Vigil in May 2016 for the 66 victims of crash of Egyptair Flight MS 804
Source: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images
The mystery of why Egyptair Flight MS804 fell off the radar screen suddenly disappearing after passing out of Greek into Egyptian air control on May 19, 2016 has been solved. The Egyptian Civil Air Authority after much delays and conflicts with French civil aviation authorities confirmed traces of explosives (TNT) were found on the remains of the ill-fated passengers that were recovered. The Guardian reported:
Egyptian air accident investigators have revealed that traces of explosives were detected on the remains of victims of the EgyptAir flight from Paris that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea in May.
The claim by Egypt’s civil aviation investigation committee suggests that the crash, which killed all 66 people on board, was caused by a bomb, although it does not solve the mystery of where a device might have been smuggled on board – or who was responsible.
“The central directorate of aircraft accident investigation received reports from the forensic medicine authority indicating traces of explosive materials found in some of the remains of the victims’ bodies,” the ministry stated on Thursday.
The months-long investigation into the disaster has been hampered by disagreements between French and Egyptian experts and a dispute over the return of the bodies of French passengers. The Airbus A320 had been carrying 40 Egyptians, 15 French people, two Iraqis, two Canadians and one passenger each from Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
An Egyptian source familiar with the matter said Cairo had informed France months ago of its findings but French investigators had requested more time to study them.
“That is why it took so long to make an announcement,” the source said, declining to be named as the investigation is continuing. Following the announcement on Thursday, Egypt said it would be launching a criminal investigation into the crash.
France’s air safety agency, BEA, and the plane manufacturer, Airbus, both declined to comment on the announcement, which comes while Cairo is still investigating the October 2015 crash of the Russian passenger plane in Sinai.
If a bomb is established as the cause of the May crash, investigators will have to determine whether a device could have been smuggled onboard a flight taking off from France’s busiest airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle. The plane had also visited Tunisia and Eritrea in the days before it went down.
The EgyptAir plane had been flying from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean. Investigators determined that a fire had broken out in or near the cockpit before it crashed between Crete and the coast of northern Egypt.
The word “fire” was audible on the plane’s cockpit voice recorder shortly before it crashed, the Egyptian investigative committee said in July.
The black box, retrieved from the crash site by a specialist diving vessel, also confirmed that smoke alarms had been triggered onboard, while recovered wreckage had indications of soot.
The Airbus A320 had broadcast a number of fault messages before contact was lost; indicating that smoke had entered the nose of the aircraft where sensitive avionics control systems are housed. Flight data, however, suggested that rather than exploding in mid-air, the plane had flown into the sea.
In September, French investigators were reported to have found trace levels of the explosive TNT on recovered debris but claimed they were prevented from further examining it. Egyptian officials denied the claim.
While some speculation had originally focused on the crew being overcome in the cockpit as the cause of the disaster, the new evidence has put the emphasis back on a deliberate explosion.
Egypt’s aviation minister, Sherif Fathy, had said previously a terrorist attack was the most likely cause of the crash. The chances of an attack were “higher than the possibility of a technical [failure]”, Fathy said in May following the crash.
A May 22, 2016, NatSecDailyBrief, “We will bring this aircraft down” raised Airport Security Questions”.
Note how difficult the French security investigations are looking into the backgrounds of the more than 85,000 workers at the Paris airports and the short interval of conducting the security sweep on Flight 804:
Although no terrorist group has claimed responsibility, French detectives are examining a pool of around 85,000 people with “red badge” security clearance that gives them access to restricted areas of Charles de Gaulle airport.
The task is complicated by the fact that many work for sub-contractors and turnover is high. Screenings are often limited to checking an employee has no criminal convictions and does not appear on a terror watch list.
Last December around 70 red badges were withdrawn from staff at Charles de Gaulle who was found to have praised the attacks in Paris, prayed at mosques linked to radicalism or showing signs of growing religiosity like refusing to shake hands with women.
A French trade union also warned that short stopovers like that made by Flight 804, which was on the ground a little over an hour, gave little time for security staff to carry out thorough security checks.
Then there were the New York Times reports about graffiti daubed on the aircraft in Cairo back in 2013 saying, “We will bring this plane down”:
It has emerged that the crashed aircraft had once been daubed with graffiti by vandals who wrote: “We will bring this plane down”.
The New York Times reported that the vandalism was done two years ago and was a protest against Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Egyptian president who seized power in a coup, rather than a jihadist threat.
The airline went on to fire a number of staff with alleged Muslim Brotherhood sympathies in 2013 as part of a general purge of suspected Islamists after the military takeover.
And in the weeks following the Paris attacks in November, French police said Arabic graffiti such as “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) were found daubed on EasyJet and Vueling planes at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and at Lyon airport.
It also emerges that EgyptAir was exempted from a trial of the new French security system for vetting passengers:
Charles de Gaulle airport will begin testing a passenger screening tool known as the passenger name record (PNR) next week. The system, already in use in Britain, identifies passengers whose profiles indicate a potential risk. It cross-references names, addresses and means of payment with police crime and terrorism files.
However, EgyptAir will not be among the eight airlines that will take part in the trial, which the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, says is long overdue.
The system is to become fully operational by the end of the year in France, which has received nearly £14 million in EU aid to finance its introduction. It can detect passengers who have travelled to countries such as Syria and Yemen, with their return dates.
The evidence keeps piling up that supports the comments of ex-CIA director Ambassador Woolsey and investigations by the Lisa Benson Show National Task Force for America that international airports, including those in the US, are not secure. That is particularly acute given the difficulty of profiling airport workers with security access to aircraft on the tarmac and now we learn vetting passengers from terrorist hot spots.
In a June 3, 2016, NatSecDailyBrief we noted the circumstances behind the downing of Egyptair Flight MS 804 in the context of airport security, an issue raised on several former Lisa Benson Radio Shows, “The Airport Security Problem Unveiled”.
EgyptAir MSFlight 804 Airbus – 320 went down in the Eastern Mediterranean May 19, 2016 on a flight from Paris to Cairo, with 66 passengers and crew aboard. The New York Times reported that a few years back this same EgyptAir aircraft was found at Cairo airport scribbled with the ominous message: “We will bring this plane down”. The Paris stop of EgyptAir804 brought new questions on possible terrorist involvement and the matter of security access at Charles de Gaulle airport. In the wake of the downing of Flight 804 there were revelations about 73 airport workers fired for involvement in Islamic extremism among Muslim émigrés. 600 applicants rejected for employment for similar reasons from a work force of 85,000 at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. That raised questions of whether Islamic terrorist sympathizers or cell members might have had access to possibly plant possible bombs on the aircraft during its hour and half layover in Paris. Or could there have been a passenger on the flight manifest list who might have had a lap top bomb like the one that blew a hole in an airliner in Somalia in February 2016? Moreover, because of revelations about stolen authentic travel documents from Syria by ISIS operatives found in the refugees stream entering Turkey and Europe, could there been a passenger on board Flight 804 who may have been in possession of legal travel documents covering a false identity? Ambassador Woolsey was interviewed about these issues on Fox News and CNN following the downing of Flight804 during which he revealed elements of the Lisa Benson NSTFA airport investigations.
Given today’s official announcement from EgyptAir investigators of the downing of MS804, the questions we raised back in June 2016, should be the center of possible criminal terrorism investigations in Egypt and France to determine who was behind the downing of Egyptair MS804.