From left to right, Vice Adm. John R. Ryan, Adm. Vern Clark, Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, and Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, circa 1996.
National Security Invoked Re Navy Activity Near Flight 800
Well before radar data from the crash was publicly available, news stories discussed the possibility that a ship below Flight 800 could have been used as a platform for a missile launch. Within a week of the tragedy, a London Times article entitled 'Streak of Light' reports raise possibility of missile fired from ship contained speculation about just such a scenario. The Times reported that "FBI agents believe any missile must have been fired from a ship beneath the plane."(London Times, 7/23/96)
But was there a ship beneath Flight 800 when it exploded?
Yes. This ship was located at a forty-five degree angle from vertical and to the southeast of Flight 800. It was tracked by multiple FAA radar sites at 30 knots heading away from the scene and represents the closest (~2.9 nautical miles) known ship to Flight 800 when it crashed. More than 30 other ships were also tracked by the FAA that night, and according to the FBI, all the ships have been identified, except for one--the one described above. According to the FBI, it wasn't until "January, 1997 [when] the FBI first noted the presence of a surface vessel…between 25 and 35 knots… Despite extensive efforts, the FBI has been unable to identify this vessel."(7/27/98 Letter from FBI Acting Assistant Director Lewis D. Schiliro to Congressman James A. Trafficant)
Schiliro's letter admits FBI knowledge of a ship near Flight 800, but incredibly the FBI allegedly did not detect it until six months into the investigation. (Readers are urged to view the radar data for themselves, to see how hard or easy such a detection could be made) This blatant oversight would seem impossible for a team of over 1,000 FBI agents involved in the investigation, documented to be pursuing a theory of a ship-launched missile. Nevertheless, a ship was below Flight 800 when it crashed, and it is the only one the FBI failed to identify, after first noticing it six months after the crash.
This investigative mystery was compounded by the U.S. Navy's reference to national security when withholding the identity and "movement of significant Naval units" on the night Flight 800 crashed. In response to a freedom of information act request regarding U.S. naval operations in the vicinity of the crash, Commander C.A. Price wrote "Paragraph 2 of the last document in the release package contains information concerning the movement of significant Naval units and has been withheld under 5 U.S.C. 552(b) (1) [National Security]."(5/20/97 Letter from the Department of the Navy to Press-Enterprise reporter David E. Hendrix) Commander Price whited out an entire paragraph describing "significant Naval units," and justified this action by citing national security.
To give the reader an idea of how many ships were in the vicinity of the crash site, this link has been provided. Here, the reader will see how many ships the FBI has allegedly identified, and the one it hasn't. An animation, based upon FAA radar, has also been created for better public understanding of various unidentified targets near the crash site.
Ships Identified by Former FBI Assistant Director?
When news of the suspicious ships surfaced, Accuracy in Media President Reed Irvine phoned up former FBI Assistant Director and lead TWA 800 investigator, James Kallstrom. Kallstrom, recently retired from the FBI, responded quite candidly during the taped phone interview: "they were Navy vessels that were on classified maneuvers."
To compare Kallstrom's claim with official sources, FIRO's Chair, Tom Stalcup, sent a letter to FBI Assistant Director Lewis D. Schiliro, requesting the identities of all unidentified air and surface targets near Flight 800. One month after receiving this letter, Mr. Schiliro retired from his FBI post, and his office is presently searching for the letter, which was sent via certified, return receipt mail and CC'd to two Congresspersons. View the letter here.
FIRO does not claim to know the identity of any of these ships, since all information concerning them has been withheld by the FBI and Navy. However, we feel it is imperative that our civil servants release this information to help the public better understand remaining unexplained evidence. Continued secrecy by the Navy and FBI does little to help disspel lingering suspicions among the public regarding the federal investigation of TWA Flight 800.