Book Review: First Strike

TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America
by Jack Cashill and James Sanders
Review by Brian Wright


First Strike by Jack CashillFrom the book jacket:

On July 17, 1996, a 747 jet crashed off the coast of Long Island, New York. After much stalling, the government attributed the crash to mechanical failure, and the media played along. But the truth is much more complicated and even more alarming: The destruction of TWA Flight 800 wasn’t just an accident, according to authors Jack Cashill and James Sanders. It resulted from an act of war—the first strike against the American mainland.

My feeling is the writer of the bookjacket blurb did not read the book, or possibly read the first version of the book before the authors had truly assessed the likely scenarios of what happened that day. If the writer had consulted what Cashill and Sanders actually wrote in the final document the blurb might go like this:

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On July 17, 1996, 20:31 EST, a 747 jet crashed off the coast of Long Island, New York. After much stalling—with sustained and willful destruction of massive amounts of evidence—the government attributed the crash to mechanical failure, and no one in the mainstream media (MSM) alerted us to one of the most corrupt government investigations in US history. The truth is 180 degrees at variance with the official story of TWA Flight 800: the commercial airliner was the victim of a missile strike, most likely from a US Navy training-exercise accident.

So even though the book jacket calls out the so-called ‘terrorist’ boogey man as the chief suspect, and lead author Cashill seems emotionally to lean toward putting his eggs in that basket, the book develops the more likely hypothesis that a) a missile, or two, struck the airliner, and b) the origin of the missile(s) lay in naval vessels in the area. At least that’s this reader’s take on the evidence and arguments actually presented. Eventually, officials of the FBI would change their consensus that ‘the plane was destroyed by a bomb’ to ‘the plane was destroyed by a fuel tank explosion.’

First Strike by CashillThe sheer mass of information indicating a missile strike—even with key physical pieces removed, mislabeled, or falsified—is staggering. Without exception, eyewitnesses saw a light and explosion suggestive of a projectile impacting the airplane followed by a fireball. A few witnesses were actually in direct sight of the flight, and stand by their stories of what occurred, despite the derogation by investigative officials and the MSM.

Because of the large number of witnesses, the solid credentials of many of them, some photographs and videos, supplemented with satellite images and FAA radar tracks, the official practice—cemented by craven MSM—was to DISMISS ALL EYEWITNESS EVIDENCE as unreliable. Then, because physical evidence was made unavailable, no competing theory to the official story had any evidence to support it. Neat. Here’s the story of 1) the hysteria created by the official story and its MSM advocates and 2) a notable opponent who never did go away, Pierre Salinger:

Virtually all dissent from the accepted wisdom now invited only scorn or derision from the major media. Milton and Negroni (lead writers from the New York Times and CNN, respectively) were relentless in their depiction of dissidents as ‘conspiracy theorists’ or the even more patronizing ‘conspiracy buffs,’ unthinking souls who had fallen victim … to ‘the pitfalls of conspiracy mongering.’

The media’s most conspicuous target was an unlikely one. Pierre Salinger had first come to prominence as President John F. Kennedy”s press secretary and had maintained a high profile ever since, as a US senator from California, an internationally well-connected PR consultant, and as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Indeed, he won his third Pulitzer for his reporting on the Pan Am 103 crash at Lockerbie, Scotland. A faithful Democrat, he waited until November 7—three days after the election—to tell an audience of aviation officials in Cannes, France, that intelligence sources had revealed to him that the US Navy had accidentally shot down TWA 800.

At a press conference in New York immediately after this story broke, a furious James Kallstrom (lead FBI investigator) denounced Salinger’s report as ‘pure, utter nonsense.’ Flanked by Admiral Kristensen, Kallstrom went on to assure everyone, especially the victims’ families, how thoroughly the FBI and the NTSB had investigated any possibility of US Navy involvement. Kallstrom then asked for questions. CBS producer Kristian Borjesson described what happened next:

A man raised his hands and asked what I thought was a pertinent—and impertinent—question. He wanted to know why the Navy was involved in the recovery and investigation while a possible suspect. Kallstrom’s response was immediate: “Remove him!” he yelled. Two men leapt over to the questioner and grabbed him by the arms. There was a momentary chill in the air after the guy had been dragged out of the room. Kallstrom, Kristensen, Hall and their entourage acted as if nothing had happened. There was something very disquieting about the goonish tactics. A dispassionately dismissive response from Kallstrom would have been a more convincing way to tell us that the Navy had nothing to do with the disaster. In any case, right then and there, the rest of us had been put on notice… — Page 89

Dozens, even hundreds, of other opponents of the official view, highly qualified with military, engineering, or aviation experience, have spoken out: all of them contending a missile(s) shot down TWA 800, solely differing on the origin of the missile (terrorist or ‘friendly’ fire). But the government-slash-media’s vicious attack on Salinger—a highly respected political and journalistic insider—tended to silence all but the brave. Many opponents of the official story have been prosecuted by the government in court… and worse. A few have disappeared.


First Strike should be entitled Stricken Evidence. Even so, the emperor truly has no clothes. First Strike demonstrates skillfully that the only reasonable explanation for the downing of Flight 800 is a missile attack. Regarding the FAA radar data showing the missile(s), one need only point to the following:

Six years later the NTSB continues to classify the radar data and the analysis referenced in the letter [from NTSB to the FAA insisting the FAA sanction any employees who voice doubt about the official story based on radar data], refusing to release it even under the Freedom of Information Act. — Page 105

What goes around comes around. First Strike: a brazen coverup worthy of 9/11. Almost 10 years after the book was published, TWA 800 is yet another coverup by public officials that the American people have acquiesced to. Cashill and Sanders write well, very cleanly edited. However, the edition I have is very small typeface and contains no index. A serious flaw.


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