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Profiling Malaysian pilot, co-pilot, passengers and crew

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While the voluminous search in the Indian Ocean goes on for 25 countries looking for what’s left of Malaysian Flight MH370, the real dirty work of profiling the flight’s pilot Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid goes on. No matter how many family, friends and neighbors attest to their stellar character, countless post-mortem autopsies reveal unexpected facts about serial killers, mass murders and terrorists. “One thing we do know, this was not an accident, it was an intentional, deliberate act to bring down this airplane. And the question is who is behind that,” Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee told Fox News. U.S. intelligent officials are especially concerned about Cpt. Shah’s flight simulator, installed at his private residence. Shah’s close ties with jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrihim also raise red flags.

Once authorities determined that Flight MH370’s communication transponders were manually turned off before the flight took a U-turn somewhere west toward the Indian Ocean, law enforcement turned to the flight crew and passengers with stolen passports. While airline officials were quick to dismiss early on the prospects of terrorism from two Iranian stowaways with stolen EU passports, there’s renewed interest in all relevant players, especially 19-year-old Pouria Nour Mohammad and 29-year-old Mohammad Reza, both the right age of terrorists. While authorities dismissed the motives initially as “asylum seekers,” there’s renewed interest now that it's known the flight was hijacked. Reluctant to call Flight MH370 “hijacked,” Malaysian Transportation Minister Hussein Hishmmuddin warned against “jumping to conclusions,” citing early stages of a criminal probe.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed March 15 that Flight MH370 was deliberately diverted, leaving no doubt about a terrorist takeover. Other scenarios involving pilot suicide have been all but ruled out. Malaysian authorities have asked Caucasus states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan for all radar and flight control data available. While most experts don’t believe the flight landed in any of the Caucasus states, it still hasn’t been ruled out. With no wreckage of the plane located anywhere yet, Flight MH370’s families still hold out some slip hope on locating loved ones. Widening the search to the gargantuan Indian Ocean promises a nearly impossible mission for search-an-rescue crews, frantically scouring the world’s biggest and deepest ocean. Families of the missing crew are horrified—and yet hopeful—at the prospects of a hijacking.

Major breaches in airport security occurred in passengers boarding Malaysian Flight MH370, especially admitting passengers with stolen passports. While Interpol doubted the Iranians with stolen passports were terrorists, the breach in airline security was undeniable. “That’s one of the worst things I would have hoped for,” said David Lawton, the brother of missing Australian couple Bob and Cathy Lawton. “Even if they are alive, what did they have to put up with,” asked David, despite holding out hope that his brother and sister-in-law were still alive. When Malaysian investigators found a flight simulator at the home of Capt. Shah, it raised the specter of terrorism, something not seen since Bin Laden’s Sept. 11 terrorists laid waste to the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Whatever the motives, Interpol knows that terrorists seek any chink in the air-security system’s armor to attack.

Without any debris field, it’s difficult to say where Flight MH370 ended up, opening up an impossible task for search-and-rescue teams. If terrorists landed softly on the Indian Ocean surface, it’s possible the Boeing 777 sank to the bottom in tact, leaving no signs of a crash. Families of missing passengers hope they’ll hear from terrorists with a ransom demand in some lawless spot like Somalia or Yemen. Most experts think Flight MH370 ran out of fuel and crashed in the Indian Ocean. “We still don’t have a lot of evidence to go on,” said Anthony Brickhouse, a member of the International Society of Air Safety investigators. Most crash investigators believe the plane followed a southern route into the vast India Ocean. Had the flight traveled over land in the Caucasus region, it would have more likely been detected on someone’s radar or GPS data on the plane’s whereabouts.

Watching Malaysian Flight MH370 drop off the radar screen March 9 shows the urgent need of installing the equivalent of a LoJack GPS detection systems on all commercial airliners. With GPS systems capable of detecting anyone’s whereabouts on a mobile phone, it’s high time for airlines to make use of today’s sophisticated GPS tracking software. “We don’t have any wreckage, we don’t have the plane itself, we don’t have a lot of electronic data from the aircraft,” said Brickhouse, cautioning the public about jumping to conclusions. “I just can’t think of a scenario where the aircraft is sitting on a runway somewhere,” dashing hopes of families left dangling without any definitive facts. Whether admitted to or not, significant breaches in Malaysian Airlines’ security jarred the door just enough for terrorists to strike again. News about Capt. Shah raises real red flags.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.

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