Into the Buzzsaw, by Kristina Borjesson

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: Into the Buzzsaw, by Kristina Borjesson

Postby admin » Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:01 am


A seventeen-year veteran of Capitol Hill, Kelly O'Meara was just recovering from a decade-long investigation of the suspicious "suicide" of a young US Marine in El Salvador when TWA 800 exploded in the sky. Years of fighting with the military to get to the truth of what really happened to the young soldier had finally culminated in the government changing the cause of death from "suicide" to "undeterminable." Then suddenly, Congressman Forbes (R-NY) charged Chief of Staff O'Meara with looking into the crash.

Way before we met, she was raising the same questions I'd been asking. After a long conversation on the phone, we decided to meet to compare notes. We invited The Press-Enterprise's David Hendrix to join us. O'Meara, Hendrix, and I spent many hours in Congressman Forbes's office pouring over the hundreds of documents we'd gathered in the course of our respective investigations.
While we had documented evidence of official lies being disseminated to the general public about the investigation, the "smoking gun" remained elusive.

Although deeply shaken by my experience at CBS, I had been sucked right back into TWA 800. When O'Meara invited me to accompany her and Diana Weir (Forbes's chief of staff on Long Island) to visit some of the areas that were key to the investigation, I agreed to go along. After visiting the Moriches Coast Guard Station, we went to the Calverton hangar. O'Meara told me to wait in the car while she and Weir went inside for a tour. But then Weir suggested that we ask if it would be all right for me to go along. I walked in, presented my passport, signed in as Weir's guest, and off I went. I had no press credentials at the time.

Inside the hangar, the FBI's Ken Maxwell met us and took us to a small room for a briefing before the tour. As he spoke, both O'Meara and I noticed something interesting on the wall behind us. There on a triangulation map of the area where the jetliner exploded, was a spot identified as "possible missile launch site."

Calverton hangar is enormous. One area, called the "bone yard," was a huge hallway containing pile after pile of debris. Looking at this seemingly endless line of stacked-up metal, my thought was that it must have taken a very powerful force to fragment the plane into so many small pieces. While examining the reconstructed interior with its rows and rows of mangled seats, O'Meara and I noticed another interesting thing: some rows were missing. Among them was row seventeen. According to "Hangarman," or NTSB investigator Terrell Stacey, the seats in that row were covered with the mysterious red residue that he'd sent to Sanders.

During the tour, I tried to keep my mouth shut, but my curiosity got the better of me, and I asked a few questions. While examining the reconstruction, I made a comment about the center wing tank that, I think, made Maxwell realize that I had more than just a passing interest in the mock-up. Right then, he excused himself. When he came back, the tour was cut short.

Two days later, FBI agent Joe Valiquette called O'Meara. "You know," He said, "Mr. Kallstrom is very upset that that woman was in the hangar and he is going to be calling the Congressman about this incident."
Kallstrom told Deadly Departure author Christine Negroni, "I was furious. Here we were trying to cooperate with the congressional people and one of the staff members would bring someone from a news organization into the hangar."

I guess Kallstrom forgot that I wasn't from a news organization. According to Diana Weir, when Kallstrom spoke to Forbes, the FBI task force chief mentioned that he had a "huge file" on me. I sent FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to the FBI, CIA, navy, and everyone else I could think of to get my own copy of that voluminous file. I was curious to know just how evil I was in Mr. Kallstrom's eyes. Everyone, including the FBI, wrote back saying they had nothing on me.

Kallstrom's talk with Forbes triggered the end of O'Meara's seventeen-year career on Capitol Hill. She'd become a political liability while doing the job he'd asked her to do.
O'Meara, who knows the ins and outs of government like the back of her hand, who possesses investigative skills superior to those of most veteran reporters, is now an investigative journalist.
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Re: Into the Buzzsaw, by Kristina Borjesson

Postby admin » Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:01 am


The most gruesome and fascinating bit of information O'Meara and I uncovered during our investigation came to light while talking to Suffolk County Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Wetli. He had told us that an extremely high-pressure, forward-moving force had ripped through the cabin, turning the air deadly with flying objects: ''It was like a machine-gun nest in there," he said. He showed us some slides, including one of a piece of bone embedded in fuselage, like an arrow shot into a tree. He told us that many bodies were completely riddled with bits and pieces of wire, fuselage, and other objects. These were painstakingly removed and handed right over to FBI agents standing at the autopsy tables.

Then Wetli told us about something that belongs on Ripley's Believe It or Not: interbody implosion. Every body that came into the morgue was identified by DNA. During the course of this process, it was discovered that two bodies that had come in two weeks apart shared the same DNA -- a virtual impossibility. Further research revealed that they were a husband and wife who had been sitting next to each other when the aircraft exploded with such intensity that their flesh was fused together.
Since he'd never seen anything like it before, Wetli had to coin a new term for it: interbody implosion. The question to ask here is, Would an explosion in the center wing fuel tank sparked by a short circuit create such an extreme-pressure environment?
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Re: Into the Buzzsaw, by Kristina Borjesson

Postby admin » Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:01 am


My phone started acting funny after I came home from CBS. On certain calls, I'd hear all kinds of clicks. Sometimes I'd be talking and the line would just go dead. I tried to keep my paranoia under control, but I did call Bell Atlantic to ask them to check for a wiretap. They never got back to me. After a while, I settled into a liberating, what-the-hell-I've-nothing-to-hide mindset.

After O'Meara left Forbes's office under duress, we decided to write a book about our experiences with TWA 800. It was the summer of 1997. The book's working title was Unauthorized Access. We were nervous about doing it, but we shared a strong sense of outrage. We went to a number of publishing houses for pitch meetings, and several editors wanted it. Our literary agent, Sandra Martin, set up an auction so they could fight for it. The morning of the auction, one by one, the editors called up to back out. Sandra said she's had editors not show up for auctions and then call later to say that they couldn't get the advance money or give some other reason. "But I never had them call and say I can't participate in the auction -- and give no reason, just say, 'I can't participate,"' she said.

Summer folded into fall, and on the day before Halloween, my family and I moved to La Crescenta, California, right outside of Los Angeles. I spent months working odd jobs, including working on an ABC special, Sex with Cindy Crawford, a stint that paid well but marked the lowest point of my producing career.

Then, out of the clear blue sky, I was dragged back through the looking glass into the TWA 800 story. Tom McMahon, an award-winning, ex-network producer who has his own production company in Los Angeles, called to set up a meeting to talk to me about doing a segment on TWA 800 for a series pilot he was producing for Oliver Stone. Stone wasn't really interested in TWA, McMahon said, but McMahon wanted me to write up a pitch to submit to him. By this time, I was soul-tired of TWA. I was tired of trying to get the story out, tired of all the weirdness, tired of fighting the powers-that-be. "Tired, Tired, Tired," to quote comedian Chris Rock. But McMahon was really excited about it. So, I asked him, "What makes you think that this segment will ever see the light of day?" I'll never forget his reply: "Consider this a rip in reality," he said.

Like most Americans, Stone had no idea about all the shenanigans going on behind the scenes of the TWA 800 investigation. Kelly O'Meara and I wrote up a pitch. Stone okayed it. So we headed to New York to start producing the segment.

It was then that the most bizarre incident I've experienced to date with this story occurred. O'Meara and I had driven up to New York from Washington in her car. We had arrived late at night and parked on the street right in front the building we were staying in. We decided to take out our bags and leave everything else in the trunk.

"Everything else" included our TWA documents, O'Meara's computer, a movie camera, a tool chest, and some tennis rackets.

The next morning, we went to the car, and O'Meara opened the trunk. Everything was there, except for the TWA 800 documents and O'Meara's computer. The trunk lock itself looked untouched and worked perfectly. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these things do happen in the United States of America.
I would never have believed it if I hadn't experienced it myself. As I read some random notes that O'Meara wrote up about this episode, I actually smile. She has a certain righteous fierceness about her that, combined with her superior reporting skills, makes her a great journalist: "I'm sitting in the police station in Manhattan," she wrote, "and the only thing I can think of is to make sure that woman types up on that report that they stole my TWA documents." I have to confess before moving on that Kelly and I had no one but ourselves to blame for the theft. We had broken a cardinal rule of journalism: never, ever let your most important documents out of your sight. Fortunately, we had followed a second cardinal rule: we had made backup copies of these documents and squirreled them away in various places -- just in case.

Our story for Oliver Stone was going to be an investigation of the investigation; our independent investigation of the official investigation.
Since some of the most troubling issues surrounding the official investigation had to do with the eyewitnesses, we decided that the centerpiece of our segment would be a huge eyewitness shoot that would take place in an airplane hangar. We'd gather as many eyewitnesses as we could find and bring them together in a sort of town meeting to talk about what they'd seen and how the authorities had dealt with the information they provided. In a couple of weeks' time, we'd gathered more than thirty eyewitnesses, found some local production help, and were closing in on a hangar. Then we got a call from Los Angeles.

It was Tom McMahon calling to tell us to stand down. The shoot would have to be postponed. There was a problem with ABC.

This was a little discouraging as it took a lot of convincing to get so many eyewitnesses to agree to go on camera. As we waited for word to move again, the buzzsaw kicked into high gear. It began with a "Periscope" piece in Newsweek entitled "Stone's Take":

The theory that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by a missile may be widely discredited, but it won't die. The latest conspiracy crank to delve into the mysterious crash is none other than film director Oliver Stone. His production company is preparing a one-hour, prime-time "reality" special called "Oliver Stone's Declassified" for ABC's entertainment division, including a segment on the missile theory. But not everyone at ABC is thrilled with the project. Like most mainstream media, ABC News has reported federal investigators' conclusion that the crash was caused by a mechanical malfunction. Says an ABC News spokeswoman: "We are confident that this program will be clearly identified as Oliver Stone's point of view."

I immediately called Tom McMahon and asked if anyone from Newsweek had called over there to ask what we were doing on TWA 800. He said no. I told Tom that I had a bad feeling about the "Periscope" piece, and that I was fairly sure that this was an opening salvo, and that in a few weeks' time, there'd be a barrage of press on our show. Then, I fired off a letter to Michael Kramer at the now-defunct media watchdog magazine Brill's Content:

Dear Mr. Kramer:

In all my many years of reading Newsweek, I've never been aware of any "planted" stories but I think I've found one on page six of the October 19, 1998, issue. The brief Periscope piece entitled "Stone's Take" (a copy of which is enclosed) caught my eye because I am producing the segment on TWA 800 for Oliver Stone's "Declassified" show.

For the record and edification of the Periscope reporter who wrote "Stone's Take," Mr. Stone isn't delving into the TWA 800 crash, I am. I was hired to do the story because I am an award-winning investigative producer and I've spent more than two years following the story. I don't know who told Periscope that my segment is about the "missile theory," but I didn't and it isn't. And to the ABC News spokesperson who expressed her confidence that "this program will be clearly identified as Oliver Stone's point of view," I have this to say: I don't give a damn what Oliver Stone's point of view on TWA 800 is and I'm sure that's just fine with him. I wasn't hired to do a piece from his point of view, I was hired to do a solidly reported segment based on the more than two years my associate producer and I have spent looking into this story.

With the cooperation of ABC News, a Periscope reporter has written a piece discrediting "Declassified" and the TWA story before the show has even been filmed. In effect, Periscope has telegraphed to Newsweek's large readership that "Declassified" couldn't possibly have any merit as a serious investigative program because "conspiracy crank" Oliver Stone is in charge. Periscope and ABC News may have succeeded in the short run. Ultimately, Stone's show will stand or fall on its own merit.

I may be wrong, but it looks to me like ABC [News] is upset (and scared too, maybe) about the fact that a hardcore investigative show is being produced outside of their purview. They should be. But "Stone's Take" is a nasty little bit of mouthpiece journalism and Periscope should be ashamed.

Kristina Borjesson

The only thing I was wrong about was the timing of the press barrage. It came much earlier than I expected, virtually on the heels of the "Periscope" piece. Time magazine's "The Conspiracy Channel?" and "Casting the First Stone but Not Airing It" said it all about mainstream media's "balanced" view of "Declassified." "The Conspiracy Channel?" starts off like this: "Which would you rather watch: a responsible and balanced ABC News report about the tragic but accidental crash of TWA flight 800 or a stylish X-Files-like show exposing the bastards who blew her out of the sky, narrated by conspiracy auteur Oliver Stone?" Here's a note to John Cloud, Jeffrey Ressner, and William Tynan who worked on this piece: Even today, years after you put your piece together, government investigators still claim they don't know what happened to TWA 800. Their best guess is that an electrical short circuit ignited fumes in the fuel tank, but they admit they have no conclusive evidence to back this up. So, what information did you have proving that the crash was "accidental"? What information did you have showing that Stone was going to "expose the bastards who blew her out of the sky"? Just how much did you know before you cobbled together your witty little piece?

In his November 7, 1998, piece in the New York Post entitled "Oliver Stone's Take on Flt. 800 Yanked by ABC," reporter Don Kaplan quotes a network news source saying, "ABC has such a strong news brand, and people might confuse the Oliver Stone special with a news special." No they wouldn't. The Oliver Stone special would have been much harder hitting than anything allowed on a regular news special (I know, I've worked on network documentaries). And that, I think, was the real problem. Imagine ABC's entertainment division coming up with a more journalistically sound, harder-hitting newsmagazine show than ABC's news division -- or any other network news division -- would ever dare to put on. Aye, now there would be a rub.

The New York Times's Lawrie Mifflin also weighed in: "ABC Says It Is Dropping Plans for Stone Special on Flight 800." Mifflin reported that ABC decided to kill the show after some "ABC journalists had expressed dismay to their superiors about the proposed program .... Fearing that viewers would perceive it as an ABC News report, ABC has reported that the missile theories are groundless." Later on in the article, Mifflin writes, "The National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency [italics mine] have all said there is no evidence to support the theory that the crash was caused by a missile or missiles." The CIA? What mandate did they ever have to be involved in the investigation? They did, however, put together an animation for the FBI that was completely discredited by the eyewitnesses whose testimony the CIA claimed to have used to create it (more on that later).

Without a doubt, the coverage of "Declassified's" death was, with few exceptions, a propaganda juggernaut that made it clear that anyone who didn't believe the government's officials or the journalists who unquestioningly reported what the officials said was a conspiracy nut. This, of course, is the old "marginalization" routine. If you don't go along with the party line, you're shoved into the margins and eventually out of the picture.

"Declassified" had been approved and in the works for six months when O'Meara and I were called out of the field. The show was canceled within three or four days after we were told to stand down. In that brief period, agents were called and the deal was off and settlements were made. Negotiations to revive the show would not be considered, end of story. Oliver Stone said it was one of the worst things that had ever happened to him in his professional life. The big question here was: Where did the pressure come from? From ABC's news division that had invested in the mechanical theory and was afraid "Declassified" might make them look bad? Stone told me that the pitch for "Declassified," described the prospective series as an edgy investigative magazine show that would make 60 Minutes pale in comparison. I could see why ABC's news division would try to kill it. And what about the FBI and the NTSB? The FBI in particular had a real "thing" about denying the public access to information about the eyewitnesses.
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Re: Into the Buzzsaw, by Kristina Borjesson

Postby admin » Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:02 am


The FBI's "thing" about the eyewitnesses was first apparent at the National Transportation Safety Board's public hearings held on December 8, 1997, in Baltimore, Maryland. Days before the hearing, James Kallstrom wrote to NTSB Chairman James Hall to ask that information on the eyewitnesses and the red residue found on the seats not be discussed at the hearing. Hall complied with Kallstrom's request. Now, I don't know about you, but a letter asking that these specific items be omitted from the roster would send me digging deeper in precisely those two areas. Sometimes, in a sensitive investigation, if you pay attention, you'll find that if you're told not to bother looking somewhere, it is exactly where you should look. If you're told something isn't important, go check it out because it might be very important.

[Hoggle] This way.

[Rock] Don't go on.


[Rock] Go back while you still can.
This is not the way.
Take heed and go no further.
Beware. Beware.
Soon it will be too late.


[Hoggle] Yeah! Don't pay any attention to them.
They're just false alarms. You get a lot of them in the labyrinth.
Especially when you're on the right track.


[Rock] Oh, no, you're not.

[Hoggle] Oh, shut up.

[Rock] Sorry. Just doing my job.

[Hoggle] You don't have to do it to us.

[Rock] Beware for --

[Hoggle] Just forget it.

[Rock] Oh, please, I haven't said it for such a long time.

[Hoggle] Oh, all right, but don't expect a big reaction.

[Rock] No, no, no, of course not.


[Rock] For the path you will take will lead to certain destruction.

-- Labyrinth, directed by Jim Henson

Paul Ragonese once said during a conversation we were having about the eyewitnesses that standard operating procedure for a law enforcement officer arriving on the scene of a crime or accident is to ask everybody in sight, "Did anybody see anything?" In the case of Flight 800, hundreds of people saw something and they reported what they saw to the FBI. Ultimately, over six hundred witnesses spoke to FBI agents. But the FBI and the NTSB did everything they could to diminish the importance of eyewitness testimony. Perhaps the most startling effort the FBI made in this regard was to commission the CIA to create an animated sequence that would convince the public that what the eyewitnesses said they saw was actually an optical illusion.

The CIA animation was based largely on the testimonies of eyewitnesses Dwight Brumley and Mike Wire. Although the eyewitnesses said they saw a "flare-like" object rising from the ocean surface to meet the jetliner, the video's narrator said in so many words that what they actually saw was jet fuel streaming down from the crippled craft after it had exploded. Mike Wire is a Vietnam veteran who was working on a bridge on the south shore of Long Island at the time of the disaster. He had this to say after reviewing the video: "The animation didn't match anything that I had seen in no way, but I just figured well, let's just be quiet about it 'cause they're still investigating and it could be a story they could correct later on.'" Dwight Brumley was an active-duty master-chief in the US Navy flying on US Air Flight 217 in the crash site area right before and during the time TWA 800 occurred. He was looking out his window when the tragedy occurred. He didn't think the animation was accurate either: "For them to put that flare moving from my left to right is completely -- it's almost perpendicular to the path that I observed .... What they're animating as a flare doesn't even get close to what I saw, not even close. There's no way that was headed east, northeast." Do you suppose Lawrie Mifflin at the New York Times, who mentioned the CIA as a credible source debunking the missile theory, ever picked up her phone to ask these eyewitnesses about the credibility of the CIA's animation that was based on their testimonies?

Brumley and Wire's assessments matched those of other eyewitnesses on Long Island who viewed the CIA video and were certain that what they had seen that night was ascending, not "streaming down." Local businessman Richard Goss, who was sitting on the porch of the West Hampton Yacht Club at the time, called the video "a joke." Retiree Paul Runyan was standing in his yard: "What I saw was going up from the surface ... like a rising flare." Suzanne McConnell, a nurse, was watching from her back porch: "If it was something from the plane, it would be going down, but this was clearly going up." Darrell Miron is a carpenter and graphic artist: "I seen that video and I did not enjoy watching it because I did not see that that night. There's no way physically possible that that happened .... It started low and went up. The streak of light caused something in the sky to explode. I don't call it a missile because it's their job to tell me what it is. I seen a streak of light heading up and something happened to the point where that plane was .... "

Miron was also among those eyewitnesses who were struck by the FBI's less than enthusiastic response to receiving the information they wanted to provide. "It was rather odd ... when the FBI came to my house and talked to me," said Miron, "because it seemed to me that they were more interested in what I knew rather than what I seen . . . . I offered to create a graphic animation of what I seen, exactly. They didn't want me to go there. They told me no, do not do that. I thought that was odd."

Perhaps even more odd was James Kallstrom's attempt to legitimize the CIA video by telling victims' family members that the eyewitnesses had reviewed it before it was released and found it to be credible. That was in late 1997. Almost a year later, in an interview with Dr. Tom Stalcup, chairman of the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization (FIRO), Kallstrom admitted that the eyewitnesses had not screened the CIA video prior to its release.

Under FIRO's aegis, Dr. Stalcup compiled a comprehensive statistical analysis of the government's eyewitness information and put it in a report entitled "Review of the Official TWA Flight 800 Witness Reports." Very interesting information emerged from Dr. Stalcup's number-crunching. For instance, 94 percent of the eyewitnesses who saw a streak of light early enough to note its origin, said it rose from the ocean's surface. Of the 134 witnesses who provided information related to the rising streak's trajectory, 116 are inconsistent with the official (CIA video) explanation for the streak. "Most reject the official scenario," the report says, "because Flight 800 in crippled flight didn't originate at the surface [and] Flight 800 was never ascending straight up."

In another FIRO report, Dr. Stalcup writes: "It was stated that 'the witness reports were the first and only evidence or indication of a missile attack.' This is factually false." Then he goes on to list the other possible evidence/indications of a missile attack:

PETN and RDX (explosives used in missiles) were found in the wreckage. The NTSB has not conclusively determined the sources of these explosives [remember the FBI trying to throw the public off the trail with the dog-sniffing story?] and their detection anywhere on the wreckage is indicative of a possible missile attack.

FAA radar detected high-speed (Mach 2) targets apparently exiting Flight 800 immediately after the initiating event. The targets are also indicative of a possible missile attack.

The "localized re-crystallization of portions of the rear spar" cannot be explained by the official breakup sequence. The re-crystallization of metal is indicative of a missile attack.

The last time official investigators publicly discussed the eyewitnesses was during a brief period at the tail end of a legally mandated -- per the Government in the Sunshine Act -- public hearing that the NTSB held in late August 2000 to inform the public of their final findings. I attended the hearing and believe me, the government's officials did everything in their power to avoid any sunshine on the eyewitness issue. They spent long periods of time discussing issues like the dangers of lint on wires -- which seemed like a deliberate exercise in navel-gazing for the purposes of taking up time and avoiding the real issues. On the second and final day of the hearing, toward its very end, the board members finally got around to addressing the eyewitnesses, albeit only briefly. This alone tells you how loath they were to publicly discuss this part of the investigation. They had good reason. The fact is, that of all the 670 eyewitnesses the FBI tracked down, the NTSB only spoke to about a dozen of them, according to NTSB Witness Group Chairman, Dr. David Mayer. At the hearing, a brief presentation was followed by a trivial question and answer period that was marked by one board member suggesting that some eyewitnesses who reported seeing an ascending object had been drunk at the time. The whole hearing felt rigged, with no dissenting voices allowed. Conspicuously absent, for example, was a representative from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) who disagreed with the NTSB's final conclusion about the cause of TWA 800's demise. The IAMAW concluded that the initiating event occurred not in the center wing tank but on the left side of the aircraft's exterior: "a high pressure event breached the fuselage and the fuselage unzipped due to the event. ... The explosion [in the center wing tank] was a result of this event."

The eyewitnesses have been and are still the 900-pound gorilla in the middle of the room, because there are so damned many of them.
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Re: Into the Buzzsaw, by Kristina Borjesson

Postby admin » Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:02 am


During my tenures at CBS and CNN, I rarely ran into a producer working on a very sensitive story. If I had to tell you why, I'd say this: Getting a job at a network is hard enough because the competition is brutal, but keeping it -- especially since there's no job security and your contract comes up for renewal every two or four years -- is a skill that requires as much political savvy as journalistic talent. There's no point in looking for trouble or hard work by pitching a tough story. Network producing is an all-consuming job. The hours are horrendous. Investigative pieces in particular can wreak havoc on your mind, body, and family.

On a story like TWA 800, as you saw with my experience at CBS, you can become a pariah among your colleagues as well as with government investigators if you persist with your politically incorrect investigation. But what's interesting about TWA 800 is the number of independent investigators who are, even to this day, working hard to get to the bottom of this disaster. This has angered government investigators. James Kallstrom, who, as the Haitian expression goes, doesn't keep his "tongue in his pocket," seemed particularly upset by Oliver Stone's efforts: "The real facts are glossed over by the likes of Mr. Stone and others who spend their life bottom-feeding in those small, dark crevices of doubt and hypocrisy," he told the Associated Press's Pat Milton. Kallstrom was implying that independent investigators are "bottom-feeders" out to make a buck at the expense of the victims' families, who require our silence to achieve peace of mind and closure.

I don't know of one independent investigator or journalist who has made big bucks pursuing the truth in this matter. On the contrary, it is a tough row to hoe financially speaking. As for the families' peace of mind, I think Kallstrom implying that we should drop it for their sakes redefines the term "manipulative." With all due respect to the families, what about the peace of mind of all the living who get on planes every day to fly off the coast of Long Island?

Even worse, from my point of view, are those I call "the backbiters." They are the journalists who gratuitously attack other journalists working the unpopular sides of a story.
I'm going to name names here because I find this practice insidious and a real discredit to our profession.

After leaving CBS, I felt that the best policy was to keep my mouth shut about what happened. I didn't really want to continue looking into the story, much less become the story. When the New York Observer's Philip Weiss called me for an interview, I told him off the record about what I'd experienced and then refused to say anything for public consumption. He asked me if I minded if he spoke to the people at 60 Minutes, and I told him to do as he pleased because I had no right to tell him whom he could and couldn't talk to. The senior producer of 60 Minutes, Josh Howard, told Weiss that my "official relationship with CBS ended" before I had pitched the TWA story. Then he went on to say this about the proposal I submitted to him for a story on TWA Flight 800: "It sounded kind of wacky, and we said, 'No thanks.'" First, here's the "wacky proposal" or "blue sheet" (as it's called inside the network) that I submitted to Howard on March 18, 1997:


A retired cop turned journalist is on the run, wanted by the FBI for "stealing" evidence. The FBI seizes a copy of FAA radar tapes from a retired pilot who claims he got them from a source inside the investigation. A grand jury is convened for what appears to be an unprecedented purpose -- investigating leaks within the TWA investigation. Meanwhile, crash investigators called to the Hill have little progress to report; the NTSB's Dr. Bernard Loeb saying that there was evidence consistent with the plane being struck by a missile fragment only seemed to add to the confusion. At the same hearing, Representative Frank Wolf said, "the credibility of the U.S. government could be tarnished if this thing goes on much longer."

Indeed. So what is going on? What's going on between the FBI and the NTSB? Why are people inside the investigation leaking documents, forensic evidence, and key information to the press, including CBS's law enforcement consultant, Paul Ragonese, who secretly met with two members of the task force? Is Jim Sanders, now hiding from the FBI after announcing that the red substance he received from a source inside the investigation was fuel exhaust from a missile, a publicity-seeking flake or a credible journalist with an incredibly good source? Will the congressional subcommittee inquiries help or hurt the investigation?

60 Minutes focuses on the drama behind the scenes of this unprecedented investigation and looks for clues to the ultimate question: What really happened to TWA 800?

Now isn't that just the "wackiest" thing you've ever read?

As I mentioned before, Josh did not say "no thanks." If he had, the FBI would never have come calling at CBS. Also, my official relationship with CBS ended when they gave me notice. Prior to that, I was working on a month-to-month basis as my contract had ended and there was no documentary to assign me to at CBS Reports. During that time, as Josh Howard may have forgotten (and I have the memos to prove it), I was developing several stories for 60 Minutes, including one on child soldiers, another on former SAC commander General Lee Butler, and another on Korean alien smugglers. CBS correspondent Bob Orr also took his best shot across my bow. In his interview with Philip Weiss for the New York Observer, Orr said that he was "never impressed by Ms. Borjesson," and then posed these rhetorical questions: "What was her level of access and expertise, and who did she talk to? Who were her sources? One, and he was alarmingly thin." I spoke to Bob Orr once and only briefly. He never asked me about my sources, "level of access," or "expertise." His assumption that I only had one source on this story was, to put it mildly, incorrect.

Besides misspelling my name (that would be Kristina with a K, Ms. Negroni, not a CH) Christine Negroni, an ex-CNN reporter and author of Deadly Departure, a book about the Flight 800 disaster, incorrectly described what happened with Sanders's sample when it reached CBS and then went on to incorrectly state that the reason The Press-Enterprise's David Hendrix and I had "much information in common," was because we were staying in touch with Kelly O'Meara. I didn't meet O'Meara until after I'd left CBS. I had no idea that we'd uncovered similar information until I met her later on. Negroni, who seems to have had liberal access to James Kallstrom, quotes him implying that O'Meara was pushing "a conspiracy thing" in Congressman Forbes's office: "I was aware from people around the investigation that Forbes's office was part of this whole conspiracy thing to some degree .... A lot of people were concerned and puzzled by what his office was doing. I didn't know how much he was doing and how much was happening by some strong person [he's talking about O'Meara here] with a lot of leeway in his office." In the last paragraph of this chapter, Negroni writes that O'Meara and I had "convinced" Oliver Stone that "the investigation of Flight 800 was worth another look." As you read earlier, we didn't "convince" Stone of anything. Stone's producer, Tom McMahon, approached me and asked for a pitch. If anything, he had to convince me to wrap my arms around the TWA 800 tar baby one more time.

In all fairness to Negroni, I refused to talk to her, but that's no excuse for not getting her facts straight.

The most puzzling attack on O'Meara came from a highly respected Washington Post reporter, Howard Kurtz. She had recently received new radar information from the National Transportation Safety Board, so she asked for and was granted an interview with the NTSB's Peter Goelz and Bernie Loeb. Shortly thereafter, on August 23, 1999, Howard Kurtz wrote the following in the Post's Style section:


Peter Goelz, Managing Director of the NTSB was taken aback when he was interviewed by a reporter for Insight magazine, the Washington Times' sister publication. He says Kelly O'Meara was "extraordinarily antagonistic." O'Meara was questioning Goelz about secret government radar reports that she said showed plenty of activity nearby on the day in 1996 that TWA Flight 800 crashed. The government says it found no evidence to support theories that a missile downed the plane. Goelz quickly realized he knew O'Meara from previous incarnations. She had pursued the missile theory while working as chief of staff to Representative Michael Forbes, then a New York Republican who had questioned whether there had been a terrorist on the plane, and she had worked on an Oliver Stone docu-drama about TWA 800 that the filmmaker was preparing for ABC before the project was cancelled. "She really believes that the U.S. Navy shot this thing and that there was a fleet of warships," Goelz says. O'Meara did not return calls, but Insight Managing Editor Paul Rodriguez called her previous jobs irrelevant. "She has working knowledge of an issue, it's like saying someone who worked as a tax accountant has a bias towards tax accountancy. If anyone has questions about her bias, wait until they see a printed product finished. It's just carping about an aggressive reporter."

Goelz had contacted Kurtz within an hour of the interview, which was tape-recorded and leaves no doubt as to who raised the conspiracy issue (it wasn't O'Meara). Kurtz ran his piece within forty-eight hours of the interview -- days before O'Meara completed the article she was working on.

I have several questions and comments about Kurtz's piece. First of all, I can't figure out what is newsworthy about it. If a reporter being aggressive is big news, then we should be seeing articles like this everywhere all the time. Most reporters are pushy, whether they're asking the right questions or not. It's clear that Goelz got in touch with Kurtz to write the article. Could it be that this high-caliber journalist stooped so low as to write a piece the sole purpose of which was to make another journalist look bad?

Kurtz writes about O'Meara's "previous incarnations" as if they were big minuses in her current career. O'Meara's long experience with the TWA 800 story was the reason she managed to get the additional radar information in the first place. I disagree with Rodriguez that her previous jobs were irrelevant. Her previous jobs were utterly pertinent to covering the TWA story. (Why do you think CBS hired James Kallstrom as their law enforcement consultant after he retired from the FBI's TWA 800 task force? Same difference.) She had more documentation on, and experience with, this story than ten regular reporters. I can't help feeling that Goelz used Kurtz to publicly bite back at her. Also, one correction, Mr. Kurtz: The Oliver Stone piece was not a docu-drama; it was a straight-up newsmagazine piece.

This concludes the Enquirer segment of this essay, but please, don't let the gossipy, backbiting tone distract you from the main point: Don't let official sources use you as a mouthpiece to attack a fellow journalist -- or anyone else for that matter. As Ted Koppel put it, "Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it."
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Re: Into the Buzzsaw, by Kristina Borjesson

Postby admin » Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:02 am


On July 17, 2001, five years almost to the hour that TWA Flight 800 blew up off the coast of Long Island, New York, on its way to Paris, I sat down to begin writing the first draft of this chapter. A few minutes into my efforts, I received notice that the government's TWA 800 damage-control buzzsaw was still firmly in place.

The notice came in the form of an e-mail from Emmy-winning documentary film producer Jack Cashill. Lawyer Greta Van Susteren of O.J. Simpson fame had invited Cashill to appear on her 7:30 PM CNN show, The Point, to talk about Silenced, Cashill's recently released investigative documentary on the official investigation into the TWA 800 crash.

Cashill's e-mail arrived at 5:45 pm, a little less than two hours before he was to go on the show:

Just got the call I was half expecting. CNN cancelled. No one from the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board], FBI, etc. will do the show with me. CNN says that I can't do the show myself because that would not be 'responsible journalism.' The NTSB folks, however, may appear by themselves. That is 'responsible journalism.' The producer and Greta Van Susteren are furious. Not their fault. This came from the top. Yesterday, when this was set up, there was [sic] no conditions put on it. They told me I probably would do it alone. The standards for responsible journalism seem to have changed over night. ... If you ever needed a textbook case of what is wrong with the media, this is it.

I put in a call to Cashill's contact on Van Susteren's show to confirm what he wrote in his e-mail. Her voice mail picked up. I left a message, but she didn't call back. I finally spoke to someone who said that they'd been deluged with calls on this matter and that all calls had to be referred to CNN's public relations department. I told this person that I didn't want to play that game, that I just wanted to run Cashill's e-mail by someone over there to check its accuracy. The person agreed to talk to me as an unidentified source.

The person told me that the show's executive producer made the decision not to allow Cashill to go on alone. "We had no idea we were going to run into this problem," the source said. Then the source told me that the NTSB's Jim Hall and Peter Goelz both refused to appear on the show with Cashill, and that Hall would be going on alone. Then why, I asked, if it's not "responsible journalism" for Cashill to go on alone, is it "responsible journalism" for Jim Hall to go on alone? Because, said the source, Hall is a "legitimate news guest." Then, slightly defensively, the source quickly added this about Cashill: "Lots of people warned us about this guy."

The "legitimate news guest" -- as opposed to what in this case -- the "illegitimate news guest?" In cases of stories dealing with sensitive issues or exposing high-level corporate or government malfeasance, legitimate news guests are often official spokespeople with big titles who deliberately do one of two things when facing the press. They deliberately mislead or outright lie to the reporter. Or, they simply don't address your question but instead talk a lot and say nothing (this is a favorite with politicians) until their time -- or yours -- runs out.

What I have to say to a reporter or correspondent who accepts at face value anything an "official" source or a "legitimate news guest" has to say about a sensitive issue or an explosive event like TWA 800 is simple: Don't do it. Whether you're a big network's ten-million-dollar man or some Podunk paper's ten-thousand-a-year cub reporter, you can bet your booties that your "legitimate news guest" from the FBI or the NTSB or Congress or even the White House is going to lie to you at some point. Far too often, legitimate news guests are invited on shows where the correspondent's producers simply haven't done their homework. The results, in terms of meeting basic journalistic standards of conveying the truth, are disastrous.

Van Susteren's chat with Jim Hall is an example. I'm going to deconstruct her encounter with him on her program and show you why. I'll begin with the introduction she read (she may or may not have written it by herself), which was very politically correct and downright biased:

At first, people suspected that a bomb went off on the plane. But a painstaking search brought up most of the shattered pieces of the 747 for investigators to reconstruct. Their conclusion: an electrical spark probably ignited vapors in the jet's empty fuel tank, vapors caused by the heat of air conditioning units located just under the tank. Just two months ago, the government ordered airlines and plane manufacturers to change the way fuel tanks are designed, repaired, and operated.

Here's how I read the subtext in Van Susteren's introduction: investigators worked their butts off (that's the "painstaking search" part) and finally concluded -- although they can't prove it (that's what the word "probably" tells you) -- that an electrical spark caused the plane to explode. And, they're doing something about it (albeit belatedly).

Next comes the intro's grabber, the sensational part that's supposed to make you want to hear what the legitimate news guest -- former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall -- has to say:

Is that the end of the story? And what about the conspiracy theorists who keep insisting the jet actually was shot down?

Now she's telling you to think that anyone who doesn't buy the government's unproven theory, anyone who thinks the jet may have been shot down, is a "conspiracy theorist." Tacitly attached to the term "conspiracy theorist" are all kinds of other nouns and adjectives like "goofball," "nutcake," "bottomfeeder" (Jim Kallstrom's personal favorite), "crazy," and so on. Using insulting and false labels to marginalize dissenting or politically incorrect voices is a ploy that government and corporations as well as the press use on a daily basis.

Van Susteren cuts right to the chase after her intro. She asks Jim Hall a straight yes or no question: "Jim, can you say with one hundred percent certainty that the people who think that this was shot down -- this flight was shot down, that they are wrong?"

Jim responds with the classic don't-answer-the-question-just-talk-a-lot-and-say-nothing ploy. He goes on for over a minute (an eternity in TV time) about the victims and the investigation, and as he moves to a higher level of inanity by talking about how this "accident" is comparable to that of a Delta jetliner downed by wind shear in that they are both tragedies that have resulted in "great advances in aviation safety," Van Susteren interrupts him:

"Then does that mean, Jim, that you are one hundred percent certain that these -- that the conspiracists [emphasis mine] who some say that they saw a white light traveling skyward, uh, zigzagging, disappearing and then an orange ball of fire -- can you say with one hundred percent certainty that they're wrong?"

There she goes with that "conspiracist" stuff again. But this time, Van Susteren gets credit for being the dog that won't let go of a bone.

Hall's second response, particularly on the heels of his first longwinded answer, tells me that he is trying to avoid outright lying. He succeeds with a Bill Clintonesque semantic maneuver that would get him off the hook in a court of law (Hall has a law degree). The average viewer probably didn't pick up on it, but Van Susteren, who is a lawyer, probably did: "Greta, in my mind [emphasis mine]," Hall says, "with one hundred percent certainty, our investigators based on the facts that they developed, uh, uh, they are wrong, they are incorrect." The subtext here is that by using the words "in my mind" Hall is only conveying a personal opinion, not an objective certainty. He's doing this to avoid stating as a fact that his investigators are right and the "conspiracists" wrong. "In my mind" is followed by "with one hundred percent certainty," creating a strong impression of factuality when again, he's only conveying a personal opinion.

This unquestioning, uncritical, soapbox-providing, ersatz journalism has got to stop. This censorship via disinviting dissenting voices -- in this case, an award-winning reporter -- who have dug around and unearthed evidence that official sources don't want aired on a mass medium is not just shameful, it's downright dangerous.
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Re: Into the Buzzsaw, by Kristina Borjesson

Postby admin » Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:03 am


If ever there were a time when disseminating disinformation via official sources, when uncritical, uninformed, and inane reporting were dangerous, it's now. On September 11, 2001, the most amazing act of terrorism ever seen on this planet occurred, triggering a war and other deadly military operations overseas and a climate of fear and restricted freedom here. Information about our government's activities here and abroad with respect to the "War on Terrorism" is being tightly controlled. We have reached a point in the history of our nation where our leaders speak openly and often about controlling our access to information and protecting the truth with lies. Even more chilling, we've been told to "watch" what we say and do. In such a climate, reporters must be astute and creative to get to the truth and get it out. While great caution must be taken not to report anything that would jeopardize those out there putting their lives on the line for us, we have to be careful not to allow ourselves to be completely led by the nose either. Now, more than ever, we need a critical press willing to dig deep and cut the stenographer-to-official-sources act. Beyond that, news consumers and reporters should look for respected foreign print and broadcast news. Foreign reporters aren't subject to the same constraints as America's journalists when reporting on sensitive American affairs.

One final word about" official sources": I've had plenty of negative things to say about them, but I do want to add here that they don't always lie. Nonetheless, the press should follow the Ronald Reagan lesson plan for dealing with sources that may or may not be honest. Like Ronald Reagan with the Soviets, the press often has no choice but to deal with official sources. Reagan had to communicate, negotiate, and even break bread with Mikhail Gorbachev. But when it came to accepting his word at face value about the size and makeup of the Soviet arsenal, Reagan smiled his thousand-watt smile and said these now-famous words: "Trust, but verify." The subtext here is, I'm not just going to trust you, I'm going to check out everything you say.

So, trust but verify. Hang that on your walls in big bold letters, dear up-and-coming colleagues and all those who have forgotten the "verify" part. In my view, journalists are this nation's last line of defense for keeping all of us from becoming a nation of expendable cockroaches. This, I believe, is our real raison d' etre.
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