Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Sephton Looses FOIA Appeal

March 31, 2006

Dear Supporters,

Last Friday (31st) Attorney Dan Stotter phoned me to tell me that he had just learned we lost the appeal.  The appeal judges ruled very simply, without any analysis, that the lower court made the correct judgement.  We had started to think that because they were taking so long, that they were struggling with the details or issues in the case. Apparently not much struggle for them after all.  Maybe just embarrassment?

I apologize that I took a further week to pass this unhappy news on.  I actually sat down to start writing on a few occasions but it was too hard to write anything.  So much has changed in America since 1996 and even 2000 when the court case began.  Now it is OK to torture, kidnap (extraordinary rendition), leak classified information, and ignore habeas corpus rights, so it shouldn't have been too surprising to me that the  government would consider a few lies around an aviation disaster as mere collateral damage.

Besides my great disappointment and frustration, I feel badly that our joint decade-long quest for integrity and honest government was not supported by the judiciary. The checks and balances are not working as well as they should.

Dan went on to explain to me that there were two more possible steps - a request for an "en banc" appeal to the full bench of the Boston appeals court and then an appeal to the US Supreme Court.  Up until now he had figured we had a "good chance", but for those further steps from here he stated the odds were heavily against us.

Very briefly, this litigation effort has at least established that the FBI collected hundreds of objects during the autopsies, did extensive forensic testing, did not share the forensic details with the coroner, or the NTSB, or with congressional hearings. The FBI now claims now they cannot find any of it.

I will write a detailed report for the benefit of those who might feel inspired or challenged to delve further into Flight 800, summarizing what was learned from the approx FBI 600 pages that were released to me.  And of course none of those pages explained or described what the most direct forensic evidence about the explosion revealed. And then I will try and remember how to update my website for any who might want to read it..

For those who lost family I hope this arduous litigation process has not just ended up as feeling like more salt in deep wounds.  And for those who lost friends, colleagues and eventually TWA itself I also apologize that this has not born any immediate fruit.

I closed the FOIAC bank account and the PO box a few weeks after the final appeal hearing and you should all at least be happy and be proud to know that over the 5 years of litigation your contributions versus the fees and expenses all came out pretty even.  I (and especially my wife who was pretty anxious about many aspects of this whole effort) am very grateful for that support.  And thank you for sticking with this and encouraging me over the years not to feel alone in this struggle nor to quit.

If I can work out how to take this lawsuit further, even to the Supreme Court, without having to ask anyone for any more financial help, then I will probably pursue that course of action.  So many ordinary folk who have gone before us have made unstinting sacrifices to establish and defend our rights to decent lives and honorable government.  I feel humbled by those who have sacrificed all and feel compelled to continue with this, my relatively safe and modest protest.  I cannot just sit by and figure that I already tried, or pretend all is well, or that I have no responsibility for the current trends and low expectations and ubiquitous gloominess and cynicism.  We have to imagine and believe in something better before it can ever manifest.

I know many of you feel similarly and I am very grateful for that.

Graeme Sephton




  Robert E. Donaldson.  All rights reserved