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FAA special agent blows whistle on FBI-TWA Flight 800

My partner, James Sanders and I, have recently received what may be the single most convincing document proving a conscious government cover-up of the true fate of TWA Flight 800.

In a government filled with the faint-hearted, it is always reassuring to find one person who is not afraid to tell the truth. The person in question is Bogdan Dzakovic. A five-year Coast Guard veteran, Dzakovic has worked for the Security Division of the Federal Aviation Administration since 1987 and now works for the Transportation Security Agency. Dzakovic made the news a while back for filing a Whistleblower Disclosure against the FAA for events that preceded the attacks on Sept. 11. His complaint was taken seriously.

The Office of Special Counsel, which handles whistleblower issues and reports directly to the president, agreed with his assessment of the FAA and stated that the FAA had indeed executed its aviation security mission in a manner that was “a gross threat to public safety.” Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has publicly honored Dzakovic as a “brave and dedicated patriot” who “put his career at risk by coming forward with these revelations, but he did the right thing.”

This is not the first time, however, that Dzakovic has come forward. It is merely the first time that he has been honored for so doing. In 1996, in the wake of the TWA 800 crash, he tried to do the same. What follows are the highlights of an extraordinary memo he sent to retired Adm. Cathal Flynn, the Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for aviation security with copies to the FBI on Sept. 20, 1996 – a date whose significance he did not then know.

“I do apologize for not providing this document earlier,” Dzakovic writes, “but I have been completely consumed with aviation security issues, my whistleblower stuff, and merely trying to survive in this corrupt and unaccountable system.”

Dzakovic writes in his 1996 memo to Flynn:

In early August 1996, I was assigned temporary duty at the FBI’s Command Center in Manhattan, N.Y., to assist in the ongoing TWA 800 situation. Among my other assigned duties, I was given the opportunity to read and take notes on interviews conducted of witnesses who claimed to have seen a missile strike the aircraft.

This is a revelation. To the best of our knowledge, Dzakovic is one of only two or three people outside of the FBI to have seen these witness statements at this stage of the investigation. The FBI has not revealed that it shared this information with the FAA – and with good reason. Unlike the FBI and the New York Times, among others, Dzakovic took the eyewitnesses seriously. He was doing exactly what they should have been doing: plotting “the approximate location of each witness and ascertain[ing] if there are any commonalities between their observations based on their geographic location in relation to the crash site.”

Dzakovic was given access to only 43 eyewitness statements. Of the 43 witnesses, 24 had seen what appeared to be a missile. He writes in September 1996, “Subsequently I heard that the FBI may have in excess of a hundred witness statements.” In fact, by Aug. 20, the FBI had interviewed in excess of 700 eyewitnesses, 270 of whom had seen likely missiles. At this stage, even with the FAA, the FBI was being coy.

Despite having less than 10 percent of the likely missile observations at his disposal, Dzakovic came to the following startling and sophisticated conclusion:

What this indicates is that the missile was flying (generally) toward the witnesses in the central zone. With an almost head-on view of the approaching missile, the missile did not have a significant degree of lateral or sideways movement as it approached the aircraft. In contrast, most of the witnesses on the periphery – who viewed the missile from the side – saw a significant curvature in the flight. Since the majority of the witnesses in the central zone did not see this curving, it would seem to indicate that the missile was moving in a vertical (up and down) pattern as it approached the aircraft with very little lateral or sideways movement.

Dzakovic admits he was not offering his conclusions “as proof of a missile attack” but rather as “enough evidence to warrant further investigation.” The implication of Dzakovic’s research is plain: Had the FBI made the same kind of analysis with the 270 eyewitnesses who had seen streaking missiles, its agents could have broken the case wide open by September 1996. This, in turn, may well have saved us the horrors of September 2001.

There is only one reason the FBI did not follow through – its agents weren’t allowed to. Dzakovic’s 1996 memo holds the key to understanding how this happened. In early August, writes Dzakovic, “The FBI was reticent about its criminal investigation files to be reviewed by a representative of a regulatory agency.” This is understandable. “Nevertheless,” Dzakovic adds, “they conceded to our interests in ascertaining the viability of a possible missile attack on this aircraft.”

As Dzakovic has proved, the evidence for a serious probe into a missile attack was overwhelming, and it grew throughout the early weeks of August 1996 as the FBI continued to accumulate more eyewitness information. As Dzakovic has told me in a subsequent conversation, he had a “good rapport” with the FBI during the first two months of the conversation but that quickly devolved into “no contact whatsoever.”

Dzakovc did not know, however, what was going on behind the scenes. As we have reported earlier, FBI honcho Jim Kallstrom was called to Washington on Aug. 22 for a come-to-Jesus meeting chaired by Deputy Attorney General, Jamie Gorelick, now conveniently one of only five Democrats on the high-level 9-11 commission. All behavior changed after this day, just three days before the Democratic Convention. Despite overwhelming evidence of a missile strike, the FBI was no longer allowed to search for the truth. Its new mission was to find a plausible scenario other than a bomb or a missile strike.

On Sept. 20, 1996, the same day Dzakovic sent his letter, that mission was accomplished. This is the same day that the FBI revealed that the TWA 800 plane had been the subject of a dog-training exercise in St. Louis five weeks before the crash. Although this did not explain the missile sightings, the public was not generally aware that people had seen missiles. With the FBI’s guidance, the New York Times had taken the lead in discounting all missile sightings. The public had been made aware, however, that explosive residue was found all over the plane. The dog-training exercise now explained that.

As we have reported, the dog-training exercise never took place on the Flight 800 plane. This is easily proved. The FBI was compelled to offer some explanation, and this was the best they could do. It made some sense out of National Transportation Safety Board chair Jim Hall’s out-of-the-blue declaration just the day before that the NTSB had decided to focus on mechanical malfunction as the likely culprit in the crash.

The lead of the New York Times story explains his improbable case:

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, saying they are convinced that none of the physical evidence recovered from TWA Flight 800 proves that a bomb brought down the plane, plan tests intended to show that the explosion could have been caused by a mechanical failure alone.

Weeks before the Times had reported that “the only good explanations remaining are that a bomb or a missile brought down the plane off Long Island.” In the interim, the evidence for a missile strike had grown only stronger as more explosive residue had been found on the plane and more eyewitnesses had been interviewed. Here, however, Hall refuses to even acknowledge that missiles were a possibility. The contrast between his claim and Dzakovic’s is stunning.

On that same day, Sept. 19, then Vice President Al Gore, chairman on the airline safety and security commission, sent his infamous letter to the airline industry’s chief lobbyist, Carol Hallett, reassuring her, ”I want to make it very clear that it is not the intent of this administration or of the commission to create a hardship for the air transportation industry or to cause inconvenience to the traveling public.”

On the day Dzakovic sent his memo, the airline industry sent its first check. With $585,000 of airline cash arriving in the mail before the election, who had time to read?