Missing Malaysia Plane Forces Countries to Weigh Security Secrets

Mar 21, 2014 2:40pm

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 launched an international hunt for any sign of the plane, causing dozens of countries to wrestle with putting aside national security and military secrets to try and find the plane.

After Malaysia admitted that its civilian air radar lost contact with the plane early Saturday morning, attention quickly turned to more advanced methods of detection, including military radar and satellites.

Now, all of the countries involved in the search – numbering at least 25 – are wrestling with how to share helpful information without giving away data that could threaten their safety later.

  • Malaysia was accused of being coy with satellite and radar data in the early days of the investigation, not releasing key radar data showing the plane’s turn-around until four days after the disappearance. The Minister of Foreign Defense said that the country was willing to put its own national security aside to try and find the plane.
  • Thailand waited 10 days after the plane disappeared to mention publicly that its military radar detected a plane that may have been Flight 370. Thai authorities said they didn’t share the information earlier because they weren’t specifically asked for it.  
  • China’s proposal to send four warships to help search for the plane was in jeopardy by India, which said it didn’t want to allow Chinese military access to its strategic Andaman and Nicobar islands, where India has a military base, according to the Times of India.
  • As the search moved from the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean off Australia, Australian authorities would not describe what satellite imagery they used to determine where to search for plane wreckage. Australian and U.S. military have satellites controlled from Australia, but the investigators would not answer questions about the satellites due to proprietary state secrets.
  • The search has also forced countries with tense relationships to work together, including the United States, Pakistan and Iran. As U.S. investigators focused on hijacking as a possible cause for the disappearance, they quickly vetted two Iranian nationals who used fake passports to get on the plane, casting suspicion that Iranian terrorists had hijacked 370.
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