Editor’s note: The following column by independent filmmaker Jack Cashill explores how the official explanation of the TWA Flight 800 disaster fell apart upon examination in his new video documentary “Silenced: Flight 800 and the Subversion of Justice,” available through WorldNetDaily’s online store.
James Sanders, a former police officer turned investigative reporter, co-wrote this report. Sanders is the author of “The Downing of TWA Flight 800″ and “Altered Evidence,” among other books.
On the evening of July 17, 1996, when Mike Wire quit the switch gear room on Beach Lane Bridge for a breath of fresh air, he had no idea he would be strolling on to the center stage of one of the most explosive political cover-ups in American history.
For the unassuming Wire (Mick to close friends) to play this critical role took a combination of unlikely and unrelated factors, among them the reckless cunning of the CIA, an unthinking bit of bureaucracy by the National Transportation Safety Board, a seemingly trivial slip-up by the FBI, the keen-eyed detective work of Accuracy In Media’s Reed Irvine, and above all, the stalwart character of Mike Wire himself, a man whose courage and resolve the CIA would fatally underestimate.
Wire, a union millwright from suburban Philadelphia, had been working all that day on this Westhampton Bridge. At day’s end, he leaned his burly 6-foot-6-inch frame against the rail on the southwest end of the bridge and looked out toward the sea beyond the house line.
At that moment a white light caught his eye. Twelve days later, during a 90-minute interview at his Pennsylvania home, he told an FBI agent – “a real nice guy” – exactly what he saw. Here is how the agent recorded the conversation on his “302″:
“Wire saw a white light that was traveling skyward from the ground at
approximately a 40 degree angle. Wire described the white light as a light that sparkled and thought it was some type of fireworks. Wire stated that the white light ‘zig zagged’ (sic) as it traveled upwards, and at the apex of its travel the white light ‘arched over’ and disappeared from Wire’s view. … Wire stated the white light traveled outwards from the beach in a south-southeasterly direction.”
After the light disappeared, the 302 continues, Wire “saw an orange light that appeared to be a fireball.” This description, by the way, matches the description Wire gave the FBI a few days earlier by phone and perfectly mirrors what the eyewitnesses observed in the NTSB missile test: the white smoke trail, the zig-zag, the arch, the disappearance. At the end of the 302, the agent added the now ironic notation, Wire “wishes to cooperate in any way he can and can be re-contacted at any time.”
Wire was hardly alone in his sighting. Seven hundred and thirty-five other citizens shared their observations of the crash with the FBI. The patterns in their testimony are undeniable, flare after flare, streak after streak, zig-zag after zig-zag.
At least 96 of these eyewitnesses saw the light rise up off the horizon. Many saw the explosion from a clearer angle than Wire. At least four of them, for instance, saw the nose of the plane blow off; two of these shared this information with the FBI even before the authorities knew the nose had fallen off first. Wire did not parrot these details. He had left Long Island for home the next morning before any story might have circulated. Had a co-worker not alerted the FBI to what Wire had seen, Wire would have played no role in the drama to follow.
After his July 1996, interviews, Wire returned to his uneventful, workaday life in Pennsylvania. Having little interest in politics and less in the Internet, he did not follow the controversy swelling around the crash. Wire did, however, see the CIA recreation of the flight presented by the FBI in November of 1997, at least the abbreviated version shown on the news. He presumed this to be some temporary scheme to pacify the public and was fully unaware of his own role in it.
This CIA video, however, proved to be the central, most visible element of a disinformation campaign designed to discredit the eyewitnesses. In an animated sequence, The CIA argued that when the nose of the plane broke off – due to a spontaneous explosion in the center wing tank – the plane pitched up and climbed like a rocket for more than 3,000 feet. According to the CIA, this climb, not a missile, is what the 736 official eyewitnesses saw.
Forget for a moment the all-but-unanimous rejection of this scenario by the aviation world. Forget, too, the total absence of any eyewitness corroboration in the FBI 302s or in the accompanying sketches. Focus instead on the role Mike Wire played in the video’s creation.
For reasons not fully explained, the CIA chose to build its case squarely on Mike Wire’s testimony. “FBI investigators determined precisely where the eyewitness was standing,” says the CIA narrator of Wire while the video shows the explosion from his perspective on Beach Lane Bridge. “The white light the eyewitness saw was very likely the aircraft very briefly ascending and arching over after it exploded rather than a missile attacking the aircraft.”
To be sure, this version of events does not at all square with Wire’s detailed 302 from July 1996, recorded when his memory was at its freshest. The CIA animation converts Wire’s “40 degree” climb to one of roughly 70 or 80 degrees. It reduces the movement of an obvious smoke trail from three dimensions, south and east “outward from the beach,” to a small, two dimensional blip far off shore. It places the explosion noticeably to the west of where Wire clearly remembers it. Most noticeably, it fully ignores Wire’s claim that the light ascended “skyward from the ground” and places his first sighting 20 degrees above the horizon, exactly where Flight 800 would have been.
Curiously, however, the CIA narrator repeats Wire’s claim that the object “zig-zagged,” although neither the CIA nor the NTSB animations show the crippled plane in anything but a perfectly smooth, elliptical ascent.
The question begs to be asked: How could the CIA recreate events at such obvious odds with the original and detailed 302? Here is what the agency reported orally to the NTSB and which the NTSB transcribed and released with bureaucratic unconsciousness (NTSB Witness document, Appendix FF, Docket No. SA-516, April 30, 1999):
CIA Analyst No. 1: “Let me say something else about this eyewitness [Wire] because I think this is interesting. He was an important eyewitness to us. And we asked the FBI to talk to him again, and they did [our emphasis]. In his original description, he thought he had seen a firework and that perhaps that firework had originated on the beach behind the house. We went to that location and realized that, if he was only seeing the airplane, that he would not see a light appear from behind the rooftop of that house. The light would actually appear in the sky. It’s high enough in the sky that that would have to happen.
“When he was re-interviewed, he said that is indeed what happened. The light did appear in the sky. Now, when the FBI told us that, we got even more comfortable with our theory. He also described, he was asked to describe how high in the sky above the house he thought that light appeared, and he said it was as if — if you imagine a flagpole on top of the house it would be as if it were on the top or the tip of the flagpole.”
If he could summon the political will, Attorney General John Ashcroft could launch an investigation into a criminal cover-up of the TWA 800 catastrophe with nothing more than the CIA animated sequence and the document above, as clear and compelling evidence of a conspiracy to obstruct justice as a prosecutor could hope for.
Why? Here’s why: The FBI never re-contacted Mike Wire after July of 1996. Someone made up the interview out of whole cloth – including the bizarre “flagpole” detail. (Curiously, the NTSB’s David Mayer fully invents “two flagpoles” in discrediting critical eyewitness 649). Some persons within either the CIA or the FBI, or both, knowingly and flagrantly corrupted the investigation into the tragic death of 230 innocent people.
Joan Wire, Mike’s equally courageous wife, did take one call from an alleged FBI agent after July of 1996, but when Mike Wire called the number back, he got a New York publishing house, presumed the call a fraud and refused to talk.
If there were a follow-up interview by the FBI, there should be a follow-up 302 complete with date, place, and name of agent. The attorney general could begin his investigation by asking the FBI to produce it. It won’t be able.
Besides, even if the FBI had decided to call back, Wire would not have changed his testimony. He has not changed it to this day. When he and Joan came back to Westhampton to help us create the video, “Silenced,” he told and showed us exactly what he told the original agent on his 302, though he had not seen that document himself. For the record, Wire received no compensation for this trip, even for his travel.
Wire has no reason to lie. In fact, he and Joan are fully aware of the potential consequences of telling the truth. Says Mike, “I understand the implications of dealing with the big guys.” But the reserved, soft-spoken Wire, who served with the U.S. Army in Korea during the Vietnam War, still believes deeply in the concept of duty. “If we don’t stand up for the country,” he asks rhetorically, “who will?”
The question remains: Why, of all the eyewitness accounts, did the CIA choose to alter Mike Wire’s? Many others, including key witnesses like Major Fritz Meyer and Paul Angelides, never claimed to see the streak of light come off the horizon. Their testimony might have been easier to fudge.
Best guess: the 302s contain fairly detailed information about occupation and residence. There is much the CIA can infer from them about income and media access. Most of the eyewitnesses on this, the affluent south shore of Long Island, viewed the events from their boats, from their summer homes, from their yacht clubs. One eyewitness, a humble mechanic from Philadelphia, saw it on his work break before heading home the next morning. Who would you choose?
One must give credit here where it is due. The CIA damn well almost got away with it. Wire spent the next four years fully unaware of what had transpired. Had it not been for an odd double screw-up by the FBI, he might still be unaware.
On his 302, the interviewing agent from July of 1996 neglected once to capitalize “Wire.” The FBI employee that redacted the 302s before their public release failed to black out “wire” since it was a common noun, not capitalized. The 302s also included Wire’s hometown. Reed Irvine of AIM, who has been diligently pursuing this case for years, caught the discrepancy, found Wire’s name in the phonebook, and called. This call did not take place until the spring of 2000.