Nov. 1, 2002, 15:00 PST (FTW)
The air crash deaths of Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter, three staff members and two pilots at approximately 10:25 a.m. on Oct. 25 in Eveleth, Minn. has given rise to the widespread belief — shared by at least two members of the House of Representatives who spoke on condition of anonymity — that the crash was a murder.
Just as important as the known details of the crash, in many cases contradicting mainstream press reports, is the fact that the belief is so widely held. It says something about America that cannot and should not be ignored.
A HISTORY TOO FULL OF COINCIDENCES
From a historical standpoint Democrats are twice as likely to die in air crashes as Republicans. Frequently, those who have died were known to have been either involved in the investigation of covert operations or to have taken highly controversial positions in opposition to vested government interests.
Sam Smith of the Progressive Review (www.prorev.com) published an Oct. 25 story titled “Politicians Killed In Plane Crashes.” For his source he used a wonderful database found at http://politicalgraveyard.com. Of 22 air crashes involving state and federal officials, including one ambassador (Arnold Raphael) and one cabinet official (Ron Brown), FTW found that 14 (64 percent) were members of the Democratic Party and 8 (36 percent) were members of the Republican Party. If the list was limited to only elected members of Congress, the total was eight Democrats and four Republicans.
Six of the fatalities occurred during election campaigns. Of those, four were Democrats and two were Republicans. Maybe Democrats can’t afford the same type of planes that Republicans can. That certainly was not the case with Paul Wellstone who was killed in a Beechcraft King Air 100, twin turboprop. The King Air is a favorite of many politicians and is widely regarded as the “Cadillac” of twin-engined propeller driven airplanes. The state of Minnesota owns two of them. And as FTW reported in October 1999, a Beechcraft King Air owned by the state of Texas was a personal favorite of then-Gov. George W. Bush. That particular King Air had a sordid past however. It had previously been owned by the legendary drug smuggler Barry Seal. (The Associated Press picked up our story of the plane’s history).
To read our story on the Bush/Seal airplane connection, please visit:
Several names on the list are readily connected to intrigue.
Rep. Hale Boggs, D-La., was killed in 1972 and had been an outspoken member of the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of JFK. Various sources reported that he had openly expressed doubts about the commission’s findings.
Rep. Jerry Litton, D-Mo., was killed while campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri nearly two months before the 1976 election. This was exactly the same fate that was to befall Missouri Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan twenty-four years later.
Rep. Larry McDonald, D-Ga. and the national chairman of the John Birch Society and creator of a private intelligence operation called Western Goals, was killed on KAL 007 after it had mysteriously veered off course on a flight to South Korea and ventured several hundred miles into Soviet territory. The plane was shot down by the Soviet air force. At the time, McDonald’s Western Goals was being exposed in an LAPD intelligence scandal linked to massive domestic spying, the CIA and covert operatives like Gen. John Singlaub.
Rep. Larkin Smith, D-Miss. was killed in a private plane crash in 1989. At the time he had been working with veterans of U.S. Army Special Forces looking into the deaths of five Green Beret colonels, all of whom had been connected to a covert CIA drug operation known as Watchtower. [Details of Smith’s death are included in the FTW package “The Tyree Papers.”]
Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, a Democrat, was killed in a plane crash in Croatia on April 3, 1996. There are many unresolved mysteries with this incident, not the least of which is a color photograph of a post mortem Brown, which is frequently displayed by comedian/activist Dick Gregory, clearly showing a bullet wound in the back of his skull.
John Tower, a recently retired Republican senator from Texas known for his heavy drinking, was writing a book about the Iran-Contra affair when he was killed in a plane crash in 1991. Tower had reportedly been extremely unhappy when he had been denied an appointment as secretary of defense by President George Herbert Walker Bush. Tower had also been the chairman of a Reagan-appointed independent commission investigating Iran-Contra.
THE WELLSTONE CRASH
Perhaps no member of the Senate ranked higher on the Bush Administration’s enemies list than Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone. And the enmity goes back years to when Bush’s father was president. The Nov. 4 issue of Time recounts an encounter between Wellstone and the elder Bush after which he referred to Wellstone as “this chickenshit.” And it is known that there has been at least one prior reported attempt on Wellstone’s life.
In the months before his death Wellstone had voted against several key Bush agendas including Homeland Security, the Iraqi use of force resolution and many of Bush’s judicial nominees. In a Senate controlled 50-49 by the Democrats, Wellstone was perhaps the single one-man obstacle to Bush’s fervent and stated desire to secure passage of the Homeland Security measure prior to a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
When the Senate reconvenes after the Nov. 5 election the balance will be 49-49 with one independent, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Jeffords has been caucusing with the Democrats. If there is a tie vote, Vice President Dick Cheney, as president of the Senate, will decide the outcome.
Of special interest now is the Missouri Senate race, where the victor will be seated immediately after the election. Jean Carnahan — whose husband Mel was killed in a similar plane crash two years ago — seeks to hold on to a seat she gained by filling in for her husband after his death just days before the 2000 election. Under Missouri law, because of the death, the seat is only legally occupied until a new election is held.
So what happened to Paul Wellstone?
A check of more than 50 of the world’s leading news organizations three days after the Wellstone crash left one clear impression: the crash had been caused by “freezing rain and snow,” limited visibility, and likely icing of the wings. One CNN report on Oct. 24 described the plane as flying in “snowy, frozen rain.”
None of these conditions, which did not exist as just described, had anything to do with the crash.
Icing can be ruled out for a number of reasons. First, as reported in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Oct. 29, “Another pilot who landed a slightly larger twin engine plane at the airport on Friday, a couple of hours before Wellstone’s plane crashed, said in an interview that he experienced no significant problems.
“Veteran pilot Ray Juntunen said there was very light ice, ‘but nothing to be alarmed about. It shouldn’t have been a problem.’
“He said he ran into moderate icing conditions at 10,000 feet and requested permission to drop to 5,000. At that altitude, he had only light icing. When he dropped to 3,400 feet, to begin his approach, ‘the ice slid off the windshield,’ he said.
“According to the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board], Wellstone’s pilots received warnings of icing at 9,000 to 11,000 feet and were allowed to descend to 4,000 feet. Juntunen said he was able to see the airport from five miles out, and another pilot landed a half-hour later and told him the clouds were a little lower, but still not bad.”
Various local press reports state that the weather conditions at the time of the crash were overcast, with visibility of three miles and a ceiling of 700 feet.
An argument that the weather worsened immediately after these two pilots landed and before Wellstone crashed is belied by the fact that a contemporaneous Doppler weather radar map of the region obtained by FTW from the National Weather Service shows no major storm activity and the same basic conditions as reported previously.
To further clarify this, FTW interviewed a retired commercial airline pilot who still maintains full current FAA certifications. The pilot, who asked not to be identified by name, provided FTW with copies of his pilot’s license, his current FAA medical certificate, and his gold membership card in the Airline Pilot’s Association.
Upon reviewing the radar map he stated that there was nothing inherently dangerous in what he saw depending upon what additional conditions might be prevalent at the time like ceiling and visibility. When advised that the reported visibility was three miles with a ceiling of 700 feet he stated, “That shouldn’t be any problem, especially if you have planes taking off right before and even at the time of the crash.”
In various press reports the King Air was described as an excellently powered aircraft, and that de-icing equipment was standard.
And the Pioneer Press reported on Oct. 26 that Gary Ulman, the assistant manager of the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, “jumped into his own private plane and took off in search of the missing aircraft” after noting the Wellstone plane’s delayed arrival. Therefore, the icing conditions could not have been a contributing factor in the crash, or else the airport manager would not have taken off.
What has been disclosed by various local press sources, including stories in the Oct. 28 and 29 Pioneer Press, is the following:
– The plane, although it was required to have only one, had two fully licensed commercial pilots. The lead pilot had 5,200 hours of flying time and the highest possible certification. No physical problems had been reported with either pilot;
– The plane was not required to and did not have either a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder;
– Wellstone’s plane had notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it was on approach to the airport and had activated the runway lights;
– The time from the last radio contact with the FAA when everything was normal until the crash was approximately 60 seconds;
– The pilots — as is standard procedure for unmanned airports — had sent a radio signal from their airplane to equipment at the airport which turned on the runway lights and activated a directional beacon that would align the plane with the runway. [Note: The Eveleth airport was not equipped with a more sophisticated remotely activated instrument landing system that would have provided feedback to the pilots on speed, rate of descent and above ground altitude];
– The FAA found that “an airport landing beacon, owned and maintained by the state…[was]…out of tolerance Saturday and was retesting Sunday.” This was later confirmed by the acting chairwoman of the NTSB, Carol Carmody; [Note: According to the NTSB web site Carmody formerly worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.]
– The runway selected ran directly east to west and that Wellstone’s plane was on final approach from the east;
– According to FAA records as reported Oct. 29 in the WWorkers Daily, at 10:19 a.m. at an altitude of 3,500 feet the plane began to drift away from the runway toward the south;
– According to the same source, the plane was last sighted at 10:21 a.m. flying at 1,800 feet;
– Wellstone’s plane was found approximately two miles south of the eastern half of the runway, facing south. [Early press reports placed the crash site at between 2-7 miles east of the runway. Subsequent television reports, accompanied by maps, placed the crash site at this location. FTW is continuing to investigate the exact location of the crash site.];
– The propellers were turning at the time of the crash;
– The angle of impact was 30 degrees (extremely steep), indicating the plane was out of control;
– The wing flaps, which should have been fully extended for landing were only extended to 15 degrees (a setting used for initial approach descent);
– That the plane had been traveling at approximately 85 knots.
One quote from the Pioneer Press is interesting. “Radar tapes indicate the plane had descended to about 400 feet and was traveling at only 85 knots near the end of its flight. It then turned south, dove at an unusually steep angle and crashed.”
Aside from the aircraft’s sudden change in direction and the setting of the flaps, the airspeed is perhaps the most intriguing known element in the crash. A number of factors, if the data which had been released by the NTSB is to be believed, indicate that the Wellstone plane stalled just before crashing. A stall usually occurs when an aircraft’s nose is raised too steeply for the throttle setting of the engine.
One account of a King Air’s stall characteristics can be found at http://www.ainonline.com/Features/Pilotreports2000/AIN_pr_kingair.html.
This text described a situation where the stall warning horn (an alert that warns if airspeed is too slow) was activated under landing conditions (gear down with full flaps) at 85 knots. This writer has been in several small aircraft and experienced the noise. It is intentionally loud, distracting and unmistakable. The account stated that the actual stall did not occur until the aircraft being tested reached 69 knots. That’s 16 knots slower than what was reported.
Other factors like the plane’s total weight and center of gravity might have changed these outcomes. The FAA lists the standard approach speed for a King Air B 100 (the type carrying Wellstone) as 111 knots. Therefore the crash speed was significantly below the recommended approach speed which is generally estimated at 1.3 times the manufacturer’s listed stall speed.
The fact that the planes flaps were extended only 15 degrees would have raised the stall speed.
This writer has spoken to several pilots who have flown high-risk covert missions for the CIA or the Department of Defense. One of them related to me once that it would be easy to cause an aircraft to fly right into the ground by recalibrating the airport’s IFR approach equipment and resetting the altitude. In fact, such a scenario was used in the movie Die Hard II.
But the Eveleth airport was equipped with only a directional beacon to line the plane up with the runway. It has already been established that this equipment was not “properly calibrated” and yet there are no reports of any deviations by either of the two pilots who landed safely shortly before the crash. That might have been what caused Wellstone’s plane to veer off to the south.
Several press reports have described small hills around the airport.
Given that the ceiling was only about 700 feet and the plane’s rate of descent would have been between 300 and 500 feet per minute it is possible that the plane emerged from the clouds close to the ground and the pilots, seeing that they were off course, initiated a sharp left turn toward the south to initiate a go-around. They would not have turned right because that would have taken them at an angle over the center of the runway, something pilots are trained not to do to avoid collisions.
From this point, answers are hard to come by. A physical examination of the crash site might reveal a large hill that would have been immediately in front of the aircraft when it emerged from the clouds. FTW has not found any press reports that address this point.
An imminent head-on crash into a hillside would have prompted a “Hail Mary” yanking back of the control yoke and an instant move to full throttle. FTW has seen no press reports indicating the throttle settings of Wellstone’s plane — only statements that the propellers were turning.
Mechanical sabotage of flight controls that would only be triggered under certain conditions or an incapacitating gas might also offer explanations as to why a stall warning horn was not responded to. King Airs have pressurized cabins.
There are many questions, but the circumstances of the crash, as known thus far, do not lead to conclusions of pilot error, mechanical failure or bad weather. What does that leave? It leaves us with three dead Democratic senatorial candidates (Litton – 1976, Carnahan – 2000, and Wellstone – 2002) who all died in small private airplanes just days before critical elections.
ARGUING WITH BLITZER OVER THE DEATH OF A KNOWN TARGET
Many experienced internet researchers, especially post-9-11, understand the importance of immediately securing local press reports and eyewitness statements to pivotal events in the moments after they occur. Several keen observers were able to transcribe the following live dialogue between an on-the-scene reporter and CNN’s Wolf Blizter.
Reporter: There is no evidence that weather had anything to do with the crash.
Blizter: But the plane was flying into some sort of ice storm, was it not?
Reporter: There is no evidence that the weather had anything to do with the crash.
According to these observers CNN immediately cut away from the on-scene reporter who was not heard from again. Other watchers noted a crawl along the bottom of the screen which, they said, ran only one time, “Weather not a factor in crash.”
Yet the stories currently posted on the CNN site still suggest that the crash was caused by bad weather and icing.
Paul Wellstone had been a target of an assassin once before. He was strident opponent of Plan Colombia, a U.S. military aid package which involves massive aerial spraying of lands believed to be growing cocaine and the use of private military contractors employed by companies like DynCorp. Wellstone had traveled to Colombia to evaluate the program.
Shortly after his arrival on Dec. 1, 2000, as reported by a number of news sources including the AP, a bomb was found along his route from the airport. Although the State Department later downplayed the incident, the general opinion was, and remains, that as an outspoken critic of CIA and covert operations, Wellstone had indeed been a target.
Those suspicions gained credibility the next day when Wellstone and his staff were sprayed with glyphosate, a chemical that has been routinely documented as the cause of a variety of illnesses in the local population. It has left certain regions of Colombia, as one native put it, “Without butterflies or birds.”
One anonymous author, using the pen name Voxfux, actually predicted Wellstone’s assassination in spring 2001. The story can be read at www.voxnyc.com. In that missive the author predicted, “If the death occurs just prior to the midterm senatorial elections, expect it to be in a state with a close race. Expect a ‘Mel Carnahan’ style hit.”
FTW was able to receive comments on the crash from two Democratic members of the House of Representatives. Both, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that they believed that Wellstone had been murdered.
One said, “I don’t think there’s anyone on the Hill who doesn’t suspect it. It’s too convenient, too coincidental, too damned obvious. My guess is that some of the less courageous members of the party are thinking about becoming Republicans right now.”
It is a rare occurrence when this writer refers to a quote from an unnamed CIA source. I have demonstrated in at least four interviews with the staffs of both the Senate and House Intelligence committees established that I know sources who have worked for the CIA in some very nasty covert operations.
The day after the crash I received a message from a former CIA operative who has proven extremely reliable in the past and who is personally familiar with these kinds of assassinations. The message read, “As I said earlier, having played ball (and still playing in some respects) with this current crop of reinvigorated old white men, these clowns are nobody to screw around with. There will be a few more strategic accidents. You can be certain of that.”
Netavisen 3. november 2002