The Hull Thread
Chronology of Events From July 1997 - September 1997
July 10, 1997 The Subcommittee on Aviation Hearing "Status
of the Investigation of the Crash of TWA 800 and the Proposal Concerning
the Death on the High Seas Act"
Despite a massive and costly recovery and investigative effort by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FBI, the cause of the crash has not yet been pinpointed. .... Originally, the conventional wisdom was that the crash was caused by a terrorist attack. This explanation was supported by witnesses who said that they saw a streak of light in the sky, considered to be a missile, heading towards the plane just before it exploded. .....So far, no terrorist group or person has come forward with a "credible" claim of responsibility. (Note from website author - See Musing #3 for the claims of responsibility) Some people argue that the absence of any claim does not rule out terrorism as a possible cause. They say that terrorists today seem more reluctant to identify themselves as the perpetrators of specific acts because the impunity which they once enjoyed in many parts of the world has disappeared. ...... Investigators have apparently concluded that the plane crashed because its center fuel tank exploded. But they are still not sure why. They have generally stated that there are three possible explanations - a missile, a bomb, or mechanical failure..... The proponents of the missile theory suggest that a missile fired either by the U.S. Navy or a terrorist hit the plane. This theory remains under consideration because of the number of eyewitness accounts from people who said they saw something in the sky. For example, Capt. Chris Baur, a civilian pilot for U.S. customs, repeatedly told investigators that he saw a missile strike the plane. Because of his clear view from his helicopter and his military training, Baur's account is one of the most credible. Proponents allege that radar tapes show a projectile heading toward the TWA aircraft. Also, they point to red residue on a section of seats which could be rocket fuel. Proponents suggest that in the reconstruction of the aircraft, there is an opening on the right side of the fuselage which was caused by a missile. Opponents of the missile theory, including NTSB officials, have provided the following arguments against the missile theory: •The radar tapes showing a projectile might not be authentic; •The dot on the authentic radar tapes thought to be a missile is in fact a Navy P-3 plane in the area at the time; •The red residue on the seats is glue; •The red residue is not rocket propellant because chemicals found in rocket propellant that would be there are missing; •What witnesses believed to be a missile was actually parts of the falling plane or a stream of flaming jet fuel from a ruptured fuel tank on the plane's right wing. According to investigators, the initial explosion in the center fuel tank caused the fuselage of the plane to separate, but the rest of the plane continued to fly with all four engines running, spewing a trail of flaming jet fuel. Even if a missile did not strike the jet, it is still possible that a missile, exploding near the plane, could have ignited the center fuel tank. Tests have been conducted to study this possibility. Some proponents of the missile theory believe terrorists were responsible. These terrorists might have hit the aircraft with a missile launched from a vehicle or a boat. Intelligence and law enforcement officials have become concerned that terrorists could use hand-held anti-aircraft missiles to attack civilian airliners. While many experts believe Flight 800 was out of the range of the American-made Stinger missile, there are some foreign surface-to air missiles that reportedly have the capability of shooting a plane at 13,800 feet. One of these missiles that has been mentioned is the French-made Mistral. The Mistral has been sold to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, countries with growing Islamic fundamentalist movements. Also, there is a series of Soviet missiles that could have been used to hit the plane, including the SA14, SA16, and SA18.
July 11, 1997 - sci.military.naval newsgroup
From: C.C.Jordan@worldnet.att.net (C.C. Jordan) Date: Fri, 11 Jul 1997 02:55:29 GMT Message-ID: <email@example.com>
I live on eastern Long Island. I am good friends with several of the Air Force flyers out of West Hampton. An USAF Blackhawk was flying (training) only three miles away from Flight 800 on a heading to observe the crash. The Plane Commander, a Major, said, in my presence, that he saw what he believed was a missile, coming from sea level go up and explode. He stated this to NTSB investigators and to Air Force debriefers. He is a gulf war veteran and has seen many night time SAM launches, both shoulder launched and fixed sight. No one has yet to refute his observation. Could he be mistaken? Sure. Is it likely he is mistaken? No. NTSB and the FAA have no **real** answer for the crash, or do they? ....By the way, This guy was one of the pilots who flew the Blackhawks 650 miles out into the Atlantic to rescue stranded seamen, refueling several times from a C-130. The Air force believes him. They are the 106th Rescue Wing flying C-130 and Blackhawk aircraft. Top notch professionals. (Note from website author: In a July 13 posting Baur was named as the source.)
July 13, 1997 The Associated Press
FBI Director Louis Freeh finds the nation's skies safer and its law enforcement authorities better prepared for terrorism a year after TWA Flight 800 exploded......Since 1993, when Freeh took over, the FBI has quietly been improving its relationships abroad. Taking a global view of terrorism and the need to share information with other countries, Freeh has ...... added agents in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and other countries...
July 15, 1997 CNN Web posted at: 6:05 p.m. EDT (2205
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating connections between a maverick Saudi Arabian multimillionaire and his followers in the United States, who may be planning terrorist attacks on U.S. targets. Federal agents have identified followers of Osama bin Ladin in Brooklyn, New York; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Detroit, Michigan, to determine whether they are preparing to carry out attacks, CNN has learned. ... bin Ladin ... has been linked to the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia ....Now living among followers in Afghanistan, bin Ladin ... has gone on record as being a bitter enemy of the United States. In an interview with CNN last month for the TV newsmagazine "Impact," bin Ladin said, "We declared a Jihad -- a holy war -- against the United States government because it is unjust, criminal and tyrannical."....Federal sources say a grand jury is investigating bin Ladin.....According to Federal sources, agents investigating Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York began looking into the activities of bin Ladin's followers in this country... ..In particular, agents have been tracing money transfers from Afghanistan and Pakistan -- bin Ladin's power base -- through London to his followers in the United States....bin Ladin communicates with his adherents though audiotapes, but he also spreads his fundamentalist beliefs through Web sites on the Internet. The FBI wants to know if bin Ladin is financing any religious or political activities in the United States. So far, sources say, bin Ladin has not been linked to any illegal activities in this country, but the investigation continues.
July 17, 1997 The New York Times
A Federal grand jury in Manhattan is investigating whether a renegade Saudi millionaire .... has been funneling money to terrorist groups in the United States.......Mr. bin Laden ... is believed to be living in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. An official ... said that the money had been delivered to groups in Detroit, Jersey City and Brooklyn ....He was ... linked to Ramzi Ahmed Yousef ...in the three years before the attack on the Trade Center, Mr. Yousef lived in Pakistan in a house paid for by Mr. bin Laden, the State Department report said. .......Federal investigators have information that shows Islamic fundamentalist groups, consisting mostly of legal noncitizen immigrants from the Middle East, have received money from Mr. bin Laden. "the level of terrorist activity within the United States is really very low, ..... groups typically do not want to trigger the type of response that an attack in America would bring ..... Osama ... may not have the same constraint."
July 18, 1997 The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, CA
For more than six months, federal investigators .... have been unable to reconcile the prevailing theory of the crash with the location of a piece of debris known in NTSB and FBI logs as CW-504. It is a ragged door-sized chunk out of the front wall of ... the center fuel tank. Piece CW-504 landed in the wrong spot, indicating it fell from the sky earlier than the breakup scenario suggests, a panel of experts has concluded. ..... No other piece of airplane debris was found closer to Kennedy Airport than CW-504, according to one internal FBI and NTSB report. The piece of metal about 3 feet wide and 6.5 feet tall and its location in the western-most debris field designated the 'red area' do not fit comfortably with the prevailing official hypothesis, another confidential NTSB report says. "The proposed sequence does not support a conclusion that the front spar (wall) piece CW-504 departed the airplane substantially before other red area pieces, as the recovery position of this piece suggests," the NTSB report says. "However, the proposed sequence is generally consistent otherwise with the trend of identified pieces in the red area." ..... Accident investigators believe the sequence in which pieces fall is vital to reconstructing events. Pieces from the center tank's mid-area, where investigators think vapors ignited, fell more than a mile past the two forward walls, according to the satellite-aided debris-field analysis. Most of the wing center section's fuel chambers were near the far end of the debris field, not the front. "It is apparent that the proposed sequence demands a very closely orchestrated timeline between many events happening virtually at the same time," the sequencing report said. "In fact, the extreme speed of crack propagation is a fundamental aspect of this type of event. The sequence calls for events starting in the WCS (wing center section), progressing to the fuselage, with the fuselage rapidly overtaking the final WCS breakup, such that the front spar (wall) and water bottles can pass unobstructed out of the airplane." The two huge water "bottles" are large tank-size containers that carry all the drinking water more than 400 passenger might need for a 12-hour flight. Their bulk is such that the NTSB report said the bottles could be expected to hold back the force of an explosion for a brief moment. The center tank is critically important for structural reasons, not just because it holds fuel. It is part of a slightly larger box-like structure known as the wing center section, which unites the left and right wings and bonds the wings with the fuselage. A breach of the section can be catastrophic for the rest of the plane, no matter how well the other parts work. As its name implies, the section is the central part of the wing and is located under the passenger cabin floor. In a Boeing 747-100 model like TWA 800, it is 20 feet wide, 22 feet long and 6.5 feet high at its forward wall. The section is divided into five chambers, four of which can hold a total of 12,890 gallons of fuel for long-distance flights. The forward chamber, the home of piece CW-504, is a maintenance access area and does not hold fuel. TWA 800 had only 50 to 100 gallons in the entire center tank for the relatively short 3,630-mile hop to Paris ...... In December and January, a half-year after the accident, with more than 95 percent of the airplane and almost all of the wing center section collected, the NTSB convened a nine-member panel in New York to look at TWA 800's debris and come up with its best scenario for what happened. Members included engineers and representatives of Boeing, TWA, the NTSB, the FAA, International Association of Machinists, Air Line Pilots Association and International Federation of Flight Attendants. The panel spent 29 days assessing the wreckage and produced the Metallurgy/Structures Sequencing Group Report, a study that focused on the wing center section, its fuel chambers, and gleanings from what became known as the red zone, wreckage believed to have left the plane first. The classified study obtained by The Press-Enterprise concludes some type of pressure caused chamber walls in the middle of the center section to fall forward like dominoes, which split the plane's aluminum skin, severed the Boeing 747's nose, and left the remainder of the plane still trying to fly. Sixty-five passengers and at least six of the 14 crew members were assigned to that forward section. For the 151 passengers and flight attendants in the aft section, the fuselage and wings decelerated quickly without the nose and went into a steep dive, panelists believe. The NTSB sequencing report said extreme pressure broke off the wing tips, the wing center section finished collapsing, the left wing broke off and flames swept the remaining right wing and fuselage after the right wing's fuel tanks ruptured and caught fire. The right wing broke off, all parts plunged into the Atlantic, now topped with burning fuel, and shattered into smaller pieces that produced a debris field almost three miles long. But not all parts of the scenario, still the NTSB's official stance, fit snugly, the panelists said. "The group strove to fit a proposed scenario to all relevant observations . . " the sequencing report said. "In some cases there was more than one identified possibility for a particular feature. In some cases, the group had to accept that some feature(s) either could not be explained by the proposed scenario or might even be in conflict with the proposed scenario. A case in point is the recovery location of the front spar (wall) piece CW-504 in the earliest part of the red area." The piece comes from the left side of the tank's front wall, according to the report and its appendixes. ..... There was no fuel behind the front wall to explode and begin the plane's disintegration.
July 24, 1997 Southampton Press.
Official documents faxed mistakenly to a Riverhead resident recently show that the Federal Bureau of Investigation two months ago was investigating whether pieces of debris found among the wreckage of TWA Fight 800 were the remnants of an aerial target drone used by the U.S. Navy and other armed services in training exercises. The FBI apparently has since determined that the wreckage was not from the aerial target. The information came to light after a fax meant for the FBI's facility in Calverton was sent to Riverhead resident Dede Muma, who forwarded a copy of the fax to this newspaper..... The fax was meant to be sent from an employee at Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical to his superior, who was on assignment at the Calverton FBI facility. The fax shows a diagram of what appears to be a missile, along with a breakdown of its tail section and a parts list. The fax was sent by Teledyne employee Erich Hittinger to Walt Hamilton of Teledyne, via FBI agent Ken Maxwell. Teledyne is based in San Diego and, among other things, manufactures armaments. The object shown in the fax was identified this week by Jane's Information Services in Alexandria, Virginia as a Teledyne Ryan BQM-34 Firebee I....... Mr. Hittinger said this week that the FBI had contacted Teledyne Ryan because FBI investigators suspected that orange pieces of debris found among the TWA Flight 800 wreckage might be parts of a Firebee. The Firebee is "95 percent" international orange in color, he said. Mr. Hittinger said Mr. Hamilton flew to the Calverton FBI facility and examined the debris. Mr. Hittinger sent the fax to Mr. Hamilton to aid him in his examination of the debris. "He (Mr. Hamilton) said it wasn't from our Firebee," said Mr. Hittinger. "It was all put to bed some time ago." Mr. Hamilton was on vacation until July 28 and was unavailable for comment. Ms. Muma received the fax from the FBI on May 13. .....The problem is a simple matter of numbers--Ms. Muma's fax number is 369-4310 and the FBI's fax number is 369-4301. Ms. Muma said she called the FBI when she received the first fax. She said the agency's initial reaction was "Oh, s---." After the initial shock wore off, Ms. Muma was told to "send it along to them, and destroy the original." She said she asked what would happen if she didn't do so, and was told "we'll have to investigate you."
July 24, 1997 Reuters
The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Ronald Fogleman, has submitted his resignation. Pentagon officials say Fogleman is retiring amid differences over responsibility for security lapses that led to the death of 19 U.S. airmen last year in a guerrilla bombing in Saudi Arabia. Air Force officials say Fogleman, one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has asked for early retirement, to take effect no later than September 1. Fogleman, 55, reportedly told associates he would step down if Air Force generals were punished for failing to prevent last year's bombing of Khobar Towers, the Saudi barracks in which 19 U.S. airmen were killed.
July 25, 1997 ERRI Daily Intelligence Report
Vol. 3 - 206
Exiled Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden remains hidden somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan ... (he) has set his sights on and has sworn to bring an end of U.S. influence in his native Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world. Counterterrorism analysts say that bin Laden is working with terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and its patron Iran. Kenneth Katzman, the terrorism analyst for the U.S. Congress, said, "I think you have an 'atomic bomb' brewing between bin Laden, Hezbollah and the Iranians. ....Just like the old E.F. Hutton ads, when bin Laden speaks, people listen.This past February, bin Laden renewed his threat of a "jihad" or holy war against U.S. soldiers and civilians in Saudi Arabia. This led the U.S. State Department to issue a warning. In speaking to an Arabic newspaper, bin Laden said, "We had thought that the Riyadh and al-Khobar blasts were a sufficient signal to sensible U.S. decision- makers to avert a real battle between the Islamic nation and U.S. forces, but it seems that they did not understand the signal." Bin Laden reportedly made his militant contacts during the Afghan war. He then set up terrorist training camps in Sudan and financed attacks against the moderate governments of Algeria, Egypt, his native Saudi Arabia and Yemen. His apparent partner, Hezbollah, has a history of terror against the United States and its allies. They are believed responsible for the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans and more recently the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina that killed 95 people.There is growing evidence that bin Laden has struck the United States with Hezbollah's help. The evidence is said to be strong that his followers were responsible for the November 1995 terrorist bombing in Riyadh that killed five U.S. service personnel and two Indians. It is said to be still unclear if bin Laden had any involvement in the 25 June 1996 terrorist truck bombing in Dhahran that killed 19 U.S. airmen. There is also evidence that bin Laden may had been connected to the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center .... Ramzi Yousef, who is currently on trial for being involved in the World Trade Center bombing, is said to have received money from bin Laden's brother-in-law. According to a top State Department official, "Bin Laden's activities were run through Islamic charities that we think extended as far as the Philippines and that is where Yousef planned out his attacks on U.S. planes." Yousef was captured in Pakistan at a guesthouse that was set up for Afghan war veterans by Osama bin Laden.
July 29, 1997 Riverside Press
An Air National Guard helicopter pilot who witnessed the explosion of TWA Flight 800 believes the jetliner was downed by an explosive projectile, The Press-Enterprise newspaper reported today. Frederick C. Meyer, one of two helicopter pilots who saw the plane explode, said he did not know what the projectile was or where it came from, but is convinced he saw an"ordnance explosion'' near the plane. Meyer, a lawyer and former Vietnam War helicopter pilot, has already been interviewed by investigators but is speaking out again after FBI and National Transportation Safety Board officials made public statements giving mechanical causes as the most likely reason for the disaster. Investigators say an explosion in the center fuel tank brought down the Boeing 747, but they don't know what caused it and have never ruled out a bomb or missile. "I know what I saw. I saw an ordnance explosion," Meyer told the Riverside newspaper. "And whatever I saw, the explosion of the fuel was not the initiator of the event. It was one of the results. Something happened before that which was the initiator of the disaster.'' The July 17, 1996 crash into the Atlantic Ocean off New York's Long Island killed all 230 people aboard. Meyer, 57, said he saw a streak from west of the spot where the jetliner exploded. His co-pilot that night, Capt. Chris Baur, told investigators he saw a streak coming from the east. Baur has previously said he believed a missile struck the plane. Meyer said he believes there were two projectiles but could only testify about the one he saw. He refused to discuss Baur's statements, saying it would be inappropriate and would detract from the substance of each account. Meyer also said he could not say whether the object that struck Flight 800 was a missile. "I don't know" he said. "It could have been. But there is a big difference between could have been and `I saw a missile.'" NTSB officials said Meyer's statements were new to them and that he had not previously shared his conclusions with investigators. Meyer said he sought out and spoke with two FBI agents the second day after the crash, but they did not ask any questions. A week later, Meyer said he met with FBI agents and told his story again. He also had two briefings with NTSB officials. One was in January, when officials spoke with him for five minutes, Meyer said. Meyer retired from the Air National Guard in May after he was passed over for promotion to lieutenant colonel, two years short of the mandatory age to end his flying status. (Note from website author - See Meyer's presentation to the Granada Forum)
July 30, 1997 25 Raby` al-awal 1418 A.H.
25 Tammuz 5757
Double-suicide bombing on at the main Jewish market in Jerusalem claimed the lives of 17 people including the two bombers.
July 31, 1997 New York Times
In a setback to FBI efforts to solve a 1996 bombing that killed 19 American servicemen in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi man pleaded not guilty here Wednesday in a separate plot to scout out American targets in the kingdom for terrorist attacks. The not guilty plea unhinged a deal in which the Saudi man, Hani Abdel Rahim Hussein al-Sayegh, who was deported here in June from Canada. Under the arrangement, law-enforcement officials say, he had agreed to provide information about the deadly bombing at the Khobar Towers, a military housing complex in Dhahran used by American Air Force personnel. ..... Law-enforcement officials said Wednesday that while the not-guilty plea did not represent a fatal blow to their efforts, it did provide yet another disappointment in the Khobar Towers case, which has seen little progress. Sayegh was the first witness whom federal agents considered able to shed light on one of the core questions in the bombing -- whether Iran played a role in underwriting the attack. Saudi intelligence officials have said that Sayegh met with Iranian intelligence officials and later acted as a lookout in the attack, on June 25, 1996, in which a truck bomb ripped the face off an apartment building.
July 31, 1997 Reuters
Israeli and Palestinian security forces today arrested alleged Muslim militants in ..raids following twin suicide attacks that killed 13 people in a market in .. Jerusalem a day earlier.
July 31, 1997 Reuters and CNN
Police found explosive devices in a raid on a New York apartment and arrested three men .. "The individuals involved are Middle Eastern ..." the mayor told reporters at the site of the discovery in ... Brooklyn. The raid resulted from a tip late Wednesday night from a man who said his "roommates want to follow up on Jerusalem," an apparent reference to the Jerusalem attack.
July 31, 1997 26 Raby` al-awal
1418 A.H. 26 Tammuz 5757
Five crewmembers . escaped ..when their Federal Express MD-11 cargo plane crash-landed,... at Newark .. overturned and burst into flames. CBS radio quoted a witness as saying he had seen flames from the plane before it crashed.
August 2, 1997 Electronic Telegraph
A leading associate of a sworn enemy of the West is now in custody in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he is providing information about his former boss's Islamic fundamentalist activities. Details have been passed to MI6 and to the CIA at Langley, Virginia. United States intelligence sources yesterday named the informant as Abu Fadel, the terrorist alias for Sidi Tayyib. He handled the distribution of Osama bin Laden's vast wealth as the "godfather" of anti-American terror groups. Just how he ended up in Riyadh is uncertain. US officials, who have found the Saudis difficult to deal with in the matter of terrorism, will not say if he was captured or was working as a double agent for the desert kingdom. All they will disclose is that he has been in Saudi hands since the middle of May. There is also a report that a second aide to bin Laden, said to go by the name of Jallud, is helping the Saudis after being arrested. Exiled from Saudi Arabia, bin Laden, 44, who has an inherited fortune estimated at £154 million, is zealously committed to striking at American interests. He is a towering figure in Islamic circles, where he gained heroic status in the Eighties, fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Reporters who have interviewed him say he is a tall and elegant figure in a gold-trimmed white robe and red-and-white keffiyeh. He lives with his three wives at Hadda in Afghanistan, beyond the reach of the West and under the protection of the Taliban, who captured Kabul almost a year ago. He is especially feared because of his ability to fund many diverse operations. Britain has a special interest in him because he has been linked to the transfer of funds two years ago to a London-based Algerian group suspected of seven bombings in France. He has also been connected to the London-based Saudi opposition group, the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights. Egypt wants to question him for allegedly funding a plot to assassinate President Mubarak in December 1995. Cairo believes that in association with the blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, he was behind some of the murders of Western tourists in Egypt. America believes that bin Laden was the patron of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the 28 year-old Pakistani on trial in Manhattan for allegedly masterminding the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing for which the sheikh is serving a prison term. A State Department report labels him as "one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today". It is thought to be no coincidence that two alleged suicide bombers, Abu Mezer, 23, and Lafi Khalil, 22, carrying Jordanian passports, were captured two days ago making pipe bombs in a flat in Brooklyn, New York. They were apparently plotting to blow up a subway train. American sources say the information being given in Riyadh by Tayyib relates to the distribution of money to Arab communities in Brooklyn, Jersey City in New Jersey, and Detroit. Tayyib has apparently given details of bin Laden's bank accounts in Pakistan and Afghanistan from which money has been sent to London and Detroit for passing on to individuals. His information is thought to have been the reason a federal grand jury has been secretly convened in New York to examine the financing of terrorism in America. The CIA believes that bin Laden had advance knowledge of two Saudi bombings that killed 24 US servicemen. He is thought to have provided the money, with Iran supplying the muscle through Hizbollah.
August 4, 1997 TIME.com
The FBI has linked two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot to the militant Mideast group Hamas. Palestinian security officials think the two suspects could be members of a new group, financed by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, which takes its orders from Hamas or another Islamist group.
August 4, 1997 TIME.com
Ramzi Yousef, the alleged mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing ... will go on trial today ....prosecutors hope to finger Yousef as the mastermind of the WTC blast; another key concern is to uncover who financed him.
August 5, 1997 1 Raby` al-THaany 1418 A.H.
2 Av 5757
A South Korean jumbo jet with 254 people on board crashed and burst into flames .... on this Pacific island (Guam) Wednesday .... White House officials said there were unconfirmed reports that the pilot of the jumbo jet "declared an in-flight emergency "....An FAA spokeswoman said the plane had just been cleared for landing at 2:35 a.m. local time Wednesday (12:35 p.m. EDT Tuesday) when radar contact was lost. Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), quoting air controllers in Guam, said the captain of the jumbo jet said the words "Something wrong'' shortly before he lost contact with them. Guam, largest of the Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific, is an unincorporated territory of the United States with a population of about 144,000. A U.S. military base covers about one-third of the island, the westernmost U.S. territory, which is located 4,000 miles west of Hawaii and 2,200 miles south east of Seoul.
August 7, 1997 A Look Inside Hamas - Eric Margolis
- Reproduced on MSANEW
Hamas, the shadowy movement that most likely sent the suicide bombers that killed 13 Israelis and wounded 170 last week, is a group of fanatical Islamic terrorists, funded and guided by Iran. So claim Israel and the United States. The reality of Hamas, which means 'zeal,' is more complex. ......Over the past decade, Hamas influence spread through the Occupied Territories, usually in competition, occasionally in concert, with Yassir Arafat's PLO. Hamas won wide popularity battling corruption and creating a network of badly needed social institutions, including schools, hospitals, orphanages and civic centers. . At the same time, Hamas secretly formed the wholly separate 'Izz-al-Din al-Qassam' brigades to combat Israeli occupation by armed resistance (or terrorism, take your pick).....Contrary to popular belief. Hamas is not primarily an Islamic movement, though it uses Muslim themes to rally supporters. Hamas is a narrowly-focused, nationalist organization, whose goal is restoration of Palestinian land and political rights. Predominantly Sunni Muslim, Hamas has little in common with Lebanon's Shia Hizbollah, or Iran. Claims by the US and Israeli that Hamas is funded and directed by Iran are false. Hamas gets funds from the Palestinian Diaspora, and other private Muslim sources. Embarrassingly, its biggest source of cash is America's close allies, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. The oil Arabs have long financed extreme Islamic-nationalist movements in other nations as a way of buying peace for their own feudal kingdoms. The oil sheiks also back Hamas to punish Yasser Arafat for half-heatedly backing Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. .... Hamas, speaks with many voices - no surprise, since today it is a loosely-knit organization with numerous conflicting factions. However, all Hamas members are united in the view that Arafat's PLO is corrupt, inept, and has sold out to Israel and the US. I've spoken to Hamas leaders. Some concede they will eventually have to accept Israel and make painful compromises - but under a better deal than the Arafat got at Oslo. Others Hamas members are wild fanatics, filled with burning hatred for Israel and, lately, for the United States, because of the Clinton Administration's ardently pro-Israel policies....... As a result, America is increasingly being targeted by extremists.
August 10, 1997 CNN (Impact - "Holy Terror")
Osama bin Laden statements.
"The U.S. government has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal through its support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and we believe the U.S. is directly responsible for those killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. Due to its subordination to the Jews, the arrogance of the United States regime has reached the point that it occupied Arabia, the holiest place of the Muslims, who are more than a billion people in the world today. For this and other acts of aggression and injustice we have declared a jihad against the U.S."
"By being loyal to the U.S. regime, the Saudi regime has committed an act against Islam. When this main foundation was violated, other corrupt acts followed in every aspect of the country, economic, social and government services".
"The U.S. today has set a double standard calling whoever goes against its injustice a 'terrorist'. It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to all of this. If we refuse to do so, it says we are 'terrorists'".
"You will see (my future plans) and hear about them in the media - God willing".
August 11, 1997 Aviation Week and Space Technology
Safety investigators are scrutinizing pilots' reactions and retrieving data from a Federal Express MD-11F to better understand why the aircraft crashed ..... Investigators have questioned the two pilots but have not released information on their interviews.
August 12, 1997 8:40pm 8 Raby` al-THaany
1418 A.H. 9 Av 5757
Bruce Cornet (firstname.lastname@example.org) reports video taping a possible missile attack on a Boeing 767 jetliner over Sea Bright, NJ on 12 August 1997 on approach to JFK. Sea Bright is located on the northeastern coast of the Atlantic Ocean near Long Island, not far from the area where the TWA Flight 800 exploded. (Click for animated gif file) Bruce caught... eight frames of the possible missile.... on video (Click for jpg file). The missile or possible space debris was video taped descending toward the airliner flying at a lower altitude. In the first frame, the ... missile appears to be glowing at the top of the frame and heading down toward the aircraft. The second frame shows a brilliant flash around the missile. In the third frame, the missile appears to be on fire. The fourth frame shows the missile smoking and turning sideways. This frame shows a definite cigar or missile shaped object and not a meteorite. A loud sound is also heard probably from the explosion or the swoosh of the missile. The missile then appears to fall into the inter-coastal waterway. The missile appears to have malfunctioned, and only partly detonated, but fortunately did no known damage to the jetliner. The FBI and other authorities are examining the video in detail.
August 15, 1997 NT Times Editorial:
.... Between abuses of E-mail, some nasty pranks and a careless on-line gossip columnist, the well-established information anarchy of cyberspace has turned more chaotic and even brutish. ..... The Internet should not be censored or constrained. But as these events suggest, the span and speed of cyberspace make it the perfect vehicle for sloppy reporting and unsubstantiated theories. A good example was Pierre Salinger's pronouncement, lifted directly from reports carried on the Internet, that a missile fired by an American Navy vessel had caused the explosion of T.W.A. Flight 800. Mr. Salinger is not alone; a surprising number of people unquestioningly believe what they read on the Internet. ...... At the very least, Internet users should realize that just because information flashes across their computer screens does not necessarily mean it is all true.
August 17, 1997 NY Times Magazine Section. Interview with Condit,
Q. Your company has been the target of a lot of criticism on safety issues. In promotional material, Airbus executives often hint that their planes are safer than yours. They allude to T.W.A. Flight 800 and to two 737 crashes, near Colorado Springs and Pittsburgh. How do you answer them?
A. I don't think it is beneficial to Boeing or Airbus who is safer in a world where both of us put safety at the very top of what we do. What we have is a very safe system. So why would you want to argue about who is safer?
Q. Federal authorities have been saying all summer that they're pretty certain that neither a bomb nor a missile took out T.W.A. Flight 800. They suspect, instead, an explosion in the fuel tank. Will you be recalling your 747 fleet to check the fuel tanks?
A. The first thing that has to happen is that you've *got* to determine what the cause was. You've got to fix the right thing, whatever it is.
Q. Early reporting on Flight 800 suggested that it had been downed by terrorists. As terrible as that would have been, did you almost hope for that -- as opposed to a mechanical problem?
A. One of the things I've learned is that you don't "hope" for anything. You try to find out the answer.
Q. But that would have been a better result for the company, wouldn't it?
A. I don't know how there can be a "better result" when people die.
Q. The Seattle Times won a Pulitzer Prize this year for a series investigating what it described as technical problems with the rudder system on the 737. Why haven't you recalled the 737 fleet while you've worked on the rudder problem?
A. Because there is zero evidence that that's where the problem is.
August 18, 1997 NT Times Editorial America's
Iran Policy Rethinks Itself
For nearly two decades, American foreign policy makers have looked with thinly disguised contempt at attempts by their European counterparts to build a constructive dialogue with Iran. These diplomatic overtures to the Iranians have typically been described in the United States as naive, commercially self-serving, or both. From an American perspective, it was as if the Europeans were not just dealing with the enemy, but with the devil incarnate. But Europe's soft line toward Iran may soon become United States policy as well. The Europeans might appreciate such a reversal -- if not for the hypocritical way the United States is going about it. Evidence of a such an American about-face came to light late last month. Through unnamed officials, the Clinton Administration let it be known that it would not oppose a planned 2,000-mile pipeline that would carry natural gas from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to Turkey through Iran. Although Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was quick to deny that there had been any fundamental shift in policy, one can only wonder about the timing of the leak. This news surfaced in late July, just days before the inauguration of Iran's new president, Mohammed Khatami, who was just as predictably described by the same unnamed Administration officials as a "moderate" with whom the United States might be able to do business. In reality, the United States had been signaling a change in policy for months, all in the dance of veils familiar to Washington observers. First, word circulates that major oil companies with interests in the region have retained the services of several noted foreign policy experts and former officials. Next, these same luminaries publicly decry the "unproductive" nature of American policy toward Iran. The containment strategy, we are told, needs to be rethought. Finally, the usual unnamed Administration officials begin dropping broad hints that such a rethinking is indeed in the works. Rather than taking comfort from the notion that Washington may be moderating its hostility toward Iran, the Europeans have been a bit taken aback by it. They believe the United States is preparing to engage with the Iranians for one and only one reason: Big Oil has something big at stake in Central Asia. Iran has influence with virtually every country in the region. .......Obviously, this puts the United States oil giants at a distinct disadvantage in the race to tap the vast energy resources of the former Soviet republics. Little wonder, then, that the Clinton Administration gave a hero's welcome to Azerbaijan's President, Heydar Aliyev, on his recent visit to Washington -- or that business interests eager to unlock oil in the Caspian Sea are working overtime to soften American attitudes toward Iran. Europeans take offense at this sort of double standard. After all, even as hints of a kinder, gentler stance toward Iran surface in the press, European and American negotiators are getting ready to discuss the imperial Helms-Burton legislation, which seeks to enforce American trade sanctions against Cuba by applying them to non-American companies. On the one hand, the United States constantly reminds everyone that under United States law, Iran -- like Cuba -- is economically "untouchable." Yet this policy seems expendable as soon as American interests decide to go after Central Asian oil. Europeans find it particularly hard to swallow the idea that the entire world should dance to the tune of American domestic politics. European policy makers understand realities well enough to know that as the world's only superpower, the United States plays a paramount role on virtually every issue. But they wonder whether the United States is shortsighted enough to believe that it cannot only tell other nations what to do, but precisely when to do it. Europeans are bemused to see how easy it is to change American foreign policy. Just have a few political heavyweights prepare the way by endorsing the impending shift. In short, make it sound like a geopolitical strategy adjustment, not a cut-and-dry business transaction. Is it any wonder that more and more people abroad have an uneasy feeling that the United States, for all its achievements, is growing ever more cynical? That suspicion certainly hasn't been contradicted by the Clinton Administration's decision to allow the pipelines through Iran. To many Europeans, it just looks like a way to get Washington's policy out of a trap -- and out of the way of some very powerful business interests.
August 21, 1997 NT Times U.S. Looks For Change
The United States cautiously welcomed the approval of Mr. Khatami's Cabinet today but said it was still looking for concrete policy changes in Teheran. A State Department spokesman ... said Washington regarded the election of Mr. Khatami as an interesting development. "To the extent that the election of President Khatami and the approval of his Cabinet indicate that the will and welfare of the people of Iran will be reflected by its Government, we would welcome that .... What we need to see in Iran .... are actions. And we are going to be waiting to see actions".
September 1997 The American Spectator
Letter from John B. Roberts II in reply to an earlier one from
James Hall - Chairman of the NTSB
Early this summer Hall testified before Congress that a meteorite may have blown up TWA, an event about as likely as an attack by a UFO. Apparently, Mr. Hall is prepared to got to any length to avoid confronting evidence of terrorism in the crash of TWA 800..... minute traces of PETN and RDX were found in TWA 800. Hall would have us believe they came from a bomb-sniffing dog test. But the St. Louis Police Department test record says only that a "wide-bodied jet" was used in the test, and provides no serial number for the aircraft......As TWA's 800's debris was being hauled ashore, it was being tested by the EGIS high-tech explosives detection system operated by FBI technicians and BATF bomb experts. Within five days of the crash, EGIS registered the first of more than a dozen "hits" for PETN on the aircraft. The FBI laboratory--whose work, even before it was subsequently criticized by the Justice Departments's inspector general, was questioned by FBI agents working on EGIS--confirmed only two findings. Do the EGIS findings mean that there was once much more explosive residue .... Whether there were two positive findings or a dozen, the dog-test explanation is almost as zany as Hall's meteorite theory..... Hall states that the U.S. lacks intelligence leads, but at least one terrorist has claimed credit for the TWA 800 bombing. World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Ahmed Yousef told authorities his group is responsible. Yousef's claim has not been made public, but it is in the FBI file. (Note from website author - See Musing #3 for the claims of responsibility).
August 29, 1997 The Associated Press
The families of the 48 French victims of TWA Flight 800 accused American officials of "dragging their feet" in investigating the crash .... Michel Ney, lawyer for the Association of Families of Victims, told reporters ... that the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board had refused to hand over important documents to a French judge studying the... crash. Ney said investigating magistrate Chantal Perdrix had requested copies of autopsy reports of French victims, results of clothing analysis, chemical and metal tests conducted by U.S. authorities, a copy of the cockpit voice recorder, and Boeing and TWA maintenance reports. "The judge received practically nothing, just a few innocuous documents already made public," Ney said. He said the U.S. Justice Department wanted Judge Perdrix to promise to keep the information confidential as requested by Boeing and TWA, and that she declined. "This is unacceptable. We will do everything possible to find out the truth and make someone pay for this," Ney said.
September 4, 1997 2 Jumaada al-awal 1418 A.H.
2 Elul 5757 Reuter
Three explosions went off in the heart of downtown Jerusalem ...(killing seven including three suicide bombers). Israel has been on alert for attacks since a double-suicide bombing on July 30 at the main Jewish market in Jerusalem claimed the lives of 17 people including the two bombers. U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright was due to make her first trip to the Middle East next week to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, which has been in crisis for months.
September 5, 1997 NEW YORK (CNN)
Federal officials investigating the crash of TWA Flight 800 are baffled by the recent discovery of impact damage on the doors that close over the front landing gear. According to several people involved in the investigation, for the last two weeks National Transportation Safety Board investigators have been trying to figure out what could have caused the nose gear doors to blow inward -- and whether whatever caused that damage happened before the plane's center fuel tank exploded. ..... Examiners who have been looking at crash wreckage for the past 13 months are now said to be mystified about the significance of the damage on the doors, which are located below the flight deck and well forward of the plane's center fuel tank. The investigators are equally troubled by the fact that these nose gear doors were among the first things on the plane to have come off in flight. One crash investigator told CNN on Friday that the discovery keeps open the question of whether the fuel tank explosion was the primary or secondary event in the in-flight breakup of TWA flight 800. But Shelly Hazle, an NTSB spokeswoman, downplayed the significance, emphasizing that investigators will have to see how this newly discovered evidence fits into their theory of how the plane blew up.
September 8, 1997 Aviation Week & Space
NTSB teams will reconvene in New York this week to examine debris from Trans World Airlines Flight 800 that some investigators claim has unusual or as-yet-unexplained damage. ... Officials from the safety board and parties to the probe, such as Boeing, TWA and the Air Line Pilots Assn., will be examining portions of the wreckage that some investigators say could raise new questions about why and how the aircraft broke up ...... "We're going back to Calverton to attempt to understand more fully the damage to certain pieces of wreckage", said Bernard S. Loeb .... "these items do not question in any significant way the Board's analysis of the sequence of Flight 800's breakup" ....Some investigators, primarily those outside the NTSB, are intrigued by specific debris whose damage has not yet been explained fully. These investigators said that pieces of debris, like the doors for Flight 800's nose-gear wheel well, could raise questions not about the sequence of the breakup, but its cause. At least two sections of the nose-gear wheel well doors were identified as having been found in the "red zone" of debris recovered from the floor of the Atlantic, which is generally believed to have contained parts that broke off the aircraft first. .... These and other nose-gear parts, including the door hinges, are damaged in a way that indicates the doors failed upwards into the wheel well. This is unusual, some investigators said, since the forward fuselage appears to have struck the surface of the Atlantic not on its belly, where the doors are, but on its lower right side. ... Investigators.. will examine soot patterns of some ... debris that have not yet been reviewed fully. Some investigators said the soot patterns could raise questions about how the explosion and subsequent fire propagated on Flight 800. One senior safety board official, however, said the soot marks in question have not been analyzed in detail yet. Once such an analysis is done, this official said, "we're very, very confident that the sooting - and the damage to the nose-gear doors - will be fully explainable." ....But Flight 800's investigation faces intense scrutiny from the investigators themselves, from the parties involved in the probe and from the public. In addition, the FBI is conducting a parallel criminal probe into the crash. Safety board officials are spurred, as a result, to resolve as many discrepancies in the physical evidence as posssible.
September 18, 1997 The Associated
Investigators have detailed anew in letters to Congress that there is no evidence that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by a bomb or missile. "The likelihood of finding such evidence in the future is becoming more and more remote,'' Peter Golsch, spokesman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said today. ..... The letters from Kallstrom and the NTSB were sent to Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., about two weeks ago in response to questions of members of Duncan's House aviation subcommittee after a hearing in July. Asked whether the plane could have been brought down by a missile exploding near it, Kallstrom said: "A conventional or shoulder-launched missile exploding in close proximity to and penetrating the skin and various layers of structure of the aircraft would leave distinctive markings as well as fragmentation patterns on the skin of the aircraft. Examination of the recovered pieces of the aircraft, particularly the skin, has not found the markings and fragmentation patterns that would be characteristic of the warheads of large conventional or shoulder launched missiles.'' Kallstrom added that tests indicated that if a missile exploded near the plane, a fragment penetrating as far as the center fuel tank would no longer "have sufficient energy to create a spark to cause an explosion.'' Also, a missile exploding nearby would have left pieces big enough to have been found in the ocean with the plane's wreckage, he said. The FBI, which is responsible for determining whether the disaster was the result of a criminal act, and CIA are still doing "a sophisticated and detailed'' analysis of 200 witness accounts, Kallstrom said. He said this involves new interviews with some of them and "correlation of the witness locations and what they described seeing and hearing with known information, such as the radar trackings the aircraft and the information from the cockpit recorders.'' The analysis would take an additional 30 to 45 days, he said. In Washington, Duncan said he had no quarrel with what the investigators were doing, but added that he was "not entirely satisfied at this point. There have been numerous people who have raised concerns and questions about what happened to this plane and I think that all of those concerns need to be examined before we say this is all there is,'' Duncan said.
September 19, 1997 Bill Patrick: Posting by Bill Patrick
to http://www.nystate.com/ msgboard/theory.html
I was First Officer on TWA 900 and took off 2 minutes behind 800, following essentially the same flight path. We were at 19,000' and approx.10 miles in trail of 800 when it exploded although we could not see it. Inflight visibility at our altitude was fairly poor due to haze and approaching dusk. The conditions at all altitudes were hazy but much better lower. I can not comment on surface visiblity at the crash scene but I would be surprised if the aircraft was visible from the surface prior to the explosion. Once the a/c exploded it would certainly be visible. I know personally of one eyewitness that was fishing off the coast and saw a "flare" go up from a surface vessel on the horizon and was followed by the explosion overhead moments later. He then guided his boat to the wreckage of 800 and never saw the surface vessel again. He could not describe any details except to say that it was about 10 miles away.
September 22, 1997 Aviation Week & Space
CIA analysts assisting the FBI have spent more than seven month culling eyewitness acounts ... of TWA 800, and outside consultants have scoured the wreckage ...but those efforts have found no evidence that the 747 was downed by a missile, a senior FBI official (Kallstrom) has told Congress. "There is no evidence that a missile fragment could have penetrated the layers of aircraft structure to the center fuel tank and still have sufficient energy to create a spark to cause an explosion," he asserted. Missile debris from such a proximity hit "would be a lot larger than if the missile had actually impacted the aircraft and would, logically, equate to a greater possibility of recovering a piece of missile debris greater than 1 -2 in. in diameter. None of the pieces recovered and identified to date came from a missile," Kallstrom wrote. FBI agents in recent weeks have been working with government and industry safety investigators and aerospace manufacturers to identify a number of pieces of metal recovered from Flight 800's debris fields on the floor of the Atlantic.
September 24, 1997 Associated Press
Improved airline safety doesn't have to wait for a final ruling on the cause of accidents, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board says. Jim Hall urged the airline industry to pay close attention to his agency's recommendations. The crashes of TWA Flight 800 and USAir Flight 427 have become two of the longest and most complex investigations in board history. While still unsolved, both have produced a series of safety recommendations, Hall noted to the Aero Club of Washington on Tuesday. "It is healthy that the industry engage in a thorough examination of the practicality and benefits of our recommendations,'' he said. "What I don't want to see, though, is a reflexive action by industry that leads to the recommendations being rejected out of hand.'' ....... "We were told shortly after the crash of TWA Flight 800 that, even if the center wing tank exploded, it could not have brought down the plane. In addition, we were told that center fuel tanks of 747s are rarely in an explosive state,'' he said. "I think all of us are convinced by now that they are in an explosive state more than not,'' he went on, referring to tanks filled with fuel vapors........ The safety board and FBI have been conducting joint investigations of the disaster, considering the possibility of mechanical failure, a bomb or missile as a cause. Hall said no evidence has been found of a bomb or missile. Hall said he hopes his agency will issue a final report on the crash of USAir Flight 427 by early nest year. At 80,000 hours of work, the Sept. 8, 1994, disaster near Pittsburgh, in which 132 died, is the longest investigation in NTSB history. So far, Hall said, the agency has issued 20 recommendations for improvements in the rudders of Boeing 737 aircraft.......
September 24, 1997 Associated Press
Investigators are looking into whether bundled wires caused the explosion that brought down TWA Flight 800, the CBS Evening News reported Wednesday. Citing unidentified sources inside the crash investigation, CBS said investigators suspect a strong electrical charge may have jumped from a high-voltage wire to a low-voltage wire bundled together in the plane. Investigators theorize the charge may have ignited fuel or vapors in a nearly-empty tank, sparking the July 1996 explosion that killed all 230 people aboard. Investigators know the explosion originated in the center fuel tank and have examined fuel probes as a possible source of ignition. But the wiring in the probes is low-voltage and may not have been sufficient to cause sparks strong enough to ignite an explosion. CBS said investigators are now looking at whether cracked or damaged insulation in the bundled wires could have allowed a high-voltage surge to jump to one of the low-voltage wires. Doug Webb, a spokesman for Seattle-based Boeing Commercial Aircraft Group, declined to comment.
September 25, 1997 The Press-Enterprise
Central Intelligence Agency analysts have concluded that a missile did not trigger the mid-air explosion of TWA Flight 800 in July 1996, a CIA representative said Wednesday. "There is no way a missile brought down the plane," CIA spokeswoman Carolyn Osborn said. She said CIA analysts had spent 14 months investigating missile theories after being asked to do so by the FBI. Officials of that agency were concerned early on that foreign terrorists might have caused the crash of the Paris bound-jetliner. The CIA's involvement in the investigation was disclosed during a congressional hearing Sept. 5 by the FBI's lead investigator, assistant director James Kalstrom, who said the intelligence agency's analysis should be completed by mid-October. "Based on analysis using 244 eyewitness reports, radar data, infrared data and cockpit recorder information, CIA analysts have determined that the eyewitness sightings thought to be that of a missile actually took place after the first of several explosions on the aircraft," Osborn said. "Our technical analysis concludes that what these eyewitnesses saw was in fact the burning (Boeing) 747 in various stages of crippled flight, not a missile." Osborn did not provide more specifics about the analysis or witness interviews. Shelly Hazel, spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board, the lead agency investigating the crash, declined comment Wednesday night. The NTSB and FBI have said their three leading theories for the disaster's cause are some type of mechanical failure, a small bomb or an outside source such as a missile, missile fragment, meteorite or space debris.
One key witness, ex-military helicopter pilot Frederick Meyer, said Wednesday that he had not been re-interviewed since giving his statement to FBI and NTSB investigators during brief sessions shortly after the accident. Meyer said he thinks TWA 800 was knocked out of the sky by an explosive projectile, probably a military warhead, although he could not say what kind or its source. Meyer and his co-pilot, Capt. Chris Baur, were the first rescuers on the scene. The Air National Guard pilots said they were practicing landings when they saw quick, bright, high intensity explosions in the sky before a large fireball formed in the same area and dropped into the Atlantic Ocean off New York's Long Island. The men said they kept their eyes on the fireball and arrived while debris and bodies were still falling from the sky.
The CIA's Osborn said the agency joined the investigation shortly after the crash. "Missile analysts of the CIA have been working closely with the FBI during or over the past 14 months to examine the possibility that a missile was used to bring down TWA Flight 800," she said. "The Central Intelligence Agency became involved because of the possibility that it was an act of foreign terrorism. The particular concern to the FBI were reports from several eyewitnesses who recalled seeing an object, usually described as being a flare, ascend toward the plane and that these witnesses believe what they saw was a missile destroy the aircraft." After reviewing factors such as speed of sound and light, trajectory, and acoustical data collected by the cockpit voice recorder, CIA analysts said they believed witnesses saw later, not earlier, events in the plane's breakup. The CIA has provided technical assistance in previous crashes where foreign terrorism is considered possible, such as the December 1988 Pan Am 103 crash over Scotland. That crash was caused by terrorists who concealed explosives inside a radio-cassette player, authorities concluded. ...... Doug Webb, a spokesman for Seattle-based Boeing Commercial Aircraft Group, declined to comment.
September 26, 1997 Agence France Presse
US authorities have launched an inquiry into an unidentified flying object that whizzed 50 metres (yards) past a Swissair jet near New York last month, Swissair said Friday. Company spokesman Jean-Claude Donzel dismissed reports that the object could have been a missile, saying the incident was "very serious" but the results of the inquiry were not yet known. Swiss RSR radio, reporting that the pilot thought it "could have been a missile," noted that the incident occurred near where a TWA flight blew up in July 1996 with the loss of 230 lives. ...... According to RSR radio, the National Transportation Safey Board (NTSB) believes the object in the latest incident was a weather balloon. The Boeing 747, with 34 passengers and 17 crew on board, was about 10 miles (16 kilometres) from New York en route from Philadelphia to Zurich via Boston when the near-miss occurred on August 9. Donzel said the pilot and co-pilot both saw an object fly past at high speed. They were later interviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the NTSB and the FBI. The pilot said it was "elongated, white and without wings," while the co-pilot described it as "rather round." "Neither the pilot nor co-pilot spoke of a missile" in their statements, another Swissair spokesman, Erwin Schaerer, said. Donzel dismissed the missile theory as "speculation," saying the speed of the object would account for the slight variation in the descriptions provided by the pilot and co-pilot.
September 27, 1997 Electonic Telegraph Issue
An unidentified object narrowly missed a Swissair jumbo jet with 64 passengers aboard at 23,000 feet near New York, a company spokesman said yesterday. The object was described by the 747 captain as "elongated, white and without wings" but the co-pilot recalled it as being "more spherical". American aviation authorities dismissed speculation that the object was a missile and said it was a weather balloon. Swiss Radio reported the captain as saying he did not find that explanation credible although neither he nor his co-pilot thought it was a missile. The near-miss occurred on Aug 9, close to the spot where a TWA airliner exploded in July last year with the loss of 230 lives. Swissair flight 127 was travelling from Philadelphia to Zurich via Boston.
September 27, 1997 The Washington Times
Congress has quietly begun probing a retired Navy officer's claim that jet fuel in TWA flight 800's center wing tank was too cold to explode without being first shaken into a volatile mist. William S. Donaldson's assertion challenges virtually every remaining theory of the NTSB in its search for the cause of the July 17 .... crash. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., Ohio Democrat, who has been probing the issue virtually alone, was asked by aviation subcommittee Chairman John J. Duncan Jr., Tennessee Republican to "investigate all the circumstances" and report back. Mr. Duncan ordered staff help for Mr. Traficant, whose staff has consulted with Mr. Donaldson. "You could basically sit in that tank with a lit cigarette and snuff the cigarette out in the fuel and it won't explode," said Paul Marcone, Mr.. Traficant's top aide. "Your agency has been depicting the volatility of the fuel as if it were nitrobenzene," the former navy jet pilot said in a combative latter to NTSB Chairman James E. Hall, accusing him of covering up important facts and basing his judgments on fuel-temperature testing done on the ground in a desert. he said the fuel never reached the danger point of 127 degrees Fahrenheit and believes only an explosion outside the plane could have set off the chain of events. Mr. Hall has listed that critical point at 116 degrees, but no numbers now are being confirmed pending new studies at California Institute of Technology. In a detailed letter to Mr. Donaldson on Sept. 11, Mr. Hall said flight tests aboard a similar 747 prove that "air-fuel vapor" in the tank - called ullage- can be hot enough to explode. Mr. Hall says possible ignition sources aboard the plane include short circuits, flame traveling through a vent from a surge tank on the right wing, or static electricity sparking from a fuel pump in the nearly dry tank. Yesterday the agency also acknowledged the possibility that high voltage was transmitted into the tank through low-voltage circuits by faulty wiring, as reported Wednesday by CBS News. "these flight tests have shown that temperature of the vapors in the ullage of the nearly empty fuel tank can be well above the explosive limit," Mr. hall said. It is not clear what difference is implied between what Mr. Hall calls "air-fuel vapor" and what Mr. Donaldson calls "misted fuel," similar to droplets produced by a fuel injector. NTSB spokesman Peter Goelz relied on general agreement among aviation professionals that the center wing tank was "in an explosive condition" and sought to dismiss proddings by the retired commander, who said his military duties included crash investigation and flight safety. "There was a certainty in Commander Donaldson's numbers that have shifted, that surprised us, and it is an area that is uncertain," Mr. Goelz said, citing one Donaldson letter that said fuel would have to be at 160 degrees to explode. "When breaking new ground, it's not enough to look at a text-book," Mr. Goelz said. he said the NTSB contracted for research of the fuel's explosive properties by Joseph Shepard at Cal Tech. Before his crusade, Mr. Donaldson said that "they're trying to convince the public they can boil water at 50 degrees." Mr. Donaldson's effort, based originally on data from a 1988 technical manual but revised over the months, was mingled with vituperative language that Mr. hall took as a charge he is covering up a criminal act, perhaps by terrorists with missiles. Asked about this, Mr. Donaldson said: " I'm not mincing any words about this. It's a cover-up of basically an act of war by a foreign enemy, so far unidentified." Mr. Hall called the charge a disservice to federal investigators.