Sotomayor Squashed Journalist’s
© Jack Cashill
What no one can question about the investigation into the mysterious July 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island is that the government came down hard on serious journalists, and on no journalist harder than investigative reporter, James Sanders.
A key player in that government machinery was none other than District Court judge, Sonia Sotomayor.
In May 2000, she and two colleagues ruled against James Sanders and his wife, Elizabeth, in a civil suit the pair brought against the government agencies that had pursued and arrested them.
True, Sotomayor acknowledged, the government’s “aggressive investigation commenced immediately following publication of the newspaper article,” and yes the article in question did point to criminal conduct on the part of senior Justice Department and FBI officials.
No matter, ruled the judges, “It does not follow that [the Sanders] were punished because they may have drawn blood.”
From the beginning, the story of TWA Flight 800, the one that James Sanders chronicled, has been a story of humanity betrayed – none more so than the families of the 230 good souls aboard that doomed plane.
Fifty-three of the dead were TWA employees. A TWA trainer, Elizabeth Sanders had worked with many of the attendants on the doomed flight and knew several of the pilots.
Their deaths wounded Elizabeth deeply. In the weeks afterward, she and her TWA colleagues passed numbly from one memorial service to another, their grief matched only by their growing anger at the obvious misdirection of the investigation.
Elizabeth introduced one of those colleagues, 747 pilot and manager Terry Stacey, to her husband, and he would become Sanders' best source within that investigation.
That introduction would get the sweet, vulnerable Elizabeth arrested and convicted of conspiracy.
The harassment of Sanders can be traced to March 10, 1997, when California's Riverside Press-Enterprise headlined its front page with an article titled, "New Data Show Missile May Have Nailed TWA 800."
The story identified James Sanders as an "investigative reporter," provided information on his previous non-fiction books, and described his inquiry into the Flight 800 investigation over the preceding months.
This story created a significant problem for the Justice Department. The article's text confirmed that Sanders was on the trail of potential criminal activity by certain investigators.
As those charged with containing the investigation realized, their worst nightmare had come to pass. Forensic evidence had left the hangar.
Some unknown person within the investigation had removed a pinch of material from the plane as telling and potentially damaging as Monica's famed "blue dress."
That person was Terrel Stacey. He had removed it of his own volition and sent it to Sanders FedEx.
This piece of seat back was laced with the DNA of the crash, a reddish-orange residue trail that streaked across a narrow section of the plane's interior.
The FBI had lifted samples in early September 1996, then refused to share the test results with Stacey and others working with the NTSB. For the record, those tests today remain classified under the guise of national security.
The Clinton Justice Department began to defame the Sanders the day after the article appeared, March 11, publicly and falsely claiming that the reddish-orange residue was glue.
If the residue were nothing but glue, it is hard to explain why the FBI launched a major investigation that resulted in the arrest of Stacey, James Sanders, and Elizabeth Sanders.
The law in question had been enacted in the 1960s to discourage souvenir hunters from carting away wreckage at a crash scene before authorities arrived.
What Stacey had taken was much more precious, namely information. Had he managed to scrape off the residue, as he tried to do, he could not have been prosecuted under the scavenger law.
In the Sanders’ trial, the jurors were not allowed to know that James was a reporter. For all they knew, he and Elizabeth were rogue junk dealers. Both were convicted.
Sotomayor and colleagues fully ignored the suppression of Sanders’ First Amendment rights in their ruling.
“The government,” they claimed, “was motivated by a legitimate desire to identify and eliminate a patent security breach in the official investigation, rather than by an illegitimate desire to silence an objectionable viewpoint.”
If this were true, it is hard to understand why in1997 the FBI's New York office Internet site headlined the story of the Sanders' arrest, "Conspiracy theorist and wife charged with theft of parts from airplane."
The use of the word “conspiracy theorist” would seem to suggest that the FBI arrested Sanders precisely because he held an “objectionable viewpoint.”
Having ignored the obvious, the judges concluded, “Absent any evidence that the prosecution was brought to punish the defendants or to retaliate against them for exercising their rights, the defendants were not entitled to discovery on the issue of actual vindictiveness.”
As Sanders observes, discovery would have revealed that the FBI and CIA had changed the testimony of key witnesses, fully fabricated some witness statements, altered the debris field, reshaped recovered airplane parts, and concealed or corrupted a wide range of additional salient evidence to fit their cover story.
Sanders, who has lived this case for the last twelve years, does not mince words in describing the Supreme Court nominee: “The evidence clearly established probable cause to believe Sotomayor entered the conspiracy and aided and abetted the conspiracy.”
What gives legs to Sanders’ conspiracy charge is that during that same year Sotomayor ruled against him, she ruled in favor of TWA and Boeing.
Despite her famed Latina compassion, Sotomayor was the sole dissenting vote in denying compensation to the victims’ families.
Sanders is not alone in his belief that TWA and Boeing had been coerced into accepting the government position on the crash in return for the administration’s help in weathering its consequences.All Sanders asks for now is a little of Sotomayor’s superior justice and Obama’s equally superior transparency.
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.
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