TWA 800: Jim Kallstrom’s Road to Redemption

When I see former FBI New York honcho Jim Kallstrom appear on Fox News, I see a tortured soul. As boldly honest as he has been on the subject of Islamic terrorism, this once honorable man has lived a lie for the last twenty years on the subject of TWA Flight 800. Others have lived the lie as well, but none so personally.

It was Kallstrom who spoke to the press, Kallstrom who testified at congressional hearings, Kallstrom who consoled the families of the 230 dead with the assurance he would leave “no stone unturned” in his pursuit of the truth.

When Kallstrom arrived on the scene in Long Island the day after the crash in July 1996, the truth was indeed what he was seeking. By July 30, 1996 -- less than two weeks after the 747 blew up -- FBI agents had interviewed 144 “excellent” witnesses to a missile strike. As revealed in a recently unearthed CIA memo, the evidence was “overwhelming” and the witness testimony “too consistent” for the cause of the plane’s destruction to be anything other than a missile.

1996  being an election year, however a missile strike on an American airliner involved far too much political risk for the Clinton White House. Working through the CIA, its operatives took effective control of the investigation. For reasons only he knows, Kallstrom knuckled under.

By mid-August his agents were now telling the New York Times “only a few” eyewitnesses were credible. They allowed the Times to interview just one of them, and that witness saw what appeared to be a bomb blast out of the corner of his eye. His testimony, the Times reported on August 17, “substantially weakened support for the idea that a missile downed the plane.” The White House could live with a bomb scenario. So apparently could Kallstrom.

On August 22, for the first time, Kallstrom was called to Washington to meet with deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick. From a political perspective, the meeting came a day or two too late. “Three senior officials” had already provided the Times enough information to generate an above the fold, front-page headline on Friday, August 23, reading, “Prime Evidence Found That Device Exploded in Cabin of TWA 800.”

The other above-the-fold headline on August 23, three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention, read as follows,

“Clinton Signs Bill Cutting Welfare.” At the Convention Clinton planned to sell the party’s peace and prosperity message. Front page headlines about explosive devices destroying an American airliner would remind America of what Clinton was not -- namely, a trustworthy wartime leader.

One can only speculate on the threats and/or promises Gorelick made, but Kallstrom returned to Long Island a changed man. Based on his subsequent performance, he seemed to have no more urgent task than to negate the Times reporting on the explosive residues found throughout the plane. Kallstrom’s new mission prompted a series of dishonest moments, none more stunning than his testimony under oath at a July 1997 congressional hearing.

To explain away the explosive traces, the FBI blamed a sloppy dog training exercise aboard the TWA 800 plane six weeks before the crash. “You know for sure the dog was on the plane?” Rep. James Traficant asked Kallstrom. “We have a report that documents the training,” dodged Kallstrom.

Kallstrom had reason to be evasive. As was easily proved, the trainer worked his dog on another 747, used explosives other than those found on TWA 800, and placed them in areas other than those where the residue had been found.

When pressed, Kallstrom dug in deeper. “The test packages that we looked at, that were in very bad condition, that were unfortunately dripping those chemicals, were placed exactly above the location of the airplane where we found chemicals on the floor,” he lied. No euphemism can paper over the depth of this deception.

This epic misdirection climaxed with the November 1997 press conference announcing the suspension of the FBI investigation. There, Kallstrom set forth a bill of particulars that misled the public on almost every detail, the most spectacular of which was a specious CIA animation created to discredit the eyewitnesses.

Maybe it is because my father was a cop, but when I watch Kallstrom I find myself feeling sorry for the man. He helped construct a case he knew to be fraudulent, and he had to sense just how fragile the construction was. If it collapsed, the CIA analysts could run and hide. The NTSB bureaucrats could plead ignorance. The Clintons could seek executive privilege, and he alone would have to answer to the victims’ mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Nothing the courts might throw at him would wound that deeply.

I sense that Kallstrom has long wanted to atone. On September 11, 2001, while speaking with Dan Rather on CBS News about the events of the day, he blurted out in no particular context, “We need to stop the hypocrisy.” On Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show last week, he called out the Obama administration for its “hypocrisy” and dared mention the “wet blanket of political correctness” that has blunted the FBI’s ability to smoke out Islamic terrorists.

Kallstrom then turned his attention to the Clintons with a candor that shocked Kelly into silencing him. “You've got people associated with the administration in the Muslim brotherhood,” said Kallstrom. “You've got Huma Abedin’s family (sic) high ranking people in the Muslim Brotherhood. You've got monies from Saudi Arabia and the other from Qatar and others going into the Clinton Foundation. And you've got this connection going on, and there are also connections with Iran, which is the other big supporter.”

Kallstrom understands the dangers awaiting America if the Clintons return to the White House. If he wants to stop them in their tracks and restore his own reputation, there is one thing he can do: tell the truth about TWA Flight 800. In the process, he will restore the faith in American justice of the millions of citizens who have all but lost it.

Anyone with information about TWA Flight 800, Mr. Kallstrom included, please email me at

To learn more about Kallstrom’s plight please read Jack Cashill’s new book, TWA 800: The Crash, The Cover-Up, The Conspiracy (Regnery: July 5).

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