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Missile-TWA theory gets another boost

SHARE Missile-TWA theory gets another boost

Pierre Salinger Thursday offered an expanded version of his theory that a Navy missile shot down TWA Flight 800, this time offering a 69-page document and a set of radar images to bolster his case.

"We have now reached the point where we are totally sure what we are saying is true," Salinger, the former ABC newsman and press secretary to President Kennedy, told a news conference.Salinger, whose original claim that friendly fire brought down the jet was widely discredited, said that this time, he had absolute proof.

He and Mike Sommer, a former colleague from ABC News and an investigative reporter, presented a set of radar images they said were taken from an air traffic control video from John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the flight took off July 17, 1996.

The images, also published Thursday in Paris-Match magazine, show a blip identified as Flight 800, and another blip heading toward it that Salinger claims is the missile that brought down the plane.

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

Early Tuesday, the FBI seized a videotape, supposedly showing the radar images, from the Florida home of retired United Airlines pilot Richard Russell, who is listed in Salinger's report as a member of his investigative team.

Salinger first based his friendly fire claim on a memo Russell wrote and circulated on the Internet.

The videotape was examined closely and found to have no indications of any missile, The New York Times reported Thursday.

"It has the blip of the plane," a federal law enforcement official told the Times. "It has the blip of other planes. It has no missile. It never did. It never will."

At the news conference, Salinger and Sommer claimed the missile was fired during a "super-secret" U.S. Navy exercise off Long Island, N.Y., and was meant to target a Tomahawk missile but hit Flight 800 instead.

They said the missile was either a kinetic energy missile or a continuous rod missile.

"All missiles owned by the Navy, by any ships, submarines, planes in the area, have been inventoried," said Kenneth Bacon, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. "There is absolutely no evidence to support this theory."

Meanwhile, investigators say they may charge a retired California policeman with obstruction of justice if he took a fabric sample from one of the seats of TWA Flight 800.

James Sanders, whose wife is a TWA employee, has said he obtained the fabric from the hangar where the wreckage of the jet is being reconstructed. Sanders says his investigation shows the fabric contains fuel residue from a missile that hit the plane.

Investigators adamantly deny Sanders' claim - and want to know where he got the fabric.