Did Malaysian Airlines missing plane pilot commit SUICIDE? CIA looking into theory

By Sofia Munez 0

  • CIA head John Brennan: 'No theory can be discounted' in hunt for clues
  • It came after he was asked if it was possible the pilot deliberately crashed
  • Brennan also said 'terrorism has not yet been ruled out of investigation'
  • Malaysian police say one of the two men on stolen passports was Iranian
  • Was asylum seeker, 19, 'not terrorist', and his mother was waiting for him
  • Smartphones of missing aboard flight MH370 'are still ringing', families say
  • 19 families of missing claim to be connected - airline have also called crew
  • Growing frustration for relatives with no information on their missing
  • Angry relatives threw water bottles at officials unable to offer any answers

By James Nye and Amanda Williams and Richard Shears

PUBLISHED: 04:20 GMT, 11 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:36 GMT, 12 March 2014

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Authorities are investigating the possibility that the pilot of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 committed suicide, the director of the CIA has revealed. 

John Brennan, head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said: 'I think you cannot discount any theory', when asked if it was possible the pilot deliberately crashed the Boeing 777.

His intervention came as Malaysian police say they are carrying out psychological profiles of everyone on board the plane, which vanished on Saturday carrying 239 people after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.  

The theory could offer an explanation as to how the plane 'disappeared' from civilian radar tracking its movements, as the pilot could simply have switched off the transponder shortly before it vanished.

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Authorities are investigating the possibility that the pilot of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 committed suicide, John Brennan the director of the CIA has revealed

Authorities are investigating the possibility that the pilot of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 committed suicide, John Brennan the director of the CIA has revealed

Head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said: 'I think you cannot discount any theory', when asked if it was possible the pilot deliberately crashed the Boeing 777

Head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said: 'I think you cannot discount any theory', when asked if it was possible the pilot deliberately crashed the Boeing 777

Jonti Roos (centre) claims she and her friend were entertained by Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, who is one of the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight (right)

Jonti Roos (centre) claims she and her friend were entertained by Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, who is one of the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight (right)

The two men who travelled on the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on stolen passports. The younger man (left) was identified as Pouiria Nur Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, said by police in Malaysia to be an Iranian asylum seeker on his way to Germany to meet his mother. The older man (right) remains unknown.

The two men who travelled on the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on stolen passports. The younger man (left) was identified as Pouiria Nur Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, said by police in Malaysia to be an Iranian asylum seeker on his way to Germany to meet his mother. The older man (right) remains unknown.

Media interest: Relatives of Chinese passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were still clutching to faint straws of hope for their loved ones on March 11, four days after the aircraft went missing

Media interest: Relatives of Chinese passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were still clutching to faint straws of hope for their loved ones on March 11, four days after the aircraft went missing

Agonizing wait: Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China Tuesday, on March 11, 2014.

Agonizing wait: Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China Tuesday, on March 11, 2014.

Emotional: A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries in the waiting lounge in Lido Hotel in Beijing

Emotional: A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries in the waiting lounge in Lido Hotel in Beijing

Brennan also said that terrorism could not be ruled out in the disappearance of the airliner.

'Could it just have been some kind of catastrophic event? I do not think people at this point should rule out any lines of inquiry.'

'I think there's a lot of speculation right now - some claims of responsibility that have not been, you know, confirmed or corroborated at all,' he said.

He added that there were a host of unanswered questions including why the plane's transponder stopped emitting signals and what was the role of passengers carrying stolen passports.

WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED?

A mid-air explosion: The lack of debris could be explained by it falling into Malaysian jungle

A terrorist attack: Director of CIA has said terrorism could not be ruled out

Power failure: Possibly caused by deliberate cutting of power to communication instruments

Electronic warfare: 20 passengers on board were experts in this technology.

Hijacking: Radar data indicates the plane might have made a U-turn.

A pilot error: There is a chance of them in all air mysteries, claim experts

Structural failure: Possibly involving damage sustained by an accident in 2012

Pilot suicide: There were two large jet crashes in the late 1990s caused by this

Aeronautical black hole: Plane is stranded hundreds of miles from current search area

'There are a number of very curious anomalies about all of this...You know, did it turn around? You know, were the individuals with these stolen passports in any way involved?'

He added: 'What about the transponder? Why did it sort of, you know, just disappear from the radar?'

The former counter-terrorism adviser to President Barack Obama said there had been 'some claims of responsibility' over the missing jet that had 'not been confirmed or corroborated'.

But when asked if he could rule out a terrorist link, Brennan said: 'No, I wouldn’t rule it out.'

He said there were many unanswered questions about the Malaysia Airlines flight.

He said: 'We are looking at it very carefully. Clearly this is still a mystery.'

He added: 'I think at this point we again have to be patient and wait for the authorities to investigate.

'There are many questions. Who had the ability to turn off the transponder? How can one such action be masked?

Brennan's comments came at a rare public speaking appearance at an event in Washington organised by the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank.

Earlier today relatives claimed they were able to call the cellphones of their missing loved ones

According to the Washington Post, family of some of the 239 people on board the vanished Boeing 777 said that they were getting ring tones and could see them active online through a Chinese social networking service called QQ.

One man said that the QQ account of his brother-in-law showed him as online, but frustratingly for those waiting desperately for any news, messages sent have gone unanswered and the calls have not been picked up.

This new eerie development comes as the Malaysian authorities said they had identified one of the men on two stolen European passports who were on the flight - and that he was not considered likely to be a terrorist. 

Separately, the search for any trace of the missing airliner has now shifted to the Straits of Malacca, at least 100 miles away from where it was last recorded by electronic monitoring devices.

The dramatic shift raises the possibility that it flew undetected, crossing mainland Malaysia, before ditching into the sea.

However the phantom phone calls and online presence set off a whole new level of hysteria for relatives who have spent the past three-days cooped-up in a Beijing hotel waiting for some concrete information on the missing plane.

Repeatedly telling Malaysian Airlines officials about the QQ accounts and ringing telephone calls, they hoped that modern technology could simply triangulate the GPS signal of the phones and locate their relatives. 

However, according to Singapore's Strait Times, a Malaysia Airlines official, Hugh Dunleavy has confirmed to families that his company had tried to call the cellphones of crew members and they too had also rang out.

He is reported to have told relatives that those phone numbers have been turned over to Chinese authorities.

One man who had asked police to come to his house and see the active QQ account on his computer was devastated to see that by Monday afternoon it had switched to inactive.

According to China.org.cn, 19 families of those missing have signed a joint statement confirming that their calls connected to their loved ones but that they rang out.

The relatives have asked for a full investigation and some complained that Malaysian Airlines is not telling the whole truth.

 
Family members of passengers onboard flight MH370 arrive in a car to the hotel they are staying at, in Putrajaya on March 11, 2014

Family members of passengers onboard flight MH370 arrive in a car to the hotel they are staying at, in Putrajaya on March 11, 2014

Family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Beijing arrive at Cyberview Lodge Hotel as they await news on their missing loved ones

Family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Beijing arrive at Cyberview Lodge Hotel as they await news on their missing loved ones

No answers yet: Family members from Beijing, China, of a missing Malaysian Airlines flight arrive at a hotel in Cyberjaya, near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia on Tuesday morning

No answers yet: Family members from Beijing, China, of a missing Malaysian Airlines flight arrive at a hotel in Cyberjaya, near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia on Tuesday morning

Hopeful family members from Beijing, China, of a missing Malaysian Airlines flight arrive at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Tuesday morning as they wait for any news

Hopeful family members from Beijing, China, of a missing Malaysian Airlines flight arrive at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Tuesday morning as they wait for any news

A board displaying messages for the passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is seen at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 11, 2014

A board displaying messages for the passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is seen at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 11, 2014

The International Business Times reported that the sister of one of the Chinese passengers also rang his phone on live television.

'This morning, around 11:40, I called my older brother's number twice, and I got the ringing tone,' said Bian Liangwei, sister of one of the passengers according to IBT.

At 2pm, Bian called again and heard it ringing once more.

'If I could get through, the police could locate the position, and there's a chance he could still be alive.'

However, at a press conference in Beijing, Malaysian Airlines spokesman Ignatius Ong said one of the numbers that had been passed on to the airline's head office in Kuala Lumpur failed to get through.

'I myself have called the number five times while the airline's command center also called the number. We got no answering tone,' said Ong.

Indeed, authorities Authorities hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded their search on land and sea Tuesday, reflecting the difficulties in locating traces of the plane more than three days after it vanished.

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement the western coast of the country, near the Straits of Malacca, was 'now the focus' of the hunt. That is on the other side of peninsular Malaysia from where flight 370 was reported missing.

WHY ARE THE PASSENGERS' PHONES STILL RINGING?

After three days, wouldn’t the phone batteries be dead by now? 

Not necessarily. Smartphones are renowned for their poor battery life and will typically last up to around 24 hours. But the batteries of older phones can last considerably longer. 

For example, the Nokia 100 boasts a standby battery life of a staggering 35 days. Smartphone batteries can also last longer if the handset isn’t being used, and especially if the phone is in Flight Mode. 

However, if the phone is in Flight Mode, it switches off all wireless activity meaning calls wouldn’t be able to connect, effectively ruling out this theory.  

If the phone batteries are dead, wouldn’t the call go straight to voicemail?

In a word, yes. However, the process of sending the call to voicemail can differ depending on the service provider. 

For example, the majority of phones will go straight to voicemail, or callers will get an out of service message if voicemail hasn’t been set up. 

This will occur even if the phone is underwater, or not near a cell signal. 

However, some service providers will ring once or twice before the phone goes to voicemail, or cut off. This may explain the reports that claimed phones rang before seeming to hang up.

Some reports claim the phones are just ringing and ringing though. How is this possible?

Telecoms expert Alan Spencer told MailOnline that if the phones are really ringing, they can categorically not be under the sea. 

He added that the phones will only be ringing if they are ‘switched on, not in water, the battery is charged, and [they are] near a mobile cell site.’

This means that if the phones are genuinely ringing, the plane needs to have landed on land – not in the sea – and be in a location where there is cell service, rather than landing in the middle of a jungle, for example.

Why can’t network operators locate the phones?

A number of family members have asked the network operators why they can’t use the phone’s signal to locate the missing people. 

Professor William Webb, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, told MailOnline: ‘The phones definitely won't be working. They'll be underwater, out of coverage and by this time out of battery. 

‘So there's absolutely no way they could be used for triangulation. 

‘As to why they are ‘ringing’ it'll be the same as if they were out of coverage - in some cases it may ring before going to voicemail.’

What about the T3212 timer I’ve read about? 

The T3212 is a timer that causes a phone to periodically send a message to the network saying where it is. 

But Professor Webb said this only works when the phone is turned on and it is in coverage. It won't work when the battery is dead.


What about reports that passengers are appearing online, on the QQ social network?

When people sign into social networks including QQ, as well as Facebook, they appear online. 

This is the case whether they’ve signed in on a phone, tablet, PC, and laptop.

if missing passengers are shown as online, they may not be using the service on their phone. Instead they may still be logged in on another device. 

If this other device shuts down or goes into standby, however, or there is a long period of inactivity, the social network will log them out, which may explain why some accounts went from online to offline over a period of three days.

Shift of focus: Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (R), director general of the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia, speaks during a press conference on March 10, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Shift of focus: Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (R), director general of the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia, speaks during a press conference on March 10, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Vietnamese officers discuss their plan during a meeting before a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Phu Quoc Airport on Phu Quoc Island March 11, 2014

Vietnamese officers discuss their plan during a meeting before a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Phu Quoc Airport on Phu Quoc Island March 11, 2014

Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the statement didn't imply authorities believed the plane was off the western coast. 'The search is on both sides,' he said.

The Boeing 777 had 239 people on board when it vanished off radar screens early Saturday morning en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, triggering a massive international search effort.

Authorities began their hunt at the point the plane was last known to be, a spot in the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam. With no debris found, they have systematically expanded their search to include areas where the plane could have in theory ended up given the amount of fuel it had on board.

They have also said that the plane might have tried to turn back to Kuala Lumpur. On Sunday, Malaysia's air force chief said there were indications on military radar that the jet may have done a U-turn.

Vietnamese planes and ships are a major component of the international search and rescue effort.

Search: A U.S. Navy SH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off from the destroyer USS Pinckney in the Gulf of Thailand, to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on Monday

Search: A U.S. Navy SH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off from the destroyer USS Pinckney in the Gulf of Thailand, to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on Monday

Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People's Army, said authorities on land had also been ordered to search for the plane, which could have crashed into mountains or uninhabited jungle.

He said that military units near the border with Laos and Cambodia had been instructed to search their regions also.

'So far we have found no signs (of the plane) ... so we must widen our search on land,' he said.

Experts say possible causes of the apparent crash include an explosion, catastrophic engine failure, extreme turbulence, pilot error or even suicide.

This deepening of the already baffling mystery into the disappearance of flight MH370 comes as it was claimed that the two passengers traveling on stolen passports on the plane were Iranian nationals.

A friend of one of the two men told BBC Persia that he played host to the pair in Kuala Lumpur after their arrival from Tehran before they took off on the fateful journey.

This photo provided by Laurent Errera taken Dec. 26, 2011, shows the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared from air traffic control screens Saturday, taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France

This photo provided by Laurent Errera taken Dec. 26, 2011, shows the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared from air traffic control screens Saturday, taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France

The source told the BBC service that the pair had bought the fake passports because they wanted to go and live in Europe.

The two men were using the passports of Christian Kozel - a 30-year-old Austrian and Luigi Maraldi, a 37-year-old Italian.

The friend, who knew one of the men from school said that both purchased the illegal and fake passports in Malaysia and one-way tickets to Amsterdam.

BBC Persia's UN correspondent Bahman Kalbasi told the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper that the two men were not sinister and were only 'looking for a place to settle.'

Investigators in Malaysia are voicing skepticism that the airliner that disappeared early Saturday with 239 people on board was the target of an attack, U.S. and European government sources close to the probe said.

How the search is widening - but has still to find a thing: Strait of Malacca is now main focus of air and sea search but China is deploying ships, planes and helicopters to the South China Sea to try to find any trace of the Boeing 777. Its authorities say more needs to be done to find what happened to the plane.

How the search is widening - but has still to find a thing: Strait of Malacca is now main focus of air and sea search but China is deploying ships, planes and helicopters to the South China Sea to try to find any trace of the Boeing 777. Its authorities say more needs to be done to find what happened to the plane.

The fate of the Malaysian airliner that vanished about an hour into a flight to Beijing remained a mystery, as a massive air and sea search, now in its fourth day, failed to turn up any trace of the Boeing 777 plane.

Neither Malaysia's Special Branch, the agency leading the investigation locally, nor spy agencies in the United States and Europe have ruled out the possibility that militants may have been involved in downing Malaysia Airlines Flight.

But Malaysian authorities have indicated that the evidence so far does not strongly back an attack as a cause for the aircraft's disappearance, and that mechanical or pilot problems could have led to the apparent crash, the U.S. sources said.

'There is no evidence to suggest an act of terror,' said a European security source, who added that there was also 'no explanation what's happened to it or where it is.'

Chinese and international journalists wait at the check-in area for Malaysian Airlines at Capital Airport in Beijing, China on Monday

Chinese and international journalists wait at the check-in area for Malaysian Airlines at Capital Airport in Beijing, China on Monday

Meanwhile, dozens of ships and aircraft from 10 countries were still scouring the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam as questions mounted over possible security lapses that could have led to a downing of the Boeing 777-200ER after it climbed to an altitude of 35,000 feet.

Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had used false identity documents.

Even so, one U.S. source said Malaysian authorities were leaning away from the theory that the plane was attacked.

Their view was mostly based on electronic evidence that indicates the flight may have turned back toward the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur before disappearing.

Even that information has not been clearly confirmed, and investigators and intelligence sources say the fate of the Flight MH370 is still shrouded in mystery.

Chinese students stand by candles while praying for the passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777-200 plane of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at a school in Zhuji city, east Chinas Zhejiang province

Chinese students stand by candles while praying for the passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777-200 plane of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at a school in Zhuji city, east Chinas Zhejiang province

One reason was that the aircraft had failed to make automatic contact with a flight data-monitoring system after vanishing from radar screens, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Such contact could have helped investigators determine what happened.

Also raising doubts about the possibility of an attack, the United States extensively reviewed imagery taken by spy satellites for evidence of a mid-air explosion, but saw none, a US government source said. The source described U.S. satellite coverage of the region as thorough.

With no success so far, authorities were planning to widen the search from Tuesday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Authority, told reporters on Monday.

'Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,' he said.

'As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft. We have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible.'

Azharuddin said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories.

Frustrated relatives of Chinese passengers threw water bottles at airline officials during briefing

Angry relatives threw water bottles at Malaysia Airlines officials after they were unable to offer any more information on the disappearance of flight MH370.

Four members of staff of the airline faced relatives of Chinese passengers on board the flight during a briefing yesterday afternoon.

According to The New York Times, one of the relatives shouted 'All Malaysians are liars', before adding 'do you know what "liars" means?'

Hugh Dunleavy (second right) and Ignatius Ong (second left) from Malaysia Airline attend a conference with Chinese relatives of the passengers onboard flight MH370 at the Lido Hotel

Hugh Dunleavy (second right) and Ignatius Ong (second left) from Malaysia Airline attend a conference with Chinese relatives of the passengers onboard flight MH370 at the Lido Hotel

Nearly 100 people crammed themselves into the room for the 20-minute briefing, which journalists were officially barred from, the paper reported.

Meanwhile, more than 100 of the relatives, who have been holed up in a Beijing hotel anxiously awaiting news of their family members, have signed a petition demanding answers and government assistance, The Washington Post has reported.

The airline sent professionals to counsel and support the families over the weekend.

Over the last three days the search mission has grown to include nine aircraft and 24 ships from nine countries, which have been scouring the Gulf of Thailand on the eastern side of Malaysia.

Apart from the sea, land areas are also being searched.

Chinese relatives of the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 gather inside the waiting area at Lido Hotel

Chinese relatives of the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 gather inside the waiting area at Lido Hotel

A relative (centre) of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaking to journalists in the Lido Hotel in Beijing

A relative (centre) of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaking to journalists in the Lido Hotel in Beijing

China, where two-thirds of the passengers were from, has urged Malaysian authorities to 'speed up the efforts' while also contributing ships and helicopters to the search.

The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, on the western coast of Malaysia, early Saturday en route to Beijing. It flew overland across Malaysia and crossed the eastern coast into the Gulf of Thailand at 35,000 feet (11,000 meters).

There it disappeared from radar screens. The airline says the pilots did not send any distress signals, suggesting a sudden and possibly catastrophic incident.

A relative of a Chinese passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 answers questions from the media at the Lido Hotel

A relative of a Chinese passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 answers questions from the media at the Lido Hotel

In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said search and rescue teams 'have expanded the scope beyond the flight path to the West Peninsula of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca'.

An earlier statement had said the western coast of Malaysia was 'now the focus', but the airline subsequently said that phrase was an oversight.

'The search is on both sides,' Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said, adding that the previous statement didn't mean that the plane was more likely to be off the western coast.

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