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Salinger Stands By Story About TWA Missile Strike

November 13, 1996 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Former newsman Pierre Salinger stood by his claim that TWA Flight 800 was blown out of the sky by a Navy missile, but FBI agents he met with were not impressed with his evidence, a spokesman said today.

``We were already aware of the information he provided us with, investigated it and discounted it,″ FBI spokesman Joseph Valiquette said.

``I still feel I have the right information,″ Salinger told The Associated Press on Tuesday night after his meeting. ``It’s been tough on me but we must get to the truth of what happened.″

Investigators know the jet’s nearly empty center fuel tank blew up minutes after takeoff from New York’s Kennedy Airport on July 17, killing all 230 people aboard. But they haven’t determined what sparked the explosion _ a bomb, a missile or a mechanical failure.

Salinger met for an hour with three FBI agents and two Secret Service agents at a Manhattan hotel. ``It was a good meeting,″ he said.

Salinger said he gave agents the information taken from the Internet on which he originally based his claims, plus a second document, also taken off the Internet, that he said contained further information.

Salinger said he brought up some other issues about the crash ``and they asked me to continue to investigate them and I accepted that request.″

Valiquette, however, said the agents didn’t ask him to investigate, just to pass along any information he might have. ``Just as we would want any other person to notify us if they had any information on TWA Flight 800,″ the spokesman said.

Earlier, Salinger defended his claim that friendly fire was responsible for the explosion that downed the Paris-bound flight.

His assertion was based on more than a document posted on the Internet, he said. ``I heard this from a very high level intelligence person some time ago,″ Salinger said.

Salinger backed off an earlier comment that he understood the USS Normandy had fired the errant missile, saying it could have been a submarine or an aircraft.

The Navy has said a P-3 Orion anti-submarine scout aircraft was on a training mission in the area at the time of the crash, but carried no weapons. Navy spokesmen have denied there was any submarine in the area, and say the Normandy was 185 miles to the south, beyond range of its missiles.

Salinger, who worked as press secretary for President Kennedy and briefly for President Johnson, is a former ABC News correspondent. He announced his friendly fire theory in France last week.

``Even though all these people are saying that what I say is not correct, for the moment I am still believing that what I said was correct,″ Salinger said.

``If it turns out to be wrong, it will probably be the biggest mistake of my entire life.″