In checking the Amazon reviews of my new book, “TWA 800: The Crash, The Cover-Up, The Conspiracy,” I came across a one-star review by Peter Goelz, managing director of the NTSB during the TWA 800 investigation.
Goelz’s opening line perfectly captures the tone not only of the review, but also of his tenure at the National Transportation Safety Board.
Writes Goelz: “‘Have you no sense of decency’ was the memorable quote that helped take down Cashill’s old hero, Sen. Joe McCarthy. It could be as easily directed to Jack based on this latest offering.”
Let us see. Here is a fellow who has used the power of government to harass ordinary citizens like me, and I am Joe McCarthy. In the Orwellian world of contemporary Washington, reporting the truth has apparently become an indecency.
Once Goelz gets beyond the ad hominems – he compares me to Daffy Duck as well as Joe McCarthy – he gets to the heart of his argument.
Goelz does not trust the accounts of the 258 FBI witnesses who saw what appeared to be a missile attacking the 747. They were “deceived” by both sight and sound.
Goelz focuses on the sound. “Sound travels at 1,126 feet per second,” he tells us smugly. “It’s the law.” He argues that no one saw the initiating event.
“Almost all witnesses described either hearing the explosion then almost immediately seeing the fireball of the falling aircraft or vice versa.”
I have no idea what Goelz means by “vice versa,” but the sound propagation theory was first advanced by the CIA in 1997. Goelz rolled this theory back out in July 2013 to discredit an excellent documentary on the crash titled “TWA Flight 800.”
FBI honcho Jim Kallstrom tag-teamed with Goelz to smear documentary producers Tom Stalcup and Kristina Borjesson. The very nearly identical riffs by Goelz and Kallstrom on national TV strongly suggest one unseen hand prodding them both.
When CNN’s Jake Tapper raised the issue of the eyewitness testimony, Goelz said, “Almost all of the witnesses say this: ‘I heard a sound. I looked up and then I saw a streak of light or firework and an explosion.'”
When Fox News’ Bill Hemmer asked about the witnesses, Kallstrom also claimed, “The vast majority of those people looked up when they heard the bang.” Kallstrom added, “The plane had already exploded, and [the witnesses] were seeing the plane falling apart.”
Goelz spun the same yarn. According to him, the witnesses saw only “the last six seconds” of the 40-plus-second break-up of the aircraft. “No witness saw the first event 40 seconds prior to that,” he insisted.
Were I to chart a TWA 800 hierarchy of lies, this orchestrated bunkum would rank near the top. As I detail in my book, the FBI did not even bother to ask seven of the 40 best witnesses about sound.
Another 19 told the FBI they heard nothing at all. In only 14 of the 40 summaries did a witness admit to hearing a sound, and in only three of those did that person report hearing a sound before looking up.
In fact, these 40 witnesses saw all or almost all of the entire sequence. That sequence began, as one small aircraft pilot affirmed, with “a light coming out of the sea” and ended nearly a minute later with the shattered plane “falling down like an umbrella of flames.”
More curious still, before July 2013 the FBI had not endorsed the CIA’s bogus sound propagation analysis, nor had the NTSB. The FBI’s case-closing summary in 1997 made no reference to sound.
At the final NTSB hearing in August 2000, the NTSB’s David Mayer all but rejected the CIA thesis, telling chairman Jim Hall, “Our [witness] analysis is not based on sound.”
It seems likely that Goelz and Kallstrom resorted to this argument for the same reason the CIA had: it sounded scientific. With it, they could intimidate TV newscasters who knew little about the incident.
Try as they might, Tapper or Hemmer were in no position to contradict such authoritative sources, certainly not in the three to five minutes a typical TV segment runs.
In my book, I shred the sound propagation argument beyond repair. It was nonsense from beginning to end. If Goelz had actually read my book, he would have known better than to double down on this discarded bit of propaganda.
After reading Goelz’s review, I contacted a retired NTSB investigator who worked the crash. He has invited me to call with any questions.
I asked him his take on Peter Goelz. “A complete politician,” he told me. “Whenever he comes on TV, he knows nothing. He was just an office manager.”
No, Goelz is worse than that. He is a symptom of a Washington culture in which an incompetent, lying sleazeball can defame with impunity the people who pay his salary.
Joe McCarthy was much the more decent man.
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