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 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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Chinese satellite images show possible MH370 floating objects


MH370_Satelite floating Images
<<Video: Chinese officials have released satellite images of possible crash site of the missing images
Chinese officials have released satellite images of possible crash site of the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner. The State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence announced the discovery on Wednesday, saying pictures obtained on Sunday showed three suspected floating objects. They measured 13 by 18 meters, 14 by 19 meters and 24 by 22 meters.
The objects were observed in waters between Malaysia and Vietnam. All previous reports of debris since Flight MH-370 disappeared have proved to be unrelated to the plane. Some 10 Chinese satellites have been used to help the search and rescue operation.


 Criticism mounts of ‘chaotic’ search for plane

A well-known Malaysian ëbomohí (shaman), Ibrahim Mat Zin offering to locate the missing plane using a spiritual method and prayers, arrives in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. Malaysia faced a storm of criticism over contradictions and information gaps in the hunt for a missing airliner. Photo: AFP

China urged Malaysia on Wednesday to release “authoritative and detailed” information about the missing Malaysian plane through a unified channel in a timely manner, amid criticism of Malaysia for their confused reaction.

Expressing appreciation for Malaysia’s sincere attitude and active efforts, Guo Shaochun, leader of the Chinese government joint work team, urged Malaysia to listen seriously and respond quickly to the reasonable appeals of the missing passengers’ relatives.

“China asks for a unified channel on the Malaysian side to release authoritative and detailed information on the issue in a timely manner,” said Guo at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Malaysian air force Chief General Rodzali Daud Wednesday denied a local media report that quoted him as saying that the missing MH370 was last detected at 2:40 am Saturday by the air force in the vicinity of Pulau Perak in the Strait of Malacca before the signal disappeared.

Rodzali said that the radar tracking was at 2:15 am and to the northwest of Penang Island on Malaysia’s west coast, adding that it was an “unidentified object.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang also said Wednesday that information about the missing plane was “chaotic.”

He urged Malaysia to take primary responsibility in communication and coordination in the joint search efforts, and “give the passengers’ relatives and the international community an answer as soon as possible.”

The successful boarding of two Iranian citizens using stolen passports and the released photos showing them photoshopped on to the same lower body drew criticism of the Malaysian government.

“It has badly damaged its national image. Rumors could easily grow under such circumstances, as could fear. This may turn out to be a fiasco for Malaysia in handling the crisis at the present stage,” Steven Dong, a professor from the Communication University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times. He added that the country’s aviation management system was also flawed, with passengers reportedly allowed into the cockpit.

Uncertainty has allegedly halted Vietnam’s search mission, which was then denied by Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army. The Vietnam Ministry of Transport on Wednesday also criticized the slack response of Malaysia.

Malaysia said 42 ships and 39 aircraft have been deployed so far in the search, with India, Japan and Brunei joining the multinational hunt for the missing plane.

China’s third military aircraft arrived in the Gulf of Thailand on Wednesday to join its eight vessels in the black box signal probe, with more ships expected.

One of China’s satellites detected objects suspected to be floating materials, Chinese authorities said.

Meanwhile, a badly damaged raft was found by local fishermen near the west coast of Malaysia and villagers on the east side of the country reported to police they heard a loud noise that sounded like the fan of a jet engine around 1:20 am on Saturday, according to local media.

Zhuang Guotu, dean of the Research School of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, told the Global Times that it may not be fair to overly blame Malaysia, whose administration efficiency is at the intermediate level within Asia.

“We have seen its immediate response to the search for the plane after it went missing. It is understandable that people get anxious when little progress has been made, but Malaysia is a developing country with limited manpower,” Zhuang noted.

- Contributed by Jiang Jie Global Times

 China forces to search 19,768 sq km for missing jet
 (updated by 11:50 on March 13)

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MH370 mystery: missing plane’s pilot joked with female passengers in cockpit at 30,000ft, focus shift to Thai gangs


Criticised for contradictory statements, slow reactions and a lack of information, the “incompetence” of Malaysian authorities in communicating effectively during a crisis on the scale of its missing jet is painfully evident, analysts say.

Last radio transmission from the cockpit of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was ‘Alright, good night’ as the plane switched from Malaysian to Vietnamese airspace 
MH370_Co-PilotFariq Abdul Hamid invited two women into the cockpit of a of Malaysian airlines flight

A CO-PILOT at the controls of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 invited a Melbourne tourist and her friend into the cockpit where he smoked, took photos and entertained the pair during a previous international flight. 
 
In a worrying lapse of security, it’s been revealed pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid and his colleague broke Malaysia Airline rules when they invited passengers Jonti Roos and Jaan Maree to join them in the cabin for the one-hour flight from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur.

Ms Roos, who is travelling around Australia, told A Current Affair she and Ms Maree posed for pictures with the pilots, who smoked cigarettes during the midair rendezvous.

“Throughout the entire flight they were talking to us and they were actually smoking throughout the flight which I don’t think they’re allowed to do,” Ms Roos said.

MH370_Co-Pilot2Happy snap … Jonti Roos and Jaan Maree with co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, right, in December 2011. Picture: A Current Affair. Source: Supplied
 

“At one stage they were pretty much turned around the whole time in their seats talking to us.

“They were so engaged in conversation that he took my friends hand and he was looking at her palm and said ‘your hand is very creased. That means you’re a very creative person’ and commented on her nail polish.”

Mr Hamid identified the South African nationals as they waited in the boarding queue at Phuket airport in December 2011.

As they took their seats on the aircraft, an air steward approached the women and invited them to join the pilots in the cockpit.

Despite pictures exposing the gross misconduct of the distracted pilots, Ms Roos said she wasn’t concerned for her safety.

“I did feel safe. I don’t think there was one instance where I felt threatened or I felt that they didn’t know what they were doing,” she said.

The whole time I felt they were very friendly. I felt they were very competent in what they were doing.

Not camera shy … Jonti Roos and Jaan Maree in the cockpit of a Malaysia Airlines flight from Phuket to KL in December 2011. Picture: A Current Affair. Source: Supplied
 

“We wished they (would) stop smoking because it is such a confined space. But you can’t exactly tell a pilot to stop smoking.”

The plucky pilots reportedly wanted Ms Roos and Ms Maree to change their travel arrangements and extend their stay in Kuala Lumpur and join them on a night on the town.

Ms Roos said she was shocked to learn Mr Hamid was at the helm of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight.
“I thought it was crazy. I was just completely shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“When I saw all his friends and family posting on his wall my heart really broke for them and my heart broke for the family of the passengers. It’s just a really sad story.”

Malaysia Airlines issued a statement about the incident late last night.

“Malaysia Airlines has become aware of the allegations being made against First Officer, Fariq Ab Hamid which we take very seriously.” the statement said.

“We are shocked by these allegations.

“We have not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident.

“As you are aware, we are in the midst of a crisis, and we do not want our attention to be diverted.

“We also urge the media and general public to respect the privacy of the families of our colleagues and passengers. It has been a difficult time for them.

“The welfare of both the crew and passenger’s families remain our focus. At the same time, the security and safety of our passengers is of the utmost importance to us.”

Special access … Jaan Maree in the cockpit of a Malaysia Airlines flight in December 2011. Picture: A Current Affair. Source: Supplied
 

POLICE RELEASE IDENTITY OF ONE STOLEN PASSPORT HOLDER

One of the men travelling with a stolen passport on the Malaysia Airlines flight that mysteriously disappeared has been identified as a 19-year-old Iranian seeking asylum in Europe.

This comes as police downplayed the possibility of terrorist involvement in the disappearance of MH370 — giving four areas of investigation: hijack, sabotage, psychological or personal problems among the passengers and crew.

Malaysian police tonight said the man was Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, and intelligence suggested he was not likely to be a member of any terrorist group.

Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, said Mehrdad was travelling on a stolen Austrian passport and was planning to meet up with his mother in Frankfurt.

The second passenger using a stolen passport has not been identified yet.

Revealed ... a Malaysian police official displays photographs of the two men who boarded
Revealed … a Malaysian police official displays photographs of the two men who boarded the Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight using stolen European passports to the media. Source: AFP
 

However, he said police were still considering all possibilities in terms of criminal involvement in the plane’s disappearance, when asked whether police thought the revelation made them consider terrorism less likely in the case.

DID FLIGHT MH370 STALL BEFORE CRASHING?
 
“At this moment, I would not say less likely. Same weightage to all until we finish our investigations,” Khalid said.

He also contradicted an earlier statement made by Malaysia’s aviation chief that five people did not board the plane, saying they did not exist and everyone who booked a seat was on the flight.

FISHERMAN SAW ‘LOW FLYING LIGHTS’ 

Authorities are also investigating several reports of locals claiming to have seen the lights of a low-flying aircraft in an area off the Malaysian coast, just below the Malay-Thai border.

It is this area which is now included in the widened search area for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

A fisherman who was in his boat at sea, says that at about 1.30am he saw the lights of a low-flying aircraft in the area of Kuala Besar.

Azid Ibrahim told The Star newspaper in Malaysia that the plane was flying so low that the lights were “as big as coconuts”.

And another man, about 30km south of Kota Bharu, is reported to have seen “bright white lights” from what he thought was a fast-descending aircraft at about 1.45am on Saturday morning.

He has since reported what he saw to authorities after seeing the lights from his home that evening.

THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES OF MISSING FLIGHT MH370
 
DESPERATE SEARCH FOR MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT MH370
 
Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that the search and rescue teams (SAR) have expanded the scope beyond the flight path to the West Peninsular of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca. The authorities are looking at a possibility of an attempt made by MH370 to turn back to Subang.

The search sphere now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula itself, the waters off its west coast and an area to the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, an area far removed from flight MH370’s scheduled route.

The news of the search being widened comes as Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department said it had received a report from the crew of a Cathay Pacific plane flying from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur at about 3pm Saturday that more debris was spotted near Vung Tau, off southeast Vietnam, The South China Morning Post reports.

It is not known if the debris is from the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft.

Prayer ... Students in East China pray for the passengers from the missing Malaysia Airli
Prayer … Students in East China pray for the passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Picture: Twitter Source: Supplied
 

As the search for the missing Boeing 777 continues into its fourth day, it also emerged that the aeroplane underwent maintenance on February 23, 12 days before it went missing bound for Beijing, China.

“The maintenance was conducted at the KLIA hangar and there were no issues on the health of the aircraft,” Malaysia Airlines said. Its next check was due on June 19.

Fisherman saw ‘low-flying lights’
In limbo … Sarah Nor, 55, the mother of 34-year-old Norliakmar Hamid, a passenger on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Source: AFP
 

FINGERPRINTS BEING ANALYSED BY FBI

In other news, fingerprints from the mystery passengers travelling on missing Flight MH370 with stolen passports are being analysed by the FBI as it emerged they were reportedly Iranians looking for a new life in Europe.

The men are believed to have bought the fake travel documents because they were “looking for a place to settle” and it is thought their plane tickets were purchased in Thailand by an Iranian middleman known as “Mr Ali”.

The news came as officials reacted with scepticism to a claim of responsibility for the plane’s disappearance from a previously unheard of Chinese terror group.

mobile3

 
READ MORE: SHADOWY GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
 
With authorities still scratching their heads about exactly what has happened to the Malaysia Airlines flight and conflicting information deepening the anguish of relatives, much of the focus of the investigation has fallen on those on board.

Director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, revealed late last night that the two men travelling on stolen passports were not Asian-looking as had been earlier speculated.

He said they had passed through all “security protocols” before boarding the flight, which disappeared with 239 passengers on board, including six Australians, in the early hours of Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Guo Shaochun
Under pressure … an official in Malaysia is besieged by journalists. Source: AP
 

“We have looked at the footage of the video and the photographs and it is confirmed now that they are not Asian-looking men,” Mr Rahman told a press briefing in Kuala Lumpur.

“They have gone through screening, their baggage has been screened, their cabin baggage has been screened and they complied fully with the protocols of immigration security.”

READ MORE: TEARS FLOW FOR MISSING AUSSIES
 
The CCTV footage in question has reportedly been given to international security agencies and is expected to be released publicly at some stage.

He said authorities were now investigating the possibility of a stolen passport syndicate but he would not be drawn on what the mystery men looked like.

Initial reports that Mr Rahman had implied the men looked like African-Italian soccer star Mario Balotelli were clarified by Malaysia this afternoon.

Officials pointed out that Mr Rahman was actually saying a person’s appearance is not necessarily a reliable indicator of their nationality, using the footballer as an example.

Balotelli is Italian, having been born in Italy to Ghanaian parents.

Unwitting example ... AC Milan footballer Mario Balotelli.
Unwitting example … AC Milan footballer Mario Balotelli. Source: AFP
 

Two European names were on the passenger list for the missing flight but neither Christian Kozel, an Austrian, nor Luigi Maraldi from Italy, ever boarded the plane — instead two passengers used their passports, which had been stolen from the men in separate incidents in Thailand.

LOOKING FOR A NEW LIFE

A man who says he is a friend of the two unidentified passengers has now told how they were Iranian nationals who travelled to Kuala Lumpur from Tehran several days ago.

According to London’s Daily Telegraph, the unnamed friend told BBC Persia that the pair bought the stolen passports in the Malaysian capital as well as tickets to Amsterdam via Beijing.

BBC Persia’s UN correspondent Bahman Kalbasi
The BBC’s Bahman Kalbasi Source: Supplied
 

One of the men wanted to eventually end up in Frankfurt, where his mother lives, while the other wanted to travel to Denmark.

BBC Persia’s UN correspondent Bahman Kalbasi said he was told the pair were “looking for a place to settle”.

READ MORE: RELATIVES CALL MOBILES OF PASSENGERS

Malaysia and neighbouring Thailand, where the passports were originally stolen, ho
st large and established Iranian communities.

Earlier, the Financial Times reported that the duo’s tickets had been arranged for by an Iranian known only as “Mr Ali”. According to Thai police, his full name is Kazem Ali.

A travel agent in Thailand told the newspaper that Mr Ali first asked her to book cheap tickets to Europe for the pair on March 1.

The tickets expired before Mr Ali called her again last Thursday to rebook them on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. A friend of Mr Ali’s paid cash for the tickets.

Benjaporn Krutnait, owner of the Grand Horizon travel agency in Thailand, said she had known the Iranian for about three years and he had booked tickets through her agency before.

There is no evidence Mr Ali knew the two men were travelling on stolen passports and, according to NBC News, he has come forward to authorities after learning they were under suspicion.

He is currently believed to be in Iran.

Authorities have made no comment on these reports but Thai police are thought to have visited two Pattaya travel agencies on Monday, who are believed to be involved in selling the tickets.

ANALYSING THE INTELLIGENCE

Malaysian authorities have released thumbprints of the pair that were taken at the airport check-in at Kuala Lumpur to intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world.

“They will compare that to what we have in our terrorist databases. These are lists of people on no-fly lists, people with possible terrorist connections, people we have reasons to be suspicious of,” US lawmaker Peter King told CNN.

“We have these listings, and those names and those biometrics will be compared to those.” Images of the men has also been shared.

READ MORE: WHY THE BLACK BOX WON’T HELP
 
There has been no further update on the five passengers who checked in for flight MH370 but didn’t board the plane. They had their luggage removed from the hold.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said they were being investigated but he didn’t say whether this was suspicious.

Aviation industry figures said five passengers failing to board an international flight was not unusual.

Searching ... Indonesian Navy pilots looking for the missing plane.
Searching … Indonesian Navy pilots looking for the missing plane. Source: AP
 

“To have that many people — five to 10 — as no-shows is relatively common, particularly if they are connecting from elsewhere,” they said.

They said a passenger’s failure to board can simply be the result of a late connecting flight, a missed connection or simply changing their mind. If anything, they said it was an increasing problem due to the popularity of online check-in, which allows a passenger to register their intention to board the flight up to several days ahead.

While there has been a claim of responsibility of some kind for the disappearance of the flight by a shadowy group called the Chinese Martyrs’ Brigade, officials are sceptical and have said it could be a hoax.

The group — unheard of before now — on Sunday sent an email to journalists across China that read: “You kill one of our clan, we will kill 100 of you as payback,” but the message provided no other details.

Prayers ... candles are lit in Kuala Lumpur to send a message of hope.
Prayers … candles are lit in Kuala Lumpur to send a message of hope. Source: AP
 

CRIMINAL HUB FOCUS

Thailand’s role as a hub for criminal networks using false documents is now in the spotlight after the stolen passports sparked fears of a terror attack.

The revelation has triggered a probe by Malaysian authorities, who are working with other intelligence agencies including the FBI.

READ MORE: DAUGHTER’S TWEETS TO MISSING FATHER
 
“Thailand has been used by some international terrorist groups as a zone of operation, to raise funds or to plan attacks,’’ said Rommel Banlaoi, an analyst on terrorism in South-East Asia.

In 2010, two Pakistanis and a Thai woman were arrested in Thailand on suspicion of making false passports for al Qaeda-linked groups, as part of an international operation linked to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

In shock ... relatives of passengers from the missing flight in Beijing.
In shock … relatives of passengers from the missing flight in Beijing. Source: AFP
 

But Banlaoi stressed that the false passports used on the Malaysia flight “could also be linked to other criminal activities, like illegal immigration’’.

“Thailand is a destination for international crime organisations who use it to secure travel documents, financial documents,’’ a Thai intelligence source said.
READ MORE: STOLEN PASSPORTS REVEAL SECURITY LOOPHOLE
 
“It’s not just linked to terrorism but to other crimes. It’s a complex network, connected to other networks.’’

TRACKING STOLEN PASSPORTS TRAIL

The intricate web of clues surrounding the stolen passports includes Thais and foreigners, passport thieves, counterfeiters, intermediaries and clients, Banlaoi said.

Thai police have announced an investigation into a possible passport racket on the resort island of Phuket — Maraldi’s passport was stolen there in 2013 and Kozel’s on a flight from Phuket to Bangkok, according to authorities in Vienna.

Message of hope ... a poster carrying words of support for the passengers.
Message of hope … a poster carrying words of support for the passengers. Source: AFP
 

Flight information seen by the AFP news agency shows that two tickets in Kozel and Maraldi’s names were issued in Pattaya, a beach resort south of Bangkok, on March 6, 2014, and were paid for in Thai baht.

READ MORE: PASSENGER LIST A RICH HUMAN TAPESTRY
 
Geographically well-placed and with a major international airport, Thailand is best known for being a hub for drug and wildlife trafficking, including elephant ivory from Africa.

But it also supplies documents to illegal immigrants moving within or passing through the region.

what we know update

The route of the two unknown MH370 passengers — from Kuala Lumpur via Beijing then on to Europe — was “a typical path’’ for illegal immigrants, one diplomatic source said, adding that a large proportion of passports stolen from tourists in Thailand were then used for illegal immigration.

“They (the passports) are genuine, so they find someone who looks like the owner, or they falsify the first page,’’ the source said.

The ease with which police officials can be paid off also helped the industry to thrive.

“The police can turn a blind eye if you have the money,’’ he added.

New scope ... Dato' Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Department
New scope … Mr Rahman briefs the media with the latest. Source: Getty Images
 

SEARCH PROVES FRUITLESS

The search effort for the missing plane, involving at least 34 aircraft and 40 ships from several countries, has been widened to a 100-nautical mile (185-kilometre) radius from the point the plane vanished from radar screens between Malaysia and Vietnam early Saturday with no distress signal.

READ MORE: THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES
 
Despite their best efforts, search teams have so far failed to find any trace of actual debris.

Laboratory analysis of oil samples from slicks spotted in the days after the disappearance showed they were not from the Malaysia Airlines jet but were a type of fuel used by ships, the Maritime Enforcement Agency said in Kuala Lumpur.

PLane Crash Theories-DESKTOP

The area became a focus for frantic international search efforts for the Boeing 777 after large tongues of oil were found in the water on Saturday, hours after the plane dropped off the radar.

In a day of conflicting information which deepened relatives’ anguish, initial reports of debris off southern Vietnam were ruled out, before an aircraft spotted another object which appeared to be a life raft.

Malaysia said it was sending ships to investigate the raft sighting, but a Vietnamese vessel that got there first found only flotsam in the busy shipping lane.

Vigil ... people in Kuala Lumpur are praying for a miracle.
Vigil … people in Kuala Lumpur are praying for a miracle. Source: AFP
 

“When we reached the site we recovered only a mouldy cable reel cover,’’ Vietnamese army deputy chief of staff Vo Vo Tuan said.

“I think there was only one suspect floating object there,’’ he said, conceding the amount of rubbish floating in the sea made it hard to be “100 per cent sure’’ the ship had reached the location of the reported raft.

Boeing has joined an official US team investigating the disappearance, saying it would act as technical adviser to the US National Transportation Safety Board team already in South-East Asia to offer assistance.

A satellite imaging company from the US has even asked for public help in analysing high-resolution images for any sign of the missing airliner.

Passport fears ... a passenger holds his passport and boarding pass after he checked in h
Passport fears … a passenger checks in at a Malaysia Airlines counter in Beijing. Source: AP
 

‘BERMUDA TRIANGLE STUFF’

Central Queensland University aviation expert Ron Bishop said the continuing lack of debris from the jet pointed towards the aircraft hitting the water intact.

He said that if the aircraft broke up at a cruising altitude, he would expect evidence of items from the plane floating over a 15-20km expanse of ocean.

“If it exploded midair, all the seat cushions would float, paper, magazines, anything made out of paper or wood would float,” he said.

“If it impacted the water in one piece, it possibly impacted at a high speed that drove everything into the water and meant that nothing floated out. And if it did, it would just be small stuff.”

“It could be like the Titanic and drill right into the water.”

He said this might have trapped any remaining oil within the aircraft. However, if it did leak out, it could easily be carried away on the current, leaving little trace of the aircraft.

“It’s pretty spooky when this happens and is particularly upsetting for the families who just want to know what occurred,” he said.

“It becomes like Bermuda Triangle stuff.”

While suggesting it was very unlikely the Boeing 777 crashed on land, Mr Bishop said it was possible.

—AFP with wires/http://www.news.com.au/http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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The hypocrisy of some nations


Hypocrites_US-Russia-ukraine

Video:U.S. Hypocrisy? Telling Russia To Stay Out of Ukraine

Double standards are on display as Western leaders attack Russia regarding Ukraine, while they themselves commit or endorse worse aggression on other countries.

WORLD attention has focused on Ukraine recently. With President Victor Yanukovych making his exit and a new government formed, events shifted to Crimea, with accusations that the Russian military took over the region.

Yanukovych, resurfacing in a Russian town, said he left as his life was at risk, the new regime is illegitimate, and he is still the president.

Sizeable crowds in Crimea (many of whose population are ethnic Russian) are showing anti-Kiev and pro-Russian feelings and the Crimean Parliament had decided to hold a referendum on whether to remain in Ukraine or break away and be part of Russia.

Western leaders have attacked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his alleged invasion of Crimea.

The Russian argument is that it has not invaded, that in any case it has a legitimate interest in Crimea due to historical links and the ethnic Russians who live there have asked for protection against the new and illegitimate Kiev regime.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of Russia’s position and actions, it is clear that there has been a long historical Russian-Crimea-Ukraine relationship. The complex condition requires a correspondingly complex solution.

The rhetoric of some Western leaders is aggressive. They accused Russia of violating sovereignty and international law, among other things.

The United States plans to ban visas for selected Russian officials, followed by sanctions on Russian banks, freezing assets of its companies, and possibly trade measures.

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have accused Putin of making use of false claims for its invasion, that Crimea is in danger.

“This is the 21st century and we should not see nations step backwards to behave in a 19th or 20th century fashion,” said Kerry. “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve.”

Obama said “Russia cannot with impunity put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognised around the world”, adding that Russia is “on the wrong side of history”.

Listening to the American leaders lecturing Russia in their self-righteous tone, one is struck by the double standards and hypocrisy involved.

They don’t seem to realise how they have violated the same principles and behaviour they demand of Russia.

It was after all the United States that invaded Iraq in 2003, massively bombing its territory and killing hundreds of thousands, on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction.

The UN Security Council would not give the green light. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Many experts considered the war against Iraq a violation of international law, a view also expressed in a media interview by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal in 2011 found former US president George W. Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq war.

The United States also waged war in Afghanistan, changing the regime, resulting in thousands of deaths. In Libya, the US and its allies carried out massive bombing, which aided opposition forces and led to the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Even now there are sanctions and the threat of military action against Iran on the suspicion it wants to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran has denied.

In contrast, the US turns a blind eye on Israel’s ownership of nuclear weapons. And when Israel conducted the blanket bombing of Lebanon and Gaza in recent years, with thousands of deaths, there was no condemnation at all from the US, which has also blocked UN Security Council resolutions and actions on its ally.

The US has also come under attack from human rights groups for its use of drones against suspected terrorists but which has also killed many civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

Last week, the UN Human Rights Council published a Special Rapporteur’s report which detailed the deaths of civilians caused by US drone attacks, and raised many questions of possible violations of international human rights law.

All these actions were done in the 21st century, which adds to many other actions in the 20th century.

It’s thus remarkable that Obama and Kerry could with a straight face accuse Russia of not acting in a 21st century manner, and being on the wrong side of history.

There appears to be still one law for the most powerful, and another for others. The former can invade and kill, while lecturing self-righteously to others.

Whatever one thinks of Russia’s action in Crimea, it should be noted that no one has been killed because of it, at least not yet. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands or millions, who have died and suffered from past and present wars of the US and other Western countries.

Though much of the mainstream media also takes the establishment view, some Western journalists have also pointed out their leaders’ hypocrisy.

In an article, “America’s Staggering Hypocrisy in Ukraine,” the well-known American journalist Robert Parry remarked: “Since World War II, the United States has invaded or otherwise intervened in so many countries that it would be challenging to compile a complete list …

“So, what is one to make of Secretary of State John Kerry’s pronouncement that Russia’s military intervention in the Crimea section of Ukraine – at the behest of the country’s deposed president – is a violation of international law that the United States would never countenance?

“Are Kerry and pretty much everyone else in Official Washington so lacking in self-awareness that they don’t realise that they are condemning actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin that are far less egregious than what they themselves have done?”

Parry concludes that the overriding hypocrisy of the media, Kerry and nearly all of Official Washington is their insistence that the United States actually promotes the principle of democracy or, for that matter, the rule of international law.

Global Trends – By Martin Khor

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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Related: 

Nation of Hypocrites 

America is tragically becoming a “Nation of Hypocrites”. How is this so? Is it any wonder then that some people look down upon us rather than respect us?

Terrorist attack on missing MH370 not ruled out


MH370_GlobalAzharuddin Abdul Rahman, the chief of Malaysia’s civil aviation, said hijacking has not been ruled out as a cause of the plane’s disappearance. He told the BBC that what happened to the jet remains “a mystery”. No sightings of debris from the plane in the seas south of Vietnam have been confirmed.

Terrorism has not been ruled out as a possible cause. Counter-terrorism agencies and the FBI are involved in the operation. It emerged that two passengers who boarded the flight were using passports stolen in Thailand some years back.

The passports were Italian and Austrian. The passengers travelling with them had bought their tickets at the same time from China Southern Airlines which shared the flight with Malaysia Airlines, had consecutive ticket numbers and were both booked on the same onward flight from Beijing to Europe on Saturday. The news emerged when the real owners of the passports were reported safe and sound and not on any flight.

Ronald Noble, the secretary general of Interpol, said in a statement that while it was too soon to speculate on any connection between the theft and the plane’s disappearance, it was “clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol databases”.

The passengers on the flight were of 14 different nationalities. Two-thirds were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

Five passengers booked on the flight did not board, and their luggage was consequently removed.

China has sent a team of government officials to Kuala Lumpur to look into the case.

Malaysian King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah offered his condolences to the passengers.

He said he and the Queen “would like to express our sympathy to the passengers and crew, especially to their family”.

However, relatives waiting for news are getting increasingly frustrated, saying they are not getting information on time and that no government officials have visited them, the BBC’s correspondent in Beijing adds.

- http://paper.standartnews.com/

China deploys satellites for search operation

China has sent nine vessels to join the search and rescue operation for the plane. The first Chinese…

Two Chinese working groups in Malaysia

Two teams of officials sent by the Chinese government are now in Kuala Lumpur. A delegation from the…

China goes all-out to search for missing jet

 

Terror group Chinese Martyrs Brigade claims missing flight was ‘payback’, officials label it hoax 

A SHADOWY group called the Chinese Martyrs’ Brigade claimed responsibility for the disappearance of Flight MH370 — but officials were sceptical and said the claim could be a hoax.

The group — unheard of before now — on Sunday sent an email to journalists across China that read: “You kill one of our clan, we will kill 100 of you as pay back,” but the message provided no details of what brought the flight down.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein told reporters he doubted the claim’s legitimacy.

“There is no sound or credible grounds to justify their claims,” he said, according to Malaysian news reports.

Other officials said the claim could be a hoax aimed at increasing ethnic tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the wake of the March 1 knife attacks in the south-western city of Kunming that left 29 people dead and about 140 others injured.

The message was delivered through an encrypted, anonymous Hushmail service that is virtually impossible to trace, they said.

GHOST FLIGHTS: THE PLANES THAT DISAPPEARED

No lead: Officials said the oil slicks discovered by Vietnamese search aircraft were not
No lead: Officials said the oil slicks discovered by Vietnamese search aircraft were not aircraft fuel. Picture: AFP Source: AFP
 

Investigators also said Monday that debris spotted from the air that was originally believed to be from the plane turned out to be a large cable spool unconnected to the aircraft.

They also said an oil slick discovered in the region was not connected to the flight.

Investigators suspect the vanished Malaysian airliner may have been blown out of the sky — just like the jumbo jet that rained deadly wreckage onto Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

A senior official involved in the probe of its disappearance said the evidence so far “appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” Reuters reported.

Asked if that suggested a bomb blew up the Boeing 777, the source said there was no evidence yet of foul play, but noted the closest parallels to the plane’s disappearance early Saturday over the South China Sea were the 1980s bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie and Air India Flight 182 off the coast of Ireland.

Although the source added that the flight, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, could have broken apart due to mechanical failure, Malaysian officials have not ruled out a hijacking.

Chinese officials arrive in Malaysia to aid the search. Picture: Getty Images
Chinese officials arrive in Malaysia to aid the search. Picture: Getty Images Source: Getty Images
 

Meanwhile, Hussein said authorities have surveillance video of the two passengers who boarded the plane using stolen passports.

Rahman, the civil aviation chief, said officials had reviewed surveillance tape of the plane’s boarding and are now saying the pair were not Asian, as they had originally indicated.

“We confirmed now they are not Asian-looking males,” Rahman said, adding that one of the men was black.
One had been identified, officials said, though they refused to release a name or nationality.

Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the other passenger also appeared to be Asian, and blasted the border officials who let them through while carrying passports from Austria and Italy.

“Can’t these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian [passport holders] but with Asian faces,” Hamidi fumed.

Five booked passengers failed to show up for the flight, according to The Wall Street Journal.

- http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates

Possibilities:

 

Passenger Manifest
 

Related post:

MH370 deepens mystery !


Four names on manifest considered suspect on plane disappearanceMH370

<  Video Flight MH370 was bound for Beijing with 239 people on board, including 154 from China. It has lost c…

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Military radar indicates that the missing Boeing 777 jet turned back before vanishing, Malaysia’s air force chief said Sunday as authorities were investigating up to four passengers with suspicious identifications who may have boarded the flight.

The revelations add to the uncertainties surrounding the final minutes of flight MH370, which was carrying 239 people when it lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning bound for Beijing.

A massive international sea has so far turned up no trace of the plane, which lost contact with the ground when the weather was fine, the plane was already cruising and the pilots didn’t send a distress signal — unusual circumstance for a modern jetliner operated by a professional airline to crash.

Air force chief Rodzali Daud didn’t say which direction the plane might have taken or how long for when it apparently went off route.

“We are trying to make sense of this,” he told a media conference. “The military radar indicated that the aircraft may have made a turn back and in some parts, this was corroborated by civilian radar.”

Raw: Airline CEO Discusses Search EffortsMalaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said pilots were supposed to inform the airline and traffic control authorities if the plane does a U-turn. “From what we have, there was no such distress signal or distress call per se, so we are equally puzzled,” he said.

Authorities were checking on the suspect identities of at least two passengers who appear to have boarded with stolen passports. On Saturday, the foreign ministries in Italy and Austria said the names of two citizens listed on the flight’s manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that authorities were looking at two more possible cases of suspicious identities. He said Malaysian intelligence agencies were in contact with their international counterparts, including the FBI. He gave no more details.

“All the four names are with me and have been given to our intelligence agencies,” he said. “We are looking at all possibilities”.

A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, center, cries as she is e …>>

A total of 22 aircraft and 40 ships have been deployed to the area by Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, China and the United States, not counting Vietnam’s fleet.

Two-thirds of the jet’s passengers were Chinese. The rest were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

After more than 30 hours without contact with the aircraft, Malaysia Airlines told family members they should “prepare themselves for the worst,” Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director for the airline told reporters.

Finding traces of an aircraft that disappears over sea can take days or longer, even with a sustained search effort. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, wreckage can be scattered over many square kilometers (miles). If the plane enters the water before breaking up, there can be relatively little debris.

A team of American experts was en route to Asia to be ready to assist in the investigation into the crash. The team includes accident investigators from National Transportation Safety Board, as well as technical experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, the safety board said in a statement.

A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia&nbsp;&hellip;

A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane cries as she leaves a hotel

Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed last July in San Francisco, killing three passengers, all Chinese teenagers.

Investigators will need access to the flight data recorders to determine what happened.

Aviation and terrorism experts said revelations about stolen passports would strengthen speculation of foul play. They also acknowledged other scenarios, including some catastrophic failure of the engines or structure of the plane, extreme turbulence or pilot error or even suicide, were also possible.

Jason Middleton, the head of the Sydney-based University of New South Wales’ School of Aviation, said terrorism or some other form of foul play seemed a likely explanation.

“You’re looking at some highly unexpected thing, and the only ones people can think of are basically foul play, being either a bomb or some immediate incapacitating of the pilots by someone doing the wrong thing and that might lead to an airplane going straight into the ocean,” Middleton said. “With two stolen passports (on board), you’d have to suspect that that’s one of the likely options.”

This screengrab from flightradar24.com shows the last&nbsp;&hellip;

This screengrab from flightradar24.com shows the last reported position of Malaysian Airlines flight >>

Just 9 percent of fatal accidents happen when a plane is at cruising altitude, according to a statistical summary of commercial jet accidents done by Boeing. Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said Saturday there was no indication the pilots had sent a distress signal.

The plane was last inspected 10 days ago and found to be “in proper condition,” Ignatius Ong, CEO of Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly airlines, said at a news conference.

Associated Press - Brummitt reported from Hanoi, Vietnam.

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Tracking the mysterious MH370: 2 impostors on board, plane missing 50 min not 2 hrs after take off…


MH370
  
Missing MAS flight: Two passengers using passports stolen in Thailand

PETALING JAYA: The mystery of the missing MH370 deepened when it was reported that there were two impostors on board, both with passports that were stolen in Thailand.

Italian Luigi Maraldi, whose name is on the manifest, was not on the missing MH370 flight. Someone else had used his passport to board the plane.

According to news reports from Italy which quoted its Foreign Ministry, Luigi Maraldi’s passport was stolen last August while he was in Thailand.

Maraldi, 37, is now in Thailand.

According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Maraldi returned home after his passport was stolen and had a new one issued.

When officials heard of the missing plane, they went to his parents’ home but they said their son was alive and well in Thailand, and had called to say he was fine.

“I am fine, I was not on the flight,” he told his parents.

Meanwhile, London’s Daily Mirror reported that a second passenger was also using a stolen passport.

Austrian Christan Kozel has been confirmed as safe and well by authorities.

He told Austrian newspaper De Standard that his passport was stolen when he visited Thailand two years ago.

It is still unclear as to who had travelled on MH370 under the two names. – The Star/Asia News Network

Tracking firm: Plane missing about 50min after departure

PETALING JAYA: Sweden-based flight tracking service FlightRadar24 was the first to report that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from radar about 50 minutes of departure, and not two hours as initially stated.

“Flight #MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 1641 UTC time (12.41am local time) and disappeared from www.flightradar24.com at 1720 UTC time (about 1.21am local time) between Malaysia and Vietnam,” said the company’s chief executive officer Fredrik Lindahl in an e-mail response to The Star.

Flight MH370, on a B777-200 aircraft, departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on March 8. It was expected to land in Beijing at 6.30am the same day.

“Also, based on our data, there is no doubt that the last reported position of MH370 is about 150km northeast of Kuala Terengganu.

“We have good radar coverage in the area the flight went missing and the last signal was received from an altitude of 35,000 feet,” said Lindahl.

MAS group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya had initially said at a press conference at 11am yesterday that the Subang Air Traffic Control had lost contact with the plane around 2.40am.

However, Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman clarified later in the evening that contact was lost at 1.30am.

Meanwhile, aviation website The Aviation Herald stated that the plane was last regularly seen at 1.22am about halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

“The aircraft was spotted over the Gulf of Thailand about 260 nautical miles north northeast of Kuala Lumpur and 120 nautical miles northeast of Kota Baru 50 minutes into the flight.

“This was followed by anomalies in the radar data of the aircraft over the next minute. Although these may be related to the aircraft, it could also be caused by the flight leaving the receiver range,” it stated.

The website also reported aviation sources in China as saying that radar data suggested a steep and sudden descent of the flight, during which time the aircraft had changed track from 24 degrees to 333 degrees.

- The Star/Asia News Network

No sign of Malaysia Airline wreckage; questions over stolen passports

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Traces of oil may be clue in plane search

No Sign Of Malaysia Airline Wreckage Questions Over Stolen

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: “We have not been able to locate anything,” an airline official says
  • U.S. law enforcement sources say both passports were stolen in Thailand
  • One of the two stolen passports is listed in Interpol’s database, sources say
  • Vietnamese searchers spot oil slicks in the South China Sea

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) — There were few answers Sunday about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a day after contact was lost with the commercial jetliner en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

An aerial search resumed at first light, with aircraft searching an area of the South China Sea for any sign of where the flight may have gone down, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the director general of civil aviation in Malaysia, told reporters
“We have not been able to locate anything, see anything,” Rahman said. “There’s nothing new to report.”
The closest things to clues in the search for the missing jetliner are oil slicks in the Gulf of Thailand, about 90 miles south of Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island — the same area where the flight disappeared from radar early Saturday morning. A Vietnamese reconnaissance plane, part of a massive, multinational search effort, spotted the oil slicks that stretch between six and nine miles, the Vietnam government’s official news agency reported.
Malaysian authorities have not yet confirmed the Vietnamese report, Rahman said.
The reported oil discovery has only added to a growing list of questions about the fate of the plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members: What happened to the plane, why was no distress signal issued, and who exactly was aboard?
Passenger manifest questioned
Bits and pieces of information have begun to form, but it remains unclear how they fit into the bigger picture, if at all.

Photos: Malaysia airliner loses contact Photos: Malaysia airliner loses contact

Map: Malaysia airliner lost contactMap: Malaysia airliner lost contact

Traces of oil may be clue in search

Quest: I flew with missing first officer

Quest: Odd to lose contact while cruising
 
For instance, after the airline released a manifest, Austria denied that one of its citizens was aboard the flight. The Austrian citizen was safe and sound, and his passport had been stolen two years ago, Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss said.
Similarly, Italy’s foreign ministry confirmed none of its citizens were on Flight 370, even though an Italian was listed on the manifest.
On Saturday, Italian police visited the home of the parents of Luigi Maraldi, the man whose name appeared on the manifest, to inform them about the missing flight, said a police official in Cesena, in northern Italy.
Maraldi’s father, Walter, told police he had just spoken to his son, who was fine and not on the missing flight, said the official, who is not authorized to speak to the media. Maraldi was vacationing in Thailand, his father said.
The police official said Maraldi had reported his passport stolen in Malaysia last August and had obtained a new one. But U.S. law enforcement sources told CNN that both the Austrian and Italian passports were stolen in Thailand.
“No nexus to terrorism yet,” a U.S. intelligence official said, “although that’s by no means definitive. We’re still tracking.”
Rahman, Malaysia’s top civil aviation official, declined to answer questions Sunday about the stolen passports, and how people using them managed to get past security and on to the plane.
“This is part of the investigation,” Rahman said at a news conference.
The U.S. government has been briefed on the stolen passports and reviewed the names of the passengers in question but found nothing at this point to indicate foul play, said a U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Of the two passports in question, the Italian one had been reported stolen and was in Interpol’s database, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Tom Fuentes said, citing sources at Interpol.
Additionally, no inquiry was made by Malaysia Airlines to determine if any passengers on the flight were traveling on stolen passports, he said. Many airlines do not check the database, he said.
During the news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Rahman declined to say whether the airline or Malaysian authorities had checked the database.
Not ruling anything out
Malaysian authorities reiterated during a news conference that they are not ruling anything out regarding the missing aircraft.
The Boeing 777-200ER departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. Saturday in good weather, and it was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m., a 2,300-mile (3,700-kilometer) trip.
Air traffic controllers in Subang, outside Kuala Lumpur, lost contact with the plane about 1:30 a.m., Rahman said. Earlier, the airline said the jetliner lost contact at 2:40 a.m.
The pilots did not indicate to the tower there may be a problem, and no distress signal was issued, the airline said.
It may be days, possibly weeks or months, before authorities can offer any firm answers.
It took five days for authorities to locate the wreckage of Air France Flight 447 when it crashed June 1, 2009, in the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 on board.
It took four searches over the course of nearly two years to locate the bulk of Flight 447′s wreckage and the majority of the bodies in a mountain range deep under the ocean.
If Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went down in the Gulf of Thailand, the recovery may be a bit easier because it is a relatively shallow area of the South China Sea, according to marine officials.
China, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia were conducting search and rescue operations south of Tho Chu island in the South China Sea, according to the airline and reports from Xinhua, China’s official news agency. Ships, helicopters and airplanes are being utilized.
The USS Pinckney, a destroyer conducting training in the South China Sea, is being routed to the southern Vietnamese coast to aid in the search, the U.S. Navy said. The United States is also sending a P-3C Orion surveillance plane from Japan to provide long-range search, radar and communications capabilities, the Navy said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Coast Guard has ordered on-duty vessels to aid in the search, Xinhua reported, citing government officials. China also sent a diving and salvage team to the area where the airplane is suspected to have gone down, the news agency reported.
Because of the Americans aboard the flight, the FBI has offered to send a team of agents to Malaysia to support the investigation into the disappearance if asked, a U.S. official familiar with the issue told CNN on condition of anonymity. Earlier, an official had said FBI agents were heading to the area.
The FBI is not ruling out terrorism or any other issue as a possible cause in the jetliner’s disappearance, the official said.
Officials appeared resigned to accepting the worst outcome.
“I’d just like to say our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said during a news conference.
Grief, especially in China
The plane carried 227 passengers, including five children under 5 years old, and 12 crew members, the airline said. At the time of its disappearance, the Malaysia Airlines plane was carrying about 7.5 hours of fuel, an airline official said.
Among the passengers there were 154 people from China or Taiwan; 38 Malaysians, and three U.S. citizens.
Relatives of the Chinese citizens on board gathered Saturday at a hotel complex in the Lido district of Beijing as a large crowd of reporters gathered outside.
“My son was only 40 years old,” one woman wailed as she was led inside. “My son, my son. What am I going to do?”
Family members were kept in a hotel conference room, where media outlets had no access. Most of the family members have so far refused to talk to reporters. The airline said the public can call 603 7884 1234 for further information.
In Malaysia, the families and loved ones of those aboard the flight were gathered at the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya, south of Kuala Lumpur, according to Bernama, the Malaysian national news agency.
Twenty of the passengers aboard the flight work with Freescale Semiconductor, a company based in Austin, Texas. The company said that 12 of the employees are from Malaysia and eight are from China.
The airline’s website said the flight was piloted by a veteran.
Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysian, has 18,365 total flying hours and joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981, the website said. The first officer is Fariq Ab Hamid, 27, a Malaysian with a total of 2,763 flying hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007.
Still an ‘urgent need’ to find plane
“The lack of communications suggests to me that something most unfortunate has happened,” said Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, in an interview with CNN International.
“But that, of course, does not mean that there are not many persons that need to be rescued and secured. There’s still a very urgent need to find that plane and to render aid,” she said.
Malaysia Airlines operates in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and on the route between Europe and Australasia.
It has 15 Boeing 777-200ER planes in its fleet, CNN’s Richard Quest reported. The missing airplane was delivered to Malaysia Airlines in 2002.
Part of the company is in the private sector, but the government owns most of it.
Malayan Airways Limited began flying in 1937 as an air service between Penang and Singapore. A decade later, it began flying commercially as the national airline.
In 1963, when Malaysia was formed, the airline was renamed Malaysian Airlines Limited.
Within 20 years, it had grown from a single aircraft operator into a company with 2,400 employees and a fleet operator.
If this aircraft has crashed with a total loss, it would the deadliest aviation incident since November 2001, when an American Airlines Airbus A300 crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens, shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport. Killed were 265 people, including five people on the ground.
- Contributed by Chelsea J. Carter and Jim Clancy, CNN
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Western hegemony & violence: ousting democratically-elected leaders in Ukraine and elsewhere!


Ukraine_chandramuzaffarCity on fire: Anti-government protesters clashing with police in the centre of Kiev in Ukraine. — AFP

The ousters of democratically-elected leaders have often been carried out directly or indirectly by champions of democracy themselves.

IF Ukraine is on the brink of a catastrophe, it is mainly because the present regime in Kiev and its supporters, backed by certain Wes­tern powers, violated a fundamental principle of democratic governance. They ousted a democratically-elected president through illegal means.

President Viktor Yanukovich, who had come to power through a free and fair election in 2010, should have been removed through the ballot box.

His opponents not only betrayed a democratic principle. They subverted a “Peace Deal” signed between them and Yanukovich on Feb 21 in which the latter had agreed to form a national unity government within 10 days that would include opposition representatives; reinstate the 2004 Constitution; relinquish control over Ukraine’s security services; and hold presidential and parliamentary elections by December.

According to the deal, endorsed by Germany, France and Poland, Yanu­kovich would remain president until the elections.

His co-signatories had no intention of honouring the agreement.

Without following procedures, the parliament – with the backing of the military – voted immediately to remove Yanukovich and impeach him. The parliamentary speaker was elected interim president and after a few days a new regime was in­­stalled.

One of the first acts of parliament was to proclaim that Ukrainian is the sole official language of the country, thus downgrading the Russian language, the mother tongue of one-fifth of the population.

Anti-Russian rhetoric which had become more strident than ever in the course of the protest against the Yanukovich government has reached a crescendo in the wake of the overthrow of the government.

The protest gives us an idea of some of the underlying issues that have brought Ukraine to the precipice.

There was undoubtedly a great deal of anger in the western part of the country, including Kiev, over the decision of the Russian-backed Yanu­kovich to reject closer economic ties with the European Union (EU) in favour of financial assistance from Moscow.

It explains to some extent the massive demonstrations of the last few months. Police brutality, corruption within the government and cronyism associated with Yanu­kovich had further incensed the people.

But these legitimate concerns tell only one side of the story. The protest movement had also brought to the fore neo-Nazis and fascists sworn to violence. Armed and organised groups such as the Svoboda and the Right Sector provide muscle power to the protest.

They are known to have targeted Jewish synagogues and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches.

It is the militias associated with these groups that are in control of street politics in Kiev.

Elites in Germany, France, Britain, the United States and within the Nato establishment as a whole are very much aware of the role of neo-Nazi and fascist elements in the protest and in the current Kiev regime.

Indeed, certain American and European leaders had instigated the demonstrators and were directly involved in the machinations to bring down Yanukovich.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland had in her infamous telephone conversation with the US Ambassador to Ukraine admitted that her country had spent US$5bil (approximately RM16bil) promoting anti-Russian groups in Ukraine.

For the United States and the Euro­pean Union, control over Ukraine serves at least two goals.

It expands their military reach through Nato right up to the doorstep of Russia, challenging the latter’s time-honoured relationship with its strategic neighbour. It brings Ukraine within the EU’s economic sphere.

Even as it is, almost half of Ukraine’s US$35bil (RM115bil) debt is owed to Western banks, which would want the country to adopt austerity measures to remunerate them.

It is largely because of these geopolitical and geo-economic challenges that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin is flexing his military muscles in Crimea, in the eastern Ukraine region, which not only has a preponderantly Russian-speaking population but is also home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Besides, Ukraine is the cradle of Russian civilisation.

This is why Putin will go all out to protect Russian interests in Ukraine, but at the same time, there is every reason to believe that he will avoid a military confrontation and try to work out a political solution based upon the Peace Deal.

The catastrophe in Ukraine reveals five dimensions in the politics of the ouster of democratically-elected governments:

  •  The determined drive to overthrow the government by dissidents and opponents, which is often un­­compromising;
  •  The exploitation of genuine people-related issues and grievances;
  •  The mobilisation of a significant segment of the populace behind these mass concerns;
  •  The resort to violence through militant groups often with a pronounced right-wing orientation; and
  •  The forging of strong linkages between domestic anti-government forces and Western governments and other Western actors, including banks and non-governmental organisations, whose collective aim is to perpetuate Western control and dominance or Western hegemony.

Some of these dimensions are also present in Venezuela where there is another concerted attempt to oust a democratically-elected government.

Some genuine economic grievances related to the rising cost of living and unemployment are being manipulated and distorted to give the erroneous impression that the Maduro government does not care for the people.

President Nicolas Maduro, it is alleged, is suppressing dissent with brutal force.

The truth is that a lot of the violence is emanating from groups linked to disgruntled elites who are opposed to the egalitarian policies pursued by Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

They are disseminating fake pictures through social media as part of their false propaganda about the Venezuelan government’s violence against the people – pictures which have now been exposed for what they are by media analysts.

Support for this propaganda and for the street protests in Venezuela comes from US foundations such as the National Endowment for Demo­cracy (NED). It has been estimated that in 2012 alone, the NED gave more than US$1.3mil (RM4mil) to organisations and projects in Vene­zuela ostensibly to promote “human rights,” “democratic ideas” and “accountability.”

The majority of Venezuelans have no doubt at all that this funding is to undermine a government which is not only determined to defend the nation’s independence in the face of Washington’s dominance but is also pioneering a movement to strengthen regional cooperation in Latin Ame­rica and the Caribbean as a bulwark against the US’ hegemonic agenda.

It is because other countries in the region such as Bolivia, Brazil, Argen­tina, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Paraguay know what the US elite is trying to do in Venezuela that they have described “the recent violent acts” in the country “ as attempts to destabilise the democratic order.”

A third country where a democratically-elected leader is under tremendous pressure from street demonstrators at this juncture is Thailand.

Though some of the issues articulated by the demonstrators are legitimate, the fact remains that they do not represent majority sentiment which is still in favour of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled brother, former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

As in Ukraine and Venezuela, violence – albeit on a much lower scale – has seeped into the struggle for power between the incumbent and the protesters. However, foreign involvement is not that obvious to most of us.

Both Yingluck and the protest movement are regarded as pro-Western. Nonetheless, there are groups in Washington and London who perceive the current government in Bangkok as more inclined towards China compared to the opposition Democratic Party or the protesters.

Is this one of the reasons why a section of the mainstream Western media appears to be supportive of the demonstrations?

There are a number of other instances of democratically-elected leaders being overthrown by illegal means.

The most recent – in July 2013 – was the unjust ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt. In 1973, President Salvador Al­­lende of Chile was killed in a coup engineered by the CIA.

Another democratically-elec­ted leader who was manoeuvred out of office and jailed as a result of a Bri­­tish-US plot was Mohammed Mosad­degh of Iran in 1953.

It is only too apparent that in most cases the ouster of democratically-elected leaders have been carried out directly or indirectly by the self-proclaimed champions of democracy themselves! It reveals how hypocritical they are.

What really matters to the elites in the United States, Britain and other Western countries is not de­­mocracy but the perpetuation of their hegemonic power. Hegemony, not democracy, has always been their object of worship.

By Chandra Muzaffar – The Star/Asia News Network
> Dr Chandra Muzaffar is president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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