By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
Photo by Roger Aronoff
An excellent new documentary, which examines evidence that makes the case that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by missiles, a crime or accident that has been covered up for 17 years, is set to premier Wednesday night. The film is titled, simply, “TWA Flight 800,” and it will air on EPIX, a cable network available on many cable systems, tonight, July 17th, at 8 p.m. ET. Today is the 17th anniversary of that tragic event.
Veteran newsman and columnist Wes Vernon wrote an excellent review of the documentary last month, and said, “I have viewed a pre-screening of the film, and urge you to make it a point to see it and tell your friends about it. It will make your blood boil when you see people in high and respected places uttering lie after lie after lie and threats against eyewitnesses telling them in effect, ‘You didn’t see what you saw.’”
But if you don’t have that network on your cable system, or you want to watch it at a different time on your computer, you can see the trailer or the whole film here through a free trial offer by EPIX.
The documentary was written and directed by Kristina Borjesson, who was an award-winning producer for CBS News. She was assigned to the TWA 800 story, and quickly came to believe that the official story wasn’t true, though she wasn’t allowed, in the end, to report on what she had discovered. Now, Borjesson and her associate in this project, Tom Stalcup, a physicist who has been investigating this case for many years, have brought together a number of people involved at the time in the investigation, including some from within the NTSB and TWA itself, to talk about what was covered up and how it was done. For example, Hank Hughes, an NTSB investigator who headed up the reassembly of the wreckage in a hangar in Calverton, New York, had been telling what he knew since early in the investigation. He told a Senate committee in 1997 that he witnessed evidence being tampered with, and some being destroyed.
TWA 800 is a story that those of you who have followed the work of Accuracy in Media (AIM) for a long time know well. It was a story I worked on when I first arrived at AIM back in 1997. Reed Irvine, AIM’s founder and then-chairman, was approached by two people—Bill Donaldson and Jim Sanders—both of whom made strong but separate cases that the plane was brought down by a missile, or missiles, as opposed to the official story, that it was a spark in the center-wing fuel tank, from an unknown source that caused the tank to explode. Either way, the result was explosions that sent the plane crashing into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Long Island, New York, on July 17th, 1996. All 230 people aboard were killed. Two years ago I wrote a detailed account of AIM’s investigation into the downing of Flight 800, which credited some of the many people who have worked so hard and risked so much to expose the truth about what happened that tragic evening.
Finally, on July 2nd of this year, I got to see the reconstructed wreckage of TWA Flight 800. I attended a press briefing put on by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The purpose was to remind the press that, in their view, this story was settled years ago. But now, with the new documentary, “TWA Flight 800,” coming out, and a petition filed by Stalcup’s group to reopen the investigation, someone saw the need for the NTSB to attempt to get in front of the story with their version of what happened.
The new documentary has gotten a lot of attention, including from CNN, The Today Show and Fox News. Stalcup was on The Today Show and CNN, along with James Kallstrom, who headed up the investigation for the FBI back during the investigation, attempting to rebut Stalcup’s claims. The petition filed by Stalcup and his group must be responded to by the NTSB within 90 days of its filing, but in the meantime, they decided to put on a presentation to remind us of their conclusions. It’s hard to know if these people believe what they are saying is true, or if they know better.
But the evidence remains overwhelming that the plane was brought down by a missile or missiles. Rather than review it again, you can read previous reports that I’ve done, that Jack Cashill has done, that Jim Sanders, Bill Donaldson and Tom Stalcup have done, as well as the whistleblowers that have come forward. Special mention is also due to retired United Airlines pilot Ray Lahr and his attorney, John Clarke, who are the only ones who have received validation in the courts, by disproving the government’s “zoom climb” theory through their Freedom of Information lawsuit. There are a lot of heroes in this story, who don’t care how many CNN or CBS or New York Times stories accept the official version. The evidence is overwhelming.
At the briefing, which took place at the NTSB Academy in Ashburn, Virginia, about 45 minutes outside of D.C., the participants refused to answer any questions that had anything to do with the new documentary or the petition. I asked Joseph Kolly, director of the NTSB Research and Engineering division—who led the briefing—a question about the eyewitnesses. He had referenced the 736 eyewitnesses who saw the explosion, 262 of whom saw something streaking toward the plane. But he didn’t mention the 92 of the 262 who saw something rise from the surface or horizon and streak toward the plane. I asked him how he explained those 92 people, separate from the 262. They have long claimed that what all the eyewitnesses saw was burning fuel coming down after the nose blew off, and the fuselage rose by about 3,000 feet, something that most experts, like Ray Lahr, have been able to disprove. Kolly told me that they didn’t make a distinction between those 92 and the 262. Still, it was a fascinating day, and for me, something like a visit to a shrine and a chance to experience it firsthand.
In 2000, I produced and wrote, along with my co-producer Jack Harris, a documentary for AIM called “TWA 800: The Search for the Truth,” which examined the best evidence for each of the three leading theories. There was the official story, but there was also evidence of it having been an errant missile from a naval exercise gone terribly wrong, and evidence of it having been a terrorist missile. But I clearly agree with Borjesson and Stalcup. TWA 800 was brought down by a missile or missiles, and there was a deliberate and intricate cover-up. You can watch our documentary, which won the top prize for investigative reporting at WorldFest, the largest film festival in the country, here.