News & Politics

Author Jack Cashill Wants the National Transportation Safety Board to Come Clean on TWA Flight 800

FILE - This July 16, 2001 file photo shows the seats, foreground, and the wreckage of TWA Flight 800 in a hangar in Calverton, N.Y. Current and former federal officials who played key roles in the investigation of one of the nation's worst aviation disasters said Tuesday, July 2, 2013 they stand by their conclusion that the crash of flight 800 was caused by an accidental fuel tank explosion, and not a bomb or missile. (AP Photo/ Ed Betz, file)

The dubious official explanation for the downing of TWA Flight 800 20 years ago has come under fresh scrutiny thanks to the dogged reporting of investigative journalist Jack Cashill.

On July 17, 1996, the aircraft exploded in midair 12 minutes after take-off from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport en route to Paris, killing all 230 people on board. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the crash for four years and found in their 2000 report that the explosion was likely caused by a short circuit in the plane’s fuel tank.

To say that Cashill, the author of TWA 800: The Crash, the Cover-Up, and the Conspiracy and more than 120 articles going back to 2001, disputes their findings is putting it mildly. Based on his many years of research, Cashill has concluded that Flight 800 was mistakenly shot down by a U.S. Navy missile.

The FBI spoke to more than 700 witnesses, and the NTSB conceded that “at least 258 of them had seen a streaking object approach the plane.”

 At least eight of the witnesses said they saw the object hit the plane. Some 56 of them followed the object from the horizon to the plane.

But because the disaster happened in the heat of President Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign, Clinton Inc. began a cover-up almost immediately.

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.

The Clinton administration would eventually settle on the implausible “short circuit in the plane’s fuel tank” conclusion. The election-year dynamic should seem familiar: In 1996, it was a “short circuit” that caused an election-year disaster. Twelve years later, the Clinton State Department would blame a YouTube video for the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

Cashill recently found himself having lunch with the current chairman of the NTSB, thanks to the efforts of a former board member who also rejects the official explanation for the crash.

“Color me thunderstruck to find myself dining at Harry’s Smokehouse Burgers & BBQ in the Pentagon Mall with former board member Vernon Grose and current chairman of the five-member board Chris Hart,” Cashill wrote Monday in the American Thinker:

Grose made this all happen. A day earlier, he had attended a press conference on TWA Flight 800 held at the National Press Club and sponsored by Accuracy in Media (AIM). Although Grose was not scheduled to speak, AIM’s Roger Aronoff invited him to the podium, and he held forth for about ten minutes.

“I am absolutely convinced there was a cover-up,” Grose told the audience. That said, even Hillary Clinton would be hard pressed to call him a conspiracy theorist. An applied physicist and a former air traffic controller, Grose knows as much about plane crashes as anyone in America. If proof is needed, on the night of the TWA 800 disaster – July 17, 1996 – CNN called him in to its studio to provide expert on-air commentary. This he did for the next six hours.

At the time, Grose had no reason to distrust the authorities. In fact, during the next two years, he would do more than 170 interviews on the crash, all generally supportive of the investigation. The deeper he looked, however, the more distrustful he became. Now, he too is convinced that a missile or missiles destroyed TWA 800.

Although we had talked on the phone numerous times, Grose and I had never met. After the AIM press conference, he casually noted he was having lunch with Hart the next day and, almost as an afterthought, asked if I would like to join them. Sure, I said. Why not?

Hart had no idea I would be there, but he accepted my presence gracefully. Grose had a signed copy of my book with him and openly plugged it. For my part, I talked about this and that, trying to establish some sort of bond with Hart and convince him of my sanity.

One point of common interest did emerge. Hart mentioned he had served on the board from 1990 to 1993 before being replaced by Jim Hall. “That was you?” I said. “I wrote about that.” I remembered a good part of what I had written, specifically the quote by a Washington Post columnist who described Hall as “a politically connected white male Democrat whose only transportation experience apparently is a driver’s license.” Hart laughed. He told me he cut that column out and saved it.

Hart is a licensed pilot with a masters degree from Princeton in aerospace engineering and a law degree from Harvard. That Clinton would replace a uniquely qualified African-American, and an admitted Democrat at that, with an inexperienced political hack shows how much stock the Clintons put in unquestioning loyalty.

A year after his appointment, Clinton appointed the feckless Hall chairman. A year later, he named two more political operatives to the board. For the first time since its creation, this purposely “independent” investigative agency was no longer independent. In the TWA 800 investigation, the Clinton appointees would justify their selection.

As I promised, I sent Hart a copy of TWA 800: The Crash, The Cover-Up, The Conspiracy and a quick outline of its contents. I emphasized the undeniable role the CIA played in subverting the investigation, a role Hart himself may have been unaware of.

I heard nothing back from Hart, but two weeks after our lunch, Grose did hear from NTSB’s General Counsel David Tochen. Tochen wrote that “a member of the public” saw Grose at the AIM conference and claimed he “wore NTSB clothing, etc.” Tochen then rebuked Grose, reminding him that it was inappropriate “to create the appearance of holding himself/herself out, as a current agency official or employee.”

Grose didn’t wish to dignify the  “demeaning and unprofessional” email with a response, but Cashill did follow up.

I checked the video and replied to Tochen. “As you can see,” I wrote on July 31, “[Grose] was not wearing any NTSB gear, nor did he suggest that he in any way was speaking on behalf of the NTSB.” I questioned too which “member of the public” dropped a dime on Grose.

“In the month since my book has come out,” I continued, “I hear on a daily basis from pilots, air traffic controllers, engineers, mechanics, NTSB employees, and FBI agents – many of whom worked the investigation – that are deeply disturbed that the NTSB will not even contemplate reopening a case that, to say the least, was conspicuously misdirected. I have not heard, however, from any of the CIA analysts. That is a shame, as they were the ones most responsible for subverting the investigation.”

Tochen’s response four days later shocked me. He admitted to not having seen the video, and he apologized to Grose for contacting him without checking. Then came the real kicker: “I have purchased your recent book. I have only finished reading the first five chapters and look forward to completing your book this weekend.”

In the meantime, while Hart has still not publicly or personally reacted to Cashill’s book, former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz gave it a one-star Amazon review in which he compared Cashill “to both Joe McCarthy and Daffy Duck.”

Clowns like Goelz and Hall are the “professionals” the networks turn to when the subject of TWA Flight 800 comes up, which Cashill notes “is one reason why the board has lost almost all credibility with the aviation community.”

Last month, Cashill spoke at length about his book TWA 800: The Crash, the Cover-Up, and the Conspiracy on Coast to Coast with George Noory:

https://youtu.be/i_qH8K5_Cw0