FBI Drops Flight 800 Case

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NEW YORK: The FBI meant well. When assistant director James Kallstrom decided to tell victims' families he was closing his criminal investigation into the Flight 800 disaster for lack of evidence, says TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon, "he didn't want them to read it in the morning paper."

It almost worked. The announcement went out to families overseas on Monday; domestic letters were posted Wednesday. But by Thursday morning, there it was on page one. "This was just a snafu," Shannon said after talking to FBI officials. "Especially because he has a close friend whose wife was on the flight, Kallstrom feels very strongly about avoiding any insensitivity to those families. But the letter got leaked. He's not happy about it." The formal announcement may come next week; in any case the news was a surprise to no one. "They had some tests to conclude, and then it was just dotting the i's and crossing the t's."

At TWA, there is only impatience. "It is very disappointing that another government agency is reporting they do not know what caused this," company spokesman Mark Abels told the Associated Press. "We are looking forward to the day that some agency does know what caused it." Your turn, NTSB.