This week marks an overlooked and uncelebrated anniversary: 10 years ago, Sept. 11, Sen. John Kerry launched his own war, a political war, on the one man who stood between him and the 2004 Democratic nomination, Al Gore.
Kerry knew Gore’s Achilles’ heel, namely the Gore Commission’s role in concealing the real cause of the July 1996 mid-air destruction of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island.
Although I have written about Kerry’s role before, a newly discovered video segment strengthens the case that he believed TWA Flight 800’s destruction to be an act of terror and that he sat on this information for five years.
This clip is one of three televised revelations by Kerry in the two weeks after Sept. 11. With the help of a friendly editor, I have put together a video montage of Kerry’s serial confessions to show just how calculated these admissions were:
Kerry had the best of sources. At the time of TWA Flight 800’s demise and for several years thereafter, he was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Kerry began his subtle anti-Gore offensive on the Larry King show, Sept. 11, 2001:
We have always known this could happen. We’ve warned about it. We’ve talked about it. I regret to say, as I served on the Intelligence Committee up until last year. I can remember after the bombings of the embassies, after TWA 800, we went through this flurry of activity, talking about it, but not really doing [sic] hard work of responding.
If Kerry and his colleagues “warned” about the implications of TWA 800, they did not do so where anyone might hear them.
As a case in point, the Intelligence Committee’s “Special Report” for 1995-1996 dedicated not a word to TWA Flight 800, not even to dismiss as “unfounded” all talk of a missile strike. The report for 1997-1998 was equally silent.
In the beginning at least, some Intelligence Committee members went public. Utah’s Orrin Hatch, for instance, spoke with CNN on July 19, 1996, two days after the July 17 crash. He admitted to having “various conversations” with government officials.
“I won’t go so far as to say it was terrorism, but there was sabotage here,” said Hatch. “We’re looking at a criminal act. We’re looking at somebody who either put a bomb on it or shot a missile, a surface-to-air missile.”
As I reported here last month, on Aug. 2, 1996, President Bill Clinton told historian Taylor Branch a missile had likely taken out the plane, a provocation he traced to Iran. “They want war,” he told Branch.
Clinton aide George Stephanopolous apparently shared his boss’s anxiety as was revealed in a telling slip on ABC News the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Said Stephanopoulos unwittingly: “In my time at the White House [the situation room] was used in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, in the aftermath of the TWA Flight 800 bombing, and that would be the way they would stay in contact through the afternoon.”
If Stephanopoulos got the memo to hold his tongue, Kerry apparently did not. On Sept. 17, 2001, speaking with Hardball host Chris Matthews, he attributed the TWA disaster to Osama bin Laden.
“After all,” said Kerry, “this is a man who we who we know already was responsible for bombing embassies, responsible for helping to take an aircraft out of the air, responsible for helping to bomb the World Trade Center – at least links to it – the first time.”
I had not seen this clip before last week. Kerry had to be referring to TWA Flight 800. The only other possibility, Pan Am 103, blew up in 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and was a Libyan job.
Kerry made his reference clear on Sept. 24, 2001, again with Chris Matthews. I saw this one live. (We could locate the transcript but not the actual video.)
“You know,” Kerry told Matthews, “we’ve had terrorism for a long time now. We’ve had the Achille Lauro, the Munich Olympics, the pipe bomb at the Olympics in Atlanta, the TWA 800, the bombing of embassies, and it’s not going to disappear overnight.”
Either out of inattention or complicity, Matthews failed on both occasions to follow up on Kerry’s stunning revelations, as did Larry King before him. Kerry was probably hoping they would have.
Without further probing by the hosts, Kerry had no opportunity to mention Al Gore’s responsibility for the disaster. His friends in the print media took up the slack.
On Sept. 20, 2001, one mainstream newspaper released the story of how the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, formed a month after TWA Flight 800’s destruction, and chaired by Al Gore, sold out its mission for campaign cash.
That newspaper just happened to be John Kerry’s hometown Boston Globe. This was a damning revelation, certainly to Al Gore.
The Boston Globe was the only medium to the left of the Washington Times to have challenged the Gore Commission, and the Times did so at least a year before Sept. 11.
Although TWA Flight 800 was downed by a missile – skeptics, please read “First Strike” by James Sanders and myself – there is no consensus on who fired that missile. Kerry may or may not know.
He obviously had his suspicions. And for five years he suppressed what he knew, almost assuredly to keep the subject of TWA Flight 800 off the table.
In this regard, he is as guilty as Al Gore and the Clintons. While they all played games with the truth about aviation terror, Khalid Sheik Mohammed perfected his “planes plot” and, in 1998, Osama bin Laden gave it the proverbial green light.
There is a Pulitzer here for anyone in the major media willing to man up and do some real reporting.