Seven Years Later: Was TWA Flight 800 a First Strike By Jihad Terrorists?

by | Jul 17, 2003

It’s been seven years since the July 17, 1996, crash of TWA Flight 800 near Long Island, New York, and the cause remains unknown; the lingering mystery of one of the nation’s worst aviation disasters is now a forgotten media spectacle. The $ 40 million federal investigation concluded that the plane was probably brought down […]

It’s been seven years since the July 17, 1996, crash of TWA Flight 800 near Long Island, New York, and the cause remains unknown; the lingering mystery of one of the nation’s worst aviation disasters is now a forgotten media spectacle. The $ 40 million federal investigation concluded that the plane was probably brought down by a fuel tank explosion, leaving the question of the blast’s origin unanswered. The unexplained explosion of TWA 800 claimed 230 lives.

Two days after the crash, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch told CNN: “We’re looking at somebody who either put a bomb on it or shot a missile, a surface-to-air missile.” Sen. Hatch has yet to explain his early comments.

During the probe, investigators appeared to be trying to have it both ways; the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was operating under the authority of the FBI, which was involved on the grounds that a crime might have caused the crash, though FBI investigator James Kallstrom refused to confirm or deny even one shred of criminal evidence.

The CIA, in a highly unusual procedure, was asked to produce a video to counter the missile theory. Kallstrom testified before Congress that the FBI had tracked “all air and waterborne vessels” in the area and conducted appropriate interviews.

Yet radar of the area in which the plane went down picked up four unidentified tracks. One of those, according to the NTSB, is consistent with a surface vessel moving at 30 knots; it was within three nautical miles of TWA 800 when the 747 exploded.

Most alarming, the NTSB reported that the puzzling radar track, which remains unidentified, continued to move after the plane broke apart. Nearly every boat within miles had rushed to the disaster area to assist any rescue efforts — but not this vessel, which was directly underneath TWA 800 when it became crippled.

Skeptics questioned the investigation, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Thomas Moorer, a retired admiral, who added his name to those who believe a missile destroyed the plane.

Moorer — joined by Vernon Grose, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board — expressed grave doubts about the investigation. “All the evidence,” Moorer said, “would point to a missile.”

At the time of the crash, 270 eyewitnesses reported seeing a streak of light. Nearly 100 eyewitnesses said that the streak of light *originated* from the earth’s surface, contrary to the CIA’s animated simulation.

There is also the case of M. Victoria Cummock, the Pan Am flight 103 widow was appointed by President Clinton to an aviation safety commission after the TWA disaster. Cummock refused to sign the commission’s report and sued then-Vice President Al Gore, claiming that, despite Cummock’s security clearance, she was denied access to classified information.

The authors of a new book, First Strike, posed the question of whether Islamic terrorists attacked the plane and their conclusions, based upon heaps of evidence systematically concealed, lost, damaged and ignored by the government, are disturbing.

In their preface, Emmy-winning writer and producer Jack Cashill and investigative reporter James Sanders, who was arrested for receiving stolen crash evidence from a whistleblower, quote Congressional Terrorist Task Force Director Yossef Bodansky following the disaster:

“The case of TWA 800 served as a turning point because of Washington’s determination and to a great extent ability to suppress terrorist explanations and ‘float’ mechanical failure theories. To avoid such suppression after future strikes, terrorism-sponsoring states would raise the ante so that the West could not ignore them.”

Bodansky’s comments are dated 1999.

Whatever happened to TWA 800 and her 230 passengers and crew, the case ought not to be considered closed.

As one NTSB investigator reportedly asked, when overwhelmed by the swarm of federal agents in what was supposed to be an accident probe: “What do they know that I don’t know?” Seven years after TWA 800 went down in flames, America still deserves a straight answer.

Article Notes:

Publisher’s note: On July 17, 1996, Holleran was informed by officials that his parents were killed on TWA Flight 800. Officials, he later learned, were wrong.

Scott Holleran's writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Classic Chicago, and The Advocate. The cultural fellow with Arts for LA interviewed the man who saved Salman Rushdie about his act of heroism and wrote the award-winning “Roberto Clemente in Retrospect” for Pittsburgh Quarterly. Scott Holleran lives in Southern California. Read his fiction at ShortStoriesByScottHolleran.substack.com and read his non-fiction at ScottHolleran.substack.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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