U.S. Official Suggests Missing Jetliner May Have Been "Act of Piracy"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 14 2014 3:36 PM

The Latest Working Theory: Missing Jetliner Was "Act of Piracy"

478558715-pilots-on-board-a-vietnamese-air-force-russian-made-an
Pilots on board a Vietnamese Air Force Russian-made AN-27 aircraft search Vietnam's southern sea for missing Malaysia Airlines' flight MH370 on March 14, 2014

Photo by Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images

As the search for MH370 inched toward its second week on Friday (our time), U.S. officials appeared increasingly convinced that the missing 777 was a deliberate act of someone on board with aviation skills—and that the jetliner's disappearance may have been, in the words of one unnamed U.S. official who spoke to the Associated Press, "an act of piracy":

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and spoke only if not identified. While other theories are still being examined, the official says key evidence for "human intervention" in the plane's disappearance is that contact with its transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system quit. This official says that it's also possible the plane may have landed somewhere.
Advertisement

The AP report comes on the heels of this morning's scoop by Reuters, which reported that new evidence suggests that the flight was deliberately taken off course by whoever was at the controls: "What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards," that source, a senior Malaysian police official, told the news agency. A U.S. official who spoke to the Washington Post this afternoon offered a similar assessment. "The facts are all over the place," the official said. "It’s looking less and less like an accident. It’s looking more like a criminal event." (Given the joys of anonymous sourcing we can't say whether or not it was the same U.S. official who spoke with both the AP and the Post.)

Malaysian authorities—nor their American counterparts to be fair—have said no such thing on the record, but that is doing little to quell the speculation, particularly given officials who have been briefing the media on the ground seem to either be keeping much of the information they do have under wraps or are otherwise a step behind what is going on behind the scenes. They initially denied Wall Street Journal report yesterday that suggested that the plane continued to transmit data for roughly four hours after it vanished from civilian radar—the report that first suggested the plane possibly traveled as many as 2,200 nautical miles without being noticed—before later admitting that the search was expanding to include the Indian Ocean.

At a press conference earlier today (before the AP and WaPo reports but after the one from Reuters), Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that his team is currently pursuing all possible leads but can't yet say for certain that the radar data that has suggested the plane went off-course and flew westward across the Malaysian peninsula and toward the Indian Ocean is accurate. "I will be the most happiest person if we can actually confirm that it is the MH370, then we can move all (search) assets from the South China Sea to the Strait of Malacca," he told reporters.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.