Obama: Missing Malaysian jet a ‘top priority’ – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Wednesday the hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner is a “top priority,” as the FBI joined the investigation into the mystery.
Obama told KDFW-TV of Dallas that the U.S. and Malaysian governments will work closely together to find the plane, which disappeared March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. All 239 people on board are missing.
“We have put every resource that we have available at the disposal of the search process,” Obama said. “There’s been close cooperation with the Malaysian government … anybody who typically deals with anything related to our aviation system is available.”
The president added, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families — I want them to be assured that we consider this a top priority, and we’re going to keep on working.”
He said the NTSB will also be involved in the probe. The FBI is expected to begin analyzing hard drives from computers seized at the pilots’ homes as soon as this week.
A federal law enforcement official said the material, including a flight simulator recovered from one of the pilot’s homes, is likely to be shipped to the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Va. The official is not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and requested anonymity.
Since the plane’s disappearance, the FBI and Justice Department had offered to assist the Malaysian government but until now had not been formally invited to join the inquiry as is required.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the two governments have been “in ongoing conversations about how we can help.”
“We’re working with authorities, but we don’t have any theories (on the cause of the plane’s disappearance),” Holder said Wednesday.
In Malaysia, investigators said Wednesday they are trying to restore files deleted last month from the home flight simulator of the pilot of a missing Malaysian plane, but the wait for answers was too much for some relatives who disrupted a news conference.
Malaysia’s Defense Minister and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein cautioned reporters at a news conference that the deletion of the files of the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, may have nothing to do with the circumstances of the jet’s disappearance 12 days ago.
Files containing records of simulations carried out on the program were deleted Feb. 3, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu said. He said the files may have been deleted merely to free up memory space.
But investigators wanted to check the files for any signs of unusual flight paths of Flight 370, which appears to have veered hundreds of miles from its intended flight path after vanishing from civilian radar.
At least two relatives of passengers aboard the flight were forcibly removed Wednesday from the news conference at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur. Footage broadcast by the BBC showed a woman thought to be a Chinese relative of a missing passenger being knocked to the ground and then dragged away from journalists ahead of the daily news briefing by Malaysian officials.
The pair appeared to be trying to unfurl a banner expressing their dissatisfaction over the lack of progress in the investigation. Police escorted them out.
Of the 239 people aboard the plane that went missing March 8 on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, more than 150 were Chinese nationals. Malaysian authorities have been especially sensitive to any criticism of the investigation.
“One can only imagine the anguish they (relatives) are going through,” Hishammuddin said. “Malaysia is doing everything in its power to find MH370 and hopefully bring some degree of closure for those whose family members are missing.”
Police are continuing to consider a number of different scenarios that would explain the plane’s disappearance, including the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board. They have asked for background checks from foreign agencies on all foreign passengers.
Hishammuddin said background checks have been received for all the foreigners except those from Ukraine and Russia. Those two countries had three passengers on the flight. He said none of the checks have turned up anything suspicious.
Still, the theories about what happened to the Boeing 777 plane, and where it or its wreckage may now be located, have stacked up even as investigators have been able to offer relatives few concrete facts about how it vanished.
Authorities from 26 countries have expanded the search-and-rescue mission to an unprecedentedly large area stretching from central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean.
FLIGHT MH370: What happened to Flight 370? The leading theories
But with each passing day, the resentment by relatives over the lack of progress is building.
“It’s really too much. I don’t know why it is taking so long for so many people to find the plane,” Subaramaniam Gurusamy, 60, said in an interview with the Associated Press from his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. His 34-year-old son, Pushpanathan Subramaniam, was on the flight heading to Beijing for a work trip.
“He’s the one son I have,” Subaramaniam said.