Monday, July 17, marks the 10th anniversary of the destruction of TWA Flight 800, the investigation of which represented the most conspicuous and consequential misdirection of justice in American history. This column is part of an in-depth look at the incident, presenting several compelling reasons why the investigation must be re-opened.
On Monday, July 10, retired United Airline Capt. Ray Lahr and his attorney, John Clarke, appeared before Judge Matz in Los Angeles federal district court in regards to his Freedom of Information Act suit against the NTSB, the CIA and the NSA. The judge announced that he had already completed a 100-page draft order and that he would submit it to the parties for comment, probably this week. Lahr and Clarke are “cautiously optimistic.”
What Lahr has been pursuing these last five years are the calculations that led to the CIA’s notorious zoom-climb, an animation showing a nose-less 747 pitching up abruptly and climbing more than 3,000 feet. If Lahr remains persistent and optimistic it is because he knows he has zeroed in on the official TWA 800 investigation’s Achilles’ heel. And no one knows this better than Mick Wire.
On the evening of July 17, 1996, when Mick Wire quit the switchgear room on Beach Lane Bridge for a breath of fresh air, he had no idea he would be strolling on to the center stage of the most explosive political cover-up in American history.
The union millwright from suburban Philadelphia had been working all that day on this Westhampton Bridge. At day’s end, he leaned his burly six-foot-six-inch frame against the rail on the southwest end of the bridge and looked out toward the sea beyond the house line. At that moment a white light caught his eye. On July 30, 1996, during a 90-minute interview at his Pennsylvania home, he told an FBI agent exactly what he saw. Here is how the agent recorded the conversation on his 302:
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.
After the light disappeared, the 302 continues, Wire “saw an orange light that appeared to be a fireball.” This description, by the way, matches the description Wire gave the FBI a few days earlier by phone. After his interviews, Wire, the happily married father of three grown daughters, returned to his workaday life in Pennsylvania. He had no idea how important he would become to the CIA.
In April 1999, the rank and file guys in the NTSB finally got to interview the two CIA analysts who had created the notorious zoom-climb animation. When pressed by the NTSB, the CIA analysts were having trouble identifying any eyewitnesses who had actually seen the plane climb after its nose had blown off.
“If it’s only one or two of them, it’s not representative of all of them,” said one NTSB staffer.
CIA “Analyst 1” then pulled out his trump card, his key witness, the man who had seen everything: “That [the ascending plane] is something that a few eyewitnesses saw. The guy on the bridge saw that.”
As Analyst 1 implied, the CIA had chosen to build its case squarely on Wire’s testimony. “FBI investigators determined precisely where the eyewitness was standing,” says the narrator in the CIA video, while the video shows 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.”
To be sure, this version of events does not at all square with Wire’s detailed 302 from July 1996, recorded when his memory was at its freshest. The CIA animation converts Wire’s “40-degree” climb to one of roughly 70 or 80 degrees. It reduces the smoke trail from three dimensions, south and east “outward from the beach,” to a small, two-dimensional blip far offshore. It places the explosion noticeably to the west of where Wire clearly remembers it. Most noticeably, it fully ignores Wire’s claim that the projectile ascended “skyward from the ground” and places his first sighting 20 degrees above the horizon, exactly where Flight 800 would have been.
Curiously, however, the CIA narrator repeats Wire’s claim that the projectile “zig zagged,” although neither the CIA nor the NTSB animations show the crippled plane in anything but a perfectly smooth, elliptical ascent. The NTSB witness group picked up on this:
“The airplane in crippled flight,” said one staffer. “I have a problem knowing how it would zigzag.” Analyst 1’s response: “He said the light is zigzagging or twinkling.” But Wire did not say “twinkling.” It is not in his FBI 302 and it is not likely in his vocabulary. The analyst was simply improvising.
His studied indifference to facts helps answer the larger question of how the CIA could recreate events at such obvious odds with Wire’s original and detailed 302. Here is what Analyst 1 reported to the NTSB:
[Wire] was an important eyewitness to us. And we asked the FBI to talk to him again, and they did. In his original description, he thought he had seen a firework and that perhaps that firework had originated on the beach behind the house. We went to that location and realized that if he was only seeing the airplane, that he would not see a light appear from behind the rooftop of that house. The light would actually appear in the sky. It’s high enough in the sky that that would have to happen.
When he was re-interviewed, he said that is indeed what happened. The light did appear in the sky. Now, when the FBI told us that, we got even more comfortable with our theory. He 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 flag pole on top of the house it would be as if it were on the top or the tip of the flagpole.
Flagpole? This may be the single most egregious and conscious bit of dissembling in the entire investigation, one that transparently rises to the level of obstruction of justice. Here’s why: The FBI never contacted Mike Wire after July 1996. Someone made up this interview out of whole cloth. Persons within either the CIA or the FBI, most likely the CIA, knowingly and flagrantly corrupted the investigation into the tragic death of 230 innocent people.
If there were a follow-up interview by the FBI, there should be a follow-up 302 complete with date, place and name of agent. The last interview listed for Mick Wire was dated July 30, 1996. Wire says without hesitation that July 1996 was the last time he talked to the FBI.
Further, even if the FBI had decided to call back, Wire would not have changed his testimony. He has not changed it to this day. When he came back to Westhampton to be interviewed on camera, he told us and showed us exactly what he told the original agent on his 302, though he had not seen that document himself.
The question remains: Why of all the eyewitness accounts did the CIA choose to focus on Mick Wire? A good guess is that there is much the CIA can infer from the FBI 302s about income and media access. Most of the eyewitnesses on this, the affluent south shore of Long Island, viewed the events from their boats, from their summer homes, from their yacht clubs. One eyewitness, a humble mechanic from Philadelphia, saw it on his work break before heading home the next morning.
This may also answer the question – why the CIA? It is the only agency of government that is proudly in the deception business.
Read previous installments in this series:
Part 4: “1 secret the Times has kept”
Part 5: “What Jamie Gorelick knew”
Part 7: “How the FBI misled the public”
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