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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Was Air France 447 downed by terrorists?

It's difficult not to contemplate the possibility that Air France 447 was downed by terrorists ten days ago in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil. This article is pure speculation, but it's not outlandish.
Saturday, June 6, when the French and US president held a news conference at Caen, Barack Obama commented, apparently off the cuff: "…it's not clear yet what happened to the plane but the two countries want to find discover what caused the plane to be lost."

This sort of comment by a US president and America's active involvement in the investigation of a foreign air disaster when the plane is not of US manufacture and no Americans were aboard are unusual - unless a serious crime or terror is suspected. So too is Sarkozy's request to Obama for active US participation in the search without consulting with Air France.

Aviation authorities recall that another Air France flight from Buenos Aires to Paris was grounded temporarily on May 27 because of a telephoned bomb threat. The tri-border region where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet is home to a large Muslim population with a history of militancy.

Aviation experts were first puzzled by the time the airline took on June 1 – an hour and a half - to disclose that the plane had failed to land at Charles de Gaulle after dropping off radar screens. Later, Paris radio announced that there was no hope of survivors among passengers and crew, but offered no information to support this presumption. The delays, according to our Paris sources, indicated that French government and security officials were themselves scrambling frantically for information to establish the cause of the tragedy. They tried to impose a news blackout until they were wiser, but the dearth of facts only gave rise to wild rumors, such as a bolt of lightening or extreme turbulence. Both theories were quickly dismissed; large airliners are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions.

The French government came out with its first official statement only when it was forced to admit it was stumped.

Later, French investigators suggested that the cockpit was empty when the plane dropped without warning into the ocean. They offered no theories about whether the pilots had left the cockpit voluntarily or not.

The auto-pilot was also disengaged shortly before the stream of error messages went out.

In a detailed analysis published Tuesday, June 9, a BBC aviation expert wondered whether it was "an un-commanded disengagement prompted by some other systems failure, or whether the pilot took control in a valiant but ultimately failed attempt to rescue his aircraft."
Read the whole thing.


Britain's Daily Sun adds more ominous details (Hat Tip: Shy Guy via Hot Air).

Soon after news of the fatal crash broke, agents working for the DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieur), the French equivalent of MI6, were dispatched to Brazil.

It was there that they established that two names on the passenger list are also on highly classified documents listing the names of radical Muslims considered a threat to the French Republic.

A source working for the French security services told a French newspaper that the link was “highly significant”.

Hmmm indeed.


Israel Radio's 7:00 PM newscast had essentially the same report citing the French daily L'Express. It added the detail that the two identities cannot be verified because the passenger list does not include the passengers' birth dates.

That doesn't make sense to me. Most western passports today are scannable (if you've come through immigration in the US in the last few years, you have seen this) and the scan should make all the details of the passport available. It may take a little longer to verify but I am going to bet that their presence on the flight is verifiable.

Now let's hope the rescue teams get the black boxes. According to the DEBKA report at the top of this post, they stop pinging on July 1.


Captain Ed adds:

The Paris-based L’Express quotes a French security official who calls this development “highly significant.” It certainly seems to make more sense than the previous hypotheses, that a lightning strike disabled the plane’s computers, which caused the pilots to fly directly into a massive turbulence. That explanation was plausible, but deemed very unusual. That hasn’t happened in decades to large commercial aircraft, although the particular Airbus might have had some vulnerabilities along these lines.

Also, one must keep in mind that France has always been suspected of entering this investigation with a particular mission: to keep the heat off of Airbus. The aircraft manufacturer would lose billions if an investigation put the airplane itself at fault, in lost sales and retrofitting of the existing global Airbus fleet. They wouldn’t falsify records to reach that conclusion, but they may show more enthusiasm for certain leads over another — including leaks to French media about them, regardless of their worth.

In other words, Air France may have an interest in this turning out to be a terror attack.


More from Sky News (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).

Agents are now trying to establish dates of birth for the two dead passengers, and family connections.

There is a possibility the name similarities are simply a "macabre coincidence", the source added, but the revelation is still being "taken very seriously".

France has received numerous threats from Islamic terrorist groups in recent months, especially since French troops were sent to fight in Afghanistan.

Security chiefs have been particularly worried about airborne suicide attacks similar to the ones on the US on September 11, 2001.
Again, I don't see why it should be so difficult to determine the dates of birth.


Here's video from Sky. Let's go to the videotape.


At 5:49 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

We don't know the answer to that question yet but what we do know to date has established the French do not think it was a typical aviation accident. If it need turns out to be a terrorist attack it would have all the hallmarks of an India Air plane downing back I think in the mid 1980s.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I assume you mean this flight.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl, yes - that's the one I referred to. If they recover the black box, it may provide investigators with more information to establish whether it was mechanical failure, human error or terrorist sabotage that resulted in the plane going down in the Atlantic.

At 1:07 AM, Blogger Rick007 said...

If it was a terroist attack we will never know.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger David said...

You should know that security in brazilian airports is almost inexistent. Once I came home from Chile and nobody even had to show passports because they thought it was a domestic flight, since we changed planes in another city.
Even Bin Laden could have been on board and nobody would know.
People here think that terror is something that only happens in other countries...

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...



I gather you are in Brazil. That the security is so bad is not surprising.

I have only flown between Israel, Europe and the US in recent years. I think the worst security I have seen is London. Until the whole story with the liquids in 2006, the security was virtually non-existent. I once got all the way to the departure gate before anyone even asked if I had packed my own (long since checked) bags!

Since 2006, it has improved somewhat, but I still have the sense that they don't know what to look for.

El Al treats the security at Heathrow as non-existent to worse ever since a suicide bomber who was employed at Heathrow showed up in Tel Aviv and blew up a bar called Mike's Place on Embassy Row (HaYarkon Street) in 2002 or 2003. I've written about that several times on my blog. If you transfer from the US onto an El Al flight in London, they make you go downstairs and identify your bags, open them up and make sure that no one has tampered with them. And they consider a slip from TSA in the US that they opened your bags to be tampering.

For that matter, they made me do the same thing in Rome in December.


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