The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrived in southeast Asia as the case of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight turned into a criminal probe.
“Our Navy is in the Indian Ocean trying to find this aircraft. It could it have come a little bit sooner, I think. But the fact is, it became a criminal investigation really officially just the last couple days. And so that’s what we’re very focused on,” Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) told CNN this morning.
“One thing is clear… this is — was an intentional and deliberate act. It was not an accident on an airplane. You had a transponder that was turned off. You had a flight pattern that was abruptly changed at the last minute. And there are a lot of flags and concerns out there about this. Many unanswered questions…. We still really don’t know what happened.”
McCaul also said there are still “a couple of unanswered questions about these Iranians who got on the plane with stolen passports.”
“I think one of two things happened here, if we’re talking about possibilities. And one is that it got turned back for whatever reason we don’t know, but it ran out of fuel and it landed in the Indian Ocean, where they’re searching today. The other possible theory, but more unlikely, is that it landed somewhere to hook up with potential terrorists to use it as a weapon, as a cruise missile in a future terrorist attack,” he said.
The chairman said U.S. authorities, who haven’t ruled out terrorism, want access to the laptops and flight simulator seized from the pilot and co-pilot’s homes.
“And I think there’s a level of frustration. When you’re dealing with a sovereign nation, you have to be respectful and it’s not terribly sophisticated. We want to push harder to get our federal law enforcement in there and homeland security officials to move forward on this so we can get answers to these questions that remain looming,” McCaul continued.
He conceded that officials are still keeping details close to the vest, including whether the U.S. base on Diego Garcia could detect whether the plane neared, because “we don’t want to give a playbook to the terrorists.”
Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein told a press conference today that the plane had not landed on Diego Garcia as rumored.
McCaul said some U.S. carriers have optional GPS tracking, but “Malaysian Air didn’t want to pay that service.”
“And the fact is, look, on the northern boundary as well, this is a very important point, there are so many satellite radar detection systems as you go towards Kazakhstan, as you go towards Afghanistan with Bagram Air Force Base there and Pakistan that I feel very confident that had this flight been northbound, it certainly would have been picked up on radar.”