Families filing lawsuits over MH370 while new 122 objects identified by a French satellite


MH370-LawsuitA model of a Boeing 777 aircraft is displayed as representatives of US law firm Ribbeck Law Chartered International hold a media briefing at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on March 26, 2014. Family members of the victims of the ill-fated Flight MH370 are filing a RM4.95 billion (S$1.9 billion) suit for compensation, against Boeing and Malaysia Airlines. — PHOTO: AFP 

KUALA LUMPUR – Family members of the victims of the ill-fated Flight MH370 are filing a RM4.95 billion (S$1.9 billion) suit for compensation, against Boeing and Malaysia Airlines.

Chicago-based firm Ribbeck Law Chartered, who is acting on behalf of the family members, has started proceedings by filing a petition of discovery in an Illinois court.

Ms Monica Kelly, the lead lawyer from Ribbeck Law, said the firm which specialises in aviation law had been approached by family members from China and Indonesia.

Of the 239 people on board MH370, there were 153 China nationals and seven Indonesians.

Ms Kelly said they had spoken to family members in many countries and expected about half of those affected to take part in the suit.

She said the fact that neither the wreckage of MH370 nor the bodies of the pasengers have been found would not affect the case, as they would be inspecting the rest of the MAS fleet for similar design flaws.

“We’ve had successful cases where the plane, the victims or even the blackbox were not found,” said Ms Kelly, during a briefing with the press in Kuala Lumpur.

“We have done many cases where wreckage was completely destroyed, or no bodies found, or wreckage found but no black boxes working. We are not relying on these things to start the legal process,” said Kelly, during a briefing to the press here.

She said such suits can take anywhere between four months to five years, but expects this case to take between one-and-a-half to two years.

The firm would focus its suit against Boeing, as they believe it was a case of equipment malfunction but could expand the defendants to include other component manufacturers or even those who trained the crew.

A Malaysia Airlines spokesman said the airline is aware of the lawsuit.

“Our lawyers have been advised of this development.

” At this point in time, our top priority remains to provide any and all assistance to the families of the passengers and crew.

“Other matters will be dealt with appropriately,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Mr Manuel Von Ribbeck of Ribbeck Law said they are 100 per cent confident of winning the suit, as according to the law, passengers are never at fault.

Mr Ribbeck said the coverage for compensation is about RM4.95 billion, and the firm would demand the full amount be paid.

For the purpose of the lawsuit, the firm assumes that the passengers are dead, based on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s announcement.

“We hope that miracles can happen, but based on the data we’ve seen so far, it does not look good for the flight and her passengers,” said Mr Ribbeck.

Boeing, the manufacturers of the 777-200 aircraft, has been on the receiving end of a number of lawsuits in the past.

The most recent lawsuit was in January this year by a group of passengers, represented by Mr Ribbeck Law, who were aboard an Asiana Airlines flight that crash-landed in San Francisco on July 6 last year.

Three people were killed and more than 180 others hurt.

 

France’s Satellite imagery shows 122 ‘potential objects’
This handout picture received from the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) on March 27, 2014 shows imagery taken on March 23 by a French satellite showing more than 100 floating objects (within higlighted boxes) in the remote southern Indian Ocean.

This handout picture received from the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) on March 27, 2014 shows imagery taken on March 23 by a French satellite showing more than 100 floating objects (within higlighted boxes) in the remote southern Indian Ocean.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) has identified 122 “potential objects” that could be linked to the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in an area of the southern Indian Ocean, about 2,557km from Perth.

The MRSA had analysed satellite images provided by France’s Airbus Defence and Space.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the new development supported “the most credible lead” for focusing the search in the southern Indian Ocean, alluding to the analysis of British investigators that pointed to the area.

The objects were in an area of about 400sq km, he told the daily press conference at the Putra World Trade Centre here yesterday.

“Some objects are a metre in length, others as much as 23m long. Some of the objects appeared to be bright, indicating they are possibly solid,” he said.

Hishammuddin, who is also Defence Minister, added that the MRSA findings were immediately forwarded to the Australian Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Perth.

“It must be emphasised that we cannot tell whether the potential objects are from MH370.

“Nevertheless, this is another new lead that will help direct the search operation,” he said.

Hishammuddin said the search operation now had four separate satellite leads, from Australia, China and France, showing possible debris.

What had to be done now was to determine whether it was really debris and linked to MH370, he added.

Hishammuddin said Australia was leading the search effort in the southern Indian Ocean while Malaysia continued its coordinating role.

“Australia has divided the search area into two sectors: East and West.

“With the improved weather, 12 planes were deployed to the search area – six in the East sector and six in the West,” he said.

In the East sector, the search would be conducted by one Australian P3 Orion, and three Australian civilian aircraft, one Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 and one New Zealand P3 Orion.

Involved in the West sector were a US P8 Poseidon, two Australian P3 Orions and one each from South Korea and Japan as well as a civilian aircraft.

Hishammuddin also said an international working group was helping refine Inmarsat data to further narrow the search area.

The working group – consisting of Inmarsat, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, Civil Aviation Administration of China, the US National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing and Rolls Royce as well as the relevant Malaysian authorities – will attempt to determine more accurately the final position of MH370. – The Star/ANN

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Flight MH370 ended in southern Indian Ocean! All 239 lives lost, British Inmarsat & AAIB cited, no evidence


Search area for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 update on 23 March 2014.

Search area for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

Analysis by the British satellite company Inmarsat and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) was cited on Monday by the Malaysian prime minister as the source of information that has narrowed the location where the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean to a corridor a couple of hundred miles wide.

The analysis follows fresh examination of eight satellite “pings” sent by the aircraft between 1.11am and 8.11am Malaysian time on Saturday 8 March, when it vanished from radar screens.

The prime minister, Najib Razak, said: “Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.

“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

He added that they had used a “type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort”.

The new method “gives the approximate direction of travel, plus or minus about 100 miles, to a track line”, Chris McLaughlin, senior vice-president for external affairs at Inmarsat, told Sky News. “Unfortunately this is a 1990s satellite over the Indian Ocean that is not GPS-equipped. All we believe we can do is to say that we believe it is in this general location, but we cannot give you the final few feet and inches where it landed. It’s not that sort of system.”

McLaughlin told CNN that there was no further analysis possible of the data. “Sadly this is the limit. There’s no global decision even after the Air France loss [in June 2009, where it took two years to recover the plane from the sea] to make direction and distance reporting compulsory. Ships have to log in every six hours; with aircraft travelling at 500 knots they would have to log in every 15 minutes. That could be done tomorrow but the mandate is not there globally.”

Since the plane disappeared more than two weeks ago, many of the daily searches across vast tracts of the Indian Ocean for the aircraft have relied on Inmarsat information collated halfway across the world from a company that sits on London‘s “Silicon Roundabout“, by Old Street tube station.

Using the data from just eight satellite “pings” after the plane’s other onboard Acars automatic tracking system went off at 1.07am, the team at Inmarsat was initially able to calculate that it had either headed north towards the Asian land mass or south, towards the emptiest stretches of the India Ocean.

Inmarsat said that yesterday it had done new calculations on the limited data that it had received from the plane in order to come to its conclusion. McLaughlin told CNN that it was a “groundbreaking but traditional” piece of mathematics which was then checked by others in the space industry.

The company’s system of satellites provide voice contact with air traffic control when planes are out of range of radar, which only covers about 10% of the Earth’s surface, and beyond the reach of standard radio over oceans. It also offers automatic reporting of positions via plane transponders. It is possible to send route instructions directly to the cockpit over a form of text message relayed through the satellite.

Inmarsat was set up in 1979 by the International Maritime Organisation to help ships stay in touch with shore or call for emergency no matter where they were, has provided key satellite data about the last movements of MH370.

Even as the plane went off Malaysian air traffic control’s radar on 8 March, Inmarsat’s satellites were “pinging” it.

A team at the company began working on the directions the plane could have gone in, based on the responses. One pointed north; the other, south. But it took three days for the data to be officially passed on to the Malaysian authorities; apparently to prevent any more such delays, Inmarsat was officially made “technical adviser” to the AAIB in its investigation into MH370′s disappearance.

Inmarsat’s control room in London, like some of its other 60 locations worldwide, looks like a miniature version of Nasa: a huge screen displays the positions of its 11 geostationary satellites, and dozens of monitors control and correct their positions. A press on a key can cause the puff of a rocket on a communications satellite 22,236 miles away, nudging its orbit by a few inches this way or that.

More prosaically, Inmarsat’s systems enable passengers to make calls from their seats and also to use Wi-Fi and connect to the internet while flying.

If the plane has its own “picocell” essentially a tiny mobile phone tower set up inside the plane then that can be linked to the satellite communications system and enable passengers to use their own mobile phones to make calls, which are routed through the satellite and back to earth.

After its creation, Inmarsat’s maritime role rapidly expanded to providing connectivity for airlines, the media, oil and gas companies, mining and construction in remote areas, and governments.

Privatised at the end of the 1990s, it was floated on the stock market in 2004, and now focuses on providing services to four main areas: maritime, enterprise (focused on businesses including aviation), civil and military work for the US government, and civil and military work for other governments. The US is the largest government client, generating up to a fifth of its revenues of about £1bn annually. The firm employs about 1,600 staff.

-  Charles Arthur, technology editor The Guardian

This graphic from The Telegraph indicates the suspected flight path of MH370 and the location of the past week’s debris sightings and searches:

China demands more information from Malaysia

Earlier, China’s foreign ministry urged Malaysia to provide all available information and evidence o…

China search plane spots “large objects” related to missing Flight MH370


MH370-China Satellite

<< Video

China search plane spots “large objects”

 

A Chinese search plane reports it has discovered floating debris that could be related to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.

The crew says it spotted two “relatively large” objects and several smaller ones spread over several kilometers. China has diverted its icebreaker ship, Xuelong, toward the location where the debris was spotted. It’s expected to arrive on early Tuesday.

China has also asked Australia to send its aircraft to the area. Ten planes are combing the southern Indian Ocean.

Australia said the search area was widened from 59,000 to 68,000 square kilometers.

The expansion came after French satellite revealed “floating debris” in an area north of pictures previously captured by Australian and Chinese satellites. It’s the third set of satellite images in a week.

The Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says the new lead is promising. He cautions that the search in the icy southern Indian Ocean remains difficult, as rain was expected today.

“We still don’t even know for certain that the aircraft is even in this area. We’re just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts,” Truss said.

Malaysian authorities have said the black box is expected to run out of power in two weeks, and won’t be able to send any signal thereafter.

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Chinese satellite spots large new object could be related to missing MH370


The Chinese embassy here confirmed Saturday that Chinese satellite spotted a 22-meter-long and 13-meter-wide floating object along the southern corridor missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 might have taken. Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who placed the size of the object at 22 meters by 30 meters at a press conference, later corrected his statement. Photo: Xinhua / State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense

The Chinese embassy in Malaysia confirmed Saturday a Chinese satellite had spotted a floating object along the southern corridor missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 might have taken.

The satellite images, which China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said were taken Tuesday, show that the 22-meter-long, 13-meter-wide object was about 120 km southwest of suspicious debris, one of which was of similar size, captured by an Australian satellite (belonged to DigitalGlobe Inc, an American Colorado-based company that collects imagery for the US government and other countries, as well as private companies ) two days earlier and announced by Australian authorities Thursday.

Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein put the size of the object at 22 meters by 30 meters at a press conference, but later corrected his statement.

Australia’s acting prime minister Warren Truss said Saturday the suspicious objects remained “the best lead” in the massive search for the missing flight.

The objects might have either drifted or sunk, but “if there’s something to be found, I’m confident this search will find it,” Truss told a press conference.

The hunt would continue “indefinitely” until “we are absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile,” he said. “That day is not in sight.”

In response to Xinhua queries, he said there were many explanations for the satellite images provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) but they remained “a very credible lead.”

What Australia needed to do now was exert all possible efforts to search for the missing plane, he told Xinhua.

On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Australian satellite had spotted two objects, one 24 meters long, in the southern Indian Ocean possibly related to the Boeing 777 aircraft which disappeared early March 8 while carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The discovery led the multinational search forces to focus on a 36,000-square-km sea area about 2,500 km southwest of Perth, but so far there have been no findings of note.

Meanwhile, two Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft from the Chinese Air Force left Malaysia on Saturday for Australia to join the search in the southern Indian Ocean.

With Australian and New Zealand airforce P3 Orions limited by the vast distances and their dependence on infrared imaging, the Chinese IL-76 will be a welcome relief to the authorities here as the challenges of the task at hand begin to overwhelm available resources.

Commander Liu Dianjun told Xinhua he hoped the integration of Chinese military assets could precipitate a swift conclusion to the agonizing international search.

A Malaysian military official said the arrival of the Chinese aircraft beefed up the assets deployed for the search and rescue operation and boosted confidence of all the staff from different countries involved in the operation.

Truss also said the same day the arrival of Chinese military aircraft had provided a glimmer of hope.

A Chinese joint working group also paid two visits to family members of Chinese passengers on Saturday and Wednesday.

Guo Shaochun, head of the Chinese task force, said two weeks had passed since flight MH370 went missing and they were as anxious as the family members about what happened to the passengers.

Guo said the Chinese government attached great importance to coordinating support with Malaysia for the family members, and the Malaysian authorities said they would always be responsible.

“Please be at ease and take good care of yourselves, whether staying in Malaysia or leaving the country, your choice will be respected,” he said.

Family members said their major concern was to find their loved ones, and they hoped Malaysia would keep them posted about any findings and intensify search and investigation efforts.

Meanwhile, the Indian government told Malaysian investigators it had found no evidence the missing jet flew through its airspace after checking its radar records, local media reported Saturday.

India’s response is crucial, as any of their radar data could help identify whether the jet turned north or south after disappearing off radar, but the issue is also sensitive because of the presence of military radar. – Xinhua

Chinese vessels divert to southern Indian Ocean

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Chinese satellite spots large floating object in Indian Ocean

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DigitalGlobe: Large area slowing search, the satellite images found might not be related to the MH370


MH370-South Indian Ocean

WASHINGTON: The sheer number of images covering a large swath of ocean contributed to a delay in revealing what could be debris from the Malaysia Airlines plane that has been missing for nearly two weeks, a satellite image company said.

DigitalGlobe Inc, a Colorado-based company that collects imagery for the US government and other countries, as well as private companies, confirmed on Thursday that it had collected satellite images on March 16 that appeared to show debris that may be related to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

It said it provided the images to Australian authorities, which released them on Thursday.

DigitalGlobe said the Australian government had begun combing through the imagery of the current search area only in the last few days, after the massive international effort was expanded to the southern Indian Ocean region and waters near Australia.

Malaysian officials described the images as a credible sign of a possible wreckage from the flight, which left Kuala Lumpur on March 8 en route to Beijing with 239 people aboard and vanished after about an hour of flight.

Australian authorities, however, cautioned that the debris in the pictures might not be related to the missing plane.

“Given the extraordinary size of the current search area, the lengthy duration of the analysis effort was to be expected,” DigitalGlobe spokesman Turner Brinton said in a statement.

Brinton said the company’s five high-resolution satellites capture more than three million sq km of earth imagery each day.

“This volume of imagery is far too vast to search through in real time without an idea of where to look,” he said.

The large objects that Australian officials said were spotted by satellite five days ago are the most promising find in days as searchers scour a vast area for the plane.

The larger of the objects four days ago measured up to 24m long and appeared to be floating in waters several thousand metres deep, Australian officials said. The second object was about five metres long.

Brinton declined comment on whether the debris was spotted by DigitalGlobe’s own analysts, government analysts or Internet users participating in a “crowdsourcing” effort launched by the company to help locate the plane.

Brinton said the images were captured on March 16 by the company’s Worldview-2 satellite at a resolution of about 50cm, and the company was continuing to collect imagery over the area where the possible debris had been spotted.

DigitalGlobe said it had been collecting images over a broader area than the official search area, while focusing the efforts of its crowdsourcing volunteers on the search areas identified by authorities.

“The efforts of millions of online volunteers around the world allowed us to rule out broad swaths of ocean with some certainty,” Brinton said. — Reuters

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MH370 Malaysia plane: How maths helped find an earlier crash  BBC News

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DigitalGlobe Inc, the satellite co that provides the image of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370; Australian plane fails to locate debris


DigitalGlobe-WorldView DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite>

Meet WorldView-2, the satellite that provided Australian authorities with the images that appear to show two objects in the Indian Ocean 2500 kilometres south-west of Perth that may be related to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Launched on October 8, 2009, and owned by US satellite company DigitalGlobe, WorldView-2 provides imagery at a resolution of approximately 50 cm. It takes a new image of any place on earth every 1.1 days (1 day ,  2 hours and 24 minutes).

The satellite, among four others that DigitalGlobe owns, weighs 2800 kilograms, operates at an altitude of 770 kilometres, and is able to collect nearly 1 million square kilometres of imagery every single day, which is then distributed to those who pay for access to DigitalGlobe’s imagery.

Satellite imagery provided to AMSA of possible debris from MH370. Satellite imagery provided to AMSA of possible debris from MH370.

DigitalGlobe confirmed on Friday that it was the one who provided the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) with the satellite images that were captured on March 16, showing the two objects in the Indian Ocean.

“We have been informed by an Australian government official that it was our imagery Prime Minister Abbott referred to in his recent comments,” the company said in a statement.

“Working with our customers, DigitalGlobe continues to task our satellites to collect imagery of a wide area that includes the waters around where the possible debris was identified.”

The satellite images released by the Department of Defence. The satellite images released by the Department of Defence.

A clue that DigitalGlobe’s satellite was used lies in the imagery released on Thursday afternoon by AMSA to the media after its press conference, which said that DigitalGlobe owned the copyright of the images.

Despite this, when Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s general manager John Young took to the podium on Thursday to explain to reporters the discovery of the images that might show pieces of MH370, he carefully omitted to tell them the source.

When asked about it, he avoided the question.

And when reporters phoned Australian defence officials to ask the same question, they were given a firm “no comment” or “we can’t discuss”.

This may seem odd, because the satellite’s owners, DigitalGlobe, were only too happy to tell the media on Friday.

The contrast highlights a longstanding syndrome. Australian officialdom is hyper protective of US intelligence and its sources – even more protective than the Americans themselves.

It’s a symptom of the Australian defence establishment’s mentality as an anxious junior ally, afraid of giving its senior partner any reason to curtail the flow of intelligence.

A DigitalGlobe spokesmen declined to comment on whether the debris were spotted by DigitalGlobe’s own analysts or analysts from governments that use its service, such as Australia and the US.

It couldn’t have been discovered by internet users participating in a “crowdsourcing” effort launched by the company to help locate the plane though, as the Australian search area has not yet been uploaded to the site, operated by DigitalGlobe and called Tomnod.

The large objects that Australian officials said were spotted by satellite four days ago are the most promising find in days as searchers scour a vast area for the plane.

The larger of the objects taken four days ago measured up to 24 meters long and appeared to be floating in water several thousand metres deep, Australian officials said. The second object was about five meters long.

DigitalGlobe is the parent company of Tomnod, which has been progressively releasing select areas of satellite imagery to a crowd of more than three million to scour through.

The satellite company has not said if it will release imagery that encompasses the search area off the coast of Western Australia to the public on Tomnod.

“We’re working to confirm further details,” DigitalGlobe said.

“In the meantime, other customers including the US government and other governments have been receiving our imagery for their own search efforts.”

DigitalGlobe said that the sheer number of images covering a large swath of ocean contributed to the delay in revealing what could be debris from the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that has been missing for nearly a week.

“Given the extraordinary size of the current search area, the lengthy duration of the analysis effort was to be expected,” a DigitalGlobe spokesman said.

The company’s five high-resolution satellites capture more than 3 million square kilometers of earth imagery each day.

“This volume of imagery is far too vast to search through in real time without an idea of where to look,” the spokesman said.

A number of Australian government agencies pay DigitalGlobe for access to imagery generated by their satellites, including the Australian Antarctic Division and Geoscience Australia.

Tender documents show that Geoscience Australia alone has paid DigitalGlobe almost $1 million since July, 2012, for satellite imagery over Wide Bay in Queensland and of imagery over the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s not clear though through tender documents if Australian intelligence agencies and Defence also pay for access to DigitalGlobe’s imagery, as Fairfax was unable to find contracts between them and DigitalGlobe.

DigitalGlobe said no conclusions have been reached about the origins of the objects shown in the imagery near Australia, and it was not aware that any subsequent search missions that have been able to locate them.

“But the experience again demonstrates the unparalleled geographic reach and persistence that satellite imagery provides for critical government missions and emergency response situations,” it said.

It’s unclear if DigitalGlobe has any restrictions placed upon it by the US government concerning who it shares its satellite imagery with.

- The Sydney Morning Herald with Peter Hartcher and Reuters

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China mulls sending Xuelong to join search mission for MH370

The Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, awaits orders for the search of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at the port of Perth, a southwestern port city of Australia, March 20, 2014. Xuelong will set off to the waters where suspected debris of the missing flight MH370 has been found, according to the State Oceanic Administration of China. (Xinhua/Tang Zhijian)
Search for debris to resume

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NSA’s secret MYSTIC system is capable recording 100% of foreign country’s telephone calls


NSA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine – one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

http://wapo.st/1gyqVaz

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage.

At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.

No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole. Outside experts have sometimes described that prospect as disquieting but remote, with notable implications for a growing debate over the NSA’s practice of “bulk collection” abroad.

Bulk methods capture massive data flows “without the use of discriminants,” as President Barack Obama put it in January. By design, they vacuum up all the data they touch – meaning that most of the conversations collected by RETRO would be irrelevant to U.S. national security interests.

In the view of U.S. officials, however, the capability is highly valuable.

In a statement, Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to comment on “specific alleged intelligence activities.” Speaking generally, she said “new or emerging threats” are “often hidden within the large and complex system of modern global communications, and the United States must consequently collect signals intelligence in bulk in certain circumstances in order to identify these threats.”

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, in an emailed statement, said that “continuous and selective reporting of specific techniques and tools used for legitimate U.S. foreign intelligence activities is highly detrimental to the national security of the United States and of our allies, and places at risk those we are sworn to protect.”

Some of the documents provided by Snowden suggest that high-volume eavesdropping may soon be extended to other countries, if it has not been already. The RETRO tool was built three years ago as a “unique one-off capability,” but last year’s secret intelligence budget named five more countries for which the MYSTIC program provides “comprehensive metadata access and content,” with a sixth expected to be in place by last October.

The budget did not say whether the NSA now records calls in quantity in those countries, or expects to do so. A separate document placed high priority on planning “for MYSTIC accesses against projected new mission requirements,” including “voice.”

Ubiquitous voice surveillance, even overseas, pulls in a great deal of content from U.S. citizens who telephone, visit and work in the target country. It may also be seen as inconsistent with Obama’s Jan. 17 pledge “that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security,” regardless of nationality, “and that we take their privacy concerns into account.”

In a presidential policy directive, Obama instructed the NSA and other agencies that bulk acquisition may be used only to gather intelligence on one of six specified threats, including nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The directive, however, also noted that limits on bulk collection “do not apply to signals intelligence data that is temporarily acquired to facilitate targeted collection.”

The emblem of the MYSTIC program depicts a cartoon wizard with a telephone-headed staff. Among the agency’s bulk collection programs disclosed over the past year, its focus on the spoken word is unique. Most of the programs have involved the bulk collection of either metadata – which does not include content – or text, such as email address books.

Telephone calls are often thought to be more ephemeral and less suited than text for processing, storage and search. Indeed, there are indications that the call-recording program has been hindered by the NSA’s limited capacity to store and transmit bulky voice files.

In the first year of its deployment, a program officer wrote that the project “has long since reached the point where it was collecting and sending home far more than the bandwidth could handle.”

Because of similar capacity limits across a range of collection programs, the NSA is leaping forward with cloud-based collection systems and a gargantuan new “mission data repository” in Utah. According to its overview briefing, the Utah facility is designed “to cope with the vast increases in digital data that have accompanied the rise of the global network.”

Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said history suggests that “over the next couple of years they will expand to more countries, retain data longer and expand the secondary uses.”

Spokesmen for the NSA and the Office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declined to confirm or deny expansion plans or discuss the criteria for any change.

Based on RETRO’s internal reviews, the NSA has strong motive to deploy it elsewhere. In the documents and interviews, U.S. officials said RETRO is uniquely valuable when an analyst first uncovers a new name or telephone number of interest.

With up to 30 days of recorded conversations in hand, the NSA can pull an instant history of the subject’s movements, associates and plans. Some other U.S. intelligence agencies also have access to RETRO.

Highly classified briefings cite examples in which the tool offered high-stakes intelligence that would not have existed under traditional surveillance programs in which subjects were identified for targeting in advance. Unlike most of the government’s public claims about the value of controversial programs, the briefings supply names, dates, locations and fragments of intercepted calls in convincing detail.

Present and former U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide context for a classified program, acknowledged that large numbers of conversations involving U.S. citizens would be gathered from the country where RETRO operates.

The NSA does not attempt to filter out their calls, defining them as communications “acquired incidentally as a result of collection directed against appropriate foreign intelligence targets.”

Until about 20 years ago, such incidental collection was unusual unless a U.S. citizen was communicating directly with a foreign intelligence target. In bulk collection systems, which are exponentially more capable than the ones in use throughout the Cold War, calls and other data from U.S. citizens and permanent residents are regularly ingested by the millions.

Under the NSA’s internal “minimization rules,” those intercepted communications “may be retained and processed” and included in intelligence reports. The agency generally removes the names of U.S. callers, but there are several broadly worded exceptions.

An independent group tasked by the White House to review U.S. surveillance policies recommended that incidentally collected U.S. calls and emails – including those obtained overseas – should nearly always “be purged upon detection.” Obama did not accept that recommendation.

Vines, in her statement, said the NSA’s work is “strictly conducted under the rule of law.”

RETRO and MYSTIC are carried out under Executive Order 12333, the traditional grant of presidential authority to intelligence agencies for operations outside the United States.

Since August, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and others on that panel have been working on plans to assert a greater oversight role for intelligence gathering abroad. Some legislators are now considering whether Congress should also draft new laws to govern those operations.

Experts say there is not much legislation that governs overseas intelligence work.

“Much of the U.S. government’s intelligence collection is not regulated by any statute passed by Congress,” said Timothy H. Edgar, the former director of privacy and civil liberties on Obama’s national security staff. “There’s a lot of focus on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is understandable, but that’s only a slice of what the intelligence community does.”

All surveillance must be properly authorized for a legitimate intelligence purpose, he said, but that “still leaves a gap for activities that otherwise basically aren’t regulated by law because they’re not covered by FISA.”

Beginning in 2007, Congress loosened 40-year-old restrictions on domestic surveillance because so much foreign data crossed U.S. territory. There were no comparable changes to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens and residents whose calls and emails now routinely cross international borders.

Vines noted that the NSA’s job is to “identify threats within the large and complex system of modern global communications,” where ordinary people share fiber-optic cables with legitimate intelligence targets.

For Peter Swire, a member of the president’s review group, the fact that U.S. citizens and foreigners use the same devices, software and networks calls for greater care to safeguard privacy.

“It’s important to have institutional protections so that advanced capabilities used overseas don’t get turned against our democracy at home,” he said.

© 2014, The Washington Post/http://www.ticotimes.net

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If MH370 was a hijack bid, it was a terrorism motivated; China deploys 21 satellites and 11 ships search aid


MH370-AltitudeIt is increasingly common for terrorist groups not to claim responsibility for their actions, a leading expert says, amid heightened speculation one or both of the pilots may have been involved in diverting Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Greg Barton, the international director of the global terrorism research centre at Monash University, said there were several reasons a terrorist group might remain silent about hijacking the flight.

”Perhaps this operation was only partially successful, and that the plan had been to turn back and crash into the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur,” Professor Barton said. ”Perhaps the pilots foiled the plan, we will never know.

”But that would be a motive for a group not to claim it, as they may want to try it again,” he said.
Conjecture over pilot involvement in the plane’s disappearance was fuelled on Sunday by a new timeline suggesting the flight’s signalling system was disabled before a pilot spoke to air traffic control without mentioning any trouble.

But whether it was an act of terrorism remains a question that may not be answered unless the black box flight recorders are found.

Professor Barton cited the 1988 Lockerbie disaster, in which Pan Am flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb over a Scottish town, killing 270 people, as an example of an attack no one admitted ordering.

”It also took quite a while for al-Qaeda to claim responsibility for 9/11,” Professor Barton said. ”And in the November 2008 attacks at several Mumbai hotels, Lashkar- e- Taiba was blamed but never actually claimed it,” he said.

Clive Williams, a visiting professor at the Australian National University’s centre for military and security law and an adjunct professor at Macquarie University’s centre for policing, intelligence and counter terrorism said while terrorism could not be ruled out, it seemed less likely than other possibilities.

”Terrorism is by definition politically motivated with a strategic outcome in mind. If terrorism was the motivation you would expect that the perpetrators would have already used the plane as a weapon against a possible target, such as Mumbai or Colombo, would have made political demands, or would have tried to put pressure on a target government.”

Since 2000 there have been only 18 hijacks or attempted hijacks of large passenger aircraft. Of these, seven were by passengers wanting to get to a destination to seek asylum, one was criminally motivated to steal the cargo, six were by mentally ill persons, and four were politically motivated (counting September 11 as one incident), Professor Williams said.

By Anne Davies The Sydney Morning Herald

11 Chinese ships team up in Singapore for search mission (Video)

It has been 11 days since the Malaysian flight MH370 went missing. 239 passengers were on board the … 

China deploys 21 satellites to assist hunt for MH370

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MH370 pilot was political fanatic?


MH370-Zaharie Ahmad

Police are investigating the possibility that the pilot of missing Flight MH370 hijacked his own aircraft in a bizarre political protest.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was an ‘obsessive’ supporter of Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim. And hours before the doomed flight left Kuala Lumpur it is understood 53-year-old Shah attended a controversial trial in which Ibrahim was jailed for five years.

Campaigners say the politician, the key challenger to Malaysia’s ruling party, was the victim of a long-running smear campaign and had faced trumped-up charges.

Police sources have confirmed that Shah was a vocal political activist – and fear that the court decision left him profoundly upset. It was against this background that, seven hours later, he took control of a Boeing 777-200 bound for Beijing and carrying 238 passengers and crew.

Scroll down for video

Timeline: The above graphic shows how the situation may have developed

Sudden ascent and dive points to cockpit takeover

Sudden ascent and dive points to cockpit takeover

The final picture: The missing jet is pictured here in February this year above Polish airspace

The final picture: The missing jet is pictured here in February this year above Polish airspace

Yesterday, Malaysian police searched his house in the upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb of Shah Alam, where he had installed a home-made flight simulator. But this newspaper can reveal that investigators had already spent much of last week examining two laptops removed from Shah’s home. One is believed to contain data from the simulator

Confirming rising fears, Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak announced yesterday that MH370 was deliberately steered off course after its communication system was switched off. He said it headed west over the Malaysian seaboard and could have flown for another seven hours on its fuel reserves.

It is not yet clear where the plane was taken, however Mr Razak said the most recent satellite data suggests the plane could have been making for one of two possible flight corridors. The search, involving 43 ships and 58 aircraft from 15 countries, switched from the South China Sea to the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. 

In another dramatic twist early Sunday Indian officials however, said the search was on hold until ‘fresh search areas’ were defined by Malaysia. It is unclear what the reason was for the delay. 

Data showing the number of plausible runways where the plane could have touched down – which need to be at least 5,000ft – offer a baffling number of potential locations.

According to a map drawn up by U.S. radio station WNYC, there are 634 locations which could fit, from Australia to the Maldives to Pakistan.

However, the true number is likely to be even higher, as estimates of how far the plane could have travelled have been increased since the calculations were carried out.

US investigators say faint ‘pings’ were being transmitted for several hours after the flight lost contact with the ground. 

Meanwhile, military radar showed the jet climbed to 45,000ft – above its service limit – which could have been a deliberate attempt to knock out the passengers and crew.

Anwar Ibrahim is a broadly popular democracy icon and former deputy prime minister whose prosecution on a charge of sodomy is seen by many Malaysians as political persecution

Activist: Captain Zaharie Ahmad ShahAlso raided: Fariq Abdul Hamid
Investigation: Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, left, was a political activist who attended a tense trial on the day of the flight, investigators believe. He was flying service MH370 alongside Fariq Abdul Hamid, right, from whom investigators have been keen to deflect suspicion
Jailed: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim leaving court in Putrajaya on March 7
Jailed: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim leaving court in Putrajaya on March 7

Hunt: Investigators have riaded the houses of both pilots. Pictured is where co-pilot Hamid lives in an upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb

Hunt: Investigators have riaded the houses of both pilots. Pictured is where co-pilot Hamid lives in an upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb

The raids on Captain Shah’s home appeared stage-managed as a display of intent after the Prime Minister said the focus of the investigation was now on ‘crew and passengers’ as a result of the latest leads.

But investigators have told the Mail on Sunday inquiries into the background of the pilot actually began days earlier.

Malaysian police, helped by FBI agents from the US, are looking into the political and religious backgrounds of both Zaharie and his co-pilot. Zaharie’s home was sealed off yesterday as police spent an hour inside.

However, a senior investigation source said two laptops were taken from the property in low-key visits by police early last week despite a series of denials by officials that his home had been searched or raided.

One laptop taken away is thought to contain data from the flight simulator while a second contained little information. Zaharie’s personal laptop was not found, and is thought to have been with him in the cockpit of the plane, the source said.

Zaharie’s co-workers have told investigators the veteran pilot was a social activist who was vocal and fervent in his support of Ibrahim.

‘Colleagues made it clear to us that he was someone who held strong political beliefs and was strident in his support for Anwar Ibrahim,’ another investigation source said. ‘We were told by one colleague he was obsessed with politics.’

In their interviews, colleagues said Zaharie told them he planned to attend the court case involving Anwar on March 7, just hours before the Beijing flight, but investigators had not yet been able to confirm if he was among the crowd of Anwar supporters at court.

Zaharie is believed to be separated or divorced from his wife although they share the same house, close to Kuala Lumpur’s international airport. They have three children, but no family members were at home yesterday: only the maid has remained there.

JAILED FOR FIVE YEARS: MALAYSIA’S OPPOSITION LEADER

Anwar Ibrahim is a broadly popular democracy icon and former deputy prime minister whose prosecution on a charge of sodomy is seen by many Malaysians as political persecution.

Campaigners say the politician, the key challenger to Malaysia’s ruling party, was the victim of a long-running smear campaign and had faced trumped-up charges.

Captain Shah, who is thought to have attended the trial in Putrajaya hours before flying, is thought to be incensed by the verdict.

Co-workers have told investigators the veteran pilot was a social activist who was vocal and fervent in his support of Ibrahim.

Investigators said: ‘We are looking into the theory that Zaharie’s political beliefs may be a factor. There are huge sensitivities surrounding this but we cannot afford not to pursue any angle brought to our attention.’

In the days after Flight MH370 disappeared, Zaharie was affectionately described as a good neighbour and an eccentric ‘geek’ who had a flight simulator at home simply because he loved his work so much.

Malaysian officials initially appeared keen not to direct any suspicion towards Zaharie or his co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, who was last week revealed to have invited two women passengers into the cockpit and smoked on an earlier flight to Phuket.

But evidence of the way the plane’s transponder and communication systems were disabled and the way the plane was expertly flown over the Indian Ocean apparently using navigational waypoints meant only a skilled aviator could have been at the controls. Investigators were also baffled by why, if hijackers took over the plane, there was no Mayday call or signal from the two pilots to say the cockpit had been breached.

At yesterday’s press conference, the suspicion over the pilot’s involvement mounted as prime minister Najib Razak said that investigators had found ‘deliberate action’ on board the plane resulted in it changing course and losing contact with ground crews.

As a result of the new information, Malaysian authorities had ‘refocused their investigation on crew and passengers aboard’, he said. Police sealed off the area surrounding Zaharie’s home and searched the house shortly after the press conference.

Mr Razak said the new satellite evidence shows ‘with a high degree of certainty’ that the one of the jet’s communications devices – the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System  was disabled just before it had reached the east coast of Malaysia. ACARS is a service that allows computers aboard the plane to relay in-flight information about the health of its systems back to the ground.

Shortly afterwards, near the cross-over point between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic controllers, the plane’s transponder, which emits an identifying signal, was switched off or, less likely, failed.

According to a military radar, the aircraft then turned and flew back over Malaysia before heading in a north-west direction.

On board: Student Firman Siregar, pictured centre with his family, was one of the 239 aboard Flight MH370
On board: Student Firman Siregar, pictured centre with his family, was one of the 239 aboard Flight MH370

Multinational: Indonesian rescue personnel join in the search for the missing plane

Multinational: Indonesian rescue personnel join in the search for the missing plane

Search: Investigators from countries around the world have been scouring the oceans

Search: Investigators from countries around the world have been scouring the oceans

A satellite was able to pick up a ‘ping’ from the plane until 08:11 local time, more than seven hours after it lost radar contact, although it was unable to give a precise location. Mr Razak went on to say that based on this new data, investigators ‘have determined the plane’s last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible corridors – north from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan through to northern Thailand, and south from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

If as suspected the plane was diverted into the Indian Ocean, the task of the search teams becomes more difficult, as there are hundreds of uninhabited islands and the water reaches depths of around 23,000ft.

Countries in the plane’s potential flightpath have now joined a huge effort to locate the missing passengers, but China described the revelation as ‘painfully belated’. And FBI investigators say the disappearance of MH370 may have been ‘an act of piracy’ and that the possibility that its hundreds of passengers are being held at an unknown location has not been ruled out.

Meanwhile, leading aviation lawyer James Healy–Pratt, who is helping relatives, said Malaysian Airlines had declined to buy Boeing’s Airplane Health Management system, which monitors systems in real time and could have alerted it to any potential problems, rather than having to recover a black box. 

‘If the transponder was manually disabled then one can only hope that the black boxes were not also manually disabled,’ he said. ‘Otherwise, the truth will never be known.’

The revelations about Zaharie’s political affiliations are highly sensitive in a country where political dirty tricks are widespread.

One of the investigation sources said: ‘We are looking into the theory that Zaharie’s political beliefs may be a factor. There are huge sensitivities surrounding this but we cannot afford not to pursue any angle brought to our attention.’

Separately, a police source told the Mail on Sunday: ‘I can confirm our investigations include the political and religious leanings of both pilots.’

Zaharie joined Malaysia  Airlines in 1981. He became a captain about ten years later  and has clocked up 18,360 hours of flying experience.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2581817/Doomed-airliner-pilot-political-fanatic-Hours-taking-control-flight-MH370-attended-trial-jailed-opposition-leader-sodomite.html#ixzz2w7YgUEpc
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- Sources: The Daily Mail UK

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MH370 flight confirms: “deliberate acts”, suggest hijacking and terrorism planning, crew under scrutiny


MH370-Najib Conf Malaysian PM confirms that deliberate acts were involved in the plane’s disappearance

Any terrorist seizure of the plane ‘would have required one hell of a piece of planning

Flight MH370 weighs 250 tonnes, spans more than 60 metres and has been hunted by search teams from more than a dozen countries, but after more than a week the search for missing Malaysian Airlines jet is becoming vastly bigger. And vastly more complicated, amid suggestions of a “deliberate act” to take it off course.

The expansion came after leaked reports from US officials, suggestions of terrorism and the revelation from Malaysia’s Prime Minister that investigators believed new satellite data showed “deliberate action by someone on the plane” had flown the aircraft and it’s 239 passengers and crew of course for up to seven hours.

Speaking at a press conference in the Malaysian capital, Najib Razak said: “Clearly, the search for MH370 has entered a new phase. Over the last seven days, we have followed every lead and looked into every possibility… we hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane.”

He added that, based on the data, investigators were now pursuing the belief that the plane’s last location was along one of two possible corridors or arcs – a northern route stretching from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern one stretching from Indonesia to the vast emptiness of the Indian ocean.


Click here for enlarged view of graphic

And as police raided homes of the pilot and co-pilot, the Prime Minister said that, while investigators were still exploring “all possibilities”, attention was increasingly being focused on the possible role of the passengers or crew of the plane

This weekend Malaysian officials, along with experts from the US National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch, continue to refine the new data, which originated from signals sent by the plane via the British company Inmarsat’s satellite network over the Indian Ocean. The Independent on Sunday understands that these signals came from a “failsafe” function of an Inmarsat Swift 64 communications system fitted to the ill-fated aircraft.

The announcement by Mr Najib was the most definitive suggestion that investigators were exploring a possible hijacking or terrorism.

Aviation consultant Chris Yates said: “It’s increasingly clear that the hand of some form of terrorism is at play here, whether from a group or one skilled individual. The levels of specialist aviation knowledge on display here cause me to cast my mind back to 9/11 when hijackers had acquired a level of technical and flight training.”

David Gleave, a former air crash investigator, added that any terrorist seizure of the plane “would have required one hell of a piece of planning”.

MH370_Fariq house

The home of Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, the first officer on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, about 15 miles west of Kuala Lumpur. Credit Lai Seng Sin/Associated Press 

Police drove to the residential compound in Kuala Lumpur where the missing plane's pilot Fariq Abdul Hami lives, according a guard and local reporters

Police drove to the residential compound in Kuala Lumpur where the missing plane’s pilot Fariq Abdul Hami lives, according a guard and local reporters  

Phil Giles, a former air safety investigator who worked on the Lockerbie Bombing, said: “Taking over a Boeing 777 without experience or skill is akin to some Somalian bloke in a tiny boat trying to take over a super tanker and captain it. Unless the hijacker has a fair amount of technical and aviation knowledge he would have to rely on putting a gun to the pilot’s head.”

In Malaysia this new information meant an end to the search in the South China Sea and a renewed focus on the Indian Ocean. At the same time officials were continuing to get radar data and other relevant information from the countries whose air space the two routes being examined pass through. The northern corridor would trace a busy route, passing northern Thailand and Burma and entering into China on the way towards central Asia.

The southern route, meanwhile, would pass over Indonesia and then the open waters of the southern Indian Ocean. The New York Times reported that officials believed the southern corridor to be the most likely to have been taken by the plane. “The US Navy would not be heading toward Kazakhstan,” a person briefed on the investigation told the paper.

Other have suggested the complexity of the search and sensitivity of military radar and satellite information may have been a cause of delay, pointing to the fact that American newspapers have been briefed by the Pentagon and that the destroyer USS Kidd and a P-8 Poseidon search plane moved into the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal prior the Malaysian government’s announcement on Saturday.

Tony Cable, an investigator who worked for the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch for 32 years, said: “The sensitivity of some of the military radar and satellite information here is clearly posing a problem for the investigation…. I suspect there is an awful lot more information that is known that is not being released.”

The last confirmed location of MH370 on civilian radar off Malaysia was at 1.31am last Saturday, about 40 minutes after it took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. At that point it was heading north-east across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on what should have been a six-hour flight to Beijing.

After that it seemed the plane disappeared from civilian radar but showed up – as a blip – on radar used by the Malaysian military. The latest revelation shows that the Boeing 777 continued to leave the faintest traces, in a series of “pings” from its Inmarsat Swift 64 system.

This 20-year-old communications is device fitted to 90 per cent of the world’s wide body jet aircraft and in the case of MH370 enhanced the operation of the aircraft’s flight transponder and Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), both of which were deliberately deactivated early in the flight.

The IoS understands that the disabling of the ACARS system enabled a failsafe “ping” mode in the Swift 64 system, which has been compared to an “I’m here” announcement. The last of these messages came at  8.11am local time last Saturday, more than seven-and-a-half hours after it took off.

When fully operational Flight MH370′s ACARS and Swift 64 only offer very basic altitude and location information and The IoS understands the aircraft wasn’t fitted with more sophisticated equipment on sale, which would have allowed investigators to gain a full GPS fix.

Communication between the aircraft and satellites is only possible when the plane is airborne and the final transmission however would have come towards the very end of flight MH370′s endurance – officials in Kuala Lumpur said the plane was carrying sufficient fuel for 8 hours.

However through analysis of the position and view of the receiving geostationary Inmarsat satellite over the Indian Ocean has allowed officials to plot a “rough calculation” of the two “arcs” the plane may have taken, which has led to increased search emphasis on the Indian Ocean and wild speculation the aircraft may have travelled as far as Kazakhstan.

The revelations were reportedly welcomed by relatives of the passengers in China, who believe the development keeps alive the hope they may somehow be reunited with their loved ones. However the government in Beijing – which has 153 citizens on board the flight – urged Malaysia to continue providing it with “thorough and exact information” on the search, state news agency Xinhua said.

- The Independence

Passengers and Crew of Missing Plane Scrutinized for Aviation Skills – Missing MH370: Crew and passengers under scrutiny 

Heavily guarded: Security personnel keeping a strict watch over the gated community in Laman Seri where Capt Zaharie resides. – Bernama

PETALING JAYA: As investigators search for clues about the person who turned off MH370’s communications system, police are looking into the crew and passengers again, this time paying close attention to those with aviation expertise.

Intelligence sources said investigations would include political and religious leanings, as well as travel patterns of those on board.

Minute details, such as hobbies and behavioural patterns, will also be put under the microscope as the investigations now focused on hijack.

Yesterday afternoon, a group of policemen conducted a search at Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s house in Shah Alam.

Three policemen in an MPV were seen at the gated community in Section 13 at around 2.40pm. They left at 4.45pm.

It was unclear if they took away a flight simulator from the house.

Malaysia Airlines employees said a few pilots did have flight simulators in their homes but claimed that Capt Zaharie’s was one of the most impressive sets.

Capt Zaharie had previously posted on German online forum X-Sim.de that he had built a flight simulator himself.

“About a month ago I finished assembly of FSX and FS9 with 6 monitors,” read his message, which was signed off as Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines in November 2012.

Checks revealed that FSX and FS9 are over-the-counter flight simulator games made by Microsoft. These can easily be bought online.

According to some family friends, Capt Zaharie’s family had moved out a few days ago after MH370 went missing.

According to MAS employees, a driver had told them that Capt Zaharie kept to himself while being driven to the KLIA for the flight.

He had studied aviation at the Philippine Airlines Aviation School in Pasay City in 1980. 

He joined Malaysia Airlines a year later.

The Penangite became a captain in the early 1990s and has 18,360 flying hours under his belt.

His colleagues described him as a jovial and professional “aviation geek” who collected remote-controlled miniature aircraft, light twin engine helicopters and amphibious aircraft.

Outside of aviation, he runs a YouTube channel dedicated to DIY projects, where he teaches viewers how to fix home appliances like air-conditioners.

The same group of policemen also conducted a search at MH370 co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid’s house a few hours after searching Capt Zaharie’s house.

Police arrived at Fariq’s house at Section 7 here around 8.05pm and left about an hour later.
It was unclear if anything was taken from the house.

- The Star/Asia News Network

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