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Was there a government cover-up?

Posted By David M. Bresnahan On 04/19/1999 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

This is the second of a two-part series on the downing of TWA Flight 800. Part one describes efforts by the federal government to stop independent investigators from exposing evidence found in the crash for TWA flight 800.


A former naval officer says TWA flight 800 was downed by a shoulder-fired missile three years ago. He claims the federal government is doing all it can to cover up what really happened — and stop his investigation.

Retired Navy Cmdr. William S. Donaldson, III is an aviation mishap analyst and former naval crash investigator with extensive experience. He has been investigating the crash for over two years with other concerned, retired aviation professionals. Their organization, Associated Retired Aviation Professionals, has issued a report to congress on the evidence they found.

That report was recently updated with additional information which Cmdr. Donaldson claims proves the government has something to hide. The new evidence clearly shows that the FBI, National Transportation Safety Board, the Department of Justice, and the Clinton administration knew within hours of the crash that the plane was brought down by a missile.

Cmdr. Donaldson just returned from a Long Island courtroom where he was a consultant in a case he says shows how desperate the government is to cover up the crash evidence.

Journalist James Sanders, 53, and his wife, Elizabeth, 52, investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800 and presented a theory of government cover-up in a book, news articles and in interviews. The two were convicted last week of conspiring to steal evidence from the wreckage of the controversial flight.

The couple claims they were given the evidence by a TWA pilot for independent testing. The test they paid for determined a piece of cloth from the wreckage had the ingredients of missile fuel on it. The government would not permit any discussion of the crash, evidence of a missile, or any other topic outside the charge of theft of the piece of wreckage during the manipulated trial, according to Cmdr. Donaldson.

The Sanderses were denied the opportunity to present their case in court, and they are now free on bail while they await sentencing in July. They could spend up to 10 years in a federal prison.

Cmdr. Donaldson has challenged the official NTSB position on the cause of the crash. Over the past two years, he has been working with other retired aviation professionals, including some previous crash investigators as well as persons inside the NTSB investigation itself.

They have uncovered significant new information that appears to show that Flight 800 was shot down by one or more shoulder-fired missiles, and that the FBI, the Justice Department and the Administration knew this from the beginning and are trying to cover up what really happened.

During preparation for the Sanders trial, Cmdr. Donaldson contacted the NTSB with questions about crash evidence. He says they did all they could to intimidate him and the Sanders’ attorney.

“They went into a d— panic mode,” he told WorldNetDaily by phone. He had asked for a report on the edge analysis of the portion of the plane he believes was hit by a missile. The tests he expected to have been performed by the NTSB with an electron microscope were done with a jeweler’s eyepiece.

“If they move on to the final report and they don’t have an edge analysis on that side body wall, then you can use that thing for toilet paper. It’s not going to be worth a d—. I told him three of four more anomalies but I was wasting my time — he’s a lawyer,” he explained.

His request for information not only revealed inadequacy in the official investigation, it also pointed to efforts to derail the court case.

“They jumped all over Maffeo (Sanders’ attorney) saying, ‘We’re going to file motions to deny your access to discovery and everything else based on the fact that Donaldson has looked at some close-up pictures of the left-side body wall.’

“They just can’t stand to see the truth in the light of day. This is not rocket science. Mostly it’s common sense. There are huge anomalies that have never been seen in a domestic crash before,” he explained.

James Hall, director of the NTSB and head of the crash investigation, told the New York Times shortly after the crash that the plane came down as the result of an explosion in the fuel tank located in the left wing. Cmdr. Donaldson wrote to him and asked him to resign.

“It may have been overkill in the tactic category, but it was based on essential premises of a safety investigation,” he explained to WorldNetDaily. “You don’t have the leader of the investigation and the agency that runs the investigation making proclamations in a New York newspaper that it wasn’t a missile and the cause was a center wing tank explosion when they only had about 80 percent of the airplane out of the water.

“It was a theory they were going on that was totally contravened by very serious anomalies. So here you have the leadership saying, ‘OK folks, I’m going to listen to anything you have to tell me about a center wing tank explosion, but let’s not waste our time looking for any other facts.’

“That’s not the way these things work. You’re supposed to put your experts in the field and look at everything. There’s a process where you find things that are not in a normal crash situation and you highlight it,” complained the former naval crash investigator who has seen what military planes look like when they are shot down.

There are essentially three theories about the cause of the crash. The NTSB has claimed it was an explosion of the center wing tank, most likely from an electrical failure. The FBI has accepted the theory of the wing tank explosion, but they think the explosion was caused by a bomb.

Both agencies have not been willing to look at any evidence that does not specifically contribute to their particular theories, according to Cmdr. Donaldson. He says the third theory, the missile theory, is getting no consideration from officials and anyone promoting the theory is being discredited.

The FBI agent in charge of the investigation, James K. Kallstrom had a friend who died on the flight and presented a flag found in the debris to the surviving family. Cmdr. Donaldson says that while the nation watched the presentation on national television, something far different was going on behind the scenes.

“At the same time he was doing that, they were preferring charges against Sanders, TWA pilot Terrell Stacey, and people that actually did lose a lot of people they were close to. Terrell Stacey knew just about all of those 53 TWA people that died on the airplane. He was a senior guy with TWA,” explained Cmdr. Donaldson.

“Liz Sanders knew quite a few of the flight attendants,” he continued. “She was a supervisor of training there. And the FBI put pressure on Lee Taylor. Threatened her with obstruction of justice. They scared her to death because she allowed Jim Sanders to use her apartment in Kansas City to write his book. She thought she was going to go to jail for that, so she testified as a government witness. In her case she lost a hell of a lot of friends on that plane.

“So here’s Kallstrom weeping elephant tears on national television handing a flag to somebody who happened to be the survivor of a passenger on board. At the same time he’s beating the (expletive) out of the TWA people that really did suffer on this — psychologically and every other way.”

Cmdr. Donaldson’s investigation discovered that the one ship equipped with the best equipment for detecting crash debris under water was diverted into collecting surface debris delaying them from performing the task they were best suited for, and no other ship could duplicate.

He also reports that it only took that ship 10 hours to completely map out three different debris fields which would enable recovery to begin the morning of the second day after the crash. Recovery was delayed several more days, a fact not understood at the time by the press.

The very best recovery equipment in the world was immediately made available by Weeks Marine, Inc. and was on the scene ready to go to work. Instead orders came from the White House to wait for the Navy to send equipment from Norfolk, Virginia to conduct the salvage operation.

“What I’m telling you is, by the 19th in the morning (the crash took place on the 17th), with divers on board they could have started extracting major sub-sea debris. Putting it on deck on the Weeks Marine barge. Instead, the White House, I believe, made a deal where the Navy was going to do the salvage. That decision, the media never saw through this. They never realized that the five-day wait caused by waiting for the Navy to respond from Norfolk (Virginia) and other places to bring their salvage equipment to bear, those bodies were exposed to the elements down there for an additional five days, at least. They didn’t start doing anything until the 23rd.”

When families of crash victims call the NTSB to ask about Cmdr. Donaldson they are given information apparently intended to discredit him.

“They told me he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. They said he has no experience and that he’s one of those extremists who sees a conspiracy under every rock. They said his witnesses have been contacted by the FBI and they saw the plane on fire, not a missile,” said one family member contacted by WorldNetDaily who did not want to be identified, or contacted again.

Cmdr. Donaldson has no plans to give up his battle. He plans to continue to investigate the evidence and search for more.


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