cj#643> TWA – Coverup Analysis


Richard Moore

Dear cj,

Readers have sent in a number of thoughtful comments regarding the TWA
discussion thus far.  The items are numbered (1 through 5) below -- feel
free to look through those prior to my own commentary, or you may prefer to
look at them when they're first mentioned.  (Note: #3 isn't mentioned.)


It seems that in every discussion of conspiracies, certain themes always
recur.  Primary among these is the notion that conspiracies, by and large,
simply cannot occur: our society is too open; there are too many
alternative sources of information, and too many sources for leaks.  This
was expressed in our previous cj issue by Frank Scott:
  >Can anyone here believe that more than one person saw this missile, and yet
  >all have been kept silent? This is beyond conspiracy fantasies and tripping
  >into the realm of serious social-psychological disorder. Given the numerous
  >scum-sleaze-scandal marketers in publishing and TV land, how could such
  >"stories" be kept quiet...

One must observe that this is a theoretical argument, and like all theories
it must be tested against actual experience.  If there are in fact examples
of verified conspiracies, which were uncovered only after-the-fact, then it
makes no sense to maintain the theory that conspiracies, in general, are
impossible.  We may wonder how they are possible, but we can't claim they
can't exist.

In items #2 and #5 below Joe Ferguson and Elias Davidsson offer examples of
what they consider to be verified conspiracies.  Joe points to the
Gulf-War-Syndrome cover-up, and Elias tells us of an episode involving him
personally in Iceland.

In fact, there are literally hundreds of well-documented examples of
conspiracies in America which have occurred over the past few decades.
Most recently we had the San Jose Mercury series re:
Crack-Cocaine/Contra/Arms, discussed in "cj#572> Conspiracy Analysis".  And
there were the classic revelations in The Pentagon Papers, and a host of
secret wars and destabilization programs, many of which have been even
officially acknowledged long afterwards.

A particularly notable example, which has been also mentioned on this list,
regards U.S. involvement in the Angola civil war.  From CyberLib's
"Recommended Reading" list:
    >Stockwell, John, _In Search of Enemies - A CIA Story_
    >     One of the best of the many books by former CIA officers whose
    >     consciences have forced them to go public.  Anyone who thinks there
    >     aren't major conspiracies going on should read this detailed case
    >     study.  On the very same day Stockman was importing arms into
    >     Angola and recruiting ragtag militia forces for the CIA, Herr
    >     Kissinger was testifying before the Church Committee that there was
    >     no U.S. involvement in Angola...

Allow me to repost my conclusion re: this "Conspiracies 'R Impossible"
theory, from cj#572:
 >Well folks, the question is now answered, the facts are now in, and
 >we can stop debating it -- conspiracies ARE possible, they DO occur at the
 >highest level of government, they CAN involve hundreds of people, they CAN
 >succeed in achieving their objectives, the information CAN be successfully
 >suppressed until long ofter the damage is done, and the perps generally go
 >scott free.  So let's quit talking about "whether" and get on with making
 >sense of reality, by asking the right questions.


What, then, are the "right questions"?  Among these we might include:
        (a) How are conspiracies and cover-ups carried out?
        (b) How are all the witnesses "kept silent"?
        (c) How do we distinguish actual revelations from fanciful
            conspiracy theories, of which there are so many?
        (d) How widespread/frequent are conspiracies & cover-ups?
        (e) How do we form an understanding of actual events, given that
            our sources of information can be distorted by cover-ups
            and disinformation?

To continually re-debate the non-issue of whether conspiracies are possible
prevents these more interesting and productive questions from being
investigated.  I'll discuss these five questions below, and your own
answers are invited...

--- --- (a) How are conspiracies and cover-ups carried out?

First the context -- Government and Media.  We have a government that
operates, especially where issues of security or political sensitivity are
concerned, under the twin cloaks of secrecy and public relations.  There
are very strict laws to enforce government secrecy, together with an
elaborate apparatus to enforce them.  This apparatus is highly evolved, and
is made tighter and more sophisticated whenever leaks do occur.

Those who are in the military, or who have security clearances, are fully
aware that if they go public with restricted information they are highly
vulnerable to criminal prosecution, civil penalties, military imprisonment,
public ridicule, etc.  In some very real sense, all "sensitive" government
operations are routinely conspiratorial -- this is how our system is
officially set up.

Thus, in letter #4, Dave Erickson is asking for a kind of testimony that is
very unlikely to be forthcoming, let alone publicised.  If they could be
found, military whistleblowers might well be the most convicing witnesses,
but their absence attests more to the effectiveness of the security
apparatus and chain-of-command than it casts doubt on the existence of a

Continuing with the context... besides elaborate government secrecy, our
major news media are very tightly controlled by a handfull of mega
corporations, as Joe points out in #2, below.  It would miss the point to
characterize these megacorps as "media businesses" -- they are much more
than that.  They are intimately integrated into the more general
corporate-elite-establishment / military-industrial-complex that runs

General Electric, for example, who owns NBC, also exports nuclear power
plants, supplies jet engines and other major hardware to the U.S. military,
sells expensive equipment to hospitals, etc.  The corporate policies which
in the end set the agenda of NBC are aimed at least as much at selling a
pro-corporate party line, as they are at making a profit on direct media
operations.  This pattern is only made more pervasive by the recent
merger-mania in media-land.

Not owning a television, and living in Ireland for the past two years, I
had a chance to view American TV with fresh eyes during my recent visit.
Not that this will surprise you, but I was struck by how the whole medium,
McCluhan style -- whether it be news, sitcoms, or commercials -- was one
big advertisement for corporatization.

So we have a government and a corporate-controlled media -- both of which
have their own (somewhat interlocking) agendas which are mostly kept to
themselves.  Between them, government and megacorps control the information
that most of us (that is, the majority of the population) bother to have
access to.  Only in a totalitarian state could the system be any more
amenable to carrying out conspiracies and cover-ups.

As the structure of the system suggests, and as experience with past
cover-ups confirms, government pronouncements and media "news" are
unreliable sources of information when politically sensitive issues are

--- --- (b) How are all the witnesses "kept silent"?

Whether genuine or not, the Ojai letter (cj#640> TWA - Report #1 -
EYEWITNESS) does colorfully describe one modality of "silencing" witnesses.
While military and "cleared" personnel are silenced through fear and duty,
as a routine part of their job, civilian witneses are also subject to
intimidation of various kinds.

But more to the point is this phrase "kept silent".  What does it mean?
Anyone who claims the TWA witnesses have indeed been "kept silent" must be
discounting all the reports we've seen on this list, which include, as a
matter of fact, reports from the major media themselves.  (See for example,
again, Joe's #2 below).

It would seem that "silence" is only considered, by such people, to be
broken, if the major media pick up a story and repeat it over a period of
time.  Anything less is only a "rumor" or an "isolated report".  From such
a perspective, no cover-up would ever be exposed until government and the
corporate media decided to expose it themselves, for whatever reasons.

One is reminded of the Phillipines scenario, vis a vis Marcos.  There was
never any real secret that Marcos was a corrupt dictator.  That's in fact
why he was put in power by the U.S. in the first place: to be our loyal
client who suppresses liberation movements, promotes profitiable operations
by foreign companies, and welcomes U.S. bases on his soil.  Only when his
unpopularity grew to universal proportions, and he thus became a political
liability, did our valiant media suddenly "discover" that he was a "crony
capitalist" whose wife buys lots of shoes.  Amazing how thick and fast the
stories came in once the lid was off.

We cannot let demonstrably unreliable and intentionally deceitful
mainstream media be our definition of reality, if we want to get at the
truth behind important (ie. sensitive) events before they become ancient

--- --- (c) How do we distinguish actual revelations from fanciful
            conspiracy theories, of which there are so many?

Not, certainly, by lending credibility to every conspiracy rumor that comes
up.  As Peter Schachte observes in #1, below, "I think promoting a healthy
skepticism is a fine idea, as long as one is skeptical toward both the
official and alternative explanations."

One has to look at fundamental credibility of the claims (Do they make
sense in light of general knowledge?), the number and kind of
witnesses/proponents, the kind of evidence offered, and the strength of the
official line itself, including the kind of denials that are made or not

Unless the "revelation" scores well in all these categories, I would tend
to stay away from it, except perhaps in sessions at the local pub.  In the
case of the TWA disaster, we have a wide range of fairly credible reports,
none of which, to my knowledge, has been specifically refuted.  Instead we
are simply given blanket denials, and told that the friendly-fire notion is

Meanwhile, the official version of events is at least as consistent with a
missile as with any other possibility (eg. no bomb evidence found).  And,
to repeat an earlier comment, if there were no missile, it would be so easy
for the government to release tracking records and clear up the doubt.

Such considerations do not establish friendly-fire as a fact, but they do
indicate we're talking about a reasonable hypothesis, worthy of further
investigation, rather than a fanciful paranoid daydream.

--- --- (d) How widespread/frequent are conspiracies & cover-ups?

Cover-ups, it seems to me, are a bit like fractals.  Fractals, in case
you've missed them, are structures that keep repeating at smaller and
smaller sizes (or larger and larger, depending on your viewpoint), the more
you look for them.  They were discovered by a fellow trying to measure the
length of coastlines (which exhibit the same kinds of irregularities at
many different size scales) -- the closer you look, the longer the
coastline becomes.

If you look only at events like TWA 800 (or the JFK coup, or CIA drugs, or
secret wars, etc.), where the media tells a Big Lie about a Major
Identifiable Event, then you get a certain cover-up frequency, perhaps one
every month or two.

But one can also look for cover-ups with a wider lens.  Consider the
Bosnian civil war, where we were presented with daily reports of Demon
Serbs.  The point here is that the war was equally dirty on all sides,
there were political/economic reasons to demonize the Serbs, and the
atrocities of the Croats (who supported Hitler during WW II, and have been
known even recently to give Nazi salutes at public gatherings) went largely

Such reporting is called putting a "spin" on a story, but one could also
call it a cover-up, even though no outright lies are involved.  What is
being covered up, in such a case, is a balanced interpretation of events.
Instead an interpretation is presented that serves some establishment

When I watch a U.S. national news broadcast, I find myself getting angry
and muttering "what bullshit" to myself in response to almost everything
the newscaster says.  The absurd assumptions that are reinforced daily, the
caricatures that are repeated, the "experts" who are presented as
trustworthy, the stories that are selected, and those omitted -- it all
adds up not to news but to a presentation, an orchestrated theatrical
event, an episode from a fabricated virtual reality, an advertisement for a
particular world view.

For my money, the media industry itself is one huge conspiracy whose
function is to make up an ongoing cover story that gives the illusion of
explaining the world, while managing always to leave out the major points.
The question isn't how to tell whether a given story is true or not, but
rather how to get any sense of reality at all from systematically polluted
information sources.  "The conspiracy is the messenger", so to speak.

--- --- (e) How do we form an understanding of actual events, given that
            our sources of information can be distorted by cover-ups
            and disinformation?

When all is said and done, seeking out the truth, it seems obvious, is to
proceed in the fashion of a detective solving a crime, by asking these
kinds of questions to find the root cause behind any particular event:
        - Who had a motive?
        - Who had opportunity?
        - Whose modus operandi does it fit?
        - What are the possible scenarios?
        - Which of the scenarios can be ruled out by evidence?
        - Which scenarios are we left with?

In the case of TWA, I wouldn't emphasize trying to "prove" one or the other
scenario is true or false.  Rather I'd look at all the scenarios, consider
the available evidence, and then rate the scenarios in terms of how likely
they seem to be.  At this point, my personal ratings go something like

        Bomb                       5% (evidence should have surfaced by now)
        Terrorist Missile          0% (can't go high enough)
        Spontaneous Combustion     5% (could be, I suppose)
        Other mechanical failure   3% (none seriously proposed as yet)
        Accidental Friendly Fire  60% (consistent with all known facts)
        Intentional Friendly Fire  5% (this would be a whole new topic)

In all of this, we've been ignoring the "alternative media".  Magazines
such as The Nation, In These Times, Multinational Monitor, and many others,
actually endeavor sincerely to present objective perspectives and reports.
In fact, if one makes the effort, fairly good information is readily
available.  Contras & Drugs, for example, has not been a secret for many
years, what's new is the New York Times finally deciding to run with a
version of the story, for who-knows-what reason.

I actually find the mass media very informative, but in spite of itself.
If you take the trouble to inform yourself (mostly outside the main media),
and put two and two together, it is possible to build a fairly good model
of what's going on, and who's doing what to whom, via what proxies.

Armed with such a perspective, then an interesting use of the media is to
take careful note of what they choose to report and how they spin it.  By
noticing where the spotlight is cast, and what distortions are introduced,
one can learn a lot about what the establishment is up to.

To use the Bosnian example again, it was clear from all those years of
biased coverage that the public was being prepared for a decisive U.S.
intervention at some well-timed moment, an intervention that would be at
the expense of the Serbs.  And of course, that's exactly what happened --
Uncle Sam finally responded to overwhelming (media-induced) public
pressure, and played on cue the expected cavalry scene, the climax of the
virtual-reality morality play.


# 1
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997
Sender: Peter Schachte <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#642> TWA - Reader Comments

Frank Scott <•••@••.•••> wrote (edited):
> I'm certainly not against accepting the possibility that a missile was
> responsible, but have heard or read nothing that would cause me to believe
> that was the case. The alleged eyewitness account, with attendant stories of
> bribery and silence, is about as believable as UFO/surgical visitations....

Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••> replied (edited):
>         Frank's letter seems less an expression of
> skepticism than an attempt promote skepticism in others.  Is the eyewitness
> report we saw really so unbelievable?

The trouble is it's both believable and disbelievable.  I have no
trouble believing anything in that account.  Nor do I have the
slightest difficulty believing that someone just made it up.  Without
a name, there's no way to check it.

I think promoting a healthy skepticism is a fine idea, as long as one
is skeptical toward both the official and alternative explanations.
I agree that beyond the first phrase, there wasn't much in Frank's
posting is that urging skepticism toward the official line.

> when the FBI chief demonize the friendly-fire theory ("outragous
> accusation"), the signal goes out that any discussion of that theory is
> "off topic" in the mass-media "concensus reality".

It does seem to work that way.  What ever happened to the Woodward and
Bernstein school of journalism?  On the other hand, the press has no
trouble going after stories of the FBI leaking documents to the White
House, or of White House travel improprieties, etc.  Why is that?  Is
it really just that they're out to get Clinton?  That seems too
facile.  Maybe it's the big lie/little lie effect.  The press doesn't
want to report anything that isn't easily believed; they have to
maintain their credibility.  For many people it's a lot easier to
believe that the FBI slipped Clinton some information it shouldn't
have (anyone remember Nixon?) than that the US Navy accidentally shot
down a civilian airliner in US waters in peace time.

>         From someone like Frank, who, avowedly, believes national tv will
> eventually uncover all lies ...

Did he say that?
[ ---
[ rkm note: Frank said:
[  >Given the numerous
[  >scum-sleaze-scandal marketers in publishing and TV land, how could such
[  >"stories" be kept quiet
[ ---

>         the internet serves as a kind of
> "people's wire service", taking stories which appear only in local venues
> and redistributing them to a wider audience.  This is an intenet function,
> by the way, that is treatened by the global move toward stronger
> copyrights.  We're heading toward a situation where the forwarding of
> stories will be very highly curtailed.

I don't think this is such a worry.  Stories like this are written to
be widely distributed; it wouldn't be hard to include unrestricted
permission to copy in them.  I doubt any network would be able to
claim a copyright on your postings, and anyway, people wouldn't put up
with it.  Even many stories written by the commercial press are widely
distributed for free, e.g., the San Jose Mercury story about CIA drug
running.  I'm much more concerned about copyright on information that
has a monopoly source, such as phone directories or court decisions.

-Peter Schachte      URL:  http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~pets/
•••@••.•••     PGP:  finger pets@ for key
    [A computer is] like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules
    and no mercy.  -- Joseph Campbell

# 2
Date: Sat, 8 Mar 1997
Sender: •••@••.••• (Joe Ferguson)
Subject: Re: cj#642> TWA - Reader Comments

> I'm certainly not against accepting the possibility that a missile was
> responsible, but have heard or read nothing that would cause me to believe
> that was the case.

The initial CNN Headline News reports (which I saw) mentioned a "radar
blip" appearing near the image of flight 800 immediately before the
explosion, as well as mention of eyewitness reports of some kind of
fiery object streaking up towards the plane.  You just weren't watching
at the right time.

> Can anyone here believe that more than one person saw this missile, and yet
> all have been kept silent? This is beyond conspiracy fantasies and tripping
> into the realm of serious social-psychological disorder.

I suppose it is in the realm of serious social-psychological disorder to
think that the U.S. Federal government is semi-successfully covering up
the Gulf War syndrome story too?  Our government is capable of doing this
with the help of the media which (don't forget) is almost totally controlled
by four huge, greedy and unscrupulous corporations.

- Joe

Date: Sat, 8 Mar 1997
Sender: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: cj#642> TWA - Reader Comments

What's truly amazing is how we all expend so much
energy focusing on problems beyond our control.

You portray the military as irresponsible; however, what
you fail to realize is that civilian aircraft pilots are
always aware when they are flying in or near military
restricted airspace.  If they do not realize the risks
associated with that, you ought to expend some energy
considering the qualifications of the pilots who fly
those civilian airliners...they tend to carry more people
than military jets.

# 4
Date: Sat, 8 Mar 1997
Sender: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: cj#642> TWA - Reader Comments

     If this really was a friendly fire shootdown, what about testimony
     from the only actual witnesses there would be, the military personnel
     who actually fired the missle, and were present in the area when it
     struck the TWA jet? It seems implausible to me that ALL of the crews
     of the missle cruiser, the AWACS planes and ground personnel and land
     support crews who would know about such an event could all be kept
     quiet. We would be talking about literally hundreds of people who
     would probably either have direct knowledge or would be privy to hard
     evidence that would all have to be kept silent. These people would be
     at all levels, too, not just the command levels. It would seem that
     the lower in the military hierarchy a potential witness would be, the
     more likely they would be to come forward. What about the families of
     all these potential witnesses? It is difficult to believe that, say, a
     sailor on board the missle cruiser that was supposedly the source of
     the missle would not step forward or that someones husband or wife
     would not know of an event of such magnitude.

     I would find the eyewitness story of someone who was on board the
     AWACS plane that tracked the missile to be a lot more believable than
     the sources that have been cited thus far.

     Dave Erickson

# 5
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 1997
Sender: Elias Davidsson <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#642> TWA - Reader Comments

dear cj,

There was a time when I did not believe that it was possible in our 'free'
world to keep from public awareness serious cover-ups or crimes.

I am living in Iceland for over 30 years. The population of Iceland is only
250.000 people. One might almost think that everyone knows everyone and
that nothing can be hidden from public. The apparent familiarity of many
people with those in 'power' is deceiving. While you may stand naked in the
showers of a public swimming-pool next to the Prime Minister and there is
no history of political violence, while you can easily have a talk to any
member of parliament or minister, there are many facts effectively hidden
from the public eye.

I will mention just one example that shows that even in small Iceland facts
can be effectively hidden from the public domain.

In 1995 I staged a sit-in in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland,
protesting Iceland's participation in the deadly sanctions against the
Iraqi people. It was a totally peaceful sit-in. I sat on a chair in the
hall of the Ministry on the fourth floor, reading a book and bothering
nobody. Nonetheless, the director of the Ministry (now Iceland's ambassador
in Denmark), called the police to remove me forcefully. They transferred me
forcefully to the waiting room on the first floor. The sit-in lasted four
days (working hours). Every day I sent faxes to all media in Iceland to
report the days' events and the demands. Except for the state's radio
station, no media reported the event. The largest newspaper, Morgunbladid,
sent a photograph, but eventually they did not publish a line about the
sit-in. Thus, although this sit-in was a quite unusual action in this
country, probably the first in its kind, the gate-keepers decided (either
intuitvely or by consultation) that the evidence should be silenced. Thus I
keep meeting people that did not know a thing about this event, although I
reported it on the web.

Another fact that is hidden from the public eye and even from the knowledge
of MPs is everything relating to Iceland's relationship to the
International Monetary Fund. While IMF representatives visit Iceland every
year to discuss (and comment) on Iceland's economic and financial policies,
the memorandum issued by the IMF is not distributed even to the members of
parliament, who are not allowed to read it. This fact is not even known to
most MPs.  So, in spite of a relatively free press and a very closed-knit,
small society, it is possible to silence facts very easily through a
combination of conspiracy, self-censure of journalists and the general
attitude of people to believe 'authority'.

Thus, I would give credence to the theory according to which eye-witnesses
of the TWA downing were just dismissed and that there is indeed a
conspiracy of silence about the event.

Elias Davidsson

Elias Davidsson - Oldugata 50 - 101 Reykjavik - Iceland
Tel. (354)-552-6444     Fax: (354)-552-6579
Email: •••@••.•••     URL:  http://www.nyherji.is/~edavid


Posted by Richard K. Moore - •••@••.••• - PO Box 26 - Wexford, Ireland
  Cyberlib:  ftp://ftp.iol.ie/users/rkmoore/cyberlib        (USA Citizen)