The FBI, relying on photographs provided by American television networks, has now identified at least "four or five" of the terrorists who boarded hijacked TWA Flight 847, sources said Wednesday.
The sources said that eight or nine terrorists, including the two Shia Muslims who hijacked the jetliner after it left Athens on June 14, were aboard the plane in the first days of the crisis when the jet was parked at Beirut International Airport.
U.S. officials said earlier in the week that they had identified the two hijackers. The identity of a third would-be hijacker is also known, since he was arrested on the first day of the crisis by Athens police, who later agreed to release him to the terrorists.
Former hostages interviewed by FBI agents in Wiesbaden, West Germany, made positive identifications of some of the others who boarded the plane from photographs provided by the networks, which gave extensive live coverage to the crisis, sources said.
The network cooperation apparently has been vital to the rapidly expanding investigation. At least two networks--CBS and ABC--considered the inquiry so urgent that both broke with longstanding policy and turned over news film that had not been broadcast without having been subpoenaed, a government source said.
A CBS source conceded that the network voluntarily provided "outtakes" to the FBI, but ABC, while acknowledging that it has given the government information on the crisis, denied that it had supplied unused footage.
U.S. news organizations generally are reluctant to give investigators unbroadcast or unpublished material, in part to avoid the perception that they are an arm of law enforcement agencies.
With President Reagan demanding that terrorists involved in the hijacking and the murder of Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem be brought to justice, the investigation has become a matter of the highest priority and is under the personal supervision of Deputy Atty. Gen. D. Lowell Jensen.
Hope to Identify All
The Administration hopes to identify all the terrorists who boarded the plane and to demand their extradition under international anti-hijacking agreements. Administration officials also have said that they are considering other "unilateral efforts," including the posting of cash rewards for the terrorists' capture.
FBI Director William H. Webster said Wednesday that the bureau launched its investigation because of its "extraterritorial jurisdiction" under a number of statutes governing U.S. citizens and air carriers operating overseas.
Justice Department officials cited eight laws that could be used to proceed against the terrorists, including those involving air piracy, interference with flight crews, violence aboard an aircraft in flight, hostage-taking, destruction of an aircraft, the placing of destructive devices on an aircraft, endangering the safety of an aircraft and threats to destroy an aircraft.
The two Shia Muslim gunmen hijacked the Boeing 727 jetliner as it left Athens for Rome and forced the pilot to fly first to Beirut, then to Algiers and back to Beirut, where they shot Stethem before throwing his body out of the plane.
Israeli Names 2
Although U.S. officials have not identified the two hijackers, Israeli military expert Zev Schiff, writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has said they are Akal Hamiyeh, military commander of the Amal faction in West Beirut, and Amal security chief Mustafa Dirani. Both are rivals of Amal leader Nabih Berri, who negotiated the Americans' release.
Throughout the 16-day hijacking, which ended Sunday when the 39 hostages were flown to West Germany, television cameramen and some still photographers were able to photograph some of the terrorists. In some instances, the terrorists orchestrated the coverage themselves.
The most crucial photographs, according to sources close to the investigation, were taken June 19 when ABC was allowed to interview the airliner's three crewmen. Pilot John L. Testrake and co-pilot Philip G. Maresca were photographed in a cockpit window with a terrorist holding a gun near their heads.
While those photographs and television footage received wide exposure, a government source said that electronic and print journalists have also provided other, unpublished photographs and unused footage. One source said additional material may be subpoenaed.
Policy on Outtakes
A CBS source said the network has a policy of supplying outtakes to law enforcement agencies on request and without a subpoena only when lives are at stake.
Bob Murphy, ABC's vice president for news, said the network "categorically has not provided any outtakes of our material to any government agency."
But because ABC was the first network on the scene in Beirut and had its camera crews on a hotel balcony overlooking the airport, he said, the network provided U.S. officials with a constant flow of information as the hostage crisis unfolded.
"Our crisis desk was in touch with the State Department's crisis desk," he said, "and we were getting information before the government."
Spokesmen for NBC and Cable News Network said they had not provided outtakes to the FBI.