Click here for related story [CNN-Peter Bergen]
CNN is weighing in on the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 now to discourage speculation on the cause of the disappearance.
Hijacking has now arisen as a possibility;
Also speculated, and possibly connected to the hijacking theory, is the use of BZ gas, which would incapacitate the crew and passengers -- allowing hijackers to seize control of the plane, and which might account for the reported course deviation, as well as the co-pilot's mumbled call on an emergency frequency.
1) The question then arises as to where a hijacked airliner might land
2) As of 11 March, there are reports that the cell phones of passengers and crew are still ringing -- improbable if the passengers' phones were at the bottom of the ocean.
Alternately, the release of BZ [or a similar agent] could cause the pilot to lose consciousness, plunging the plane nose first into the water -- leaving virtually no debris.
1) It would still be detectible by the P3 Orion's electronic detection systems; and,
2) The Black Box would still transmit signals via its ULB [Underwater Locator Beacon] - which can transmit from a depth of 14,000 feet, at temperatures as low as -55° C.
Granted, we have no real facts to work from at this point, but, the Internet is fertile ground for educated folks with considerable expertise to weigh in with their opinion and theories -- based on what meager reporting is available. But, we'll examine some of his ridicule of theories surrounding similar events to demonstrate that sometimes, these theorists have traction.
Bergen, a pseudo-Brit, who is CNN's National Security Analyst -- apparently based on his education at Oxford U, his British accent, and his membership in a variety of Liberal think tanks, is notable for his announcement following bin Laden's death:
"Killing bin Laden is the end of the War on Terror. We can just sort of announce that right now."
[Quite articulate, isn't he? but not much hands on experience. And, we're glad he's dismissed the War on Terror; we can all rest more easily now.]
Bergen's Opinion piece attempts to debunk conspiracy theories on downed passenger planes with typical rolled eyes and ridicule, leaning to innuendo rather than fact to support his jibes. That, theoretically, suffices to denigrate those who would opine their theories differing from official accounts - or his.
He cites these examples, and dismisses eye-witness or expert accounts as lacking credibility.
TWA 800: Inexplicably crashed/exploded on take-off [17 July 1996]
The official government report advised that a short circuit had ignited a fuel tank, causing the explosion which destroyed the plane.
1) Accuracy in Media, citing aviation experts, reported that it was virtually impossible for a fuel tank to explode in the manner described by the government report unless the jet fuel consisted of hydrogen and propane gas -- which was not the case.
2) A number of eye-witnesses [more than the one he derisively mentions] talked about a trail of fire going UP to the plane; they speculated it was a missile.
-- Bergen claims the witness[es] were unreliable.
|Submarine launching SAM|
submarine in Long Island Sound.
a) Salinger was Press Secretary to JFK and LBJ, a former WW2 Naval Officer, a news correspondent, Vice President of Continental Airlines, and an investigator of the bombing of PanAm 10, so, he did have quite a bit of credibility. Nonetheless, Salinger was attacked from all quarters in a successful attempt to discredit him -- and his theory.
b) Immediately after Salinger's allegations, President Clinton announced that Navy personnel
were not protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act, blocking any insider revelations/leaks.
[nonetheless, more than one sailor came forward privately to talk to journalists].
c) Bergen cites former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board statement:
"He was an idiot... He didn't know what he was talking about".
4) Now, having been an analyst of Military and terrorist matters at the Pentagon and the State Department, we had occasion to review such issues in incidents throughout the world.
a) Commercial airlines frequently advised they were being electronically painted by ground
anti-aircraft[AA] positions; on further investigation, we learned that such "Notional Targeting"
was routine --by both friends and foes, and the targeting was merely to keep their skills intact.
(1) So, it was up to the analysts in the Intelligence Community to prevent over-reaction by
(2) We engaged in such a crisis when Libyan AA shooters targeted a US surveillance aircraft
in the Mediterranean, and we engaged in a Community call to call off a Navy response.
(3) Unfortunately, in a later incident, the Navy used that same Notional Targeting as the excuse
for an unprovoked attack on Libya.
b) Our assessment on the downing of TWA 800 was that, in fact, it was a missile which was
fired from the US submarine submerged in the Long Island Sound.
(1) We concluded that an eager targeteer was conducting a routine Notional Targeting exercise,
but failed to notice the launch systems were active, thus launching a Surface to Air Missile
[SAM] and blowing up a commercial airliner.
(2) Of course, this would be an action for which the Navy was unwilling to accept
responsibility, or even acknowledge the possibility that it could happen. Thus, the
ad hominem attacks on Salinger -- whose experience included covering up such SNAFUs
while he was White House Press Secretary.
[Salinger's credibility was significantly greater than Mr Bergen]
EgyptAir Flight 990: Inexplicably crashed into the ocean shortly after take-off [31 October 1999]
We're not sure why Bergen included this in the "conspiracy theory" realm.
It was pretty cut and dried as the NTSB released the cockpit recordings of the Egyptian pilot reciting Islamic prayers as he plunged the plane into the Atlantic. There was, however, no official follow-up news to determine his motive. The Egyptian government advised its opinion that the crash was caused by a mechanical failure.
PanAm Flight 103: Blew up in flight over Lockerbie, Scotland [21 December 1988].
|PanAm 103 wreckage|
The official [FBI] published report placed the origin of the bomb on Flight 103 as a rigged radio concealed in the baggage compartment.
a) PanAm hired, Juval Aviv, a former Mossad counter-terrorist operative, is President of Interfor, a corporate investigations firm in New York City to investigate; he is frequently used as a source by the New York Times, Fox News, and ABC News -- but, oddly,
not by CNN [Bergen's employer].
(1) Aviv claimed it was a CIA operation gone awry, in which they engaged the services of a
Syrian heroin smuggler to coordinate with his Hezbollah contacts to arrange the release of
"Western hostages"; in the CIA would facilitate the Syrian's drug operation.
(2) Aviv claimed Turkish extremists, working in Frankfurt Airport as baggage handlers,
swapped out a suitcase packed with heroin and replaced it with a bomb.
(3) Bergen referred to Aviv's report as a "Fairy Tale" but had no basis for that categorization.
b) Notable US government intelligence officials on board:
(1) Matt Gannon, CIA Deputy Station Chief in Beirut
(2) Army Major Chuck McKee, Military Attache in Beirut
(3) Ronald Lariviere, US Embassy Security Officer in Beirut
(4) Daniel O'Connor, US Embassy Security Officer in Nicosia
(5) Unidentified US government officer.
c) FAA had issued a safety bulletin 15 days before the bombing warning that a Pan Am
flight from Frankfurt to New York would be blown up by an Abu Nidal operative
-- reportedly a Finnish woman married to an Arab living with an Arab in Helsinki.
d) The Guardians of the Islamic Revolution claimed credit for the bombing as retaliation for
the US Navy shoot-down of Iran Air Flight 65 in the Persian Gulf six months earlier.
Mr Bergen cites several other commercial crashes which received considerable attention by "conspiracy theorists" all of which he dismisses apparently based on his expertise in speaking with a British accent. However, researching these other crashes, we've determined that the "conspiracy theories" held up much better under scrutiny than the official US Government reports.
We suggest Mr Bergen return to Oxford where he can practice his British accent.