Psychology of a cover-up
© Jack Cashill
From a WND reader: "I've been reading about the Flight 800 cover-up on WorldNetDaily. So far, the facts are convincing that the events did not happen as the official explanation describes. I only have one question though, why? Why would anyone want the people responsible to get away with this?"
The question above is of the sort we hear most often: How could a conspiracy of such magnitude occur in modern America and why would the government and the media allow the conspirators to "get away with this."
A good question. The answer can be traced to two variables – one a person, Bill Clinton, the other a date, 1996. Everything else derives from the two. Our liberal allies in this cause would rather not hear this – and their support is all the more honorable for its lack of political reinforcement – but the story makes no sense without this understanding.
In 1992, a reported 89 percent of Washington correspondents voted for Bill Clinton (one of the bases of our generalizations about the major media). If, inevitably, they did not hold him to the same standards they would a Republican president, they did not give him a free pass, at least not in those first two years. The election of 1994, however, changed all that.
The Republican rout shook the media elite to the bottom of their very souls. Peter Jennings referred to it on air as a "temper tantrum." More than a few of his colleagues openly stereotyped Republican voters as "angry white men." The anxiety within media circles was palpable and profound. With Congress lost, the largely Democrat media reflexively closed ranks around their remaining standard bearer, President Clinton. Their role subtly shifted from pursuers of the truth to protectors of the president.
This shift became evident at Oklahoma City. As soon as Timothy McVeigh was apprehended – just three months after Gingrich assumed power – the major media seized on him as the inevitable consequence of the "Republican revolution" and its primary organ, "hate radio."
"Words have consequences," Clinton piously intoned. The media echoed the refrain. They had little interest in finding the "others unknown" who were likely involved in the bombing. It would only obscure the clarity of the image they had already presented to America. Their collective failure to pursue obvious leads was as shocking and unprecedented as the FBI's.
As to President Clinton, he never looked back. He proved masterly at manipulating the victims' families and massaging his own ratings. With the media's help, he climbed above 50 percent public approval at Oklahoma City for the first time in ages and never fell below again. The Republican revolution was buried in the rubble, and a politically revived Bill Clinton understood how and why.
In July of 1996, the resurgent Clinton knew he would easily beat Bob Dole in November. Only a catastrophe could deny him the one goal that inspired his every breath – reelection. On the night of July 17, he was presented with just such a catastrophe.
There is no doubt that the official investigation into the crash was compromised from the beginning and ultimately corrupted, as detailed in the columns and article linked below. What follows is a conjecture on the psychology of that corruption based on the facts of the case and eight years of close observance of the Clinton White House.
What motive, a skeptic might ask, would the White House have to risk so epic a cover-up? From the beginning of his term, Clinton's greatest political vulnerability had been his tenuous grip on the role of commander in chief. If terrorists had been able to infiltrate American coastal waters and blow a 747 out of the sky, Bill Clinton's re-election would have been seriously jeopardized. If the plane had been downed by mistake in the course of high-tech war games staged close to shore to accommodate Democratic fat cats, Bill Clinton's political career would have ended.
There was no "win" in this situation. No Timothy McVeigh was about to emerge from central casting. Regardless of who shot down the plane – and a few insiders had to know immediately – the White House had to play for time. If the results of the investigation could be pushed back at least until after November, Clinton would survive.
So White House operatives moved immediately to kill the missile story that was being broadcast on CNN and the networks. Within 24 hours, the administration line, parroted by the media, was that no one knew for sure what caused the crash but that all leads were being pursued.
This approach sounded prudent and reasonable. The 736 official eyewitnesses believed it. The thousands of professionals and volunteers who labored mightily to retrieve the wreckage believed it. The victims' families believed it. President and Mrs. Clinton descended upon Long Island and assuaged the anxieties of these families only the way the president could. As at Oklahoma City, he would make them his allies and his shield. As late as a month ago, former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz would cite their sensitivities in his attack on the authors of this article. So would NTSB Chairman Jim Hall when he urged the judge to throw the book at James and Liz Sanders in their conspiracy trial:
"[T]his is not a so-called victimless crime. ... These defendants have traumatized the families with the release of misinformation, the only plausible cause of which is commercial gain."
In the first weeks and months, government information control was hesitant and imperfect. Looking back at the investigation, one sees signs of improvisation and internal struggle everywhere. It would be a year or more before ranks closed and the story line solidified – when insiders began to sense that they would, in fact, be able "to get away with this."
If White House behavior reveals a certain perverse logic, the motives of the rank and file seem less clear. Why would so many professionals so willingly participate in so high-risk a cover-up? Again, the answer is simpler than it might appear: They did not believe that they were doing wrong.
For most participants in the investigation, the work was so narrowly (and purposely) compartmentalized that they could pursue it in good faith without qualm. The smaller number that could see the larger picture were likely told that "national security" demanded that information be contained and controlled. This rationale would have justified – in their own minds at least – the otherwise criminal obstruction in which they participated.
Dr. David Mayer comes to mind here. Those who have seen the video, "Silenced: Flight 800 and the Subversion of Justice," know him as the preening, obsequious NTSB staffer (a "sniveling sycophant" in the memorable words of one observer) responsible for discrediting the eyewitness testimony. Although his every utterance was tortured and disingenuous, Mayer seems to have blinded himself to the mischief he was sowing. He labored sincerely at his work and literally beamed when praised by his superiors.
As testament to the seductive powers of "blindness," recall the many otherwise intelligent staffers – the secretary of state among them – who chose to believe and spread Clinton's painfully obvious lies about Monica Lewinsky (a story that broke one month after the first NTSB hearing). Some, like Sidney Blumenthal, risked their freedom and their fortunes to preserve the illusion of truth. Some others, like Vernon Jordan, knew it all to be a fraud but found themselves in too deep to extricate themselves.
If there is a Vernon Jordan in the TWA 800 affair, it would have to be FBI agent-in-charge Jim Kallstrom. With his boss Louis Freeh nowhere to be seen – Freeh's superiors may not have trusted him enough to involve him – Kallstrom ran the show. But one senses in Kallstrom, unlike Mayer, a consciousness of the enormity of this undertaking and a deep unease about his own role in it.
Indeed, according to Marge Gross, whose brother died in the crash, Kallstrom confided in her that a missile had in fact brought down the plane. "But," he reportedly added, "If you quote me, I'll deny it." One can only guess what pressure was exerted upon Kallstrom to make him honor the party line, but the moment the FBI quit the case, Kallstrom quit the FBI.
As to Jim Hall, Bill Clinton did not name him chairman of the NTSB without reason. If the Washington Post believed Hall's best qualification to be "his driver's license," Bill Clinton knew it to be his loyalty. In a pinch, this Gore crony from Tennessee could be trusted. In the Flight 800 affair, preposterous as it might seem, Hall would play much the role Ken Starr did with Lewinsky – the chief investigator. But Hall was not about to find the "semen-stained dress" of this investigation. This shrewd good-old-boy knew enough not to look.
Still, it is highly unlikely that Hall or Kallstrom or Mayer or Mayer's boss, Bernard Loeb, orchestrated the cover-up. That agent had to come from either the White House or the Justice Department, a political operative with the power, inherent or imparted, to force the FBI on the NTSB, the CIA on the FBI, and the military out of the picture altogether. This was the one person who could not deceive himself – or herself – that the misdirection of the investigation was "a matter of national security."
But surely someone who could see what was going on would break ranks? 747 pilot and manager Terry Stacey, TWA's No. 2 man on the investigation, certainly tried to. He leaked information to investigative reporter James Sanders who promptly and fairly reported it. The feds arrested them both for their troubles, as well as Sanders' wife Liz, and convicted the Sanders on a bogus conspiracy rap. As to the major media – the ones who had made a hero out of Daniel Ellsberg a generation earlier for a much graver breach of security – they stood by mutely and watched.
If workers at the Calverton Hangar on Long island needed instruction in the ways of Clinton justice, the Stacey incident provided it. The FBI had reportedly warned them that to even talk about the explosion with outsiders was to risk prosecution, and now no one doubted the FBI. Investigators found their phones bugged for a year after they had left the hangar.
As to the military, if it had been in any way responsible for the crash – a big if – the pressure brought to bear on witnesses to the truth would have been greater still. As would later become evident, Republican Defense Secretary Bill Cohen had a high tolerance for White House-inspired illegalities. This he would prove in his conspicuous failure to punish those staffers responsible for the criminal release of Linda Tripp's confidential files. Top military had no reason to believe Cohen would protect a whistleblower from its ranks.
Besides, if a witness did wish to talk, who would listen? Maj. Fritz Meyer stared the explosion in its face from his National Guard helicopter and has never hesitated to tell what he saw. The major networks have ignored him or slighted him. Christine Negroni, reporter and author of "Deadly Departure," went further still, suggesting that Meyer was a right-wing whack job and, in a stunningly low blow, implied that he might even be a Holocaust denier. One senses in Negroni a willingness to defame the other 735 witnesses if she'd had to.
Negroni and fellow establishment reporter, Pat Milton, each had major publishers for their TWA 800 books, big time talk show bookings, and respectful reviews in the New York Times. Like most of the network reporting, these books hewed to the government line with a doggedness that would make Edward R. Murrow squirm in his grave. Said the New York Times review in perfunctory praise of Milton's "In The Blink of An Eye," it "avoids the pitfalls of conspiracy mongering."
From the perspective of the major media, to seek the truth about the Clinton administration was to monger conspiracy. They would leave this unpleasant task to the alternative media and blind themselves to all evidence short of the DNA. Indeed, in their cynicism and passivity, it was they, Bill Clinton's media friends, who undid his presidency. Had they ever shamed him into honoring his office, he might have become the president they once thought he could be.
Jack Cashill and James Sanders' First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America is now available. First Strike explains how a determined corps of ordinary citizens worked to reveal the compromise and corruption that tainted the federal investigation. With an impressive array of facts, Jack Cashill and James Sanders show the relationship between events in July 1996 and September 2001 and proclaim how and why the American government has attempted to cover up the truth.