Reed Irvine - Editor
|September A, 1999|
On September 14, 1998, James Kallstrom, the retired assistant director of the FBI who had headed the FBI probe of the crash of TWA Flight 800 before he retired, was asked about the governmentís refusal to release information about the crash that the public was entitled to have. He agreed that it would be good to lift the secrecy since the criminal case was no longer open, but he said it was up to the National Transporta-tion Safety Board (NTSB). He was told that the FBI had recently written a letter saying that for privacy reasons it could not disclose the identities of three vessels that were shown by radar to be within six miles of the crash site. [All references to miles will be nautical miles, which are 15% longer than statute miles.] Kallstromís tape-recorded response was: "We all know what those were. In fact, I spoke about those publicly. They were Navy vessels that were on classified maneuvers."
Kallstrom was in a position to know what those vessels were and why they were there. His statement contradicts the Navyís first claim that it had no warships close to the crash site. In February 1997, it told Rep. Michael Forbes, R-NY, that the Aegis cruiser Normandy, which was 185 miles from the crash site, was its nearest asset. In April it admitted to Forbes that there were two subs closer than the Normandy. One was 107 miles and the other 138 miles from the crash site.
The Navy has not admitted publicly that the submarine Albu-querque, which was spotted at midnight about 50 miles from the crash site, was closer than the Normandy. It is therefore no surprise that it has lied about vessels that were only six miles from the crash. The Navy has persistently denied that there were any maneuvers off Long Island that night. It denied that warning zone W-105, a nearby 10,000-square-mile stretch of ocean that is frequently used for military exercises, had been activated on the day of the crash, making it off limits to nonmilitary ships and to aircraft flying under 6,000 feet.
Not until August 26, 1996, did a Navy spokesman admit that W-105 had been activated. According to Aerospace Daily, the spokesman said that it had not been activated for any specific purpose and that no ships had checked in to use it. That has been proven false by radar data recently released to an Internet group called the Flight 800 Independent Research Organization (FIRO). These data show the radar targets on the sea and in the air that were detected by the Islip radar tower in the 15 minutes before TWA 800 blew up and 16 minutes thereafter. FIRO converted the computerized data into charts and a computerized animation.
On August 27, Tom Stalcup, chairman of FIRO and a physics Ph.D. candidate at Florida State University, displayed these for the first time at a joint meeting in Washington with the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals (ARAP). It was open to the media and was aired live on C-SPAN 2. Bill Donaldson, who, with AIMís support has vigorously investigated the TWA 800 crash for over two years, interviewing eyewitnesses and exposing serious flaws in the FBI/NTSB investigation, spoke for ARAP.
Stalcupís presentation showed that the radar data exposed the falsity of the Navyís claim that "a ship never checked in to use" the W-105 warning zone on the night of the crash. This undermined the claim that the warning zone had been activated "for no specific purpose," and that it "was simply available for use." The radar data show that 10 ships large enough to be detected by a radar over 30 miles away were in W-105 at the moment that TWA 800 blew up. They also show that six more ships entered this off-limits zone within 16 minutes after the crash. (That is when the data released by the NTSB ended.) At least nine others were on courses that would probably have taken them into W-105 in an hour or less. Nearly all of these ships, including those already in the zone, were on parallel courses. Four of them were traveling at speeds of 30 knots or more, a strong indication that they were warships.
FIRO has not said that these were U.S. Navy vessels, but Stalcup has said their behavior is not consistent with that of privately owned ships. He and his associates in FIRO have asked the NTSB to identify these ships and explain what they were doing in an area that had been reserved for military use. Accuracy in Media has been trying to get the NTSB and the Navy to answer those questions, so far with no result.
Kelly OíMeara of Insight magazine had independently obtained the radar data and had questioned Peter Goelz, managing director of the NTSB, and Bernard Loeb, a senior NTSB official, about the ships and two unidentified aircraft that showed up in the new data. In her story in Insightís Sept. 20th issue, OíMeara reported this reply by Loeb: "There are lots and lots of things out there, lots and lots of surface vessels and airplanes. Itís New York City." She then asked about what appeared to be a synchronized parallel movement of these vessels. Loeb replied, "We donít see some large number of vessels running in a parallel track in the same direction." The chart on page 3 shows 22 vessels on parallel courses heading southeast, four heading east-southeast, four heading southwest, and two heading northeast.
A vessel that has become known as the 30-knot target because even though it was only three miles from the spot where TWA exploded, it continued on a southwest course doing 30 knots as if nothing had happened. Neither its captain nor any member of its crew has come forward to tell what they saw and explain why they did not try to assist in the rescue operation.
In a letter to Rep. Jim Traficant, D-Ohio, dated July 27, 1998, the FBI claimed that they had not been able to identify this vessel, but because of its speed they believed it to be at least 25 to 30 feet in length. This implied that it was a speedboat. The letter said that despite their failure to identify this vessel, "We are confident it was not a military vessel."
Donaldson has come to share that view. He said that a Cigarette boat, a very fast speedboat, had been seen heading in the direction of the accident site shortly before the crash. He believes that this was the 30-knot target and that a Stinger missile was launched from it by terrorists. Three miles would be close enough to put a Stinger in range of the plane. This would account for the boat speeding away at 30 knots. Donaldson said that a temperature inversion would have made it possible for small boats to be seen by the Islip radar, and it is his information that there was an inversion that day.
Stalcup pointed out that none of the many small craft in the same area, some of them larger than 30-footers, show up on the radar. He said the Adak, a Coast Guard patrol boat, could not be found on the radar. The Adak is 110 feet long and has a 35- to 40-foot mast. It was near the crash site when the explosion occurred. He implied that if there had been a temperature inversion that enabled the radar to detect the 30-knot target, it should have detected the Adak.
The FBI told Rep. Traficant that the 30-knot target disappeared from the radar at approximately 8:45 p.m. At that time it was 19 miles from the Islip tower. Since the radar data released to FIRO ended at 8:47 p.m., it is not possible to verify the FBI claim without seeing the radar data covering a longer period of time.
The 30-knot target may have been spotted by a mysterious plane that was flying back and forth 20 to 25 miles at speeds up to 300 knots, but slowing down to make tight U-turns. Its course took it in and out of W-105.
The 30-knot targetís course came close to intersecting the course of this mystery plane, which may have captured it on radar. It might also have been spotted by a nearby P-3 Orion, an anti-sub aircraft. P-3s have excellent radar and it should have been able to track any vessel close to the spot from which a missile was launched. This radar data should be released.
The FBI and NTSB, with help from the CIA, have tried to suppress and discredit the evidence provided by all the eyewitnesses who say they saw a missile on a collision course with TWA 800 just before it exploded. The newly released radar data also expose the falsity of the video produced by the CIA to make it appear that the eyewitnesses mistook the burning plane for a missile rising from the ocean.
The CIA video showed the plane ascending 3,000 feet after the explosion broke off its nose. The narrator said that the eyewitnesses who saw what they thought was a flare or fireworks rising from the surface and blowing up TWA 800 actually saw the noseless plane rocketing up 3,000 feet, trailing burning fuel. This infuriates the eyewitnesses, but their anger has not forced the government to admit the absurdity of this claim and repudiate the CIA video simulation. The NTSB found the claim that TWA had climbed 3,000 feet after it lost its nose a bit excessive. They produced their own simulation that showed it climbing about half that.
The radar data show that the plane did not climb at all after the explosion. Tom Stalcup explained that radar echoes from the surface of the target (primary data) do not reveal altitude. The data provided by the planeís transponder gives the altitude, but TWA 800 had lost its power and hence its transponder. How could Stalcup be so certain that it did not climb?
He gave a simple explanation. Just as a car loses speed when it goes up a steep hill, airplanes lose speed when they climb to a higher altitude. It is possible to calculate the speed of the plane using primary radar data. Stalcup said that the speed of the remnants of TWA 800 soared from 385 knots to 460 knots within ten seconds after the explosion. He said this is proof that the plane immediately plummeted toward the ocean instead of rocketing upward as the CIA video showed.
The reaction of the NTSB, the FBI and the Navy to the disclosure of these data strongly suggests that they are hiding something important. That is also an inference that can be drawn from the fact that these data were kept secret for nearly three years. The efforts of Tom Stalcup and Graeme Sephton, a director of FIRO, to get them released under the Freedom of Information Act were stonewalled for two years. What is being hidden is the cause of the crash that killed 230 people. At the meeting, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repeated his call for a Congressional investigation to find the truth. Attorney General Janet Reno has repeatedly said of the Waco case that there must be an independent investigation to get all the facts and find out what the truth is. The case is equally if not more compelling in the case of the crash of TWA Flight 800.