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.

Colonel Do Duc Minh (2st L), 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 at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh city on March 15, 2014. Do Duc Minh said Vietnam continues their search flights while widening the search areas close to air spaces under control of Thailand and Singapore.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
March 18, 2014, 1 a.m.

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.

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.

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