Within one month of the downing of TWA Flight 800, media reported that investigators had found traces of explosive materials in the plane’s wreckage.

The theory that something other than mechanical failure doomed the Paris-bound Boeing 747 on July 17, 1996, had become well-established at that time, said Jack Cashill, co-author with James Sanders of the recently released book “First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America.”



Reassembled 747 at Long Island hangar

The New York Times said Aug. 14, 1996, that “residue consistent with an explosive” had been identified by chemists in 10 field tests at Calverton, the center of the investigation on Long Island. Two weeks later, CNN reported that investigators had “admitted” finding a second chemical on the plane, not only in the passenger compartment but also in the cargo area. CNN also pinpointed three rows, 23-26, that seem to have taken the brunt of the hit.

Yet within three weeks, CNN, the New York Times and the other major media all but dropped any reference to explosive traces found on the plane.

What stopped their pursuit of the theory that TWA 800 was downed by an explosive device?

The official story contends the FAA traced a likely source of the explosive residue to a dog-training exercise at the St. Louis airport a little more than one month before Flight 800’s demise. On Sept. 20, 1996, the FBI found the officer who oversaw the exercise, Herman Burnett, and on that same date, stories about the dog-training exercise began to appear in the media.

Officials leaked this story even before anyone had talked to Burnett, which is evidence, Cashill contends, that the FBI was committed to pulling the media off the explosive residue story regardless of the facts.

Cashill and Sanders find numerous inconsistencies in the official version of the dog-training story. One is contained in a letter from National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall to the FAA in which he maintains that the “dog handler had spilled trace amounts of explosives while placing training aids on board the aircraft during a proficiency training exercise.”

However, in the same letter, Hall admits that residue was discovered in the cargo hold, an area the dog test never covered.

Moreover, Cashill and Sanders believe they can prove that the training exercise never took place on the plane that would become TWA Flight 800.

According to the FBI, airport management told Burnett that a “wide body” was available for training at Gate 50 that day. The officer “made no notations regarding the tail number of the aircraft, as it was not his policy to do so.”

Also, Burnett told Cashill and Sanders that he made no notation of the gate either. But significantly, he did list specific start and stop times on the training form.

The officer told both the authors and the FBI that he saw no TWA crew, cleaners, caterers or passengers from the time he first boarded the 747 at 10:45 a.m. until he finished, about one and a half hours later.

According to the FBI account, Burnett concealed the training aids throughout the passenger cabin in a “zigzag” pattern then returned to his car to retrieve the dog and reentered the plane with the dog at 11:45 a.m. The FBI said the exercise of locating the explosives lasted about 15 minutes and Burnett took another 15 minutes to secure the dog in his car and go back to the plane to retrieve the training aids.

Based on the scenario developed by the FBI, the officer could not have left the plane earlier than 12:15 p.m. Given the time spent climbing up and down the jetway, a 12:20 p.m. or 12:25 p.m. exit is more likely, Cashill believes.

However, records show that the plane that would become Flight 800 – TWA No. 17119 – flew out of St. Louis for Honolulu at 12:35 p.m.

No crew can clean the plane, stock it, check out the mechanics and board several hundred passengers within the 15-minute window the FBI’s own timetable presents, notes Cashill.
TWA regulations in effect in 1996 mandated that the crew of a wide-body report for briefing 90 minutes before scheduled takeoff. The flight’s captain, Vance Weir, told the Riverside, Calif., Press-Enterprise newspaper that he and his crew saw no dog or officer on the plane that day and, in fact, never had in their 20-plus years of commercial flying.

FAA records show that TWA # 17119 was parked at Gate 50 from shortly before 7 a.m. until approximately 12:30 p.m. on that date. Parked at Gate 51 was another 747, Number 17116. This second plane – bound for JFK International in New York – did not leave the gate until 2 p.m.

Obviously, said Cashill, this later departure would have allowed TWA staff ample time to load and board the plane after the officer finished the training exercise at about 12:15 or slightly later.

Burnett told Cashill he believes he boarded the 747 parked at Gate 51, not the plane at Gate 50 that would become Flight 800.

All evidence suggests he’s right, said Cashill, who noted that FBI agents chose not to interview Capt. Weir or First Officer Thomas D. Sheary.

“They couldn’t,” Cashill and Sanders write in their book. “They did not want to hear any truth that would undermine the story they were ordered to create.”

Cashill told WND that recently he has offered his evidence to major media outlets, including well-known reporters. But in at least one case, the reporter insisted that the dog-training story proved that the missile or bomb theory had no legs.

“I said, we’ll put all of our evidence on the table and let you decide what is true,” he said.

Cashill makes the pitch that “there are only two possibilities here, either we’re handing you the greatest untold story of our time … or we’re a pair of charlatans who are trafficking in human misery and libeling otherwise decent government officials.”

“You would think that given that possibility, they would jump at it, but it’s not the case,” he said.

Cashill maintains that to break open this story, “all it’s going to take is the effort by one person in the major media to demand the truth.”

“It has to be someone significant,” he said. “But if the New York Times decides to follow this, they could break it open in a week.”


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“Altered Evidence” from Flight 800

How the Justice Department framed a journalist and his wife. Also available from WorldNetDaily’s online store!


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