2002-06-29 / Editorial/Opinion

Even Paranoids Have Enemies

Even Paranoids Have Enemies

Perhaps we are getting paranoid, but it seems strange to us that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the media have gone to war against the credibility of eyewitness accounts just when people are beginning to notice that the eyewitnesses to the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 are credible and The Wave is about to host an open forum for those eyewitnesses. First, the NTSB issued an unusual report that pointed to all of the inconsistencies in the recorded witness reports. The agency went out of its way to prove through statistics that eyewitnesses to an aircraft accident are unreliable. All the agency proved to us is that it has an agenda that does not include allowing for either fire or smoke on flight 587. About a week later, the Sunday New York Times, in its prestigious "News Of The Week In Review" section, ran a piece by Matthew Wald that quoted a number of experts, both in the academic world and retired NTSB officials, who made the point over and over again that eyewitness testimony in any accident is unreliable, that "twisted metal" is the only reliable indicator of why an accident happened. It is hard to argue with experts who have spent their lives investigating accidents and studying why witnesses testify the way they do. To not argue at all with their hypothesis, however, would be to dismiss all of those who saw the crash out of hand. We asked the expert whether it would make a difference if those who saw the fire and smoke were trained observers, firefighters and police officers. He told us that it would not make much difference at all. We find that hard to believe. We won't argue with the experts, but we have to remember the old saying as we go ahead with our witness forum, and that is "even paranoids have enemies."

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