Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Aviation Update

Obviously the leak to the New York Times has taken front and center in the reporting about Germanwings 4U 9545.   It's certainly a game-changer, if true (it appears to be single-sourced).  If true, some questions come to mind.

The first question is "who".  The second is "why".  Who and why would someone feel the need to leak to the New York Times about what's on the voice recorder?  Looking for clues in the Times article, one finds the initial description of the source:
A senior military official involved in the investigation described...
Not a lot to go on there.  As to who, it's a military person, we don't know if male or female, but "senior".  We don't know from which military.  Speculation would say the Germans, French and Spanish would have military presence, and perhaps the US and UK as well.

The next question is why. Did they leak with the blessing of their fellow investigation team members or the governments involved? Or did they leak precisely because of those governments?   Did they do it out of respect for the victims and their families, or was it BS to further some kind of cause? 

The story of the CVR has been a little strange since so far. They found it very quickly, the day of the crash, but that's not necessarily a mystery since the terrain involved was barren and the weather was good.  It's evident by looking at the crash photos that the plane impacted and threw out debris downrange and up the mountainside, including part of the tailplane section where the black boxes are located.  So they had a general area to canvas. 

Pictures were quickly shown of the mangled unit, but the data cylinder looked to be in half decent shape, and indeed early reports said they expected to get some info from it.  Then early today a report circulated on pilot forums that someone had already listened to the CVR and talked of a possible cracked windscreen.

That coincided with reports that the CVR was badly damaged, suggesting they might not find much.  In the afternoon the lead investigative agency--the French BEA--said there were some usable sounds but it could take months and months of analysis before conclusions could be drawn.  They did say the plane flew all the way to the ground and there was no decompression, ie, no cracked windscreen.

Now this evening we get this leak, which if true provides some important added context to the BEA's a few "useful" sounds but completely destroys their contention it could take months of analysis to find a cause.

The panel of experts on CNN this evening, with the exception of Richard Quest, was troubled by this revelation because it clearly brings several nefarious scenarios into play. One, suicide. And this doesn't need to point to Islamic terrorism or any other extremism (which was typically ruled out by a political figure before all the investigators even reached the scene).  There are several maddening cases in the past of pilot suicide for a variety of reasons, which very recently could have occurred with MH370.

The more famous occurrences include EgyptAir 990, PSA 1771, most likely SilkAir 185, with Fed Ex 705 an attempted suicide that happened here in the Memphis area in 1994 and would have resulted in a 9/11-like crash dive into the package sorting hub years before the GWoT began with the deliberate destruction/suicide of four passenger jets in New York and Washington.

But a locked out pilot also brings in terrorism.  Sudden Jihad syndrome might explain EgyptAir 990. And it might not even be a pilot.  Was another crew member in the cockpit during the other pilot's bathroom break?  United States protocol requires this arrangement.  If so, who was it?   And what are the names of the pilots?

We still don't know the actual causes of several mysterious crashes of late, including Air Algerie 5017, Ethiopian 409, Afriqiyah 771, Yemenia 626, MH370, and AirAsia QZ8501.  We don't know what triggered the battery fire on UPS flight 6 out of Dubai.  Most of these crashes were investigated in full or in part by the BEA.

As goofball Quest said, there's a gnat's chance it could have been a medical issue that incapacitated the pilot flying just as the other pilot left to visit the bathroom--assuming a crew member didn't enter the cockpit.  For that reason the FDR is now the most critical piece of the puzzle because it can determine whether the inputs to descend in an orderly manner without a course change were coming from the Airbus flight computer or a pilot overriding it.   

And wouldn't you know it--they initially said the FDR was found early today but that it was torn up and the memory card wasn't there.   Then at the afternoon press conference the BEA said that the FDR had not been found at all.  Then, as the BEA was sleeping, a leak came out, which was non-denied by Lufthansa. We'll see what the BEA says tomorrow and wait to see if they are followed up with another leak after bedtime.

MORE  3/26/15

So the leak was true.  BEA played a bit fast and loose at their presser yesterday by saying it could take months of analysis to determine a cause, claiming to have not listened to much of the recording before coming out to face the media.  Which is strange.  Why not listen to all of it before coming out?  They obviously listened to all of it in making the statements made today.  Was that the reason for the Times leak?

Whatever the reason many will now consider this case closed.  First Officer Lubitz was a cold-blooded mass murderer, on to the next disaster.  But some will want to know how he could have done what he allegedly did.  In searching around, nothing reported so far suggests any reason for a mass murder.  They say he was stressed out back in 2009 when he was getting into the flying business?   Surely he's not the only one.  Good thing all stressed-out pilots don't fly into mountainsides. 

But the authorities are taking pains to rule things out.  After having ruled out terrorism before all the investigators arrived on scene, French authorities are still ruling out terrorism after having learned it was sabotage and not 'an accident':
It is unclear what Lubitz's motivations were, but officials are slowly ruling out terrorism. "According to the current state of knowledge and after comparing information that we have, Lubitz does not have a terrorist background," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Thursday.
A "terrorist background"? You mean his father wasn't a founding member of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang? Or he had no recent trips to Afghanistan or Pakistan? That doesn't rule out a sudden conversion in the least.

The investigation will not be complete until more is learned about 1) his girlfriend--what does she know? Were they still together or had there been recent trouble? 2) What were his finances? Was he in serious debt? Gambling problems? Was he struggling in any other way? 3) What was his religious background? Was he a practicing anything? 4) Who were his friends? What have they said? Had any Germanwings flight crew members or flight attendants had any issues with him?

Only after these background questions are answered will there be any chance of actually understanding the motivation here.  Finding the FDR might also help.


If it's not Richard Quest it's (emphasis added):
Lubitz was not known to be on any terrorism list, and his religion was not immediately known, Robin said.
As if governments or Lufthansa would let Lubitz keep flying around if he was on 'a terrorism list'. That's so grotesquely stupid it's almost beyond belief. 

As to his religion, seems kind of important to know before ruling out terrorism.  What if he was Jewish?  Would that change mainstream coverage?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Surviving, Hillary Style

Snippets of Hillary's until-recent secret emails were leaked to the NY Times, who reported on them today with general characterizations.  Here's one:
Two weeks after that first email assessing Ms. Rice’s appearance, Mr. Sullivan sent Mrs. Clinton a very different email. This time, he appeared to reassure the secretary of state that she had avoided the problems Ms. Rice was confronting.
He told Mrs. Clinton that he had reviewed her public remarks since the attack and that she had avoided the language that had landed Ms. Rice in trouble. “You never said ‘spontaneous’ or characterized their motivations,” Mr. Sullivan wrote.
So much for team spirit.  So much for the excuse about being too tired to get on TV, etc.  But as the Times indicates, this was a change from emails sent a few days after Benghazi..
“She did make clear our view that this started spontaneously then evolved,” Mr. Sullivan wrote to Mrs. Clinton.
Clearly the administration was running a narrative, it fell apart, they finally punted, and all the while Hillary's minions were reporting back to her on the Blackberry about how she was coming off in the media.   The few email summaries of course don't shine any light on who crafted the "spontaneous" narrative (only that Hillary was onboard) but they do suggest Susan Rice was not looking good and the conversation was more about optics than a terrorist attack on 9/11.  As the ranking Democrat on the committee said, they should release them all for context (of course he meant the ones selected by Hillary, not all of them).

It's important to know the leakers of these characterizations (and caution is noted here--the last time congress leaked some Benghazi emails to the press there was a trap included) . If the leakers were on Gowdy's committee that points one way; if they were Obama officials that points another; and if they were Hillary sympathizers still at the State Dept that could point another way.  Interestingly, State spokesgal Marie Harf would not condemn the leak or take umbrage with the truthfulness during her press conference today, only expressing amusement at how the leakers identified themselves (worried about losing their clearances).

So let's speculate wildly.  Survival is what it's all about with Team Clinton, so the hope is probably that the media will forget about these emails after awhile as more GOP candidates get into the race, which amounts to a good reason to get this story out of the way now rather than have it break as someone announces, allowing immediate fodder.  Come time to debate the emails will be ancient history, with any mention of them spun as impugning her highness' integrity and part of the GOP War on Women.  The media may actually play along--especially if they are involved in helping her get this story out of the way now (there may be emails to that end, somewhere on some private listserve). 

Anyway, one day--long after President Goldman Sachs has been reelected, they can be released on a Friday before a holiday weekend during a bimbo eruption involving the First Man.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Here's the Vice President (not sure if he has anything to do with Vice News) talking about impeaching George W. Bushitler if he went to war with Iran without congressional approval.  Matthews' short diatribe at the end is particularly prescient..

Keep that in mind in relation to Biden's boss, who feels like he has special authority over that same Congress because they don't agree with his policies, or compare it to the audience sitting in Bill Maher's studio booing ex-CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson when she simply declares that Congress and the Executive are "co-equal branches"...

What if Cotton had come on Hardball and told Chris Matthews he would move to impeach Obama if he allowed the Iranians to keep their nuclear technology via an agreement that didn't involve Congressional approval?  It's a little different insofar as declaring war (although Obama used "imminent threat" to citizens of Libya to justify his non-approved military action there) but the intent is the same--checking presidential power.  The founders designed the government to keep each co-equal branch in line. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Who "They" Consider?

Just watching the clip of prez Obama telling "Vice News" he's embarrassed for the 47 Senators and noticed some strange phrasing..

"..for them to address a letter to the Ayatollah, who they claim is our mortal enemy..." 

Uh, doesn't the president consider them a mortal enemy as well?  Or was that a tell?  Guess we'll have to see how the "Vice News" reporter reacts to that question when they release it on Monday.      

Friday, March 13, 2015

Where is the Red-Headed Terrorist?

The fate of Syrian-born Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, aka Abu Musab al-Suri, aka the 'red-headed terrorist', remains unclear.  Back when the Syrian Arab Spring uprising began a few years ago, press reports suggested Assad had him in lockup and would release him if the United States didn't stop meddling or calling for regime change.

After that threat failed to stop the uprising it was reported that he was released.  Then recently it was reported again he was still incarcerated.

Why is he significant?  In the past few days images have come out of Bin Laden's Tora Bora hideout, in which Setmariam is seen beside UBL many times.  National Journal's Michael Hirsh once called him "the next bin Laden".  

Daily Mail even mentions his theory of small jihad on a large scale, something which seems to be in its infancy all around the world now.  He's also reported to have been behind the planning of the UK subway/bus attacks and perhaps the Madrid train bombings back in 2004.  So it might be helpful to know where he is.

By the way, the (other) western looking dude sitting to UBL's left is Gwynne Roberts, a British documentary filmmaker who wanted to do a story about the sheikh before he was well known. 

Regarding another dangerous terrorist, Adnan El-Shukrijumah has disappeared off the State Department's Rewards for Justice site but remains on the FBI's Most-Wanted Terrorists site.  Not sure if that's significant or just bureaucracy in action.  

Monday, March 09, 2015

Speaking of emails...

This whole Hillary email flap reminds me of this testy exchange between her body man Philippe Reines and the late Michael Hastings a few days after Benghazi in 2012.

The general context is that after CNN found Stevens' personal diary lying on the floor of the burned out consulate a few days after the attack (while the administration was officially saying it was a spontaneous attack based on a protest) they agreed via State and the family not to publish its contents out of respect. But after Susan Rice's blitz on five Sunday shows a few days later, essentially doubling down on the protest meme, CNN went to other sources and confirmed an entry in the diary where Stevens had expressed concern about being on "an AQ hit list" before the attack.

This unset the spontaneous protest lie and the State people were pissed, whereupon Reines and others dropped the hammer on CNN and Cooper while Hillary feigned ignorance about everything.  In response to being challenged, Cooper admitted the next day CNN had the diary (to save their reporting) and were getting it from the contents, which caused more flaming from the State Dept towards CNN.

Hastings then got involved in response to the bitching, emailing Reines in an exchange that became infamous, in part as follows:
From: Michael Hastings Sent: Sunday, September 23, 2012 12:04 PM
 To: Reines, Philippe I 
Cc: Nuland, Victoria J 
Subject: Re: Request for comment Philippe:
Thanks for getting back to me. No, you read my email correctly—I found your statement to CNN offensive. From my perspective, the scandal here is that the State Department had such inadequate security procedures in place that four Americans were killed. And then the Ambassador’s diary—and who knows what else—was left behind for anyone to pick up. Thankfully, it was CNN—and not Al Qaeda or some other militia—that found it and was able to return it to the family. That CNN used portions of the material in the diary they found at the scene—material that appears to contradict the official version of events that State/WH has been putting out—is completely in line with practices of good journalism.
I don’t know how involved Arwa Damon has been in this. But for what it’s worth, Arwa is one of the best war correspondents working today. She’s consistently risked her life to get these stories, and to find out what actually happens in these conflict zones.I do agree that the media has lots of responsibilities, and CNN fulfilled its responsibility by returning the diary while still managing to inform the American public of newsworthy information. So it’s unfortunate that you are trying to make a scapegoat out of CNN. That State was forced to flee Benghazi—again, because of such inadequate security, leaving behind all sorts of sensitive information—tells us more about DoS than CNN.
The misinformation here seems largely to be coming from State and the administration. The defense that the administration has offered that there was no intelligence warning of an attack is weak. If there was no intel, then clearly the CIA and other intel agents stationed in Benghazi weren’t doing their jobs well. If there was intel, then we have some kind of cover-up—whether out of incompetence or ass covering before the election or just the trauma of losing four good men, it’s hard for me to say at this point.

All the best, 

On Sun, Sep 23, 2012 at 12:45 PM, Reines, Philippe I wrote: 
Why do you bother to ask questions you’ve already decided you know the answers to?


From: Michael Hastings Sent: Sunday, September 23, 2012 12:50 PM
 To: Reines, Philippe I 
Cc: Nuland, Victoria J 
Subject: Re: Request for comment 

Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?


On Sun, Sep 23, 2012 at 1:38 PM, Reines, Philippe I wrote:

I now understand why the official investigation by the Department of the Defense as reported by The Army Times The Washington Post concluded beyond a doubt that you’re an unmitigated asshole. How’s that for a non-bullshit response? Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, have a good day. And by good day, I mean Fuck Off
It's obvious State was upset about that diary, mainly because it confirmed that Stevens was worried well beforehand about "AQ" while the administration was simultaneously pushing an "AQ is decimated and on the run" campaign theme.  Maybe they felt they could slide past the whole affair--at least through the coming election--and the diary exploded the spontaneous protest BS explanation.  Maybe somebody could ask.

But there's also a tone of betrayal in Reines' replies, as if he was disappointed in CNN. This exchange would have never happened in regards to Fox News, but it's likely they felt hurt CNN would actually report something factual without helping them spin it as usual.  They had a deal.  Hillary knew what was in that diary, about his fears of AQ, but if they kept it under wraps it would be hard for the media to discover.

It's odd that Hastings later died in a car accident while Reines went on to work at a consulting group along with CIA numero uno Michael Morell, who inexplicably ignored his people on the ground in Libya who said it wasn't about a protest.  That was the main finding of the House Intelligence Committee report, by the way.

Anyway, back to the present.  Not surprisingly, Hillary wasn't listed on any of these emails and Buzzfeed didn't provide actual addresses. It's likely the exchange occurred via formal State Dept email since it was an inquiry from Hastings. The question is, did Reines or others also have private email accounts they used to communicate with Hillary's private account to coordinate responses to stuff like this?  If so, how would anyone know? 

It makes no sense otherwise. Why would Hillary need a private email system other than to quickly communicate with Bill and other political operatives across vast distances during breaking events WITHOUT LEAVING A SUBPOENA TRAIL?  Her entire tenure as SoS was about getting to the White House one day, therefore she needed political people around at all time to clean up messes, which required some method of secure communication to enable candid exchanges.

She and Bill knew at some point Republicans would come after the messages but without knowing what they needed to know they couldn't possibly find the good stuff, especially if the messages were sent to other private email accounts.  All the good stuff on the personal server could be dumped to a memory stick before taking a sledge hammer to the hard drives.  Committee chairmen doing investigations would need help from the NSA to find all her emails, which ain't gonna happen.

The only way Gowdy and company win this round is to get the idea out in public that Hillary is both sneaky and arrogant who expects underlings to do things she won't do.  That's a tough sell in our current Kardashian existence.