One intelligence community source told me the other day that he believed it was possible that Malaysian flight 370 would be found, intact because the plane had not crashed but had been hijacked for unknown reasons.
He may have been right. From MarketWatch:
U.S. counterterrorism officials are pursuing the possibility that a pilot or someone else on board the plane may have diverted it toward an undisclosed location after intentionally turning off the jetliner’s transponders to avoid radar detection, according to one person tracking the probe.
But the huge uncertainty about where the plane was headed, and why it continued flying so long without working transponders, has raised theories among investigators that the aircraft may have been commandeered for a reason that appears unclear to U.S. authorities. Some of those theories have been laid out to national security officials and senior personnel from various U.S. agencies, according to one person familiar with the matter.
But here’s where it gets really interesting…and scary:
At one briefing, according to this person, officials were told investigators are actively pursuing the notion that the plane was diverted “with the intention of using it later for another purpose.”
Another purpose? Perhaps as a giant, human-guided, suicide missile?
At the time of my conversation with my intel source I advised him to keep it to himself and we both laughed, nervously.
I’m more nervous now.
After this story came out, Malaysian officials of disputed the fact that the plane continue transmitting data, and the story was corrected as to the exact nature of the data. Still they insist the data was still available. American officials still believe that it's possible that the plane could've disappeared to be used for other purposes. They are still pursuing all angles, and have not ruled out the plane was diverted.
In part that's because two of data transmitters were turned off at separate times, which would indicate that there wasn't some sort of critical malfunction or catastrophic break up in midair. And if the plane continued to fly for 4 to 5 hours, it might've made 2500 to 3000 miles. Frankly it could be anywhere from the Australian desert to somewhere in Pakistan, although practically speaking that might've been difficult.
Interestingly, I spoke with one political official late last night who told me that his sources in the defense community are being unusually tight lipped about the plane.
He called them "a stonewall."
Again, this is all just informed speculation on my part.
But given the finger-pointing that's going on between Malaysia, China and the United States there seems to be more than mild disagreement about what this could possibly mean.
That could mean something sinister is afoot. Or it could just be a case of plain old bureaucratic incompetence.
I would like to say that the bureaucratic incompetence case would be somewhat reassuring. But one thing that we've learned from 9/11 through the Boston bombing is that even in something sinister, bureaucratic incompetence is usually at play.