Could the TWA 800 Cover-Up Finally Come Undone?

A month ago American Thinker published my article on whistleblower William Teele, the ten-year U.S. Navy vet who shared his own perspective on the TWA Flight 800, the 747 that blew up off the coast of Long Island in July 1996. In that Teele was not on the ship that fired the missile, I asked for those with more information to share what they knew by contacting me through my website.

The quantity and quality of the response stunned me. As a spoiler alert, no respondent admitted to being a witness, and some did not believe the Navy fired the missile. That said, all were respectful and informative. Several added corrective or confirming details. Some sample intros:

While working as a commercial airline (NWA) Captain…

I spent 3-and-a-half years aboard the USS Nimitz…

I'm a retired USN Commander…

I was a GMM or gunners mate missiles while in the US Navy…

I'm retired mil.  I have studied weapons for decades…

I am a retired Navy Surface Warfare Officer Captain…

I was a first officer flying the Airbus A320 for Northwest Airlines…

I was in the Navy for 20 years, four ships (3 of them ”shooters”)…

I was qualified as a Surface Warfare Officer

As much as I would love to hear from a firsthand witness, I believe the courts hold more immediate potential. On June 28, 2022, attorney John Roddy with the Boston firm of Bailey and Glasser filed a lawsuit on behalf of numerous family members of those killed in the 1996 crash. Based on the research of physicist Tom Stalcup, the suit is stunning in its sophistication and detail.

I first met Stalcup when I interviewed him for a documentary on TWA 800 called “Silenced” that James Sanders and I produced in 2001. I was a latecomer to this extraordinary story, but Stalcup had been deeply involved in the case from very nearly the beginning and remains committed to this day.

As a quick refresher, TWA Flight 800 left JFK airport in New York en route to Paris on July 17, 1996. Twelve minutes after its 8:19 departure the ill-fated 747 blew up off the south coast of Long Island, killing all 230 souls aboard.

The suit wastes no time in establishing its central argument: “After the incident, the federal government released a false report contending that the explosion was the result of an electrical fire in the airplane’s center.” The real cause, the suit argues, was “an errant United States missile fired at aerial target drones flying nearby.”

Based on the “overwhelming evidence” uncovered by Stalcup through his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation in Massachusetts federal court, the suit names as the government defendants in this tragic mishap the Missile Defense Agency, the United States Department of Defense, and the United States Navy.

The contractor defendants cited are Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. Working “side-by-side,” these defendants were reportedly testing the Aegis Weapons System and firing SM-2 missiles with live warheads at aerial missile targets off the coast of New York “in close proximity to commercial airline flight paths.” The suit leaves open the possibility that more than one “warship” was involved in the launch.

The suit walks through the well-established facts surrounding the investigation. The FBI froze out the National Transportation Board despite the NTSB’s legal responsibility to manage domestic air crashes. According to the suit, “The FBI also enlisted the assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”).” Yes, the CIA was involved from day one, but I suspect that “enlisting” the agency was not the FBI’s idea.

The suit adds new information, namely that “the FBI removed all copies (original and duplicates) of Navy radar tapes from the Navy, placing them out of the NTSB’s reach.”

The suit addresses the CIA animation used to discredit the scores of excellent eyewitnesses, but adds this detail, “Despite outwardly proclaiming that the cause of the TWA 800 explosion was, in the CIA’s words, ‘NOT A MISSILE,’ several internal government communications (that have only come to light in the recent FOIA litigation) indicated that a missile was involved.”

The suit reviews the history of the Navy’s Aegis Missile system responsible for the misfire. The Department of Defense (DOD) pushed the system quickly through production and deployment thinking of the missile threat from hostile countries in the “here and now.” Although the suit does not mention this detail, there was a real fear at the time of terrorists using planes as missiles, a fear that proved tragically well-grounded five years later.

The radar needed particular upgrading of “its ability to operate close to shore and to properly integrate into existing systems.” This helps explain why the Navy was testing in a crowded air space. To address the deficiencies, the DOD directed its contractors to integrate a new radar and computer system into all new ship designs, known as the SPY-ID(V).

“In 1996 the only option with the hardware and computing power sufficient to operate the SPY-ID(V),” the suit claims, “was a New Jersey land-based testing site called the Combat Systems Engineering and Development Site (“CSEDS”).”

Rather than wait five years for ships to be built with the computing power to operate this system, “The SPY-ID(V) was tested on an expedited basis in and around the CSEDS in New Jersey, in a highly congested area.”

“In 1996,” the suit continues, “the Defendants began testing the SPY-ID(V) using ‘simulated and actual targets’ in and around New Jersey. Stalcup unearthed evidence that the testing of missiles with live warheads began as early as May 1996.

The suit talks about the videotape, which I have seen, shot by an electrician on the roof of Long Island hospital. The fellow was recording the sunrise and inadvertently captured a missile test off the Long Island’s south coast, and this just five days before the TWA 800 disaster. Despite that tragedy, the suit contends, the Navy continued to test its missile system in that same commercial corridor.

The suit cites the testimony of Steve Habeger, the Executive Director of CSEDS’s sister site in Virginia. Habeger testified in Stalcup’s FOIA suit that he “was personally aware of at least a dozen Aegis missile tests off the East Coast of the United States around this same overall time period.” Habeger also testified that within minutes of the disaster, he was ordered “to allow the FBI to remove all Navy radar tapes from his facility that might have recorded the TWA 800 incident.” His commanding officer and FBI custody records corroborated his testimony.

Stalcup also discovered that the Joint Terrorism Task Force directed the FBI to obtain original Navy radar tapes showing an object “heading straight for TWA 800.” The FBI confiscated these tapes immediately after the crash. They show “an object ‘impact’ TWA 800, which directly contradicts the FBI’s, CIAs, and NTSB’s public conclusions that what caused the incident was ‘NOT A MISSILE.’”

In sum, “The evidence reveals that TWA 800 was brought down by a missile and the government hid this truth from Plaintiffs and the public at large for over twenty-five years.” My 2016 book, TWA 800: The Crash, the Cover Up, the Conspiracy,  book covers much of this information and the political dynamics surrounding the investigation. Stalcup adds what I could only allude to, namely the technological details of how the systems work and why there was such urgency in deploying them.

In last several years especially, many patriotic Americans have come to the reluctant conclusion that, yes, the government is capable of lying to us. Some of them have first-hand knowledge of TWA 800’s demise. In the final analysis it will be they who provide the counterweight to the powerful forces that want this suit to fail.

For more information, see

Image: NTSB

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