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Mystery about TWA Flight 800 rekindled by new film 17 years after crash

Photo: EPIXThe mystery of TWA Flight 800 has intrigued many of us since the flight crashed on July 17, 1996.To this day, it is difficult to accept the official verdict on what caused the crash.

Initially media and some public officials believed the flight had been bombed. Now a new film by EPIX is rekindling interest in a crash the Clinton administration attributed to a fuel-air explosion.

A statement posted at the EPIX corporate website said [boldface added]:

“EPIX presents the World Premiere Original Documentary, TWA FLIGHT 800, a thought-provoking ninety-minute documentary about the ill-fated Trans World Airline Flight 800 to Paris, France, which exploded on July 17, 1996 just 12 minutes after takeoff from JFK International Airport, killing all 230 people on board.  The special features six former members of the official crash investigation breaking their silence to refute the officially proposed cause of the jetliner’s demise and reveal how the investigation was systematically undermined.  In commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the traumatic event, TWA FLIGHT 800 premieres Monday, July 17, 2013 at 8PM ET.”

Americans had good reasons for questioning the government’s official position on the crash. President Bill Clinton’s administration downplayed what we think of today as global terrorism.

Three weeks before the crash, U.S. troop barracks in Dhahran (Saudi Arabia), had been bombed, killing 19 airmen. The government called that a “terrorist” incident, possibly because it happened abroad and not on domestic shores.

At the time of the crash, speculation also touched on followers of Sheik Abdul Rahman and Ramzi Yousef. Yousef was on trial in New York at the time of the TWA crash, facing charges about his plans to blow up American planes in 1995. Trying enemy combatants in civilian courts was Clinton’s policy.

There were also other reasons to believe the plane had been taken down by a terrorist.

In an article published shortly after the crash, Newsweek noted that Governor George Pataki had suspicions—“In his heart he knew that a bomber was to blame.”

There was also an eyewitness account in a CNN story:

"Naneen Levine was among those whose story was collected by Web sites. That summer evening, she was at the family's Long Island beach house. As the sun was setting, she says she looked out a window toward the ocean and saw a fireball in the sky. She talked with CNN 10 years ago, and the FBI interviewed her twice and asked her to sketch what she saw. (Watch Levine draw the sketch of what she saw -- :23)…’The little red dot went up like this, sort of curved and came to a point where I thought little fireworks were going to come down and fade and be a flare,’ she said. ‘Then like big, big thick streams of fire coming down, a little bit up, but it was very, very vertical coming down like that.’”

Ten years after the crash, Levine said she still believed “a missile” brought the plane down.

It’s difficult now to locate numerous records held by the Clinton administration because of two thefts. One theft was documented; the other is an alleged theft.

Clinton’s national security advisor Sandy Berger was convicted of stealing materials from the National Archives ahead of testifying before the 9/11 Commission in 2003. We know the documents were related to terrorism. We know they were highly classified. Beyond that we know nothing concrete; Berger had already lied to authorities in early questioning.

Then at some point between October, 2008 and March, 2009, another security breach occurred at the National Archives and this breach was a humdinger. A terabyte of data from the Clinton era went missing. We know the data included national security information, we learned little from the National Archives and Administration.

Data on the drive includes more than 100,000 social security numbers (including Al Gore’s daughter), contact information (including addresses) for various Clinton administration officials, Secret Service and White House operating procedures, event logs, social gathering logs, political records and other highly-sensitive information.

The new film should spark new interest in a case long mired in mystery, especially considering Clinton’s casual approach to the truth. Clinton was never convicted of perjury but to any rational observer, it was obvious he lied.

EPIX said the film was co-produced by Dr. Tom Stalcup who has a PhD in Physics. The documentary also features interviews with key members of the original TWA 800 Investigation team, including Senior Accident Investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board (Ret.), Hank Hughes (Ret.), Chief Accident Investigator for TWA (Ret.), Bob Young, and AirLine Pilot Asso. Representative/Investigator James Speer.

There is a well-sourced account of the TWA Flight 800 crash at Wikipedia. TWA eventually merged with American Airlines in 2001. In the year before the crash, TWA had filed for bankruptcy.

As we learn more about national security matters in the decade ahead of the 9/11/2001 attacks, we are beginning to realize America was at war with Islamists far earlier than the official declaration by President George W. Bush.

(Analysis by Kay B. Day/June 19, 2013)

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