Accuracy in Media

On the heels of the release of Accuracy in Media’s award-winning documentary, “TWA 800: The Search for the Truth,” FIRO, the TWA Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization, has petitioned the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to reconsider its decision on what caused the plane to crash. The NTSB’s rules provide for such petitions if new evidence has been found or it can be shown that the NTSB findings were erroneous.

FIRO’s 19-page petition, supported by 71 pages of attachments, can be found on FIRO’s Web site, . It shows that the NTSB’s finding that the crash was initiated by a spontaneous explosion in the center-wing fuel tank was erroneous, pointing out that the investigators were unable to find any source of ignition that could have caused the empty fuel tank to explode. The board’s finding was based on an assumption, not evidence.

Attachment II of the FIRO petition discusses an analysis of radar data by an FBI consultant who concluded that a component of the plane was blown out of its right side as soon as electric power was lost. It was the first part of the plane to hit the water, a quarter of a mile closer to the shore than the next closest part. This cannot be explained by the NTSB’s fuel-tank explosion theory.

FIRO charges that the NTSB withheld from the public and parties to the investigation the results of the analysis of a strange loud sound recorded on the cockpit voice recorder. The tape was sent to England to be analyzed by sound experts at the University of Southampton to determine if the explosion was high velocity from an explosive device or low velocity from a fuel-air mixture. The conclusion reached by the British experts has been withheld by the NTSB on the grounds that it “would create a safety hazard.” Translation: it was high velocity.

Another important example of evidence that was classified secret and was withheld from the public was the discovery that metals of “unknown origin” were found in the bodies of many of the 230 who died in the crash on July 17, 1996. The FBI asked the Brookhaven National Laboratory to analyze one of 20 small pellets found in one of the bodies. They contained zirconium and barium, indicative of an incendiary device foreign to a Boeing 747 airliner. The FBI made no effort to determine the source of these pellets.

Retired Brigadier General Benton Partin, who helped design missiles for the Air Force, has said that the Brookhaven Laboratory’s analysis of the composition of the mysterious pellets suggests to him that they came from a missile. The FBI never showed Gen. Partin or any other missile experts the Brookhaven analysis. They were content to describe the pellets as “origin unknown.” In throwing a secrecy blanket over this evidence and their failure to determine its source indicates that they knew that sourcing it accurately would undermine their claim that a spontaneous fuel-tank explosion caused the crash.

The Suffolk County coroner, Dr. Wetli, found shrapnel in 89 of the bodies he examined. The FBI compiled an eight-page list describing the metal found in each body, classifying it secret. FIRO has sued under FOIA to obtain this list. The court ordered the FBI to release it, but the bureau is trying to get that reversed on privacy grounds, claiming it invades the privacy of the dead. That is a spurious argument because the dead have no privacy rights, but FIRO is not arguing that point. What it wants is the description of the metal found in each of those bodies. It is believed that a lot of it will be pellets. The names can be redacted.

The penchant of the FBI and NTSB for classifying, hiding and altering the TWA Flight 800 evidence shows that they knew the evidence did not support their findings. Last summer the NTSB, headed by a Bush appointee, secretly sold the TWA 800 wreckage, except for the mock-up of the fuselage and one engine, to a recycler. The buyer had to promise to keep it secret to get the contract. The NTSB says the secrecy requirement was to keep away scavengers and souvenir hunters. Baloney! Why should they care about that once the wreckage was sold? Because what they were really destroying was evidence that could have been used to prove that their explanation of the cause of the crash was wrong. Some of it was so revealing that the FBI would not let even the NTSB investigators see it.