THE DOWNING OF TWA FLIGHT 800
Hillary: Where were you at 3 a.m. July 18, 1996?
Exclusive: Jack Cashill urges Clinton to shed light on White House response to crisis
Posted: March 22, 2008
1:00 am Eastern
By Jack Cashill
Predictably, Hillary, when the National Archives released 11,000 pages of your schedule as first lady, the media focused on the unenlightening and the inconsequential.
Where were you when Bill soiled Monica's blue dress? Where were you when Bill was impeached? When did you first start work on health care reform?
But Hillary, there is one question that needs to be asked, one that cuts right to your own claim to the presidency: Where were you at 3 a.m. on the morning of July 18, 1996?
In the ad that helped you win the Texas primary, a hushed male voice solemnly observes, "It is 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there is a phone in the White House and it is ringing."
The announcer continues, "Something is happening in the world" asking the listener, "Who do you want answering the phone?"
The answer, of course, is you, Hillary, "someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world."
In fact, as your schedule reveals, you once found yourself in exactly that position. So please, why not share that experience with the world?
(Column continues below)
To refresh your memory, on the night of July 17, 1996, you and Bill attended a gala for the Women's Leadership Forum of the Democratic National Committee at the Sheraton Washington Hotel.
After working the rope line, at 8:35 p.m. you and Bill left the Sheraton by presidential motorcade.
At 8:31 p.m., however, a few hundred miles away, that hot line was about to start ringing.
Two FAA veterans at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center had observed a target arching and intersecting with TWA Flight 800 as it headed east off Long Island's south shore.
The controllers reported what they saw immediately. A manager from that center rushed the radar data to the FAA technical center in Atlantic City for further analysis.
In Atlantic City, a playback of the data was recorded on videotape and plotted onto paper. From there, it was faxed to FAA headquarters in Washington and rushed "immediately" to the White House.
"Holy c–-, this looks bad," said Ron Schleede of the National Transportation Safety Board upon first seeing the data that "suggested something fast made the turn and took the airplane."
Obama man Richard Clarke got the message, too. By 9 p.m., he was driving in to the White House to convene a meeting of his security group.
As you know, he did not call such a meeting after the ValuJet crash two months earlier. Clarke was clearly worried.
"I dreaded what I thought was about to happen," he told us in "Against All Enemies," "The Eisenhower option."
Had Iran been behind the downing of TWA Flight 800 – or Iraq for that matter – the president would have had to respond. In fact, Clarke labeled this chapter of his book, "The Almost War, 1996."
You and Bill arrived at the White House at 8:45 p.m. You were still likely unaware of the incident when you retired to the family residence.
Curiously, when Bill did find out about the disaster, he chose not to join Clarke and the other agency representatives in the White House situation room.
He remained holed up in the family quarters with you. Did he stay there because he needed you by his side during this crisis?
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson and others have confirmed that the president kept to the family quarters.
Patterson was in a position to know. He carried the nuclear football for the president, and he too was in the White House, though clearly out of the loop.
Patterson is not sure who is in the residence with you. The one person he can tentatively cite is Sandy Berger, the deputy director of the NSA and the kind of guy you could, well, depend on.
All night Sandy and the president gathered information. And we can safely assume you were not baking cookies while they were doing this.
The eyewitness accounts were now confirming what the FAA radar picked up. In time, 270 people along the Long Island coast would eventually tell the FBI that they saw flaming objects streaking up toward the plane, culminating in a series of massive explosions.
Did you see the satellite data? On Oct. 4, 2001, Defense Department satellites equipped with infrared sensors captured a Ukrainian missile striking a Russian airliner 30,000 feet above the Black Sea.
Our government informed Russia within five minutes. After TWA Flight 800's demise, all satellites were said to be malfunctioning. You could possibly confirm or deny.
Curiously, as you know, Bill's national security adviser, Tony Lake – and Sandy Berger's boss – was downstairs in his office during that night.
By 3 a.m. you all had apparently gathered enough information to call Lake with the following message: "Dust off the contingency plans."
Yes, the Eisenhower Option. But right now, especially on these terms, with the 1996 election comfortably in the bag, war was the last thing you wanted or needed.
Yet for all the peril and intrigue of that first night of near war, one that kept the family quarters humming until at least 3 a.m. – your time to shine – in "Living History," your 500-plus page memoir, you summarized the entire episode in exactly one-third of one sentence.
You do not even mention your emotionally wrenching day among the victims' families in Long Island a week later.
Don't be shy, Hillary. This is a great opportunity to remind us why you are "tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world." You were there.
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Below is a table of all the articles in this series. Clicking on any of the links will take you directly to that installment.
|#01: New data prove CIA 'zoom-climb' a fraud||#02: 270 people saw plane shot out of the sky||#03: Richard Clarke's politicized exit strategy||#04: One secret the Times has kept||#05: What Jamie Gorelick knew|
|#06: Shrapnel evidence from victims holds key||#07: How the FBI misled the public||#08: An inconvenient truth for Al Gore||#09: The man on the bridge and CIA deception||#10: Key facts missing from CNN report|
|#11: More truth-tellers surface||#12: Movement in D.C. on FBI cover-up||#13: CNN and the disappearing zoom climb||#14: Did Iraqi ops take out TWA 800 jetliner?||#15: Spot-on report describes 3-missile attack|
|#16: Truth down the memory hole||#17: The best evidence?||#18: Not much 'discovery' at Discovery Channel||#19: Missile witnesses needed now||#20: Al Gore's Achilles' heel|
|#21: FBI suppressed video of TWA explosion||#22: Stunning video of Flight 800 crash site||#23: Clinton-Bush air disaster cover-up plan||#24: 'Zoom climb' scenario falling apart||#25: Are feds hiding crash imagery?|
|#26: 3 a.m. July 18, 1996 - Where was Hillary?||#27: Corrupted probe continues to reverberate||#28: Pilot sheds light on scandal||#29: (may not be available yet)||#30: (may not be available yet)|