New Castle News


March 11, 2014

Stolen passport revelation raises air concerns

NEW CASTLE — Whenever a plane crashes under mysterious circumstances, suspicion quickly focuses on terrorism.

And that’s the case with a Malaysian airliner that apparently went down in the South China Sea Saturday. Searchers have been looking for wreckage of the passenger jet with 239 people aboard, so far without results.

What happened to the plane is uncertain. There were no emergency calls, no indication of problems on board. But officials in Malaysia said radar records indicate it may have tried to turn around shortly before it disappeared.

With most mechanical problems involving airliners, pilots presumably have the chance to radio a message. The fact it did not occur in this instance suggests whatever happened to the plane was quick and catastrophic.

That lends credence to the idea the loss of the plane could be attributed to terrorism. But at this point, there is no specific evidence of that. In fact, some officials have suggested to reporters that terrorism is considered unlikely.

Adding fuel to the terrorism fire, however, is confirmation that at least two people boarded the plane using stolen passports. It’s possible these individuals were run-of-the-mill criminals seeking to avoid the law, but a possible terrorism link cannot be ignored.

Yet one thing about this passport revelation bothers us. In an era of extreme security aimed at airplane passengers, how could people with stolen passports get on board a plane?

Supposedly, officials in Malaysia are grilling travel agents who booked these passengers. Perhaps those travel agents know something, but are they the entities that should be responsible for air security?

After all, these passports had been known as stolen by police agencies for years. Anyone trying to use them should have been red flagged. Even if the individuals using these passports were not terrorists, their success in getting aboard this plane represents a blatant security breach that ought to draw the attention of every government, every airline and every passenger.

Skeptics sometimes suggest much of what passes for security these days is largely window dressing that does more to inconvenience people than it does to improve safety. Well, here’s an incident that tends to confirm what the skeptics are saying.

Eventually, the missing plane will be found and we expect a cause of the crash will be determined. In the meantime, one big flaw in air transit already has been exposed.

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