25 Years Ago — Remembering the crash of TWA 800 (July 17 1996)

“The FBI didn’t want to hear about anything but a missile or a bomb, because otherwise there was no FBI case. Their conduct was disturbing from the very beginning.”

Chuck Grassley — Chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on administrative oversight –Washington Post (May 9 1999)

July 17 2021 — Trans World Airlines Flight 800 (TWA 800) was a Boeing 747-100 which exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York, on July 17, 1996. On November 17 1997, the FBI formally ended its 16-month investigation into the crash of TWA flight 800. FBI agents concluded there was no evidence it was a criminal act. The similarities between the tragedies of Flight TWA 800 and Pan Am 103 are stunning. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_Today

RELATED POST: Lockerbie — Why I ruled out the bomb theory [Technical Analysis of the Debris Lines]

William A. Tobin : “Are you telling us that the bomb that destroyed the aircraft was located in a overhead-bin that was recovered undamaged?”

FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom : “That is exactly what I said and that is what happened.”

UPDATE (July 17 2021) — James K. Kallstrom, the New York F.B.I. chief who was in charge of the T.W.A. Flight 800 investigation died on July 3 2021.

As you may have expected, The New York Times wrote a magnificent obituary. One comment caught my attention.

When he retired from the F.B.I., he won accolades from Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a senator from Delaware, who said Mr. Kallstrom had “stepped in and imposed order on the incipient chaos” of the government’s inquiry into what had caused Flight 800 to crash.

“The bad news is that Jim Kallstrom is sometimes intimidating,” Mr. Biden said. “The good news is also that Jim Kallstrom is sometimes intimidating. He gets the job done. He also projects confidence and determination. That is what was needed of the head of the F.B.I.’s New York office, and that is what was needed by the head of the T.W.A. Flight 800 investigation.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. In the case of TWA 800, Kallstrom is known to have attempted to hide vital information pointing to a mechanical failure while trying to portray the accident as an act of terrorism.

Andrew Vita — then assistant director of field operations for the Bureau of  Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) — and William Tobin — former chief metallurgist for the FBI — both testified that Kallstrom needlessly prolonged the probe for more than a year when the truth was actually known after just a few weeks.

“Recovering and rebuilding the jetliner that exploded 12 minutes after departure was a herculean effort, a feat that had been done in only three previous crashes, including Pan American Flight 103.” Washington Post (July 17 2021)

I will take this opportunity to make three quick comments which relate to the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.

SEMTEX — Kallstrom claimed that traces of the high explosives PETN and RDX  ‘found’ on the aircraft were proof of an IED.

Yet, the FBI knew full well that sea water washes away all traces of high explosives within 24 hours. Obviously, someone planted the residue evidence, or else it was the result of a contamination at the FBI laboratory.

Loud noise — Kallstrom concluded that the sharp noise at the end of the tape was identical to the Lockerbie sound and this was clear evidence of a bomb explosion.

As I explained recently in great details, this statement is absolutely false. There is no sound of a bomb explosion recorded in the Lockerbie tragedy.

Sequence of events — I have come to the conclusion that Pan Am Flight 103 disintegrated in flight over Lockerbie because of a massive structural failure due to well-known issues of metal fatigue in section 41 and 42 of the Boeing 747 (Series 100 & 200), not because of an explosive device.

If you watch the Crash Animation of TWA Flight 800, you will notice that the sequence of events is identical to what happened to Pan Am Flight 103.

Striking similarities — In both cases, no believable explosive residues were found and no sound of an explosion was recorded. In both cases, these two old planes broke at the infamous section 41 know for its structural weaknesses.

Let me be very clear. If it had not been for the competence and honesty of Andrew Vita and William Tobin, Kallstrom would have blamed Libya or Iran for the crash of TWA Flight 800.

Wreckage from TWA Flight 800 to be destroyed

Recovering and rebuilding the jetliner that exploded 12 minutes after departure was a herculean effort, a feat that had been done in only three previous crashes, including Pan American Flight 103, which was shattered by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The crash and subsequent safety recommendations changed how airplanes are built and designed.

The investigation also led to the creation of a system at the FAA to address aging aircraft systems, such as wiring. [WP July 17 2021]

END of UPDATE

“Aviation investigations are replete with accident scenarios that couldn’t happen. And given the lack of bomb evidence so far, neither scenario has been ruled out, officials said. First is the possibility that the doomed plane’s front section, which has a history of structural fatigue cracks and must undergo regular inspections, simply unzipped from the rest of the plane as weakened structural frames gave way.”

TWA 800 — Washington Post (August 1 1996)

All 230 people on board were killed in the third-deadliest aviation accident in U.S. territory.

The accident airplane, registration N93119, (Boeing 747-131) was manufactured by Boeing in July 1971.

The aircraft had been ordered by Eastern Air Lines, but after Eastern cancelled its 747 orders, the plane was purchased new by TWA.

The aircraft had completed 16,869 flights with 93,303 hours of operation.

Final Report — The FBI’s concluded that mechanical failure — not a bomb or missile — was the cause of the crash.

A CIA video simulation shown during the briefing concluded that witnesses to the crash off the Long Island coast saw the breakup of the doomed plane in the seconds after the initial explosion, not the explosion itself.

The video outlined the step-by-step chronology of the accident. [See video below]

“The Iranians have done this. They want war. I am fucked if I give them war and I am fucked if I don’t. Either way, I won’t be re-elected.”

US President Bill Clinton (July 17, 1996)

Intense Debates & Suspicion of Cover-up

In the case of TWA 800, the FBI is known to have attempted to hide vital information pointing to a mechanical failure while trying to portray the accident as an act of terrorism.

“FBI’s former chief metallurgist, William Tobin, testified that bureau officials repeatedly and angrily dismissed scientific evidence that pointed to a mechanical malfunction.

The FBI didn’t want to hear about anything but a missile or a bomb, because otherwise there was no FBI case,” said Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on administrative oversight.

Their conduct was disturbing from the very beginning.” (WP May 9 1999)

On the very day of this tragedy, US President Bill Clinton recorded his thoughts. I do not have the transcripts, but I remember it quite well.

“The Iranians have done this. They want war. I am fucked if I give them war and I am fucked if I don’t. Either way, I won’t be re-elected.”

Striking Similarities with TWA 800 : No Bomb, No Case.

The similarities between the tragedies of Flight TWA 800 and Pan Am 103 are stunning.

I have summarized my findings regarding these events in chapter X of my book: Lockerbie – Three Decades of Lies: J’Accuse…! [Chapter X : What Happened to Pan Am Flight 103?]

Here is an extract.

Lockerbie — Three Decades of Lies: J’Accuse…!

QUICK NOTE — To make it easier for the readers to retrieve various chapters of my book, I have created a special page  “Lockerbie” where all the links to the chapters will be listed with a brief description. You can access that page directly as it appears at the far right of the top bar of this blog.

Lockerbie — Three Decades of Lies: J’Accuse…!

In the case of TWA 800, the FBI is known to have attempted to hide vital information pointing to a mechanical failure while trying to portray the accident as an act of terrorism. [22]

FBI’s former chief metallurgist, William Tobin, testified that bureau officials repeatedly and angrily dismissed scientific evidence that pointed to a mechanical malfunction.

‘The FBI didn’t want to hear about anything but a missile or a bomb, because otherwise there was no FBI case,” said (Senator Chuck) Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on administrative oversight.

“Their conduct was disturbing from the very beginning.”

The similarities between the Pan Am 103 and TWA 800 cases are just striking.

After the crash of TWA 800, the investigators immediately recovered parts of the plane showing “pitting and sooting” which was interpreted as evidence of a high performance explosive.

Then, analysis of a few swabs indicated that SEMTEX was the explosive used by the terrorists.

After the black box was recovered, the investigators concluded that the sharp noise at the end of the tape was clear evidence of a bomb explosion. [23]

“Sound spectrum analysis of cockpit voice recorders has proved to be one of the most effective means for spotting and describing explosive damage.

The Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie left such a detailed explosive signature that the recording alone was evidence of a bomb.”

Please note that, as I explained above, the Washington Post was lying about the “detailed explosive signature” of the last recorded noise. The Lockerbie investigators never made such a claim.

Assistant FBI Director James K. Kallstrom claimed that the TWA 800 tape resembled findings from the 1988 disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland. [24]

From the beginning, James Kallstrom thought that terrorists were responsible.

“The sudden halt to voice transmissions from the cockpit before the explosion was consistent with the pattern of Pan Am 103. So was the mid- air disintegration of the aircraft.”

Vincent Cannistraro — the man who headed the CIA investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 — repeated the same claim ad nauseam. [25]

“There’s no mechanical event I know of that would cut off everything that suddenly. I don’t have much doubt that it’s an act of sabotage,” Cannistraro said.

“There was a normal conversation and then a crunching sound like the airplane breaking up. That was the bomb.”

“A massive catastrophic event that cuts off everything at once is probably a bomb, not a mechanical problem.”

A few seconds before the disintegration of TWA 800, several radars recorded an anomaly. [26]

“Investigators were particularly perplexed by a small blip that appeared near the jet on radar screens just before the crash.”

When asked why a terrorist organisation would bomb a plane and not take credit for the act, Assistant FBI Director James K. Kallstrom simply answered [27] :

“it doesn’t matter whether anyone claimed credit or not. The event in itself is a public statement. No one claimed credit for Pan Am 103.”

And then, bit by bit, all the ‘evidence’ went away.

On May 10, 1999, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) held a one-day hearing with witnesses offering damaging testimony about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s role in the TWA 800 probe. [28]

Grassley’s  opening remarks were particularly critical of former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom for failing to uncover the cause of the explosion that killed the jumbo jet’s 230 passengers and crew on July 17, 1996.

Grassley’s hearing focused on two star witnesses. One was Andrew Vita, assistant director of field operations for the Bureau of  Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF).

The second was William A. Tobin, former chief metallurgist for the FBI. Both supported Grassley’s claim that Kallstrom needlessly prolonged the probe.

Vita testified that several months into the investigation the BATF concluded there was no evidence that high explosives caused TWA 800’s mid-air disintegration.

In late January, 1997, Vita put the BATF’s views in an unsolicited, written report to be submitted to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

But, Vita testified, he “met resistance” from the FBI. Grassley discovered that Kallstrom had suppressed the report and never forwarded it to the NTSB.

Tobin testified that Kallstrom adamantly believed a bomb destroyed TWA 800.

When traces of the high explosives PETN and RDX  were found on the aircraft, Tobin says Kallstrom claimed it was proof of a bomb. Tobin thought otherwise.

About six weeks into the probe, Tobin testified, he decided there was no evidence of terrorist act and told Kallstrom the crash was an accident.

So, whatever happened to the pitting and the SEMTEX evidence?

“The operation of the salt on the metal causes pitting, and there was concern that such pitting caused by the salt could obscure or be confused with the pitting normally caused by high explosives.”

It was alleged that there may have been a canine bomb-detection test carried out on TWA 800.

Still the mystery remains how such casual contamination could have left traces of explosive after weeks of immersion in salt water.

Both FBI laboratory and independent scientific tests show that water washes away all traces of high explosives within 24 hours.

So this SEMTEX evidence was at best the result of contamination or, possibly, fabricated evidence.

And of course, in both Pan Am 103 and TWA 800, the front part of the plane detached from the rest of the aircraft… Just at the infamous Section 41/42.

“No evidence has been found which would indicate that a criminal act was the cause of the tragedy of TWA flight 800.  We do know one thing. The law enforcement team has done everything humanly possible, has pursued every lead, has looked at every theory and has left no stone unturned.”

FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom (November 18 1997)

PS — I wish to tell you an anecdote about Tobin but first I will give you the New York Times version of this event.

But William A. Tobin, a forensic metallurgist who retired from the F.B.I. a year, ago said that the bureau was determined to find a bomb or missile and was blind to everything else.

After an F.B.I. lab made its third finding of traces of an explosive in the wreckage, he said, ”I was approached in a very excited manner and the statement was, ‘We’ve got it, we’ve got it, it’s confirmed.’ ”

Mr. Tobin said the official who approached him, Mr. Kallstrom, was ”in a very agitated, or hyper-emotional state.” Mr. Tobin said that he argued that the plane itself showed no sign of blast from explosives.

”He got about six inches from my face and he proceeded to advise me in rather graphic terms that it was a bomb,” Mr. Tobin said.

Eventually, investigators concluded that the traces were either from explosive samples used for testing dogs that sniff out bombs, or from soldiers who had flown in the plane.

And here is the true account of what actually happened. During a presentation of the investigation, Kallstrom claimed that TWA 800 had been destroyed by a bomb located in an overhead-bin.

Tobin asked Kallstrom the following question.

“Are you telling us that the bomb that destroyed the aircraft was located in a bin that was recovered undamaged?”

Kallstrom approached him and, while spiting in his face, replied:

“That is exactly what I said and that is what happened.”

I truly believe that TWA 800 would have been just an other Lockerbie if it was not for the competence and courage of William Tobin.

TWA Flight 800 – Crash Animation

The NTSB concluded that the breakup was caused by a fuel tank explosion due to a short-circuit in a set of wires located next to the fuel tank, allowing high amounts of voltage to ignite the petrol.

However, many people still believe to this day that the plane was brought down by a terrorist bombing or a missile strike and is a government cover-up.

REFERENCES

FBI: No criminal evidence behind TWA 800 crash — CNN

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25 Years Ago — Remembering the crash of TWA 800 (July 17 1996)

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