Security, spycraft, beating the system: what fascinates us about the Malaysia Airlines disappearance

In a world where the doors to schools and government buildings and even baseball parks are guarded with metal detectors, where security cameras are recording in routine places, where massive government agencies are storing call metadata and tapping the backbone of the internet, where wireless carriers can pinpoint a cellphone location to within a few feet, and where the CIA can read a license plate from outer space, how in the hell can you lose a 300,000 lb plane with a 200-foot wingspan?

The world is riveted by the unfolding story of the Malaysia Airlines disappearance. Over a week ago, on March 8th, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – a large Boeing 777-200ER – disappeared from radar and air traffic control screens just as it was about to pass from Malaysian to Vietnamese airspace on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It sounded no distress call; it left no physical evidence. It seemed to have literally vanished into thin air.

The flight’s disappearance flies in the face of our post-9/11 experiences with TSA x-rays, 3-1-1 liquids bags, and remove-your-shoes rules that slow down the process of flying in the name of security. How, with all of that terror prevention policy and procedure, could something like this have happened? Clearly it must be a tragic accident. But an accident should have left evidence, Continue reading

Going out on a limb: theorizing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 did not crash & is currently hidden somewhere in western China

I am going to go out on what I think is a safe limb and theorize that the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 did not crash and is currently hidden somewhere in western China.
Today Reuters published the article “From his Pakistan hideout, Uighur leader vows revenge on China”:

Entrenched in secret mountain bases on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, Uighur fighters are gearing up for retribution against China to avenge the deaths of comrades in Beijing’s crackdown on a separatist movement, their leader told Reuters.

China, Pakistan’s only major ally in the region, has long urged Islamabad to weed out what it says are militants from its western region of Xinjiang, who are holed up in a lawless tribal belt, home to a lethal mix of militant groups, including the Taliban and al Qaeda. …

There has been almost constant tension between the Han Chinese and the Uighurs since the 1750s. This NPR interview provides a very brief summary of the region’s geopolitical and economic importance and its cultural/religious differences. A chronology of key events related to the region covering from the 2009 riots to the March 2014 terrorist knife attack in Kunming shows a sharp increase in serious incidents since the beginning of 2013.

Could Uighur rebels be behind this? But why hijack a Malaysian plane? Were the large number of Chinese citizens on the plane a terrorist target? And just how did the hijackers – whoever they are – do it and get away with it?

AP reported that a Malaysian official, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to brief the media, said only a skilled aviator could navigate the plane the way it was flown after its last confirmed location over the South China Sea. Reuters reported that whoever was piloting the plane seemed to be familiar with navigational routes. A map showing points where the plane was detected is here.

The now-high likelihood that the plane was being piloted by someone with enough skill to both avoid radar detection and maneuver through steep rises, dives, and turns, taken together with what appears to have been a sophisticated, systematic dismantling of transponders and tracking systems, and the new knowledge that the plane was flown for at least several hours after its radar disappearance, is strong evidence that the plane was under control and did not crash, and that points to a deliberate action Continue reading