sitemap Database of Events from July 1999 - September 1999

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Chronology of Events From July 1999 - September 1999


July 06, 1999 - 07:59 PM ET CBS
Declaring an unusual and extraordinary threat to the United States, President Clinton imposed economic sanctions against the Islamic rulers of Afghanistan for harboring Osama bin Laden, the terrorist believed responsible for bombing two American embassies in Africa, and thought to be plotting more attacks.  State Department spokesman James Foley said, "We've received intelligence reflecting a pattern of activity that indicates planning for terrorist attacks against American interests by bin Laden and his associates."  A "terrorist threat advisory" issued by the CIA a few days ago warns that bin Laden's planning has reached an advanced stage, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin. .... President Clinton's order bans U.S. trade with and investment in the 85 percent of Afghan territory under Taliban control. Official figures show the United States exported $7 million in goods to these areas last year and brought in imports worth $17 million. About 15 percent of Afghanistan is controlled by a rival group. .... U.S. intelligence tries to track bin Laden as he moves about Afghanistan. But launching another military operation against him requires knowing where he will be on a specific day, and that kind of intelligence is hard to come by.  Meantime, in Cairo, businessmen from Saudi Arabia and other sources say that bin Laden received a torrent of donations from rich Saudi and Persian Gulf people after the United States put the $5 million price on his head. The sources said bin Laden may have netted more than $50 million before the Saudi government learned of the transfers and ordered them stopped.

July 14 - 20, 1999   The Village Voice
The Flight 800 investigation, still at a loss to explain the tragedy, has the right stuff for a thrilling spy novel. Government flacks easily spin the lazy mainstream media to sedate the nervous public. Meanwhile, a band of military insiders heads for the Internet ( and reaches out to a few sympathetic independent journalists to convince readers that the truth is being hidden. For some reason—at this point only a fiction writer could provide one—many observers believe that the government is covering up the disaster's most likely explanation: it was a missile that three years ago this week, 10 miles south of Long Island, brought down the Paris-bound 747, killing all 230 aboard.

As the investigation's third anniversary passes, the mystery is deepening. A few months ago, a retired army officer bearing impressive credentials approached the Voice as an intermediary for a missile expert with a story to tell. This expert is extremely fearful of losing his job—for more than 20 years he's been a military engineer who specializes in infrared missile technology. Assured of anonymity, he submitted to lengthy interviews by telephone and e-mail, detailing why he believes the investigation of TWA Flight 800 is a cover-up.

After spending more than $40 million on the investigation, the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board have not found a definitive answer for why the center fuel tank exploded. Yet they have ruled out a missile as the cause. The NTSB believes an undetermined system flaw produced an electrical spark that ignited jet fuel vapors in the tank.

Prior to the official embrace of this mechanical explanation, the missile expert was among several scientists invited by FBI agents to explore the missile theory. He was made privy to evidence suggesting that TWA 800 could have been shot down, consisting of eyewitness accounts of a "flare-like object" shooting skyward moments before the plane exploded. Later he examined the debris in the Calverton hangar. The missile expert has also been in contact with military labs where, he says, the chemists have been unable to make jet fuel vapor explode as the NTSB says it did in TWA 800's center fuel tank. "The labs told the NTSB there's a big problem—it can't happen."  The NTSB wouldn't listen. He says, "They were adamant that [the labs] had to find something."

The evidence adds up, the missile expert believes, to a "70 percent chance" that TWA 800 was downed by a shoulder-launched missile. Like others who have spoken to the Voice, the expert is exasperated with what he sees as a corrupted investigation. Asked why he is speaking up now, he says, "I wanted someone to look at the truth, not whitewash it away."  The missile expert says his unit was summoned by the FBI quite early in the investigation and asked to review the eyewitness accounts and check out the potential for a successful missile hit. "We talked to Ted Otto and Steve Bongardt"—two agents assigned by FBI assistant director James Kallstrom to examine the missile theory. "We picked missiles and ran computer simulations and shipped the data to Bongardt," the Voice source says. The data showed that virtually any post–Vietnam era shoulder-launched missile would have had the range and infrared seeker capability to reach the plane at 13,700 feet, he says.

But it was the eyewitness accounts that most impressed the expert—the investigation has compiled more than 100 eyewitness interviews reporting a streak of light ending in a flash or explosion, apparently contradicting the official scenario. "When we discussed this with the FBI, they said some of these people were very credible," he recalls. "The most compelling account was from a female witness, as I remember, who reported something with a small flame rising from the ocean trailing a faint smoke trail. The flame was reported to have burned out after about six or seven seconds with a puff that was seen when it hit the aircraft at about 10 seconds. I can tell you that this testimony, if the recounting is accurate, is about as precise as you can get on what you would see from a shoulder-fired infrared SAM [surface-to-air missile]."

The accounts were so persuasive, he says, that Otto and Bongardt arranged a meeting in Washington, D.C., in late '96 to discuss them and other data. A high-powered group convened around the table—the CIA and other military and intelligence agencies were represented but not the NTSB. "We took a vote, and almost everyone said the plane was shot down," the expert says. Only the CIA remained silent. "The CIA was very quiet." Someone asked if there was a warning prior to the disaster of a terrorist attack. "The CIA wouldn't say," he recalls.  Asked about this meeting, the FBI's Kallstrom says, "It never happened," though he allows, "There might have been a meeting where underlings were speculating, but I don't have any knowledge of it."  The CIA at the time was developing its theory that eyewitnesses to the crash saw not a missile but the burning plane itself as it reared up and climbed several thousand feet after the explosion. The Voice missile expert source has no patience with the CIA's point of view. He insists that the eyewitness accounts "are information that cannot be denied."

And there was more—the expert mentioned a videotape shot by a man on Long Island one night during the weeks preceding the crash, which appeared to show a rocket trail rising skyward. "The FBI showed it to us as interesting evidence," the expert says. It looked like the trail of a missile, he adds. FBI assistant director Kallstrom, now retired from the agency, says he doesn't recall any such video. Later in the investigation, only a month or so before Kallstrom shut down the criminal investigation in late '97 for lack of evidence, Bongardt called the missile expert and invited him to Calverton to view the wreckage. What he saw there hardened his suspicions.  "The left wing root near the center fuel tank was clearly a potential impact point, since much of it was missing or badly damaged," he wrote in an e-mail. In an interview he added that together with the left-side wall of the center fuel tank and the left wing, these areas exhibited "a lot of damage which was not well explained, as far as we were concerned....The metal there looked like something very violent happened."

The NTSB's reports confirm the view that the damage on the left side of the plane was of a different order from the damage on the right side. While the left wing upper skin, for example, was shattered into many small fragments, most of the right wing was recovered in one large chunk that had to be cut up into several pieces before it would fit onto a flatbed truck for the journey from East Moriches to Calverton. In its Sequencing Report the NTSB says that the left wing damage is consistent with "extremely high-strain energy release associated with water impact," but does not suggest why the right wing should have escaped similar damage.

The missile expert interviewed by the Voice says that part of the problem was a lack of time to thoroughly examine the debris for clues. In fact, he says his group proposed that the FBI extend its investigation to evaluate the left-side damage. "The recommendation was verbal and in a letter that we sent the FBI looking to do some additional work on the case with funding from the FBI," he says. "They never replied." Bongardt asked him for a formal report, he says, but before he could write it, Kallstrom ended the criminal probe.  Kallstrom told the Voice he doesn't recall any military experts recommending an extension of the investigation. Kallstrom insists, "It was unanimous among all the experts" that nothing was seen in he damaged metal to warrant further scrutiny.

Kallstrom's "unanimous" claim is open to dispute. Richard Bott, of the China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center, testified at a Baltimore hearing during the investigation that he had seen no evidence of a missile on any of the debris. But just a few days earlier he had signed off on a report, called "TWA Flight 800 Missile Impact Analysis," in which he drew attention to what he called "unexplained damage characteristics" that "puzzled" investigators. He recommended further tests before conclusively ruling out a missile as the cause of this damage to the left wing upper skin, the left wing front spar, and the left side of the center fuel tank. Bott did not return repeated phone messages left by the Voice.

The missile expert the Voice interviewed says of the Bott report, "Much of what he states was brought up in discussions of our people." The expert insists that those discussions took place over a year before he first heard of Bott and read his report. Kallstrom is apparently indifferent to Bott's concerns. He says, "I wouldn't put much credence in that—I've got a huge pile of expert opinion to the contrary."  The missile expert the Voice interviewed still insists that a forensic team should "take a real hard look" at the left side, and rule in or rule out a missile. But he also admits that the region of damage that would bear clues of the explosion of a shoulder-launched missile—which has a small warhead—would be quite small, and could easily be among the large areas of the left wing front spar and left side of the center fuel tank that are among the 5 percent of the plane that was never recovered.

Voice interviews with a number of metallurgists and experts in explosives confirmed that unless investigators are able to identify the area—perhaps only a few inches across—where the explosion first impinged on the metal, it's impossible to tell what caused the structure to fail. One author of a book on explosives who has worked on government projects told the Voice, "You're looking at something bent and fractured, but to tie it to a pressure source is very difficult." Several metallurgists suggested that explosive residue on the debris would point unambiguously to a high explosion. In August '96, traces of PETN and RDX, both ingredients of the plastic explosive also found in some missile warheads, were indeed detected in recovered debris from Flight 800's passenger cabin.

It seemed as if at last evidence had been found proving that a terrorist bomb or a missile had downed the aircraft. But shortly afterward it was claimed that a month before the crash the same 747 was used for a bomb-sniffing-dog exercise. Some of the explosives used, according to this account from the FBI, were apparently in poor condition and could easily have spilled.  This explanation was itself recently thrown intodoubt by Victoria Cummock, a member of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, established by President Clinton in the wake of the ValuJet and TWA 800 disasters and chaired by Vice President Al Gore. Cummock, an advocate for victims' families since her husband was killed on PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, told the Voice that when she asked at an FBI briefing to see the FAA log for the training exercise, "they said, 'It's not conclusive this particular plane was involved.' They couldn't produce the log."  Nevertheless, Kallstrom says, "It's absolutely confirmed that it was that plane."  And there, with the dog-sniffing dispute between Cummock and the FBI, we have another juicy subplot within the larger enigma of the TWA Flight 800 story, which like any good spy novel should continue to tantalize until the final chapter.

July 14, 1999   The Associated Press
The long and costly investigation into the explosion of TWA Flight 800 will conclude by this winter at the latest, the head of the lead investigative agency said Wednesday as the third anniversary approached. Investigators are certain that a fuel-air explosion in the center fuel tank brought down the Boeing 747 on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 aboard, but a final determination of the ignition source still has not been made, Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said in an interview with The Associated Press. ...... Bernard Loeb, the panel's head of aviation safety, said investigators have already examined the possibility of a static electricity buildup, stray current from nearby fuel pumps and electrical shorts in the tank's fuel-quantity indicating system. The final phase of their work is now focusing on possible electro-magnetic emissions. Investigators have studied external sources such as radar-emitting military planes and ships. They have also looked at carry-on items such as laptop computers and other personal electronics. Now they are testing electronics built into the plane itself. "We don't favor any particular ways of getting ignition, but we know there are a number of them and the FAA has addressed some of them,'' Loeb said. ...... "I'm still hopeful that we will be able to have our final board meeting and final report by the end of the year,'' the chairman said as he sat in his office with binders about the crash nearby. He said if there are delays, the meeting will occur by "early winter.'' ..... While some have speculated that the plane was blown out of the sky by terrorists or the military, the FBI concluded that no criminal act was involved. On Wednesday, Hall adamantly repeated that the plane was not harmed by a missile. "Stories will probably continue past my lifetime,'' he said. "One of the board's important roles is to protect the integrity of investigations and, in doing so, the integrity of the government we all work for.''

July 14, 1999    BUSINESS WIRE
A group known as the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization (FIRO), will hold a press conference at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, Long Island, NY, on the afternoon of Friday, 16 July 1999, immediately after the sentencing hearing of James and Elizabeth Sanders. That hearing is scheduled to begin at 1pm EDT (1700 GMT). James Sanders is the author of the book "The Downing of TWA Flight 800''. The Sanders couple were both convicted on federal conspiracy charges, in connection with the removal of a small piece of seat material from the (Calverton) Long Island hangar where the wreckage was stored and examined. This Saturday, 7/17, marks the three year anniversary of the still unsolved tragedy.  FIRO includes in its 44 members, substantial professional, technical, aeronautical, engineering, radar and scientific expertise. Most members have been actively involved in investigating the crash of TWA Flight 800 for over two years. In May they presented written testimony at the House Aviation Subcommittee NTSB Reauthorization Hearing. (See  At the press conference, Tom Stalcup, chairman of FIRO, will release a brand-new analysis of the FAA radar data which contradicts the official theory that Flight 800 climbed after initial distress.  This analysis clearly shows that the airliner's movement was radically different from the movements depicted in an animation produced by the CIA, and declared to be the official version of what happened. Although FIRO's analysis has not yet determined what caused these movements, it can now be safely stated that the CIA animation blatantly conflicts with the raw radar evidence and the eyewitness evidence it claimed to portray. Mr. Stalcup will also present information supporting the contention that the FBI selectively prosecuted the Sanders, ignoring similar, well-documented actions, by FBI agents. The Sanders prosecution is consistent with FBI efforts to suppress evidence of an external explosion as the cause of the crash. Indeed, an FBI letter dated two days prior to the Sanderses being charged, effectively banned from the only public hearing on the tragedy, 96 eyewitnesses who reported an object rise from the surface, explode, and cause the crash. Also banned were explosive residue test results. The FBI continues to suppress this and similarly anomalous evidence, while maintaining that eyewitnesses saw the plane rise in the sky, not a second object. FIRO is dedicated to the establishment of an independent review of all aspects of the official investigation and dissemination/public access to both the process and its findings.

July 16, 1999  Associated Press
A couple was sentenced Friday to probation for conspiring to steal bits of seat material from the reconstructed remains of TWA Flight 800....... Sanders, author of the 1997 book "The Downing of TWA Flight 800,'' was given three years probation and 50 hours of community service. His wife, a former TWA employee, received one year probation and 25 hours of community service. .... Defense attorney Bruce Maffeo tried to blame the government for the Sanders' actions. He said the couple had a First Amendment right to take the swatches and stolen crash-related documents to expose a government cover-up. "Three years ago tomorrow this tragedy occurred,'' Maffeo said before sentencing, "and the government has yet to come up with a conclusive cause to this crash.''

July 16, 1999 Associated Press
On Saturday's third anniversary of the crash of TWA Flight 800, the end of the investigation is in sight but not the hard feelings between the airline and accident investigators. Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, complained this week that Trans World Airlines has refused requests to share in the multimillion-dollar cost of recovering and storing the wreckage, unlike other airlines that have had a plane crash. Hall said TWA has repeatedly told safety board staff members it is not responsible for the wreckage because it fell into the sea off Long Island, clouding property rights. .... "They refused to participate at all, even though we requested them,'' Hall said ... TWA spokesman Jim Brown called Hall "misinformed.'' Brown said NTSB rules precluded the St. Louis-based airline from helping with or financing the wreckage recovery and storage. Furthermore, he said the board never asked the airline for funding or to take custody of the wreckage. .....Investigators still have not determined the cause, but they believe there was a fuel-air explosion in the plane's empty center fuel tank. They are searching for the ignition source and expect to make a final determination this fall or winter. .... In a January 1998 letter to the safety board, Randal Craft Jr., TWA's outside counsel, addressed the wreckage issue. "This letter will confirm that TWA and its aviation insurers continue to take the position that they do not own the wreckage of Flight 800 or the personal effects of the Flight 800 passengers and crew.''

July 17, 1999   Electronic Telegraph     Issue 1513
The United States defence secretary had to cancel a trip to Albania earlier this week because of fears that supporters of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire terrorist, would try to kill him. William Cohen was due to stop in Albania for only five hours to visit American troops still stationed there and meet local politicians as he inspected the remaining refugee camps close to the border with Kosovo.  But Mr Cohen, who was on a five-day tour of Nato allies in Europe and Turkey, diverted from his schedule after receiving advice from Gen Wesley Clark, Nato's supreme commander in Europe, of a possible terrorist threat. American intelligence sources had monitored radio conversations which hinted at an attempt on the life of a senior US personality in the region. As the defence secretary was the only person fitting this description, his life was thought to be at risk, sources at the Pentagon said yesterday. Mr Cohen had already told reporters on the way back from Europe that the threat of terrorism from bin Laden and his organisation was considerable. He said: "We have been following bin Laden's activities and we have tried to anticipate wherever he may move to conduct a terrorist operation against the United States or our allies. "Based on information that I have, he remains dedicated to try to conduct a terrorist operation, so whether it's the final stages or intermediate stages, we are satisfied that he intends to continue his campaign of terror. We are just as determined to try to prevent it from taking place and remain very vigilant on it." Albania is known to have attracted a number of extremist Islamic fighters to the cause of Kosovo's liberation and therefore could already be unwittingly playing host to bin Laden sympathisers. Bin Laden is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list in connection with the bombings last year of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam which left more than 200 people dead.

July 25, 1999  Communication from Bill Patrick piloting TWA 900 on July 17, 1996
Flt 800 was unusually low that night. Climbing out of NY is never an unrestricted climb. There are frequent level offs during the climb due to crossing traffic above. On the night in question I took off 2 minutes behind 800 in a B767 enroute to Lisbon. Flt 800, being a 747 and not as nimble a performer on climbout had to hold 13000' for quite a while for a (as I recall) a Beech 1900 commuter cruising from S - N above it. We were given a slight heading change and cleared to climb to 19000' because we were capable of reaching that altitude quickly enough to avoid any conflict. We then remained at 19000' for a period and then resumed climb. Our profile that night was quite typical. An A/C could normally expect to be 19000 - 23000 ft through that area I believe. A sad irony that 800 was so unusually low if indeed it was a stinger type missle involved.  Another thought that has occured to me with regards to the CIA cartoon. I looked in vain for the mid air explosion that other a/c were reporting on the radio that night (dusk really) but saw nothing in the haze below. If 800 had done that miraculous zoom climb it seems I would have seen something since I was on a parallel course above and behind 800.

July 25, 1999    The San Jose Mercury News     Author: Scott Holleran
Conspiracy theories attract some pretty loopy people for good reasons- Most of them are based on mere coincidences or arbitrary assertions---in other words, pure bunk. But this is the tale of how I began to believe in one. Three years ago, I was scheduled to meet my parents for the beginning of a long planned European vacation. It turned out to be the start of my journey into one of the great aviation mysteries of our time - the crash of TWA Flight 800.

The TWA terminal at New York's JFK Airport that July 17 was bustling with summer travelers, with whom I waited until my departure. My parents missed our connection, but I was assured by the TWA flight crew that they would board the next available flight, Flight 800. When I arrived in Europe hours later, I exited the aircraft through the plastic vestibule, where an airport official met me with a smile and politely asked where my parents were. I told him they'd missed the flight. He turned white. "Your parents are gone," he whispered as his hand moved to cover his mouth. He explained that their airplane had exploded over the Atlantic Ocean. He muttered one phrase in broken English: "The FBI is investigating."

I learned that the airport official was wrong. Mom and Dad were alive--- they had missed that flight as well---and I was elated to embrace them. We traveled through Europe with a renewed sense of life. It wasn't until we boarded the flight back to the United States that I began to question the government's investigation of the crash, when members of the TWA flight crew told me that flight 800 had been shot down by a Navy missile. This was weeks before an anonymous e-mail message made similar claims, and months before journalist and former Kennedy press secretary Pierre Salinger claimed that a French intelligence source had informed him of a conspiracy by the U.S. government to cover up a military mishap.

"Friendly fire," let alone a cover-up, seemed preposterous to me. As a journalist, I am inclined to be skeptical of unusual claims. I don't read horoscopes, and I think Shirley MacLaine is nuts. As I reviewed early news reports and attempted to match them with later stories, however, several discrepancies emerged.

First, authorities issued several conflicting statements. Second, the anonymous e-mail---though it contained plenty of false information---disclosed that a Navy aircraft had been involved in exercises nearby at the time of the crash. Much later, the FBI acknowledged that fact. Third, I'd noticed that investigators wanted to have it both ways. The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation was proceeding under the direction of the FBI, which was involved on the grounds that a crime might have caused the crash---but FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom would neither confirm nor deny the existence of criminal evidence.

During the months following the crash, Salinger's amateurish presentations of the missile theory captured most of the media attention--- and ridicule. But the number of credible skeptics grew, and the FBI and NTSB developed an odd, weary demeanor. Investigators' pursuit of an intelligible cause diminished in proportion to the rise in missile claims. The FBI seized an amateur videotape taken by retired commercial pilot Richard Russell, which he said showed radar images of TWA 800 being downed by a missile. Charges were filed against freelance writer and investigator James Sanders, who had obtained a piece of seat fabric that he said contained rocket residue. I wondered why the FBI had bothered with such supposedly meaningless claims---and, once they had, why they wouldn't release the video and seat fabric for independent evaluation.

A mysterious radar track

Then the FBI's Kallstrom testified before Congress that his agency had tracked "all air and waterborne vessels in the area and conducted appropriate interviews. Yet the FBI did not dispute a report by Robert Davey, a Village Voice reporter, that radar in the area picked up four unidentified tracks. One of these, according to the NTSB was within three nautical miles of Flight 800 when it exploded. It's pattern was consistent with a surface vessel moving at 30 knots, the NTSB said. Perhaps most alarming was that the mysterious boat kept moving out to sea, even after the explosion. "He not only doesn't turn to render assistance, he runs," said naval Cmdr. William Donaldson, who believes a navy missile downed the plane. (Note from website author:  Cmdr. Donaldson believes a missile(s) downed the plane but believes this was a terrorist attack)

In early 1998, retired Adm. Thomas Moorer--- former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--- added his name to the list of those who believe a missile destroyed the plane. Basing his judgment partly on an analysis of the flight-recorder data, Moorer and other former Navy brass expressed grave concerns. "All the evidence," Moorer said at a press conference, "would point to a missile." Months later, a former member of the NTSB, Vernon Grose, also publicly cast doubt on the investigation after seeing the flight recorder analysis. Last week, one of the investigation's own military engineers, a specialist in missile technology, told the Village Voice's Davey that he believes the plane was probably shot down by a missile and that the government is covering up the truth. The Voice gave the source anonymity because he feared losing his job. The entire investigation has seemed like an "X-Files" episode.

Streak of light

And there's more. At the time of the crash, 270 eyewitnesses across Long Island reported seeing a streak of light. After the FBI suspended the criminal investigation last year, Kallstrom, in an unprecedented move, asked the CIA to produce a videotaped explanation of the eyewitness accounts that specifically refutes the missile theory. At least one military pilot who saw the crash is unconvinced. National Guard helicopter pilot Frederick Meyer--- one of the closest eye-witnesses, who reported falling debris---rejects the CIA's animated recreation. Meyer described the event as "an ordnance explosion". And he ought to know what one looks like; the veteran pilot dodged missiles in Vietnam. Nearly 100 of the eyewitnesses said streak of light originated from the earth's surface.

A puzzling pattern

In researching the crash and investigation over the last two years, I've spoken with eyewitnesses, victims' families, conspiracy theorists, investigation officials and fellow journalists. I have reached the conclusion that these are not merely arbitrary anomalies emanation from a bunch of kooks. They add up to a preponderance of puzzling, unsubstantiated evidence that cries out for closer scrutiny and begs deeper questions:  On what grounds was the FBI's criminal inquiry suspended---but not closed? Have the unidentified radar tracks--- especially the 30 knot track---been thoroughly investigated? If so, why haven't we been told anything about them? Kallstrom and others have focused on Salinger as themissile theory's straw man, denouncing him repeatedly and implying that TWA 800 conspiracy theorists are dominated by irresponsible, wild-eyed Internet users. Hardly. Most TWA 800 conspiracy theorists I've met are retired professionals with years of expertise in their fields of endeavor from journalism and education to engineering and aviation.

Some victims' families skepticism would reopen a wound that is just beginning to heal. But proper scientific inquiry is not passive acceptance of ignorance; it is the relentless pursuit of truth. And the truth is what investigators---despite highly desirable conditions for an aviation disaster inquiry---have completely failed to uncover. Instead, they have asserted repeatedly that the cause may be "unknowable," implying that TWA 800 is doomed to being an unsolved mystery. It is not. I don't claim to know what happened to the 747. But I do know that the truth matters. It mattered to me and my parents July 17, 1996. It mattered more to the 230 crash victims.  And it ought to matter to the American public, which has spent well over $30 million for an utterly unacceptable outcome: shoulder-shrugging, ' not answers, in response toserious questions about the worst aviation disaster in U.S. history.

Scott Holleran is a freelance writer in Southern California. He wrote this article for [The San Jose Mercury News] Perspective.

July 26, 1999  World
The United States has ordered increased security for U.S. diplomatic installations and their personnel around Pakistan as U.S. forces prepare to attack Osama Bin Laden. Diplomatic sources said Washington has asked Islamabad for help in protecting the U.S. embassy in the Pakistani capital. They said the Pakistani government has agreed and police have beefed up security at U.S. installations. The sources said the United States is set to attack Bin Laden bases in Afghanistan. They said U.S. special forces have completed training in the area and are ready to land in Afghanistan in a search-and-destroy operation. ..... On Friday, Michael Sheehan, nominated to be the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that his most pressing priority would be to capture and prosecute Bin Laden.  A second priority would be to continue pressure on what he termed key state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria and groups as Hizbullah.  On Sunday, the London-based Sunday Express reported that three men were arrested in connection with the seizure of materials that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. The newspaper said authorities seized 20 tons of aluminium in the container terminal on the Isle of Grain, Kent, tracked from the United States on its way to Dubai. Intelligence reports believed the material was destined for Pakistan, the newspaper said. Officials refused comment.

August 1, 1999 Washington
Deep inside the Metropolitan Correction Center in Manhattan, a taxi driver from Florida named Ihab M. Ali sits in the same high-security cellblock as five men accused of plotting the twin truck bombings that shattered two U.S. embassies in East Africa last August. Ali hasn't been charged in the case, but prosecutors think he may know something about it. And they're squeezing him. Since they offered him immunity from prosecution and he still refused to testify to a grand jury, he is charged with contempt of court and held under unusually tight conditions, with just one hour a day outside his cell. Such is the hardball that authorities are playing as they build a massive federal indictment against Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden and 16 co-defendants for conspiring to bomb the embassies and "to murder U.S. nationals anywhere in the world." The indictment describes bin Laden as the leader, or "emir," of al Qaeda, a "global terrorist organization" with tentacles that allegedly reach from his hideout in the mountains of Afghanistan to followers in Texas, Florida and New York. But the portrait of al Qaeda - Arabic for "the Base" - that emerges from hundreds of pages of court filings looks less like a tight-knit group under one man's command than a disjointed, shadowy confederation of extremists from all over the Islamic world. .... Five of the defendants - including a tire store manager from Texas and a former U.S. Army sergeant - are now in custody in New York. Three others are being held in London. And nine - including bin Laden - remain at large. .... The government's indictment describes this global organization in terms that sound like the Mafia, with members who "made bayat" - swore allegiance - to bin Laden and signed written contracts enforceable by a Judicial Committee of al Qaeda leaders. ..... Investigators clearly are being guided by intelligence that is not reflected in the indictments. But much of that information - including electronic intercepts of telephone calls and interrogations of suspects by foreign intelligence agencies - also may not be usable in court, either because of the way it was obtained or because making it public would reveal U.S. intelligence sources and methods. The voluminous evidence compiled by the FBI traces a web of relationships that allegedly link bin Laden and his followers to a series of "fatwas," or religious rulings, that call for killing Americans and to a string of terrorist acts in which Americans have, indeed, been killed. As they go forward, investigators hope to turn that circumstantial case into a more definitive one and to find all the members of al Qaeda's network in America, which they do not think they have yet done.

Mustafa Elnore, a small businessman from Jersey City, N.J., is the latest Islamic activist picked up by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. He was arrested last month and charged with lying about his relationships to a number of alleged and convicted terrorists, beginning with El Sayyid Nosair, who is serving a life sentence for plotting to bomb the World Trade Center and other New York City landmarks in 1993. Court papers filed against Elnore list no direct connection to the embassy bombings case. But federal prosecutors think he may be a link between bin Laden and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric who is also serving a life sentence for the New York landmarks case. The tenuous chain goes as follows: Elnore has been charged with lying about his relationship to Nosair. Nosair was convicted alongside Rahman. Rahman was a key figure at the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn. And the Alkifah center, according to prosecutors, was not only a hub for the plotters of the World Trade Center bombing but also helped spawn al Qaeda in the late 1980s. .....

In the Elnore case, there's also this indirect link to the alleged embassy bombings conspiracy: One of the individuals Elnore is charged with lying about to the grand jury is Wadih Hage, the tire store manager from Texas. Hage came to the United States in 1978 to study city planning at Southwestern Louisiana University. He married an American, fathered seven children, went off to help the Afghan mujaheddin fight the Soviet Union, and ended up working as bin Laden's personal secretary in Sudan in the early 1990s. The indictment does not describe any direct role played by Hage in the bombing of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But it does allege that he was at the heart of al Qaeda and traveled around the world on his U.S. passport to meet with operatives, manage communications, move money for bin Laden and even scour the globe for chemical weapons. By 1994, the indictment says, Hage had moved to Kenya and helped establish an al Qaeda cell in Nairobi - the same unit that allegedly plotted last summer's embassy bombing there. Hage finally returned home to the United States in 1997 and resumed the life of a working stiff, earning $400 a week as manager of the Lone Star Wheels and Tires shop in Fort Worth. But his seemingly quiet life came crashing down in September, a month after the embassy bombings in Africa, when prosecutors flew him to New York, charged him with lying to a grand jury and incarcerated him without bail. Court papers filed at the time of his arrest made clear that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies had been tracking him around the globe for years.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have hauled Moataz Hallack, the "imam" or prayer leader at the Center Street Mosque in Arlington, Tex., and Khader Ibrahim, the tire shop's owner, before a grand jury to answer questions about their links to Hage, a fellow worshiper at the mosque. The FBI is also looking into a pair of wire transfers Ibrahim sent to Hage in Africa, one for $10,000 from a car accident settlement, the other for several hundred dollars from a sale of African semiprecious stones. Lawyers for both Hallack and Ibrahim deny that their clients are linked to terrorism in any way. "It's clear they are following the money trail," Lynne Stewart, Ibrahim's lawyer, said of federal prosecutors. .... At one point in the indictment, prosecutors allege that Hage, when he was still in Kenya, received a document in 1995 about Rahman's trial in New York. He was directed to hand-deliver the document, the indictment says, to Osama bin Laden. It had arrived from California. The sender: Ali A. Mohamed.

Mohamed, a major in the Egyptian army, immigrated to the United States in 1986 and continued his military career. He joined the U.S. Army and was eventually assigned to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. Within a year of his discharge in 1989, according to the indictment, he was training al Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Sudan and traveling the world for bin Laden, delivering messages and conducting financial transactions. In 1991, the indictment alleges, Mohamed personally escorted bin Laden from Pakistan to Sudan, where he helped train bin Laden's bodyguards. Three years later, Mohamed used his U.S. passport to enter the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi on an apparent surveillance mission, the indictment states. He was, by then, talking to al Qaeda members in Kenya about attacks on the embassy and other U.S., British, French and Israeli targets in Nairobi, the indictment says. Back home in California in 1994, Mohamed soon found the FBI knocking at his door. Agents wanted to know what connections he had to those charged back in New York with plotting to blow up the World Trade Center. He was, at the time, listed as a defense witness in Rahman's pending trial. And he remained a figure of fascination to the FBI. In 1997, court papers say, Mohamed told FBI agents that he had been in Somalia in 1993 and knew that bin Laden's operatives were responsible for killing 18 U.S. servicemen in a firefight in Mogadishu during the U.S. mission to support humanitarian relief operations and arrest warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed. Shortly after the embassy bombings, those papers say, Mohamed also told an FBI agent that "he knew who had carried out the recent bombings but would not provide the names to the United States government." He was arrested in September and held in secret in New York until he was added as a defendant to the bin Laden indictment in May, charged in a conspiracy to "murder United States nationals anywhere in the world, including in the United States."

Finally, there is Ihab M. Ali. At the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, the taxi driver from Orlando lives under the same maximum security conditions as Mohamed, Hage and other jailed defendants in the embassy bombings case, even though he hasn't been charged in the conspiracy. Ali left the United States in 1989 and spent several years helping Afghan refugees on the Pakistan border before returning to Central Florida. Beyond the possible Afghan connection to supporters of bin Laden, prosecutors have yet to explain why they have chosen to squeeze Ali. But something is known about al Qaeda's ties to Orlando, which involve Hage, the Texas tire store manager. In February 1997, the indictment states, Hage, then in Kenya, sent a coded fax to an unnamed "co-conspirator in Orlando" saying that he had just returned from a meeting with bin Laden's military commander, Muhammed Atef, in Pakistan. Five days later, according to the document, the co-conspirator replied in code with an offer of support for bin Laden. Another coded message from the co-conspirator in Orlando followed five months later, the indictment says. This time, there was a warning: "Be careful about possible apprehension by American authorities."

(Note from website author - The following references add some insight to the article above

July 20, 1996     Times of London
Jurors at the trial here of the alleged mastermind of the World Trade Centre bombing, who is accused of plotting to attack US airliners over Asia, were told to ignore reports about the crash while considering the case against Ramzi Yousef, arrested in Pakistan last year.

September 22, 1996     The New York Post
Investigators are reviewing an anonymous threat received after the October 1, 1995 conviction of radical sheik Omar Abdel Rahman .... the threat was that a New York airport or jetliner would be attacked in retaliation ........

August 25, 1996      Times of London
U.S. officials are investigating reports that Islamic terrorists have smuggled Stinger ground-to-air missiles into the United States from Pakistan. Senior Iranian sources close to the fundamentalist regime in Tehran claimed this weekend that TWA flight 800 was shot down last month by one of three shoulder-fired Stingers of the type used by Islamic guerrillas during the Afghanistan war. The sources said the missiles arrived in America seven months ago after being shipped from Karachi via Rotterdam and on to the Canadian port of Halifax. They claimed an Egyptian fundamentalist group backed by Iran was responsible for smuggling the weapons across the Canadian border into the United States. The group, the Gama'a al-Islamiya, comprises followers of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric jailed in the United States over the 1993 New York World Trade Center bombing. A senior White House official responsible for counter-terrorism told The Sunday Times this weekend that he had seen a report that a Stinger missile had been smuggled into the United States from Pakistan. The official, who is involved in collating intelligence relating to the TWA inquiry for the White House, said investigators were aware of reports that Stingers may have been smuggled into the country.... If a Stinger was the cause of this, our first theory would be that it came from Afghanistan."   The official was commenting on reports from Tehran that claimed several groups funded by the religious authorities in Iran are active in the United States. The reports claim one previously unknown underground group called Falakh may have as many as 50 highly trained terrorists in the country.

July 19, 1996     CNN Web posted at: 10:50 a.m. EDT
Counter- terrorism analysts in Washington assigned to the case also looked into several calls claiming responsibility for the crash, but all but one such claim has been ruled out. The source declined to discuss the nature of the possible threat they were still looking at. Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday two calls claiming responsibility for the crash had been received after the plane went down, but she said there are "no indications" yet of terrorism. One of the calls mentioned by Reno was received at
Tampa, Florida, television station WTSP from a man who identified himself as a member of a "Jihad," a station official said. Jihad, meaning "holy war," is a word used by Islamic militant groups. The WTSP spokesman said the caller gave no name and offered no motive.
In the absence of explanations, theories abounded. One focused on a fax sent Wednesday to an Arabic language newspaper in Beirut warning of an attack. State Department and CIA officials confirmed they had received copies of the fax Thursday. The message said "tomorrow morning we will strike the Americans in a way they do not expect and it will be very surprising to them," according to one official.   A counterterrorism source familiar with the fax said that it was sent at 11 a.m. New York time Wednesday, more than nine hours before the bombing. But a CIA source said that the agency "does not attach too much significance" to the fax. The fax, witten in Arabic, ends with the following threat:  "The Mujahadeen will respond harshly to the threats of the stupid American president. All will be shocked by the magnitude of the response. The determining of the place and time are in the hands of the Mujahadeen. The invaders must get ready to leave alive or dead; and their rendezvous will be morning, and isn't morning near."  U.S. News and World Report magazine, in the July 29, 1996 issue, identified the group who sent the fax as, "The Movement of Islamic Jihad/The Jihad Wing of the Arabian Peninsula."

October 4, 1998    New York Times
Islamic Jihad ....  receives money and sponsorship from bin Laden and has been absorbed into his terror network...

July 19, 1996     Reuters
Attorney General Jane Reno said she was unaware of any threats before the crash but there were "some calls'' afterward claiming responsibility. ABC News reported that an Arabic newspaper received a warning of an attack on an American target Wednesday from the same group that claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that killed five Americans in Saudi Arabia in November. But the State Department said it had viewed the warning letter as a political tract and not as a specific threat of an extremist attack. "To us it seemed to be a general political tract. We don't see it as a specific threat,'' State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said of the letter sent to Al Hayat, an Arabic language newspaper published in London.

July 19, 1996       New York Times.
A specific warning about the flight had been sent by an extremist Saudi organization called the Movement of Islamic Change, the organization that claimed responsibility for blowing up US military personnel in Saudi Arabia last November. "Late this morning we got a copy of a letter in Arabic that we then had translated, and got it to the FBI" said a State Department spokesman ... "It's a ... statement that seems aimed at the Saudi regime or the American presence in Saudi Arabia"......... Officials said they were reviewing a telephone call placed to a
Tampa, Florida television station yesterday morning from a man who identified himself as a member of a jihad and claimed responsibility for the crash.

November 1, 1995     Electronic Telegraph World News
A British-educated economics lecturer, Ramadan Shallah, yesterday made his first appearance as the new leader of the militant Islamic Jihad movement, whose founder, Fathi Shiqaqi, was assassinated in Malta last week. Mr Shallah, 38, was at Damascus airport with other leaders of the rejectionist Palestinian world to receive Mr Shiqaqi's coffin.. (Shallah's) office in Damascus and the group's members in the Gaza Strip refuse to confirm basic details of his background ..... From the differing accounts of his life, it seems that Mr Shallah was born in 1957 in Gaza City's Shajaiya neighbourhood. Believed to have headed Islamic Jihad's fund-raising operations in Britain. He had been a student with Mr Shiqaqi at Zaqazik university in Egypt, where they joined Egyptian radicals in forming the Egyptian wing of Islamic Jihad, which assassinated President Sadat in 1980 after he made peace with Israel. .... The Palestinian wing of Islamic Jihad became known in the 1980s for its attacks on Israeli targets and was among the early proponents of suicide bombings .....He taught economics in Gaza and left in the mid- 1980s, apparently taking up studies in Egypt and America. He went to Britain in 1986 and received his doctorate in economics at Durham University in 1991. He is believed to have headed Islamic Jihad's fund-raising operations in Britain. He is also thought to have been involved in militant Islamic activities in
Florida. ....

May 7, 1999  Company Press Release   
The Journal of Counterterrorism & Security International NPR has not broadcast any in-depth story about the investigative findings and incriminating documents released by the FBI in its ongoing investigation into the secret headquarters of the Islamic Jihad that operated out of the campus of the
University of South Florida in Tampa between 1990 and 1995.

September 1997     The American Spectator        Letter from John B. Roberts II in reply to an earlier one from James Hall - NTSB
Early this summer Hall testified before Congress that a meteorite may have blown up TWA, an event about as likely as an attack by a UFO. Apparently, Mr. Hall is prepared to got to any length to avoid confronting evidence of terrorism in the crash of TWA 800..... minute traces of PETN and RDX were found in TWA 800. Hall would have us believe they came from a bomb-sniffing dog test. But the St. Louis Police Department test record says only that a "wide-bodied jet" was used in the test, and provides no serial number for the aircraft......As TWA's 800's debris was being hauled ashore, it was being tested by the EGIS high-tech explosives detection system operated by FBI technicians and BATF bomb experts. Within five days of the crash, EGIS registered the first of more than a dozen "hits" for PETN on the aircraft. The FBI laboratory--whose work, even before it was subsequently criticized by the Justice Departments's inspector general, was questioned by FBI agents working on EGIS--confirmed only two findings. Do the EGIS findings mean that there was once much more explosive residue .... Whether there were two positive findings or a dozen, the dog-test explanation is almost as zany as Hall's meteorite theory..... Hall states that the U.S. lacks intelligence leads, but at least one terrorist has claimed credit for the TWA 800 bombing. World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Ahmed Yousef told authorities his group is responsible. Yousef's claim has not been made public, but it is in the FBI file.

November 8, 1998   CNN
Two sons of an Egyptian cleric convicted of plotting terrorist attacks in New York City have joined the terrorist organization of Osama bin Laden, which is suspected of carrying out deadly bombings against two U.S. embassies in east Africa, CNN has learned. Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, serving a life sentence in a federal prison, also has written a will calling on his sons to seek revenge against the United States, according to sources who have seen it. .... Abdel-Rahman's two sons, Omar and Asim, both in their late 20s, were among those present when bin Laden held a press conference near Khost, Afghanistan, in May. It was at that press conference that bin Laden publicly unveiled his International Islamic Front and talked about an edict he issued in February, calling for a jihad, or holy war, against American civilians anywhere in the world. A person who spoke to one of Abdel-Rahman's sons told "NewsStand" that "he said that he would follow into the footprints of his father and he would continue the jihad.")

August 4 - 10, 1999 Letter fromDonald Nibert, Montoursville, Pennsylvania to The Village Voice -

I read Robert Davey's "The FBI and Flight 800" [ [July 20] with a great deal of interest. Three difficult years have passed since the crash. During this time, my family has grieved over the death of our beautiful 16-year-old daughter. Since the first week after the crash, I have been convinced that the explosion was caused by a missile, probably friendly fire. All that I have observed since that time has strengthened this conviction. Why would Clinton, in an executive order, remove whistleblower protection from the Navy Seal units involved in the recovery? Why would the Navy insist that it had no assets in the area carrying arms that could have downed a plane, and then subsequently admit that it had three submarines on maneuvers nearby. Why would the NTSB change its explanation of the 12-second line from the recovered black box? The data in that line may indicate that an external explosion occurred. The NTSB gave multiple versions of why it should not be included. Why was a written statement from the most experienced eyewitness never taken by the FBI? Why were he and I both tailed when I met with him at a restaurant on Long Island? He was a pilot with combat experience who was in the air in a helicopter about 10 miles away at the time, who saw the explosion, and was the first to arrive at the crash site. He told me that he saw a vapor trail with a red streak in the middle, which is characteristic of a missile.All I have are questions. All I want is the truth.

August 16, 1999 The New American Vol. 15, No. 17
Three years after TWA flight 800 exploded in mid-air over the Atlantic just off Long Island, killing all 230 aboard, evidence is continuing to accumulate that the federal government has deliberately misled the public about the cause of the tragedy. After an investigation that consumed 16 months and devoured $20 million, federal authorities concluded that an aberrant spark in the plane's center fuel tank triggered the catastrophic explosion. However, in order to reach this conclusion, federal investigators had to discard a significant body of evidence suggesting that the plane was shot down in an act of terrorism and mass murder.  ......  The July 12th issue of the New York Observer referred to a mysterious "30-knot track," the radar signature of a boat "that was the closest vessel to the 747 when it exploded and that then headed out to sea on a beeline from right under the burning wreckage." In the immediate aftermath of the crash, the "mystery boat" headed directly out to sea on a south-southwest course, "even as other boats rushed to the crash to help out," explained the Observer account. "It was nearly 9 o'clock at night, not the usual time for an excursion."  The "30-knot track" is particularly intriguing to retired Navy Commander William S. Donaldson, a former Judge Advocate General investigator who has conducted inquiries into 12 Navy air crashes. Upon viewing the data, "I looked at that and said, 'Wow, what is that guy doing leaving the scene?' And of course I assumed he was identified." However, when he asked FBI agent Steve Bongardt whether investigators were able to interview the occupants of every boat in the region of the crash, Commander Donaldson was told that the question couldn't be answered without clearance "from a higher authority." "It would seem that even the FBI secretly regarded the 30-knot track as suspicious," said the Observer. "For six months, the government conducted a $5.5 million trawling operation of the waters surrounding the crash, using scallop boats. Commander Donaldson obtained documents left by the FBI on one scalloper, showing that the FBI was specifically looking for shoulder-fired Stinger missile parts — notably a Stinger ejector motor — in what the FBI called a 'possible missile launch zone' 2.7 miles from the crash. That circle included the mystery boat." The FBI also seized some boats to inspect their floorboards for burns typical of backwash from a shoulder-fired rocket. However, investigators have been singularly incurious regarding the unidentified fleeing boat. "If it's a legitimate criminal investigation, with a possibility of 230 homicides," observes Commander Donaldson, "how do you close the investigation when you haven't identified the boat that was within missile firing range? To me that's egregious. I don't see how you justify it." .....The July 16th USA Today, published on the eve of the tragedy's third anniversary, reported that Bill Clinton "was ready to strike back at Middle East terrorists if they could be linked to the explosion of TWA Flight 800," but that no strike occurred because "the FBI never made the connection." According to Associated Press correspondent Pat Milton, author of In the Blink of an Eye: The FBI Investigation of TWA Flight 800, one of the chief suspects was renegade Saudi terrorist financier Osama bin Laden, who is suspected of plotting the 1996 attack on Saudi Arabia's Khobar Towers barracks, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded another 250. Bin Laden has also been accused of masterminding the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And, lest it be forgotten, bin Laden has provided financial and material support to the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, the drug-dealing Muslim/Marxist terrorists who were NATO's allies in the war on Yugoslavia. USA Today also pointed out that "weeks before the crash [of TWA 800], Clinton had placed the United States on its highest state of alert since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. This was because the White House had received classified intelligence reports that Iran was planning a wave of terrorist attacks against the United States." Bin Laden is tightly allied both with Iran and with anti-American elements of the Afghan Mujahadeen guerillas who were provided with Stinger missiles during the war against the Soviets.  According to James Kallstrom, the FBI's lead investigator in the TWA 800 case, the agency's "exhaustive" inquiry "left no stone unturned." Kallstrom testified before Congress that the FBI's investigation included "tracking of all air and waterborne vessels in the area at the time of the explosion followed by appropriate interviews." The sole exception to this dragnet was the mysterious vessel responsible for the enigmatic "30-knot track" — and the possible link between the air disaster and the international terrorist network.

August 6, 1999 The New York Times
A Federal judge in Manhattan refused Thursday to release a man who was jailed in May for refusing to testify, on religious grounds, before a Federal grand jury investigating Osama bin Laden and the bombings of the United States Embassies in Africa last August. The witness, Ihab M. Ali, a taxi driver from Orlando, Fla., had said in Federal District Court in Manhattan last month that testifying would be "a major sin" because the Koran prohibited Muslims from giving testimony that might harm other innocent people. Ali said he feared that if he testified, bin Laden would retaliate against him, or his family in Egypt. "What I've heard and seen in the media," Ali said, "is that he's a very dangerous person." But Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr. rejected Ali's contentions and said more time in jail might encourage him to change his mind. "Confinement, which unfortunately is by its nature coercive," Judge Patterson wrote, "and which is undoubtedly resented by potential witnesses, either material witnesses or those held in civil contempt, also allows for reflection and reconsideration. Here, Ali's decision not to testify calls for reconsideration." The ruling came two days before the first anniversary of the embassy attacks, which killed 223 people and wounded more than 4,000. In the investigation, over the last year, a number of witnesses -- including some Muslims -- have testified before the grand jury. Ali, 36, who was jailed last May 19, is the only witness who is known to have refused, and been held in contempt. Under the law, he may be held for up to 18 months, the term of the grand jury. ......   The judge also said that Ali had not fully explored the measures the authorities could take to protect him if he testified. The Government has offered to immunize Ali from prosecution and place him and his family in the Witness Protection Program. "It may become apparent to him with the passage of time," Judge Patterson wrote, "that the fear he is presently experiencing is misplaced, or that steps can be taken to protect his family." The judge also cited Ali's testimony last month that the goal of trying to solve the bombings "is a just goal if it is done in a just manner." At one hearing last month, Ali had responded to a question posed by a Federal prosecutor about why he would not testify, saying, "I fear the same persons that you're targeting." ...." The judge did have some veiled criticism of the Government. Citing accusations by prosecutors that Ali had lied to investigators before going into the grand jury, Judge Patterson said in a footnote: "If Ali is to gain trust in the prosecution's good motives, it is important that the prosecution, in view of the magnitude of the crimes, not get carried away with the justness of its cause and suggest he has been lying."

August 8, 1999 The New York Times
The Government has not said why it wants to question Ali. The most recent indictment in the case shows that prosecutors suspect that some of bin Laden's associates have been active in Florida.

August 7, 1999    Web post - CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart
Intelligence sources say bin Laden has specifically targeted FBI headquarters in Washington, perhaps because the bureau recently named him to its Ten Most Wanted List.

August 13, 1999 8:21 p.m. EDT
All British and United States airlines are on top security alert because of warnings of a bombing campaign by Muslim terrorists, a British newspaper reported Saturday. The Daily Mail said a secret warning, based on information from U.S. intelligence, had been given to the airlines to beware of attempts to smuggle bombs onto planes during the next three months. "Behind the threat are thought to be supporters of one of the world's most wanted terrorists, Saudi exile Osama bin Laden," the newspaper said in a front-page report. The United States has linked Bin Laden, based in Afghanistan, to the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania a year ago in which at least 226 people died.  "The warning from the Department of Transport, which follows a tipoff from U.S. intelligence, specifically mentions Samsonite suitcases," the report said.  Police and Britain's main international airline, British Airways Plc, refused comment on the report.

August 15, 1999   The Electronic Telegraph   Issue 1542
Iran has dramatically increased its funding of a radical Palestinian Islamic group in an attempt to sabotage the resumption of Middle East peace talks. In the past few weeks Iranian intelligence has given an estimated £3,000,000 to the militant Palestinian group Hamas to fund terrorist attacks on Israeli targets.
The money, which was transferred into the bank accounts of Hamas officials based in Damascus at the end of July, was the first in a series of monthly payments the Iranians have agreed to make to Hamas in return for a marked increase in terrorist activity against Israel. .... The Iranian move follows the , the Israeli Labour leader, as prime minister. Mr Barak is committed to breaking the stalemate in the peace process that developed as a result of the uncompromising policies adopted by his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Since becoming prime minister Mr Barak has made a number of encouraging remarks that suggest he is keen to resolve the main outstanding issues, namely an all-embracing deal with the Arab world and a peace treaty with Syria. Such a prospect is regarded with alarm by Teheran's Islamic hardliners. Despite attempts by Mohammed Khatami, Iran's "moderate" president, to improve relations with the West, Teheran remains implacably opposed to attempts by Arab leaders to reach a lasting agreement with the Israelis. Previous attempts by the Israelis and Palestinians to reach agreement were undermined by a series of devastating suicide bomb attacks by Hamas activists against Israeli targets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. .... But following a series of secret meetings with senior members of the Hamas leadership, Iranian intelligence agents are now hoping to fund a new round of terrorist attacks. Iran is particularly interested in trying to forge an alliance with Hamas leaders based in Syria and Lebanon, as opposed to the "indigenous" Hamas leadership based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, headed by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. A serious rift has developed between the rival Hamas camps, with the "external" leadership fundamentally opposed to any peace deal with the Israelis. A series of meetings in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, resulted in Iranian intelligence officers and Hamas representatives from Syria and Lebanon agreeing that any attempt to negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs was "contrary to the laws of humanity". They resolved to launch a series of terrorist attacks designed to try to prevent a successful conclusion to the peace process. ....... Iran's hardliners believe that a high-profile terrorist campaign against Israel - which is relatively cheap to fund - will divert attention from Iran's domestic political difficulties and help bring a modicum of stability to its troubled economy.

August 25, 1999   The Independent
THE US denied that it was behind a huge explosion which yesterday shook the Afghan city of Kandahar, the capital of the ruling Taliban movement. America has been seeking the extradition from Afghanistan of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile whom it claims was responsible for last year's African embassy bombings. It has also threatened the Taliban, the ultra- religious group which rules much of Afghanistan and is locked in violent civil war. "The notion that any explosion there might be related to a US attack on suspected hideouts [of bin Laden], that's baseless,'' an unnamed US official said. The southern Afghan city was rocked by a massive blast just after 10.30pm local time. A Taliban spokesman said it was "definitely an explosion" but said it was not a rocket or a missile blast. No serious injuries were reported. US-based analysts speculated the explosion could have been at an ammunition store. The fact that the explosion appeared to be in the area of the residence of the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, alarmed residents, news agency reports from the region said. One resident said that the explosion was "definitely a bomb". Mr Omar was apparently unhurt. Kandahar is one of the locations where Washington believes that Mr bin Laden has been staying. It has on several occasions reconnoitred for missions against Mr bin Laden, but has apparently concluded that the risks are too high. Last year after the bombings it launched missiles against a camp in Afghanistan where it believed Mr bin Laden was staying, and a factory in Sudan which it claimed was producing chemical weapons for Mr bin Laden. It produced no evidence to support this claim and the owner of the factory said it was a legitimate pharmaceutical plant. "If the US attacks Afghanistan to hunt bin Laden, it will be seen as a war against the Muslims," said Mullah Mohammed Rabbani, another Taliban leader. "We want the United States to settle the issue of bin Laden through negotiations," he said last week in a statement issued to mark the 80th anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from British rule. There has been constant speculation America might mount an operation but the risks involved are considerable.

August 15, 1999   The Electronic Telegraph Issue 1542
Iran has dramatically increased its funding of a radical Palestinian Islamic group in an attempt to sabotage the resumption of Middle East peace talks. In the past few weeks Iranian intelligence has given an estimated £3,000,000 to the militant Palestinian group Hamas to fund terrorist attacks on Israeli targets.
The money, which was transferred into the bank accounts of Hamas officials based in Damascus at the end of July, was the first in a series of monthly payments the Iranians have agreed to make to Hamas in return for a marked increase in terrorist activity against Israel. .... The Iranian move follows the , the Israeli Labour leader, as prime minister. Mr Barak is committed to breaking the stalemate in the peace process that developed as a result of the uncompromising policies adopted by his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Since becoming prime minister Mr Barak has made a number of encouraging remarks that suggest he is keen to resolve the main outstanding issues, namely an all-embracing deal with the Arab world and a peace treaty with Syria. Such a prospect is regarded with alarm by Teheran's Islamic hardliners. Despite attempts by Mohammed Khatami, Iran's "moderate" president, to improve relations with the West, Teheran remains implacably opposed to attempts by Arab leaders to reach a lasting agreement with the Israelis. Previous attempts by the Israelis and Palestinians to reach agreement were undermined by a series of devastating suicide bomb attacks by Hamas activists against Israeli targets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. .... But following a series of secret meetings with senior members of the Hamas leadership, Iranian intelligence agents are now hoping to fund a new round of terrorist attacks. Iran is particularly interested in trying to forge an alliance with Hamas leaders based in Syria and Lebanon, as opposed to the "indigenous" Hamas leadership based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, headed by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. A serious rift has developed between the rival Hamas camps, with the "external" leadership fundamentally opposed to any peace deal with the Israelis. A series of meetings in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, resulted in Iranian intelligence officers and Hamas representatives from Syria and Lebanon agreeing that any attempt to negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs was "contrary to the laws of humanity". They resolved to launch a series of terrorist attacks designed to try to prevent a successful conclusion to the peace process. ....... Iran's hardliners believe that a high-profile terrorist campaign against Israel - which is relatively cheap to fund - will divert attention from Iran's domestic political difficulties and help bring a modicum of stability to its troubled economy.

August 27, 1999    Issue Vol. 15, No. 35 -- September 20, 1999 Insight Magazine
New radar data relating to the July 17, 1996, explosion of TWA Flight 800 that went down off the coast of Long Island, N.Y., inexplicably have just become available.
The well-publicized previous data focused narrowly on a 20-nautical-mile circle centered on the crash site and was the basis of the FBI's conclusion that there was little air or naval traffic in the selected area at the time of the crash. But that restricted data pattern, it turns out, is only a subset of a larger radar field. The new data just obtained by Insight from sources at the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, show that between the perimeters of a 22-nautical-mile circle and a 35-nautical-mile circle, a concentration of a large number of radar blips appears to be moving into a well-known military warning area closed to civilian and commercial traffic. The anomaly presented by the additional data is as yet unexplained. The Clinton administration previously has stated that no concentration of military vessels was in the area that night. Indeed, the Department of the Navy specified that the closest naval vessel was the USS Normandy, 185 nautical miles to the south. The two radar charts .... are a representation of official data supplied by the NTSB...... The original data, plotted by the NTSB, is from Exhibit 13A, contained on a CD-ROM which included the entire Aircraft Performance Group Chairman's Factual Report released to the public at December 1997 hearings in Baltimore. But the additional data are found on a floppy disk obtained by Insight from the NTSB -- a disk which has the complete database of Exhibit 13A. Chart B was plotted for Insight by independent radar technical experts.   Chart A focuses on the area within a circle of 20 nautical miles centered on the crash site. NTSB identified only a Navy P-3 Orion antisubmarine airplane, U.S. Airways Flight 217, TWA Flight 900 and four unidentified tracks moving at 30 knots, 15 knots, 12 knots and 20 knots as the only vehicles and/or objects noted within a 10-nautical-mile radius of the crash site. The NTSB has concluded that the unidentified tracks in Chart A all were consistent with the speed of surface vessels. The newly obtained data in Chart B include the same information available in Exhibit 13A, but present additional data showing that the level of surface vessels and aircraft activity increases significantly outside the 20-nautical-mile boundary set by the NTSB review. Chart B shows the identical tracks of the aircraft and unidentified surface vessels revealed in Chart A. But Chart B also shows in excess of two dozen surface vessels and aircraft detected by radar just beyond the 20-nautical-mile mark. Of interest to experts who have reviewed the data plot is that most of the surface vessels in Chart B appear to be heading in a parallel movement toward Whiskey 105, or W-105 -- a military warning area highly publicized to mariners and aviators, designed to keep commercial aircraft and surface vessels out of harm's way during military exercises. On the evening of the explosion, W-105 was activated for military exercises along with several other warning areas along the Atlantic Coast. . Furthermore, Chart B reveals two aircraft just outside the NTSB's 20-nautical-mile boundary, one traveling at 475 knots in an east-southeast direction heading toward W-105 and a second aircraft that, in a span of approximately 30 minutes, appears to fly into and out of W-105 on two separate occasions. When the earlier data were released, both FBI and NTSB investigators said that they were unable to identify all surface vessels and aircraft within the area of the crash. Radar technical experts who reviewed the data on Chart B for Insight identify the tracks of approximately 30 surface vessels and at least two aircraft that were outside the narrow perimeter of the previously announced results and have not been made public until now. When questioned about the newly released radar data, Bernard Loeb, director of the Office of Aviation Safety at the NTSB, said, "There are lots and lots of things out there, lots and lots of surface vessels and airplanes. It's New York City." However, when specifically asked whether the NTSB was aware of any apparently synchronized parallel movement of vessels, Loeb replied, "We don't see some large number of vessels running in a parallel track in the same direction." The FBI, which took the lead on the criminal investigation of the downing of the Boeing 747 aircraft, was unaware at first that the new radar data from NTSB had come to light. When the differences in scope between the earlier data and the new data were presented to Joe Valiquette, an FBI special agent in the New York City office, he responded, "This is ancient history. There is no one who is willing to make one of our agents available here to talk about the radar data. Everything we have to say about the TWA 800 investigation was said on Nov. 18, 1997" [the day the FBI put its criminal investigation on an inactive pending status].

August 27, 1999   UPI
A group of independent investigators says their analysis of recently obtained radar images lends support to the theory that there has been a government cover-up in the probe into the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island, New York. The Flight 800 Independent Research Organization (FIRO) and the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals said at a news conference today that their analysis of the radar data pokes holes in the federal government's conclusions that the disaster was caused by a fuel tank explosion rather than a missile fired either by a terrorist or, accidentally, by a Navy warship or plane. In the report issued by FIRO, the FBI, CIA and National Transportation Safety Board were criticized for what the investigators saw as misleading conclusions about the crash that killed 229 passengers and crew. The presentation, which stretched some three hours, came up with little in the way of a smoking gun that would prove any of the missile theories, and was aimed more at the evidence that was used, and not used, by the official investigators. The analysis of the air traffic radar images from Islip, N.Y. provided two routes of attack on the fuel tank explosion scenario. It aimed to cast doubts on the accuracy of a CIA computer simulation that showed the doomed plane rapidly gaining altitude immediately after the fatal explosion, a scenario that has been used to explain the fiery streak flying into the sky that some witnesses on Long Island reported seeing. It also indicated a good deal of air and surface activity around a restricted military area, dubbed W-105 by the Navy, which was activated the day of the crash. Thomas F. Stalcup, a member of the Florida State University physics department and the head of FIRO, said tracking the new radar images shows the Boeing 747 picked up speed in its final moments, meaning the aircraft was descending rather than climbing, which would have caused it to lose speed. "It is clear to see that the radar data doesn't follow the simulation data," Stalcup said. "The conclusion can be drawn that the plane did not climb." The radar information also provided a wider view of the area where Flight 800 went down, showing some 30 ships sailing in formation and patterns that could indicate an active naval exercise. The ship that attracted the most attention was an unidentified blip that crossed the airliner's path at about 30 knots a short time before the crash. The ship, which Stalcup said was larger fairly large, has never been identified and continued sailing toward W-105 as the airliner went down. What was unusual about the activity around W-105 picked up by radar, Stalcup said, was the seeming lack of reaction by the ships and planes to a fiery explosion that should have been clearly visible to the crews. None of the ships altered their course or seemed to make any effort to head for the scene to offer assistance. "It would have looked like the sun was setting," Stalcup said. "It would have been a huge ball of fire in front of them." Before the news conference, Reed Irvine, the head of Accuracy in Media, said any role the Navy might have played in the crash would probably not be revealed by anyone in the Navy because no one would be willing to risk their military career by talking to the media. Accuracy in Media organized today's news conference. Implicating the Navy in the downing of an airliner and any supposed cover-up, however, did not seem to sit well with some of the retired officers on hand to represent the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals, including retired Adm. Thomas Moorer, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Moorer said the Navy is not in the habit of firing missiles without knowing where they are going. "We don't fire a multi-million dollar missile willy-nilly," he said. "You have to have a target." "I don't think you are going to get to the bottom of this," said Moorer, who said the final word on Flight 800 would have to be determined through Congressional hearings that would have the clout to compel testimony from government officials. "You have a lot of evidence and no final decision."

August 28, 1999    Paris Match
La carte radar occupe un large espace dans le salon du rez-de-chaussée. Elle montre le rayon d'action d'un missile antiaérien autour du 747 de la T.w.a., qui a explosé à 20 h 31, douze minutes après son décollage de Kennedy Airport pour Paris, le 17 juillet 1996. William S. Donaldson, ex-pilote de l'U.S. Navy au grade de commandant, affirme que ce document émane du F.b.i. et qu'il prouve que le Boeing a fort bien pu être atteint par une arme, hypothèse officiellement rejetée par les enquêteurs. ....... Quoi qu'il en soit, Bob, d'abord sceptique sur la thèse de l'attentat, est aujourd'hui convaincu. Deux documents troublants ont influencé son jugement. Le premier est une note du F.b.i. «classified». Quatre mois après le crash, en novembre 1996, après l'élection de Bill Clinton, le F.b.i. a loué pendant cinq mois (coût: 5,6 millions de dollars) 5 navires de pêche, appelés ici «Coquille Saint-Jacques», capables de racler le fond de la mer. A bord de chaque bateau, deux agents de l'agence fédérale. Leur mission, d'après cette note: chercher un «débris artificiel» dans la zone du crash, au large de Long Island. La note recommande, en cas de succès, de ne pas alerter l'équipage civil et de composer toutes affaires cessantes le numéro de téléphone protégé indiqué en bas de page. [La ligne semble aujourd'hui résiliée.] Cette première note est accompagnée du dessin d'un moteur de lance-roquettes en haut duquel est écrit le mot «wanted» (on recherche), dessin qui donne à penser que non seulement la piste de l'attentat a été très sérieusement envisagée, mais que les enquêteurs avaient même une idée précise du type d'arme utilisé. D'après William S. Donaldson, cette note et ce dessin auraient été oubliés par un agent du F.b.i. à bord du bateau de pêche «Alfa and Oméga».

Second document en possession du commandant: une photographie infrarouge d'un 747 prise par des experts militaires. Les enquêteurs ont toujours dit que si le vol T.w.a. 800 avait été atteint par un missile, celui-ci aurait fait exploser l'un des quatre réacteurs, guidé par leur chaleur. Or, cette photographie montre clairement l'existence d'une cinquième zone de chaleur, provoquée par une sortie d'air à 225° Fahrenheit et située précisément au niveau du réservoir central.

Ces deux documents ont décidé William S. Donaldson à donner une conférence de presse vendredi 27 août à Washington à l'hôtel Hayatt Regency. Mais le commandant ne sera pas le seul à prendre la parole. En Floride, un physicien de 29 ans, Thomas Stalcup, chercheur au National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, se passionne pour cette affaire depuis un an et demi. Alors il s'est mis au travail. Ce malade d'informatique a mis des semaines à obtenir les données radar auprès de la National Transportation Safety Board (N.t.s.b.), le Bureau national pour la sécurité et les transports chargé de mener conjointement l'enquête avec le F.b.i. Thomas Stalcup a reçu des pages et des pages de chiffres sur trois colonnes: latitude, longitude, heure. Il s'est enfermé des week-ends entiers, a créé un programme pour arriver aux mêmes conclusions que les experts du N.t.s.b.: à 10 milles nautiques autour du crash, 6 bateaux ont laissé une trace sur le radar. Mais, s'est-il alors demandé: pourquoi ne pas étendre les recherches à partir de 20 milles nautiques autour du crash? Avec de nouveaux chiffres, ce ne sont plus 6 mais 34 unités qui sont présentes le jour du drame. Selon ses calculs, elles se dirigent vers le large au lieu, s'étonne-t-il, de porter secours, et à une vitesse de 30 à 38 noeuds.

Des cargos? Thomas Stalcup a demandé aux gardes-côtes leur route habituelle. Elle diffère de 45° avec celle des 34 bâtiments. Curieusement, l'enquête n'a jamais été très claire sur le sujet, niant d'abord la présence de bateaux de la Navy pour admettre ensuite qu'un exercice secret, baptisé «Whiskey 105», se déroulait dans la zone du crash, composé de 3 sous-marins et de 8 navires dont l'un, naviguant à 30 noeuds, reste aujourd'hui, de source officielle, non identifié. Pour en finir avec l'opération Whiskey 105, Thomas Stalcup a retrouvé la trace d'un avion effectuant 3 rotations au-dessus des 8 navires avec des accélérations comparables à celles d'un jet. Il a également trouvé dans son étude de données radar une ligne qui coïnciderait avec la trajectoire du missile telle que certains témoins l'ont observée. Contrairement au N.t.s.b., il estime que le 747 de la T.w.a., après l'explosion, ne poursuit pas sa course vers le haut mais vers le bas. «Les témoins ont donc bien vu quelque chose grimper dans ciel, dit-il. Et ça n'est sûrement pas l'élan de la carlingue.» Thomas Stalcup n'a rien d'un illuminé. Son père, océanographe, lui apporte son savoir. Sa petite amie craint pour sa vie, il trouve cela très encourageant pour leur relation.

Il a lui aussi créé un site Internet, Flight 800, fort de 50 membres, tous diplômés distingués, ingénieurs, militaires, pilotes, scientifiques dans tout le pays. C'est via Internet qu'il est entré en relation avec William S. Donaldson. Sur les 30 sites créés depuis le crash, totalisant 1,8 million de pages traitant du drame, ces deux-là sont de très loin les plus sérieux. Les autres utilisent cet outil redoutable pour lancer des rumeurs paranoïaques.  ......

Southampton, Long Island, dimanche dernier, 11 heures. Une petite maison de pêcheur, blanche et apaisante, qui regarde la mer. Frederic Meyer s'apprête à gréer son voilier de 14 mètres. Un bon vent force 4, de quoi se régaler. 59 ans, athlétique, sur une vieille photo de lui, on pense à Tom Cruise dans «Top Gun». Le 17 juillet 1996, il pilote tout près de là un hélico H.h.60. Frederic Meyer, avocat, officier de réserve au New York State Air Force, effectue des missions de recherches et de secours. Le soir du drame, il apprend à Cris Bauer à voler aux instruments. En l'air, sanglés dans le H.h.60, ils attendent la nuit, elle est lente à venir. Frederic Meyer aperçoit une traînée dans le ciel, pendant quatre à cinq secondes, allant de gauche à droite, qui a, dit-il, «toutes les apparences d'un missile». Cinq ans pilote au Vietnam, il a eu le temps d'en voir, des missiles. Des tonnes. Pour celui-là, il ne jure pas. Il pense que... Après, il distingue trois explosions. C'est tout ce qu'il a à dire. C'est un témoin capital. Il a été entendu par le N.t.s.b., puis longtemps après par le F.b.i. qui, lui semble-t-il, aurait pris son audition à la légère. Il dit que ces deux-là se tiraient dans les pattes. Il ne dit rien de plus. Il se garde bien d'interpréter.

A l'entrée de sa propriété, un van de Bel Atlantic, une compagnie de communications américaine, qui démarre en trombe à la vue de l'appareil de notre photographe. «Deux ans et demi qu'il est garé là!», dit Frederic Meyer en plaisantant. Il a fini par l'oublier dans le paysage, ce van. Cris Bauer, le pilote à qui il donnait un cours a vu, lui, une traînée allant de droite à gauche. Cris Bauer est employé aux douanes américaines, il n'est pas autorisé à parler. Mais Frederic Meyer connaît son témoignage par coeur. Ils en ont si souvent discuté. De gauche à droite. De droite à gauche. Missile, antimissile? «Allez savoir», dit-il en s'éloignant vers la mer. Force 4, il va se régaler. Il se retourne pour dire qu'on peut l'appeler Fritz, comme tout le monde.

«Il n'y a aucune preuve que le Boeing 747 de la T.w.a. ait été abattu par un missile.» Peter Goelz, l'un des patrons du N.t.s.b., indique que les enquêteurs rendront leurs conclusions définitives en janvier de l'an prochain et qu'elles iront dans ce sens. 95 % de l'avion ont été retrouvés, et 500 000 fragments assemblés dans un hangar de Calverton, Long Island, qui coûte une fortune en loyer. L'enquête a coûté jusqu'ici 50 millions de dollars. Aucune preuve. Peter Goelz s'en tient là. William S. Donaldson? «Il a changé d'avis au fil des ans, hier c'était la marine qui a tiré par erreur, aujourd'hui, un terroriste isolé.» Ses récents documents? «Il se fait manipuler.» Thomas Stalcup? «Il interprète les données radar.» Hangar de Calverton, 18 juillet dernier. Michel Breistroff, 59 ans, le père d'un des 42 Français décédés dans l'avion, marche dans d'interminables allées où l'on a entassé les effets personnels des passagers. Ici des habits et des bagages à main, là des effets personnels. Un catalogue, si l'on ose dire, a été imprimé en couleur par la N.t.s.b. et envoyé aux familles. Michel Breistroff a reconnu trois patins de hockey et une prothèse du genou gauche appartenant à son fils. Il s'appelait Michel comme lui, il avait 25 ans, diplômé de Harvard et international de hockey. Ce fils était tout ce qu'il n'avait pas réussi, des hautes études et un haut niveau sportif. C'est dire ce qu'il a perdu lui-même en le perdant. Chaque juillet depuis trois ans, il fait avec sa femme et ses deux filles le voyage du souvenir. Lorsqu'il entre l'autre jour dans le hangar, quelqu'un lui fait signer une décharge où il reconnaît qu'il peut être touché psychologiquement par ce qu'il va voir et qu'il s'engage à ne pas poursuivre l'administration américaine s'il en gardait des séquelles. Au fond du chagrin où il demeure depuis trois ans, il signe ce bout de papier presque sans le lire.

On le conduit ensuite à l'endroit où la carlingue a été reconstituée. On lui donne un casque de chantier. En trois ans, il a fini par se lier d'amitié avec le patron de l'enquête, Jim Kallstrom. Il se souvient que cet homme lui disait, au début, combien il croyait à la thèse de l'attentat. Michel Breistroff a fini par y croire. Et puis un jour de l'an dernier, Jim Kallstrom lui a juré entre quatre yeux que c'était un accident. Michel Breistroff se souviendra toute sa vie de cette conversation, sur la plage, à l'écart d'un groupe d'enquêteurs. C'était comme si son fils mourait une seconde fois: il ne pourrait jamais le venger.

August 27, 1999   Dan's Papers Long Island - Article by Jerry Cimisi
As twilight settled over the waters immediately south of Moriches on the night of July 17, 1996, moments before TWA Flight 800 would hurtle flaming down into the Atlantic, Navy Chief Petty Officer Dwight Brumley was on US Air Flight 217 from Charlotte, North Carolina to Providence, Rhode Island. Brumley, an electronic warfare technican was headed to the naval base at Newport. "I was seated on the right side of the plane," he said in a phone interview from Pensacola, Florida. "Then my attention was caught by a small plane that seemed close below us -- I could see the flashing lights; I guessed it was about 500 feet below. I thought it was a private plane and I thought it was pretty close." Radar data from the National Transportation's Safety Board's public exhibit on TWA Flight 800, shows that this "small plane" Brumley spotted was a Navy P-3, a single prop aircraft used to hunt for submarines. U.S. Air Flight 217, on a course south to north by northeast would fly over the track of the P-3, which was coming from the northeast, going southwest. The P-3 was one of the military craft within 10 to 12 miles offshore that night, engaged in, the FBI later said, classified maneuvers. Brumley, who served in the Navy from 1972-1998, now a teacher in Pensacola, said his first assessment that the plane with the blinking lights was a private plane, made him judge its distance as closer than it must have been. He was looking at a larger plane at a greater distance; that perspective made the span of the plane, as marked by the lights at the edges of each wing, seem small. But it was what Brumley saw after noting the P-3 that was startling. "About 10 seconds later, off to my right, I saw what appeared to be a flare, rising, below us. That's what it looked like, a flare, an emergency flare." At this point the US Air flight was at approximately 21,700 feet and descending. The P-3 was at about 20,00 feet. And, coming from the southwest, headed east by northeast, was Flight 800, climbing at 13,750 feet. "It looked like it was arching upward," said Brumley of the "flare." Again, Brumley was seated on the right side of the plane. Flight 800, coming from the northwest, was not immediately in Brumley's field of vision. The streak moved from the right side (south) of Brumley's field of vision to his left (north) -- travelling faster than Flight 217, which was now descending, at about 420 knots per hour. "With what I know now, it seems it was not a flare," said Brumley. ....... "I guess I saw it a couple of seconds," said Brumley. "It arched upward, then it began to descend." As the streak of light moves across Brumley's field of vision, heading northward past him, again faster than his own plane, "it became a ball of fire," he said, and then "in a couple of seconds a larger ball of fire, that appeared to be heading downward." Brumley added that the spectacle was strictly visual. He heard nothing, nor could he feel any reverberation through the air. He turned to the passenger behind him, James Nugent, who was headed home to Providence, and asked, "Did you see that?" Nugent said he had indeed seen an explosion. In a phone interview, Nugent said that, like Brumley, he had neither heard anything or felt anything. Which is probably why no other passengers on the plane noted anything amiss in the sky. Nugent said, "It was getting dark, so how many people look out the window into the dark?" Brumley also remarked on the increasing dark. Although it was only about ten minutes after sunset, Nugent and Brumley were looking to the eastward sky, the portion of the sky the light first leaves. "It was definitely dark enough so you couldn't see the water," said Brumley. Unlike Brumley, Nugent had not seen the streak of light heading northward through the sky; but apparently he had fixed upon Flight 800, up ahead. "I could see the cabin lights of a plane. I was watching it for 45 seconds, maybe a full minute." At this point Flight 217 was about 8,000 feet above Flight 800. Nugent added that the plane he was watching, which was going eastward and away from Flight 217, then seemed to swing, in a slow, wide arc westward; it then returned, to its eastward course. He said he did not think it was a trick of perspective caused by the different courses of the two craft. Then, said Nugent, there was a big explosion, an orange fireball, followed by a second explosion. "A second or two after that, we were over it. It was under and past us." ..... Brumley was not interviewed by the FBI until the following week, at which time he was in Pensacola. "They seemed to be asking me a set list of questions," said Brumley. "I felt they were leading me to say it was a missile. I could not say to them I was certain it was a missile I had seen."

September 3, 1999    The Washington Post Company
A group of 13 American scholars working in Iran from institutions such as Yale, Tufts and the University of Pennsylvania were mysteriously pulled out of Tehran on Aug. 25, 10 days ahead of their scheduled departure date, and the U.S. government is offering no explanation. According to a member of the group, the Swiss ambassador in the Iranian capital--where the United States has no embassy and Switzerland handles U.S. interests--alerted the students by telling them: "My orders are to get you out as soon as possible, and that's what I am going to do." Two professors supervising the program, which involved two months of intensive language training and individual research projects, soon gathered the group members and told them to "leave on the first plane available, and this comes from the highest authorities in Washington," said the source, who spoke on background Wednesday. The scholars were instructed not to discuss their travel plans with Iranian friends, contact anyone to cancel appointments, send e-mail or call home from Iran. ...... U.S. officials who handle Iranian and Middle Eastern affairs said Wednesday that they could not comment because the situation is, as one put it, "very sensitive." Both of the professors who run the program, one of whom is retired, met with State Department officials this week upon their return, a group member said. One of the professors reached yesterday refused to discuss the issue--or broader subjects such as prospects for Iranian-U.S. relations--saying that "this is serious enough of a subject" not to be entrusted to journalists, and that he "would have to be a secretary of state" to do that.

September 9, 1999     The Financial Times
A cargo airline yesterday said it had suspended flights to Pakistan after the pilots of one of its aircraft reported seeing a mysterious "flash and explosion" shortly after taking off from the Karachi airport several days ago. Lufthansa Cargo India ... filed a complaint to India's Director - General of Civil Aviation saying the pilots .... saw the bright flash of an apparent explosion at around 2:30 am local time on Monday about five miles from the Karachi airport. According to the complaint, Lufthansa officials speculated that it could have been a missile explosion. Just before the blast, ... the Karachi air traffic control directed the aircraft to turn right. As the aircraft turned and crossed an altitude of 3,000 feet, the pilots saw the bright flash near the aircraft on their left side. India's Director - General of Civil Aviation said ... the explosion "appeared to have narrowly missed the aircraft" and "brightly" lit up the cockpit. The statement said it seemed to the light crew the flash had "a trajectory coming from the ground". The Lufthansa crew reported the incident to the Karachi radar tower, and two other incoming aircraft - a Pakistan International Airlines flight and a private Pakistani carrier - reportedly confirmed seeing the explosion.

September 10, 1999 Pakistan's most widely circulated English language newspaper
The flash which the pilot of Lufthansa Cargo India (LCI) had reported after take off from Karachi for Sharjah a few days ago was not a pyrotechnic light flare nor a missile, relevant agencies confirmed to CAA. "In all probability the flash was caused by re-entry of disintegrated pieces of artificial satellites and/or metor showers," official sources in Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told APP on Thursday, adding that SUPARCO has also supported this view. Flight No LCI-8523 belonging to Lufthansa Cargo India, an Indian operator, took off from Karachi for Sharjah at 0230 hours on September 6 under the command of Capt B.K. Choudhry. The pilot had reported seeing a big flash and explosion while crossing 3,000 feet, four miles of South West of Karachi. According to the CAA sources "the contention of the Indian pilot flying the LCI aircraft that the flash and the explosion were caused possibly due to missile is certainly an over-reaction". The intention, it seems, is to create a scare and misgivings about the situation prevailing in and around Karachi airport, CAA maintained. The CAA firmly rebutted both the contentions and conclusions of the LCI's Indian pilot. The sighting of a fireball in the sky during the night of September 5 and 6 near Karachi seems to be meteorite. However, possibility that the fireball was a burnt-out satellite cannot be entirely ruled out. This was stated by Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) in a statement here on Thursday. It said that a sighting of fireball was reported by the pilots of the Lufthansa Airways, PIA and Bhoja Air between the night of September 5 and 6. .... SUPARCO statement said that while the circumstances strongly suggest that what was observed by the aircraft pilots near Karachi was a meteorite. However, possibility that the fireball was a burnt-out satellite cannot be entirely ruled out as there is a lot of space debris orbiting around the earth in low orbits and the satellites which complete their lifetime keep entering the earth's atmosphere from time to time thus adding to the spectacular "fireballs" as generally produced by the meteorites. (Note from website author - There are some interesting parallels between the "meteorite" explanation for this incident and an incident over Long Island in November 1996. For details see "The Tale of the Tapes".)

September, 10, 1999 EPTEMBER 10, 1999   Reed Irvine -

Thanks to Mike McNulty, an independent film producer, Attorney General Reno and the news media have learned that the FBI's denial that incendiary devices were used in its assault on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco was a lie. It was exposed by McNulty's discovery of a pyrotechnic tear-gas canister among the evidence gathered after the compound was burned to the ground. This proof that the government agencies cover up wrongdoing should have persuaded the media to re-examine other charges of serious government wrongdoing that they have dismissed as "conspiracy theories." But on the heels of the Waco exposure, the major media ignored hard evidence in the form of recently released radar data that the government has been lying big time with respect to the evidence in the crash of TWA Flight 800. A group called the Flight 800 Independent Research Organization (FIRO) got the data from the National Transportation Safety Board in June, after having been stonewalled for two years. The NTSB had pawned off on the press and the public radar data that showed only radar targets that at the time of the explosion were within a circle with a 10-nautical-mile radius, centered on the crash site. Four of the eight ships in that circle were three to six nautical miles from the center. When the plane blew up, the ship that was closest hightailed it out to sea doing 30 knots, not pausing to see if it could be of assistance. The FBI claims not to know the identity of this ship, and it refused to identify the other three for privacy reasons. After he retired, Jim Kallstrom, who headed the FBI investigation, told me that those three were "Navy vessels that were on classified maneuvers." That's on tape (Click for the telephone conversation). The radar data also showed an additional 25 ships that were 10 to 25 nautical miles from the crash site. Their behavior is startling. Ten of them were in a military warning zone, W-105, that had been declared off limits to non-military ships that day. Fourteen of them were on nearly parallel courses that would soon take them into W-105. Four of the five that were closest to Long Island were on similar courses that would take them into W-105. Four of the ships heading for the off-limits zone were traveling at 30 to 34 knots, speeds characteristic of warships, not freighters. All of this suggests that all or nearly all the ships mentioned above were warships. Eyewitness and forensic evidence indicates that TWA 800 was hit by one or two missiles that might have come from those warships. The Navy's defense is to deny that any warships were close enough to have done that. It took over a month for it to admit that W-105 was activated at the time of the crash. It then said no ships had "checked in to use it," but the radar data show that 10 ships were in the warning zone at the time of the crash and that another 18 probably entered it soon after. It is most unlikely that these were private yachts or freighters bound for Europe. The radar data showed some aircraft whose presence had not been disclosed. One was flying back and forth, partly over the warning zone and partly beyond its northern border. It was making tight U-turns, slowing down and speeding up. No one has yet explained its strange behavior. The new radar data also expose a serious fraud. The FBI got the CIA to produce a video animation to discredit the many eyewitnesses who saw something streaking upward, intersecting with TWA 800 and blowing it up. The CIA video claimed that what they really saw was the plane pitching up after its nose was blown off and climbing three thousand feet, trailing burning fuel. The radar proves that this did not happen. It shows that after the nose was blown off, the speed of the plane increased sharply because it was plummeting. If it had climbed, it would have slowed down. The news media should be demanding that the government identify the armada revealed by the radar and explain what it was doing. Those with the most clout didn't cover the news conference. They haven't learned Waco's important lesson -- the bigger the crime, the bigger the cover-up. C-SPAN covered the three-hour news conference live, showing the public how the establishment media cheat them by ignoring very important news.

September 14, 1999   WorldNetDaily - Jon E. Dougherty
In case you didn't know it, there is one man who probably knows more about the TWA Flight 800 disaster, which occurred on July 17, 1996, than any other -- save for a few cowardly government officials who are too scared, too selfish, or too corrupt to talk.  His name is William Donaldson, a former navy pilot, aircraft carrier flight controller, crash investigator, and nuclear weapons ordnance officer. In short, Cdr. Donaldson has "been there and done that" when it comes to aviation.  Sometime ago, Cdr. Donaldson held a press conference to reveal his newest findings in the 800 case. Not many from the press or from the anointed Ivory Tower on Capitol Hill bothered to show up. What a shame; it's possible Cdr. Donaldson's investigation may turn out to be what Waco is turning out to be -- a series of revelations about government abuse, corruption and cover-up. Had any of the anointed few bothered to show up at Donaldson's press conference, perhaps they would not be blindsided now by the facts he has uncovered thus far.  For instance, if anyone in Congress was interested in what really happened to TWA Flight 800, they would already know that Donaldson has convincing evidence that the flight was shot down by a shoulder-fired Stinger missile fired by Islamic terrorists in response to the Clinton administration's approval of sanctions against Iran and Libya for their continued terrorist sponsorship. Congressmen would know that the government -- and particularly the White House -- knew some three or four Stingers had made it into the U.S. via Afghanistan several months prior to the shootdown because they admitted as much in a 1996 London Times article. And they'd know that hundreds of eyewitnesses saw the missile streak toward the beleaguered plane moments after it was fired from a small boat -- a boat that showed up on newly released radar images of the area off New York that fateful night.  Regarding witnesses -- if Congress had been showing an interest in this case -- Capitol Hill (and the American people as a whole) would already know that the prime witness was a guy in a USAir flight directly above -- about 100 feet -- Flight 800 when it blew up. They would know that this witness saw the missile being launched, then guided, toward the huge airliner. And they'd know that neither the National Traffic Safety Board nor the FBI was ever really interested in his testimony.  Lawmakers would know that right after the sanctions bill was signed against them, Iran called a conference and brought in Mideastern terrorists from nine countries, with the motive of planning attacks against U.S. targets. They'd know that one of the attacks from that conference was the bombing of the U.S. Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia, as Iran's way of trying to replicate the 1983 Beirut bombing that forced President Reagan to remove U.S. troops from Lebanon.  Cdr. Donaldson claims to have some 140 eyewitnesses to the attack who were in some 60 different locations. But nobody -- even the vaunted Republican "opposition" -- seems interested in hearing this story.  Congress needs to put two-and-two together. The same administration, the same Justice Department and the same FBI that brought them the embarrassment of Waco was also in charge during the so-called TWA Flight 800 "investigation." Why is any lawmaker (or American for that matter) expected to believe these professional liars when the subject changes to TWA Flight 800? Because officials are "above" lying about that? Sure, and I'm Orville Wright.  I've heard many variations of the story blaming the U.S. Navy for the shootdown, but I don't buy them. There is no way to keep hundreds of sailors and naval officers quiet. Besides, three months before the 1996 attack, I had a source tell me that "an airliner is going to be shot down over the U.S." The source also told me who was going to do the shooting (Mideast terrorists).  And, according to Cdr. Donaldson, a number of U.S. warships and support aircraft were in the vicinity of TWA 800's flight path that night precisely because U.S. intelligence sources expected something to happen. They were warned and, as it turns out, something did happen. In fact, the White House, he says, was completely aghast and in a panic when they heard the news. You see, they thought the attack would involve an airliner flying into Atlanta for the Olympic Games, for maximum effect.  But instead, the cowards on the Hill and the butchers in the White House would prefer to let TWA, Boeing, and the families who lost loved ones take the heat.  If Congress really wants to know what happened over the skies near New York that night, they sure as hell don't need to let the FBI reopen this investigation. In fact, lawmakers ought to keep it as far away from the Clinton Justice Department as possible.  If they really want to know, they should invite -- and then listen to -- Cdr. Donaldson. Then, in the words of Sen. Robert Torricelli -- who spoke about Waco this past weekend -- we can all "let the chips fall where they may."

September 15, 1999    BBC News Published at 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
A UFO that narrowly avoided colliding with a passenger jet flying from London's Heathrow Airport has baffled aviation experts. The metallic grey-coloured object was spotted by the pilots of an Oslo-bound McDonnell Douglas MD81 plane on 12 June 1998, and passed just 20-50 metres from them. The captain said the object was the size of a small aircraft, while the co-pilot described it as a "bright light, very close". Reporting to an air traffic controller, the captain said "a flare or something passed 20 feet from our aircraft", but nothing had been recorded on the radar screen. The pilot later filed a near-miss report, known as an airprox, in which he said the object looked similar to a fighter. But a report by the Civil Aviation Authority found no explanation for the incident, which has also confounded local military experts and local police. "Air traffic controllers were certain that even a very small aircraft would have been detected, particularly on Heathrow radar," said the report. Although the evidence of the unnamed airline's crew is considered to be reliable, the report notes that they only caught a brief glimpse of the object.

September 15, 1999   Reuters
Wiring is becoming one of aviation's hottest safety topics, with a suspected role in two high-profile crashes in the last four years. There has also been increased research into the problem. A Federal Aviation Administration official told a hearing of the House Transportation subcommittee that the so-called aging aircraft fleet would soon include heavily electronics-reliant aircraft of the 1980s such as the Boeing 757 and 767 and the Airbus A-300. ..... NTSB aviation safety director Bernard Loeb said the board's attention had been focused by two major crashes: the 1996 explosion of a TWA jumbo jet off Long Island, which killed all 230 people on board, and last year's Swissair MD-11 crash off Canada's Nova Scotia coast, which killed the 229 people it carried. Safety investigators suspect that an electrical fault, possibly in the fuel measuring system, ignited fumes in the center fuel tank of TWA Flight 800. In the Canadian crash, attention has focused on damaged wires in the ceiling of the cockpit. .... It was recently reported that another series of tests documenting the arcing potential of TWA 800-type wire when contaminated with galley fluids and lavatory waste showed surprisingly violent reactions.

September 17, 1999    NY Times
Failing last-minute intervention by Yemen's President, the people of this ancient city may be summoned to a city-center square sometime in the next few weeks to watch a firing squad execute the leader of an extremist Islamic group that abducted 16 Western tourists on a desert road near Aden in December. The abductions led to a gun battle between the self-styled Islamic Army and Yemeni troops in which three Britons and an Australian were killed, two of them by close-range gunshots to the head. According to evidence at the trial, the fatal shots were fired by the Islamic rebels on the orders of Zain Abu Bakr al-Mehdar, a shock-haired, 28-year-old Yemeni whose first experience of a "jihad," or Muslim holy war, was as a guerrilla fighter against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980's. Mehdar, who returned to Yemen in the early 1990's using the nom de guerre Abu Hassan, did not help his chances with an unrepentant performance at his trial. He told the court that the tourists were "grandchildren of pigs and monkeys," and that his only regret was that if his pistol had not jammed, he could have killed others. "God sent them to us, so we took them," he said. "If I live, I will kill some more." ..... Now, as Saleh ponders Mehdar's fate -- a Supreme Court ruling late in September is expected to reject his family's clemency pleas, leaving a decision on his execution to the President -- many Yemenis believe the lesson of the tourist killings is not that Islamic radicalism is the unavoidable fate of poor Arab countries like Yemen. Rather, they say, even here armed Islamic groups, especially those that make victims of tourists and other civilians, are proving to have scant appeal. ....... Many Yemenis take a more favorable view of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born, Afghan-based Islamic radical accused by the United States of being the mastermind and financier of the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, which killed 224 people. bin Laden, for whom Washington has posted a $5 million reward, has been something of a poster-boy in popular magazines in Yemen, partly because his father was born in Yemen and partly because he is identified among Yemenis as an uncompromising opponent of Israel. "You cannot compare Osama bin Laden with Abu Hassan," said Akhmar, the Islah party chief. "By fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, and striking out against the Americans for their support of Israel, bin Laden has shown that he is a true Muslim. And don't forget that when bin Laden was fighting against the Russians, the United States regarded him as an ally. It was only later, when he attacked American interests, that the United States changed its position and called him a terrorist." After the tourist killings in December, Western intelligence agencies investigated reports of a possible link between Mehdar's group and bin Laden. Among other things, the agencies wanted to establish who had financed the Mehdar group, whose captured members were found to have had an extensive arsenal and a satellite telephone, suggesting wealthy backers. But senior Western diplomats said the inquiries had shown "no operational links" between the Yemeni group and bin Laden. A senior Yemeni official suggested that financing for the Yemeni rebels might have come from Saudi Arabia, which has tense relations with Yemen that are linked to a long-running border dispute. But the only indisputable foreign backer of Mehdar's Islamic Army to have emerged from testimony at the Yemeni's trial was a London-based, Egyptian-born Muslim cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri. When he abducted the tourists, Mehdar was seeking to trade their freedom for that of 10 foreign Muslims jailed on conviction of terrorism in Aden, Yemen's second-largest city. The 10, including eight Britons, claimed to have come to Yemen to study Arabic or for vacations, but evidence at their trial showed that several had visited a "training camp" run by Mehdar in the Abyan mountains of southern Yemen. After a car chase in Aden, a vehicle rented by one of the men was found to be carrying bomb-making materials, rockets and other weapons. In London, Masri, the cleric, whose son and son-in-law were among those arrested by the Yemenis, had a brief run of notoriety in the British press, to which he gave a raft of interviews in which he hinted at links to bin Laden. But after holding Masri for several days under anti-terrorism laws, the British police released the one-eyed cleric, telling reporters privately that he was more of a "windbag" than an active terrorist threat. "He's not so much a mujahedeen as a media-hedeen," a British investigator said. In the meantime, Mehdar remains in an underground cell at the "House of Happiness," a lock-up in Sana that owes its name to the bitter irony of Yemenis who have been held, and sometimes tortured, there. Through his lawyers, he has let it be known that his attitude remains unchanged from his trial, when he said he would welcome execution, since it would prompt young Yemenis to fight for an Islamic state. "If you want to finish this quickly, go ahead -- take me outside and shoot me," he said. "I don't care.

September 22, 1999   World
The Islamic bombing campaign in Russia has increased tension between Moscow and Riyadh. Russian security officials have accused Saudi elements of financing the war in Dagestan as well as bombings of Russian civilian targets in Moscow and other cities. More than 300 people have been killed in the bombings. "The terrorists possess good financing sources, and the money comes from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Syria and Muslim extremist organizations in Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan," Ghassan Khan Ibrahimov, first deputy of the Russian intelligence service in Dagestan, said. Other Russian officials said the violence was being sponsored by Saudi bomber Osama Bin Laden. They said the fighting in Dagestan as well as the terrorist campaign are being sponsored by Wahabi militants who received religious guidance in and help from Saudi Arabia.

September 26, 1999 Page A31 The Washington Post
On July 14, 1980, the CIA's top official in Rome reportedly hustled over to the office of Gen. Zeno Tascio, the head of Italian air force intelligence, who suggested that a team of U.S. government experts be sent to inspect the wreckage of a Libyan MiG-23 that had crashed in southern Italy. Another plane, an Italian DC-9 commercial jetliner with 81 passengers and crew, also had crashed in the sea in the same region. The CIA team visited the site of the Libyan crash and removed some of the wreckage before the incident became public, recalled Duane R. "Dewey" Clarridge, then the CIA station chief at the U.S. Embassy. When Italian officials finally announced the Libyan plane crash, they said it occurred on July 18, four days after Clarridge's visit with Tascio--a deception the United States has never challenged. .... Last month, an independent Italian magistrate issued a 5,000-page report that essentially accuses the U.S. and Italian governments of covering up the circumstances surrounding the crashes. It suggests that NATO military aircraft--most likely American--were in a dogfight with the Libyan MiG over the Tyrrhenian Sea and may have inadvertently caused the crash of the commercial jetliner, which was flying in the same area. The report raises the possibility that an errant missile or the other planes' maneuvers caused the DC-9 to crash. Justice Rosario Priore, who has investigated the matter for nine years, surmises in his report that the Libyan plane was shot down on June 27, the same date as the DC-9 crash. Priore discounts speculation that the DC-9 might have crashed because of an internal explosion, or "clear air turbulence," as some U.S. government experts initially said. NATO, American and Italian military officials have repeatedly dismissed any relationship between the two crashes and have described the dogfight theory as a wild conspiracy tale, based on unconfirmed suspicions and chimerical radar data. .... Although Priore has been unable to determine whose planes may have been involved, his report makes clear that he suspects the United States. The U.S. government, he says, at first said none of its aircraft was flying in the region at the time, then admitted that five of its aircraft were present but claimed they were unarmed. A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Rome said the United States has bent over backward to reply to 57 requests for information by Priore. But Priore said military secrets were withheld and that in three interrogations, Richard Coe, a former assistant to the Air Force attache at the U.S. Embassy, gave "contradictory, unreliable, and nearly tormented answers." ..... Among the mysteries cited in Priore's report is a 22-minute gap in NATO radar records the day of the crash and what Priore calls the "more than casual" disappearance or destruction of other potentially important evidence. The report expresses alarm, for example, that a U.S. aircraft carrier's log of events before and after the DC-9 crash was recopied and that radar tapes from the carrier--then stationed off the Italian coast--were retrieved by U.S. Navy officials before being reused. Similarly, the French government failed to provide even a "minimal" reply to some of Priore's questions and evidently also recopied critical naval logbooks, the judge complains. ......Priore suspects that the MiG may have been escorting one of the refurbished Libyan C-130s as it traveled south along the Italian coast toward Tripoli, the Libyan capital. The C-130, he says, in turn may have been using the DC-9's flight from Bologna to Palermo as a sort of radar cover--flying close enough so its radar echo merged with that of the civilian aircraft. According to the logic of this theory, NATO jets may have been tracking the Libyan C-130 and its MiG escort as they traveled through Italian airspace. The Italian and U.S. governments have long said that no other aircraft were in the vicinity of the DC-9 at the time of the crash. But Priore cites past testimony from two American experts--John Macidull, a crash investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board, and John Transue, a civilian official at the Pentagon--who confirmed that signals picked up by a NATO radar in the coastal city of Masala indicate the presence of at least one aircraft flying near the DC-9. Two other radar stations noted traces of three aircraft that merged when the DC-9 passed over Tuscany, in central Italy, according to the report. Shortly before the crash, an unidentified aircraft traveling alongside the DC-9 accelerated and turned toward it--possibly to aim a missile--and the commercial jet promptly plummeted into the sea, the U.S. experts told Priore. Macidull, now retired, says the information is consistent with a mistaken attack on the passenger jet. ......The MiG crashed on a Calabrian mountainside just a few minutes' flying time from where the DC-9 went down. Just how--and why--the MiG was flying over Italy remains unclear. Libya said the plane had traveled off course when it was put on autopilot during a training exercise in Libyan airspace. After visiting the MiG-23 crash site, the CIA concluded that the pilot was attempting to defect and ran out of fuel, Clarridge told Priore. But Priore said the jet did not have enough fuel to reach the area from Libya and that he has American photographs displaying machine-gun bullet holes in the fuselage.

September 29,   1999 The Washington Post
President Clinton last month sent a secret letter to Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi in which he held out the prospect of better relations between the two countries if Iran helps U.S. investigators find the culprits behind the 1996 bombing of a U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia, administration officials said. ..... U.S. investigators have long suspected that Iran was linked to the June 25, 1996, truck bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded more than 500 other people.
At the same time, the Clinton administration is eager to explore the possibilities for dialogue with Khatemi, a moderate cleric who was elected in May 1997--nearly a year after the bombing took place--and has called for better relations with the West. The request from Clinton was based in part on intelligence reports linking the bombing to three Saudi men who have taken refuge in Iran, a senior official said. The three men are thought to be affiliated with a Shiite Muslim extremist group known as Saudi Hezbollah. Shiite Muslims constitute a minority in Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, and many Shiites feel at least a spiritual kinship with the Shiite clerics who rule Iran. ...... Clinton's request to Khatemi for help on the investigation was first reported Sept. 10 by Kuwait's al-Watan newspaper. At the time, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin confirmed that Clinton had indeed passed a message to Khatemi, but he declined to say how the letter was transmitted or provide any details of its contents. .... Clinton's letter--his first direct message to the Iranian government--also repeated language from his previous public statements to the effect that Iran and the United States are "great civilizations" that should have a natural affinity for one another. ..... Administration officials believe that most Iranians have tired of the virulent anti-Western views that have characterized Iran's foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution that deposed the American-backed shah. They have called on Iran to begin a government-to-government dialogue aimed at addressing, among other things, Iran's support for Islamic fundamentalist groups opposed to the American-sponsored Middle East peace process. Khatemi, however, is under intense pressure from religious hard-liners and has yet to respond to Washington's offer. U.S. officials fear that anything they say in support of the Iranian president will be used by the conservatives to undermine his authority in advance of crucial parliamentary elections in February. "At least until the elections, relations with the United States are going to be held hostage to the internal struggle," a U.S. official said, adding that if Khatemi's supporters do well at the polls, he may "feel more confident to engage in a dialogue." ...... Suspicion fell on Saudi Shiite extremists almost immediately after the Khobar bombing. But the FBI quickly ran into roadblocks when Saudi authorities refused to let U.S. investigators interrogate witnesses and potential suspects; FBI agents had to make do with the accounts of interrogations conducted by Saudi authorities. The only break in the case came in 1997 when Canadian officials turned over Hani Abdel Rahim Sayegh, a Saudi dissident who fled to Canada seeking asylum. Sayegh initially claimed to have information pointing directly to the involvement of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Khobar bombing, but he later reneged on a plea agreement with the Justice Department. He is now in deportation proceedings. .... After more than a year of U.S. diplomatic protests, the Saudis relented last spring and allowed U.S. investigators to witness interrogations of people held in relation to the Khobar bombings. These sessions produced further indications of an Iranian role in the terrorist attack but no concrete evidence. (For further details on the Khobar Towers bombing and its link to TWA 800 see Threads from the Hull Thread)