TODAY   |  March 09, 2014

Stolen passports deepen mystery of missing jet

At least two people on the missing Malaysia Airlines jet were traveling on stolen passports, something counterterrorism analyst Michael Leiter called “troublesome.” He said authorities will attempt to identify the real identities of the passengers, which will be “a tough piece of intelligence work.”

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> michael leiter is a counterterrorism analyst. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> as we learn more about these passengers apparently traveling with stolen passports, you say this detail, quote, energized the u.s. intelligence committee. explain what you mean by that.

>> that's exactly right. when this crash first occurred, there's something suspicious. planes don't normally disappear at 35,000 feet. but without anything more, intelligence officials, the cia, the fbi basically stand back and say the civilian investigators look at this. as soon as you know you have people on that plane using false identities, using passwords that were stolen, that immediately got people saying now we've got to understand who they were, why they might have been on the plane and what other links they might have had. as tom just said, they know something suspicious is going on but don't know what it was. in this region it's common to have stolen pass pords, especially in thailand. people travel on false passports for reasons other than terrorism.

>> in terms of other reason there's speculation that perhaps it was drug smuggling . it still begs the question, how in this day and age with the security and technology we have at airports, how is anybody able to board an international flight using a false passport -- a passport that had been reported stolen?

>> it's certainly troublesome. it varies from country to country. entering the united states with false passport, that would almost certainly be picked up by the department of homeland security and the individuals wouldn't be able to board the flight. that requires a fairly sophisticated electronic linking of these passports with stolen records held by the international police organization, interpol. in this case my current understanding some one of those passports was reported stolen. hence the malaysians might not have known that one or both were stolen and it is possible that the airline didn't have all that information even if chinese or malaysian officials did.

>> so at this point, if you're looking at this as one of the investigators, where does the investigation go now? what are you looking at?

>> really four things. obviously the forensic information from the crash will be absolutely critical. second, continuing to look at all the people they know were on the plane and any linkages they have. third and the most critical right now, identifying who those false passport travelers were. that's hard. they will used closed circuit television to try to identify them. that will be a tough piece of intelligence work. last but not least, looking at all the intelligence holdings from the past several weeks, was there anything that now in het spekt indicates there was some terrorism or other criminal nexus that brought this plane down.

>> appreciate you being with us, michael, thank you.