A Criminologist Questions: Was Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Hacked?

On March 11 and March 13, yours truly published (here and here respectively) criminological reasons for believing that the most reasonable view to hold was that Malaysian Airlines flight 370 was hijacked/stolen.

Establishment media figures such as CNN “national security analyst” Peter Bergen dismissed such ruminations as idle conspiracy theorization, stating:

Nothing gets conspiracy theorists going more than a passenger plane crashing under mysterious circumstances.

In the absence of hard information to explain such disasters, people look for answers, and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 early Saturday could prompt the same response.

Please notice Bergen’s crass, conclusory assumption, for which there was zero “hard information” at the time, that 370 had crashed.

So what are skeptics like Bergen saying now?

On March 14, Peter Bergen and Judd Smith asked in a headline “Did someone takeover Flight 370?” and stated that there is an “emerging consensus” that “human intervention” was involved. An unnamed Malaysian official now states off the record, “It is conclusive” that it was a hijacking.

I guess the Establishment Media/Government hybrid has now declared it politically permissible to entertain the thought that 370 may indeed have been stolen.

I guess we’re not in the realm of “conspiracy theory” just so long as the Establishment Media (Government) says we’re not.  See how that works? 

Just make sure that you don’t do any analysis on your own; just make sure you don’t apply any expertise you have to the problem--unless you first obtain approval from your rulers. 

Well guess what?  The Establishment Media is still -- universally, to the best of my ability to discern -- making an enormous and utterly undefended assumption. 

Their new, undefended presupposition is just as unwarranted as their initial, pompous, ruling assumption that 370 had crashed, period.

What is the new assumption you ask?

It is that the hijacking - -in the sense of redirection and subsequent travel of the aircraft -- was executed by human beings.

You read that correctly.

Please note that I say “executed”, and not that there was no human involvement at any stage.

That there was no human involvement whatsoever would obviously be a preposterous thing to hold.  However, it is far from preposterous to hold that a hijacked Flight 370 was flown by autopilot in conjunction with GPS technology, whether it ended up crashing in the Indian Ocean or not (for the record, I believe the weight of the evidence supports the proposition that 370 landed intact somewhere).

Would you like some evidence in that regard?  Since you’re in all likelihood not someone who believes whatever CBS/Obama tell/s you to believe, you probably would.

Have a look at this 2006 -- that’s right, 2006 -- language in an article from the Seattle Times:

Guided entirely by autopilot, an Air China Boeing 757 jet last month snaked along a narrow river valley between towering Himalayan peaks.

Pilots and passengers looked out to mountains left and right as the airplane automatically followed the twists of the valley, descending on a precisely plotted highway in the sky toward a runway still out of sight.

It was the first commercial flight into Linzhi, Tibet, one of the world's most difficult-to-reach airports.

Capt. Chen Dong Cheng, an Air China pilot who rode as an observer on the inaugural flight, said the commercial service into the 9,700-foot-elevation airport wouldn't be feasible without the precise, automated navigation system custom-designed for that particular plane and airfield by Kent-based Naverus.

"We are making impossible things possible," Chen said.

Using global-positioning satellites and on-board instruments, Naverus' navigation technology pinpoints the location of a fast-moving jet to within yards. Chen, in a phone interview, described it as "the future of the aviation navigation industry."

It’s easy to find video of the flight on YouTube; it’s quite something to behold. 

Some of the language bears emphasis: “Guided entirely by autopilot” … “using global positioning satellites and on-board instruments” the plane navigated a serpentine route on its own and successfully landed at what was considered one of the most challenging sites in the world.

Do you think GPS and autopilot technology may well have improved enough since 2006 (and look how impressive it was even then) that the statistical properties (such as confidence intervals) associated with measurement error, random perturbations, and the like, have diminished enough to render “remote” long distance programming and guidance a reasonable prospect, as horrifying as that might be?

I rather think it a very reasonable possibility.

And please consider this: if the plane was electronically diverted and flown (hacked) rather than hijacked by a human, the human-element security risk would have been dramatically reduced (for example, “terrorist watchlist” issues would have been much less likely to have arisen).

Plus, there are those decidedly odd flight maneuvers, as reported by the New York Times:

Radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appeared to show that the missing airliner climbed to 45,000 feet, above the approved altitude limit for a Boeing 777-200, soon after it disappeared from civilian radar and turned sharply to the west, according to a preliminary assessment by a person familiar with the data.

The radar track, which the Malaysian government has not released but says it has provided to the United States and China, showed that the plane then descended unevenly to 23,000 feet, below normal cruising levels, as it approached the densely populated island of Penang.

Investigators have also examined data transmitted from the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines that showed it descended 40,000 feet in the span of a minute, according to a senior American official briefed on the investigation. But investigators do not believe the readings are accurate because the aircraft would most likely have taken longer to fall such a distance.

“A lot of stock cannot be put in the altitude data” sent from the engines, one official said. “A lot of this doesn’t make sense.”

Is any of this data accurate?  We don’t know.  But, notice the conclusion the Times leaves us with: not “a lot of stock” can be put in the altitude data because “a lot of this doesn’t make sense.”  Well, would the great knowers and rulers kindly tell us what does make sense about this case then?  If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor -- there, that makes sense!  George Zimmerman is white and had no head wounds -- there, that makes sense!

And, talk about circular logic!  The data is not accurate because it doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t make sense because we can’t be sure the data is accurate!

Why doesn’t the data make sense, and might it make sense if done on autopilot as opposed to by a human being or beings?  Here, readers should research autopilot in connection with phenomena such as wind speed and the mathematical relationship of the expected deviation of trajectory as a function of speed in an imperfectly homogenous medium such as air (in brief, faster speeds will produce less guidance error and are therefore on balance preferable, but might present too much risk if attempted by a human).

It’s incredible: we live in the “information age.” Google is readying smart cars, and all we get on Flight 370 are baseless allegations that all views other than those sanctioned by room temperature IQ “journalists” are “conspiracy theories” and therefore wrong.  Then, once they come round to more sensible views because government has given them the green light to proceed into what otherwise would be “conspiracy territory”, all they offer in addition are government-sponsored brick and mortar explanations while summarily rejecting all conflicting evidence. 

Doesn’t that sound pretty much par for the course regarding Obama era “journalism”?

Dr. Jason Kissner is associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno.  You can reach him at crimprof2010@hotmail.com.