sitemap Database of Events from January 2003 - December 2003

The Hull Thread

Chronology of Events From January 2003 - December 2003

(Articles from news sources have been placed within for educational, research, and discussion purposes
only, in compliance with "Fair Use" criteria established in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976.)

=================================================================

January 15, 2003; Page A01 Washington Post
Top federal officials, increasingly concerned that terrorists will attack U.S. commercial aircraft with shoulder-fired missiles, are developing plans to thwart such strikes with measures that range from sophisticated anti-missile technology to simple changes in takeoff schedules. An interagency task force that reports to the National Security Council is also coordinating emergency inspections of every large U.S. airport to determine their vulnerability to the small, portable missiles, senior government officials said. And the task force is planning a public education campaign designed to teach police departments and citizens who live and work near airports to identify the missiles if they see them being assembled. While acknowledging their alarm at the danger posed by portable missiles that may be fired at the approximately 6,700 commercial aircraft operating in the United States, administration officials stressed yesterday that the highest echelons of the U.S. government are focused on the threat and are determined to maximize the traveling public's safety. "We have drawn together the best thinkers in government and in the contracting world" to address the issue in recent months, said one senior government official. "We now grasp the threat, and we grasp our options." U.S. military and intelligence officials have been aware of the threat presented by shoulder-fired missiles for decades. And in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, they initiated high-level meetings on the possible danger. But two recent attacks against aircraft involving portable missiles added to the sense of urgency.  In May, a Russian-built SA-7 missile was fired at a U.S. military jet taking off from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, but it missed its target. On Nov. 28, two missiles of the same brand and factory batch as the one used in Saudi Arabia were fired at an Israeli jetliner seconds after it took off from Mombasa, Kenya. They streaked wide of their target at almost the same moment an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa was destroyed by a car bomb that killed 16 people. Officials concluded that the al Qaeda terrorist network was behind all the attacks. Guerrilla and terrorist movements have long used "man-portable" missiles to bring down passenger aircraft, killing hundreds of civilians. In the 1980s, Afghan fighters repeatedly brought down Soviet helicopters with U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles. But the Mombasa attack may have involved the first such missiles ever launched against a passenger carrier far from a war zone, officials said. The attack confirmed the belief of U.S. intelligence experts that al Qaeda has access to a supply of the weapons and may now be uncrating them as a new terrorist tactic. The interagency task force stepped up its meetings just days after the failed shoot-down of the Israeli jetliner.  The five-foot long missiles and launchers would be relatively easy to smuggle into the United States, especially since they can be broken down into component parts for easy transport, officials said. At 30 pounds each, they could be concealed in a van, arms specialists said. "Manpads" (or man-portable air defense systems) can be launched through the sunroof of a car or even through underbrush, giving the shooter a chance to flee, they said. More than 700,000 of the missiles exist, though the number controlled by rebel militias, terrorists and criminal gangs is estimated in the hundreds or few thousands, arms experts said. Even so, the missiles are fairly easy to acquire -- underground arms dealers sell them for as little as $25,000 apiece from Peshawar to Beirut. The interagency task force -- led by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and including representatives of the Pentagon, the FBI and the State Department -- held two days of meetings on the missiles in December. Last week, the group sent a preliminary report, weighing various government actions, to a top-level panel convened by the White House's NSC. "The key finding is there is no single answer to this threat, no silver bullet," one ranking government official said. "We'll have to consider a number of things to reduce this threat, in a multilayered approach." Already, U.S. officials have been dispatched in a stepped-up effort to persuade foreign militaries to destroy some of their missile stocks and to prevent the theft of the rest. Another step will be to educate the American public on how to identify the missiles if they see them, "while not wanting to scare anybody," said one official working on the issue. He cited as examples airport business groups and neighborhood watch programs in towns beneath flight paths.  Authorities said they may also vary the takeoff times of aircraft each day, a practice followed by Israeli commercial airliners. Officials said the government will initiate a program to retrain commercial pilots in the technique of landing a jetliner once it has lost an engine. Each missile seeks out the heat that emanates from a plane's engine, but some aircraft with two or more engines have been landed after being hit by one of the missiles. Senior officials said the solution ultimately lies in installing high-tech "countermeasures" on jetliners, and they are considering U.S., British and Israeli technologies in a classified program. U.S. military aircraft for years have deployed decoy flares to befuddle heat-seeking missiles. Northrop Grumman Corp. is supplying U.S. Special Operations transport and gunship aircraft with a system that automatically detects a missile launch from the ground and directs an infrared beam at the missile, causing it to veer off course. Two Israeli firms are marketing their systems to U.S. officials -- one, Israel Aircraft Industries, uses explosive pyrotechnics that fling hot flares from the aircraft to create a false target; the other, Rafael, sends out a hot, radiated beam of energy. Some experts expressed interest in the latter plan because carrying explosives on planes could be dangerous, and releasing flares could start fires on the ground. The missile itself could also cause damage to surrounding neighborhoods if an aircraft evaded it.  U.S. officials said they are particularly concerned that terrorists might acquire new, updated missiles, which have onboard sensors that distinguish between a hot jet engine and the heated decoys. The older models can only strike aircraft straight on from behind, and only on takeoff, but later versions can be fired from the side as a plane takes off or lands. U.S. officials said it is impossible to estimate how much it would cost to develop and deploy such a system on thousands of U.S. airliners, but they noted that the price of each unit would drop as more were installed. Contracting experts said the cost could well be in the billions of dollars.

February 20, 2003 Associated Press
Eight people, including four U.S. residents, were charged in a 50-count indictment with supporting, financing and relaying messages for a violent Palestinian terrorist group blamed for the deaths of more than 100 people in and around Israel. The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Tampa, Fla., was unsealed Thursday. It charges that the men are members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, designated by the United States as a terrorist organization. Among them are a Palestinian professor at the University of South Florida, 45-year-old Sami Amin Al-Arian, who is described as the group's U.S. leader and secretary of its worldwide council.The indictment charges the eight men with operating a criminal racketeering enterprise since 1984 that supported Palestinian Islamic Jihad and with conspiracy to kill and maim people abroad, conspiracy to provide material support to the group, extortion, perjury and other charges. Al-Arian and two others were arrested in Tampa and a fourth man was arrested in Chicago. The other four were living abroad and it was not immediately clear if they had been taken into custody. The group is described in the indictment as rejecting peaceful solutions to the Palestinian quest for a homeland in the Middle East and with embracing ``the Jihad solution and the martyrdom style as the only choice for liberation.'' The group's purpose, prosecutors allege, is to destroy Israel and end all U.S. and Western influence in the region. Among the 100 people whose killings are blamed on the organization in Israel and the territories are those of two U.S. citizens: Alisa Flatow, 20, and Shoshama Ben-Yishai, 16. The killings included suicide bombings, car bombs and drive-by shootings, most recently a June 5, 2002, suicide attack in Haifa, Israel, that killed 20 and injured 50. The defendants allegedly provided financial support through a number of U.S.-based entities, resolved internal conflicts, helped communicate claims of responsibility for terrorist actions and made false statements to immigration officials to help terrorists. Those arrested in the United States Thursday were described as setting up a terrorist cell at the University of South Florida. They are:

Al-Arian, the Florida college professor the government says ran the Jihad's U.S. operations. Al-Arian is a native of Kuwait and teaches engineering.

Sameeh Hammoudeh, 42, born in the West Bank, now a resident of Temple Terrace, Fla. He also is an instructor at the University of South Florida and administrator at the Islamic Academy of Florida.

Hatim Naji Fariz, 30, born in Puerto Rico and now living in Spring Hill, Fla. He is a manager at a medical clinic.

Ghassan Zayed Ballut, 41, a West Bank native now living in Tinley Park, Ill., and owner of a small business

Four men who live abroad were also charged. It was not immediately clear if they had been arrested as well. They are:

Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, 45, a Gaza Strip native and now resident of Damascas, Syria. He is described as the worldwide leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and is a former instructor at the University of South Florida.

Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi, 50, originally from Egypt and now living in Oxfordshire, England. The indictment calls him the United Kingdom leader of the group.

Mohammed Tasir Hassan Al-Khatib, 46, originally from the Gaza Strip and now living in Beirut; described as the treasurer of the organization.

Abd AL Aziz Awda, 52, born in Israel and now imam of the Al Qassam Mosque in Gaza Strip. The indictment calls him the founder and ``spiritual leader'' of the group.
(Note from website author:  The links with this group to TWA 800 have been made in several articles on this website.  For example you may read more about Ramadan Shallah in the article London Bridge is Falling Down.)

March 10, 2003   NY Times
An Argentine judge has ordered arrest warrants for four Iranian government officials who he says helped organize and carry out the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead. But the judge balked at a recommendation by prosecutors that more than a dozen more senior Iranian officials, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader, also be indicted. The 400-page ruling, by Judge Juan José Galeano, made public on Saturday, was the first time that Argentina has formally accused Iran of involvement in the July 18, 1994, blast the deadliest single anti-Semitic incident since World War II. The judge also cited evidence from the state intelligence agency that "armed units of the pro-Iranian armed group Hezbollah" were also involved, though no Hezbollah member was mentioned in the indictment.The highest-ranking Iranian official cited is Ali Fallahian, a former minister of security and intelligence. Mohsen Rabbani, formerly the cultural attaché in the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires during the mid-1990's, was named in the indictment as operational director of the attack. The other two officials indicted were Ali Balesh Abadi, a diplomatic courier; and Ali Akbar Parvaresh, a former education minister and a former deputy speaker of the Iranian Parliament who is currently the leader of an influential conservative religious group. To a large extent, the accusations echo those contained in secret testimony offered to Argentine judicial and intelligence officials by an Iranian defector named Abdolghassem Mesbahi. Once a high-ranking Iranian intelligence official, Mr. Mesbahi defected to Germany in 1996, reportedly because he was upset at the agency's involvement in the killing of dissidents in Iran and abroad. According to a transcript of the testimony he offered in 1998 and 2000, copies of which were obtained by The New York Times last year, Mr. Mesbahi said senior Iranian government officials, including Ayatollah Khamenei and then-president Hashemi Rafsanjani, personally ordered, organized and financed the attack on the Jewish center, the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, known as A.M.I.A. He said they were also behind an earlier attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 in which 28 people died. "The decision for the 1994 attack was taken in Khamenei's office in 1992," Mr. Mesbahi said, according to the 100-page transcript, "at a meeting presided over by Rafsanjani" and attended by other senior officials. "The committee that took the decision for the bombing in 1992 was composed of the guide or leader, the president of the republic," a former minister of foreign affairs, the intelligence chief and leaders of Islamic religious groups and militias, his testimony said. Mr. Mesbahi also told Argentine investigators that payment for the attack in 1994 came from a $200 million bank account in Switzerland controlled by Ayatollah Khamenei and a son of the first leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Mr. Mesbahi also implicated Mr. Rabbani and Hadi Soleimanpour, then the Iranian ambassador to Argentina, in carrying out the bombing. In an interview on Friday in Buenos Aires, Eamon Mullen, the chief Argentine government prosecutor in the case, said the charges against the Iranian officials are based not only on Mr. Mesbahi's declarations but also "eight years of analysis" and a recent report filed to Judge Galeano by the Argentine state intelligence service, known as Side. Mr. Mullen declined to discuss the contents of the report, which he described as "secret and confidential." But Argentine officials have built up a substantial body of evidence, some of which they have made available to selected journalists. That material includes immigration records showing Iranian officials leaving and entering Argentina under false names around the time of the bombing as well as telephone records of calls between Iranian Embassy officials and suspected Hezbollah members living in the triple frontier area where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay converge. Argentina's interim president, Eduardo Duhalde, expressed concerns about the country's continued vulnerability to terrorist attacks and the dangers of standing up to terrorist states. Argentina was the only country in Latin America to take part in the American-led coalition that drove Iraq out of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf war, but Mr. Duhalde indicated that in the event of another war with Iraq, Argentina would sit on the sidelines. "We've been through some difficult moments, like the gulf war in 1991," he said in an interview with a radio station last month, on the same day the prosecutors made their recommendation. "I don't know if the consequences of that were the attack on the Israeli Embassy in 1992, the A.M.I.A. bombing in 1994 and an aborted attack in 1996."
(Note from website author:  The links to this Argentinian bombing and TWA 800 may be explored in the article As Time Goes By)

March 21, 2003 Page A08 Washington Post
Republican and Democratic leaders of a House panel that oversees aviation security vowed yesterday to quickly draw up legislation to equip U.S. airliners with technology to ward off attack from shoulder-fired missiles, even at a price as high as $1 million per aircraft. After what was described as the first closed-door congressional hearing on the topic with U.S. and Israeli security officials, Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) said he supported at least $30 million in research funds to find the best antimissile technology. He also suggested that the technology could be placed on a number of commercial jetliners, but how many and which ones would be kept secret as a deterrent. In the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) filed legislation last month that would equip about 6,800 of the nation's commercial aircraft with antimissile technology, at a cost of $6 billion to $10 billion. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) has filed similar legislation, but neither measure has come up for a vote. Mica did not file a bill yesterday but said he intends to find "any vehicle" to move the legislation as quickly as possible after conferring with House leaders and the White House. Although U.S. security officials emphasize that they have received no information indicating the nation faces a specific threat, they have become increasingly concerned about the possibility that terrorists could use shoulder-fired missiles to bring down civilian aircraft as they are taking off or landing. Since 1978, there have been 35 attempts worldwide to shoot down civilian aircraft with "Man Portable Air Defense Systems," or Manpads, resulting in the loss of 24 planes and more than 500 deaths.  In recent months, the TSA has begun evaluating 22 of the nation's largest airports to assess each airport's vulnerability to such an attack. Shoulder-fired missiles can be launched from as far away as 30 miles and reach altitudes of up to 18,000 feet. Heat-seeking technology directs the missiles toward the aircraft. (Note from website author:  During the time of the TWA 800 investigation it was claimed that a shoulder-fired missile could not reach the aircraft since it was flying at 13,000 feet and further that a shoulder-fired missile would be incapable of bringing down a jumbo jet) The weapons weigh 35 pounds and are relatively easy to purchase in foreign countries that do not have strict export controls. There are as many as 700,000 such weapons available worldwide. They typically cost $25,000 to $80,000 each. Robert L. Del Boca, a vice president at Northrop Grumman Corp., told the House panel yesterday that his firm has already drawn up a proposal to equip 300 U.S. airliners that fly international routes with the company's antimissile technology. Northrop Grumman's technology, which would cost $2 million per plane, would emit sensors from the bottom of the aircraft to detect missiles and then interrupt the missile's tracking system to cause it to veer off course.

March 27, 2003 The Globe and Mail  Swissair report fails to pinpoint cause of crash.
After the most expensive and exhaustive air-crash probe in Canadian history, investigators have failed to pinpoint the cause of a fire aboard Swissair Flight 111 that crashed off Peggys Cove, N.S., in 1999, killing all 229 people on board. Although a probable source of the first electrical fault lies in the improperly installed entertainment and gambling system that the now-defunct Swissair used to pamper its highest-paying passengers in First and Business Class, investigators from the Transportation Safety Board acknowledge that they cannot be certain. And, they add, it is "unlikely that this entertainment power-system supply wire was the only wire in the lead arcing event." They insist, however, that the investigation has already advanced aviation safety, notably by identifying flammable materials such as acoustic insulation blankets that, once ignited, fuelled and spread the fire above the cockpit ceiling, eventually triggering a rapid series of failures that left the aircraft in desperate straits in the dark off the Nova Scotia coast. "Without the presence of [the insulation] and other flammable material, this accident would not have happened," said Vic Gerden, lead investigator into the worst-ever aviation disaster over Canadian territory. (Note: For further details see The Mystery of SwissAir 111)

June 19, 2002  WorldNetDaily.com   Letter from TWA 800 Family member to Jack Cashill, author of 'First Strike - TWA 800 and the Attack on America'.
Dear Mr. Cashill,
I read your book, "First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America," and found it not only very well written, but also very enlightening and educational. I have wanted to write to you, but given the topic and the very personal impact TWA800 had on my life, it is more than difficult. Let me start by saying that when I follow my gut instincts, I find I am usually right. You may ask what this has to do with your book or the tragic event of July 17, 1996, and the downing of TWA800. Allow me to try and explain.

On July 17, 1996, my son, Yonatan Rojany, was scheduled to be on TWA Flight 841 bound for Rome, Italy. That evening, when I returned from work, I went about my normal routine of turning on the television to watch the news while preparing dinner. On the news, I saw a television screen filled with night and a black ocean consumed by fire. As I was listening to the report and heard that it was TWA800, I knew my son was on that flight even though he was scheduled to be on another. I won't go through all the details of what occurred and how I found out that he in fact was on TWA800, but my gut feelings were correct, and he was on that flight.

Soon thereafter, I traveled to New York to join the other family members of TWA800 and to await the recovery of our loved ones. Everyday, I knew that my son would not be found, and everyday I was right. When I woke up on the morning of July 30, 1996, my first thoughts were ... "Today! Today, Yon will be found!" In the late morning, I was driven out to Smith Point to put flowers in the ocean and to be as close as possible to my son. Never having been to that area before, I had no idea where it was or how long the trip would take. As soon as we parked and I started to get out of the car, I looked at my watch to see the time. It was 12:35 p.m. At that moment I said, "Yon, you can't just lay there! You have to move or shout or do something so they'll find you!" Soon after I returned to the hotel, I was beckoned to the 6th floor where the New York Police Department was coordinating recoveries. There I was told that my son had been found. My gut feeling that morning proved correct. I don't know why, but I asked the officer what time Yon was found. He told me, "12:35 p.m." Again, my gut feelings were correct.

During the entire time I was in New York, I knew that TWA800 was taken down by a terrorist organization. While at the hotel, I frequently spoke to James Kallstrom, the head of the FBI in New York, and he told me he too felt it was an act of terrorism. During the entire time of the investigation, I called the National Transportation Safety Board almost daily and spoke to [then public affairs director, later managing director] Peter Goelz or his assistant, Betty. They did their best to assure me that it was mechanical failure and not a terrorist attack. I am not able to explain to you specifically why I didn't believe them, but I didn't. Too many things I was told just didn't make sense. When I am told to blindly believe something because an "official" tells me it is so, it doesn't generally work for me. I require concrete facts, not hypotheses.

Now after reading your book, "First Strike," it has become clear that again my gut feeling was right – TWA800 was not brought down by mechanical failure.

Shortly after the crash, President Clinton came to the hotel and visited with the families. He personally told me he would do everything to find the exact cause of the crash. Now that I have learned that (presumably under President Clinton's command) not only did the government not work to uncover the truth, but, quite the opposite. They worked to cover it! How can I, or anyone, trust our government? How could the president be so mendacious? How can I trust that the NTSB is really investigating any incident when they were not even allowed to investigate this one, and yet somehow they miraculously came up with a cause of the crash? How can I trust our FBI when James Kallstrom, who was their chief investigator in New York, lied to me? I realize that knowing the facts of what really happened will not change the final outcome. However, dealing with what happened would be somewhat more manageable if I were dealing with the truth and not fabrications.

After all of this time, and given the fact that we are now at war with terrorism, it would be reassuring to know that our government has developed a conscience and would want to right a clear wrong. A full, complete and impartial investigation needs to be done so that the TWA 800 families and all Americans know exactly what happened on that horrific night of July 17, 1996. I personally want to thank you for taking so much time and energy to seek the truth and make it available to all. Finally. I hope and pray that that there will be a public outcry for the truth!

Lisa Michelson
Los Angeles, Calif.

August 12, 2003 ABC News
A British national was arrested this morning on suspicion of being involved in a plot to smuggle a surface-to-air missile into the United States, ABCNEWS has learned. The man was arrested in Newark, N.J., as part of an international sting conducted by the FBI, British and Russian authorities. The sting began five months ago in Moscow, law enforcement sources said. The man arrested allegedly sought to smuggle a Russian-made surface-to-air missile into the country, and he believed he was selling the missile to would-be terrorists, sources said. The terrorists were really undercover agents. The name of the person has not been disclosed. The man, of Indian descent, thought he was dealing with terrorists in the United States who wanted to shoot down a passenger jet, sources said. Sources said the kind of missile he wanted to buy was the SA-18 Igla, which is said to be one of the most sophisticated such weapons in the world. He is said to have paid $85,000 to someone he believed was a corrupt Russian military person, but who was actually an undercover officer. The weapon that came into the United States was unusable because the Russians who were participating with the sting sold it to the suspect that way, sources said. This afternoon, law enforcement officials conducted a raid in midtown Manhattan to seize financial records and cash in connection with the case. According to reports, two men believed to be involved in money laundering were arrested at a gem dealership. Officials did not disclose the the potential charges the three arrested men could face. The British national and the two alleged money launderers are expected to make their first court appearance Wednesday morning in Newark federal court. Raids were also conducted in the United Kingdom but it is unclear what these yielded. Today's arrests came as authorities in Saudi Arabia said they thwarted an al Qaeda cell that was allegedly planning to blow up a British Airways passenger jet. The British national boasted that the missile could be used to shoot down Air Force One, the presidential 747. But he did not say the missile was going to be used for that purpose, sources said. According to ABCNEWS consultant Richard Clarke, most older surface-to-air missiles are not difficult to obtain. Older Russian-built SA-7 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles are more readily available on the black market. Unlike the SA-7, the SA-18 Igla is a more modern weapon with highly accurate infrared targeting capability, making it much sought-after by terrorists.  "The older generation of SA-7 missiles are relatively cheap and easy to get on the black market, but the problem is they don't work very well," Clarke said. "The younger generation of missiles are pretty much kept under lock and key and very hard to get." Surface-to-air missiles cannot reach aircraft once they are airborne, Clarke said. The weapons are used to attack planes once they take off or are about to land. Many U.S. aircraft, he said, are equipped to deflect surface-to-air attacks by using flares to throw off the targets of the heat-seeking missiles. "Other aircraft, Air Force One and a few other high-value U.S. aircraft, have additional technology that's classified, and it's designed to confuse these missiles," Clarke said. "But to secure thousands of other aircraft, that would cost billions of dollars in defense." Sources told ABCNEWS that the British national's boasts of bringing down Air Force One were not taken seriously. In addition, sources said, Air Force One has the capability to thwart such an attack. Attempts to smuggle surface-to-air missiles have not been uncommon since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Testifying before Congress in February, CIA Director George Tenet said that al Qaeda was developing new means of attacking the United States and U.S. interests, which included using such mobile missiles. "Al Qaeda is also developing or refining new means of attack, including use of surface-to-air missiles, poisons, and air, surface, and underwater methods to attack maritime targets," Tenet said. "If given the choice, al Qaeda terrorists will choose attacks that achieve multiple objectives - striking prominent landmarks, inflicting mass casualties, causing economic disruption, rallying support through shows of strength." In 2002, there were at least two other incidents involving suspected terrorists and smuggled surface-to-air missiles. In June 2002, intelligence sources said a captured terrorist, Abu Huzifa, who led an al Qaeda cell in Saudi Arabia, told investigators he slipped through Saudi security around Prince Sultan Air Force Base with two shoulder-fired SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles. He told interrogators he fired at an American plane that was taking off, but his missile failed to "lock on." Frightened, Huzifa told investigators, he buried the second missile in the sand and ran away. In November 2002, two shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles were fired at an Arkia Israeli Airlines passenger jet at Moi International Airport in Kenya, initiating what appears to be a coordinated terrorist attack. Police also said investigators found a launcher for an SA-7 Strela, a Soviet-designed shoulder-fired antiaircraft missile, and two missile casings in the Changamwe area of Mombasa, about a mile from the airport. ABCNEWS confirmed that the serial number on the launcher found in Kenya was from the same series as the launcher tube found in May 2002 near Prince Sultan Air Force base in Saudi Arabia.

October 24, 2003 The Globe and Mail - Canadian Press.  El Al jet diverted after missile threat.
Hamilton - A missile threat led to the diversion of an El Al flight from Toronto's Pearson airport to nearby Hamilton on Thursday, an Israeli source said Friday. The flight, with 180 passengers aboard, let Toronto-bound passengers off in Hamilton before continuing to Los Angeles. The return flight to Israel on Friday also landed at Hamilton instead of Toronto. Transport Minister David Collenette, speaking from Ottawa, said the plane was diverted again because El Al believed the threat against the plane continued. He would not give details about that threat, but an Israeli source told Canadian Press that it involved a ground-to-air missile. Four Canadian agencies are investigating the threat, but there was no indication of a real weapon. Tactical police teams rushed to meet the El Al 767 when it landed at John C. Munro International Airport on Thursday morning. The plane sat on the tarmac for about three hours before taking off for Los Angeles about 1:40 p.m. The daily run to Toronto and Los Angeles from Israel's Ben Gurion airport was first ordered by Transport Canada to land in Montreal. The jet later went to Hamilton so its Toronto-bound passengers could disembark and continue their journey by bus. Passengers headed to California remained on the plane while connecting passengers from Toronto were brought in by bus to join the flight.

November 15, 2003  WorldNetDaily.com - Jack Cashill
Few Americans know the Middle East as well as Kenneth Timmerman, author of the eye-opening new book "Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America" (Crown Forum). Timmerman, in fact, has been reporting on this part of the world since 1975. No dilettante, in 1982 Timmerman was taken hostage in Lebanon and spent more than three weeks there in an underground cell. Given his willingness to hit the streets, he has developed excellent sources throughout the Middle East, and his reporting reflects this. "Preachers of Hate" has a scary firsthand freshness about it that few other books about that benighted region can match. Deeply impressed by the book and Timmerman's other reporting he also wrote the bold best seller "Shakedown" about Jesse Jackson I called him this week to see what, if anything, he knew about TWA Flight 800. His response was stunning and adds a new layer of knowledge to an extraordinary episode in American history.  As it happens, in mid-June 1996 one of Timmerman's sources contacted him with a warning. He told Timmerman that the intelligence service of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps was planning an attack on an American airliner. The source, who was living in exile, was himself a former member of the Iranian military with access to Iranian intelligence circles. He had been vetted by several U.S, intelligence agencies and found credible.  Two weeks later, the source repeated the warning. Although his information was not precise, he believed that the targeted flight would originate in Athens as TWA Flight 800 actually did but he made no mention of missiles and implied that a bomb would be planted on board.  For his part, Timmerman was concerned enough to contact a friend who worked in counter-terrorism at the State Department, and the friend was concerned enough to bring in the FAA. As far as Timmerman knows, nothing came of this warning.  About a week later, or about a week before the destruction of TWA Flight 800, Timmerman's source contacted him with an "urgent" warning. This time, he said, the attack was "imminent." Timmerman alerted a well-placed friend who set up an emergency meeting with a deputy director of operations for the CIA. On this occasion, Timmerman provided the CIA with a written summary of the warnings to date.  Timmerman believes that his warnings were ignored. Indeed, within a week of the meeting, TWA Flight 800 was blown out of the sky. After that tragic event, another Timmerman source this one from inside the American intelligence community confirmed that Timmerman's report to the CIA "jibed completely" with what the source and his colleagues had been hearing as well, namely an imminent "Iranian attack on an American airliner." Timmerman was dismayed to hear the Clinton administration claim that it had received "no warning" prior to the plane's destruction. It had likely received several, some possibly more specific than the one he offered.  If Iranian intelligence planned the attack, there is still some question as to who executed it. The fact that the plane was destroyed on July 17 adds a rogue variable to the equation. This past July 17 the major media made no mention of the Flight 800 anniversary, but they did call attention to the fact that the date was posted prominently in public places throughout Iraq. It was I should say "had been" Iraq's National Liberation Day, the day the Baath Party took power 35 years earlier, and these are a date-conscious people.  Were Mecca to be bombed on the 4th of July, the disinterested observer would logically conclude that either the USA was responsible or that some provocateur did it to implicate the U.S. The same holds true with the destruction of TWA Flight 800 on July 17. The odds are strong that either Iraq was involved or that the Iranians timed the attack to shift the blame to Iraq. In either case, the timing is not likely to have been coincidental  None of this information seems to have intrigued the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In its annual reports for 1996 and 1997, the committee made no mention at all of TWA Flight 800, this despite the fact these reports document virtually all CIA activity, from the serious to the trivial.  And the CIA was surely involved with TWA Flight 800. We have long known that the CIA was responsible for the notorious animation that discredited the eyewitnesses. We now know that the CIA had received highly credible warnings before the plane's destruction. The absence of any information at all about the CIA on a still unsolved case cries out for explanation.

December 6, 2003   CNN Sources: Reid is al Qaeda operative
Richard Reid, the British drifter sentenced to life in prison Friday for trying to blow up a U.S. jetliner, was an al Qaeda operative, according to intelligence documents. Reid reported to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), chief of al Qaeda's military committee, the documents CNN obtained from two western nations show. Among those documents are the interrogation reports of Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, another al Qaeda operative who was arrested last year in Oman and is now in custody at a U.S. military base. The Kuwaiti-born Jabarah, who traveled on a Canadian passport, told his interrogators that he saw Reid in Afghanistan preparing for his shoe bomb attempt. Reid and Jabarah, intelligence sources said, both reported to Mohammed, whom U.S. authorities call a key planner of the September 11 attacks. "Richard Reid was in Afghanistan at the time Mohammed Mansour Jabarah was in Afghanistan, and Richard Reid was an operative who was controlled by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM)," international terror expert Rohan Gunaratna said. Reid was at the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan in 1998. He trained at the same time as Ahmed Ressam, the millennium bomber, convicted in April, 2001. Also in Khalden at the same time, was Zacarias Moussaoui, who faces trial this June in a U.S. court on September 11-related charges. Jabarah met with Osama bin Laden two months before being sent to Southeast Asia by Mohammed, intelligence sources have told CNN. Mohammed has been linked to every major al Qaeda attack, beginning with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He was indicted in the Southern District of New York in January of 1996. The FBI has put the Kuwaiti-born Mohammed on its list of most wanted terrorists and is offering a reward of up to $25 million for his apprehension or conviction. Mohammed remains at large. Intelligence documents show that even as he was working on the final details of the September 11 attacks, Mohammed was already thinking ahead, sending Jabarah to Southeast Asia to plan suicide truck bomb attacks against U.S. embassies and other western interests in the region. That plot was foiled and Jabarah was captured. Aside from Jabarah, Mohammed handled five other agents, including Reid, whom he sent on a target scouting trip to Israel and Egypt. The search for Reid led Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl on a fatal trip Pakistan. "Daniel Pearl was going in search of the al Qaeda network that was operational in Karachi, and it was at the instruction of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) that Daniel Pearl was killed," said Gunaratna. Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Islamic militant, was sentenced to death by hanging by an anti-terrorism court in Hyderabad, Pakistan, for Pearl's murder.

December 12, 2003  WorldNetDaily.com     Airline captain takes NTSB to court
On Monday, Dec. 15, retired United Airlines Capt. Ray Lahr takes his case against the National Transportation Safety Board to court, the last adversary this unlikely activist ever expected to face. Lahr has no illusion about the challenge he faces, but he is focusing his attack on the most vulnerable point of the NTSB's defense what he calls "the zoom-climb scenario" and he has marshaled some impressive forces to help breach it.

The government first advanced this scenario six years earlier Nov. 18, 1997, to be precise. That was the day that the FBI closed the criminal case on TWA Flight 800 and did so in a dramatic fashion. It was also the day that forever changed Lahr's life. To negate the stubborn testimony of some 270 FBI eyewitnesses who had sworn they saw a flaming, smoke-trailing, zigzagging object ascend, arc over and destroy TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island, the FBI showed a video prepared by the CIA. The video had all the grace of a Cold War jeremiad on atomic fallout. The music was ominous, the narration overbearing, the graphics cheesy and anachronistic. "The following program was produced by the Central Intelligence Agency," said the narrator at the outset, with more pride in ownership than seems right for any government agency, let alone a secret one. The narrator explained there had been three major theories as to what brought down TWA 800: bomb, missile or mechanical failure. Of particular concern to investigators were reports "from dozens of eyewitnesses" who saw objects in the sky usually described as flares or fireworks. "Was it a missile?" asks the narrator? "Did foreign terrorists destroy the aircraft?" The answer is quick in coming: No "What the witnesses saw was a Boeing 747 in various stages of crippled flight." The CIA wanted the audience to come away with one understanding. And this was stated explicitly on screen: "The Eyewitnesses Did Not See a Missile." The video climaxed with an animation purporting to show what the eyewitnesses did see. According to the CIA, the nose of the aircraft blew off from an internal explosion. "The explosion, although very loud was not seen by any known eyewitness." Not one. TWA Flight 800 then allegedly "pitched up abruptly and climbed several thousand feet from its last recorded altitude of about 13,800 feet to a maximum altitude of about 17,000 feet." The CIA video claimed this was what the eyewitnesses had seen not missiles, but a rocketing, nose-less 747 trailing fire.

Ray Lahr, comfortably retired in Malibu, had been following the investigation into TWA Flight 800 from the day it happened on July 17, 1996. He had a professional interest. For the last 20 of his "32 wonderful years" with United Airlines, he had served as a West Coast safety representative for the Air Line Pilots Association. In that position, he had participated in eight major crash investigations, all of which, in Lahr's opinion, had been "expertly managed" by the National Transportation Safety Board. Soon after the TWA 800 crash, however, he realized that the open, honest process he had known no longer existed. Although the FBI would never declare the incident a crime, its agents were illegally controlling the investigation. NTSB investigators were forced to leak information as there was no other way to surface it. When a trusted colleague showed Lahr one bit of leaked evidence, an FAA radar tape of an unknown object traveling at 1,200 knots "and converging with TWA 800," Lahr's interest in the case was definitely piqued. Lahr, however, trusted his government implicitly. He owed his career to it, and an excellent career it was. He had joined the U.S. Navy cadet program a week out of high school at the height of World War II and got his wings in 1946. He hired on with United Airlines in 1953 and made captain in 1965. In 1975, he received the Air Safety award from ALPA, its highest honor. An engineer by training, Lahr also designed and patented the Jeppesen computer, which is widely used by airline pilots.

Until Nov. 18, 1997, Lahr was content to dabble in Southern California real estate and perfect his tennis game. Life had treated him, his wife Jacqueline, and his three children well. If there were a less likely candidate to become an "anti-government" activist and "conspiracy theorist," it is hard to imagine who that candidate might be. And then Lahr saw the video. He could not believe what he was seeing. The video struck him as false in every detail. For all of his side ventures and hobbies, Lahr admits, "My real interest is in gravity." It had been for a long time. Until he began his safety work with ALPA, Lahr had been working extensively at UCLA on a gravity research project. From the moment he saw the video, he believed its zoom-climb hypothesis to be "impossible," and he set out to prove it. Ray Lahr went looking for answers. He wanted to know what calculations the NTSB and the CIA had used to come to their conclusion that TWA Flight 800 zoomed upwards 3,200 feet after it lost its nose, and he was entirely willing to work within the system. Lahr began by exchanging letters with NTSB Chairman Jim Hall 14 in all. Despite the NTSB's public mission, Hall proved adamant about refusing to release any information.

Lahr tried to communicate with Dennis Crider, the NTSB technician who worked singly on the project, but Crider stonewalled him. In fact, Crider kept his data to himself, a violation, says Lahr, "of all of the rules of accident investigation." Without independent verification, the data offered pilots and engineers no clue as to how to deal with comparable incidents in the future. Ever patient, Lahr submitted separate Freedom of Information Act requests to the NTSB and the CIA. The CIA told him it had used data and conclusions provided by the NTSB. The NTSB told him that it could not release information because it was proprietary to Boeing. And Boeing, from day one, had testily distanced itself from the conclusions drawn by the CIA. "Boeing was not involved in the production of the video shown today, nor have we had the opportunity to obtain a copy or fully understand the data used to create it," said the company in its immediate response to the CIA animation. The NTSB was trifling with the wrong person. As a former chairman on the ALPA Aircraft Evaluation Committee, Lahr knew the rules of the game. As he observes, "There is no legitimate proprietary information in the operation and performance of an airline." Pilots have to know an aircraft's capabilities. Lahr appealed the NTSB's decision, but after several rebuffs, he was advised that the only remaining recourse was a lawsuit. With the largely pro-bono assistance of attorney John Clarke, Lahr is now taking his case against the National Transportation Safety Board to the United States District Court in Los Angeles on Dec. 15.

The congenial, youthful Lahr has done an excellent job pulling the sometimes-fractious TWA 800 community together to assist him. Many key people have filed sworn affidavits with Lahr, including retired Rear Adm. Clarence Hill, and their collective commentary has to impress even the most skeptical of observers. Lahr persuaded one key witness, James Holtsclaw, to go public for the first time. In 1996, Holtsclaw was serving as the Deputy Assistant for the Western Region of the Air Transport Association. On July 25, 1996, one week after the disaster, it was Holtsclaw who gave United Airlines pilot Dick Russell a copy of the radar tape recorded at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control. This is the same tape that got Pierre Salinger involved in the case and eventually ruined his career and reputation. Holtsclaw knows it to be "authentic" because he received it directly from an NTSB investigator frustrated by its suppression. "The tape shows a primary target at 1,200 knots converging with TWA 800, during the climb out phase of TWA 800," swears Holtsclaw on the affidavit. "Primary target" simply means an object without a transponder. Although Holtsclaw estimates the object's speed, his estimate falls within the likely range of a missile.

Lahr also recruited retired Air Force Col. Lawrence Pence to his cause. "I find [the CIA scenario] highly unlikely, incredible. With the loss of a wing, with the loss of its pilots, cockpit and front end, I believe that [the aircraft] would have tumbled, tolled and basically dropped like a stone," argues Pence, who spent most of his career in intelligence, dealing with missile and space issues. "And this is exactly what the radar data that has subsequently been looked at says happened." Physicist Thomas Stalcup, Ph.D., has reviewed most if not all of that radar data. "The radar data," swears Stalcup in his affidavit, "indicate that Flight 800 began an immediate descent and northward turn immediately after losing electrical power."

Several of the eyewitnesses Lahr has gathered have verified Pence's stone-falling thesis. One is Maj. Fritz Meyer, a winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross. Meyer stared the explosion in his face from his Air National Guard helicopter about 10 miles away: When that airplane blew up, it immediately began falling. It came right out of the sky. From the first moment it was going down. It never climbed. The thought that this aircraft could climb was laughable. ... If you shot a duck with a full load of buck it came down like that. It came down like a stone. Master Chief Petty Officer Dwight Brumley also volunteered his testimony to Lahr. A 25-year U.S. Navy vet with top security clearance and hands-on experience with missile exercises, Brumley was flying as a passenger on the right side of US AIR 217. The plane was flying north at 21,000 feet and was just moments from intersecting TWA 800's flight path when Brumley observed a "flare" moving parallel to US AIR 217 ... but faster: During the approximately 7 to 10 seconds I observed the "flare," it appeared to be climbing. It then pitched over and then just after the apex (one to two seconds at most) a small explosion appeared in the center of the "flare." The body of the explosion was spherical in shape and then suddenly grew much bigger and then began to elongate as it appeared to be headed downward, growing larger as it descended. Brumley's "flare" was moving at nearly a right angle to TWA Flight 800. In addition to Brumley, Meyer and others, Lahr has entered the testimony of two critical witnesses whose testimony has been largely overlooked. On the subject of the CIA animation, however, no witnesses are more critical than the two pilots of an Eastwind Flight 507 from Boston to Trenton, First Officer Vincent Fuschetti and Capt. David McCLaine.

The Eastwind pilots were about to begin a slow descent to Trenton when they first spotted TWA Flight 800, then some 60 miles away on this "crystal clear" night. McClaine described the plane with its landing lights still on as "definitely the brightest light in the sky." As Flight 800 approached them at a slightly lower altitude and began crossing its path from right to left, McClaine flicked on his own inboard landing light to signal to the pilots of TWA 800 that he and Fuschetti had the aircraft in sight. Just as he flicked on his light, wrote McClaine in his report to Eastwind Airline immediately after the crash, "The other aircraft exploded into a very large ball of flames." At this point, the two aircraft were less than 20 miles apart. "Almost immediately," observed McClaine, "two flaming objects, with flames trailing about 4,000 feet behind them, fell out of the bottom of the ball of flame." Within 10 seconds of witnessing the explosion, McClaine called in the explosion to Boston air-traffic control. He was the first one to do so. The FBI knew this by day two:

Eastwind: "We just saw an explosion out here, Stinger Bee 507 (Dave McClaine, Captain, Eastwind Airlines)"

Controller: "Stinger Bee 507, I'm sorry I missed it ... did you say something else."

Eastwind: "We just saw an explosion up ahead of us here, somewhere about 16,000 feet or something like that. It just went down in the water."

The reader does well to recall the postulate on which, the infamous CIA video is based: No eyewitnesses saw the initial explosion. This was a lie there is no nice way to describe it and the CIA knew it. Fuschetti and McClaine both witnessed the initial explosion. The crew of two other airliners immediately confirmed their sightings. Brumley and Meyer saw the initial explosion as well. At a minimum, eight unimpeachable, experienced, airborne eyewitnesses saw the first blast and from a variety of different angles. The CIA lied to protect its bizarre timeline. As the CIA told the story, the plane suffered an invisible center fuel tank explosion, lost its nose four seconds later, zoom-climbed an additional 3,200 feet and only then broke into two distinct fireballs, "more than 42 seconds" after the initial blast. Compare the CIA story with Eastwind First Officer Fuschetti's testimony. "At the onset of the explosion, the fireball spread horizontally then spilt into two columns of fire, which immediately began to fall slowly towards the water below." Lest anyone misinterpret him, Fuschetti adds, "At no time did I see any vertical travel of the aircraft after the explosion occurred." The CIA's fiery climb was necessary to explain away the hundreds of claims from eyewitnesses on the ground. It does not, however, account for what McClaine and Fuschetti saw. They saw the plane clearly at every stage. Although McClaine and Fuschetti could not see a missile streak from their angle, they undoubtedly saw the first explosion and the immediate plunge of the plane into the sea. Indeed, McClaine was telling Boston air-traffic control that the plane "just went down in the water" within 10 to 15 seconds of that first blast. This may well explain why the NTSB never interviewed Fuschetti and did not interview McClaine until March 25, 1999, nearly a year and a half after the FBI closed the criminal case with a showing of the CIA video. "You are a very key person as far as we are concerned," said Robert Young, TWA's representative on the NTSB witness group, "because you were the only person that was looking at it at the time." Although McClaine was by no means the "only person," Young's acknowledgement boldly refutes the CIA claim that no one had seen the initial explosion. Young, at least, wanted this to be known. He asked McClaine whether there were any noticeable climbing angle changes before or after. Answered McClaine, "None at all."  "I didn't see it pitch up, no," McClaine elaborated. "Everything ended right there at that explosion as far as I'm concerned." When McClaine ironically ventured a far-fetched scenario that could have resulted in the CIA's zoom-climb, Young responded in the same spirit, "We'd be cutting new trails in aviation if we could do that." Young, however, was in no position to convert irony into action, and he knew it. The die had already been cast.

Still, Young did not give up. A few weeks after its interview with McClaine, the NTSB witness group managed to secure an interview with the two CIA analysts responsible for the video, now a full 18 months after the video's sole showing. Young badgered the chief analyst, then unidentified, with McClaine's testimony. "If [the nose-less plane] had ascended," Young asked the analyst rhetorically, "[McClaine] would have been concerned because it ascended right through his altitude." When the analyst tried to deflect the question, Young continued, "I think he would have noticed it. Your analysis has it zooming to above his altitude." "It's a very critical point that it's not critical precisely how high that plane went," the CIA analyst bluffed before pulling out his trump card. "Even if the plane went up several thousand feet on the ground there's maybe one witness that saw that, this guy on the bridge." When pressed, the analyst could cite only one person who actually saw the zoom-climb, "the guy on the bridge." Ray Lahr has marshaled his testimony as well. His name is Mike Wire, a millwright from Philadelphia and a U.S. Army vet. And how did the "guy on the bridge" feel about the CIA video? "When I first saw the scenario, I thought they used it just as a story to pacify the general public," attests Wire, "because it didn't represent what I had testified to the agent I saw out there." What Wire saw was an object streaking up off the horizon and zigzagging out to sea at a 45-degree angle. For the record, the CIA analysts or the FBI fully fabricated the interview in which Wire was alleged to have changed his mind about what he saw. No such "second interview" ever took place.

In the last six years, Ray Lahr has talked to many of the eyewitnesses and many other experts as well. He has put more than $10,000 of his own money into the investigation and countless hours of his time. On Monday, he gets his first day in court. The government has potentially two witnesses on its side, neither of them particularly credible. One is Dennis Crider, the beleaguered NTSB technician, who has refused to share his unique knowledge of the cryptic zoom-climb calculations. The other is the CIA analyst, now proudly identified by the CIA as Randolph Tauss, who first conjured up the zoom-climb hypothesis Tauss's own account of how he came to this conclusion speaks eloquently about the Rube Goldberg quality of the government's case. At the April 1999 interview with the NTSB, Tauss traced his eureka moment to the precise hour of 10 p.m. on Dec. 30, 1996. Said Tauss, "There was a realization, having all the data laid out in front of me, that you can explain what the eyewitnesses are seeing with only the burning aircraft." For all the talk of interagency cooperation, the FBI had lent witness statements to the CIA in small, frustrating batches, starting with "30 or 40" out of more than 700. Tauss, in fact, came to his startling conclusion after reviewing only about 12 percent of the interview statements, many of these hasty and slapdash in the first place. Tauss did not speak to a single eyewitness. Scary as it sounds, he won an "intelligence medal" for his work. The NTSB could not afford to test Tauss's zoom-climb hypothesis. Its case depends fully upon it. Without the hypothesis, there is no explanation for what those 270 eyewitnesses saw other than the obvious namely missiles streaking upwards toward TWA Flight 800. If Lahr can publicly undermine the zoom-climb hypothesis, he can possibly force open the case. No one individual has more cause to be dissatisfied with the glacially slow revelation of truth in this case than Lahr. But he has not given up faith. In fact, he has not yet even begun to fight.

December 19, 2003   WorldNetDaily.com
Retired United Airline pilot Ray Lahr took his case against the National Transportation Safety Board to a Los Angeles Federal District Court on Monday.  In a largely procedural hearing, Judge Howard Matz added the CIA to the short list of defendants, which also includes the NTSB and Boeing, and advanced the case forward through the system. Lahr's attorney, John Clarke, expects to have resolution by spring or summer. Both he and Lahr gave the judge high marks for fairness and for seriousness of purpose. As reported last week, Lahr is suing the defendants to release the calculations they used to conclude that TWA Flight 800 rocketed vertically more than 3,000 feet once its nose blew off from an alleged fuel-tank explosion. He and others believe the CIA created this scenario to negate the stubborn testimony of some 270 FBI eyewitnesses who had sworn they saw a flaming, smoke-trailing, zigzagging object ascend, arc over and destroy TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island seven years ago. Although Lahr discouraged his supporters from coming to what he knew would be a brief hearing, some 25 allies came to lend their presence. Most were pilots. As they reviewed the case afterward in aviator shop talk, one of Lahr's supporters had to excuse herself. For her, the case remains much more emotional than technical. Her name is Lisa Michelson. On the afternoon of July 17, 1996, her 19-year-old son, Yon Rojany, arrived at JFK Airport with a ticket for Rome. Basketball coach Larry Brown had seen Yon play in California and encouraged him to try out for the Italian Basketball League. Yon took his advice. When TWA cancelled Flight 841 to Rome, its agents secured him a seat on Paris-bound Flight 800 before Yon had a chance to call his mom. It didn't matter. As soon as Michelson heard of the Flight 800 crash and saw the images of its burning debris, she intuited that Yon had been on board. She called TWA desperately throughout the night and did not learn of Yon's fate for sure until her niece was able to check the passenger manifest in Paris nearly two days after the plane went down. All that Michelson remembers upon hearing the news is falling to the ground and crying. She credits her other son, Eric, with keeping her going through the ordeal. It is not easy for Michelson to talk about the disaster even today. When asked what it is that she hopes to get by supporting Lahr, Michelson answers concisely, "the truth." In her own quest for the truth, she has been called a "nut" and worse by people unaware of the depth of her involvement. Less crude, but even more condescending, NTSB Chairman Jim Hall and the head of the FBI investigation, Jim Kallstrom, made it a point of accusing investigators like Lahr of exploiting the sensitivities of family members like Michelson. Lahr does not warrant the scolding. The veteran pilot and safety investigator understands the depth of his responsibility to the victims' families. He would not have dared to invite Michelson if he were not fully confident that the truth is on his side. For her part, Michelson would not have come to support Lahr had she not shared his confidence. Both know that the case will take many turns before justice is done, but they are both in it for the long haul. "The truth is so basic to living your life," says Michelson. "When you base your life on a lie, you don't have a whole lot."