Cross-posted from Consortium News
Beyond confirming that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 apparently was shot down on July 17, the Dutch Safety Board's interim investigative report answered few questions, including some that would seem easy to address, such as the Russian military radar purporting to show a Ukrainian SU-25 jetfighter in the area, a claim that the Kiev government denied.
Either the Russian radar showed the presence of a jetfighter "gaining height" as it closed to within three to five kilometers of the passenger plane -- as the Russians claimed in a July 21 press conference -- or it didn't. The Kiev authorities insisted that they had no military aircraft in the area at the time.
The report is also silent on the "dog-not-barking" issue of whether the U.S. government had satellite surveillance that revealed exactly where the supposed ground-to-air missile was launched and who may have fired it.
The Obama administration has asserted knowledge about those facts -- initially pointing the finger at ethnic Russian rebels using a powerful Buk anti-aircraft missile system supposedly supplied by Russia -- but the U.S. government has withheld satellite photos and other intelligence information that could presumably corroborate the charge.
Curiously, too, the Dutch report, released on Tuesday, states that the investigation received "satellite imagery taken in the days after the occurrence." Obviously, the more relevant images in assessing blame would be aerial photography in the days and hours before the crash that killed 298 people on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
In mid-July, eastern Ukraine was a high priority for U.S. intelligence and a Buk missile battery is a large system that should have been easily picked up by U.S. aerial reconnaissance. The four missiles in a battery are each about 16-feet-long and would have to be hauled around by a truck and then put in position to fire.
Just days after the July 17 shoot-down, a source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the analysts were examining satellite imagery that showed the crew manning the suspected missile battery wearing what looked like Ukrainian army uniforms.
Then, on July 22, at a briefing given to journalists from major U.S. publications, a U.S. intelligence official suggested that a Ukrainian military "defector" might have launched the Buk missile against the airliner, possibly explaining the issue of the uniforms.
The Los Angeles Times reported that "U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [Buk anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems."
The briefers also theorized that the rebels hit Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by mistake, thinking it was a Ukrainian military aircraft.
Yet, while the U.S. government has released a variety of satellite photos to bolster various allegations lodged against ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and the Russian government, the Obama administration has balked at providing satellite imagery relating to the Flight 17 case, instead basing much of its public case on "social media."
Russian Satellite Images
The Dutch report's reference to only post-crash satellite photos is also curious because the Russian military released a number of satellite images purporting to show Ukrainian government Buk missile systems north of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk before the attack, including two batteries that purportedly were shifted 50 kilometers south of Donetsk on July 17, the day of the crash, and then removed by July 18.
Russian Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov called on the Ukrainian government to explain the movements of its Buk systems and why Kiev's Kupol-M19S18 radars, which coordinate the flight of Buk missiles, showed increased activity leading up to the July 17 shoot-down.