On Nov. 18, 1997, the CIA and the FBI announced the end of the criminal investigation of TWA Flight 800 with the presentation of a video that ostensibly put to rest theories that the Paris-bound Boeing 747 had been destroyed by a bomb or missile.

With the 14-minute video, investigators overcame the biggest obstacle to the mechanical failure theory – 736 eyewitnesses, including the key witnesses who said they saw an ascending streak head toward the jetliner before it broke apart.



CIA animation

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 official eyewitnesses saw.

“Everything about [the video] we know to be wrong,” said Jack Cashill, co-author with James Sanders of the recently released book “First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America.”

“The whole video hinges on an interview that never took place, and we can prove it,” Cashill said.

When National Transportation Safety Board officials interviewed the CIA in 1999, they were totally perplexed by the video, Cashill said, “because everyone in the airline industry told them it’s totally impossible for an airplane to do that.”

“There is not an aviator in America who believes that it could actually happen,” he said.

The NTSB officials asked the CIA how many people actually saw the plane ascend 3,000 feet as claimed, pointing out that a pilot flying at 16,000 feet would have seen the plane ascend, if it did, because it would have gone right through his airspace.

The CIA replied that, at least, they had the witness of “the guy on the bridge” who in a “second interview” with the FBI supposedly clarified his story and supported the mechanical-failure version.

“They are very specific about the second interview they commissioned the FBI to do,” Cashill said. “But they never did it, they made all that up.”

He notes that at the NTSB’s final hearing in August 2000, the CIA talked only about one interview.

“They wiped from the historical record the interview the CIA had to insert to make this case here,” he said.

The man on the bridge was Mike Wire, a union millwright from suburban Philadelphia, who had been working all that day on a Long Island bridge. At the end of the day, he leaned against the rail on the southwest end of the bridge and looked out toward the sea beyond the house line.

In his only meeting with an agent, in July 1996, Wire gave the following testimony, according to the official “302” form:

“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.”

Cashill notes that the testimony of other witnesses was the same, “flare after flare, streak after streak, zig-zag after zig-zag.” At least 96, he said, saw the light rise up off the horizon.

The CIA, for reasons not fully explained, he said, chose to build its case on Wire’s testimony.

“FBI investigators determined precisely where the eyewitness was standing,” the CIA narrator said of Wire as the video showed 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.”

While the video misses numerous aspects of Wire’s testimony, most noticeably, said Cashill, it fully ignores his 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.

A CIA analyst’s oral report to the NTSB on April 30, 1999, revealed how critical the “second interview” – which never happened – was to the CIA’s version of events.

He explained how when Wire was “re-interviewed,” he told how “the light did appear in the sky” and not from the horizon.

“Now, when the FBI told us that, we got even more comfortable with our theory,” the analyst said. “[Wire] 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.”

Cashill wondered why the CIA chose Wire’s account from among all the eyewitnesses. He notes that others, that didn’t see the streak of light, would have been easier to fudge.

He speculates that the CIA used the detailed information on the 302s to infer that, unlike the many affluent Long Island eyewitnesses, Wire was a humble mechanic heading home to Philadelphia the next day.

They almost got away with it, he said, because Wire spent the next four years completely unaware of what had transpired. Had it not been for two mistakes by the FBI, he might still be unaware. On his interview form, the agent neglected once to capitalize “Wire.” So when it was redacted for public release in 2000, the FBI employee failed to black out “wire” since it was a common noun. The 302s also included Wire’s hometown.

Cashill said that since then he has come to know Wire fairly well, and the Pennsylvanian definitely has not changed his story.


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    Part 3

    Part 4

    Part 5


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