Accuracy in Media

The Washington Times recently published a story about Congressman James Traficant issuing a report opposing the idea that a missile brought down TWA Flight 800. His report was viewed as support for the government theory that a mysterious explosion inside a fuel tank caused the crash. Traficant, a Democrat, is considered a maverick who speaks his mind. So some might come to the conclusion there’s no way he could have been pressured to toe the government line.

But the timing was curious. The report was leaked to the Times just a few days before Commander William Donaldson held a national news conference to release evidence that the plane was struck by two missiles. Donaldson had worked closely with Traficant’s office, providing most of the questions that his staff had put to federal authorities. But in the Traficant report, Donaldson is relegated to the ranks of those peddling “conspiracy theories.” Curiously, Traficant’s report seemed designed to discredit Donaldson.

But Traficant’s report raises more questions than it answered. Indeed, a careful reading suggests that a cover-up has taken place. That may be why Traficant himself called for a congressional hearing into the disaster by the House aviation subcommittee. He asks all members of the subcommittee, as well as the chairman and ranking member of the full committee, to sign a letter to the FBI urging that all of the eyewitness statements and other evidence in the investigation be made public.

In his report, Traficant admits he was “disappointed” that the FBI had not responded to his letter requesting FBI identification of vessels and aircraft in the proximity of Flight 800. He said he was “dismayed” that the FBI had “refused to release to the public the eyewitness statements and certain laboratory test results related to the Flight 800 investigation.” He found the FBI’s arguments against releasing the evidence “to be specious and unwarranted.” In view of this cover-up, how can Traficant conclude that a missile did not bring the plane down?

Clearly, his conclusion is not supported by the evidence he himself has produced. There are still two possibilities: that the missile was friendly fire, from a U.S. ship, or launched by terrorists. On the latter point, the FBI admits to Traficant that it received “several claims of responsibility.” However, it says these claims were “thoroughly investigated and no evidence to substantiate these claims was found.” The FBI seems to be saying that because it rejected the missile theory, the claims of those terrorists can’t be true. That is circular reasoning. So how can anyone, including Traficant, accept it?

The failure by the FBI to identify vessels or aircraft in the area is most troubling. Commander Donaldson says some of them were at points that eyewitnesses indicate as the source of the missile fire. One of them fled the scene of the shootdown at 30 knots. In the absence of knowledge about what it was doing – and to whom it belonged – how can Traficant be so confident it had no connection to the destruction of TWA 800? We’ll have some more questions based on his own report in our next broadcast.

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