Maybe you haven’t heard, but the FBI is taking a lot of shit today over a certain memo. (It’s been in the news a little.) But it turns out House Republicans aren’t the only ones who have a bone to pick with America’s top lawdogs.
At a press conference outside the FBI’s headquarters on Thursday, a team of independent researchers openly accused the bureau of covering up evidence in the D.B. Cooper case. The identity of the infamous criminal, who skyjacked a Boeing 727 in 1971, remains unknown, and the researchers claim the FBI actually prefers it that way.
The New York Daily News reports that Tom Colbert, a documentary filmmaker who leads the researcher, accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation of covering up for the skyjacker, who boarded Northwest Orient Flight 305 on November 24, 1971, under the alias Dan Cooper.
Wearing a pair of dark shades and claiming he had a bomb, Cooper forced the 727 to land at Seattle-Tacoma Airport where he released three dozen hostages in exchange for $200,000 (around $1.2 million in 2018 dollars).
After refueling, the plane took off again with four of the flight’s crew, but about 20 minutes later, Cooper forced everyone into the cockpit and activated the aft door. When the plane finally landed in Nevada two hours later, Cooper was gone.
Colbert and his team have fingered Robert W. Rackstraw, a retired Army paratrooper, as the culprit, and they aren’t the first. Rockstraw first came to the attention of authorities in 1978. He resembled composite sketches, had a criminal record, and due to his Army training was capable of making the jump.
Ultimately, however, no direct evidence was found linking Rackstraw to the crime, and the FBI moved on.
Over the past few years, Colbert’s team has acquired several letters supposedly sent by the master criminal to newspapers in 1971. They say they deciphered several codes in the letter, which allegedly point to Rackstraw’s initials, the Army’s Special Warfare School (where he studied), and another of his military units.
The letters apparently tease both the FBI and the CIA and urge authorities to try to catch him.
During a 2016 lawsuit to acquire the FBI investigation files, Colbert said his team had accumulated more than 100 pieces of evidence pointing to Rackstraw, who became that year the subject of a two-part History Channel series based on the work. (You can peruse what the FBI has released here.)
Colbert has long accused the FBI of ignoring any new evidence. Had the FBI actually captured Cooper 40 years ago, but mistakenly released him, it would certainly be yet another embarrassing chapter in the bureau’s history.
“It’s more than a bunch of old guys chasing another old guy over forgotten history. This is about current FBI agents stonewalling, covering up, and flat-out lying for mentors and G-men long gone, over decades—all because of an unholy deal to hide and protect a valuable CIA Black Ops pilot known as D.B. Cooper,” Colbert reportedly told the Daily News in an email.
Fun fact: The hijacker never actually referred to himself as D.B. The moniker originates with a mistake made by a local reporter who confused the hijacker’s pseudonym with the name of an early suspect in Oregon.
That is to say, it is fake news.