I dedicated my book “What’s The Matter With California” to a retired United Airline pilot named Ray Lahr, “a true Californian and patriot” – and with good reason.
Today, the tireless World War II vet and his intrepid attorney, John Clarke, are all that stand in the way of the successful execution of the single most astonishing cover-up in American peacetime history.
What makes this whole event so astonishing is that TWA Flight 800 went down with 230 good souls on board in full view of literally hundreds of eyewitnesses on Long Island’s affluent south shore.
Even more astonishing, although 270 of those eyewitnesses – pilots, fishermen, surfers, military people – gave the FBI detailed accounts, many with illustrations, of a likely missile attack on the aircraft, the New York Times interviewed not a one of them.
In the run-up to the 1996 re-election of Bill Clinton, the Times and the media that followed its lead chose to accept the word of the Clinton Justice Department, a risky proposition in the best of times.
On Aug. 8, at the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals Building in Pasadena, Lahr and Clarke get one more crack at setting the story straight in the ongoing case, Lahr v. NTSB et al.
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, climbing more than 3,000 feet, and allegedly confusing the eyewitnesses into think they were seeing a missile attack.
If Lahr remains persistent and optimistic, it is because he knows he has zeroed in on the official TWA 800 investigation’s Achilles’ heel. The animation is indefensible nonsense. Even the NTSB has backed away from it.
In the seven years I have been involved in the case, however, I have come to see the TWA 800 cover-up less as a scandal of government than as a scandal of media.
If the New York Times chose to pursue this story, it could break it open in a week. A TV network could break it in a month. And yet none of them do. None of them likely will.
All of this willful blindness, I am convinced, derives from the fact that TWA Flight 800 went down on Clinton’s watch. Collectively, the media spent more energy on George W’s DUI.
I had hoped that the Hillary campaign would provoke a little interest and got my hopes up just a little when the National Archives released 11,000 pages of her schedule as first lady.
The schedule revealed that she was indeed holed up with President Clinton and Sandy Berger in the family quarters of the White House that fateful night of July 17, 1996.
At 3 a.m. – her fabled time to shine – the president had apparently gathered enough information to call National Security Adviser Tony Lake with the following message: “Dust off the contingency plans.”
Yes, the Eisenhower Option, an all out attack on Iran precipitated by the terror bombing of an Air Force compound in Saudi Arabia three weeks earlier. But with the 1996 election comfortably in the bag, war was the last thing the Clintons wanted or needed. As usual, nothing happened.
Yet for all the peril and intrigue of that first night of near war, in “Living History,” Hillary’s 500-plus-page memoir, she summarized the entire TWA Flight 800 episode in exactly one-third of one sentence. Bill gave the entire incident two sentences.
The media, alas, paid this extraordinary oversight no more attention than it did the content of Sandy Berger’s famous socks.
When Berger made his now-storied sorties into the National Archives, he risked his career and his reputation in so doing, and he knew it.
Rest assured, he would not have done so were the secrets to be preserved not worth the risk of pilfering them. True to form, the major media refused even to ask the most fundamental question: Just what secrets would justify so much personal exposure?
Having read the report on Berger by the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, I am confident I know the answer.
According to Archives staff, “Berger was especially interested in White House terrorism adviser Richard Clarke’s personal office files.”
Clarke, a Clinton sycophant, devised the “exit strategy” that transformed a seeming aeronautical assault on TWA Flight 800 into a “mechanical failure.” In his blowhard book “Against All Enemies,” he takes full credit for this bit of aviation alchemy.
Clarke was likely also responsible for getting the CIA and FBI to breach the famed “wall” and work together on the creation of the “zoom-climb” animation Ray Lahr is hoping to expose.
So here is to Ray Lahr and John Clarke and the other good friends I have made on this journey, especially James and Elizabeth Sanders, Mike “the man on the bridge” Wire and – most heroically – Lisa Michelson, Don Nibert and Michel Breistroff, whose deeply loved children were onboard that ill-fated plane.
If they ain’t giving up, neither am I.