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Exploding hypotheses: Part 2

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part series by Jack Cashill and James Sanders, author of “The Downing of TWA Flight 800,” examining the NTSB’s claim of an exploding fuel tank bringing down Flight 800. Read Part 1 here.

There is a well known principle of logic known as “Occam’s Razor” – the simplest explanation is usually the best one.

Consider its application in the case of TWA 800: Hundreds of witnesses watch streaks of light head towards the plane; FAA radar picks up what appears to be a missile; and the plane explodes catastrophically without a word from the cockpit.

The New York Times adds detail. On Aug. 14, 1996, four weeks after the crash, Don Van Natta Jr. reported that “the pattern of the debris they [investigators] have recovered off the ocean floor has also persuaded them that a mechanical malfunction is highly unlikely.” Van Natta acknowledged too that “in 10 field tests at Calverton, L.I., chemists have detected residue consistent with an explosive” on the recovered aircraft. These tests, he added, rarely show false positives.

But there is more. The Times article stated emphatically, “Now that investigators say they think the center fuel tank did not explode, they say the only good explanations remaining are that a bomb or a missile brought down the plane off Long Island.”

Occam’s Razor says, yes, missile – but the NTSB had little use for cutting to the clear conclusion.

If “senior investigators” were telling Van Natta that “the center fuel tank caught fire as many as 24 seconds after the initial blast that split apart the plane,” NTSB “officials” were not so ready to concede. They needed a viable alternative explanation, a politically safe one like a mechanical failure, and would use their considerable powers to make the obvious explanation go away.

”I don’t think anything rules out anything at this point,” Robert T. Francis, vice chairman of the safety board, told Van Natta. Although, as Van Natta reported, this finding “deals a serious blow to the already remote possibility that a mechanical accident caused the crash,” he also acknowledged that NTSB “officials” were “unwilling to rule out a mechanical failure.” Van Natta then added prophetically, “By keeping open the possibility of a malfunction, safety board investigators can continue to pursue all possibilities, no matter how remote.”

Truer words were never spoken. The NTSB would pursue the remotest possibilities imaginable, and with each new test, they would only move further from the truth. In the next four years they would not discover one new fact to revive a theory that was discredited within one month of the crash.

But as Van Natta noted, “While investigators, speaking not for attribution, said they have concluded that the center fuel tank did not explode, publicly they have refused to say that.” They dared not. They understood the consequences. With the investigators silenced, the “officials” would control the microphone. In time, they would wear the media and the public down and make the story go away.

To make their strategy work, NTSB officials hoped to find a lab or university somewhere in the world that would validate a mechanical explanation for the crash in much the way the CIA animation had invalidated the eyewitnesses. As related in Part 1, they did not succeed. Despite all the temptations to comply, the science community refused to provide the necessary cover.

Without facts to back up its contrived hypothesis of mechanical failure, the NTSB resorted to fiction. It presented its conclusions to a distracted public and an increasingly docile media in a novella titled, “Factors Suggesting the Likelihood that a Short-Circuit Event Occurred on TWA Flight 800.”

One is hard pressed to identify a single fact in this tortured report. Guesswork and supposition run rampant. To reveal the conspiratorial intent of the NTSB, at least an element within the agency, it is useful to quote this document at length. Only the italics are added:

A pause here is in order. Consider the choices the NTSB presents as to what caused the arcing found on the generator: a) the catastrophic breakup of the forward wing spar and the subsequent fuel fire, which did take place; b) a short circuit in the wiring, which might conceivably have taken place before the explosion. An honest investigation would focus on “a.” The NTSB, however, focused on “b.” To put this in perspective, it is as if the L.A. cops completely ignored OJ and went after the “Colombian drug dealers.” The report stumbles forward:

Curiously, this report contradicts what the NTSB experts had stated in December of 1997 at the Baltimore NTSB hearings. Although they acknowledged that the flight crew observed an erratic fuel flow indicator for engine number 4, 10 minutes after take-off, they rightly dismissed this as “a common occurrence in the 747.”

But now, two and one-half years later, the NTSB was desperate. They were forced to grasp at any straw. So an erratic fuel indicator once thought to be routine suddenly became a major lead in pursuit of the mythical spark that jumped into Flight 800’s center wing tank:

No other “evidence” was “previously discussed.” All was vague guesswork, supposition heaped on top of speculation.

Remember Occam’s Razor – the simplest explanation is usually the best. The labored, labyrinthine explanation of the NTSB has “worst” written all over it.

The NTSB, however, was not the only organization to review the wiring. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers did its own assessment. These workers have far less interest in the hypotheticals of how a plane might work than in the reality of how it actually does. Unlike the NTSB, their analysis cuts right to the chase:

What did cause the center wing tank to explode? The IAMAW does not mince words:

The IAMAW is describing a missile or some other external force. But no one wanted to hear what the IAMAW had to say. “We feel that our expertise was unwelcome and not wanted by the FBI,” read its final report. “The threats made during the first two weeks of the investigation were unwarranted and unforgettable.” When released, the NTSB quietly tucked the IAMAW report away, and the major media never bothered to read it.

The actions and the motives of the NTSB are transparent. By August of 1996, it knew for a fact, as The New York Times reported, that “the initial blast that severed the plane occurred slightly forward of the spot where the wings meet the fuselage,” not in the center wing tank.

The agency hoped, however, that somewhere along the line a scientific test would produce a hypothetical setting in which a contrived mechanical initiating event would enter the realm of the possible. A compliant media would then take the hypothetical possibility and turn it into an established scientific fact. Unfortunately for the NTSB, that scientific hypothesis never developed.

Instead, the NTSB reverted to what military people mockingly call SWAG analysis – as in “sophisticated wild-ass guess.” But this time it was not even an honest SWAG. The NTSB case sums up thusly: We don’t know how the mythical spark could have gotten inside the CWT and, once there, where the initiating explosive event occurred, but one thing we know for certain, it was not a bomb or missile.

Think about this: The NTSB combined a complete lack of physical evidence for mechanical failure with an equally complete lack of hypothetical scientific corroboration for mechanical failure to “prove” that Flight 800 was brought down by – what else? – mechanical failure, this despite the flat-out rejection of the same by the IAMAW and by “senior investigators” as early as August of 1996.

What is shocking is that the NTSB has gotten away with this, at least to date. This should not happen in America. Please share this with those who care.

Contact information:

Attorney General John Ashcroft

U. S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

Congressman Dan Burton


House Government Reform Committee

2157 Rayburn Building

Washington, DC 20515

Related offer:

Purchase Jack Cashill’s stunning documentary video, “Silenced: Flight 800 and the Subversion of Justice” from WorldNetDaily’s online store.

Related columns:

  • Exploding hypotheses: Part 1

  • Imaginary flagpoles

  • The collapse of American journalism

  • Psychology of a cover-up

  • Feds muffle voice recorder data

  • Fateful 4 seconds

  • Unraveling the cover-up

  • TWA 800 controversy heats up

    Cashill’s five-part series, “Silenced: Flight 800 and the subversion of justice”:

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

    Part 5

    Related story:

  • Haunting evidence of missile attack