In a new article from the Australian, we learn that Greg Hood, Chief Commissioner of the ATSB, has rejected a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the families of Chinese passengers of MH370. (Commenter @David alerted us to the story.) According to the story, “The documents sought are the opinions of international experts, including from the US and British air crash agencies, Boeing, aerospace group Thales, and British satellite group Inmarsat, about satellite data that automatically tracked the course of MH370.” Also, we learn that the “ATSB general manager for strategic capability Colin McNamara in February refused The Australian’s original FOI request, claiming release of the information could ’cause damage to the international relations of the commonwealth’.”
So why would the information about MH370 requested by The Australian cause damage to international relations?
With the failure of the underwater search to locate the wreckage of MH370, it is essential that we reassess what assumptions went into the analysis that was used to define search area. This will help us to understand why the search failed, and could help us to define a new search area. A true reassessment would require independent eyes to review and analyze all the available data. While certain data sets have been publicly released, and other data sets have been leaked to the public, there are still important data sets held by the official investigators that are not available to the public. Unfortunately, the recent decision by Mr Hood reaffirms the prior decision to not make these data sets publicly available.
Included below is the complete article.
ATSB shuts down details on MH370 search
by Ean Higgins
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has invoked draconian legislation in refusing to release material about its search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, warning that any bureau employee who provides such information to the public or a court could face two years in jail.
ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood has used the statute to reject a plea from the families of the Chinese passengers who died on MH370 that he grant a Freedom of Information request from The Australian, with the families claiming failure to do so makes Australia complicit with a cover-up by the Malaysian government.
Some ATSB officers are having second thoughts about the agency’s official line that MH370’s pilots were unconscious or dead at the end of the flight.
Mr Hood has declared the Transport Safety Investigation Act covers the FOI request for critical documents the ATSB claims support its “ghost flight” and “death dive” scenario, which holds the Boeing 777 went down in an unpiloted crash.
The theory has been rejected by many commercial pilots and international air crash investigators who believe captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah hijacked his own aircraft and flew it to the end.
The documents sought are the opinions of international experts, including from the US and British air crash agencies, Boeing, aerospace group Thales, and British satellite group Inmarsat, about satellite data that automatically tracked the course of MH370.
The ATSB says the satellite data shows MH370 was in a rapid unpiloted dive at the end, but experts such as former US captain and crash investigator John Cox have said the data is not good enough to reach that conclusion.
ATSB general manager for strategic capability Colin McNamara in February refused The Australian’s original FOI request, claiming release of the information could “cause damage to the international relations of the commonwealth”.
The association representing the families of the 153 Chinese victims who died when the plane went down on March 8, 2014, issued a statement after The Australian reported Mr McNamara’s decision, saying “we react with extreme displeasure and annoyance”.
“Is avoiding offending the Malaysian authorities more important than discovering the truth?” the families asked in the statement.
Mr Hood, in an internal review of Mr McNamara’s decision, also refused to release the documents. “The activities of the ATSB with respect to assisting the Malaysian investigation are covered by the TSI Act,” Mr Hood wrote in his decision.
He advised that the act holds that if a serving or former ATSB staffer or consultant “discloses information to any person or to a court; and the information is restricted” they have breached the act, which stipulates a penalty of two years in prison.
In response to an earlier inquiry, Mr Hood would not say whether he would allow any ATSB staff who no longer agree with the “ghost flight” and “death dive” theory to publicly express their views.
MH370 disappeared on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, with its radar transponder turned off and radio communication cut after about 40 minutes.
Military radar and the satellite tracking data shows the aircraft deviated back over Malaysia to the Andaman Sea, before a long track south to the southern Indian Ocean. A $200 million search directed by the ATSB based on its “unresponsive pilots” theory failed to find the aircraft’s wreckage and was suspended in January.
When last year it was revealed the FBI had discovered Zaharie had plotted a course quite close to that track on his home computer flight simulator, the ATSB joined the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines to hose down suggestions this pointed to the “rogue pilot” hijack theory.
Update 1 on April 18, 2017.
A group called “The MH370 China Families” is distributing a media release that reacts to the FOI denial by the ATSB and the claim by Malaysia authorities that nothing is being hidden. They state that “In the face of a failed search outcome, contradictory evidence and Malaysian authorities’ overall approach, China families reject the Malaysian transport minister’s denial.”
The group also continues to claim that the satellite data was altered to support the theory of a crash in the SIO, citing comments posted by Emil Enchev on a physics blog site. The comments have been removed, so we don’t know the basis for his claims. I have in the past asked the group to publicly release this evidence so that it could be properly reviewed. They refused my request, citing concerns about the safety of the crew and passengers of MH370, who they think could still be alive, and could harmed by their captors if Mr Enchev’s comments were released. I explained to them that their claims could not be taken seriously without supporting evidence.
Here is the media release:
Media Release: For immediate release: MH370 China families react to Malaysian minister’s denial authorities have something to hide
China family members react with displeasure at the claim by Malaysian transport minister, Liow Tiong Lai, that the authorities have nothing to hide. Instead we point to the following indicators that they are hiding.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, investigating MH370’s disappearance at the request of Malaysia, refused to release information under The Australian newspaper’s Freedom of Information request, claiming the release could “cause damage to the international relations of the commonwealth”.
The Southern Indian Ocean seabed search based on satellite data supplied by Inmarsat and the Malaysian government failed to find any evidence of MH370. The search was coordinated by the ATSB October 2015 to January 2017.
China families have access to a physicists’ blog site post 28 May 2014 claiming the satellite data was altered prior to its release 26 May 2014 to support the claim by Malaysian authorities, 24 March 2014, that MH370 crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean.
The internal French report on the Réunion flaperon found that the flaperon was entirely submerged * and yet French flotation tests showed much of the flaperon above the waterline, raising serious doubts about the genuineness of the debris.
Reverse drift analyses are incompatible with the primary search zones determined by expert analysis of the purported satellite data.
Malaysian authorities are unwilling to explore the area of 25,000 sq kms, after which, according the the “First Principles Review”, November 2016, “prospective areas for locating the aircraft wreckage, based on all the analysis to date, would be exhausted.”
In the face of a failed search outcome, contradictory evidence and Malaysian authorities’ overall approach, China families reject the Malaysian transport minister’s denial.
* The report, by Pierre Daniel, 8 February 2016, obtained by China families, states «La présence de crustacés, du genre Lepas, des deux cotés du flaperon suggèrent une ligne de flottaison différente abc une pièce qui serait totalement immergée.»
“The presence of crustaceans, gender Lepas, on both sides of the flaperon suggest a different abc waterline a piece that would be completely submerged.”