Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Date: November 12, 2001
Head: Interview With Larry Johnson, Former CIA Officer
Byline: John Gibson, Catherine Herridge
Guest: Larry Johnson 

Joining us now with more, former CIA officer, Larry Johnson, who served as deputy director of the U.S. State Department Office of Counter terrorism from '89 to '93.

So what do you think? Does it smell?

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA OFFICER: No, I think it's probably mechanical, but you know, your correspondent made one important point, and she couldn't go into the details. There was a machine at that airport capable of detecting explosives, but it was sitting in a box.

Tower Air had it in that terminal, and when they went out of business, they boxed the thing up. So, you know, one of these days, John, we're going to be in a situation where we will be able to sit in front of a camera and say, "Look, we know that everything that's possible that could be done to protect aviation is being done, so it's probably mechanical," instead of having to go through these exercises of is it or isn't it terrorism.

GIBSON: You know, Larry, nonetheless, we've got a lot of co-inky-dinky here.

It's JFK, TWA 800, Swiss Air 111, Egypt Air 90, whatever that was, now this one. And this doesn't happen out of LAX. What's going on?

JOHNSON: Well, listen, John, I'm with you. You know, you see lots of potential suspicious signs, but maybe New York is just right now living under a bad sign having the luck of Job. What we will know -- and I think we're going to know it within the next 12 hours.

The reason they hustled up, they've got the cockpit voice recorder, flight data recorder, they're going to go through those, and the information is going to be coming out sooner not later in order to reassure.

If we're going to be waiting two or three days, then I think we may have to be concerned about something else.

GIBSON: OK, all right, so we proceed along.

Do you suspect any of those previous flights I named that went out of JFK either blew up or went in the ocean?

Do you suspect any of those were terror or just a long run of bad luck?

JOHNSON: Well, you're referring to, what, Flight TWA 800?


JOHNSON: Yeah. I'm still not comfortable with some of the conclusions out of that simply because it was based upon assumptions and not upon solid data. By solid data, I mean if you're going to conclude that a plane blew up because of a fuel line, then you're going to be able to replicate it on the ground. They couldn't make the conclusion based upon the recovery of all the wreckage.

The part of the wreckage that's missing is enough to fill a couple of dump trucks. So, you know, it is something that's a cause for concern.

It's going to cause people to take a hard look, but we can't rule out the possibility that this is just another case of very, very bad luck.

GIBSON: Larry, I hate to be skeptical, because everybody is saying, well, it looks to appear a mechanical failure but nobody can explain to me what makes an engine fall off.

What is that mechanical failure that suddenly the engine goes boom, falls off, rips the wing off, and flames are shooting out of the fuselage? What is that?

JOHNSON: Well, if one of the blades is cracked and under stress -- because it had been several thousand miles since the maintenance had been performed.

If that blade cracks, it comes shooting out the side, it punctures the fuel line. You've got a fuel line going. That catches fire. That's one possible explanation.

You know, John, I think your skepticism is healthy and we need to skeptical until we get proof.

GIBSON: Larry Johnson, former CIA officer. Thanks very much, Larry.

JOHNSON: Thanks, John.

GIBSON: More recovery from September 11, now this. We'll be right back.

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