FBI head acknowledges terrorist missile could have brought TWA jet down

Fox News
03/13/97 Associated Press

FBI head acknowledges terrorist missile could have brought TWA jet down
March 13, 1997
5.11 p.m. EST (2211 GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- The FBI agent in charge of the TWA Flight 800 investigation acknowledged for the first time Thursday that the plane could have been brought down by a shoulder-fired terrorist missile.

But so far, there is no evidence to prove that theory, James Kallstrom said. And he condemned as ridiculous a new flurry of claims that the jet was destroyed accidentally by the U.S. military.

"This terrible, terrible tragedy was not caused by our military,'' Kallstrom said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Our military, in particular the Navy divers, are the heroes of this operation -- not the culprits.''

Investigators have focused on three possible explanations for the July 17 disaster: a bomb, a missile or mechanical failure.

Kallstrom said that it is "technically possible'' a terrorist using a shoulder-fired, Stinger-type missile could have caused the tragedy, and he said investigators are examining that possibility. He would not elaborate on where a missile could have been fired from or provide other specifics.

The plane was 10 miles offshore and more than 13,000 feet up at the time.

Kallstrom said there is no new evidence to support the terrorist missile scenario over other theories.

But he noted that similar missiles have been used to down more than 25 commercial planes over the past two decades in places such as Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. Stinger-type missiles are designed specifically to shoot down planes.

Flight 800 exploded after takeoff from Kennedy Airport, killing all 230 people on board and scattering wreckage across a five-mile stretch of the Atlantic Ocean.

The missile theory has been bolstered by people who reported seeing something in the sky before the disaster.

"There were too many people who describe strange events like flares and streaks of light in the sky'' to ignore the missile possibility, Kallstrom said.

Kallstrom's remarks came in a week rife with reports that a missile was responsible for the explosion. He was particularly incensed by claims by Pierre Salinger, a former ABC newsman and press secretary to President Kennedy, that the U.S. government is covering up the real cause of the blast.

"The outrageous claims of the Pierre Salingers of the world that are unfounded in any facts, absent any rational analysis ... do nothing to assist us in trying to find the answers to this horrific event,'' Kallstrom said.

Salinger offered an expanded version Thursday of his theory that a Navy missile shot down Flight 800. At a Paris news conference, he released a 69-page document and a set of radar images from a video.

The tape "completely confirms a missile fired down TWA 800,'' Salinger said.

Kallstrom said investigators long ago eliminated any "friendly fire'' scenarios or the possibility of a military cover-up. The FBI reviewed radar and other sources to conclude the military could not have shot down the plane, he said.

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