Why are the cellphones of Malaysian Airlines passengers still ringing?

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  • CIA head John Brennan: ‘No theory can be  discounted’ in hunt for clues
  • It came after he was asked if it was  possible the pilot deliberately crashed
  • Brennan also said ‘terrorism has not yet  been ruled out of investigation’
  • Malaysian police say one of the two men  on stolen passports was Iranian
  • Was asylum seeker, 19, ‘not terrorist’, and his mother was waiting for him
  • Smartphones of missing aboard flight  MH370 ‘are still ringing’, families say
  • 19 families of missing claim to be connected – airline have also called crew
  • Growing frustration for relatives with no  information  on their missing
  • Angry relatives threw water bottles at  officials unable to offer any answers

Authorities are investigating the possibility  that the pilot of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 committed  suicide, the director of the CIA has revealed. 

John Brennan, head of the US Central  Intelligence Agency (CIA), said: ‘I think you cannot discount any theory’, when  asked if it was possible the pilot deliberately crashed the Boeing 777.

His intervention came as Malaysian  police say they are carrying out psychological profiles of everyone on board the  plane, which vanished on Saturday carrying 239 people after taking off  from  Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing. 

The theory could offer an explanation as to how the plane ‘disappeared’ from civilian radar tracking its movements, as the pilot could simply have switched off the transponder shortly before it vanished.

Authorities are investigating the possibility that the pilot of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 committed suicide, John Brennan the director of the CIA has revealed

Authorities are investigating the possibility that the  pilot of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 committed suicide, John  Brennan the director of the CIA has revealed

Head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said: 'I think you cannot discount any theory', when asked if it was possible the pilot deliberately crashed the Boeing 777

Head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said:  ‘I think you cannot discount any theory’, when asked if it was possible the  pilot deliberately crashed the Boeing 777

Jonti Roos (centre) claims she and her friend were entertained by Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, who is one of the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight (right)

Jonti Roos (centre) claims she and her friend were  entertained by Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, who is one of the pilots of the missing  Malaysia Airlines flight (right)

The two men who travelled on the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on stolen passports. The younger man (left) was identified as Pouiria Nur Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, said by police in Malaysia to be an Iranian asylum seeker on his way to Germany to meet his mother. The older man (right) remains unknown.

The two men who travelled on the doomed Malaysian  Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on stolen passports. The younger  man (left) was identified as Pouiria Nur Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, said by police in  Malaysia to be an Iranian asylum seeker on his way to Germany to meet his  mother. The older man (right) remains unknown.

Media interest: Relatives of Chinese passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were still clutching to faint straws of hope for their loved ones on March 11, four days after the aircraft went missing

Media interest: Relatives of Chinese passengers on  Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were still clutching to faint straws of hope for  their loved ones on March 11, four days after the aircraft went missing

Agonizing wait: Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China Tuesday, on March 11, 2014.

Agonizing wait: Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a  missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room for  relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China  Tuesday, on March 11, 2014.

Emotional: A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries in the waiting lounge in Lido Hotel in Beijing

Emotional: A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines  flight MH370 cries in the waiting lounge in Lido Hotel in Beijing

Interpol chief statement as passport imposter is  exposed

Brennan also said that terrorism could not be  ruled out in the  disappearance of the airliner.

‘Could it just have been some kind of  catastrophic event? I do not think people at this point should rule out  any  lines of inquiry.’

‘I  think there’s a lot of speculation right  now – some claims of  responsibility that have not been, you know, confirmed or  corroborated  at all,’ he said.

He  added that there were a host of  unanswered questions including why the  plane’s transponder stopped emitting  signals and what was the role of  passengers carrying stolen  passports.

WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED?

A mid-air explosion: The lack of  debris could be explained by it falling into Malaysian jungle

A terrorist attack: Director of CIA  has said terrorism could not be ruled out

Power failure: Possibly caused by  deliberate cutting of power to communication instruments

Electronic warfare: 20 passengers on  board were experts in this technology.

Hijacking: Radar data indicates the  plane might have made a U-turn.

A pilot error: There is a chance of  them in all air mysteries, claim experts

Structural failure: Possibly involving  damage sustained by an accident in 2012

Pilot suicide: There were two large  jet crashes in the late 1990s caused by this

Aeronautical black hole: Plane is  stranded hundreds of miles from current search area

‘There are a number of very curious anomalies  about all of this…You know,  did it turn around? You know, were the  individuals with these stolen  passports in any way involved?’

He added: ‘What about the transponder? Why  did it sort of, you know, just disappear from the radar?’

The former counter-terrorism adviser to  President Barack Obama said  there had been ‘some claims of responsibility’ over  the missing jet that had ‘not been confirmed or corroborated’.

But when asked if he could rule out a  terrorist link, Brennan said: ‘No, I wouldn’t rule it out.’

He said there were many unanswered questions  about the Malaysia Airlines flight.

He said: ‘We are looking at it very  carefully. Clearly this is still a mystery.’

He added: ‘I think at this point we again  have to be patient and wait for the authorities to investigate.

‘There are many questions. Who had the  ability to turn off the transponder? How can one such action be  masked?

Brennan’s comments came at a rare public  speaking appearance at an event in  Washington organised by the Council on  Foreign Relations, a think tank.

Earlier today relatives claimed they were  able to call the cellphones of their missing loved ones

According to the Washington Post, family of some of the 239  people on board the vanished Boeing 777 said  that they were getting ring tones  and could see them active online  through a Chinese social networking service  called QQ.

One man said that the QQ account of his  brother-in-law showed him as  online, but frustratingly for those waiting  desperately for any news,  messages sent have gone unanswered and the calls have  not been picked  up.

This new eerie  development comes as the  Malaysian authorities said they had identified  one of the men on two stolen  European passports who were on the flight – and that he was not considered  likely to be a terrorist.

CIA: Can’t rule out terrorism in Malaysia plane  mystery

Separately, the search for any trace  of the  missing airliner has now shifted to the Straits of Malacca, at  least 100 miles  away from where it was last recorded by electronic  monitoring  devices.

The dramatic shift raises the possibility  that it flew undetected, crossing mainland Malaysia, before ditching into the  sea.

However the phantom phone calls and online  presence set off a whole new level  of hysteria for relatives who have spent the  past three-days cooped-up  in a Beijing hotel waiting for some concrete  information on the missing  plane.

Repeatedly  telling Malaysian Airlines  officials about the QQ accounts and ringing  telephone calls, they hoped that  modern technology could simply  triangulate the GPS signal of the phones and  locate their relatives.

However, according to Singapore’s Strait  Times, a Malaysia Airlines official, Hugh Dunleavy has confirmed to families  that his company had tried to call the cellphones of crew members and they too  had also rang out.

He is reported to have told relatives that  those phone numbers have been turned over to Chinese authorities.

One man who had asked police to come to his  house and see the active QQ  account on his computer was devastated to see that  by Monday afternoon  it had switched to inactive.

According to China.org.cn, 19 families of  those missing have signed a joint  statement confirming that their calls  connected to their loved ones but  that they rang out.

The relatives have asked for a full  investigation and some complained that Malaysian Airlines is not telling the  whole truth.

MH370: Families in tears as they continue to wait  for news

Family members of passengers onboard flight MH370 arrive in a car to the hotel they are staying at, in Putrajaya on March 11, 2014

Family members of passengers onboard flight MH370 arrive  in a car to the hotel they are staying at, in Putrajaya on March 11, 2014

Family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Beijing arrive at Cyberview Lodge Hotel as they await news on their missing loved ones

Family members of passengers onboard the missing  Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Beijing arrive at Cyberview Lodge Hotel as  they await news on their missing loved ones

No answers yet: Family members from Beijing, China, of a missing Malaysian Airlines flight arrive at a hotel in Cyberjaya, near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia on Tuesday morning

No answers yet: Family members from Beijing, China, of a  missing Malaysian Airlines flight arrive at a hotel in Cyberjaya, near Kuala  Lumpur International Airport, Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia on Tuesday morning

Hopeful family members from Beijing, China, of a missing Malaysian Airlines flight arrive at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Tuesday morning as they wait for any news

Hopeful family members from Beijing, China, of a missing  Malaysian Airlines flight arrive at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur International  Airport on Tuesday morning as they wait for any news

A board displaying messages for the passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is seen at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 11, 2014

A board displaying messages for the passengers from the  missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is seen at Kuala Lumpur International  Airport in Sepang on March 11, 2014

The International Business Times reported  that the sister of one of the Chinese passengers also rang his phone on live  television.

‘This morning, around 11:40, I called my  older brother’s number twice, and I got the ringing tone,’ said Bian Liangwei,  sister of one of the passengers according to IBT.

At 2pm, Bian called again and heard it  ringing once more.

‘If I could get through, the police could  locate the position, and there’s a chance he could still be  alive.’

However, at a press conference in Beijing,  Malaysian Airlines spokesman Ignatius Ong said one of the numbers that had been  passed on to the airline’s head office in Kuala Lumpur failed to get  through.

‘I myself have called the number five times  while the airline’s command center also called the number. We got no answering  tone,’ said Ong.

Indeed, authorities Authorities hunting for  the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded their search on land and sea  Tuesday, reflecting the difficulties in locating traces of the plane more than  three days after it vanished.

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement the  western coast of the country, near the Straits of Malacca, was ‘now the focus’  of the hunt. That is on the other side of peninsular Malaysia from where flight  370 was reported missing.

WHY ARE THE PASSENGERS’ PHONES  STILL RINGING?

After three  days, wouldn’t the phone batteries be dead by now?

Not necessarily. Smartphones are renowned for  their poor battery life and will typically last up to around 24 hours. But the  batteries of older phones can last considerably longer.

For example, the Nokia 100 boasts a standby  battery life of a staggering 35 days. Smartphone batteries can also last longer  if the handset isn’t being used, and especially if the phone is in Flight  Mode.

However, if the phone is in Flight Mode, it  switches off all wireless activity meaning calls wouldn’t be able to connect,  effectively ruling out this theory. 
If the phone batteries are dead, wouldn’t the call go  straight to voicemail?

In a word, yes. However, the process of  sending the call to voicemail can differ depending on the service  provider.

For example, the majority of phones will go  straight to voicemail, or callers will get an out of service message if  voicemail hasn’t been set up.

This will occur even if the phone is  underwater, or not near a cell signal.

However, some service providers will ring  once or twice before the phone goes to voicemail, or cut off. This may explain  the reports that claimed phones rang before seeming to hang up.
Some reports claim the phones are just ringing and  ringing though. How is this possible?

Telecoms expert Alan Spencer told MailOnline  that if the phones are really ringing, they can categorically not be under the  sea.

He added that the phones will only be ringing  if they are ‘switched on, not in water, the battery is charged, and [they are]  near a mobile cell site.’

This means that if the phones are genuinely  ringing, the plane needs to have landed on land – not in the sea – and be in a  location where there is cell service, rather than landing in the middle of a  jungle, for example.
Why can’t network operators locate the  phones?

A number of family members have asked the  network operators why they can’t use the phone’s signal to locate the missing  people.

Professor William Webb, a Fellow of the Royal  Academy of Engineering, told MailOnline: ‘The phones definitely won’t be  working. They’ll be underwater, out of coverage and by this time out of  battery.

‘So there’s absolutely no way they could be  used for triangulation.

‘As to why they are ‘ringing’ it’ll be the  same as if they were out of coverage – in some cases it may ring before going to  voicemail.’
What  about the T3212 timer I’ve read about?

The T3212 is a timer that causes a phone to  periodically send a message to the network saying where it is.

But Professor Webb said this only works when  the phone is turned on and it is in coverage. It won’t work when the battery is  dead.

What  about reports that passengers are appearing online, on the QQ social  network?

When people sign into social networks  including QQ, as well as Facebook, they appear online.

This is the case whether they’ve signed in on  a phone, tablet, PC, and laptop.

if missing passengers are shown as online,  they may not be using the service on their phone. Instead they may still be  logged in on another device.

If this other device shuts down or goes into  standby, however, or there is a long period of inactivity, the social network  will log them out, which may explain why some accounts went from online to  offline over a period of three days.

Shift of focus: Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (R), director general of the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia, speaks during a press conference on March 10, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Shift of focus: Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (R), director  general of the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia, speaks during a press  conference on March 10, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Vietnamese officers discuss their plan during a meeting before a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Phu Quoc Airport on Phu Quoc Island March 11, 2014

Vietnamese officers discuss their plan during a meeting  before a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Phu Quoc  Airport on Phu Quoc Island March 11, 2014

Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman  said the statement didn’t imply authorities believed the plane was off the  western coast. ‘The search is on both sides,’ he said.

The Boeing 777 had 239 people on board when  it vanished off radar screens early Saturday morning en route to Beijing from  Kuala Lumpur, triggering a massive international search effort.

Authorities began their hunt at the point the  plane was last known to be, a spot in the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam.  With no debris found, they have systematically expanded their search to include  areas where the plane could have in theory ended up given the amount of fuel it  had on board.

They have also said that the plane might have  tried to turn back to Kuala Lumpur. On Sunday, Malaysia’s air force chief said  there were indications on military radar that the jet may have done a  U-turn.

Vietnamese planes and ships are a major  component of the international search and rescue effort.

Search: A U.S. Navy SH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off from the destroyer USS Pinckney in the Gulf of Thailand, to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on Monday

Search: A U.S. Navy SH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off  from the destroyer USS Pinckney in the Gulf of Thailand, to assist in the search  for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on Monday

Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff  of Vietnamese People’s Army, said authorities on land had also been ordered to  search for the plane, which could have crashed into mountains or uninhabited  jungle.

He said that military units near the border  with Laos and Cambodia had been instructed to search their regions  also.

‘So far we have found no signs (of the plane)  … so we must widen our search on land,’ he said.

Experts say possible causes of the apparent  crash include an explosion, catastrophic engine failure, extreme turbulence,  pilot error or even suicide.

This deepening of the already baffling  mystery into the disappearance of flight MH370 comes as it was claimed that the  two passengers traveling on stolen passports on the plane were Iranian  nationals.

A friend of one of the two men told BBC  Persia that he played host to the pair in Kuala Lumpur after their arrival from  Tehran before they took off on the fateful journey.

This photo provided by Laurent Errera taken Dec. 26, 2011, shows the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared from air traffic control screens Saturday, taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France

This photo provided by Laurent Errera taken Dec. 26,  2011, shows the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared from air  traffic control screens Saturday, taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle  Airport in France

The source told the BBC service that the pair  had bought the fake passports because they wanted to go and live in  Europe.

The two men were using the passports of  Christian Kozel – a 30-year-old Austrian and Luigi Maraldi, a 37-year-old  Italian.

The friend, who knew one of the men from  school said that both purchased the illegal and fake passports in Malaysia and  one-way tickets to Amsterdam.

BBC Persia’s UN correspondent Bahman Kalbasi  told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that the two men were not sinister and  were only ‘looking for a place to settle.’

Investigators in Malaysia are voicing  skepticism that the airliner that disappeared early Saturday with 239 people on  board was the target of an attack, U.S. and European government sources close to  the probe said.

How the search is being stepped  up

How the search is widening - but has still to find a thing: Strait of Malacca is now main focus of air and sea search but China is deploying ships, planes and helicopters to the South China Sea to try to find any trace of the Boeing 777. Its authorities say more needs to be done to find what happened to the plane.

How the search is widening – but has still to find a  thing: Strait of Malacca is now main focus of air and sea search but China is  deploying ships, planes and helicopters to the South China Sea to try to find  any trace of the Boeing 777. Its authorities say more needs to be done to find  what happened to the plane.

The fate of the Malaysian airliner that  vanished about an hour into a flight to Beijing remained a mystery, as a massive  air and sea search, now in its fourth day, failed to turn up any trace of the  Boeing 777 plane.

Neither Malaysia’s Special Branch, the agency  leading the investigation locally, nor spy agencies in the United States and  Europe have ruled out the possibility that militants may have been involved in  downing Malaysia Airlines Flight.

But Malaysian authorities have indicated that  the evidence so far does not strongly back an attack as a cause for the  aircraft’s disappearance, and that mechanical or pilot problems could have led  to the apparent crash, the U.S. sources said.

‘There is no evidence to suggest an act of  terror,’ said a European security source, who added that there was also ‘no  explanation what’s happened to it or where it is.’

Chinese and international journalists wait at the check-in area for Malaysian Airlines at Capital Airport in Beijing, China on Monday

Chinese and international journalists wait at the  check-in area for Malaysian Airlines at Capital Airport in Beijing, China on  Monday

Meanwhile, dozens of ships and aircraft from  10 countries were still scouring the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam  as questions mounted over possible security lapses that could have led to a  downing of the Boeing 777-200ER after it climbed to an altitude of 35,000  feet.

Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two  passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard  had used false identity documents.

Even so, one U.S. source said Malaysian  authorities were leaning away from the theory that the plane was attacked.

Their view was mostly based on electronic  evidence that indicates the flight may have turned back toward the Malaysian  capital of Kuala Lumpur before disappearing.

Even that information has not been clearly  confirmed, and investigators and intelligence sources say the fate of the Flight  MH370 is still shrouded in mystery.

Chinese students stand by candles while praying for the passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777-200 plane of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at a school in Zhuji city, east Chinas Zhejiang province

Chinese students stand by candles while praying for the  passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777-200 plane of Malaysia Airlines Flight  MH370 at a school in Zhuji city, east Chinas Zhejiang province

One reason was that the aircraft had failed  to make automatic contact with a flight data-monitoring system after vanishing  from radar screens, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Such contact could have helped investigators  determine what happened.

Also raising doubts about the possibility of  an attack, the United States extensively reviewed imagery taken by spy  satellites for evidence of a mid-air explosion, but saw none, a US government  source said. The source described U.S. satellite coverage of the region as  thorough.

With no success so far, authorities were  planning to widen the search from Tuesday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of  Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, told reporters on Monday.

‘Unfortunately we have not found anything  that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,’ he said.

‘As far as we are concerned, we have to find  the aircraft. We have to find a piece of the aircraft if  possible.’

Azharuddin said a hijacking attempt could not  be ruled out as investigators explore all theories.

Frustrated relatives of Chinese passengers  threw water bottles at airline officials during briefing

Angry relatives threw water bottles at  Malaysia Airlines officials after they were unable to offer any more information  on the disappearance of flight MH370.

Four members of staff of the airline faced  relatives of Chinese passengers on board the flight during a briefing yesterday  afternoon.

According to The New York Times, one of the relatives  shouted ‘All Malaysians are liars’, before adding ‘do you know what “liars”  means?’

Hugh Dunleavy (second right) and Ignatius Ong (second left) from Malaysia Airline attend a conference with Chinese relatives of the passengers onboard flight MH370 at the Lido Hotel

Hugh Dunleavy (second right) and Ignatius Ong (second  left) from Malaysia Airline attend a conference with Chinese relatives of the  passengers onboard flight MH370 at the Lido Hotel

Nearly 100 people crammed themselves into the  room for the 20-minute briefing, which journalists were officially barred from,  the paper reported.

Meanwhile, more than 100 of the relatives,  who have been holed up in a Beijing hotel anxiously awaiting news of their  family members, have signed a petition demanding answers and government  assistance, The Washington Post has  reported.

The airline sent professionals to counsel and  support the families over the weekend.

Over the last three days the search mission  has grown to include nine aircraft and 24 ships from nine countries, which have  been scouring the Gulf of Thailand on the eastern side of  Malaysia.

Apart from the sea, land areas are also being  searched.

Chinese relatives of the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 gather inside the waiting area at Lido Hotel

Chinese relatives of the passengers onboard Malaysia  Airlines flight MH370 gather inside the waiting area at Lido Hotel

A relative (centre) of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaking to journalists in the Lido Hotel in Beijing

A relative (centre) of passengers on the missing  Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaking to journalists in the Lido Hotel in  Beijing

China, where two-thirds of the passengers  were from, has urged Malaysian authorities to ‘speed up the efforts’ while also  contributing ships and helicopters to the search.

The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, on the  western coast of Malaysia, early Saturday en route to Beijing. It flew overland  across Malaysia and crossed the eastern coast into the Gulf of Thailand at  35,000 feet (11,000 meters).

There it disappeared from radar screens. The  airline says the pilots did not send any distress signals, suggesting a sudden  and possibly catastrophic incident.

A relative of a Chinese passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 answers questions from the media at the Lido Hotel

A relative of a Chinese passenger onboard Malaysia  Airlines flight MH370 answers questions from the media at the Lido Hotel

In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said search  and rescue teams ‘have expanded the scope beyond the flight path to the West  Peninsula of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca’.

An earlier statement had said the western  coast of Malaysia was ‘now the focus’, but the airline subsequently said that  phrase was an oversight.

‘The search is on both sides,’ Civil aviation  chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said, adding that the previous statement didn’t  mean that the plane was more likely to be off the western coast.

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