James Kallstrom Dies at 78; Led F.B.I. Review of T.W.A. Crash

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As the F.B.I. main successful New York, helium spent 16 months investigating wherefore Flight 800 crashed 12 minutes aft takeoff, sidesplitting each 230 radical connected board.

James Kallstrom successful  1997 with the reconstructed T.W.A. jetliner that crashed a twelvemonth  earlier disconnected  Long Island. 
Credit...Jeff Christensen/Reuters

Sam Roberts

July 8, 2021, 5:50 p.m. ET

James K. Kallstrom, the New York F.B.I. main who painstakingly spent 16 months investigating wherefore T.W.A. Flight 800 exploded 12 minutes aft takeoff and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean successful 1996, sidesplitting each 230 radical onboard, died connected July 4 astatine his location successful Fairfield, Conn. He was 78.

The origin was bosom failure, his wife, Susan Kallstrom, said.

In his 27 years with the F.B.I., Mr. Kallstrom helped convict the bosses of New York City’s 5 Mafia families with cleverly concealed wiretaps and spiked meatballs. And helium investigated the 1993 violent bombing of the World Trade Center, expanded the bureau’s surveillance purview to see cellular phones, and recovered a half-million dollars successful diamond jewelry that had been stolen by a baggage handler astatine Kennedy International Airport successful 1995 and that had belonged to Sarah, the duchess of York.

In the probe of the clang of Flight 800, helium became the look of the F.B.I. successful regular briefings arsenic helium and different authorities sought to recognize what caused the detonation that sent the jetliner plummeting into the waves disconnected Long Island connected July 17, 1996 — 1 of the deadliest aviation incidents successful American history.

The level had taken disconnected from Kennedy International Airport bound for Rome. Among those killed were Janet Christopher, a 47-year-old formation attendant who was joined to 1 of Mr. Kallstrom’s agents.

Mr. Kallstrom initially thought that the plane, a Boeing 747-100, had been the people of a violent weaponry oregon missile. He acceptable retired to beryllium his theory. At the aforesaid time, the then-nascent net was rife with rumors that the level had been accidentally changeable down by the American military.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives yet concluded that it was a mechanical flaw successful the jetliner’s halfway substance vessel that caused the detonation erstwhile it ignited fumes.

That hardly quelled the conspiracy theories and bureaucratic infighting. The F.B.I. was vexed that the firearms bureau’s study had been finished earlier the F.B.I. had completed its counterterrorism and transgression investigations. And the F.B.I. itself was accused of temporarily withholding the report’s conclusions from the National Transportation Safety Board.

But successful November 1997, erstwhile Mr. Kallstrom ended his investigation, ruling retired a bomb, rocket oregon sabotage arsenic a origin of the explosion, helium flatly rejected the proposition that the marathon probe by arsenic galore arsenic 1,000 agents had taken excessively long.

“Imagine the conception of america looking for the evident things successful an probe and not uncovering them and benignant of vacating the scene,” helium said astatine the time. “We’re the Federal Bureau of Total Investigation,” helium added, “not the Federal Bureau of the Obvious.”


Mr. Kallstrom, right, successful  1995 with diamond jewelry that had been stolen by a baggage handler astatine  Kennedy International Airport and that belonged to Sarah, duchess of York.
Credit...Jon Levy/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The plane’s wreckage, which had been reconstructed successful the probe and aboriginal transported to a grooming halfway for national aviation mishap investigators successful Northern Virginia, is being dismantled and is expected to beryllium destroyed retired of respect for the families and friends of those were lost, officials said this year.

James Keith Kallstrom was calved connected May 6, 1943, successful Worcester, Mass. His father, Todd, was a nonrecreational trumpeter. His mother, Edna (Linn) Kallstrom, was a registered nurse.

After graduating with a bachelor’s grade successful selling from the University of Massachusetts Amherst successful 1966 (he aboriginal received a master’s astatine the C.W. Post field of Long Island University), helium joined the Marine Corps and served for 4 years, including successful Vietnam successful the fierce defence of the metropolis of Khe Sanh successful 1968. He was discharged arsenic a skipper successful 1970 and instantly went to enactment for the F.B.I.

“The F.B.I. is benignant of similar the Marine Corps without the uniform,” helium told The Washington Post successful 1996.

Which explains wherefore Jules Bonavolonta, the writer with Brian Duffy of “The Good Guys: How We Turned the F.B.I. ‘Round — and Finally Broke the Mob” (1996), said of Mr. Kallstrom: “He’s the eventual G-man, an Eliot Ness benignant of guy. He lives, breathes and bleeds the F.B.I.”

Mr. Kallstrom started moving successful the New York bureau successful 1971 and spent his full vocation there, with the objection of 3 years spent successful Washington successful complaint of the Special Operations Division, which oversees method and surveillance operations. He was chosen to pb the New York office, arsenic the F.B.I.’s adjunct director, successful February 1995.

His surveillance expertise served him good successful investigations of organized crime. He supervised the eavesdropping that led to convictions successful the alleged Mafia Commission trial of the heads of New York’s mob families successful 1987. In 1 instance, agents hid a quarter-size physics bug successful a sofa utilized by John Gotti; successful another, they disarmed onslaught Rottweilers with sedative-dosed meatballs truthful that agents could sneak into a Colombo household societal nine to works microphones.

Mr. Kallstrom besides coordinated the surveillance successful the Pizza Connection case, successful which 17 radical were convicted successful 1987 of utilizing section pizzerias arsenic fronts for an planetary cause ring.

In some cases helium worked intimately with Rudolph W. Giuliani, past the United States Attorney, an relation that led to his enactment for Donald J. Trump successful his 2016 statesmanlike run against Hillary Clinton; Mr. Giuliani had go a idiosyncratic lawyer to Mr. Trump. Mr. Kallstrom called the Clintons a “crime family” akin to the New York Mafia.

In summation to his wife, Susan (Auer) Kallstrom, helium is survived by their 2 daughters, Erika Kallstrom Clancy and Kristel Kallstrom, and 3 grandchildren.

Mr. Kallstrom retired from the bureau successful December 1997, but aft the Sept. 11, 2001, violent attacks, helium returned from the backstage assemblage erstwhile Gov. George E. Pataki of New York named him to caput a newly-minted authorities Office of Public Security.

“I would promote radical successful New York State to spell astir their concern but person a small much peripheral vision,” Mr. Kallstrom said astatine the time. The politician aboriginal asked him to oversee information astatine the erstwhile tract of the World Trade Center.

Mr. Kallstrom besides introduced episodes of “The F.B.I. Files,” a Discovery Channel series, and was a laminitis of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which raises wealth for children who mislaid a genitor successful the enactment of duty.

When helium retired from the F.B.I., helium won accolades from Joseph R. Biden Jr., past a legislator from Delaware, who said Mr. Kallstrom had “stepped successful and imposed bid connected the incipient chaos” of the government’s enquiry into what had caused Flight 800 to crash.

“The atrocious quality is that Jim Kallstrom is sometimes intimidating,” Mr. Biden said. “The bully quality is besides that Jim Kallstrom is sometimes intimidating. He gets the occupation done. He besides projects assurance and determination. That is what was needed of the caput of the F.B.I.’s New York office, and that is what was needed by the caput of the T.W.A. Flight 800 investigation.”

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