Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a five-part series this week in WorldNetDaily of commentaries by independent writer and Emmy-award-winning producer Jack Cashill detailing what he has learned in the course of producing “Silenced: Flight 800 and The Subversion of Justice,” a documentary video which presents compelling evidence that TWA Flight 800 was indeed shot down by missile fire and of the massive cover-up that followed that tragic event by the federal government.
We are certainly fortunate to live in a country where we have a free media and a free press.
– Jim Hall, NTSB Chairman,
at the August 22, 2000 Flight 800 hearing.
I used to challenge Kelly Creech, my editor, with one particular question – if so many people knew what really happened in Dallas, why hasn’t anyone come forward? But after eight years of observing the Clinton White House, I have ceased to wonder. With a compliant media, an administration can suppress dissent and demonize dissenters without breaking a sweat – even in this age of the Internet.
In the case of Flight 800, people did come forward. It’s just that almost no one has wanted to hear them. As activist Marge Gross observes, “I’m treated as an oddball, a freak, I’m treated as someone overcome with grief who doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
Gross’ treatment is hardly unique. Instructive in the ways of Clintonian Washington is the case of Kelly Patricia O’Meara. In 1997 the NTSB had quietly released new radar data showing a large number of radar blips moving in unison between 22 and 35 miles south of the crash site. This piqued O’Meara’s interest. A reporter for The Washington Times’ Insight Magazine, O’Meara interviewed NTSB managing director Peter Goelz and asked him what the data meant and why it had not surfaced before.
O’Meara had no sooner left his office, however, than Goelz called Howard Kurtz of the rival Washington Post to plant a story defaming her. Kurtz would quote Goelz as saying “She really believes that the United States Navy shot this thing down and there was a fleet of warships.”
As O’Meara’s audiotape revealed, however, it was the mocking and evasive Goelz who raised the issue of a missile, not O’Meara. Wrote Insight editor Paul Roderiquez, “In my experience as a veteran newsman, journalists would never roll over and allow government bureaucrats to use them to slime their colleagues. Yet that precisely is what recently happened.”
Goelz, by the way, had honed his transportation skills lobbying for riverboat gambling interests on the Missouri. In 1992, he moved on to Tennessee where he worked as a paid staffer for the Clinton-Gore get-out-the-vote effort. By 1997, he was the top administrator for the world’s most sophisticated accident investigation agency. Only in Clinton’s America.
Much more chilling is the case of Jim and Liz Sanders. Aware of the dissatisfaction within the TWA community, reporter Jim Sanders sought out a few good sources at the investigation hangar on Long Island. Liz introduced Jim to Terrel Stacey, a TWA manager and 747 pilot.
Stacey was identified to Sanders as “a straight arrow, go-by-the-rules kind of guy,” the least likely potential source. But given the consequences for being wrong, that’s exactly the kind of person Sanders hoped to find.
“What he told me over those first hours,” relates Sanders, “was one thing – ‘I know there’s a cover-up in progress.’”
Soon after their meeting, Terrel Stacey began to feed Sanders a series of documents related to the debris field – that is, what falls off a plane and in what order. Sanders, a retired accident investigator for a California police department, analyzed the sequence of events and saw what appeared to be a path of destruction sweeping right across the plane.
When Sanders showed Stacey the path, Stacey for the first time connected that destruction to a reddish residue trail across those very rows, 17-19. According to Stacey, the FBI had taken samples of the residue months before but had refused to share the analysis with the other investigators, including Stacey, TWA’s number two man on site.
Stacey knew the plane well. He had flown it from Paris to New York just the day before the crash. Without prompting, he volunteered to take the next step – secure some residue for testing. When he found he couldn’t scrape the residue off, Stacey removed two pinches of foam rubber out of a universe of thousands and sent them to Sanders that night by FedEx.
Sanders had one sample tested in a California lab. He sent the second piece of foam rubber to a producer at CBS News’ 60 Minutes program for safekeeping as prearranged. The elements identified by the lab proved to be consistent with residue from a solid fuel missile or warhead explosion. On March 10, 1997, the Riverside Press-Enterprise in California ran a front-page story on Sanders’ research that was quickly picked up by other papers across America.
This was no longer a polite debate about theories. If Sanders’ results were right, then someone in the FBI had not merely made a mistake, he had committed a crime. Sanders waited anxiously for an alternative explanation from the feds. He knew they would have to provide one.
He didn’t have to wait long. The day after the article appeared, March 11, Dr. Bernard Loeb of the NTSB told a House Aviation Subcommittee, “One thing I can say categorically is that there is no such thing as a red residue trail in that airplane.”
On March 7, however, the FBI’s Jim Kallstrom had told The Riverside Press-Enterprise, “There is a red residue trail. It has nothing to do with a missile. I’m not going to get into it.”
Who was lying about the residue trail, Kallstrom or Loeb? Again, it all depends on what the meaning of “is” is. Between March 7, when the FBI learned that a sample of the residue was out of its control, and March 11, when Loeb testified, it seems likely that the relevant seatbacks had been ripped out of the reconstructed airplane, never again to be seen. Technically, they may have both been telling the truth.
As to the cause of the fuss, the missile residue, well it was really just glue – or so said the NTSB. In truth, the glue hypothesis was pure damage control. The media, as had become all too typical, never bothered to ask for proof. They should have. The fabric sample that senior NTSB scientist Dr. Merritt Birky sent to NASA for testing could have come from anywhere.
Said Birky in a tape-recorded conversation, “So, in trying to prove we have the same samples as Sanders, I’m not sure it gets us very far. Supposing Sanders’ comes out differently?”
The samples did come out differently. Charlie Basset of NASA confirmed as much. He signed a notarized statement saying the sample he tested had nothing to do with the Sanders residue. It is not hard to tell the difference. The Sanders’ samples are erratically streaked in a dark orange. The NTSB sample shows an almost perfectly applied layering of reddish pink that Bassett identified as red dye. On screen, the contrast is glaring.
In December of 1998, in the course of discovery for his criminal trial (for conspiracy), Sanders was able to photograph the given seat, 19-2. He found no other trace of red around the square that had been removed for testing. In fact, he later detected through photo analysis that the entire seatback had been replaced, a rare re-upholstering job on a downed airplane.
As to Sanders’ second sample, the one that could have easily revealed the chicanery afoot, CBS handed the fabric over to the FBI without protest and refused to renew the contract of the Emmy award-winning producer who received it. So much for an honest test. So much for a free press. With the media in check, the conspirators could proceed with a brazenness that stuns even the cynic.
After the residue story first broke, and with Jim in seclusion writing his book while he still had the chance, the FBI leaned on Liz Sanders to reveal Jim’s source.
“I was not about to give up a fellow employee and a friend,” says Liz. “So we thought it would be in everyone’s best interest if I disappeared for a while.”
Despite Liz’s sacrifice – she would spend 8 months in an Oregon trailer park and lose her job at TWA – the FBI found its way to Stacey, came down on him hard, arrested both Liz and Jim for conspiracy, and seized Sanders’ computer without a warrant.
“The day I was arrested was surreal,” says Liz. “It was something I would never thought could happen to an innocent normal person in the United States.”
Adds Jim Sanders, “The FBI handcuffed Liz with her hands behind her back and dragged her through throngs of reporters. Never once did any reporter think of writing a story in defense of a wife of a journalist. That was a low moment.”
Liz’s crime? She introduced Jim to Stacey. She and Jim were tried together as thieves in a conspiracy to steal government property, a law written to ward off scavengers. The federal jury was not allowed to know that Sanders was a reporter, let alone that he was pursuing evidence of a cover-up by the same government agencies prosecuting him and his wife. The jury convicted them both.
Before sentencing, the NTSB’s Jim Hall sent a letter to the judge. He wrote:
” … this is not a so-called victimless crime … These defendants have traumatized the families with the release of misinformation, the only plausible cause of which is commercial gain.”
Left unsaid was that this avowed champion of the free press had a vested interest in sending Sanders to prison and shutting his investigation down. The judge thought better of it and put both Jim and Liz on probation.
Despite all the incentives not to, the eyewitnesses continued to plead their case. To make its “no physical evidence” mantra stick, the administration somehow had to shut them up.
Enter the CIA. For reasons unclear, the FBI contracted with the CIA to analyze the witness testimony. During a November, 1997, press conference, the FBI shared the CIA’s analysis with a national television audience. In the course of a showy 15-minute video, much of it animated, the CIA argued that when the nose of the plane broke off – due of course to a spontaneous explosion in the center wing tank – the plane pitched up and climbed like a rocket for more than 3,000 feet to 17,000 feet in altitude. This climb, not a missile, is what the 736 official eyewitnesses must have seen.
This explanation stunned the aviation world. Says Ray Lahr, a retired United pilot and a veteran ALPA crash investigator, “All the pilots that I’ve spoken to think it’s ridiculous.” Lahr argues that when the nose left the aircraft, the center of gravity moved aft, “like putting two people on one side of teeter totter.” He adds, “The plane would not have any opportunity to climb.”
Cmdr. Donaldson, the head of the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals, reached similar conclusions. A 25-year Navy carrier pilot with 89 combat missions in Vietnam and a dozen aviation accident investigations under his belt, Donaldson is not one to be taken lightly. He has dedicated the last five years of his life to this investigation.
“Once it goes beyond about 20 degrees nose up,” says Donaldson of the plane, “it can’t fly anymore because these wings are no longer into the wind. They can’t produce lift.”
Dr. Tom Stalcup, a physicist and chair of FIRO, the Flight 800 Investigative Research Organization, argues the law of the conservation of energy. “The radar data shows that the plane didn’t slow down. If it didn’t slow down, it didn’t climb – if it didn’t climb, the witnesses didn’t see the plane climb, they saw something else.”
What the witnesses did see was perhaps best captured by Air National Guard helicopter pilot, Major Fritz Meyer, a man with 30 years of experience as a search and rescue pilot and the first to arrive at the scene of the crash:
When that airplane blew up, it immediately began falling. It came right out of the sky. From the first moment it was going down. It never climbed. The thought that this aircraft could climb was laughable.
In fact, not one of the official 736 witnesses reported seeing a crippled plane ascend like a rocket or ascend at all. Nor does any physical evidence support this theory. As to the manufacturers of the 747, consider their muted response to the CIA animation:
Boeing was not involved in the production of the video shown today, nor have we had the opportunity to obtain a copy or fully understand the data used to create it … The video’s explanation of the eyewitness observations can be best assessed by the eyewitnesses themselves.
Almost to a person, those witnesses dismissed the CIA animation. Says Meyer, “It was totally ludicrous.” Adds Paul Angelides, “That bore no resemblance whatsoever to what I saw.” And Mike Wire, “When I saw the scenario I thought it was strange because it was nothing like what I observed.”