Summary of new evidence by John Fiorentino
July 11, 2002
Secret FBI report refutes sworn testimony of William Tobin
A recently declassified FBI report appears to refute the sworn testimony of the FBI's former chief metallurgist assigned to the TWA800 crash case.
As disclosed in the recently declassified document (excerpts printed below) it appears William Tobin's testimony before the Senate during the Grassley hearings had little basis in fact.
Tobin testified that by September of 1996, approximately 4-6 weeks after his arrival on the case, there was a general consensus that there was "no bomb or missile damage" evident on the TWA wreckage. At the time frame indicated in Tobin's testimony, approximately one half of TWA800 was still at the bottom of the ocean.
The FBI's James Kallstrom, dismissed Tobin from the probe. Kallstrom believed Tobin's "conclusions" were hasty and unprofessional.
As evidenced by the once secret FBI report, it wasn't until November of 1996 that the FBI considered alternate investigative methods. This was two months after Tobin had already arrived at his conclusions. The report also states that even in November 1996, salvage efforts were still ongoing.
The document indicates that investigators had "little forensic documentation or guidance on large-body aircraft missile engagements, and no supportable mechanical or operational explanation for the crash."
FBI, TWA Flight 800 Brookhaven National Laboratory Examinations. Declassified FBI Report, 1997. (excerpts)
"It became apparent by the end of November 1996, about four months into the FBI's criminal investigation, that no aircraft debris recovered to that time had clear indicia of a high explosive event, although evidence recovery (i.e., ocean trawling for aircraft debris) and subsequent examination by bomb technicians for such indicia was continuing. In the face of no "classic" explosive artifacts little forensic documentation or guidance on large-body aircraft missile engagements, and no supportable mechanical or operational explanation for the crash of Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 800, FBI management decided that "... any investigative or scientific avenue that was reasonable and which could assist in providing a factual cause of the incident should and would be pursued."
The report goes on to say, that the initial metallurgical findings were reviewed, stating: A "cursory metallurgical peer review was conducted......" The report further states however, "No analysis or microscopic examinations were conducted." This would seem to indicate a review of the methodology used, and not a review of actual findings, as no further tests were performed.
Reproduced below, are excerpts from William Tobin's sworn testimony at the Grassley hearings.
Excerpts of FBI Metallurgist William Tobin’s testimony during the Grassley hearing.
GRASSLEY: Within 30 days of arriving at Calverton, what was your professional assessment of as to whether the cause of the crash was a bomb?
TOBIN: It progressed from an inclination of viewing the earmarks as possibly a bomb, but it changed rather quickly to confirmation within my mind that there was no indication of a bomb and unlikely to be that of a missile within the first 30 days.
GRASSLEY: At some point, did the bomb techs agree with yours and the NTSB's assessment that the cause of the crash was not a bomb?
TOBIN: Yes, Senator. I would estimate that probably four to six weeks -- after about four to six weeks, we were all unanimously or near unanimously on the same page. And all being the bomb techs, the National Transportation Safety Board and the metallurgy or the material science interests in the FBI laboratory. We were all unanimously -- we were united in our observations and conclusions that there was no bomb or missile damage evident on those aircraft parts.
GRASSLEY: The term four to six weeks brings you to what date on the calendar approximately? Just approximately.
TOBIN: My guess would be mid September, early to mid September.
It would appear that the FBI report and Tobin's testimony are at odds. This is just another glaring example of the inept and inconclusive investigation into one of the worst air disasters in history.
Copyright 2002, John E. Fiorentino -- All rights reserved. Distribution to wire services and recognized news media is allowed. No other use, distribution, or reproduction can be made without the express consent of the author.
*It is worthy to note that these "spheres" were recovered from the corpses of some TWA800 victims at autopsy) ...Authors note*
(FBI report from Brookhaven National Labs, 1997) (excerpts)
This item, one of 20 similar pieces.........was approx. 5mm in diameter and charcoal colored. The item was polished and then subjected to an energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS) analysis to determine its chemical composition.
Small charcoal colored particles (1 of -20 similar pieces) measuring ~5mm in diameter. On polishing the sample was orange colored and transparent.
SEM analysis indicated the material was multi-phase having a base matrix containing Al and Ti. The sample showed significant charging under the electron beam indicating that it is a very poor conductor - i.e.., not metallic. Three other distinct areas could be observed, two were similar to the matrix but contained significant amounts of Zr, the other was mostly Al with Ca, Ba and Ce.
Below is a response from the Boeing Co. re: the "spheres" alluded to in the (FBI report from Brookhaven National Labs, 1997) and just recently declassified. (note one sentence in the below transmission was a little skewed, however, that is the way it was received)
Thanks for your inquiry John.
I am unaware of anything on a Boeing commercial airplane that would use those chemicals in a matrix (or other) form. We do not use Aluminium / Titanium matrix type metals since their differing thermal expansion rates will tend to tear a part fabricated from them apart when subjected to the rapid change in temperatures that jet aircraft encounter. We use a temperature differential of +180 degree F to -70 degrees F in 20 minutes as a design criteria. The +180 was a measured skin temperature of an airplane sitting in the sun in Saudi Arabia. Also, we try to limit the amount of Titanium we put into the airplanes because it costs so much. We use it where strength and fatigue requirements make Aluminium inappropriate.
Hope this helps.
(redacted) Associate Technical Fellow Service Engineering The Boeing Company
Copyright 2002, J.E. Fiorentino - All rights reserved.