Accuracy in Media

The Clinton Administration has been waging war on the press. We’ve brought you the story before, but it has taken a new turn. Journalist James Sanders, who wrote a book claiming that a missile brought down TWA Flight 800, is being prosecuted by the federal government. And the Justice Department has now seized his computer e-mail messages, trying to identify his sources. This was too much to take for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The group has called the attack on Sanders a long-term threat to all journalists.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press should have acted long before now. This is one of the more outrageous incidents involving persecution of the press that has occurred under this administration. We know that the IRS has been unleashed on critics of the administration. But in the Sanders case, the federal government is trying to put him in jail. They have accused him of aiding and abetting theft of government property. This refers to a few square inches of material from one of the seats of TWA 800 sent to him by a confidential source. He had the material tested and reported that a red residue on the material was consistent with solid rocket fuel exhaust. This strongly suggested that a missile brought the plane down.

Sanders wrote a book about it, titled, “The Downing of TWA Flight 800.” But the government didn’t want to hear it. The government has gone to extraordinary lengths to dismiss the missile theory and suggest that a mysterious explosion in the fuel tank brought the plane down. But not only is there physical evidence pointing to a missile, over 100 eyewitnesses saw it.

Now that the government has gone after Sanders’ e-mail messages, the major media are starting to pay attention to his case. In an article in Editor & Publisher, Alan Wolper explained the slowness of the media response by saying, “Mainstream news organizations have shown little interest in Sanders’ writings or legal plight because his theory about a missile strike…has been so universally debunked and ridiculed by respected aviation and military authorities.” But this statement itself shows a disregard for the truth. Among those who have either endorsed the missile theory or questioned the official government line are Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Dr. Vernon Grose, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The evidence in favor of the missile theory is overwhelming; the only real debate is whether the missile came from a Navy ship, in a friendly fire incident, or from terrorists. In any event, the federal government has been relentless in its effort to discourage further investigation into the matter, and to punish those like Sanders who dispute the official version of events. The feds have gone after Sanders and his sources, something that should alarm all journalists.

Now that the seizure of his e-mail messages has attracted their attention, it is time for the major media to follow-up by covering not only his case but his evidence. It is not too late to expose the official cover-up.

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