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Are feds hiding crash imagery?

Posted By Jack Cashill On 09/20/2007 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Three weeks ago, I wrote about the FBI’s unwitting revelation of a potential smoking gun in the TWA Flight 800 case.

I refer specifically to an amateur video shot five days before the plane’s demise. The video captured an image, concedes the FBI, “consistent with the exhaust plume from a MANPAD [Man-portable air-defense] missile.”

I argued that the suppression of this video for 11 years strengthens the case that other imagery – in particular an amateur video shot on the night of the crash, July 17, 1996 – might also have been suppressed.

This argument elicited some provocative responses from some very good sources. Let me cite a few. The first one comes from Atlanta, Ga.

“I, too, can attest to a video broadcast on the night of the Flight 800 tragedy,” writes the correspondent. His wife, a television producer at work that night, phoned him at home and instructed him to turn on the television.


According to this correspondent, the video showed “what appeared to be a missile heading directly to and connecting with the airliner.” The correspondent’s brother, an aircraft mechanic with Pratt & Whitney, saw the tape as well. He immediately stated, ‘Did you see the missile connect with the plane?’”

The correspondent adds, “After that fateful evening, I have never seen the footage again.”

A second correspondent, a retired FAA technician and licensed pilot, writes that both he and his wife “clearly” saw the amateur video of the plane’s destruction.

What they remember is “a fire trail ascending upward” followed by “a very large flash,” after which “pieces came tumbling down.” They confirm that the video was shown several times in the early morning hours after the crash and then “completely disappeared from public access and viewing.”

This correspondent argues that the video’s removal from public access and its replacement with a substitute video produced by the CIA “is all the evidence any rational person needs to prove to themselves that TWA Flight 800 was downed by an external ascending source.”

After reading this, I took another look at the CIA video. The video famously shows the nose of the 747 blowing off due to a fuel tank explosion, and the nose-less fuselage zooming some 3,200 feet straight up like a rocket.

This zoom-climb allegedly confused more than 200 eyewitness into thinking they were seeing a missile. It also inspired retired United Airline Capt. Ray Lahr to petition the authorities for the data used to concoct this preposterous scenario.

This petition has turned into a six-year-long slog through federal courts. Along the way, however, Lahr and attorney John Clarke have unearthed one informational nugget after another, like the revelation about the suppressed video cited above.

Like Lahr, I had grown inured to the CIA disinformation, but what struck me in re-watching the video were the multiple references to “infrared sensors aboard a U.S. satellite.” These sensors apparently captured the plane’s demise.

Unfortunately, the satellite imagery has also gone missing. An airline pilot “with a major U.S. airline” addressed this issue in still another e-mail.

The pilot writes that a few days after the downing of TWA Flight 800, an armed FAA officer showed up at the last minute on a flight out of Washington National and manned his plane’s jump seat.

While in flight, the FAA officer told him and his co-pilot about a meeting that he had attended the day before, “where he saw satellite photographs of TWA 800 exploding.”

“I didn’t think that much of it at the time because I figured that eventually the truth would come out and we would all get to see the photos,” the pilot writes. “Guess not.”

As with the video, the evidence is overwhelming that U.S. satellites did record the events of July 17, 1996. On July 22, 1996, the London Times went so far as to report that “the satellite pictures show an object racing up to the TWA jet, passing it, then changing course and smashing into it.”

The major American media, however, chose not to pursue this obvious line of inquiry. In the 25 most relevant New York Times articles of the investigation’s first two months, there is not one single reference to a satellite. The Times likewise failed to interview a single one of the roughly 270 official eyewitnesses to a potential missile strike.

Early in the investigation, the head of the FBI’s investigation, James Kallstrom, referred to the satellites as “our friends in the sky” and suggested that they held the answers to the investigation’s seeming problems.

That was not to be. Whatever promise the satellites once held for the FBI, the word “satellite” was not mentioned once at its comprehensive, case-scuttling press conference in November 1997.

This is all the more curious since the FBI showed the CIA video – with its multiple references to relevant satellite imagery – at this press conference, the one and only time it would be shown.

Nor was the word “satellite” mentioned at the NTSB’s final two-day “sunshine” hearings in August 2000. Our friends in the sky had gone mute. Despite repeated requests through the Freedom of Information Act, they have stayed that way.

That much said, the case is not dead yet. Among the new evidence I received in the last two weeks is a previously unknown video shot on the night of July 17, immediately after the crash.

I have sent copies to a few of my more technically astute colleagues. If they confirm what I think I am seeing, the truth may still have a future.

The truth is what motivates John Corey, the protagonist of Nelson DeMille’s riveting novel about TWA Flight 800, “Night Fall.” I listened to the audio on a drive across country last week.

At book’s end, having found the missing amateur video, Corey gives the federal agents who suppressed it one last chance to join “the side of the angels.”

Angels of the non-fictional kind still have that chance.

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