In response to a civil lawsuit, the U.S. Justice Department has tacitly acknowledged that its investigation of the downing of TWA Flight 800 was corrupted.

James and Elizabeth Sanders were convicted in April 1999 of conspiracy and of aiding and abetting the theft of two small pieces of fabric they believed held evidence the jetliner was struck by a missile.



James and Elizabeth Sanders

Since then, the Sanderses have filed a civil suit against the federal government and seven named individuals, alleging 32 counts of constitutional violations.

The charges strike at the heart of the official TWA investigation which concluded that the jetliner went down July 17, 1996, due to mechanical failure rather than a criminal act.

However, U.S. Attorney Kevin Cleary has declined to rebut any of the charges in the Sanderses’ summary judgment motion.

“They are conceding that they have fabricated their entire defense,” Sanders told WND.

Sanders’ newly released book with co-author Jack Cashill, “First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America,” notes that during the 1999 trial, his lawyer argued that the government had retaliated for one reason: “James Sanders had exercised his constitutionally protected right to promote a theory about the cause of Flight 800 disaster that challenged the ‘official’ version.”

The Justice Department’s own press release at the time of the arrest, in fact, contended that Sanders “misrepresented” to media the results of an independent lab test indicating the presence of explosive materials. That charge demonstrates, Sanders argues, that his real offense was his opinion.

The Sanderses are scheduled to appear before Judge Joanna Seybert on April 11 at the Eastern District Courthouse in Central Islip, Long Island, New York. The defense is invited to be there also, Sanders said, but he does not expect them to attend, which would result in a default judgment.

He would prefer a summary judgment because it would allow him, through discovery, to obtain documents that would “show a jury and the world how guilty they are.”

After his arrest in December 1997, he found it impossible to present his case through the media.

“I could not get a story that laid out the government’s evidence to back up what they were saying – which is nothing – versus the evidence that I have,” he said. “You simply could not get major media to address any possible government lawlessness or criminal acts.”

Sanders said that if it were allowed, the discovery process would be no “fishing expedition.”

“We have very specific and limited things we would ask for that would completely and totally convict them,” he said.

That would include documents related to the residue samples, the cockpit voice recorder and data recorder, the radar data, the CIA’s animation and the Navy’s underwater videos, portions of which were classified and never allowed to be seen by an investigator.

“All of those things would cause an intense pain to the government and would show the world that Flight 800 was brought down by a criminal act,” said Sanders.

Among the charges the Justice Department chose not to contest in the civil lawsuit were counts related to the Sanderses’ vilification immediately after their arrest in December 1997, which likely influenced the jury pool.

The FBI’s New York office website headlined the arrest story: “Conspiracy theorist and wife charged with theft of parts from airplane,” and scrolled it across the top of its home page. The arrest warrant itself was filled with false statements, another point conceded by the Justice Department. Four days later, FBI agent Jim Kinsley paraded James and Elizabeth, a former TWA flight attendant, through a throng of reporters with their hands cuffed behind their backs, which Justice now has tacitly conceded was a gratuitous and illegal “perp walk.”

On the trail of a story

Sanders’ saga with the government began March 10, 1997, when California’s Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper headlined its front page with an article titled, “New Data Show Missile May Have Nailed TWA 800.” The story, which identified Sanders as an “investigative reporter,” created a significant problem for the Justice Department, revealing that he was on the trail of potential criminal activity within the Flight 800 investigation.

Some unknown person within the investigation had removed a tiny piece of material laced with a reddish-orange residue that trailed across a narrow section of the plane’s interior, the Riverside paper reported. That person was TWA pilot and manager Terrell Stacey, who testified that he took the sample of his own volition and sent it to Sanders.

The FBI had lifted samples in early September 1996, then refused to share the test results with the NTSB. Cashill and Sanders note that the government continues to keep those tests classified for reasons of national security.

After the story broke, the Clinton Justice Department went after Sanders, seeking to deny his standing as a journalist and consequently remove First Amendment protections.

The current Justice Department now concedes, as stated in Sanders’ complaint, that two of its attorneys “conspired to print factually false information in a Justice Department letter to deprive [Sanders] of his civil rights … .”

Also not contested by the Justice Department is the charge that attorneys violated Sanders’ civil rights by “using grand jury subpoena power to illegally seize his work product” and his computer.

At the FBI’s Nov. 18, 1997 press conference, James Kallstrom, who headed up the investigation for the agency, said the following about the residue trail:

The seat cushion residue, reported in the Riverside, Calif., press, of the residue that someone said was rocket fuel. The truth is the material is contact adhesive.

We know without a doubt – without any doubt whatsoever – that it’s the adhesive that holds the back of the seats together. It’s not rocket fuel. It’s not residue of a rocket, never was, never will be.

The Justice Department now essentially concedes Kallstrom’s “statement was false, [and] known to be false.” Justice also tacitly acknowledges that “Kallstrom and Kinsley conspired to create a factually false illusion that [Sanders] had misrepresented the [red residue tests].”

Cashill says that the jury in April 1999 was shielded from the knowledge that Sanders was acting as a journalist uncovering the criminal acts of federal agents, “let alone that he was being prosecuted by the very agents he had hoped to expose.”

Though Sanders believes the Justice Department’s unwillingness to rebut the civil suit’s charges exonerates him and his wife, the matter of reversing their April 1999 conviction remains.

They find themselves in a Catch 22 situation. In order to be unconvicted, they would have had to allege malicious prosecution, a charge that contends they never should have been prosecuted in the first place. [Their suit alleges abuse of process]. But in order to allege malicious prosecution, they would have to be unconvicted.

Sanders notes that Supreme Court Justice David Souter and several other justices pointed out this legal conundrum in a 1998 case.

“That’s the circle we were caught in,” he said.


Related offers:

“First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America”! New book by Jack Cashill and James Sanders says government lies upped drama ante for terrorists. From WND Books, available in ShopNetDaily.

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

“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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