This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.
TWA Flight 800 is the Rosetta Stone of 9-11. If we can accurately decipher the destruction of that plane July 17, 1996, we will be able to interpret the larger events of Sept. 11.
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I appreciate the patience of those who have followed this effort, which is essentially a work in progress. Since we have begun this journey on the pages of WorldNetDaily, I have heard from hundreds, if not thousands, of aviation professionals, eyewitnesses and family members, many of whom have contributed to our collective understanding. Needless to say, this journey could not have begun without the work of James Sanders, my co-author on "First Strike."
Since the 10th anniversary of TWA Flight 800's demise July 17, 2006, I have received more useful intelligence than I had in the five years prior. The most recent contributions include Peter Lance's bold new book, "Triple Cross," reviewed on these pages last week, terrorist expert Laurie Mylroie's continuing research, and an extraordinary technical review of the crash data, simply titled "Review of Government Evidence from the Crash of TWA FLIGHT 800." I will refer to this document as the "Review." I and a few others received it from an author or authors still unknown, but who is/are following this series in WND.
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What follows is an outline of the path from WTC I to WTC II according to best available evidence. If this outline seems more coherent than those you have seen elsewhere, there are two reasons why. One is that almost no one in the mainstream media will utter the words "TWA Flight 800." This includes several prominent terrorist experts, who deeply distrust the government's mechanical explanation for the plane's demise but who are understandably reluctant to go public. Kudos to "Triple Cross" author Peter Lance for breaking this taboo. He risks his career in so doing.
The second reason is even more problematic than the first. In their relentless effort to discredit President Bush, the mainstream media refuse to acknowledge the possibility of an Iraq connection to either the first WTC bombing or 9-11, let alone to TWA Flight 800. Indispensable to understanding the Iraq-al-Qaida connection is the work of Weekly Standard reporter Stephen Hayes.
Pundits talk endlessly about connecting the proverbial dots, but if they leave two critical dots off the table, connections become mere concoctions. What follows are some verifiable dots, logically connected.
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- On June 10,1992, Mohammed Salameh made the first of his 46 phone calls to Iraq, most of them to his uncle, a PLO operative living in Baghdad. Salameh would be convicted for his role in the first WTC bombing.
- Two weeks later, Abdul Yasin, an American-born Iraqi then living in Baghdad, went to the U.S. embassy in Jordan and secured an American passport.
- On Sept. 1, 1992, the man we know as Ramzi Yousef, the WTC mastermind, arrived in New York. Yousef just happened to be traveling on an Iraqi passport. Yasin arrived a few days later.
- In October 1992, VP candidate Al Gore chided the incumbent President Bush for his "dangerous blindness to the murderous ambitions of a despot" and cited a RAND corporation study that reported an estimated 1,400 terrorists operating out of Iraq.
- On Feb. 26, 1993, the second anniversary to the day of Iraq's ignominious expulsion from Kuwait, Yousef and company planted their bomb under the World Trade Center. Yousef was disappointed at the results. He had hoped to topple one building into the other and kill 250,000 people.
- Of the conspirators, only Yousef and Yasin managed to escape the country. Scarred from spilled chemicals, Yasin fled to Baghdad where he stayed until the toppling of Saddam's regime 10 years later.
- When Iraqi intelligence tried to assassinate the senior Bush a month after the WTC bombing, Gore thundered against a regime "based on terrorism and atrocities against its own people" and expressed his desire that it be "replaced."
- In the spring of 1994, an ABC stringer found Yasin working for the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Although Yasin's involvement was fully documented, the Clinton administration did not make a serious attempt to extradite Yasin. To do so would have been to acknowledge Iraq's likely complicity in the bombing and that would have demanded a serious response.
- The media have no such excuse. To show how deep this bias runs, both Lance's "Triple Cross" and Lawrence Wright's much praised "The Looming Tower" purge Yasin completely from their extended discussions of WTC I, even to reject an Iraqi connection. And these are two of the more honest mainstream accounts.
- Wright concedes that he does not know who sponsored WTC I. Lance makes a shaky case for al-Qaida.
- As Lance admits, however, Osama bin Laden denied knowing Yousef before WTC I, and bin Laden was never shy about claiming responsibility where due. When asked about financing, Yousef would cite only "family and friends." The Justice Department did not indict bin Laden for the crime.
- On Jan. 6, 1995, a fire broke out in Yousef's Manila apartment where he and his fellow Baluchi, Abdul Hakim Murad, were mixing chemicals. Yousef escaped, but when Murad went back to retrieve Yousef's laptop, Philippine police apprehended him. On the laptop were the plans for Bojinka, a devious scheme to blow up a dozen airliners over the Pacific.
- Murad was a pilot. He talked to the police about flying a private plane into the CIA building. Under duress, Murad told of a third plot, one to hijack airliners and fly them into U.S. targets including the White House, the Sears Tower and the World Trade Center. Murad, who learned to fly in the U.S., was to orchestrate the training of the pilots.
- Lance interviewed the Philippine police, and they insist that they turned the planes-as-missiles information over to the FBI in January 1995 with the rest of the information.
- Lance argues that Yousef and his "uncle" Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) originated the 9-11 plot and had drafted plans as early as 1994. He ties the Baluchis into al-Qaida.
- Laurie Mylroie makes a much stronger argument that the loose living, religiously indifferent Baluchis – Murad, Yousef, KSM and their various "cousins" – were an elite, Iraqi-trained crew of terrorists who put their services on the world market once the Iraq-Iran war came to an end. Mylroie does not believe that they hooked up with bin Laden until 1996 when the still obscure Saudi moved to Afghanistan.
- Many serious people – including Lance and anti-terror czar Richard Clarke – think it possible that the Baluchis taught Terry Nichols how to build a truck bomb during one of his many visits to the Philippines. The Clinton administration found it much more politically useful to drop the swarthy "John Doe No. 2" from the investigation and restrict the OKC bomb plot to the blond and crew-cut.
- In July 1996, Murad and Yousef were jailed in NYC cells next to mob informant Gregory Scarpa Jr. Yousef told Scarpa that he planned to blow up a plane to cause a mistrial and that he had operatives on the ground to help.
- The FBI set up a dummy Mafia front company called Roma. Scarpa gave Yousef the number and conned him into believing that the Roma people could patch his calls anywhere in the world. The FBI was, of course, listening in. Yousef outsmarted the FBI by making his critical calls in Baluchi, a language its agents could not translate.
- On the morning of July 17, 1996, the Islamic Change Movement, which Mylroie believes to be the name used by Iraqi intelligence, threatened an act of shocking magnitude against the United States. The warning closed as follows: "Their time is at the morning-dawn. Is not the morning-dawn near?"
- July 17 was National Liberation Day in Iraq, Saddam's evil Fourth of July. On that day in 1996, he made what Mylroie calls "the most angry, vengeful speech of his entire life."
- A 1999 document from the files of the Iraqi Intelligence Services – this one planning a series of terrorist acts around the world called "Blessed July" – closes with a handwritten note, "Their appointment is in the morning, and indeed the morning is near." None of the three Arabic speakers with whom I consulted could cite another example of this specific call to action, all but identical to the one from July 17, 1996. Nor could I find anything close online.
- That same July 17, The U.S. Navy on the East Coast was on its highest state of alert since the Cuban Missile Crisis. There were unprecedented sightings of cruisers up and down Long Island. This was two days before the start of the Atlanta Olympics.
- At 8:31 p.m. on July 17, 1996, at least 270 people saw streaks of light ascending toward TWA Flight 800, culminating in the destruction of the plane. At that same moment, FAA radar operators in New York saw an unknown object "merging" with TWA 800 in the seconds before the crash and rushed the radar data to Washington. It was the FAA data that prompted emergency meetings at the White House.
- In "Triple Cross," Lance argues that a planted bomb likely caused the destruction. Although this explanation fits within the evidence the NTSB and the media have chosen to believe, it does not fit within the real evidence as it exists. Nor does it do justice to the planes-as-missiles theory that Lance does a good job developing.
- In fact, Lance cites a dozen examples before 9-11 of executed or planned planes-as-missiles plots, three of which were before July 1996. Lance also reveals that al-Qaida had already purchased a used Sabre-40 jet in Arizona before 1996.
- In "First Strike," James Sanders and I theorize that the U.S. Navy fired its missiles at an unidentified aircraft (UAC), likely a terrorist jet, in close proximity to the 747, perhaps even attacking it. Some combination of missiles and explosives resulted in the destruction of TWA Flight 800. Four years later, I am less confident of this theory despite some verbal confirmation from within both TWA and the military.
- The anonymous Review referenced above presents a similar scenario – and does so in stunning detail – but with the critical difference that the UAC was likely unmanned. This argues for a Navy test gone awry.
- Whether a test or a terrorist shoot-down, both scenarios suggest that Washington was wary of an aerial terrorist attack against New York City. The concern was real enough to put the Navy, locked and loaded, up and down the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996.
- In his book "Against All Enemies," Clarke reports that within 30 minutes of the plane's crash, he had convened a meeting in the White House Situation Room. Tellingly, he did not do this for the ValuJet 592 crash in Florida two months earlier.
- On the night of July 17, President Clinton was holed up in the family quarters. Col. Buzz Patterson, who carried the "nuclear football" for the president and was in the White House that night, could tentatively cite only one person who was with the president, Deputy National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Patterson was kept out of the loop.
- In those same first few hours after the crash, Yousef used his Roma connection to report in Baluchi, "What had to be done has been done, TWA 800 (last two words unintelligible)." Whether he was responsible or not for the crash, he was taking credit. The next day he did ask for a mistrial.
- Likely to make sure Scarpa did not reveal how the FBI may have unwittingly facilitated the destruction of TWA 800, the Justice Department ignored his cooperation on the Yousef matter and gave him a hard 40 in a Colorado high-security prison, an excessive sentence for a non-lethal RICO conviction.
- The FBI traced at least one of Yousef's Roma patch-through calls to KSM in Qatar. KSM fled the country one step ahead of the FBI for Prague in the Czech Republic.
- Some time later in the summer of 1996, Patterson was returning a daily intelligence update from the Oval Office to the National Security Council when he noticed the heading "Operation Bojinka." Patterson "keyed on a reference to a plot to use commercial airliners as weapons."
- As a pilot, Patterson had a keen interest in the same. "I can state for a fact that this information was circulated within the U.S. intelligence community," Patterson writes, "and that in late 1996 the president was aware of it." The president's hand-written comments on the documents verified the same.
- Richard Clarke would go on to take credit for discovering the spurious exploding fuel tank theory that provided a non-missile/ non-terrorist explanation for the crash and served as the first part of the "exit strategy" from the TWA 800 investigation.
- On Aug. 22, 1996, then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick chaired a D.C. meeting at which the FBI was effectively ordered to abandon the search for terrorists and to validate the exploding fuel tank theory.
- After the death of former FBI agent John O'Neill in the WTC on 9-11, Clarke would give him credit for creating the second part of the exit strategy, the notorious zoom climb scenario that the CIA and FBI would use to discredit all 270 eyewitnesses. After showing the CIA-created video of the zoom climb, the FBI shut down the criminal investigation in November 1997.
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Telling the truth about TWA Flight 800 in the months before the 1996 presidential election would have jeopardized Clinton's future. Less understandable is the Bush administration's complicity in the continued TWA Flight 800 cover-up. One reason suggests itself: The truth is sufficiently shocking that it would rightly rock the world's faith in America and in its capital markets. By comparison, Watergate was a stroll in the park.
As to the Baluchis, think of them as producers of a terror show. They provide the script and the director, but they need investors and actors. The investors do not have to like each other or trust each other. They just have to share the same larger goal, in this case the destruction of the Great Satan. Al-Qaida affiliate, al-Zarqawi, seemed to have operated in Iraq both before and after the war under a similar understanding.
The Path continues in the next column tomorrow.
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