With the exception of 9/11, the U.S. government seems to have a policy of downplaying terrorist attacks against American targets. Our responses to such attacks as those on U.S. embassies in Africa and the USS Cole were weak during the Clinton Administration, and consisted primarily of bombing a harmless drug factory in the Sudan and blowing up a supposed terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. The Muslim terrorists who killed patrons at the Israeli airlines counter in Los Angeles and who murdered fellow soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division have not been labeled as such by the government or the mainstream media, even in the post-9/11 environment. Reporter Jack Cashill thinks that TWA Flight 800 could have been one of those terrorist attacks ignored by people in authority.
In light of what he argues is new evidence that has come to light since 9/11, Cashill co-authored a book with James Sanders called First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America (WMD Books, 2003). On July 17, 1996, Flight 800 crashed off Long Island, and, Cashill says, statements from government officials as the investigation into the crash proceeded pointed to foul play rather than mechanical failure-at first.
For example, the New York Times reported Aug. 14, 1996, that investigators had “concluded that the center fuel tank caught fire as many as 24 seconds after the initial blast that split apart the plane, a finding, the book argues, that deals a serious blow to the already remote possibility that a mechanical accident caused the crash. . . . Now that investigators say they think the center fuel tank did not explode, they say the only good explanations remaining are that a bomb or a missile brought down the plane.” But after high-level Clinton Administration officials such as Deputy Atty. Gen. Jamie Gorelick got involved in the investigation, said Cashill, the tone changed to one of mechanical failure after all.
“Clinton was facing re-election that year,” he said. “He didnt necessarily want to deal with a terrorist attack. The Atlanta Olympic bombing also took place that summer, and that wasnt called terrorism either.”
First Strike begins with a quote from prominent terrorism expert and Osama bin Laden scholar Yossef Bodansky: “The case of TWA 800 served as a turning point because of Washingtons determination and to a great extent ability to suppress terrorist explanations and float mechanical failure theories. To avoid such suppression after future strikes, terrorism-sponsoring states would raise the ante so that the West cannot ignore them.”
Cashill and Sanders point to what they contend are the many problems in the governments investigation into Flight 800s fate, such as important pieces of physical evidence that were found and then lost, key witnesses quoted by investigators who later claimed that they never said what was attributed to them, the 270 people who say they saw something going up toward the plane, the testimony of FAA radar technicians who saw an object converging on Flight 800 before the crash, and the large number of naval vessels that were in the area at the time of Flight 800s crash. The authors advance a new theory that they insist covers the known facts better than previous ones. They contend that a missile shot down another, small plane near Flight 800, bringing down the latter as well. A mistake by the Navy, as many people thought at the time? Or was the small plane deliberately shot down? Was the small plane just in the wrong place at the wrong time or was it flown by terrorists? Pilots for U.S. Air Flight 217 reported a near midair collision with a small plane shortly before Flight 800 crashed.
“Two Clinton appointees were at the top of the National Transportation Safety Board,” one of the lead agencies that investigated the crash, noted Cashill.
Cashill, executive editor of a Kansas City region business magazine called Ingrams, has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Weekly Standard. With a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue, Cashill has taught as an adjunct professor and produced several video documentaries, the latest of which is “The Holocaust Through Our Own Eyes” featuring dozens of survivors.
Cashills next book is on Ron Brown, Clintons Commerce secretary whose corruption was extraordinary even by the low standards set by that administration. “He was the international bag man for Clinton,” Cashill says. The book, due next spring, is being written using information from close confidants of Brown, he says. And Cashill is working on another aspect of the life and death of Brown, who died in a mysterious plane crash in Croatia in that same election year of 1996: “The plane crash could have been terrorism,” Cashill said. “Right now, there is no explanation for why that plane crashed.”
Cashill may be reached at Ingrams Magazine, Show-Me Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 411356, Kansas City, Mo. 64141-1356 (816-842-9994).