Missile conspiracy theory spreads
on the Net
NEW YORK - Conspiracy buffs love to theorize about cover-ups, and
the idea that a missile - from a hand-held launcher, a Navy ship or a
National Guard helicopter - brought down TWA Flight 800 is irresistible.
Investigators refuse to rule out the theory, despite calling it far-fetched,
remote or no more than marginally possible. So it grows and flourishes,
spread through The Internet, the airline-employee grapevine and even fliers
on utility poles in Brooklyn.
The theory won't die as long as the FBI continues to give missiles equal
billing with a bomb and mechanical failure in its trio of possible causes
Among some 1,800 interviews conducted by the FBI, about 50 people
described light streaks or other oddities suggesting a missile hit the
747. While analysis of radar tapes showed nothing to back this up, the
reports cannot be dismissed, chief FBI investigator James Kallstrom said.
One persistent rumor is that a U.S. warship or aircraft downed the jet
an errant missile and the government is covering it up. The investigation
not turned up anything to support this, said Rear Adm. Edward
Kristensen, head of the Navy salvage operation off Long Island.
Other versions of the conspiracy theories involve a nugget of truth, but
don't stand up under examination.
"TWA flight 800 was shot down by a U.S. Navy guided missile ship which
was in area W-105," says an Internet posting attributed to an unidentified
former safety chairman of the Airline Pilots Association. "W-105 is a
Warning Area off the Southeast coast of Long Island and is used by the
military for missile firing and other military operations."
A guided missile ship was in the Atlantic that evening, Navy spokesman
Lt. Nick Balice said. The USS Normandy was 180 miles south of the
crash site. But it was not conducting weapons drills. A Navy
anti-submarine plane also was training in the region, but it was unarmed,
A poster circulated in Brooklyn claimed the state National Guard was
training off Long Island with helicopters equipped with various weapons,
including Stinger missiles.
A National Guard helicopter was practicing rescue missions in the area,
but it too was unarmed, said Walt Sweeney, a state National Guard
The missile theory focuses on portable weapons, including the U.S.-made
Stinger. But experts have remained skeptical that such a missile could
shoot down a plane 13,700 feet in the air, the outer limit of the Stinger's
"After looking at all the factors, we say it's possible but highly unlikely,"
said a U.S. officer, a missile expert who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"If I wanted to take out an aircraft like that with a hand-held missile,
wouldn't be out in a boat."
By The Associated Press
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