As sure as July 17th will arrive each summer, families of the 230 people who died in the crash of TWA Flight 800 twenty years ago, will remember with sadness the night the Boeing 747 exploded off the coast of Long Island.
Here’s something else they can count on, a pre-anniversary story from someone, promising to blow the lid off the conspiracy to hide the truth about what really happened to the airplane.
But July 2016 is not just the 20th anniversary of the disaster it is also the month of the presidential nominating conventions and the newest book about TWA 800, The Crash, the Coverup and the Conspiracy by conservative writer Jack Cashill, has a political agenda.
Calling it the “the most consequential cover-up in American peacetime history,” Cashill writes that a missile destroyed the airplane and President Bill Clinton ordered the CIA to cover it up.
The reason the story can’t get traction, Cashill complains, is because ninety percent of the mainstream media is actively pulling for Hillary Clinton’s election.
Or as he writes, “The presidential couple that orchestrated the cover-up in 1996 is attempting to claw its way back into the White House.”
Spare me. Better yet, spare the families. When asked about the latest “truther” book, John Seaman, whose niece died on the Paris-bound flight said simply. “Let it go.”
The NTSB spent more than four years and 20 million dollars probing the wreckage, records and operating environment in which the plane was flying and concluded the mid-air explosion was the result of a design flaw on Boeing airliners that allows the center fuel tanks to get hot enough to explode on a regular basis.
Trust me, Boeing wasn’t exactly shouting that news from the rooftops. In fact, as you can read in my book about the disaster, the airplane maker made some pretty deliberate attempts to keep investigators from finding out about this elemental design flaw.
Nope, that isn’t juicy enough. What Cashill and others promoting an alternative to the official report want the world to believe is that Bill Clinton orchestrated the chiefs of a dozen departments in the U.S. government to put their evil heads together to hide a friendly-fire, shoot-down of the airplane.
Cashill says as much in a post on his website, urging people to come forward with what they know about the disaster.
“If we are to break this story out (sic) before the November election I need to hear more from primary sources,” he writes.
That’s an odd call to make after one’s book is published. But reading the post accompanying the plea, I can understand why he’s making it. He’s simply rehashed statements already reported but adding drama by giving the speakers aliases. It makes it seem as if old allegations were brand new.
There is one exception.
Cashill claims that former FBI agent Robert Knapp, who died in 2014, called the spark-in-the-fuel-tank ignition theory “bullshit”.
Well there’s no asking Knapp, but I knew Bob for 18 years. I met him within weeks of the accident, which I covered for CNN. We remained friends until his death and I can assure you, whatever he may have initially thought about the ignition source of the Boeing 747’s fuel tank, he did not believe the U.S. government was conspiring to cover up what really happened.
During his time with the FBI in New York, Knapp, who was also a lawyer, specialized in organized crime.
It is not at all unusual that at first he might find it hard to believe that a fuel tank could explode from an internal source. Lots of people, even those in aviation found the volatility of the 747 fuel tank surprising.
But to extrapolate such a brief and early comment, to a full-blown FBI endorsement of a cover-up, is exactly the kind of agenda-driven twisting of the facts that casts huge doubts on everything else Cashill writes. Is it any wonder the ninety percent in the main stream media Cashill complains about, won’t give his theories the time of day?
In urging people to help him reveal the conspiracy and the cover-up, Cashill warns there is a deadline, the nominating conventions are just days away.
“If the conspirators get beyond this July unscathed, they will cease to worry,” he writes.
For everyone who believes that the crash of TWA 800 revealed and resolved a real air safety issue, I hope Cashill’s last sentence is correct. If so, an end to the TWA 800 conspiracy nonsense would be an assuredly good thing to emerge from upcoming presidential conventions.
I am a journalist, a published author, speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.