As U.S. intelligence officials briefed reporters on the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 over the Ukraine they were reflecting a striking fact: this air crash investigation is being conducted by anÂ entirely new method: detailed scrutiny by journalists, social media and open sourced intelligence from national agencies.
It almost seems that an â€œofficialâ€ investigation will be redundant. To an extent never seen before, a combination of on-the-ground reporting, instant social media coverage, military intelligence and expert analysis is providing a remarkably complete forensic picture of what happened.
It is precisely because the wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell into a lawless land where the immediate normal quarantining of a crash site was not possible that an investigation â€œby any other possible meansâ€ has been put together, spontaneously and driven by a collective will to protect the truth.
Not only is this a graphic demonstration of the means availableâ€”a kind of organic cloud reporting, if you willâ€”but it also shows that when a sense of international outrage is so manifest it generates the means to snatch the truth free of those who would wish to suppress it.
I doubt very much whether there was a desperate cover-up in the eastern Ukraine directed from Moscow. Far more likely is a hasty, panicky and improvised response from the gang of separatists and mercenaries who perpetrated the crime. The most important piece of evidence they wanted to remove immediately was not from the airplane. It was the missile battery.
There has been a lot of concern about contamination of the evidence at the site. In reality, itâ€™s hard to deliberately mess up a debris field as large as this one. First of all, you would need to know which bits are likely to be the most damning, a knowledge unlikely to be present in this case. Secondly, large pieces of wreckage canâ€™t be moved without someone seeing that happening. And, thirdly, even if you are moving pieces of wreckage, there are eyes in the sky watching it all from satellites.
Experts understood within minutes of the event that there were two distinct sources of crucial evidence: the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, more easily referred to as the black boxes although they are bright orange, and the wreckage itself.
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