[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 145 (1999), Part 8]
[Pages 11528-11529]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

                     TRIBUTE TO JAMES K. KALLSTROM

 Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I want to say a few words today 
about a man who is one of America's finest civil servants and a man who 
I am proud to call a friend, Jim Kallstrom.
  Jim Kallstrom had an illustrious career with the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation (``FBI''), one in which he played a major role in 
building up the Bureau's counter-terrorism capabilities. Jim Kallstrom 
led the successful FBI investigations into the World Trade Center 
bombing and the intended bombing of the Lincoln Tunnel. Those 
investigations broke the back of one of the most violent terrorist 
groups ever to operate in this country. Their speedy conclusion also 
did much to reassure the American public in the wake of the World Trade 
Center bombing, and they sent a message to terrorists around the world 
that no person or group can expect to get away with terrorist actions 
in the United States.
  Assistant FBI Director for the New York Metropolitan Area, Jim 
Kallstrom led the Bureau's largest field office. He supervised agents 
handling many of the FBI's most sensitive criminal, counterintelligence 
and counterterrorist cases. He was, and is, a vigorous investigator--
truly a cop's cop--and an effective administrator.
  One of Jim Kallstrom's best known accomplishments--and his most 
controversial role--was his direction of the investigation of the TWA 
Flight 800 explosion of July 17, 1996. My colleagues will remember that 
230 people died in that crash and that there was immediate and great 
suspicion that this was the result of a terrorist or criminal act. 
There was also a recurrent allegation that the U.S. armed forces had 
accidentally shot down the aircraft and were trying to cover up their 
role. That allegation was utterly false, but it acquired a life of its 
own despite the facts. It was, in fact, one of the first cases of a 
rumor spread and perpetuated by the Internet.
  In the initial days of this case--as the desperate search for any 
survivors turned into a continuing and heroic mission to retrieve and 
identify the hundreds of bodies, and as a raft of local and federal 
agencies converged to handle a multitude of tasks--Jim Kallstrom 
stepped in and imposed order on the incipient chaos. Over the coming 
weeks and months, it was the determination and competence of Jim 
Kallstrom that reassured the American people and gave us all confidence 
that no stone would be left unturned in the search for any criminal 
  In recent weeks, one of my colleagues has raised the possibility that 
Jim Kallstrom, in the course of pursuing his counterterrorist 
investigation to the fullest, may have delayed or tried to delay the 
transmission to the National Transportation Safety Board of a report by 
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (``BATF'') that concluded 
that the TWA Flight 800 explosion appeared to be caused by a mechanical 
flaw in the center fuel tank.
  Mr. Kallstrom denies that allegation. He insists that he forwarded 
the BATF report to the National Transportation Safety Board within a 
few days of receiving it. He admits that he was angry that BATF would 
issue its conclusions while the counterterrorist and criminal 
investigation was still ongoing.

[[Page 11529]]

  I do not know whether Mr. Kallstrom delayed transmission of the BATF 
report, although I note that two FBI officials testified that he did 
not. What I do know is that Mr. Kallstrom was performing most admirably 
in a situation fraught with challenges.
  Let me emphasize those challenges. Millions of Americans drew the 
initial conclusion that this explosion was caused either by a bomb or 
by a missile. There was an urgent need not only to conduct a thorough 
investigation into that possibility, but also to demonstrate to the 
American people that the United States Government was doing everything 
humanly possible to bring any perpetrators to justice, while still 
doing anything humanely possible to meet the needs of hundreds of 
bereaved families and showing proper respect for the dead.
  This was no easy task, and no small one, either. Jim Kallstrom 
assumed those duties and brought the TWA Flight 800 investigation to a 
successful conclusion. I say ``successful'' very purposely, for the 
investigation did not fail to uncover any terrorist or criminal act. 
Rather, it eliminated those possibilities and gave the American people 
confidence that the explosion was instead a tragic accident.
  Some have expressed concern that the FBI might have unwittingly 
delayed necessary action to correct safety flaws in U.S. commercial 
aircraft. I understand this concern and I would agree that 
recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board have not 
been given sufficient attention by the Federal Aviation Administration. 
But safety board officials apparently reached the same conclusion as 
BATF weeks earlier, and they reportedly do not believe that any delay 
in receiving the BATF report hindered their ability to persuade the FAA 
to take corrective action.
  Some people feel that the FBI was too determined to find evidence of 
a terrorist or criminal act. I don't doubt for a moment that some 
investigators found Jim Kallstrom rather intimidating in his 
determination to find any such evidence. The bad news is that Jim 
Kallstrom is sometimes intimidating. The good news is also that Jim 
Kallstrom is sometimes intimidating. He gets the job done. He also 
projects confidence and determination. That is what was needed of the 
head of the FBI's New York office, and that is what was needed by the 
head of the TWA Flight 800 investigation.
  I am sorry if some investigators felt that Jim Kallstrom stepped on 
their toes. But I am happy as can be that he was the man to whom our 
nation turned when a conspicuously thorough investigation was needed--
so as to catch and convict the murderers if there were any, and 
otherwise to give us complete confidence that the Flight 800 explosion 
was truly an accident. Jim Kallstrom accomplished that feat, and we are 
all in his debt for his tremendous service to his country.