On Monday, in addressing the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), President Barack Obama demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin provide “immediate and full access to the crash site.”
Obama then warned Putin that Russia would face additional sanctions if he refused to act. Said Obama, “What exactly are they trying to hide?”
Putin had to find all this posturing by Obama more than a little amusing. If he knows as much about TWA Flight 800 as I do – and I suspect he knows more – Putin has Obama over the proverbial barrel.
Eighteen years to the day before MH17 was blown out of the sky over the Ukraine, TWA Flight 800 was blown out of the sky off the Long Island coast killing all 230 people on board.
Said NTSB senior investigator Hank Hughes in a recent affidavit about the TWA 800 investigation, “The extraordinary measures to which the NTSB, FBI and CIA went to falsify and distort witness statements or accounts of what occurred, to alter and hide physical evidence and to mount a false public relations campaign to misinform the public, was unconscionable.”
Among the first to sense that the TWA 800 investigation had gone awry was my writing partner on the book “First Strike,” James Sanders.
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called Sanders to let him know that the materials he requested through the Freedom of Information Act in 2006 were now available.
These materials concerned the government’s efforts in 1996 to find some explanation other than the obvious for the explosive residues that had been found on the recovered parts of the aircraft, internal and external.
The media reported on these discoveries for a month. These reports culminated with an above the fold front page headline in the New York Times on Aug. 23, 1996, “Prime Evidence Found That Device Exploded in Cabin of Flight 800.”
The paper referred specifically to the traces of PETN found on “a part of a seat” from the area in “the epicenter of the blast,” somewhere between Rows 17 and 27, close to the area of the right wing and near the spot where the plane split in two.
The Times reminded its readers that 10 days prior the FBI had said that “one positive result” in the forensic tests would cause them to declare the explosion a crime. That did not happen.
On Aug. 25, for the first time, the New York Times published a story with a “missile” lead. “The discovery of PETN,” claimed the article, “has kept alive the fearsome though remote possibility that the airliner was brought down by a surface-to-air missile.”
Despite this news, on Aug. 29, at the Democratic National Convention, President Clinton dedicated only one paragraph to the question of terrorism or aviation safety, and this toward the very end of a long, self-congratulatory acceptance speech.
On that same day, the FBI announced that it had discovered additional traces of explosive residue “on a piece of wreckage from inside the Boeing 747 near where the right wing meets the fuselage.”
“Senior investigators” tipped off the Times that the substance was RDX. They were steering the Times away from the “missile” and back toward the “bomb.” If PETN alone allowed for the possibility of a missile, PETN and RDX together argued much more strongly for a bomb.
For the next three weeks there would be no new revelations. Then, out of the blue, the NTSB told the Times they were “convinced that none of the physical evidence recovered from TWA Flight 800 proves that a bomb brought down the plane.”
Two days later, “federal officials” were telling the Times that “the jetliner was used during a test of a bomb-detecting dog five weeks before the crash, which they said could explain the traces of explosives found in the wreckage.”
On Sept. 21, 1996, the FBI found its way to Officer Herman Burnett and his dog Carlo. This was the day after the stories about the dog-training exercise began to appear in the media.
Burnett oversaw the dog training exercise, which took place in St. Louis on June 10,1996. The materials the NTSB made available to James Sanders 18 years later have to do with that exercise.
One is a letter from NTSB Chairman Jim Hall, a Clinton appointee, to the FAA. In the letter, Hall wrote that the training officer “had placed on N93119 five different training aids.” He also allegedly “told investigators that he had spilled trace amounts of explosive.”
When writing our book I talked to Burnett, a veteran African-American cop who has every reason to feel persecuted. “I am pi–ed off to this day,” he told me.
“I never lost any,” he said of the explosives. “I never spilled any.” As to his alleged confession of the same, he answers, “I just hate that they twisted my words. I know what I did, and how I did it.”
The facts back him up. One of the forms provided to Sanders list the training aids. They do not match the RDX or PETN found on the plane.
The time line does not work, either. Based on the scenario developed by the FBI, Burnett could not have left the plane earlier than 12:15 p.m.
During this time, Burnett saw no one else on board the plane. He did not expect to. He carried out these daily exercises in as “sterile” an environment as possible – that is, without anyone present.
Existing records play serious havoc with the FBI scenario. They show that Capt. Vance Weir piloted TWA 17119 – the plane that would become Flight 800 – from St. Louis to Hawaii that day. Weir’s “Pilot Activity Sheet” indicates that on this day and on this plane he flew out of St. Louis for Honolulu at 12:35 p.m.
To clean the plane, stock it, check out the mechanics and board several hundred passengers would take more than the 15-minute window of opportunity the FBI’s own timetable presents. Much more.
An empty 747 sat at the adjoining gate that day. Burnett did not record the tail number or even the gate, just the time and the designation “widebody.”
On CNN’s special report, “Witnessed: The Crash of TWA Flight 800,” which aired just last week, here is how the head of the FBI investigation, Jim Kallstrom, casually lied about these events:
“We found traces of high explosives in the airplane. About six months out, it was down in a double-sided tape (inaudible). And it made no sense that there was an explosion there.”
Kallstrom continued, “Later on we found out that in St. Louis someone who works on bombs training a dog went on the plane and he had some components of things that they make bombs on. It was leaking and that stuff stuck to the sticky part of the tape.”
Putin may be looking for his own Carlo right now. He’s got lots of Kallstroms.
Media wishing to interview Jack Cashill, please contact [email protected].