One ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Trump Needs to Push
Playing a coveted role in the most one-sided assault in the history of political journalism, NBC News ran an article last week that managed -- in the headline -- to insult both the candidate and his base, “Trump's Conspiracy Theories Aren't Far Outside GOP Mainstream".
Today, if a politically troublesome issue arises, the media feel no pressure to investigate. Confident their peers will slack off as well, they tend to dismiss the issue as a “conspiracy theory” and deride those who raise it as gullible, paranoid, and probably racist.
Donald Trump has raised any number of such issues, and the media have reflexively attacked him for raising them. His focus has been on Barack Obama’s quasi-fictional past. A more profitable focus, however, would be on Hillary Clinton’s future fitness to be president. I refer specifically here to her role in the corruption of the TWA 800 investigation.
When my book, TWA 800: The Crash, the Cover-Up, The Conspiracy, was published last month, I hoped the twentieth anniversary of the disaster might prompt at least some media interest. I was kidding myself. The collective urge to stop Trump and elect Hillary has silenced the major media. Trump will have to ask his own questions.
From her logs, we know that Hillary and President Bill Clinton returned to the White House at 8:35 p.m. on the night of July 17, 1996. Former Chief of Staff Leon Panetta tells us he called the president at 9 p.m. with the news that TWA Flight 800 blew up off the coast of Long Island.
My source at the White House has confirmed that the Clintons and their consigliere, Deputy National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, holed up in the family residence throughout the night. Berger was the Clintons’ political guy. His boss, Tony Lake, left the room whenever politics surfaced. That night, with re-election looming, all decisions were political, and no one can doubt Hillary’s active role in the conversation.
By 3 a.m. the Clintons had settled on a strategy. At that fabled hour -- the one Hillary would mythologize in her run against Barack Obama -- Bill called Lake with the following message: “Dust off the contingency plans.” For the time being, the president would quietly blame terrorists for the presumed missile attack.
That night, the Department of Justice had the FBI take the investigation over from the National Transportation Safety Board, the NTSB. Although illegal, this move was made publicly.
Less public was the intervention of the CIA. As a treasure trove of recently unearthed CIA documents confirm, “The DI (Directorate of Intelligence) became involved in the ‘missile theory’ the day after the crash occurred.”
When he testified before the 9/11 Commission in March 2004, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet blamed 9/11 on “a wall that was in place between the criminal side and the intelligence side.” He noted, “What’s in a criminal case doesn’t cross over that line. Ironclad regulations.”
Tenet oversaw the collaboration between the FBI and CIA during the TWA 800 investigation in 1996-97. The “wall” memo was written in 1995. On this point, Trump could start by asking some tough questions the media will not ask. Why did Tenet ignore the wall? Why did the CIA involve itself in a domestic air crash? Why were its analysts talking about missiles on day one?
As the documents make clear, the CIA’s role was to make all talk of missiles go away. This strategy was evident as early as July 30, 1996. In an internal memo, teasingly headlined “Hold the Press,” a CIA analyst warned his superiors of an impending FBI report on a likely missile strike.
After interviewing 144 witnesses, the members of the FBI team concluded there was a “high probability” that a surface-to-air missile destroyed the 747. The evidence was “overwhelming.” The witnesses were “excellent” and their testimony “too consistent” for the cause to be anything other than a missile. The unnamed CIA analyst boasted of how he discouraged the FBI team from publishing its report despite having “only minor corrections left to make.”
The CIA got its way. By August 17, the FBI was telling the New York Times there were “fewer than a dozen” credible witness accounts. The one eyewitness the FBI allowed the Times to interview caught a “white flash” out of the corner of his eye, suggesting a bomb. According to the Times, his account “substantially weakened support for the idea that a missile downed the plane.”
Trump might ask the FBI what happened to the 144 “excellent” witnesses to a missile strike. He might also ask the Times editors how many of those 144 witnesses their reporters interviewed. I will save him the trouble. The answer is none.
In March 1997, Tenet sent FBI director Louis Freeh a letter assuring him that “what these eyewitnesses saw was the crippled aircraft after the first explosion had already taken place.” The CIA analysts argued that the 747 zoomed upwards nearly a mile after a spontaneous fuel tank explosion blew the nose off the plane, confusing the witnesses into thinking they saw a missile.
For all the FBI’s bluster and the NTSB’s statutory authority, the CIA gave the impression of being the agency in charge. In November 1997, the FBI concluded its criminal probe by showing a CIA-produced animation of the noseless plane ascending like a rocket.
Every aviator with whom I have spoken thought the “cartoon” to be ludicrous. In a memo from March 24, 1999, the CIA very quietly owned up to the con. The “maximum CIA calculated altitude in the final study was about 14,500 feet,” wrote the analyst -- or about 3,000 feet lower than shown in the animation.
Industry professionals were even more appalled by the eventual NTSB conclusion that a spark of unknown origin ignited the vapors in the center fuel tank. Said one 747 pilot, “It cannot happen. It is impossible. There is nothing else to be said.” Added a certified aircraft maintenance technician, “If it were a spark that really caused the accident and knowing the FAA, all 747s would have immediately been grounded, including Air Force One.” The FAA grounded not a single plane.
Although the media have been mute, members of the aviation community and the military have been speaking out. In the month or so since the book’s debut, I have heard from roughly a hundred of them, all in the affirmative.
These include an air traffic controller who reviewed the TWA 800 radar tape, a Raytheon rep who worked with the FBI missile team, an FAA tech who reviewed the eyewitness summaries before the CIA did, a Naval officer involved in an accidental 1992 missile attack against a Turkish ship, the executive officer of the Navy Missile Technical Center, an ALPA air safety chairman thrown off the investigation for being too inquisitive, Boeing engineers, FBI agents, pilots from every major airline, sailors of all ranks, and an ordinance expert who “shot at more aircraft than any other person alive” test firing missiles at the Navy’s China Lake Air Weapons Station.
In person, I have talked to scores of retired TWA personnel. I have not met a one who buys the government explanation. In fact, the TWA Museum in Kansas City made me an honorary member, and I will speak there next month. This is the rare “conspiracy theory” to which virtually every professional in the industry subscribes.
At this stage, Trump has little to lose by raising this issue. If I were he, I would start by ask Hillary about her handpicked deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick. “The single greatest structural cause for Sept. 11 was the wall,” Attorney General John Ashcroft testified before the 9/11 commission in April 2004. “Full disclosure,” Ashcroft continued, “compels me to inform you that its author is a member of the commission.”
That author, of course, was Gorelick, the same official who managed the collaboration between the FBI and the CIA on the TWA 800 investigation. In between her stint as deputy AG and 9/11 commissioner, the Clintons rewarded her with a $25 million gig at Fannie Mae.
If exposed, the TWA 800 coverup is a scandal that could dwarf Watergate. It will not be exposed, however, unless someone powerful asks questions before November. If Donald Trump does not ask them, no one will.
He might save that best question for last, “Mrs. Clinton, what do you know about TWA 800 and when did you know it?”
Anyone with inside information, please contact me through my website, Cashill.com.