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Congress Has Theories About What Happened to the Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane

Rep. Michael McCaul suggests that the plane may have landed and could now be used as a bomb.

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Col. Do Duc Minh, Vietnam Air Force's 370 Division's Chief of Staff, points at a map as he speaks to reporters about search flights aimed at finding the missing Malaysia Airlines plane in Ho Chi Minh City on March 15.(HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Ten days after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, seemingly into thin air, authorities are no more certain about what happened to the plane and its 239 passengers and crew members than they were when the flight went missing on March 8.

As the search continues, members of Congress admit that they know almost nothing about what happened to the missing flight. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, blames a lack of cooperation from the Malaysian government for the slow pace of the investigations.

 

In an information vacuum, theories are flying around the halls of the Capitol:

THE PLANE LANDED AND COULD BE USED AS A WEAPON.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, floated this theory on Fox News Sunday, arguing that the plane may have actually landed and could be used by terrorist groups.

 

McCaul said that there are three options: Either the plane landed in the ocean, it flew north towards Pakistan and Kazakhstan (unlikely, he says, because it would have been picked up by radar), or it flew south towards Indonesia and Australia. That latter option, McCaul warned, could have some damaging repercussions.

If it landed in a country such as Indonesia, he said, "it could be used later on as a cruise missile, as the 9/11 hijackers did. That's something we have to use our imagination in these situations."

McCaul elaborated in another appearance on Fox News on Monday, noting that "we're looking at" the use of the plane as a potential weapon as one theory. "What would be the purpose behind crashing it into the ocean? … [I]t could have landed somewhere, filled with explosives and then sent somewhere else to cause some great damage."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, hasn't put out a theory about the plane crash, but he did tweet out a link to this NPR story looking at possible runways that the flight could have used if it indeed landed.

 

... OR MAYBE NOT.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who also sits on the Homeland Security Committee told Fox News Sunday: "This plane still may be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, and I think a lot of folks that I talk to believe that's probably the most likely, the most probable circumstances—is that in fact it is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. But you cannot quite yet rule out everything else because we don't have the physical evidence we need to come to that conclusion."

THE PILOTS WERE INVOLVED.

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For all the talk of the two passengers who boarded the flight with stolen passports, many members of Congress worry that not enough attention has been paid to pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and copilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. Those concerns have only grown since it was revealed that the plane's transponder—which allows it to communicate with air traffic control—was turned off.

"There's obviously something with the pilot and the copilot, and that has to be drilled down on. … This right now has to focus on the pilot and the copilot," King said Sunday on ABC's This Week.

Rogers, meanwhile, has honed in specifically on the flight simulator found at the pilot's home. On its own, the simulator may not be suspicious, but the former FBI agent warns that it could have been used for pre-planning.

"Think about it. If you're going to fly over countries that we know have radar and you're going to try to do it in a way that either saves the aircraft or crashes the aircraft, there is a lot of planning that has to happen," Rogers said on Fox News Sunday.

McCaul agrees that the investigation needs to focus on the cockpit. "I think from all the information I've been briefed on from, you know, high levels within Homeland Security, National Counterterrorism Center, intelligence community, that something was going on with the pilot. I think this all leads towards the cockpit, with the pilot himself, and copilot," McCaul said on Fox News Sunday.

CHINA KNOWS SOMETHING.

King, in particular, is suspicious of the Chinese government, which took days to release photos of what they believe to be the remnants of the flight. The New York Republican also speculates that the photos may have been doctored in the interim.

" … [A]ll I can think about that is that the Chinese may not want us to know how sophisticated their system is and they may have actually dumbed down some of those photos before they put them out," King said on CNN's New Day last week.

"Almost half the plane was Chinese citizens, and you would think that at a time like this, international crises, the Chinese would've come forward. But maybe they thought that the images they would show would be -- you know, show a level of sophistication beyond what we think they have," he added.

The Malaysian government could also be hiding something, King has speculated, arguing that the nation took nine days after the crash to search the pilot's and copilot's homes. But that isn't the only piece of information that the Malaysian government has kept close to the vest.

"If the Malaysian Air Force thought back on Saturday that the plane possibly had detoured or turned around, why did they wait until just the other day to tell us that?" King asked on CNN Thursday.

FAKE PASSPORTS, TERRORISM MAY BE RED HERRINGS.

Though terrorism and the two passengers with stolen passports were immediate concerns in the aftermath of the plane's disappearance, King notes that so far no connection has been made.

"No, there's been no terrorist connections whatsoever," King said on This Week. "There's been no terrorist chatter. There's nothing out there indicating it's terrorists. Doesn't mean it's not, but so far nothing has been picked up by the intelligence community from Day One. I still have questions about the two Iranians who were on the plane, but again, that could be a side issue. The fact is nothing has come up indicating a terrorist nexus."

McCaul concurred. "We don't have any evidence that this is terrorist-related, although you can't rule that out," he said.


The growing rumors among members of Congress most keyed-in on security issues are just further evidence that despite the work of 25 countries to find the plane, whatever happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remains an utter mystery.

This article appears in the March 19, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.

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