Associated Retired Aviation Professionals


A. M.  Costa Rica

A personal report on the investigation
Flight 800 shows that bad science is dangerous 

By Graeme Sephton*

Bad science is dangerous. When bad science is produced by government, the consequences can be dire. Whether it occurs in relation to a transportation tragedy or via interference in a government agency’s mission, the public interest is the most likely interest to be neglected or even betrayed. 

Two examples, recently reported on, are the Bush administration’s interference in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the first case, the administration suppressed and misrepresented evidence from the EPA regarding the dangerous nature of the pollution and fall-out from the WTC Towers in the first few weeks after 9/11. 

The second case has much more sweeping implications: the administration’s inference in the EPA that forced employees to suppress evidence about CO2 and its contribution to potentially catastrophic global weather disruption. Despite its mandate to protect the public interest, the EPA succumbed and submitted to the government’s agenda. 

It is important to realize this is not a political partisan problem. The "bad science" problem described below was orchestrated during a Democrat administration. The framers of our constitutional checks and balances could never have anticipated the possibility of the ubiquitous, homogenous and easily manipulated mass media available to media-savvy administrations today. 

Nor is it merely an abstract constitutional problem. For example, by suppressing or distorting meteorological science, we unnecessarily invite a future of unanticipated consequences, like the French heat wave that killed over 11,000 people in August 2003. 

In 1996 TWA Flight 800 exploded on a summer evening off the beaches of Long Island, in very suspicious circumstances. Within a year, as many citizens recognized that there was something seriously going wrong within the official investigation, scores of loosely affiliated researchers set out to find out what went wrong. The symptom’s of a seriously compromised investigation were numerous and compelling. 

Whistleblowers associated with TWA, within and peripheral to the official investigation were threatened and indicted by the FBI: Capt. Terry Stacey and Jim and Liz Sanders. Others working with Suffolk County Medical Examiner and involved in victim identification and autopsies reported being seriously intimidated by the FBI. 

Important evidence was reported as going missing. The FBI suppressed and withheld some of the most critical evidence. They withheld from the coroner, Dr Charles Wetli, all the forensic lab data they derived from analysis of the foreign objects removed during autopsies. 

Telltale explosive residues were detected extensively throughout the aircraft and then explained away. The agency withheld most of the eyewitness evidence from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for more than two years after it had closed its own investigation and handed "control" of the investigation over to the NTSB. The CIA was placed in charge of an animation to explain away the scores of witnesses who had described and sketched a missile-like object rising from the water towards the doomed 747. 

In August 2000 the NTSB released its final conclusion that the center fuel tank had exploded, perhaps due to a possible arcing wiring problem. In the 96 percent of the aircraft that was salvaged — with nearly all the wiring — no physical evidence of any arcing was ever found despite an excruciating effort to do so. It should be noted that electrical sparks and arcing have a very distinctive signature; they leave pits and weld marks on the wires or whatever two metallic surfaces might be involved. That fortunately doubles the chance of finding sparking evidence. None was found. No other 747 center fuel tank has spontaneously exploded before or since. 

Many of those citizen researchers who have worked on this for over five years believe that theabundant evidence about the cause of this 

About the author

The author is a member of Independent Researchers Organization investigating the Flight 800 crash and an engineer at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This month he won an appeals court ruling that may compell the FBI to turn over certain documents. The FBI has been fighting him since 1998. Sephton believes that certain pieces of debris taken from bodies of Flight 800 passengers are consistent with pellets from missile warheads. More information is available at

explosion will eventually come out and a more objective evaluation will then be possible. Most independent researchers believe that the evidence that has been released to date points to some sort of missile event. While that conclusion might still be contentious, it can be said without fear of contradiction, that there is compelling evidence of an inadequate, incomplete and compromised investigation. 

We believe that the sooner the whole case is reviewed the better for everyone. It will only be at that point that the urgently serious problem of government interference and manipulation of public interest science can then be properly addressed. 

The story of the independent researchers efforts and successes is a fascinating one. Some of the researchers have spent their lives serving aviation in one way or another. Capt. Ray Lahr made every effort to obtain the crash simulation calculations from the NTSB. He even traveled to Washington a few times from his home in California. 

His calculations, and other aeronautically trained experts, proved that there was some serious miscalculation in the published NTSB simulation results. But the NTSB refused to hand over their calculations. Capt. Lahr eventually had no other recourse than to sue the government under the Freedom of Information Act for the data and the calculations, an expensive and tedious process that takes years. 

Via a similarly frustrating course of events, the author also ended up suing the FBI for the forensic lab data that the agency withheld from the coroner, Dr Wetli. The chief medical officer for Suffolk County, New York, had legal jurisdiction and the mandated responsibility for determining cause-of-death. It sets a dangerous precedent for the FBI to withhold such critical forensic evidence from such an official with jurisdiction. 

Dr Tom Stalcup, a experienced research physicist and chairman of the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization has also made many trips to Washington and in May 2002 he submitted a formal request to the NTSB to reopen the investigation to address problems with the original effort. 

See: the request petition HERE!

The NTSB is obliged to reopen such investigations when new evidence or problems are identified. Dr Stalcup provided a report that meticulously documented 10 major lapses and severe inadequacies in the official NTSB report. 

Our scientific tradition insists on peer review of any important or complex research to weed out potential mistakes and even subtle biases. It is only via such open review processes that scientific results gain credibility and objective truth can assert itself. The NTSB’s refusal to allow such detailed review is totally out of step with that honorable and rigorous tradition that has advanced us to our present knowledge of things. 

Un-reviewed science has little credibility, can easily be manipulated, and is potentially bad science. And bad science is dangerous science. 

* This article is printed by permission of Mr. Sephto


 Home - Last Updated: 
 © 2001, 2002 & 2003  Robert E. Donaldson.  All rights reserved