By Jack Cashill
June 27, 2013
This past Saturday morning, I did a live remote from Kansas City for CNN's "New Day" program, hosted by Alison Kosik, on the subject of TWA Flight 800. This Paris-bound 747 was destroyed in mid-air twelve minutes out of JFK, just off the coast of Long Island, on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 people on board.
On Tuesday of this week, I posted an article on American Thinker explaining how -- and perhaps why -- CNN cut a minute or so out of the CNN transcript of this five-minute interview.
Some time after that article appeared, CNN added the missing minute back into the transcript. It begins with Kosik asking, "Jack, but when people hear this, they want to know, OK, if there was an external blast, who shot [TWA Flight 800] down, why would anybody shoot it down, and why would there be this cover-up?"
Having no irrefutable evidence as to who shot the plane down and only a minute to answer, I focused on a subject that I know better than anyone but the participants. My response:
Let me address the cover-up. Five weeks after the crash, the New York Times had this headline above the fold right: "Prime Evidence that Explosive Device Found in or Destroyed TWA Flight 800." That's a paraphrase, but it's close.
The actual headline was this: "Prime Evidence Found That Device Exploded in Cabin of Flight 800." This article ran on August 23, 1996. The Times argued that the FBI was uncertain whether the device was a bomb or missile, and only that uncertainty kept the FBI from declaring the plane's destruction a crime. Needless to say, the article stole the thunder from Clinton's election-driven approval of welfare reform in that same day's paper and threatened to undermine the peace and prosperity message of next week's Democratic National Convention.
Above the fold left was "Clinton Signs Welfare Reform Bill on Eve of Democratic National Convention." One of those headlines had to go. It was this line.
By "this line" I meant the headline on the right, the TWA 800 headline, and I pantomimed dropping it from the screen. I resumed:
This was Bill Clinton's Benghazi moment. They [the Clintons] just wanted to kick this can down the road until after November, and so it would not affect the outcome of the election. Now, they did not tell that to the people involved in the investigation, of course. I'm sure they were told it was high-level national security, Iran shot these missiles, blah, blah, blah.
To get an insight into Clinton's thinking that scary August 1996, consider his confidential monthly interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch on August 2. By agreement, the collection of these interviews would not be published until 2009 -- presumably until after Hillary was safely settled in the White House.
"Unless some telltale chemical survived the brine," Clinton told Branch, "[the investigators] must try to reassemble the plane to determine the cause." During that August 2 taping, Clinton also told Branch that the FBI was "rechecking" its interviews with "some fifteen ground witnesses who saw a bright streak in the sky near the plane." If corroborated, Branch adds, this "could suggest a missile rather than a bomb."
For posterity's sake, Clinton traced the likely attack to Iran. "They want war," Branch quotes Clinton as saying. What Branch did not know is that Clinton was setting up his alibi. On August 2, 1996, Clinton had yet to get the investigation under his full control. If telltale chemicals were not found, perhaps the eyewitness testimony could be marginalized. This seems to have been the plan.
If so, the investigators could "reassemble the plane," and that Potemkin dumb show would take the investigation past the November election. Unfortunately for Clinton, the FBI found "telltale" residue of the explosives PETN and RDX throughout the plane, and the New York Times reported the same. I explained to Kosik what followed:
Now, what happens, though, is that three weeks later they have to explain away the explosion, explosive residue found all over the plane, the explosive residue that led the New York Times to write the story they did, and so they discover that there was a dog-training exercise in St. Louis months earlier in which this poor African-American cop spilled explosive devices all over the plane.
They [the administration] started leaking this story before they talked to the cop. The cop only recorded...he did not record the tail number of the plane, and he did not record the gate number; he only recorded the time and a wide body.
Now, at the time that he did that explosion (on Flight 800), that training on, the Flight 800 plane was filled with 400 passengers and was leaving for Hawaii. There was an empty wide body sitting right next to it. They made this up. Then they started corrupting all of the evidence, including the eyewitness testimony.
At this point, Kosik rescued me from my hasty explanation. "OK. Well, the good thing is," she said, "I have to cut you guys off. But the good thing is that there's a documentary about this."
For the record, on September 21, 1996, the FBI found its way to Officer Herman Burnett the day after the stories about the dog-training exercise began to appear in the media. In other words, the authorities were leaking this particular story even before anyone had talked to the officer in question.
According to the FBI, airport management told Burnett that a "wide body" was available for training at Gate 50 on the day in question, June 10, 1996. The officer then withdrew some exercise "aids" from departmental supplies and drove to a gate where an empty 747 was parked.
According to the FBI, Burnett "made no notations regarding the tail number of the aircraft." As Officer Burnett told me, he made no notation of the gate, either. He listed only specific start and stop times and the notation "wide body."
According to the FBI, "[a]t 11:45 AM, the patrolman began the exercise by bringing the dog into the aircraft." He finished the exercise about 12:20 or 12:25 and saw no one else on board the plane. That same day, Capt. Vance Weir piloted TWA 17119 -- the plane that would become Flight 800 -- from St. Louis to Hawaii. He departed with several hundred passengers on board at 12:35 pm, roughly ten to fifteen minutes after Burnett finished his exercise aboard an empty plane.
In February 1997, NTSB Chairman Jim Hall officially explained all the explosive residue away. "The dog handler," wrote Hall of the officer, "had spilled trace amounts of explosives while placing training aids on board the aircraft during a proficiency training exercise." This same officer, Hall added, "told investigators that he was aware that he had spilled trace amounts of explosives." Burnett told me he did the training on another 747 at a nearby gate and never said otherwise to anyone. The records totally validate him. Hall's was one more lie on top of the others that corrupted this investigation.
That documentary is simply titled TWA Flight 800, produced by Tom Stalcup and Kristina Borjesson, and it will preview on July 17.
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