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TWA 800 Missile Topic: The Mystery Ships

The Unidentified Ships Near the TWA 800 Explosion

This TWA 800 Missile Topic is a guided tour of websites containing information about the ships detected by FAA radar in the immediate vicinity of TWA Flight 800 when it exploded.

These ships are ONLY a mystery because the FBI can not or will not "officially" identify them.

NTSB Radar Image from the Shoemaker site.

In the following (quoted with referenced sources) you will read about:

  1. The FBI’s public assertions that they had investigated EVERY POSSIBLE ship as a missile launch source. [November 18, 1997]
  2. The FBI’s subsequent claim that they can not identity THE ship almost directly beneath the TWA 800 explosion, large enough to show up on "aviation" radar, and fleeing the scene at 30 knots. (Commander William Donaldson’s Report implicates this ship as the source of a missile.) [July 17, 1998]
  3. The NTSB’s lack of concern about this ship because "that's the FBI's territory"! [July 17, 1998]
  4. The FBI’s REFUSAL to reveal, even to a Congressman, the identities of three other ships in the immediate area of the TWA 800 crash. [July 27, 1998]
  5. Retired FBI TWA 800 Chief Investigator James Kallstrom's subsequent revelation that three of the surface radar contacts were U.S. Navy vessels conducting classified operations. [from a conversation taped on September 14, 1998]

Background: Mystery Ships

November 18, 1997

[James Kallstrom the now retired FBI TWA 800 Chief Investigator] "said that despite checking every possible angle on such an attack -- including tracing the course of thousands of boats in New York harbor, talking to boat owners, confiscating some boats to check them for burn marks, and viewing massive air-control radar data -- there was no evidence to support the missile theory."

July 17, 1998

The Press-Enterprise
Two Years Later, Flight 800 Crash Questions Remain By David E. Hendrix
"…Documents indicate four mystery ships were within six miles of the crash site at the moment TWA 800 exploded.

A Navy captain assigned to the Pentagon told an Atlantic Fleet watch officer about 24 hours after the crash to keep the names of three merchant ships that could have been near Flight 800 "in-house Navy for the time being." The directive was noted in Atlantic Fleet logs released under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Federal Aviation Administration radar captured four unidentified tracks "consistent with the speed of a boat" within three to six miles of the jumbo jet's course at the time of its midair breakup. One vessel, less than three miles from the crash scene, was headed southeast away from the area at 30 knots (34.5 mph) and another was headed toward the plane's path at 20 knots (23 mph). None of the ships has been publicly identified. Navy cruisers, frigates and destroyers can operate at speeds above 30 knots.

NTSB spokeswoman Shelly Hazle says the NTSB has no idea of the ships' identities and isn't concerned because that's the FBI's territory. FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette says he doesn't know anything about the ships…"

July 27, 1998

Letter from Lewis D. Schiliro, Acting Assistant Director in Charge.
In response to a letter from Congressman James A Trafficant, (D) Ohio
"… Question 2. In its analysis of radar tapes, has the FBI been able to positively identify every single aircraft and surface vessel that was in the proximity of TWA Flight 800 at the time of the accident?

FBI Answer: No. Following extensive analysis of raw radar returns by the FBI, the NTSB and an outside expert, in
January, 1997" [ A MERE 5 MONTHS AFTER THE CRASH ] "the FBI first noted the presence of a surface vessel, which, because of its speed of between 25 and 35 knots, is believed to be at least 25-30 feet in length, approximately 2.9 nautical miles from the position of Flight 800 at the time of the initial explosion. The analysis first noted the boat's presence at approximately 8:11 P.M., traveling in a South, Southwesterly direction. The last radar contact was noted at approximately 8:45 P.M. Despite extensive efforts, the FBI has been unable to identify this vessel. However, based on our investigative efforts, we are confident it was not a military vessel.

Question 3. If the answer to question number two is yes, can the FBI positively match every surface vessel and aircraft with an individual or individuals? Has the FBI interviewed every one of these individuals?

FBI Answer: With the exception of the vessel discussed in the response to question 2, all other vessels and aircraft noted on radar have been identified and appropriate interviews conducted.

Question 4. Can the FBI share with my office the results of its radar analysis, specifically, the identities of all the surface vessels and aircraft in the proximity of TWA Flight 800?

FBI Answer: No, for the reasons stated in response to question number 1, …" [ From question 1: "The FBI's investigation will remain in a pending inactive status at least until such time as NTSB determines a probable cause for the accident that excludes the possibility of criminal conduct being the cause of the Flight 800 tragedy. Therefore, except for our production in response to the subpoena issued in the civil litigation, which will be subject to a protective order, and the release of redacted eyewitness statements to NTSB, the FBI has no current intentions to release publicly other evidence in this case".]

September 14, 1998

Commander William S. Donaldson's
September 24, 1998 letter to the FBI: Conflicting statements about surface vessels.

From the letter:
The subject of this letter addresses a simple dilemma. Both Deputy Directors, Kalstrom and Schiliro are now on record in direct conflict attempting to explain to congress and the American people the identities of suspicious surface radar contacts in the immediate vicinity of Flight 800 when it exploded...

...Please recall Mr. Kalstrom’s quote in November 1997, “we turned over every rock 10 times.” That statement was offered up to the American people during the FBI’s Press Conference when you dropped the investigation. Apparently the FBI’s rock garden didn’t include a high-speed surface vessel almost underneath Flight 800 when it exploded. We have extremely credible witness testimony that implicates that vessel as a probable missile firing point (see Exhibit 15 of the Interim Report).

The FBI’s official representation to the Congress as to the identity of that 30-knot surface contact is in Mr. Schiliro’s incredible answer to Congressman Trafficant’s second question. He states “In January 1997, the FBI first noted the presence of a surface vessel, which because of its speed of between 25 and 35 knots, is believed to be at least 20-30 feet in length, approximately 2.9 nautical miles from the position of Flight 800 at the time of the initial explosion, …” and later, “the FBI has be unable to identify this vessel. However based on our investigative efforts, we are confident it was not a military vessel.”

Mr. Freeh, that first compound sentence is incredible. It admits; (1) the FBI took five months to examine the Islip ASR8 radar tape for surface contacts when witnesses were describing surface to air missile fire the first day; (2) the FBI dropped the investigation leaving this radar target unidentified although it was implicated by witness testimony as a possible source of missile fire.

... I also have in my possession a taped conversation held on 14 September 1998 between Deputy Director Kalstrom (Retired) and Mr. Reed Irvine, Chairman of Accuracy in Media. That conversation puts Deputy Director Kalstrom on record with two startling new facts. He alleges:

  1. The 30-knot surface contact was a helicopter.
  2. Three of the surface radar contacts were U.S. Navy vessels conducting classified operations.

End of Background

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