- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

News media ignored missile evidence in TWA 800 case

On Aug. 23, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accepted the theory of its investigators that a spark of unknown origin blew up TWA Flight 800's empty center-wing fuel tank. The media's coverage of the two-day NTSB meeting showed how easy it is for the government to lead journalists around by the nose. The coverage by The Washington Times was especially disappointing because it ignored the hundreds of people who witnessed a missile hitting the plane and the public demands of the TWA 800 Eyewitness Alliance that the NTSB acknowledge these witnesses. Our demands took the form of a full-page ad that ran twice in The Times summarizing what seven eyewitnesses saw, including myself.

When the FBI interviewed us, the agents didn't call us conspiracy theorists or question our ability to distinguish between a rocket ascending and a burning plane falling. The CIA, however, claimed that we had mistaken the damaged plane for a rocket.

At first, the media eagerly reported what we had seen, but soon they focused not on a missile engagement, but on a bomb as the cause of the crash. On Dec. 15, 1996, the New York Times said the FBI investigation's missile team had developed the most plausible theory of the accident, but it had been dropped because there wasn't enough physical evidence to support it.

Explosive residue, however, had been found inside the cabin and on the right wing. The FBI said that was left from a test of an explosive-sniffing dog. It has been proved extensively, however, that the test was carried out on another plane.

There also was a red residue on three rows of seats that elemental analysis revealed was consistent with solid rocket-fuel exhaust. The FBI said it was glue, but the bureau won't release the tests to prove that. CBS News had a sample of the residue it was going to test, but the FBI forced CBS to hand it over. The FBI so feared this residue that it tried to send writer and television consultant James Sanders and his wife to prison after he had it tested and reported that it was indeed rocket fuel exhaust.

The NTSB says the absence of a missile-made hole in the plane's skin disproves our stories, ignoring investigator James Kallstrom's March 1997 statement: "We're missing a lot of pieces of the plane where theoretically the blast damage might be." Mr. Sanders was allowed to take photos of the wreckage to prepare his defense against the government's prosecution. The photos show evidence of missile penetration and the government's efforts to hide it.

The NTSB apparently wishes to discredit us out of fear of the truth. The agency physically removed Reed Irvine, chairman of Accuracy in Media, from the NTSB building for giving out copies of our Washington Times ad at a public meeting. To our dismay, you have failed to report even that.



TWA 800 Eyewitness Alliance

Hampton Bays, N.Y.

Hayek revival exposes faulty ideas

I was pleased to read that Friedrich August von Hayek's books are popular at Amazon.com ("Where free market publishing prevails," Commentary, Sept. 6). His scholarship is needed now more than ever. Take the concept of "smart growth," for example. The catchword of smart growth is sustainability as in sustainable economy and sustainable environment. A student of Hayekian thought would recognize immediately that the economy and the environment are spontaneous orders that cannot be made sustainable by human design.

Smart growth suffers from socialism's fatal conceit: that humans are able to shape the world around them according to their wishes.

Property was sacrosanct to Hayek. Smart growth, however, reduces property owners to mere stewards of their own land for people who demand a "viewshed" right those who claim some degree of control over another's property on the ground that, for instance, they find their neighbor's house ugly.

Smart growth claims direction from community values, as if individuals in a community all think as one. Mr. Hayek has much to say on this expectation. How governments achieve conformity is the subject of his book "The Road to Serfdom."

This is only a sampling of Mr. Hayek's relevance. It is nice to know that others are discovering the way the world works.



Until China changes, U.S. should withhold permanent trade status

When it comes to permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), the Family Research Council (FRC) hopes Aaron Jackson and other PNTR supporters are right and we are wrong ("Keep the faith on trade with China," Commentary Forum, Aug. 27).

Foreseeing the development of such a vast and historically isolated country is next to impossible. There are more than a few plausible scenarios, and we hope to see the most optimistic of those scenarios come to pass. As the Senate considers granting PNTR to China this week, we hope all of the ramifications have been considered.

The FRC usually is not involved in overall trade policy with foreign nations. Our ongoing involvement in the PNTR debate revolves around the issue of whether the United States should give up the very modest lever of annual review of normal trade relations as a carrot to exhort China to change its policies on human rights, family and religious and political liberty.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson's characterization of the council's position as "do-nothing" is simply wrong. The council does not advocate, as Mr. Jackson asserts, that "America withdraw from China until its human-rights record improves."

On the contrary, we believe U.S. policy should hold China accountable for reform as it enters into the global community of nations. The PNTR legislation before the Senate makes light of this point in an effort to maximize the promise of economic gain.

Mr. Jackson's argument that the Chinese people will demand more freedom as economic freedom grows ignores the reality that as China is even now joining the world economy, the Chinese people are demanding that freedom, but it is being denied.

In extending PNTR to China, are we allowing China not to liberalize by forgoing not only present, but also all future efforts to use our economic strength as leverage? The State Department just issued its annual report on International Religious Freedom, stating that religious freedom in China "deteriorated markedly" in the past year. This occurred in the face of a likely grant of PNTR by the United States and expected accession into the World Trade Organization. Where does the "economic and human rights" dividend figure into this equation?

The FRC supports the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its May 1 report. The USCIRF stated firmly, "Congress should grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations status to China only after China makes substantial improvements in respect for freedom of religion." This progress should be measured by, among other things, China's acceptance of an open China-U.S. dialogue on religious-freedom issues, its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its permitting unhindered access to imprisoned religious leaders. Two other measures would be a full accounting by China of the many religious persons who are imprisoned, detained or under house arrest for their beliefs, but whose whereabouts are not known and its release from prison of all persons incarcerated for religious reasons.

Do these measures represent a "do-nothing" approach or a policy of "isolating" China? We don't think so. Rather, we believe these basic steps represent an action-oriented policy of engagement that does not sacrifice fundamental principles on the altar of economic gain.


Foreign policy analyst and writer

Family Research Council


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