FBI's Kallstrom angrily denies any TWA probe cover-up
Salinger agrees to hand over reportNovember 8, 1996
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EST
SMITHTOWN, New York (CNN) -- Officials from the FBI, Navy and National Transportation Safety Board angrily denied Friday a claim by former White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger that a Navy missile might have shot down TWA Flight 800.
"What we can say is that the United States military did not shoot a missile at this airplane. The United States military did not shoot anything," FBI assistant director James Kallstrom told a news conference.(128K/11 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
An emotional Kallstrom lambasted Salinger's accusations, saying the FBI would not hide such information from victims' families or the public. He added that no military ships or planes were "in a position to be involved."
"Nothing, nothing like that has taken place, would take place, would ever take place under any circumstances," Kallstrom said.(459K/40 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
His comments came a day after remarks in Cannes, France, by Salinger -- press secretary to President John F. Kennedy and former ABC News correspondent -- that he had received documents that the jetliner was brought down by "friendly fire" and the U.S. government was covering it up.
Already on Internet
Salinger said he was basing the claims on information he saw in a document given to him six weeks ago by someone in French Intelligence with close contacts to U.S. officials. He refused to identify the source.
Later, however, he learned from CNN that the document actually was a widely accessible e-mail letter that has been circulating for at least six weeks on the Internet's World Wide Web. Salinger expressed surprise and verified that his document matched those CNN showed him.
"Yes. That's it. That's the document," Salinger said. "Where did you get it?"
In an interview with CNN, Salinger said the document he received was written by a Secret Service agent and was given to him by a French intelligence agent "who has given me information over the years when I was doing my journalism."(288K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
At a seaside hotel in France, he displayed for reporters two crumpled pages which he said were what he had received five weeks earlier. He would not let reporters read it. Kallstrom urged Salinger to give the document to the FBI "as soon as possible."
Asked if he was prepared to hand it over, the 71-year-old Salinger said: "Yes I am." He said the FBI had not contacted him directly, although he said agents had visited his house in Washington, D.C. He said he planned to spend the weekend in Paris, and then to Boston on Tuesday.
FBI: 'no stone unturned'
Kallstrom, who lost a close friend in the crash, emphasized that ever since the Boeing 747 exploded, killing all 230 people aboard, the FBI has asked people to come forward with any information relating to the crash.
"We have conducted interviews from the very highest positions to the very lowest," he said. "We have left no stone unturned."
Kallstrom said the FBI had not spoken with Salinger nor had agents seen the document he claimed to have. But he urged Salinger to come forward.
"I've asked Mr. Salinger through the news media if he has some information that sheds some light on this. We would love to see it. We're not going to sweep it under the rug. We're going to look at everything."
The three original theories of what brought down the airliner, Kallstrom said, still stand: a bomb, a missile or mechanical malfunction. But he stressed that if a missile did strike the plane, it was not fired by the United States.
Navy keeps log
Navy Rear Adm. Edward Kristensen described where U.S. ships and aircraft were on July 17, the day TWA Flight 800 fell into the Atlantic Ocean off New York's Long Island.
The USS Normandy was stationed about 180 miles southwest of the crash site with its radars on reduced power, meaning the ship had a maximum range of 150 miles. The ship was not carrying any heat-seeking missiles, Kristensen said.
He also said a P-3 Orion Navy aircraft dropped 39 sonic buoys about 80 miles south of the crash site. All have been accounted for, he said.
NTSB Chairman Jim Hall denounced Salinger's remarks and said dozens of victims' families had called his agency to see if there was any validity to Salinger's statements.
The FBI hot line is 1-888-245-4636. They can also be reached through e-mail at NY@FBI.gov.
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