The idea is floated frequently that the still nameless Russian collusion scandal is “worse than Watergate.” It may well be, but that comparison overlooks a more useful parallel.
The gold standard of government conspiracy remains the investigation into the July 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off the south coast of Long Island. The ensuing cover-up involved many of the same players as in the Russia conspiracy and for the same immediate goal: to secure a presidential election for a Clinton.
As with the Russia scandal, not all the collaborators in the TWA 800 case were equally motivated or equally powerful. The White House drove the conspiracy through its Justice Department. The CIA executed it without conscience. The FBI grudgingly yielded to the CIA. And the New York Times dutifully reported what the FBI whispered in its reporters’ ears.
As to the National Safety Board, the only agency with statutory authority to investigate a domestic plane crash, the DOJ shoved it aside on day one. The U.S. Navy brass, whose “combatants” were responsible for the accidental shoot-down of the 747, kept their heads down and their lips impressively sealed. They had nothing to gain by rocking this boat.
In the TWA 800 case, as likely in the Russian case, the collaborators never conspired as a group, and very few among them knew the whole picture. The White House dealt with the Navy, but the Navy had as little as possible to do with the FBI or the CIA. The White House controlled the CIA, but the CIA did not deal with the NTSB and only rarely with the FBI. The New York Times never spoke to the CIA or the Navy.
The FBI talked almost exclusively to the Times. Reporters treasure such close connections with a source. The knowledge gleaned from these sources elevates the…