Washington — U.S. intelligence officials are leaning toward the theory that “those in the cockpit” — the pilots of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — were deliberately responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the commercial jetliner, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the latest thinking told on Saturday. The revelation followed news that Malaysian authorities searched the home of the lead pilot, a move that came the same day that Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters the plane veered off course due to apparent deliberate action taken by somebody on board.
The Malaysian government had been looking for a reason to search the home of the pilot and the co-pilot for several days. But it was only in the last 24 to 36 hours when radar and satellite data came to light that authorities believed they had sufficient reason to go through the residences, according to the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The Malaysians don’t do this lightly,” the official said. It’s not clear whether the Malaysian government believes one or both the men could have been responsible for whatever happened to the plane when the Boeing 777-200 ER disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The official emphasized no final conclusions have been drawn and all the internal intelligence discussions are based on preliminary assessments of what is known to date.
Other scenarios could still emerge. A source close to the investigation told that Malaysian police had search the home of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53. Shah lives in an upscale gated community in Shah Alam, outside Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. Two vans were loaded with small bags, similar to shopping bags, at the home of the co-pilot, 27-year-old Farq Ab Hamid. It was unclear whether the bags were taken from the home, and police made no comment about their activities at the residence. Najib made clear in a press conference that in light of the latest developments, authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board.
Undoubtedly, they will scour through the flight manifest and look further to see whether anyone on board had flight training or connections to suspect groups. That would seem supported by preliminary U.S. intelligence reports, which the U.S. official said show the jetliner was in some form of controlled flight at a relatively stable altitude and path when it changed course and flew toward the Indian Ocean. It is presumed to have crashed, perhaps after running out of fuel. The focus now is searching for the missing flight in the southern Indian Ocean. “The southern scenario seems more plausible,” the official sai