Investigation of Red Residue

After 24 July 1996 Parties to the Investigation were removed from the recovery operation at sea, denied access to physical evidence, denied access to FBI laboratory reports, denied access to eyewitnesses, by order of the Justice Department. These procedures are at variance with Title 49 of the US Code and common sense. These aviation experts were the Parties to the Investigation.

By segregating the Investigators from free access to all evidence, these aviation experts were effectively segmented into compartmentalized working groups, unable to examine and evaluate the larger picture. Consequently their Working Groups produced more questions and anomalies to the central theory than they did answers. Those anomalies appear as findings of fact in this document.

Captain Terry Stacey is a senior TWA check pilot and was a member of the investigation’s Operations Factors Group and Eyewitness Group. He ultimately lost confidence in the integrity and competence of the Justice Department investigation and provided small samples of a suspicious residue to an outside investigative journalist, Mr. Sanders, for testing. After that event, the FBI began threatening Captain Stacey, Mr. Sanders and those corporations, which were a Party to the Investigation, with Federal Obstruction of Justice prosecutions.

The Justice Department was well aware of the identities of the investigative journalist, Mr. Sanders, his wife, a senior TWA flight attendant, as well as Captain Stacey. Their roles in the above incident were known seven months in advance of the announcement of their indictment. The arrest warrants appear to have been delayed to coincide with the beginning of NTSB Public Hearings in Baltimore on 8 December 1997. When Mr. & Mrs. Sanders turned themselves in, FBI Agents handcuffed both behind the back and purposefully paraded them in front of media cameras. A junior FBI agent present had requested they not be handcuffed and be allowed to avoid the media, his request was denied.

The alleged Federal crime that generated the unusual prosecutorial behavior cited above was the theft and receipt of (worthless) government property (stained aircraft seat fabric) by an authorized aircraft crash investigator and a published investigative journalist who had previously testified before congress as an expert witness on other matters (POWs).

The red seat residue taken by Captain Stacey was given to Mr. Sanders for outside testing and was processed by West Coast Analytical Services (WCAS) in California. Laboratory findings of the sample given WCAS showed a high concentration of metals that is not consistent with the seat material or with the seat repair adhesive.

The remaining sample of residue in Sanders possession was given in good faith to CBS in New York for further independent outside testing. CBS New York turned the sample over to the FBI. CBS was reported to be under threat of a pending FBI raid.

Both the NTSB and the FBI maintain the red residue Captain Stacey gave Mr. Sanders was 3M 1357 Scotch Grip Adhesive (Listed at NTSB Docket 5A-516 Exhibit 20C). That adhesive is used by TWA to refurbish aircraft seats. The Lab results produced by WCAS are entirely different from the test results done on TWA Seat Backing Adhesive by Dr. Bassett’s laboratory at NASA and two other independent laboratories. Because Dr. Bassett was not allowed to lift the red residue from the seats at Calverton himself, he is not sure he tested the same residue. See Mr. Stalcup’s statement at Exhibit 9 * and proffer of Laboratory evidence.

Dr. Bassett of NASA, an ex US Marine, had several conversations with Dr. Birky, NTSB Fire and Explosives Group Chairman, prior to and after Dr. Bassett ran tests. Dr. Bassett first requested he go to Calverton to lift residue samples himself to ensure chain of custody of the sample and to see what he was testing. Dr. Birky denied that request.

Later, after Dr. Bassett had run tests on CW504, the first metal aircraft part found in the western Debris Field, he called Dr. Birky saying he had detected nitrates on the part (possible explosive residue) and recommended immediate further testing for specific explosives. Dr. Birky directed Dr. Bassett to stop testing and in a later phone call Birky informed Bassett, "we now have a plausible explanation for the nitrates, it was cigarette smoke residue from air-conditioning ducts". Dr. Bassett informed Birky he had already tested A/C ducts and found them free of nitrates.

Dr. Birky’s failure to follow scientific protocol, lack of normal curiosity and his proactive move to shutdown the inquiry once vital clues were being developed, has an appearance of suppression of evidence. Both Dr. Bassett and Dr. Birky be placed under oath in Congressional Hearings.

Deputy FBI Director Kalstrom wrote a letter to NTSB Chairman Hall prior to the 8 December 1997 Public Hearing specifically requesting public reference not be made to: Eyewitnesses; the CIA video tape (that was released to discredit eyewitnesses); or any reference to residue testing. The conduct of the Justice Department and the FBI in the matter of residue on aircraft seats and parts warrants close scrutiny. In any just forum, the public assault on Captain Stacey’s motives by Federal authorities would constitute libel, if not prosecutorial misconduct. Do US attorneys in New York actually believe the Senior Check Pilot for TWA in New York, having just lost 43 fellow employees in this incident, was motivated by anything other than finding the truth?

Congress should provide the opportunity for Captain Stacey to return to Calverton, identify the residue he was suspicious of and have the appropriate scientists lift the residue for outside laboratory analysis to resolve this matter. Captain Stacey should also have the opportunity to testify before a congressional committee to clear his good name. At Calverton, bomb-sniffing dogs were used to identify contaminated parts. They were then sent to chemical sniffers for determination of specific high explosives.

The EGIS 3000 chemical sniffer used by the FL800 debris recovery teams on Long Island was the best equipment available. Various media have reported the chemical sniffer processing teams identified at least a dozen pieces of debris from both inside and outside the aircraft with specific high explosive residue contamination. This was after saltwater immersion, washing, and identification as explosive residue by bomb sniffing dogs. The possibility of a false positive reading on a EGIS 3000 when testing bare metal is approximately 1: 10,000.

Explosive experts are on record stating that high explosive residues (nitrogen compounds) are very soluble in water. A significant amount of debris was pressure-washed by NTSB personnel when it was brought ashore prior to chemical screening for explosive residue at the Calverton hanger by FBI agents. The Justice Department decided to have the FBI laboratory in Washington DC verify each positive residue finding. Only two samples were reported to have made it through the FBI Lab tests as positive.

Normal scientific protocol requires different methodology or equipment be used to confirm a finding by an original test. If the original identification was done on a EGIS 3000, then the confirmation procedure would have to use less sensitive equipment. The explosive unit chief at the FBI Lab, J. Thomas Thruston, was the individual involved in the TWA FL800 investigation. In testimony pertaining to faulty FBI laboratory procedures in the fall of 1997 before the Senate, Inspector General Michael Bromwich testified "Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases are implicated". Former crime lab unit chief James Corby singled out the explosives unit chief as a particular problem stating, "Special Agent Thurston did alter reports intentionally."

Seat Residue Test Results

Source: Kay Pennington

TEST ONE RESULT is from the red residue visible on 15 seats of the reconstructed TWA 800 in Calverton Hangar. The test was performed at Santa Fe Lab in California under the direction of James Sanders, which he printed in his book "The Downing of TWA Flight 800" and the Press-Enterprise, Riverside California, March 10, 1997 edition.

TEST TWO RESULT is for 3M 1357 adhesive from an UNSOAKED sample performed by Coffey Labs, Portland Oregon, and supervised by Austin Stephens.

TEST THREE RESULT is from Atlantic Ocean water obtained by J Greg Miller , and soaked - 22 days - fabric from sister ship to TWA 800. Tests were performed under the supervision of researcher Thomas Stalcup.

  Test One Test Two Test Three
ELEMENT Sanders Sample 3M Glue Seat Fabric
Magnesium 18% 2.5% .007%
Silicon 15% .0005% .0004%
Calcium 12% .0020% .0011%
Zinc 3.6 % .043% .0002%
Iron 3.1% .0041% .001%
Aluminum 2.8% .0065% .0018%
Lead 2.4% None Detected NONE
Titanium 1.7% .00012% .0002%
Antimony .53% None Detected Not Tested
Nickel .38% None Detected None Detected
Manganese .21% .00048% None Detected
Boron .081% .0016% .001%
Copper .053% None Detected Not Tested
Silver .032% None Detected None Detected
Chromium .032% None Detected None Detected

Below is a list of explosive/rocket fuel properties of the components of the Sander's analysis. The presence of so many different kinds of metals are indicative of rocket propellant more than some type of explosive. The compound that is missing is ammonia, which is a primary component of many solid rocket mixtures; but this will react during the burn and would not likely be found in any residue. Results available upon request.

Sanders Test Results Rocket Propellant/Explosive Characteristics

Magnesium 18% Used as an igniter to increase combustion temp
Silicon 15% Possible binder component
Calcium 12% As nitrate, heat or shock sensitive explosive
Zinc 3.6% Rocket fuel component
Iron 3.1% As Fe2O3 - Burn accelerator
Aluminum 2.8% Possible burn moderator, produces white flame
Lead 2.4% Burn moderator; potentially explosive as azide, mononitroresorcinate, or staphynite
Titanium 1.7% Igniter, increases combustion temperature
Antimony 0.53% Burn moderator
Nickel 0.38% Diamine nickel nitrate - burn stabilizer
Manganese 0.21%  
Boron 0.81%  
Copper 0.53% As chromite - burn accelerator
Silver 0.03% As azide or acetylide - heat or shock sensitive explosive
Chromium 0.03% As ammonium bichromate - solid fuel catalyst




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