Accuracy in Media

Cmdr. William S. Donaldson, who has been investigating the crash of TWA Flight 800 for over a year, unveiled a new 109-page report on the crash and the actions of the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board, (the NTSB) at a news conference on July 20. Other retired aviation professionals who participated were Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Howard Mann, a retired TWA captain and Maj. Fred Meyer, a retired Air National Guard helicopter pilot who was one of over a hundred eyewitnesses who saw what appeared to be a missile streaking toward the airliner.

Donaldson included in his report statements from 40 eyewitnesses who said they had seen something like a rocket or flare streaking toward the plane just before it exploded. Some of the more impressive eyewitnesses were at the news conference. Donaldson had done what the FBI and NTSB had failed to do. Taking the position of each eyewitness and the location of the flare or rocket when they saw it, he drew bearing lines that enabled him to pinpoint two spots on the ocean where missiles apparently rose from the surface.

The FBI and NTSB treated the statements of the eyewitnesses as though they had no value whatever. The FBI has closed its investigation, but it has yet to release the reports of its eyewitness interviews. It insisted that the NTSB not allow any eyewitnesses to testify at the public hearings it held on the crash last December. Both agencies have repeatedly said that there is no evidence that a missile was involved in the crash, as though eyewitness testimony were not evidence.

Donaldson included in his report an article pointing out that if 50 eyewitnesses, each of whom is right in his observations only 10 percent of the time, all agree on something they have seen, there is a 99.5 percent probability that they are right. The FBI and NTSB have a very low opinion of the powers of observation of people on Long Island. With 100 saying the same thing, they insist that they mistook a falling plane for a rising rocket. And get this. One of these eyewitnesses was FBI agent George Gabriel, who was fishing off Long Island when he saw what appeared to be a missile blow up the plane.

One of the things that the eyewitness interviews revealed was that the tail section of the plane apparently broke off before the plane caught fire. It was found floating with no evidence of fire damage or sooting. This was confirmed by the discovery of many seats from the rear of the plane among the first parts to fall in the ocean, in what is called the red debris zone.

The NTSB showed these seats as having been found far away in the green debris zone. This was discovered by Linda Kunz, a member of the investigative team who took photos to prove what had been done.

The NTSB reported her to the FBI and had her removed from the investigation. We will have more on this in our next commentary.




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