Thursday, January 08, 2009

What does Leon Panetta know about TWA 800?
Exclusive: Jack Cashill notes then-Clinton chief of staff helped spin away terrorism angle

Posted: January 08, 2009
1:00 am Eastern

By Jack Cashill

Last week, I received an e-mail from a former 747 pilot named Thomas Young.

In early August 1996, Young explained, he was laid up in a Hong Kong hospital with a back injury. His employer, Polar Air Cargo, flew his wife, Barbara, out to join him. They had little else to do but watch TV. Here is what they saw.

The videotape began with people milling about on a deck facing a body of water. In the background, a streak of light can be seen leaving a point below the edge of the deck, accelerating as it climbed; it passed behind what appeared to me to be a thin cloud layer and continued upward out of the frame, from right to left. As the streak of light disappeared beyond the edge of the frame, after a slight pause, there is a generalized, dim flash on the upper left side of the screen, followed by a brighter and more pronounced flash.

Some 270 eyewitnesses on Long Island would give formal accounts to the FBI of the same event – an apparent missile attack on TWA Flight 800 on the night of July 17,1996. Scores of them would provide detailed drawings.

Young – and Barbara confirms his story – saw the video of the event roughly four times an hour for some two weeks.

"The TWA 800 story was big news," Young explains, "and was getting top billing in the Asian press."

Young had a distinct perspective on what he was seeing. For six years in the 1980s he had worked at Boeing, much of that time in its Space and Strategic Missile Systems Division.

There he had reviewed scores of videotapes of missile launches, covering a wide range of missile types. Given the TV reception in his Hong Kong hospital, Young could not identify the type of missile that took out TWA Flight 800, but he was confident he was seeing a missile.

"If this was a Navy missile," Barbara recalls her husband telling her at the time, "there goes Clinton's re-election."

I have heard from at least a hundred individuals who saw the same video as Young. None of them could provide this level of detail, and not just because they lacked Young's experience. The video was pulled from American TV within hours of its being first aired.

Best evidence is that MSNBC, which had gone on the air just two days prior to the TWA 800 disaster, won a bidding war for the amateur video.

According to an MSNBC editor, who refuses to talk on the record, "three men in suits" came to the station's editing suites the night of the crash, removed the tape and threatened the editors with serious consequences if they ever revealed its contents.

At Leon Panetta's confirmation hearing, some bold senator just might want to ask the presumptive CIA chief what happened to the videotape. As Bill Clinton's chief of staff at the time, Panetta was in a position to know.

Panetta first enters the TWA 800 public record on July 25, 1996, the day the president visited the victims' families on Long Island and the day after the fortuitous retrieval of the black boxes – an improbable week after the crash.

Panetta publicly formalized what had been quietly true from the beginning. "All coordinated information will be done through Bob Francis," said Panetta at a press conference held at JFK.

Oddly, Panetta described Francis as "head of the National Transportation Safety Board." He was not. A Clinton appointee, Francis was vice chairman, but he served as something of a "political officer" for the NTSB, the "eyes and ears" of the president.

By coordinating the information flow through Francis, the White House was able to make all the frightening talk of a missile scenario disappear within that first week.

Instead, unnamed "law enforcement officials" were now telling the New York Times that they "supported the theory that the plane was destroyed by a bomb."

Panetta was among those reinforcing the less scary bomb theory. CNN quoted him as saying that "chemical residues had been found on some of the bodies and plane parts."

When, however, the White House decided that it could make even a bomb go away, Panetta was there to help flush the chemical residue down the memory hole.

Panetta had ample assistance, most notably from Richard Clarke, Clinton's anti-terror czar. In fact, Clarke takes credit for what he calls "the exit strategy," the way out of the pre-election political mess that TWA Flight 800 had caused the president.

An early Obama supporter, the blowhard Clarke may have cost himself the CIA job by being insufficiently discreet about his own contribution to the TWA 800 misdirection.

Clarke talks about his role in some detail in his preposterously self-serving best-seller "Against All Enemies." As he tells it, he was wandering through the tightly guarded investigation site some time in August 1996 when he happened upon an equally indiscreet technician:

"So this is where the bomb exploded?" I [Clarke] asked. "Where on the plane was it?"

"The explosion was just forward of the middle, below the floor of the passenger compartment, below row 23. But it wasn't a bomb," he [the technician] added. "See the pitting pattern and the tear. It was a slow, gaseous eruption, from inside."

"What's below row 23?" I asked, slowly sensing that this was not what I thought it was.

"The center line fuel tank. It was only half full, might have heated up on the runway and caused a gas cloud inside. Then if a spark, a short circuit ..." He indicated an explosion with his hands.

In this one supposedly chance encounter. Clarke, who knew next to nothing about aircraft technology, managed to discover the official cause of the crash months, if not years, before the NTSB did.

That same day, Clarke tells us, he returned to Washington and shared his exploding fuel tank theory with Panetta and NSA Director Tony Lake, even sketching the 747 design.

"Does the NTSB agree with you?" Lake reportedly asked Clarke. Clarke's purported response speaks to the priority politics would take over truth in this investigation – "Not yet."

Clarke adds the telling comment, "We were all cautiously encouraged." They were "encouraged" because the political people like Clarke and Panetta did not want to face the consequences of a missile or even a bomb.

To keep the illusion of a real investigation alive, at least through the November election, Panetta authorized a $500,000 expenditure to create a mock-up of the reconstructed plane.

This Potemkin 747 proved nothing, but it provided a complicit media a useful visual for the administration's "Just-so" stories, stories that were quickly hardening into dogma.

America fed on the illusion of mechanical failure until Sept. 11, 2001. Called to account for his failures that day, Clarke asked the 9/11 commission, that he and his colleagues "be forgiven for not thinking about [aviation terrorism] given the fact that they hadn't seen a lot in the five or six years intervening about it."

Thomas Young is not prepared to forgive. He is still "greatly disturbed" that his fellow citizens did not get to see what he had seen.

Young suspects that if we had all been able to see the video, and responded appropriately, we might still think of the 11th as just another day in September.

Related special offer:

Get Jack Cashill's groundbreaking exposé, "First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America"


To jump to the original on-web posting of the article above (which by now may no longer be available),  Click here

The purpose of this archive is not to steal, but rather to preserve.  I always give full credit to the original source and have no profit motive or personal gain in presenting the above.  A link to the original post is always included for reference.  The original content is unaltered and the original appearance differs [if at all] mostly in the welcome absence of pop-up windows and advertisements.  Many of the outside links in the original article have been preserved as have most images (space allowing).  Over the last few years the internet version of " Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" has become all too common.  This archive is intended to act only as a backup resource in the event the original disappears.

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: What does Leon Panetta know about TWA 800? #30: (may not be available yet)

Check out the entire Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization (FIRO) website.

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