Reviewed: Peter Lance's 9/11 Masterpiece (Article #2)
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Book Review
Peter Lance is one of the last in a dying breed. An investigative reporter who is disciplined enough to devote half a decade in pursuit of the truth. A newsman cut from the same cloth as the legendary journalist I.F. "Izzy" Stone. A gumshoe reporter who still pounds the pavement and relies heavily on public documents to present the facts - no matter where they lead or whom they implicate.
In his forthcoming book, Triple Cross, Lance, a bestselling author of two previous insider accounts on the so-called war on terror, the FBI's handling of 9/11, and Islamic terrorists, has crafted yet another masterful narrative, this time turning a critical eye on the FBI and the wide-ranging intelligence failures within the agency that led up to the tragic day that has been seared into our memories for five long years.
Triple Cross adds a new wrinkle to the 9/11 debates and calls into question the veracity of the historical record the public has been forced to accept. Lance's reporting is bound to stir up debate about the integrity of the 9/11 Commission's investigation and the panel's lengthy final report on the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of 2,973 Americans. Be forewarned, Triple Cross presents no conspiracy theory. It's a 489-page thriller. And it's all true. Lance, a five-time Emmy award-winning reporter and former ABC News correspondent, sticks closely to the facts. He provides readers with exhaustive footnotes and copies of some of the more crucial government documents he obtained to build a compelling case of the FBI's incompetence in reining in one of the most dangerous terrorists next to Osama bin Laden, who ended up playing a crucial role in 9/11. It should be noted as well that Lance steers clear of partisan politics: his book - unlike so many others that came before it - leans neither "right" nor "left."
Lance's dogged pursuit of uncovering the truth behind 9/11 began on a personal note. His son's high school was located just a few blocks away from Ground Zero, and when the Twin Towers crumbled, Lance feared the worst. Spending hours trying to make his way through clogged telephone lines to track down his son, he found out from a relative that the boy was safe. But a close friend of Lance's, a New York City firefighter who also had Top Secret clearance in the army reserve intelligence unit he served with, wasn't as lucky. In the midst of all the carnage, the obvious question arose and gnawed at Lance: How could this have happened? How could intelligence agencies have missed the warning signs?
Having spent a decade writing fiction, Lance returned to the trenches and started digging. He began a tedious search for public documents. He read through 40,000 pages of trial transcripts from al-Qaeda cases in the Southern District of New York. He used his close connections in the Manhattan District Attorney's office to help him track down additional information.
"All I did was apply data-mining techniques to the story retrospectively, using Google - anybody could have done this," Lance said in an interview describing one aspect of his reporting technique.
Two years later, he produced 1000 Years for Revenge, a meticulously detailed volume of 9/11 reportage and international terrorism, which caught the attention of 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean, who asked Lance to testify before the commission. But the commission opted to take Lance's testimony in secret, "in a windowless conference room at 26 Federal Plaza on March 15, 2004," Lance wrote in the preface to Triple Cross. Lance has misgivings about the 9/11 Commission and believes its final report "has proven vastly incomplete."
Triple Cross covers 1981 through 2001 and tracks the rise of al-Qaeda, focusing heavily on former Egyptian army major and al-Qaeda operative Ali Mohamed, who successfully infiltrated the FBI. Perhaps the most intriguing part of Triple Cross is the appearance of Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the CIA leak case, who plays a leading role in Lance's book and is featured prominently on the dust jacket and in the subtitle: How bin Laden's Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI - And Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him. In the 1990s, Fitzgerald was the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York directing the FBI's elite bin Laden squad.
Still in his early 30s, Fitzgerald made some costly blunders early on that might have changed the course of history if more attention had been paid to detail. Indeed, in 1991, the FBI discovered that a mailbox store in New Jersey had direct ties to al-Qaeda but failed to monitor the location. Yet four years later, Fitzgerald named the owner of the store as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Day of Terror case he was prosecuting. However, since no charges were filed against the owner, the store continued to stay in business and once again fell beneath the Justice Department's radar. Six years later, two of the 9/11 hijackers obtained their phony identification cards from that very store.
Lance presents convincing evidence in the form of court records, transcripts, and interviews with key players that casts Fitzgerald, along with numerous other Justice Department and CIA officials, as terribly negligent in allowing the agencies to be hoodwinked by Mohamed, who succeeded in penetrating the CIA's Europe division and the FBI in California, all while Mohamed was secretly helping bin Laden orchestrate the African Embassy bombings. The story of Mohamed, a man Fitzgerald called the "most dangerous man I have ever met," is groundbreaking and has never been fully fleshed out before.
Lance begins telling Mohamed's story - one that has all the makings of a Hollywood thriller - in the first passage of his opening chapter of Triple Cross.
"On October 20, 2000, after tricking the U.S. intelligence establishment for years, Ali Mohamed stood in handcuffs, leg irons, and a blue prison jumpsuit before Judge Leonard B. Sand in a Federal District Courtroom in Lower Manhattan," Lance writes. "Over the next thirty minutes he pleaded guilty five times, admitting to his involvement in plots to kill U.S. soldiers in Somalia, and Saudi Arabia, U.S. ambassadors in Africa, and American civilians anywhere in the world ... In short but deliberate sentences, Mohamed peeled back the top layer of the secret life he'd led since 1981 ..."
During that plea session, Lance writes, Mohamed kept quiet about "his most stunning achievements," including how he avoided being caught in a State Department Watch List, enlisted in the US Army and was stationed at the same base where the Green Berets and Delta Force undergo training, and wooed a Silicon Valley medical technician, whom he married. In the courtroom, Mohamed, fluent in four languages, "didn't say a word about how he'd moved in and out of contract spy work for the CIA and fooled FBI agents for six years as he smuggled terrorists across US borders, and guarded the tall Saudi billionaire who had personally declared war on Americans: Osama bin Laden," Lance writes.
While Mohamed vacationed from the US Army in 1988, he tracked down an elite group of Soviet commandos in Afghanistan, while later cozying up to Special Agents in New York and San Francisco, and found out everything the FBI knew about al-Qaeda, learning it firsthand from the agency's top agents. He guarded Osama bin Laden during the same time he enjoyed the luxuries of being one of the FBI's top informants. There are so many threads to this story, dating back more than two decades, that one cannot help but feel utter contempt for the intelligence agencies who were entrusted with weeding out threats like Mohamed but instead fiddled with the internal bureaucratic red tape at federal agencies so that by the time any action was taken, it was too late: 9/11 had arrived.
Triple Cross would end up being a highly entertaining Tom Clancy-esque thriller, in other words, pure fiction, if Lance didn't have tens of thousands of pages of documents locked up in a safe-house to back up this explosive account. Remarkably, Mohamed was never sentenced for the crimes he pleaded guilty to. He is in the witness protection program, his existence shrouded under a veil of secrecy.
Peter Lance is a five-time Emmy-winning investigative reporter. He holds a Masters Degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. Lance spent the first 15 years of his career as a print reporter and network correspondent. He began his career as a reporter for his hometown paper, The Newport, Rhode Island Daily News. In 1981, Lance became an investigative correspondent for ABC News, covering hundreds of stories worldwide for ABC News, 20/20, Nightline, and World News Tonight.
Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/111706A.shtmlAnti-terror squad produced Patrick Fitzgerald and a blueprint for prosecutions (Article # 3)
By LARRY NEUMEISTER -- Associated Press Writer
November 7, 2005, 5:11 PM EST
NEW YORK -- Long before Patrick Fitzgerald was introduced to the nation as a special prosecutor, he worked in near obscurity, a key component of a team of anti-terrorism prosecutors who were part of a new frontier in American law enforcement.
Through the 1990s, Fitzgerald and more than a dozen other prosecutors in New York discovered a growing international terrorist threat, indicted Osama bin Laden and brought charges against more than three dozen suspected terrorists, winning every major trial.
Besides Fitzgerald, who is U.S. attorney in Chicago, several other prosecutors have taken coveted jobs in the legal profession. Two have been appointed federal judges, three became U.S. attorneys and one became second in command at the Justice Department. The prosecutors, who were part of a U.S. attorney office that is one of the most prominent in the nation, forged new legal ground when the nation's laws were not yet equipped to confront international terrorists.
After a bomb plot to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993 killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others, prosecutors learned there was not even a death penalty on the books.
U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, who helped prosecute six men sentenced to life in prison for the attack, recalled prosecutors cobbling together laws about commerce, destruction of vehicles, assault on federal officers and immigration _ anything to create long potential sentences.
"We were left with a big hole in the ground, six people dead, and there really was no crime, no terrorism statutes. We had to struggle to find crimes in the books that fit the conduct here," Garcia said.
Another member of the team was Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian leader who the government maintained approved a plot to blow up five New York City landmarks, including the United Nations.
McCarthy searched the law books until he found a seditious conspiracy statute that had been barely used since the Civil War but which criminalizes waging war against the United States.
It was such a novel use of the statute that prosecutors had to go to Washington and make a presentation worthy of a trial to convince the Justice Department it could be used against terrorists.
"The charging ammunition we had was awful," said McCarthy, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy.
McCarthy recalls that joining the terrorism team meant long hours, almost no days off and a feeling "like being in the seventh game of the World Series."
He said there were occasional security threats, adding to the feeling that it was dangerous work, but ultimately they were left with "a feeling like you're doing something meaningful for the country."
Fitzgerald, or "Fitzy" as he was called by colleagues, became one of the nation's first experts on al-Qaida, able to spell and define Middle East names for jurors as easily as a baseball fan reciting a player's batting average.
His prosecution of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has given him a measure of fame and the public a glimpse into the nature of prosecutors who helped alert the nation in the 1990s to a worldwide network of terrorists led by bin Laden.
Former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who began in 1993 assembling the team of investigators which included Fitzgerald, said she chose the "best and the brightest" to focus on terrorism.
"They were a success from day one. I'm very proud of them," said White, who left the job three years ago for private practice.
In 2001, Fitzgerald left the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan to become U.S. attorney in Chicago, just after outlining for the first time in a courtroom the makeup of the al-Qaida terrorism network that days later would strike America.
Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl, a founding member of al-Qaida, testified during the trial of four men in a conspiracy to bomb two U.S. embassies in Africa, that bin Laden in 1989 was thinking about creating al-Qaida to expand the militant Muslim cause.
Fitzgerald was not alone among veteran terrorism prosecutors moving on.
When he took over as U.S. attorney several weeks ago after working in Washington as the Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary, Garcia chose Lev Dassin, who worked with him on the first trade center trial, to head the criminal division.
Kenneth Karas, was appointed a federal judge in Manhattan while another, Joseph Bianco, has been appointed to a federal judgeship in Brooklyn and is awaiting final approval.
James Comey, who worked with Fitzgerald in Manhattan on mob cases, became U.S. attorney in Manhattan after Sept. 11 and was appointed the No. 2 lawyer at the Justice Department in 2003. Comey recently resigned to become Lockheed Martin's new general counsel.
David Kelley, who prosecuted Ramzi Yousef, the architect of the 1993 trade center bombing, just completed an 18-month stint as U.S. Attorney in Manhattan and has entered private practice.
Kelley said he was not surprised that so many on the team have gone so far.
"The stakes were very high and the field was one that was not yet plowed," he said. "It made everybody better lawyers for it."
Copyright © 2005, The Associated Press There can be no doubt that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald gave at best a grossly incomplete depiction of known OBL associate and likely double or triple agent, Ali Mohamed, who plead guilty in the trial over the Embassy bombings for which he carried out surveillance. [Be sure to check out Peter Dale Scott sourcing in his footnotes for more background. Some lawyers have suggested that Fitzgerald made things a lot tougher on himself by not bringing a conspiracy indictment which some say was warranted. We should be asking why not? As they say, "DEVELOPING" -Editor
9/11 IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:
FLAWED ASSUMPTIONS DEEP POLITICS: DRUGS, OIL, COVERT OPERATIONS AND TERRORISM: A BRIEFING FOR CONGRESSIONAL STAFF --
JULY 22, 2005 by Peter Dale Scott, author of Drugs, Oil, and War
[This event sponsored by Rep(s). McKinney and Grijalva came about in part as a result of persistant lobbying by 9/11 CitizensWatch co-founder, Kyle F. Hence]
Sergeant Ali Mohamed and U.S. Intelligence Links to the Al Qaeda Leadership
The Report describes Ali Mohamed as ³a former Egyptian army officer who had
moved to the United States in the mid-1980s, enlisted in the U.S. Army, and
become an instructor at Fort Bragg,² as well as helping to plan the bombing
of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya (68). In fact Ali Mohamed was an important al
Qaeda agent who, as the 9/11 Commission was told, "trained most of al
Qaeda's top leadership," including "persons who would later carry out the
1993 World Trade Center bombing." But the person telling the 9/11
Commission this, U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, misrepresented Ali
Mohamed¹s FBI relationship. He told the Commission that, "From 1994 until
his arrest in 1998, [Mohamed] lived as an American citizen in California,
applying for jobs as an FBI translator and working as a security guard for
a defense contractor."
Ali Mohamed was not just an FBI job applicant. Unquestionably he was an FBI
informant, from at least 1993 and maybe 1989. And almost certainly he
was something more. A veteran of the CIA-trained bodyguards of Egyptian
President Anwar Sadat, he was able, despite being on a State Department
Watch List, to come to America around 1984, on what an FBI consultant has
called ³a visa program controlled by the CIA², and obtain a job, first as a
security officer, then with U.S. Special Forces. In 1988 he took a
lengthy leave of absence from the U.S. Army and went to fight in
Afghanistan, where he met with Ayman al-Zawahiri (later bin Laden¹s chief
deputy in al Qaeda) and the ³Arab Afghan² leadership. Despite this, he
was able to receive an Honorable Discharge one year later, at which point he
established close contact with bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Ali Mohamed clearly enjoyed U.S. protection: in 1993, when detained by the
RCMP in Canada, a single phone call to the U.S. secured his release. This
enabled him to play a role, in the same year, in planning the bombing of the
U.S. Embassy in Kenya in 1998.
Congress should determine the true relationship of the U.S. Government to
Ali Mohamed, who was close to bin Laden and above all Zawahiri, who has
been called the ³main player² in 9/11. (Al-Zawahiri is often described
as the more sophisticated mentor of the younger bin Laden.) In
particular Congress should determine why Patrick Fitzgerald chose to
mislead the American people about Mohamed¹s FBI status. In short, the al
Qaeda terror network accused of the 9/11 attacks was supported and expanded
by U.S. intelligence programs and covert operations, both during and after
the Soviet Afghan War. Congress should rethink their decision to grant
still greater powers and budget to the agencies responsible for fostering
this enemy in the first place.
Sane voices clamor from the Muslim world that the best answer to terrorism
is not war but justice. We should listen to them. By using its energies to
reduce the injustices tormenting Islam, the United States will do more to
diminish terrorism than by creating any number of new directorates in
 Cf. 9/11 Commission Report, 68.
 Patrick Fitzgerald, Testimony before 9/11 Commission, June 16, 2004,
http://www.911commission.gov/hearings/hearing12.htm, emphasis added.
 Fitzgerald must have known he was dissembling. Even the mainstream
account by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon (The Age of Sacred Terror [New
York: Random House, 2002], 236) records that ³When Mohamed was summoned
back from Africa in 1993 [sic, Mohamed in his confession says 1994] to be
interviewed by the FBI in connection with the case against Sheikh Rahman
and his coconspirators, he convinced the agents that he could be useful to
them as an informant.² Cf. Lawrence Wright, New Yorker, 9/16/02: ³In
1989...Mohamed talked to an F.B.I. agent in California and provided
American intelligence with its first inside look at Al Qaeda.² Larry C.
Johnson, a former State Department and CIA official, faulted the FBI
publicly for using Mohamed as an informant, when it should have recognized
that the man was a high-ranking terrorist plotting against the United
States. In Johnson's words, "It's possible that the FBI thought they had
control of him and were trying to use him, but what's clear is that they did
not have control² (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/04/01).
 Lance, 1000 Years, 30 (Watch List); Williams, Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of
Terror, 117 (visa program); Bergen, Holy War, Inc., 128 (security officer).
 Yossef Bodansky, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America (New
York: Random House/Prima, 2001), 106; cf. Richard H. Shultz, Jr. and Ruth
Margolies Beitler, Middle East Review of International Affairs, June 2004,
http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2004/issue2/jv8n2a6.html. In 1995 Mohamed
accompanied Ayman al-Zawahiri of Islamic Jihad, already effectively merged
with al-Qaeda, on a secret fund-raising trip through America (Bodansky, Bin
Laden, 105; Peter L. Bergen, Holy War, Inc. [New York: Free Press, 2001],
 Cf. 9/11 Commission Report, 68. The Globe and Mail later concluded that
Mohamed "was working with U.S. counter-terrorist agents, playing a double
or triple game, when he was questioned in 1993² (Globe and Mail, 11/22/01,
 al-Zayyat, The Road to Al-Qaeda, 98: ³I am convinced that [Zawahiri]
and not bin Laden is the main player in these events.² In contrast the 9/11
Commission Report (151) assigns no role to Zawahiri in the 9/11 plot. Was
Mohamed in touch with Zawahiri at this time? The San Francisco Chronicle has
written that ³until his arrest in 1998 [by which time the 9/11 plot was
already under way], Mohamed shuttled between California, Afghanistan, Kenya,
Somalia and at least a dozen other countries² (San Francisco Chronicle,
 Burke, Al-Qaeda, 150.
http://www.911citizenswatch.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=710Article # 4
'Triple Cross' blows TWA 800 wide open
Posted: November 22, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern
Of all the mainstream reporters writing today on the terror front, none has the cojones of five-time Emmy Award winner Peter Lance, author of the new book, "Triple Cross: How bin Laden's Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI – and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him."
Lance sets out his thesis in the subtitle of this sprawling, daring epic, but as Lance knows, the most explosive part of his book deals not with Ali Mohamed, the master spy in question, but with the fate of TWA Flight 800. This is the Boeing 747 that blew up mysteriously off the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996.
"Triple Cross" is sufficiently important that I will take at least two columns to explicate it, the second and perhaps third on Lance's larger thesis, the first on his inquiry into the fate of TWA Flight 800. In the way of full disclosure, Lance and I have over the last year or two shared information on a few of the key elements within the book.
Lance is an honest-to-God boots-on-the-ground reporter. He not only connects the dots, but he also goes out and collects them. In "Triple Cross," he puts more real raw red intelligence meat on the table than any other reporter has since 9-11. I would strongly urge you to buy this book, read it and make it a topic of conversation in every chat room or talk radio show in which you participate.
That much said, I have some real points of disagreement with Lance's arguments. Although Lance pushes the mainstream media to their limits, he has largely stayed within their pale. This I understand, especially on the subject of TWA Flight 800. To mention the word "missile" in that context is to risk losing a TV presence.
On some subjects, however, Lance actively shares mainstream biases. By blinding himself to one area of inquiry – Iraq – he does not pull the strongest possible thesis from the data that he himself has collected. Unworried about respectability, and willing to be presumptuous, in next week's column I will help Mr. Lance connect his dots.
No matter how you align them, those dots lead to the fellow we know as Ramzi Yousef. Yousef is the convicted mastermind of both the first World Trade Center bombing and the Bojinka plot, a devious scheme to blow up a dozen airliners over the Pacific. Where Lance moves beyond the mainstream pale is in his argument that Yousef also engineered the destruction of TWA Flight 800 and served as the original architect of 9-11.
The evidence that Lance presents is compelling. On Jan. 6, 1995, as is well enough known, a fire broke out in Yousef's Manila apartment where he and his fellow Baluchi, Abdul Hakim Murad, were mixing chemicals. Yousef escaped, but when Murad went back to retrieve Yousef's laptop, Philippine police apprehended him. On the laptop were the Bojinka plans – and more.
Murad was a pilot. In custody he talked to the police about flying a private plane into the CIA building. This was not a far-fetched plan and has been discussed in the press, though not widely. What has not been not discussed, as Lance reveals, was that al-Qaida had already purchased a used Sabre-40 jet in Arizona.
The plans went deeper still. As Lance documents beyond argument, Yousef had hatched an audacious third plot, this one Murad finally revealed when threatened with extradition to Israel. As early as 1994, Yousef had contemplated hijacking multiple airliners and flying them into U.S. targets, including the CIA headquarters, the White House, the Sears Tower and the World Trade Center. Lance interviewed at least two high-level Philippine police, and both insist that they turned the planes-as-missiles information to the FBI in January 1995 with the rest of the information. For less than honorable reasons, that information has remained buried, much to the surprise of the Filipinos.
Murad would later tell the FBI, and they would record on a witness report called a "302," that Yousef "wanted to return to the United States ... to bomb the World Trade Center a second time." Murad had learned to fly in the United States in the early 1990s. He was slated to coordinate the training of the other Islamic pilots. Even after his arrest, and well before the "official" beginning of the 9-11 plot, numerous jihadists had enrolled in U.S. flight schools.
In February 1995, Yousef was arrested in Pakistan and eventually returned to New York to stand trial. In the interim, a bomb destroyed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, for which Murad took credit in Yousef's name. Lance makes the case that Yousef very possibly instructed Nichols in bomb-making during one of Nichols' frequent trips to the Philippines.
In New York City, Murad and Yousef were jailed in cells next to mobster Gregory Scarpa Jr. Scarpa's father was an FBI informant, and Junior followed in the family tradition. An FBI 302 from March 1996 – four months before the destruction of TWA Flight 800 – notes the following, "YOUSEF told SCARPA that during the trial they had a plan to blow up a plane and hurt a judge or an attorney so a mistrial will be declared." Yousef also revealed that he had "four people here" to help.
To get beyond the information gleaned from passed notes, the FBI set up a dummy Mafia front company called the "Roma Corporation." Scarpa gave Yousef the number and conned him into believing that the Roma people could patch his calls anywhere in the world. The FBI was, of course, listening in. Yousef outsmarted the FBI by making his critical calls in Baluchi, a language its agents could not translate.
Last year, I received an anonymous letter from someone within the National Security Agency. According to the letter's author, he actually saw the transcription of one of Yousef's calls, this one made from New York within minutes of the downing of Flight 800. A recording of that call was sent to the NSA at the request of James Kallstrom, then the head of the FBI's New York office, asking for help in its translation. The NSA forwarded the tape to the Defense Language Institute where it was translated as follows, "What had to be done has been done, TWA 800 (last two words unintelligible)." This year, I received verification from a second NSA source. Lance followed up with this person and confirmed the account.
As Lance reports, "Evidence now suggests that that 'flaw' in the Roma Corp. operation led to the second biggest act of terror and mass murder in U.S. history: the crash of TWA Flight 800." In other words, Yousef used the FBI phone to plot the plane's destruction. The day after the crash, true to his word, Yousef applied for a mistrial claiming that the New York environment was now prejudicial to plane bombers.
Yousef had, in fact, already bombed a plane. In December 1994, he boarded a Japan-bound 747 in Manila, assembled a small bomb on board, and placed it under seat 26K, which he had thought to be right above the center wing tank. Yousef set the time and disembarked at the plane's stop in Cebu City. After the plane took off, the bomb exploded, killing a Japanese passenger but narrowly missing the center wing tank. The pilots wrestled the plane to an emergency landing on Okinawa.
In "Triple Cross," Lance argues that a Yousef acolyte likely planted a comparable bomb on the TWA 800 leg from Athens to New York, this time right above the center wing tank. Whether accurate or not, and more on this next week, Lance makes a significantly more credible argument for the downing of TWA Flight 800 than does the NTSB, while using the very same evidence. He does not contest the notorious zoom-climb scenario that the authorities concocted. He does not need to. He argues, as the NTSB does, that the center wing tank explosion brought down the plane. Lance, however, adds that the explosion was triggered by a bomb, not by some random, untraceable spark. As to the claim that there was no physical damage of the kind found at the Lockerbie crash, Lance rightly contends that Yousef's was a much smaller bomb designed specifically to trigger a fuel tank explosion. As such, it had a unique, nearly invisible signature.
Lance follows up on the work James Sanders and I did in "First Strike" – and reporter Dave Hendrix before us – on the FBI claim that a botched dog training exercise led to the explosive residue found all over the TWA 800 aircraft. He interviews the training officer and reviews the aircraft logs and concludes that we were right: The TWA 800 plane could not have been used in the training exercise in question. A sister plane nearby was almost assuredly the site of the exercise. In short, the FBI knowingly corrupted the investigation to steer it away from terrorism.
To make sure the TWA Flight 800 story never saw the light of day, Lance argues, the feds rewarded Scarpa with a hard 40 in the Florence, Colo., Supermax, an unusually severe sentence for a non-lethal RICO conviction. Lance introduces a motive for FBI cooperation in the 800 cover-up beyond national security, namely that one of its agents had been involved in a corrupt relation with Scarpa Sr., one that if revealed would unravel any number of high-level mob convictions.
These are bold claims by Lance especially given that most writers on terrorism won't touch TWA Flight 800. In his elegant but orthodox book on the run-up to 9-11, "The Looming Tower," Lawrence Wright dedicates all of three paragraphs to the crash. Wright describes it as "largely a public relations problem" that distracted the FBI from its real work. This problem was resolved when an FBI middle-manager, John O'Neill, "persuaded the CIA to do a video simulation of [the zoom climb] scenario," thereby discrediting all 270 FBI eyewitnesses to a likely missile attack. This was no small accomplishment on O'Neill's part in that the CIA would spend a year on the project, and the thesis of Wright's book is that the failure of the CIA and FBI to communicate led to 9-11. No matter. Wright has his story, and he is sticking to it. He did not respond to my query on his sourcing.
It will be interesting to see whether mainstream interviewers dare broach the subject of TWA 800 with Lance, even though his information points to a scandal that would dwarf Watergate if ever opened. My guess is that they will not. My concern is that they will not even book Lance for fear that he raises the subject himself.
There is a lot more to this always revealing and rigorously sourced book than I can explore herein. It is definitely worth an exploration on your own.
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Jack Cashill is an Emmy-award winning independent writer and producer with a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue.