Assistant Director in Charge
New York Office
Federal Bureau of Investigation
July 10, 1997
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee
Thank you for inviting me to be here today to represent the FBI and to give you a broad overview of the FBI's investigation of the tragedy of TWA Flight 800. As this matter continues to be an active criminal investigation on our part, I know you will appreciate the restrictions that are placed on me and the FBI and will understand the limits this fact may impose on my statements and responses.
When this catastrophic tragedy happened on the night of July 17, 1996,
and after initial information indicated that all communications from TWA
Flight 800 were normal and that no distress calls were issued, the FBI,
as well as I would suspect most of the world, believed that there was a
possibility that this tragedy was the work of criminals or terrorists.
As you are aware, for the first few hours following this tragedy, over
100 individuals reported seeing events in the sky associated
From the beginning, the FBI's investigative purpose has been to reach
what I have called in the past - critical mass - to gather sufficient evidence
to allow us to state, with a high degree of certainty, whether this tragedy
was the result of a criminal act and, if so, determine who was responsible
and bring them to justice. Our efforts have been and continue to be focused
on two primary criminal theories - that the destruction of Flight 800 was
the result of a bomb placed on the aircraft or
All of our efforts to date have failed to uncover any credible evidence that the loss of Flight 800 was the result of a criminal act. Let me again reiterate something I told the Committee in the briefing several months ago and what I have also stated publicly - Flight 800 was definitely not brought down by "friendly fire", that is, no missile or any other action by the military and naval forces of the United States caused this tragedy.
We continue to examine the possibility that the aircraft was destroyed by a bomb, a terrorist missile or other criminal act. Each day, we move closer to completing leads and other lines of inquiry seeking to close out theories and resolve the questions of possible criminal activity. We have not reached the end of our investigative process and the theories of a bomb or terrorist missile, along with the possibility of mechanical failure, are still on the board.
Barring some new disclosure or information, we are now in the final phase of our investigation. We have several lines of inquiry or action items left to complete so that we can ensure we have covered every base and that the families of the victims and the American people will be confident that our ultimate determination is based on the most thorough, exhaustive and finest investigative effort that the FBI can produce. For example, we have identified, catalogued and are conducting a close scientific examination and analysis of almost 200 holes, slits, punctures or penetrations identified in the reconstructed areas of the aircraft. We expect that the metallurgical analysis and our other remaining leads may be completed as early as 60 to 90 days from today. However, as I stated earlier, none of the analysis completed to date has uncovered any evidence of a crime.
In the next 60 days we expect to have the final results of a sophisticated analysis of the statements of witness who reported seeing what has generally been characterized as something ascending into the sky followed by an explosion. This analysis, which includes correlation of what the witnesses saw, what they heard, and their locations with known radar trackings of the aircraft, is extremely detailed and has involved a number of reinterviews. When completed, we believe this analysis will provide a clear understanding of these critical eyewitness observations.
Mr. Chairman, throughout this entire investigation, the cooperation between the FBI, NTSB, the FAA, the ATF, state and local agencies, and the other members of the law enforcement team has been nothing but superb. In my entire career in law enforcement, I have worked many, many major investigations involving multiple agencies and I can tell you, Mr. Chairman, and the other members of this Committee, that I have never seen a case of this significance with this many agencies where the cooperation, professionalism and "can do" attitude was better displayed. The American people can be proud of the dedicated men and women that have labored for almost one year from all the agencies and organizations with one idea in mind, and that is to find the cause of this horrendous tragedy.
To sum up,Mr. Chairman, we have a number of significant investigative, scientific and analytical initiatives which we hope to complete within the next 60 to 90 days and, to date, the FBI's exhaustive investigative efforts have not uncovered any evidence that the destruction of Flight 800 resulted from a criminal act. I thank you for your time and I would be happy to answer questions from the Committee.