March 13, 1997 in Nation/World

Fbi Says Radar Tape Shows Twa Jet, No Missile Tape Seized From Retired Pilot Who Pushed Missile Theory On Internet

New York Times

The radar tape that federal agents confiscated from a retired airline pilot who cited it as proof that TWA Flight 800 was hit by a missile contains radar signatures of the TWA jet and other planes, but no missile, a federal law enforcement official said Wednesday.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the tape was a copy of radar information that investigators have had since the Boeing 747 exploded July 17, killing all 230 people on board.

“It has the blip of the plane,” the official said. “It has the blip of other planes. It has no missile. It never did. It never will.”

Using a federal grand jury subpoena, federal authorities obtained the tape Monday from Richard Russell, a retired pilot who lives in Daytona Beach, Fla. Russell wrote a widely distributed Internet message in August declaring that the plane was shot down by a Navy missile, a contention long denied by federal officials.

Russell did not answer his phone Wednesday, but a message he left on his telephone answering machine Tuesday said he had turned over his tape to an FBI agent when presented with a subpoena. The message said that he expected officials to try to disparage his tape, but that “it is the real thing.” An official at ABC News in New York said Russell had offered to sell the tape for $1 million.

Russell is working with Pierre Salinger, the former ABC News correspondent and one-time aide to President John F. Kennedy, who is a vocal proponent of the Navy missile theory. An article by Salinger and others in today’s issue of Paris Match magazine contends that Russell’s tape and other evidence confirms the theory.

An advance copy of the article, provided by Salinger, lists as a co-author David E. Hendrix, a reporter for The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., who wrote an article this week saying that evidence from the plane’s wreckage pointed to a missile. Officials denied the contention.

Press-Enterprise managing editor Mel Opotowsky said his paper had declined to publish the article and that Hendrix’s name was used without authorization.

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