Jack Cashill's TWA 800: The Court Battle Continues

Attorney John Clarke has been waging legal war against the protectors of TWA 800’s secrets for nearly twenty years. His discovery and posting of a treasure trove of CIA documents has helped blow this case open. -- Jack Cashill

In the year 2000, attorney Mark Lane and I filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of James and Elizabeth Sanders. In the way of background, at the time TWA Flight 800 was destroyed in July 1996, Elizabeth was employed by TWA, where she knew TWA pilot Capt. Terrell Stacey. Stacey was participating in the NTSB's probe of the tragedy. Stacey knew that Liz's husband was an investigative journalist and asked whether he could meet with James.

When they met, Stacey told Sanders that a cover-up was in progress. Some weeks later, Stacey gave Sanders a tiny piece of the wreckage that contained residue from a missile for forensic testing. When Sanders’s information was published in 1997, the government immediately retaliated against the Sanderses with a vengeance. The DOJ prosecuted them for violation of an obscure statute that outlaws removal of wreckage from a crash investigation.

The defendants in our lawsuit were eight of the participants in what we fully believed to be a cover-up. These included NTSB Chairman Jim Hall, FBI Assistant Direction Jim Kallstrom, and Assistant United States attorney Valerie Caproni. The 75-page lawsuit detailed 13 counts of civil rights violations, and a wealth of evidence of the cover-up. It begins:

Overt acts in furtherance of this conspiracy include actions designed to restrict access to facts that would hinder the government's ability to report a cause of the disaster of its own choosing. Defendants shaped the analysis of the disaster by, inter alia, removing debris recovered from the stricken aircraft, reporting debris as having been recovered east of its actual location, altering and withholding relevant radar documentation, altering the mockup of the stricken aircraft, making numerous false statements about forensic analysis and witnesses' accounts, and releasing a CIA-produced animation of the disaster that is false and misleading.

Sadly, the suit, which had been transferred from Washington, DC, to New York, was eventually dismissed.

But the next court action was a different matter. Two years after the civil rights lawsuit was transferred to New York, retired United Air Line pilot and air crash investigator Captain H. Ray Lahr, contacted me and asked whether I would prosecute his Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which was pending in federal court in Los Angeles. Lahr had been seeking to FOIA the records upon which the government had claimed that the CIA-produced "zoom-climb" video-animation had been based. That lawsuit would be the first judicial review of the government's probe.

Ray and I submitted to the judge the affidavits and testimony of 27 fact and expert witnesses. They were physicists, system engineers, aerodynamicists, six air crash investigators (three of whom were parties to the TWA Flight 800 probe), a retired Admiral, a former NTSB Board member, and seven eyewitnesses. In 2006, U.S. District judge Howard Matz issued his opinion. He cited all of our evidence.

[T]he government withheld evidence from the Flight 800 probe. The government altered evidence during the investigation. Evidence was removed from the reconstruction hangar. The government misrepresented radar data, which does not correspond to the "zoom-climb" conclusion. Radar data and flight recorder data are missing. It appears that underwater videotapes of the debris from the plane have been altered. The government concealed the existence of a missile debris field and debris recovery locations.

At its first public hearing, the NTSB did not permit eyewitness testimony.  Many eyewitnesses vehemently disagree with the conclusions the CIA expressed in the video animation. The CIA falsely reported that only twenty-one witnesses saw anything prior to the beginning of the fuselage's descent into the water.

The FBI took over much of the investigation from the NTSB, which should have been in charge, “and the CIA never shared its data and calculations of the trajectory study with others for peer review, which would have been appropriate."

Plaintiff also submits evidence that the government's conclusion that there was a center-wing fuel tank explosion and the government's "zoom-climb" theory)' were physically impossible under the circumstances. For example, evidence suggested there was no spark in the center-wing fuel tank. Once an explosion occurred, engine thrust would have been cut off with the loss of the nose of the plane.

Furthermore, the aviation fuel used in Flight 800 is incapable oi an internal fire or explosion. The zoom-climb theory is impossible because at least one wing separated early in the flash sequence. Additionally, a steeper climb would likely result in a reduction in ground speed, which contradicts radar evidence. In fact, Plaintiff's evidence suggests the "zoom-climb" theory is aerodynamically impossible.

Finally. Plaintiff also claims that there were military assets conducting classified maneuvers in the area at the time of the crash, and several vessels in the area remain unaccounted for.

The September 2006 edition of the National Law Journal, “A rare win in fight for TWA crash records,” reported:

Lahr, who received some documents with redactions, sought full records. In his ruling, Matz recognized Lahr’s numerous reasons for believing that the government participated in a massive cover-up, such as conflicting eyewitness testimony and the physically impossible “zoom-climb” theory on which the investigation is based. The judge said that “taken together, this evidence is sufficient to permit Plaintiff to proceed based on his claim that the government acted improperly in its investigation of Flight 800 or at least performed in a grossly negligent fashion. Accordingly, the public interest in ferreting out the truth would be compelling indeed.”

All this evidence is open to inspection on Lahr’s website under "Courts Documents.” Ray aptly named his website, "The Impossible Zoom Climb." Jack Cashill's first book on the matter, First Strike, which he co-authored with Jim Sanders, calls the CIA video animation, "The boldest and most flagrant lie ever visited on the American people in peacetime." All of the forensic evidence, the testimony, and even the immutable laws of physics, proves it. Cashill's new book, TWA 800, The Crash, the Cover-Up, and the Conspiracy, recounts this proof and reveals the politics.  

The official conclusion that a center-wing-tank explosion caused the Flight 800 tragedy had been repeated, over and over again, during the course of government’s four-year probe. It was perhaps the longest sustained press leak in U.S. history.

The Ninth Circuit appellate reversed Judge Matz's order that the CIA reveal the names of all eyewitnesses. So, my next FOIA suit seeking these records will not be in the Ninth Circuit.