Benghazi 'Narrative' Reads Like TWA 800's
Earlier this week on The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly and Charles Krauthammer came to the same -- and obvious -- conclusion as to why the Obama White House felt compelled to misrepresent the events at Benghazi on September 11. As O'Reilly noted, the administration hoped "to tamp the story down so it didn't intrude on their narrative that the Obama administration had decimated al-Qaeda."
"The real story would have gone against the narrative," Krauthammer agreed, adding, "I'm not saying that there was a deliberate conspiracy from day one, but as this story unfolded, they saw a way to make this non-political."
Sixteen years ago, also in the home stretch of a difficult re-election campaign, Bill Clinton faced a problem very similar to Obama's. An event took place that threatened the "peace and prosperity" theme of his campaign -- specifically, the July 17, 1996, shoot-down of TWA Flight 800, with 230 people on board, just 10 miles off the coast of Long Island.
I use the word "shoot-down" with total confidence. Along with investigative reporter James Sanders, I produced a video on the subject called Silenced and wrote a book called First Strike. In a sense, Sanders was the Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of this event. To prevent Sanders from reporting on the story, the FBI arrested him and his wife Elizabeth and convicted both of conspiracy. As with Nakoula, the nation's civil libertarians chose not to notice.
It was the Sanderses' story, especially Elizabeth's, that first got me interested in the case four years after TWA Flight 800 went down. A reluctant conspiracy theorist, I read everything I could find on the crash before I agreed to do the video. By this time, the NTSB hearings had played out. The evidence for a missile strike was overwhelming to any dispassionate observer. So was the evidence of a cover-up.
Although the word was not used back then, the Clinton White House, with the help of a complicit media, rewrote the event's "narrative" to assure re-election. Again, as with Benghazi, that narrative was clumsily improvised almost on a daily basis. Knowing the media had his back, Clinton responded much as Obama did: deny, obfuscate, and kick the investigatory can down the road until after the election.
One central figure appeared in each drama: Hillary Clinton. She stood by Obama's side in the Rose Garden on September 12 as he spun reality into confection. She, Bill, and Sandy Berger holed themselves up in the White House family quarters, assessing their narrative options throughout that long night of July 17, 1996.
On that fateful night, FAA air traffic controllers saw an unknown object "merge" with the doomed 747 seconds before it exploded, and they rushed the tape to the White House. Hundreds of people saw what the controllers did from the ground. FBI witness No. 73, an aviation buff, watched a "red streak" with a "light gray smoke trail" move up toward the airliner and then go "past the right side and above the aircraft before arcking [sic] back down toward the aircrafts [sic] right wing." She even reported the actual breakup sequence before the authorities figured it out on their own.
High-school principal Joseph Delgado told the FBI that he had seen an object like "a firework" ascend "fairly quick," then "slow" and "wiggle," then "speed up" and get "lost." Then he saw a second object that "glimmered" in the sky, higher than the first, then a red dot move up to that object, then a puff of smoke, then another puff, then a "firebox." He drew a precise image of the same for the FBI.
Mike Wire, a no-nonsense millwright and U.S. Army vet, watched events unfold from the Beach Lane Bridge in Westhampton on Long Island. Wire had seen a white light traveling skyward from the ground at approximately a 40-degree angle, sparkling and zigzagging before culminating in a massive fireball.
In a confidential taped interview with historian Taylor Branch on August 2, 1996, Clinton laid the blame for the presumed missile attack on Iran. "They want war," he told Branch. Clinton may or may not have been lying, but he did not want to mess with Iran, at least not right before an election he already had in the bag.
To control the post-crash narrative, the White House allowed the FBI to talk only to The New York Times. Four weeks after the disaster, the Times would report, "Now that investigators say they think the center fuel tank did not explode, they say the only good explanations remaining are that a bomb or a missile brought down the plane."
A missile attack was too obvious and ominous. So a week later, likely under White House pressure, and without any new evidence, the FBI shifted its storyline fully away from a missile to a bomb. "Prime Evidence Found That Device Exploded in Cabin of Flight 800," reported the Times above the fold on August 23, just a few days before the Democratic National Convention. The Times reached this conclusion by interviewing exactly none of the 270 FBI eyewitnesses to a likely missile strike. Sanders and I interviewed scores of them.
But even this scenario threatened the peace and prosperity message to be promoted at the Democratic National Convention just days away. And so the story was allowed to die. For the next three weeks, there was no meaningful reporting at all.
In mid-September, two months after the crash, the FBI shifted the narrative once again from a bomb to a center fuel tank explosion, a possibility that had been ruled out a month earlier. The other media unquestioningly followed the Times. They too had a president to re-elect.
"Stories damaging to the media's preferred candidates are never tied together into a coherent narrative," writes John Hayward in an insightful Human Events article on Benghazi. "You don't see links drawn between Event A, Speech B, and Subcommittee Hearing C. You're not constantly reminded of inconvenient things the beloved candidate said last year, last month, or last week."
So it was with TWA Flight 800. No one in the media saw fit to ask what happened to the "prime evidence" of August 23 or the "only good explanations" of August 14 or of Clinton's "they want war" of August 2.
As each week passed, even the Clintons had to be stunned that so obvious a truth remained so thoroughly ignored. To sustain the lie, however, insiders had to tell more lies still.
The FBI would fabricate a second interview with Witness No. 73 that never took place.
The CIA -- yes, that CIA-- would fabricate a second interview with Mike Wire that also never took place. NTSB insiders would lie outright about what Joseph Delgado saw, but the election came and went without anyone even knowing who these people were.
In 1996, however, there was no ubiquitous internet, no Facebook, no YouTube. Fox News came online only later that year. It would have been impossible for any White House to pull this massive a misdirection off in 2012 so close to home. America would have seen videos of the shoot-down online before the White House could control the information flow.
In 2012, Obama had the advantage of geography. No helpful citizens fixed their smartphones on the destruction of the American consulate in Benghazi. He had the advantage also of a major media sixteen years more corrupt than in 1996
Obama had the disadvantage, however, of serving in a fully interactive age. The added scrutiny has made Obama's attempt to bury the story seem obvious and amateurish by comparison to Clinton's -- at least to those who are paying attention. Unfortunately, those paying attention include not a single major media reporter.