China’s frustration with the Malaysian government over failed attempts to find missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are well known, but more than a week into the search, they are no longer alone. U.S. officials tell the New York Times that they are frustrated Malaysia has not asked the FBI to contribute more to the search.
“We just don’t have the right to just take over the investigation,” one senior official told the newspaper, lamenting that the Malaysian authorities had not asked for more help from the FBI.
The FBI maintains a presence in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, but currently only has two agents there and can do little without an affirmative response from the Malaysian government. Reports indicate that the FBI has been involved in the search since the plane first disappeared, but has never been given a significant role in the investigation. Officials tell the Times they believe the Malaysian government does not want to appear inadequate with the world’s eyes falling upon their investigation, leading them to decline any offers of help from the international community.
The increased likelihood of foul play in the plane’s disappearance has caused many to express frustration at the fact that international authorities can do little more. American officials have scoured FBI databases for information on suspicious individuals on the plane, including the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and two Iranian individuals who used stolen passports to board the plane. Neither search has uncovered any new clues, and no “chatter” from the terrorist community surrounding the plane leads American officials to question whether the act was an organized political terrorist statement.
While some al Qaeda members have testified in unrelated trials to helping Malaysian Islamic extremists plot a plane hijacking, the details only serve to confuse the investigation. Al Qaeda helped Malaysian jihadists build shoe bombs to enter the cockpit of a plane and hijack it, but the prime suspect in Flight 370’s disappearance is the pilot, who would not have needed a bomb to break into the cockpit of the plane.
Malaysian officials’ refusal to accept help from the United States may have delayed some aspects of the search. For example, Malaysia claimed that the United States’ educated guess that the plane flew for hours after disconnecting from civilian radar was “inaccurate,” only to accept that this was the most likely scenario days later. Only today do authorities find a viable explanation for the plane’s apparent radical shifts in altitude, from a normal 39,000 feet to a high 45,000 feet to a low 23,000 feet: shifting makes the plane harder to track by radar. Malaysian authorities have yet to give the United States access to the flight simulator found in Shah’s home, where practiced routes could hint as to where the plane flew upon disappearing.
While 26 countries are currently involved in the search for the missing plane, some have called for a more prominent presence of the United States in these searches. Congressman Peter King, in particular, criticized the Malaysian government for “not cooperating” with the FBI on yesterday’s This Week and called for a stronger FBI presence.