Delivery of ATF Report on TWA Flight 800 Crash

OSI-99-18R: Published: Aug 13, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 1999.

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Robert H. Hast
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) delivered the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' (ATF) Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight 800 crash report to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's investigation revealed that NTSB has no record of receiving the ATF report from the FBI; (2) senior NTSB officials involved in the TWA flight 800 crash investigation are certain they never received the ATF report, formally or informally, from the FBI; (3) NTSB did receive an unofficial or "bootleg" copy of the report from ATF; (4) however, because this was not an official copy of the report, NTSB was not able to refer to it in any of its public statements or public documents; (5) hence, NTSB was not able to use it to help convince the Federal Aviation Administration to force the airline industry to act faster to implement safety recommendations concerning the center wing fuel tank on Boeing 747 aircraft; (6) senior NTSB officials believe the FBI "rolled over" NTSB during the TWA flight 800 case; (7) according to Chairman James Hall, NTSB should have been in charge of the case since no evidence of a criminal act was developed; (8) however, unlike normal aviation accident investigations, the FBI took charge of the TWA flight 800 case to the detriment of NTSB; (9) Chairman Hall stated that a number of factors caused NTSB to lose control, including the strong personality of FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge James Kallstrom and the weak personalities of the NTSB officials at the scene of the crash; (10) the FBI withheld critical information from NTSB, such as a Central Intelligence Agency report; and (11) that report concluded that a missile did not cause TWA flight 800 to crash.

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