On Nov. 8, 2010, CBS News cameraman Gil Leyvas, while in a helicopter over Los Angeles, captured on tape what appeared to him and others to be a missile launch.

Given his own experience investigating the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, radar specialist Glen Schulze wasted no time preparing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the relevant FAA radar data. Schulze acted quickly lest the data be lost or destroyed.

Schulze was not alone. At least three other independent investigators did the same, including Ray Lahr, a retired United Airlines pilot and the most persistent investigator into the demise of TWA Flight 800.

These investigators pursued the facts because they knew from experience that the major media would not. For the most part, an oddly incurious media reported without comment the conflicting and curiously unknowing responses from the various authorities, civilian and military.

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The explanations fell into two general categories: one was that the mystery plume represented nothing more than the normal condensation vapor trail from a commercial aircraft approaching the Los Angeles basin from Hawaii. The second was that the plume was the smoke trail from a ballistic missile launched from either a foreign or U.S. Navy submarine.

As Schulze anticipated, given the mystery surrounding the smoke plume, the FAA was not eager to surrender the relevant data. Each of the four FOIA requests took more than 70 days to be honored, and in every case the information returned was incomplete or, according to Schulze, “bastardized.”

When questioned about this regulation-defying 70-day delay, the FAA explained that the Los Angeles data had to be sent to Washington for scrutiny and approval.

The data Schulze and others finally did receive supports “more so than not” the eyewitness report of cameraman Leyvas, who believes he witnessed the launch of a missile-like object from the ocean surface.

To be sure, the radar data did not show the unidentified outline – “skin paint” – of a recently launched missile. After a 70-day delay, this did not surprise Schulze.

In a lot less time than that, any skilled technician could have removed incriminating radar returns from the set of radar CDs the FAA sent to the FOIA petitioners.

Despite the absence of a visible skin paint, Schulze and his colleagues still believe that a missile is the most likely explanation for what Leyvas recorded.

They reached this opinion after examining the FAA radar returns from the commercial jet aircraft cited as possible sources of the plume – including USAir Flight 808 or UPS Flight 902. None of these returns matched or even approximated the time and space coordinates of the Leyvas video.

Something else caught the eye of Schulze and his colleagues – a curious pattern of U.S. Navy operations off the coast of the L.A. basin on the early evening of Nov. 8 as precisely tracked by the thousands of radar returns from nearby FAA radar stations.

On the late afternoon in question, a Navy carrier was anchored just south of Point Magu, Calif., and was supporting the flight operations of one aircraft. At 4:57 p.m. the carrier began moving slowly to the west and south with the lone aircraft still in airborne/carrier operations.

It was at 5:10 p.m. that CBS cameraman Leyvas first recorded the smoke plume as it seemed to ascend from the ocean surface. Within minutes, the carrier turned east toward the L.A. basin and picked up speed – now moving at 14 to 16 knots – directly toward the estimated launch area cited by the CBS camera crew.

After 35 minutes at this speed, the carrier slowed and began a precise 180-degree starboard turn. Three additional USN aircraft from the carrier deck joined the hunt. They headed in a southwesterly direction, and at least two of these three were tracked circling an area of some apparent interest until 7 p.m. when the FOIA radar data set ended.

“There is very little doubt in my mind that CBS cameraman Gil Leyvas witnessed a ballistic missile launch off the coast of L.A. on 8 Nov., 2010,” Schulze tells me.

Schulze argues that the U.S. Navy maneuvers that evening coupled with the FAA foot dragging on the FOIA requests suggest “that something highly important had transpired” and that “something” was “too devastating to share with the public.”

Schulze and his compatriots continue their search, knowing they are looking “for a fast-moving needle in a large haystack,” a needle the authorities may have already deemed too important to be found.

The Los Angeles media, meanwhile, are too busy hounding Charlie Sheen to hunt for a possible alien sub. They have their priorities after all.

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