks ago and that airlines were notified on May 22. As a result of the "recent apparent targeting of U.S.-led military forces in Saudi Arabia, law-enforcement agencies in the United States should remain alert to potential use of manpads against U.S. aircraft," the FBI said. Other intelligence officials spoke of concerns that the missiles had been smuggled into the United States. Senior Pentagon officials also were briefed recently on the threat posed by shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles smuggled into the United States. Officials said the intelligence reports followed the discovery earlier this month of an empty SA-7 launcher near a desert base used by U.S. air forces in Saudi Arabia. The launcher was found by Saudi security police near Prince Sultan Air Base, near Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The Saudis could not determine whether the launcher had fired a missile, and they destroyed it before U.S. military or intelligence officials could examine it. One official said that intelligence report was given credence by Abu Zubaydah, the al Qaeda organization's operations chief, who was captured in Pakistan in March and who has been providing information about the terrorist group. A U.S. official also said the portable missiles, which can be carried in small crates, "are fairly light and not difficult to obtain on the gray market." "It's conceivable that terrorists could get them," the official said. "It is one of a number of possible threats that we need to be mindful and concerned about." Officials said another worry was an interview in an Arabic-language newspaper with a senior al Qaeda terrorist. Abd-al-Azim al-Muhajir, a senior commander, told a reporter for London's Al-Sharq al Awsat in Pakistan last week that the terrorist group is planning a major attack against the United States. Al-Muhajir said U.S. military operations in Afghanistan have "changed the nature of the action in the field, media appearances and training centers." However, he insisted, al Qaeda is not "finished." Asked about new attacks against the United States, al-Muhajir said: "We pray to God, the glorified and exalted, to help us in the coming stage, that is the 'guerrilla warfare,' and in dealing with the aircraft. Thanks be to God that we have taken big strides in this." Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon that U.S. military forces are on alert for attacks by portable missiles. "We take very seriously the fact that our opponents do have surface-to-air missiles, shoulder-fired surface-to-air-missiles," Gen. Pace said. "And we take precautions on the ground and in the air any time we have our aircraft arriving or departing." He said there were no reports of U.S. aircraft taking surface-to-air missile fire in Saudi Arabia after the discovery of the SA-7 launcher. "That does not mean it was not fired; it simply means we do not know if that particular weapon was fired at that location or simply dropped off there," he said.
June 4, 2002 EIGHTH UPDATE ON NTSB INVESTIGATION INTO CRASH OF
AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 587
The National Transportation Safety Board today released the following updated information on its investigation of the November 12, 2001,crash of American Airlines flight 587, an Airbus A300-600, in Belle Harbor, New York, which resulted in the deaths of all 260 persons aboard and 5 persons on the ground.
The Witness Group has received 349 accounts from eyewitnesses, either through direct interviews or through written statements. An initial summary of those statements follows:
52% specifically reported seeing a fire while the plane was in the air, with the fuselage being the most often cited location (22%). Other areas cited as a fire location were the left engine, the right engine or an unspecified engine, and the left wing, the right wing or an unspecified wing. 8% specifically reported seeing an explosion. 20% specifically reported seeing no fire at all. 22% reported observing smoke; 20% reported no smoke. 18% reported observing the airplane in a right turn; another 18% reported observing the airplane in a left turn. 13% observed the airplane "wobbling," dipping" or in "side to side" motion. 74% observed the airplane descend. 57% reported seeing "something" separate from the airplane; 13% reported observing the right wing, left wing or an undefined wing separate; 9% specifically reported observing no parts separate.
June 10, 2002 Official TWA 800 Findings Challenged - Reed
Irvine and Cliff Kincaid A.I.M. (Accuracy in Media)
The TWA Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization, FIRO (the author of this website is an officer of FIRO), has taken the unusual step of filing a petition with the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, asking for reconsideration of the findings on the probable cause of the crash of TWA Flight 800. Such petitions are entertained only if new evidence has been found or a showing that the NTSB findings were erroneous. FIRO claims that some evidence that the NTSB kept secret and which has now become available for public scrutiny is new evidence that shows that the official findings were erroneous. Their petition cites as one important example metals of "unknown origin" that were found in the bodies of many of those who died in the crash on July 17, 1996. The FBI asked the Brookhaven National Laboratory to analyze pellets found in the bodies. They contained zirconium and barium, indicative of an incendiary device foreign to a Boeing 747airliner. The NTSB acknowledges that the source of these pellets is unknown and that the FBI did not try to determine the source. The Suffolk County coroner, Dr. Wetli, found shrapnel in 89 of the bodies he examined. The FBI compiled a secret eight-page list describing the metal found in each of the bodies. FIRO has sued under FOIA to obtain this list. The court ordered the FBI to release it, but they are trying to get that reversed on privacy grounds, claiming it invades the privacy of the dead. That is a spurious argument because the dead have no privacy rights, but FIRO is not arguing that point. It says it is not interested in the names of those in whose bodies the shrapnel was found. What it wants is its description of the metal found in each of those bodies. It is believed that a lot of it will be pellets. Retired Brigadier General Benton Partin, who helped design missiles for the Air Force, has said that the Brookhaven Laboratory's analysis of the composition of the mysterious pellets suggests to him that they came from a missile. The FBI and NTSB never showed Gen. Partin or any other missile experts the Brookhaven analysis. They were content to list the shrapnel as coming from an unknown source. Their throwing a secrecy blanket over this evidence and their failure to determine its source indicates that they knew that sourcing it accurately would undermine their claim that a spontaneous fuel-tank explosion caused the crash.
June 22, 2002 WorldNetDaily.com By Jon Dougherty Saudis warned
FBI about OKC bombing? Evidence suggests possible Iraq link to terror
attack on Murrah building
Saudi Arabian intelligence officials warned the FBI about an Iraqi plot to attack federal facilities in 1995, including the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, according to an Oklahoma lawyer teaming up with a noted Washington, D.C., public-interest law firm. Mike Johnston, co-counsel for Judicial Watch, said Thursday that on April 19, 1995 the day of the Oklahoma City bombing Saudi intelligence alerted CIA officials in Washington, who in turn advised FBI agents at the Washington Metropolitan Field Office. "Vincent Canastraro, who is the former chief of counter-terrorism for the CIA … called Special Agent Kevin L. Foust and informed him that one of his best sources from Saudi Arabian intelligence specifically advised him that there was a squad of people currently in the United States, very possibly Iraqi, who, and I'm quoting, 'have been tasked with carrying out terrorist acts against the United States,'" Johnston said during an interview on the "Judicial Watch Report" radio program. "The Saudi informant, who's part of the Saudi counter-terrorism service, told [federal officials] that he had seen the list and that 'first on the list was the federal building in Oklahoma City, Okla.'" Johnston continued. Johnston said the Saudi agent reported that an Internal Revenue Service building in Houston, Texas, was "second on the list," followed by the FBI's field office in Los Angeles. The FBI facility was targeted because, according to Johnston, it was the bureau's main counterintelligence operation at that time. Johnston also said that documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that about a year later, on April 16, 1996, the FBI filed a follow-up report claiming the initial information gleaned from Saudi sources was most likely accurate. "Even though the government has consistently maintained that no credible evidence exists linking McVeigh to international terrorists," Johnston said, "the FBI generated a follow-up 302 report one year later … where a supervisory special agent, name blacked out, contacted another source regarding the original information from Canastraro." The special agent "was told that the information was confirmed as generated from a general within the Saudi Arabian Intelligence Service," said Johnston. "The FBI 302 memo went on to conclude that this information appears to have validity, citing Canastraro's former position within the CIA." An FBI spokeswoman told WorldNetDaily the bureau had no comment on Johnston's allegations. CIA officials could not be reached for comment prior to press time. When asked why the government did not do more to press McVeigh before his death if he was working for another government, Johnston said such a strategy" was apparently not in the game plan for the Justice Department …" Johnston says some of his information came from documents ordered sealed by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, the presiding judge in McVeigh's initial trial, which took place in Denver, Colo. He went on to note that Matsch has never lifted the order, though "it’s kind of hard to see how it would affect Tim McVeigh now." "The federal government continues to seek the maintenance of that sealing order on the basis of privacy concerns," he said. Johnston's disclosure comes on the heels of a report Wednesday that said the U.S. government was warned before the bombing that Islamic extremists were planning attacks. Islamic terrorists were planning to "strike inside the U.S. against objects symbolizing the American government in the near future," said one warning memo, according to The Associated Press. That report did not mention Saudi Arabia, but said only that U.S. officials were tipped by evidence "gathered across the globe from Iran and Syria to the Philippines." AP said documents show the warnings became progressively more specific as to the time, place and type of attack. Stephen Jones, McVeigh's attorney, was reportedly upset by the disclosure. "We specifically asked on the record for all evidence, documents and tangible objects to show whether the government had received a warning of acts of terror against federal buildings. We didn't receive this," he told AP. As WorldNetDaily reported in March, Johnston and Judicial Watch have filed suit against Iraq, charging that Baghdad masterminded and financed "in whole or in part" the OKC bombing. Chris Farrell, investigative director for Judicial Watch, told WorldNetDaily that the suit has yet to be served on the Iraqi government, but that it is "trudging along" in its process. He said the suit is being handled "through diplomatic channels" in the State Department, which will hand it off to the Polish government. The U.S. maintains a section in the Polish Embassy in Baghdad, and will serve the Iraqi government through it, with Polish assistance, Farrell said. As to whether the U.S. government has responded to reports of the suit, Farrell said, "We haven't heard anything." McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols were eventually charged and convicted for differing roles in connection with the OKC bombing. McVeigh was executed June 11, 2001; Nichols has been sentenced to life in prison, but could face state death penalty charges in Oklahoma. Johnston, in his radio interview, also said there was some evidence suggesting that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed a top al-Qaida lieutenant whom federal authorities believe may have masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks trained Nichols for the OKC bombing in the Philippines. Mohammed "was not only involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, he was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack" as well, Johnston charged. "He was in the Philippines at the same time as Terry Nichols, by the way, in the last trip that he made down there before the Murrah building bombing." U.S. officials believe Mohammed was also in charge of transferring the funds used by the Sept. 11 hijackers. "There's lots of links that tie him to 9-11," one government official told AP June 5. "He was intricately involved." Mohammed is also believed to be an accomplice of Ramzi Yousef, who is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S. for his alleged role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Upon his arrest, Yousef was found in possession of plans to blow up a dozen U.S. airliners. Prosecutors also believe he had planned to crash a plane into the Pentagon.
June 23, 2002 NY Times - For Air Crash Detectives, Seeing Isn't
Hundreds of people watched the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 near Kennedy International Airport in New York on Nov. 12, and in the course of 93 seconds they apparently saw hundreds of different things. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, which announced this month that it had gathered 349 eyewitness accounts through interviews or written statements, 52 percent said they saw a fire while the plane was in the air. The largest number (22 percent) said the fire was in the fuselage, but a majority cited other locations, including the left engine, the right engine, the left wing, the right wing or an unspecified engine or wing. Nearly one of five witnesses said they saw the plane make a right turn; an equal number said it was a left turn. Nearly 60 percent said they saw something fall off the plane; of these, 13 percent said it was a wing. (In fact, it was the vertical portion of the tail.) The investigators say there is no evidence in the wreckage or on the flight recorders of an in-flight fire or explosion. A plane breaking up in flight, as this one did, might in its last moments produce flashes of fire from engines ripping loose, but the idea that the plane caught fire is a trick of memory, they say. None of this is surprising, said Dr. Charles R. Honts, a professor of psychology at Boise State University and the editor of the Journal of Credibility Assessment and Witness Psychology. "Eyewitness memory is reconstructive," said Dr. Honts, who is not associated with the safety board. "The biggest mistake you can make is to think about a memory like it's a videotape; there's not a permanent record there." The problem, he said, is that witnesses instinctively try to match events with their past experiences: "How many plane crashes have you witnessed in real life? Probably none. But in the movies? A lot. In the movies, there's always smoke and there's always fire." As a result, the safety board generally doesn't place much value on eyewitness reports if data and voice recorders are available. For many investigators, the only infallible witness is a twisted piece of metal. Benjamin A. Berman, a former chief of major aviation investigations at the safety board, said pilots actually make the worst witnesses, because their technical knowledge can lead them too quickly to identify a mechanical problem that may not have occurred. "Children make among the best witnesses," he added, "because they don't tend to place an interpretation on what they've seen." The safety board's skepticism of eyewitness accounts was deepened by the explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island six years ago: hundreds of people saw an upward streak that they assumed was a missile, although investigators said it was the body of the plane itself, streaking upward after the forward portion had fallen off following a fuel tank explosion. That disaster highlighted another pitfall for investigators, Mr. Berman and others say: F.B.I. agents asked witnesses where the missile came from, presupposing the presence of a weapon. "It wasn't good aircraft accident investigation," Mr. Berman said. There are other well-known cases of witness error, including the crash of a Lauda Air Boeing 767 near Bangkok in May 1991. Witnesses said they heard a bomb and saw the plane fall in flames, but it turned out to be a mechanical problem. So why do investigators bother asking witnesses at all? Dr. Bernard S. Loeb, who retired as the safety board's director of aviation safety last year, said, "In the case of 587, it's unlikely that the witnesses will provide much to help the investigation, but you never know that when you begin an investigation where you're going to get important leads, from the recorders, from witnesses, from the structure itself." And in any crash, he said, conflicting witness statements can still be useful. "What was very clear from the Flight 800 witnesses was that many did see something up in the sky," he said. Even if the accounts are likely to be wrong, they are still routinely gathered and evaluated by both the board and police agencies. "Can you imagine if we didn't interview the witnesses?" said one current board official. Mr. Berman, who left the board last year, said investigators may have released the summary of what the Flight 587 witnesses saw just to show publicly that the statements showed "scatter" an engineering term for plotted data that does not fit a pattern. A release at this late date is unusual, but a spokesman for the board, Ted Lopatkiewicz, said it was done because it was ready. But, he added, "I don't think I'm making any news by saying that eyewitness testimony at a plane crash and probably at many traumatic events is unreliable." Witness statements can be more valuable in crashes of small planes that don't have flight data recorders or cockpit voice recorders, Mr. Berman said. Mr. Loeb said his experience with witnesses had led him to question the reliability of criminal convictions based on eyewitness identifications. In Illinois, he noted, a commission appointed by the governor recommended in April that the death penalty not be applied to murder convictions based on a single eyewitness identification. Mr. Loeb said his personal experience also played into his skepticism. Recently he and his wife saw a two-vehicle collision, and unlike plane crash witnesses, they both saw it from the same angle. Within moments, they disagreed about what they had seen. Among other key details, Mr. Loeb said he could not recall whether one of the vehicles had been a truck or an S.U.V.