FACT CHECKING: James Kallstrom

James Kallstrom was Assistant Director of the FBI in New York when he was appointed to lead the FBI’s criminal investigation into the crash. Two weeks later, his team of agents had interviewed more than 500 eyewitnesses and concluded a missile was involved. Kallstrom later presented an animation produced by the CIA that said no missile was involved. No one at the CIA interviewed any witnesses.

1) Kallstrom Misrepresents Eyewitness Evidence
On June 22, 2013 Kallstrom said that “80%” of the eyewitnesses heard a sound first, and then looked up and saw TWA 800 crash.

FACT CHECK: This is inaccurate. Less than 5% did. Kallstrom used this inaccurate percentage of 80% to discredit the high number of witness accounts consistent with a missile strike.

The truth is that more than 95% of the witnesses who observed a rising streak of light consistent with a missile heard no sounds beforehand. They just happened to be looking in the right direction at the right time when they saw a missile-like object rise up and explode where TWA Flight 800 was traveling.

According to the NTSB Witness Group Study published in February 2000, “There were 179 sound witnesses who were also sight witnesses”[page 22]. And “670 [witnesses] were classified as sight witnesses.” So even if all of the “sound witnesses” are considered, that is only 27%.

The actual number is less than 5% though, because a vast majority of them heard sounds after the wreckage hit the water, since the events occurred so far away (9 miles off shore). Here is an example of some of these witness accounts, as recorded in their official FBI interview summary documents:

Witness 714: 30 to 40 seconds after losing sight of the falling wreckage behind the dunes, she heard rumbles of increasing intensity.
Witness 153: A few seconds after losing sight of the falling wreckage behind the trees, he heard loud rumbling.
Witness 293: 30 seconds to a minute after the fireball dropped out of site, he heard a series of “sonic booms”.
Witness 89: the fireball descended into the sea; then heard three quick explosions.
Witness 47: saw two columns of flames falling; after a period of time heard a sound similar to thunder.

In addition, several eyewitnesses said they were threatened and intimidated by FBI agents when they were giving their statements. Their accounts can be seen in the documentary, “TWA Flight 800”.

2) Kallstrom Making False Claims Regarding Experience of Whistle-blowers
Throughout the news coverage on this crash starting on June 19, 2013, Kallstrom has been referring to whistle-blower and former senior NTSB investigator Hank Hughes as a low-level bus or truck accident investigator.

FACT CHECK: This is inaccurate. In 1994, two years before Flight 800 crashed, Hank was inducted into the the International Society of Air Safety Investigators and was a full member until his retirement in 2010. Hank was assigned to the NTSB’s go-team for the TWA 800 crash, he was responsible for drawing up the grid for the aircraft reconstruction of TWA 800 and was in charge of reconstructing the entire interior of the aircraft. The NTSB gave Hughes an Outstanding Service award for his work on the TWA 800 investigation, which is the highest award they give.

Whistleblower Bob Young was TWA’s chief investigator on the TWA crash. Other whistle-blowers include Dr. Charles Wetli, Suffolk County Medical examiner in charge of all victim autopsies, NTSB senior medical forensic consultant Col. Dennis Shanahan, MD, and Air Line Pilots Association investigator Jim Speer who located and oversaw the testing of the first piece of debris that tested positive for explosives.

3) Kallstrom Downplays FBI Evidence Tampering During Investigation and repeatedly claimed that his “thousand agents” conducted a thorough investigation.

FACT CHECK: While most of these agents no doubt performed admirably, the record shows that a select group of agents, with direct access to the wreckage were responsible for numerous violations of forensic and investigative protocol. They include:

FBI agent Ricky Hahn attempting to flatten pieces of wreckage with a hammer, thereby altering it as evidence.

The FBI sending to Washington the first piece of wreckage that tested positive for explosives (a part of the right wing). It never came back, according to the NTSB investigator who discovered it and other investigators familiar with it.

In the middle of the night, FBI agents from an outside division were caught breaking into the Calverton hangar where TWA 800 was being re-assembled. Cameras were installed to ensure it didn’t happen again. However, in a recent interview Kallstrom implied that the incident was simply a matter of eager agents working long hours.

4) Kallstrom Stands By Inaccurate CIA Animation Describing Witness Observations, Blocks Eyewitness Testimony at a Public Hearing

FACT CHECK: Mr. Kallstrom’s own agents who directly interviewed the eyewitnesses concluded that there was a “high probability” that a missile was involved based on “overwhelming evidence.” Rather than publicly release this conclusion, Kallstrom tasked a team at the CIA who never interviewed a single eyewitness to produce a video that came to a different conclusion and detailed a scenario that distorted eyewitness accounts and was physically impossible.

Five days before the first NTSB public hearing, Kallstrom wrote a letter to NTSB Chairman Hall requesting that the Chairman bar all discussion of the eyewitness evidence and prevent any eyewitnesses from testifying. In his letter, Kallstrom expressed his concern that the eyewitness testimony would “undermine” the CIA animation.

CIA documents show that the CIA knew their animation did not match the NTSB conclusions regarding the position and breakup sequence of the aircraft which were based on radar, black box, and debris field data. The CIA also knew that the eyewitness accounts cited in their animation did not match the scenario in the animation.

With prior knowledge of all of this, the CIA released their animation to James Kallstrom, who played it at the FBI’s final press conference on the crash. It was broadcast live, nationwide.

5) Kallstrom Misrepresents Significance of Radar Evidence
On the Today show on June 20, 2013, Kallstrom said the radar evidence did not correlate with the eyewitness testimony.

FACT CHECK: Kallstrom provided no explanation as to why this evidence did not correlate with the eyewitness evidence. The truth is that dozens of eyewitnesses reported seeing a streak of light rise up and head south-bound, ending in an explosion. The radar evidence confirms this south-bound explosion.

In 2000, the NTSB conducted a “Missile Visibility Study” and confirmed that the explosion of a missile is recorded on radar, but it’s flight path before the explosion is not (due to its small radar signature before exploding). This study, the FAA radar from the TWA 800 crash, and the eyewitness reports all confirm that what was observed in the sky and recorded on radar is consistent with a missile engagement.

Without providing any explanation, Kallstrom contradicted the clear and unmistakable FAA radar evidence of the explosion that caused the crash

6) Kallstrom Perjures Himself Before a Congressional Committee
In the documentary “TWA Flight 800” Kallstrom is shown testifying before a congressional committee and saying that no eyewitnesses used the word “missile” to describe what they saw.

FACT CHECK: In fact many FBI documents say otherwise. Witnesses, including those with military backgrounds, told the FBI they believed they saw a missile take down TWA Flight 800.

Here are two examples:

Witness 364: When a former crew chief in Marine Corps helicopter squadron HMR-161, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii (1956-1960) with top secret security clearance “learned that TWA Flight # 800 had crashed,…he came to the personal conclusion that what he had seen was a missile hitting the TWA plane.”
Witness 166: “He stated he was in the Polish army in 1974 and has experience with missiles…[he] opined that this was a medium size missile which would have required three experienced people to operate.”