Five weeks ago one of the world's finest and largest aircraft vanished, taking 239 people with it. The mystery of what went wrong continues to intrigue, and I noticed that from the start, a wide range of people were skeptical not just about the ability of the Malaysian government to explain what took place and locate the airplane, but also its honesty in handling information. Typical comments held that "they know more than they are saying." Such skepticism was applied also to the governments of China, Vietnam, Indonesia and notably the USA, since this country is reputed to have the best surveillance system of all.
Five former members of the British Empire - the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand - have in fact allied to spy on almost everyone, almost everywhere. George Orwell's dread vision of the end of all privacy and freedom in Nineteen Eighty Four was at least limited to one country; the reality today is worldwide. Since this Blog last appeared in 2012, the immensely courageous Edward Snowden has blown the lid off how very extensive is the FedGov's spy system - a dragnet designed to capture and store every phone call made and email sent, which were formerly supposed to be confidential. The alliance is called the Five Eyes.
So one might imagine this formidable surveillance network could not allow a Boeing 777 to slip through. But it did. It is designed to protect governments from people, not to protect people from hazard.
Flight MH 370 left Malaysian airspace at 1:17 am on March 7th en route to Beijing, soon after which its transponder was turned off and no further radio or cell phone signal was heard from anyone aboard. It turned from a heading East of North, to one of about West - lining up with an airport in the West of Malaysia. An hour and a half later it made some strange turns above the Straits of Malacca and then turned South, apparently running out of fuel somewhere NW of Australia. All these facts were late emerging; if Malaysian radar was tracking the flight, that government's spokesmen would not say so until the French and US ones declared several days later that the route was as described.
Further, the long, last, Southerly leg of the doomed flight was not detected by any radar but by Rolls Royce, a commercial company that had arranged for its engines to broadcast an "I'm okay" signal to be picked up by satellite every half hour; not as a position locator but as an engine condition report - and so, only approximate when used as the former. If any of the Five Eyes knew anything at all, they were not saying. Last week an encouraging set of acoustic pings were heard near 101E 25S, but not a single piece of floating debris from MH 370 has yet been discovered, despite search by a flotilla of satellites, airplanes and ships.
The several governments' silence evidently results from their reluctance to reveal to each other what their detection capabilities are, and are not. Each maintains a defense system against possible incursions by the others, but they don't wish the others to know how good - or how bad - it is. Meanwhile, families of the 239 aboard the flight were suffering the anguish of not knowing.
Result: information was delayed, because governments controlled it. Since detection of the aircraft's position depends on a "black box" whose battery is now about exhausted, those several days of delay could mean it is never found. The fault lies not in inadequate technology, but government secrecy.
Slow though they all were to tell what they knew, they were not slow to act on such information as did emerge. An early snippet was about some passengers who boarded with stolen passports - apparently there is quite a trade in them. Buyers are people who, reasonably, wish to travel privately. Within a few days of this news surfacing, the US Congress acted to rule that passports are to be scrutinized by its agents not just when a traveler enters the USA, but also when he or she leaves. This is ominous. Here is a short video that details that action. The TSA has been scrutinizing passports for some years - but only to check that its data matches that on one's ticket; there has been no reference to a comprehensive government database... until now. In effect, it means that residents of the USA are imprisoned, as much as Germans were locked inside Germany by the Nazis, and as much as Russians were so trapped by the Soviets. We can now leave the country only with FedGov permission.
What of the future, when governments have evaporated? - for they will all go, within the lifetimes of most who are reading this. First the US one, with most English-speaking countries dumping theirs soon afterwards, and others progressively after that. Government was always a terrible idea and when one ends, without ill effect, (very much the opposite) others will swiftly follow. Therefore, borders and their controls will also disappear.
Absent borders, there will be no need for government "defense" systems - for there will be no governments. Therefore there will be no silly, jealously guarded secrets between governments, about what they can and cannot detect. Airlines will no doubt buy insurance, and insurers will be eager to minimize losses by establishing efficient tracking of flights, using radar scanning firms among others, but always with customer agreement.
Accidents and tragedies will happen; humanity will be no more infallible then than it is now. But when the owner of some needed information has it, he will have no motive to prevent it being passed as fast as possible to where it can help; it might be sold rather than being furnished free, but then again it might not. Suppose a radar scanning company knew the route followed by MH 370 between 1:30 and 3:00 am on March 7th. My guess is that it would freely broadcast that information in order to enhance its good reputation, for that gain would be far more valuable than the going rate for a regular radar track report. Either way, it would be where it was needed before the trail went cool.
Today is the 102nd anniversary of the loss of the Titanic. In Sinking a Myth, I show that a large superstructure of government laws has been built atop the falsehood that had more been in place, 1,500 lives would not have been lost. The gross enlargement of governments and their laws have, a century later, helped make this present tragedy worse than it would otherwise have been; the vicious circle has come full turn, and destroyed the very traveler safety it was allegedly meant to enhance. One day rather soon, this monstrous impediment to human progress and well-being will be history.