The National Transportation Safety Board had yet another cartoon representing a “theory” of a commercial airliner crash. This time it was American Airlines Flight 587 that crashed Nov. 12, 2001, two months after 9-11, shortly after taking off from JFK airport on Long Island, N.Y. And, once again, the NTSB was preparing to sell a theory for which no credible evidence existed. NTSB success at selling virtual garbage as credible theory in the TWA Flight 800 crash, July 17, 1996, gave the NTSB confidence that its propaganda, placed in the correct hands, could be fearlessly used to contaminate the mind of the American masses.

Did the NTSB go to ABC or CBS? No! It just picked up the phone, punched the quick dial and summoned its favorite “newsman” – Robert Hager – and on the NBC Oct. 26 evening news, there he was, selling that cartoon as if it was a surveillance film of Congressman Barney Frank in a Capitol bathroom with a page.

The narrative was 100 percent NTSB, massaged just enough to sound like a real, honest-to-God news story that Hager had personally sniffed out. Its conclusion? Everything the NTSB said was the gospel truth and no loose ends exist requiring journalistic comment or investigation. Mothers and children of the deceased served as a backdrop, while Hager assured the American public that the families of the victims could take comfort in knowing how and why their loved ones died.

But tens of thousands of new victims rose from the malodorous stench created by the NTSB and Robert Hager: The family of the pilot accused of “pilot error” when no credible facts back up the allegation; The American Airlines employees fighting to save their airline from bankruptcy, smeared by the NTSB without one credible supporting fact; And the American public, once again fed propaganda disguised as news.

Here are the facts the NTSB failed to address and resolve before resorting to a theory without credible factual support:

  1. Many credible witnesses described a modest initial explosion that created a fire toward the rear of AA587. At least one rear passenger door and a cargo door appeared to have separated from the plane in the opening seconds of the tragedy.

  2. The NTSB made no attempt to interview and obtain comprehensive statements from the witnesses and attempt to use those statements to develop an initial investigative hypothesis. An honest investigation would have expeditiously taken this step. Then, evidence would be built around those statements, or the statements would be shown by objective analysis to be in error. And the reasons for judging witness statements in error would be fully explained in writing. This did not happen.

  3. The NTSB did not release photos and a debris field map showing where the first parts of the aircraft rested on the Bay floor under only a few feet of salt water.

  4. Potentially critical video tape of AA587 has been withheld from the public.

  5. Within minutes of AA587 going down, Colin Powell and other high-ranking federal officials raced for the media microphones and began chanting a propaganda mantra: It was not a terrorist act.

The actions of government officials constitute evidence. We need not know precisely what brought AA587 down to know when a cover-up is unfolding before our eyes on national television. When senior federal officials race to media microphones and begin chanting, even before fire and police have put out flames and began interviewing witnesses and looking for evidence, the American public can be assured a cover-up is in progress.

In this case, the reason for the cover-up is quite apparent. Sept. 11 caused significant economic disruption to the United States economy. Another terrorist attack within two months on our air transport system would have resulted in the grounding of commercial aviation for an extended period. It would also have caused an economic disruption leading to a major recession – or more likely a depression.

And, the country had rallied around the president. That support would melt away as the American public realized that, despite all the hype, America was highly vulnerable to terrorist attack. So the federal government did what it has done since World War II when in trouble – lie to the masses in order to make it easier to govern.

Over the decades it has become easier to take this route as the feds identify the Robert Hager’s of the world, willing to use their position of trust as highly paid talking heads – paid by NBC, but frequently programmed by the American government.

Prostitute: “A person who uses his talents or gifts for unworthy or corrupt purposes.” Is Robert Hager a prostitute? You decide.


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James Sanders, a former police officer turned investigative reporter, is the co-author of “First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America, among other books.

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