Wes Vernon
Unfit and dangerous, Part 3: When the powerful manage to cover up
By Wes Vernon
September 9, 2016

The Clintons, in their crimes and misdeeds, have managed for the most part to escape retribution (legal or otherwise).

There are reasons for that – often boiling down to one factor: no witnesses, or an unwillingness of witnesses to speak out.

In at least one instance, the attempt to wave away or otherwise discredit news of a Clinton scandal has reassured many with minds made up to defend the Clintons no matter what. However, the eyewash this time confronts the stubborn insistence of the citizens unwilling to be threatened or bullied into accepting "You didn't see what you saw."

Nevertheless, we are told to listen to all the "best" people who say the controversial downing of an aircraft in 1996 was the result of a fuel tank explosion and that there was no terrorism or foul play – just go about your business and stop contradicting your betters. And so the burden of doubt in the wider public square hovers over what really caused the downing of TWA 800 just a little over 20 years ago this summer.

Recapping the basics

It is a tribute to the "evil genius" of any individual or group that they can manage to worm out of accountability, often through access to the levers of power, and thereby black out the full story of a plane that was brought down in plain sight of hundreds of witnesses.

The result is President Clinton avoided what might have otherwise been a nasty political fight that year of 1996. Charges could have ranged from "failure to defend our borders," "criminal negligence," war "on his watch," or whatever.

Investigative reporter Jack Cashill shows us in "TWA 800: The Crash, the cover-up, and the conspiracy" that the organized effort to coordinate such an information blackout came from the top. Behind closed doors of those in the "inner circle," it was decreed that what had happened was "embarrassing" and that there was to be uniform denial of the existence of any "missile" fired by the Navy or by a hostile force in the Atlantic. Similarly, there would be denial of terrorism as a factor. (This was before 9/11, but after the Khobar Towers bombing).

Threats (implied and specific) were issued warning that deviation from a "fuel tank" explanation would be frowned upon in high places, with retribution to follow.

When the powerful oversee the cover-up

Cashill brilliantly compares the contemporary pattern of high-level cover-ups and their necessarily accompanying mass deceit to the brainwashing that occurred in the Alger Hiss case that broke in the late forties.

This writer – who has vivid memories of that event – concurs (for younger readers) in Cashill's outline of exactly what happened back then.

And the media go along

"In a totalitarian country," Cashhill's explanation begins, "authorities can suppress information at will. In America," he adds, "the media have to collaborate in that suppression."

It was not always that way. It used to be nearly universally accepted that "it can't happen here!" We have the trusted media to watch out for us!

Sorry folks, that's no longer the case – if it ever was – certainly not during Clinton administration #1 (a portent for Clinton #2? Just asking.)

As a mainstream media person (during Clinton #1), I witnessed newsroom discussions in an era where consensus often devolved into smirks at how clever the president was at being a convincing liar.

Try an earlier date

But as Cashill points out, that's not where "ruling class" deceit all started in earnest. That dubious distinction was notable in 1949 when veteran U.S. diplomat and Democrat Alger Hiss was identified before a congressional committee as a Soviet spy.

At the time, Hiss's accuser, former communist Whittaker Chambers learned the hard way how seamlessly "self-censorship" worked.

Chambers, reviled by the media, supposedly was a "nobody." On the other hand, Alger Hiss was a respected Harvard Law grad, a high State Department official, an unofficial "Secretary-General" at the San Francisco founding of the United Nations! All "the best people" would go to any length to defend him. Minds snapped shut early on in spite of the evidence.

Hiss case & TWA

That exact same "popular" thinking pressure was reflective of a "best people" mindset with the TWA 800 nearly a half century later. It was "less a media conspiracy than a collective pathology," the author opines. Now, new evidence reveals shocking fresh evidence about the crash, that what happened points to conclusions other than the official line, and that a missile was the probable source.

Those "best" experts

Thanks to the "gumshoe" detective work of the author, Americans can now know...

...How the FBI fabricated, twisted, and ignored dozens of eyewitness testimonies.

...Why the CIA's "climb zoom" theory (which Jack Cashill labels "absurd") contradicts the facts.

...What happened to video footage of the plane's destruction.

...The real story behind the bomb-sniffing dog training exercise that supposedly left traces of explosives on the plane.

"Best people" judgment not verified

A center fuel tank explosion scenario was offered by those who would argue (in so many words): "We've told you what to say, so shut up or you'll look ridiculous."

The fuel tank half-truth

OK, the fuel tank did in fact blow up. No one ever said it didn't. But – but – but – the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) found no evidence that it "was and is" the primary contributor to this accident. In fact, the finding was that the center fuel tank caught fire as many as 24 seconds after the initial blast that split apart the plane.

Another note: A vessel less than three miles from where the TWA blew up did not head back to the site to look for survivors. Instead, it fled the scene estimated at between 25 and 35 knots.

In so doing, Cashill writes, the captain of that ship "committed a nautical sin of the highest order." That captain has never been identified by the FBI.

In its final report, the NTSB "conceded that the FAA radar picked up four unidentified vessels within six miles of the explosion.

Enforcement of the official line

There was a report of the existence of an actual film of the missile hitting the aircraft.

Steve Rosenbaum, the founder and producer of Broadcast News Network, learned of this during a conversation with a job applicant who had seen the actual video.

Shortly after the crash, the newly-minted (2 days old) MSNBC cable channel had been showing an amateur video of the missile strike when "three men in suits" came to the editing suite at the cable network.

"They demanded every copy of the video that the network had," the job-seeker reported, "and cautioned that there could be consequences for the film editor and his colleagues should they choose to talk about the video, let alone air it again.

Although a rumored bidding war for the film's purchase is not verified in the book, Cashill writes, "At least a hundred people have sworn to me they saw it."

Not a king's "off with his head" command, but...

Another scene in Cashill's narrative" focuses on a news conference – called to "explain" (away) nasty rumors that persisted in the TWA case.

At one point an honest reporter had the temerity to raise the question of how come the U.S. Navy is proposed to be in on the "search" for traces of what "really" happened in the big mystery, when the Navy itself was a suspect in the case. Whereupon, the FBI's Jim Kallstrom arose, pointed at the "rude" reporter and thundered, "Remove him!" The gendarmes (two men) immediately complied, and escorted the scribe from the premises. Kallstrom often couldn't keep his stories straight in the cover-up, but he did know how to bark orders.

The Gorelick angle

Cashill describes one facet of the "investigation" as "the most ambitious and successful cover-up in American peacetime history."

At the center of that is Jamie Gorelick, a previously little-known deputy attorney general. She had been personally picked for the job for some of its responsibilities by Hillary Clinton herself.

Gorelick was later indentified in one book on TWA 800 as "the most serious player" in an Attorney General's office discussion on the crash.

Out of that gathering (about one month after the tragedy) apparently came from Kallstrom the statement that he did not agree with Gorelick's apparent message, and that investigators had to "find some explanation other than a bomb, let alone a missile." (Note: Gorelick's departure from DOJ in January 1997 may have something to do with that, and if so, Cashill opines the media "missed he story." The New York Times failed to explain in an article on her departure why the "hard-driving, efficient" deputy was leaving, or what she intended to do next.

Quietly, when no one is looking

But then – bingo! – Ms. Goelick ends up with the vice-chairmanship of Fannie Mae – as Cashill quotes the Washington Monthly, "the equivalent of winning the lottery," perhaps as a thank you note from the Clintons, or as the author summarizes, "One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect that Clinton had something to do with Gorelick's appointment" to Fannie Mae. Her credentials for that appointment are not discerned in the book.

Then what?

The Clinton/Gorelick story continued (many details, some of them fast-moving, shocking, or outrageous, you will have to learn about from reading Cashill's book).

For now, we fast forward about 5 1/2 years to the time of Ms.Gorelick's departure from Fannie Mae, having "self-served herself to the queenly sum of $26,466,834 in salary, bonuses, performance pay, and stock options."

Next stop

Jamie Gorelick' s apparent next stop (as a "fixer"?) in putting out the Clinton fires, was her membership on the 9/11 commission, the blue ribbon panel set up to cut through the questions and surrounding mysteries of America's deadliest single war attack on the continental U.S. (New York City) from a foreign power in its modern history.

That of course focused on the "planes-as-bombs" take-down of the Twin Towers (with resulting deaths of nearly 3,000 people on the now infamous day of September 11, 2001

Tying up "loose" connections

An intriguing segment in the Cashill book directs its focus to the 9/11 Commission, Jamie Gorelick's role on that panel, Sandy Berger's criminal theft of records from the National Archives, and questions raised in commission deliberations about TWA 800.


Of greatest note here for our purposes is the "bombshell" dropped by the testimony of George W. Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, which was preceded by testimony from George Tenet – CIA director under both Presidents Clinton and Bush.

Though Tenet avoided talking about TWA 800, his testimony did touch on a "wall" of separation between intelligence and law enforcement operations.

That "wall" made it more difficult to locate two of the Sept. 11 hijackers who had already entered the country by the summer of 2001. Tenet noted this was a hindrance.

Again, though not mentioned by the panel whose focus was 9/11, Gorelick, when she was at DOJ , issued the "wall" edict on March 4, 1995, nearly 1 1/2 years prior to the crash of TWA 800. So with all the scrambling from high posts to cover-up what really happened in that case, it takes no wild imagination to posit that the "wall" could have come in handy for those working overtime to deflect the truth from reaching a clear public view.

As former AG Ashcroft declassified the Gorelick "wall" memo of 1995, he would tell the commissioners, "Full disclosure compels me to inform you that the author is a member of this commission."

Gorelick outrage

Amidst an ensuing public demand to testify under oath before her fellow commissioners, Gorelick apparently decided to observe the familiar adage that "the best defense is a good offense."

At a closed-door meeting hurriedly called by Commission Chairman Thomas Kean, formerly a popular governor of New Jersey, Gorelick threatened to "go to Daschle" (the then-Senate Majority Leader) who had been involved in appointing Democrat members of the Commission.

That was a thinly veiled threat (figuratively, of course) to blow up the commission. Governor Kean, an affable and competent chief executive who knew how to keep "peace in the family," did just that. Gorelick wouldn't be forced to testify.

But here's the rub

For all the shouting, the Gorelick memo was actually violated in the TWA 800 case. As Cashill tells us, the CIA and the FBI collaborated "splendidly" in their cover-up operation "from Day 1 on." They exchanged "a steady stream of information."

You see, Kallstrom and his allies were able to use the "wall" to protect them from the nosy busy-bodies at the NTSB an agency charged with probing – well, transportation accidents. But the CIA, normally restricted to international terror threats? No problem. Y'all come.


Then there was the case of Sandy Berger, President Clinton's National Security Advisor, who visited the national Archives and ended up pilfering documents, stuffing them in his pants, hiding them outdoors, and cutting them into little pieces. There may have been something on TWA 800 included in those destroyed documents. We just don't know. But hey! This is Washington. Who's being picky- picky?

There may be "hints" here as to what kind of people Hillary will pick if she becomes president. Gorelick might be one example.

Pleasant dreams. Hmmm?

© Wes Vernon


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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