Skip to comments.Clinton silence on Flight 800 speaks volumes: Jack Cashill hits ex-prez
Posted on 06/24/2004 11:38:15 PM PDT by JohnHuang2
Imagine if you were Bill Clinton on July 17, 1996. It is 8:30 in the evening. You are resting in the family quarters of the White House, but not easily.
Just three weeks earlier, terrorists bombed the Khobar Towers, an American barracks in Saudi Arabia, and killed 19 American servicemen. After that attack, you tell the chairman of the Coordinating Security Group on terrorism (CSG), Richard Clarke, that you want to see plans for "a massive attack" against Iran should the need arise to retaliate in the future. In his book "Against All Enemies," Clarke calls this plan, "the Eisenhower option."
On this fateful day of July 17, Liberation Day in Saddam's Iraq and two days before the start of the Atlanta Olympics, the United States military is reportedly on its highest state of home-front alert since the Cuban missile crisis. Two communications have ratcheted up the tension. The first is an editorial in the respected London-based paper al-Quds al-Arabi that outlines the logic for escalating the armed terrorist struggle against the United States. The editorial makes a compelling case that the truck bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia three weeks earlier was the beginning of a larger terrorist campaign. "Thus," concludes the editorial, "we would not be surprised if such attacks on the Americans continue on a large scale in the future." The editor is a close friend of Osama bin Laden.
The second communication comes in the early hours of July 17 in the form of a fax sent to Al-Hayah in London, the most prestigious Arabic language newspaper. Sent by the Islamic Change Movement the name used by Iraqi intelligence to take credit for terrorist acts, according to Iraq scholar Laurie Mylroie the warning comes one day after the group has taken responsibility for the destruction of Khobar Towers. It is as serious as a truck bomb:
The mujahedeen will deliver the ultimate response to the threats of the foolish American president. Everyone will be amazed at the size of that response. Determining the time and the place is the hand of Al-Mujahideen, and the invaders should be prepared to leave ... dead or alive. Their time is at the morning-dawn. Is not the morning-dawn near?
July 17 is the most important day on Iraq's revolutionary calendar. That date marks the coup that brought Saddam Hussein's Baath party to power in 1969. On July 17, 1996, Saddam gives what Mylroie calls the "most angry, vengeful speech of his entire life." He blasts the U.S. for its troops on Saudi and Kuwaiti soil and demands the lifting of sanctions.
Given your nature, of course, you are arguably more worried about the effects further terrorist actions might have on your re-election chances than on the future of the nation. After your tough "The cowards who committed this murderous act must not go unpunished" talk on Khobar Towers three weeks earlier, you had adviser Dick Morris run a poll to see if talk sufficed. "I was concerned about how Clinton looked in the face of [the attack] and whether people blamed him," writes Morris.
When Morris's first poll shows less support for you than you had hoped, you talk even tougher. After some serious bluster, your public approval response climbs. Morris records the following in his written agenda for a meeting:
Recovered from Friday and looking great
Approve Clinton handling 73-20
Big gain from 63-20 on Friday
Security was adequate 52-40
It's not Clinton's fault 76-18
With the political fallout contained, you hand this case off to law enforcement just as you had after the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Still, you dread that "Greg Norman" moment. You were horrified when your buddy Norman blew a six-stroke week on the final round of the Masters just three months earlier, and the last thing you want to do now is blow what appears to be a sure thing in November. "Greg Norman," you repeat to your staff when something goes politically awry. "Greg Norman."
Shortly before 9 p.m., that Greg Norman moment arrives. An American airliner has fallen out of the sky 12 minutes out of JFK without a word of warning from the cockpit and with 230 people on board. The news gets quickly worse.
At the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center two veteran controllers have observed a target arching and intersecting with TWA 800 just as it exploded. They report what they see immediately. A manager from that center rushes the radar data to the FAA technical center in Atlantic City for further analysis. In Atlantic City a playback of the data is recorded on videotape and plotted on to paper. From there, it is faxed to FAA headquarters in Washington and rushed "immediately" to the White House.
"Holy C-----, this looks bad," says Ron Schleede of the National Transportation Safety Board upon first seeing the data that "suggested something fast made the turn and took the airplane."
Richard Clarke gets the message, too. By 9 p.m., he is driving in to the White House to convene a meeting of the NSG. As you know, he did not call such a meeting after the ValuJet crash two months earlier. Clarke is worried.
"I dreaded what I thought was about to happen," he writes, "The Eisenhower option." Had Iran been behind the downing of TWA Flight 800 or Iraq for that matter or al-Qaida the president would have had to respond. In fact, Clarke labels this chapter of his book, "The Almost War, 1996."
As president, you choose not to join Clarke and the other agency representatives in the White House situation room. You remain holed up in the family quarters. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson and others confirm this. Patterson is in a position to know. He carries the nuclear football for you, and this night he too is in the White House, though clearly out of the loop. Patterson is not sure who is in the residence with you. The one person he tentatively cites is Sandy Berger, the deputy director of the NSA and a political insider.
All night you gather information. The eyewitness accounts are now confirming what the FAA radar picked up. Two-hundred seventy people along the Long Island coast surfers, fishermen, pilots, vacationers will eventually tell the FBI that they saw flaming objects streaking up toward the plane and culminating in a series of massive explosions. You are probably aware of the video taken of the incident, reportedly bought by MSNBC.
Whether or not you have seen the satellite data only you know. On Oct. 4, 2001, Defense Department satellites equipped with infrared sensors captured a Ukrainian missile striking a Russian airliner 30,000 feet above the Black Sea. Our government informed Russia within five minutes. After TWA Flight 800's demise, all satellites are said to be malfunctioning. Only you can confirm or deny.
Curiously, your National Security Adviser Tony Lake and Sandy Berger's boss is downstairs in his office during that night. By 3 a.m. you have apparently gathered enough information to call Lake with the following message: "Dust off the contingency plans." The Eisenhower Option. But right now, especially on these terms, with the 1996 election comfortably in your pocket, war is the last thing you want or need, especially when you are not even sure who the enemy is.
In "My Life," here is how you summarize this night of high drama, a night that we might have gone to war, a night that could have cost you your re-election, a night that did cost 230 people their lives.
On July 17, TWA Flight 800 exploded off Long Island killing some 230 people. At the time everyone assumed wrongly, as it turned out that this was a terrorist act; there was even speculation that the plane had been downed by a rocket fired from a boat in Long Island Sound. While I cautioned against jumping to conclusions, it was clear we had to do more to strengthen aviation safety.
This is it, Mr. Clinton? The reader is asked to believe that everyone assumed it was a terrorist act, but that you were all wrong, and we are to content ourselves with that? You literally devote more space to a June 1996 day in Albuquerque "to support the community's curfew program" than to a July 1996 night when 230 people are killed and America almost goes to war. How can the rational American not be suspicious?
Much to your good fortune, The New York Times and the media that followed its lead are not suspicious at all. That should not surprise you. Times' reporters have never inquired about satellites or military intervention and have interviewed none of the 270 eyewitnesses. When your administration offered a transparently false account of how explosive residue got on the plane, the Times never questioned your story. When the CIA presented its preposterous animation discrediting the eyewitnesses, The Times never challenged that account either or even the rationale for the CIA's involvement.
But you always have known more than The New York Times. One morning Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson identifies only as "late-summer" 1996, he is returning a daily intelligence update to the NSC when he notices the heading "Operation Bojinka." As Patterson relates in his book, "Dereliction of Duty," "I keyed on a reference to a plot to use commercial airliners as weapons." As a pilot, he has a keen interest in the same.
In the way of omen, Islamic terrorist Ramzi Yousef is on trial in New York on the day of July 17, 1996, for his role in Bojinka (Serbo-Croatian for "loud bang"). The publicly known part of this plot is Yousef's plan to blow up 11 American airliners over the Pacific. A lesser-known element of Bojinka, the one Patterson stumbles upon, is the plan to use planes as flying bombs.
Patterson is not in position to connect Bojinka and TWA Flight 800. The knowledge of what happened the night of July 17, 1996, has been kept remarkably tight. What Patterson does learn from seeing your hand-annotated response to this intelligence report, Mr. Clinton, is that you have read it carefully.
"I can state for a fact that this information was circulated within the U.S. intelligence community," Patterson writes, "and that in late 1996 the president was aware of it."
That you are reviewing this information in the immediate aftermath of TWA Flight 800's demise suggests more than mere coincidence: The FBI received these documents from the Philippine police 18 months earlier.
This revelation leads to the real tragedy of TWA Flight 800 and the likely reason you are so reluctant to talk about it. After Clarke engineers and Jamie Gorelick enforces the "exit strategy," the plan that enables America to avoid war and enables you to get re-elected, you must have been feeling pretty clever. But by suppressing the truth about TWA Flight 800, you alone knew just how entirely vulnerable you left America's skies. On September 11, you were reminded big time.
Here I quote Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, from his book on Bin Laden written in 1999.
The case of TWA 800 served as a turning point because of Washington's determination and to a great extent ability to suppress terrorist explanations and "float" mechanical failure theories. To avoid such suppression after future strikes, terrorism-sponsoring states would raise the ante so that the West cannot ignore them.
I would encourage the media to take the night of July 17, 1996, more seriously than they have and at least start asking questions. The 230 dead and their families deserve more than one paragraph.
So do the 3,000 dead and their families.
I can't wait to read his Ron Brown book.
Hear ya go...
Would have been preferable to the losses of 9/11.
And WHAT, pray tell did the Toonster have to say about OKC? Does he have any explanation for the growing MILES of evidence which connect the dots?
Didn't those 250 witnessess take out a full page ad in the NY Times protesting the administration's lie? Why hasn't the commission explored this obvious failure and deceit?
Isn't the commission supposed to be investigating this very thing - the OKC bombing and TWA 800 and our failure to respond?
It's the Clinton adminstration still haunting us - ignoring the elephant in the living room - when it is crapping all over everything. I can hear the twilight zone theme playing in my head again - just like during the Clinton Presidency.
Two names: Richard Ben-Veniste and Jamie Gorelick.
MSNBC ever show it?
Why hasn't the commission explored this obvious failure and deceit?
The 9-11 commission could NOT look at TWA800 or the McVeigh-Nichols truck bomb in Oklahoma City because it would mean the end of the DEMOCRATIC PARTY and the "legacy" that supporters of Bill Clinton keep talking about.
If the American public is presented the facts that Clinton covered up Iraqi terrorists killing Americans in OKC to get reelected, it will hit the fan big time (Anyone who reads Jayna Davis' book "The Third Terrorist" will also recognize the coverup).
Just think, Clinton stopped action against terrorism in the mid 90's because he wanted to present a peaceful prosperous message to get reelected.
The Richard Clark foolishness should now begin to make some sense too: Blame Bush before the evidence starts pointing at the Clinton administration. That is right out of the Clinton play book.
And Jamie Gorelick was involved in BOTH the Oklahoma City investigation and TWA-800. Her job was to enforce Bill Clinton's presidential edict: There were no terrorists in the United States before the 1996 election.
Richard Clark came up with the silly center fuel tank explosion theory.
It should ALL make sense now: Jamie Gorelick had to stay on the 9-11 commission. The survival of the Democratic Party depended on it!
This is the biggest scandal of the Clinton Administration and it's just now seeing the light of day!
Bush will win in a landslide!
Whoa - I didn't realize Gorelick was in volved in both - It sure makes sense to me now. Want to know another interesting tidbit of governmental coverups er - I mean conincidences?
Did you know that Robert Mueller - who now currently heads up the FBI - defended and was one of the main spokespersons for the FBI in the Ruby Ridge and Waco fiascos? He was handsomely rewarded for his efforts.
"I have no idea of what it would take for America to finally comprehend what a horrible tragedy the Clintons represent for America....."
The only thing I can think of is that the current Republican administration - including top ranking members of the House and Senate - feel it would be more damaging to the reputation of America to reveal it than disclose it.
This line of thinking - in my humble opinion - is the Republican's achilles heel. If the tables were turned, the Democrats would not hesitate to drag out every error or misconduct of the Republican party possible - then exaggerate it (as in Watergate) in order to try and destroy the Republican Party - even if it meant bringing down the country as well (just like they're doing right now.)
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