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Discovery Channel scoops CNN on TWA 800 story

CNN Exposed | January 27, 2007 

Discovery Channel's recent program examining the cause of the TWA 800 disaster not only scoops CNN's previously aired “No Survivors” program on the same subject, but is a far superior investigative report. Discovery's “Best Evidence” takes a critical look at the available hard evidence and the government's conclusions pertaining to the jetliner's demise. By contrast, CNN's “No Survivors” contained a number of factual inaccuracies, the result of CNN's producers relying too heavily on official sources and failing to verify the information those sources provided.

For example, CNN based their own crash sequence animation on government simulation data. But the government admitted that the simulations were "steered," and outside experts have shown that they do not match the hard radar evidence. FAA radar sites recorded what actually happened to Flight 800, which was to bank left and descend after exploding.

But the climb (fictitious or not) was used to explain eyewitness accounts of a missile. The CIA postulated that the aircraft climbing "may have looked like a missile attacking an aircraft" at a major FBI press conference in 1997. And from then on, all government simulation data was forced to fit a scenario with Flight 800 climbing sharply.

"Best Evidence" looked closely at the data behind the government simulations and, like the outside experts, also found that they didn't match the hard radar evidence. It was physically impossible for Flight 800 to climb like in government simulations while following its radar-tracked path, and "Best Evidence" made this clear.

Former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom admitted for the first time on national television--on the Discovery Channel--that "In retrospect, [he] shouldn't have asked the CIA" to produce the animation of Flight 800's final moments. However, CNN's "No Survivors," which relied heavily on Kallstrom, never mentioned the controversy surrounding the CIA or any other government animation. Instead, CNN just cited the government as its source and played its own animation of Flight 800 climbing.

"No Survivors" interviewed the first eyewitness contacted by authorites, Naneen Levine. Levine said the object she saw rose off the surface and arced to the west--opposite to the direction Flight 800 was flying. CNN didn't talk about this discrepancy, but instead let Mr. Kallstrom explain that she probably saw the plane on fire.

On the other hand, "Best Evidence" allowed structural engineer and eyewitness Paul Angeldes to comment on the government's explanation of what he saw. He said the government's theory doesn't account for the object he saw, which he said first appeared close to shore and in a completely different part of the sky than where Flight 800 was flying.

CNN's "No Survivors" didn't discuss any of the wreckage that went missing during the investigation, not even wreckage that FAA radar sites tracked exiting Flight 800 at apparent supersonic speeds.

"Best Evidence" considered this wreckage and asked Mr. Kallstrom about it. The show also displayed the hard radar and debris field evidence confirming its existence.

cnnX editorial

Flight 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island, NY in 1996 killing all 230 people onboard. Hundreds of witnesses reported seeing a streak of light in the sky before Flight 800 exploded. Two Air National Guard pilots in the air at the time identified the streak as a missile.

Government animations were used to discredit these and many more witnesses, not to help explain the cause of the crash. Once the jetliner broke in two, what happened later--the plane climbing, according to the government--had nothing to do with the cause. The problem is that even with the government's explanation, a majority of the relevant witnesses (including Naneen Levine from "No Survivors" and Paul Angelides in "Best Evidence") still contradict the official crash scenario.

Valuable reporting techniques include fact-checking and obtaining multiple sources for information. When "Best Evidence" applied these techniques, they uncovered significant lapses in the official investigation and got a former FBI Assistant Director to second-guess his judgment. When CNN neglected these techniques, they aired an inaccurate report and got scooped.


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