KUALA LUMPUR: THE Dutch team leading the criminal investigation into the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is still waiting crucial data from the United States to help in their probe.
The “intelligence mother lode” in this case would be high-resolution images from US surveillance satellites on their overpass over the area in eastern Ukraine, where the Boeing 777-200ER was shot down.
The US had said that it had satellite images of the area to support its claims that Russia regularly fires missiles into Ukrainian territory.
Media reports, which quoted a Reuters’ interview with the Dutch team, said investigators had said that the “US was not being any more cooperative, refusing to send its intelligence data to the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 investigative team”.
“But the Dutch diplomatically blamed technicalities in US laws for the lack of American cooperation.
“It is desirable for prosecutors to receive further information from the US in connection with the criminal investigation.
“In the American legal system, it is juridically complicated to pass intelligence information to the criminal justice system,” it quoted the Dutch government as saying in an official letter to the Netherlands parliament.
The Dutch team, however, remains hopeful that the US would eventually turn over the data it needed.
The US Director of National Intelligence had, on July 27, released satellite images showing rockets that had been allegedly fired from Russia into neighbouring eastern Ukraine.
The images also showed scorch marks where the rockets were launched and craters where they impacted the ground. This suggests that US surveillance satellites passed over the crash site.
Investigators hope that during one of its passes on July 17, when MH17 was shot down, the satellites may have caught something, such as the tell-tale plume of a missile launch.
As the investigating team is not able to access the crash site because of the ongoing clashes between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian armed forces, it is gathering data from the public as well as other governments to conduct what it called a “remote” investigation.
Reuters had reported that US lawmakers had asked whether their government had provided imagery 10 minutes before and after the crash.
“Only the latter was referred to in an interim air crash inspection report published last month,” it said.
On Tuesday, the investigators, who said that the team was now looking at the possibility of MH17 being shot down by another aircraft, said it would ask Russia for data it claimed to have, that purportedly showed the presence of two military aircraft near the airliner.
Last month’s interim report by the Dutch Safety Board, which investigates air crashes, said there were several civilian airliners flying nearby, but no military aircraft capable of shooting it down.
The head of the Main Operations Department of the Russian Army General Staff, Lieutenant-General Andrei Kartapolov, had, on July 21, called for a press conference where he made public Russian intelligence data showing a Ukrainian Su-25 flying close to the Boeing 777-200ER, just before it crashed.
He also provided evidence of a US satellite passing over rebel-held Ukraine at the time of the incident.