Accuracy In Media
                                          
Weekly Column

                       Kallstrom's Credibility Kaput

                                           By Reed Irvine
                                            July 16, 1999

Viewers of C-SPANís morning call-in show have noticed that many of the callers are often better informed than the journalists and celebrities invited as guests. The questions the viewers ask are often tougher than those the guests are likely to encounter on any TV talk show. 

James Kallstrom, the former assistant director of the FBI who headed the investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800, discovered this when he appeared on C-SPAN two days before the third anniversary of the crash. Two days earlier, he had appeared on CNBCís "Hardball" hosted by journalist Chris Matthews, who pitched nothing but softballs.

On C-SPAN, Kallstrom was hit with a barrage of calls that left his credibility in tatters. Some of his answers were only misleading. Others were simply falsehoods.

First a Florida caller said she had read about the governmentís prosecution of James Sanders, the author and journalist who, together with his wife, has been convicted of aiding and abetting the removal of two small swatches of foam rubber from seats of TWA 800 that were impregnated with a red residue. The swatches were sent to Sanders by one of the official investigators who wanted the residue analyzed to see if it could have come from a missile. The tests Sanders commissioned showed that was possible. The caller did not believe the official denials that the plane was shot down by a missile. She thought it was "another
government cover-up," explaining, "This man (Jim Sanders) was a journalist and is used to investigative reporting....and it seems to me that the government has gone to a lot of trouble to try to muzzle him. So I, frankly, donít believe your explanations at all."

Kallstrom denied that he had been under pressure from on high to cover up the truth. Asked to explain who the Sanders were, he said, "They were a couple who were part of getting some material from the crime scene, some seat fabric that they claimed contained rocket fuel and were part of a conspiracy to remove that from the hangar. The reason they were prosecuted was that they violated the law. You just canít have people in potential crime scenes that are doing that, and thatís the reality. Otherwise, no one will get justice, and things wonít be fair for anybody." 

The fact that Sanders tried to advance the investigation, not hinder it, was recognized by a viewer who sent this e-mail: "Why is independent study of materials against the law? One would think the federal government would be thankful for independent studies corroborating your findings." 

Kallstrom spurned that notion, saying, "You canít have independent studies covertly from the investigation. Obviously, we wanted to know what was on the fabric also. Weíre the ones that analyzed that material and found it to be the adhesive that kept the seats together. [The agent who did the analysis has denied this.] But you just think about this....Your daughter is kidnaped, and independent people, for whatever reason....come into your home and start rifling through your daughterís bedroom...and maybe do away with some evidence that may help find your daughter. You just canít have freelance people doing criminal investigations."

A caller promptly pointed out that the law used to prosecute Sanders was designed to keep souvenir hunters from removing evidence from crash sites. She said that if her daughter had been kidnaped and the police were not doing a good job, she would welcome the help of anyone truly interested in finding her. Kallstrom insisted, "You just canít have people doing that. It could impact on the investigation. In this case it probably didnít." He said no one had a great desire to prosecute the Sanders, "but thatís what our system of justice and our democracy is all about." 

What a horrible thought!

A Long Island caller reported that TV stations had been interviewing people who had witnessed the crash who said they had seen what looked like a flare coming up from the surface of the ocean prior to the explosion. He asked how the FBI explained this.

Kallstrom said they had produced a video animation to show what "the vast majority of the witnesses saw." It showed that after the center fuel-tank blew up, the nose fell off and the noseless, powerless jet, defying gravity, climbed about 3,000 feet, trailing burning jet fuel. It claimed the eyewitnesses mistook that for a rocket rising from the surface and exploding when it reached the plane. Kallstrom said, "Most of the people that looked up when they heard the noise saw an event that happened 50 seconds earlier because it takes that long for the sound to travel in from the ocean to the shore. So they were looking at events that were
50 seconds old. And thatís just a fact." 

Kallstrom evidently thinks sound travels faster than light. His video infuriates the eyewitnesses because it bears no resemblance to what they saw and makes them look like idiots. The idiots are those who have accepted it as valid.