March 5, 2015
By: John E. Fiorentino
Not long ago, during the course of this investigation, I decided to try and get a response from the Australian Transportation Safety Board (ATSB) as to why the recordings of the purported 'acoustic pings' made by the research vessel Ocean Shield were still being held from public release.
As many of you already know, I fought an over month long battle with the media (chiefly CNN) to publicize research I had done which indicated the purported pings probably weren't from MH370's black boxes. I was stonewalled at every turn, until finally aviation analyst and author of the recent book “Malaysia Airlines Flight 370” David Soucie finally broke the story on CNN's “Newday Saturday” May 10, 2014.
My inquiry to ATSB was both frustrating and surprising at the same time. Frustrating for the lack of a definite answer and surprising because of what I discovered. The essence of the response to my efforts was reminiscent of what might best be described as “The Curly Shuffle”** For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Curly Shuffle refers to an 80's song based on the chubby character from the “Three Stooges.” (I'm certainly not trying to make light of this subject, but merely trying to offer an adequate description of just how things appeared at the time)
In any event, the 'shuffle' began as I was first referred by the ATSB to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and then to the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) It seems, according to the JACC that the recordings in question are classified under the provisions of the Transport Safety Investigation Act of 2003. and are not releasable to the public at this time.
The Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 +++ is what establishes and gives authority to the ATSB. The Act is quite specific in many regards as it of course must be. Because of this, I will confess I was a bit taken aback when my enquiry to ATSB was handled in the manner it was.
Reproduced below are copies of e-mail correspondence to the ATSB, ADF and JACC.
First my initial enquiry to ATSB
From: John Fiorentino [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Tuesday, 9 September 2014 1:39 AM To: ATSB - Info Subject: Re: Flight 370 [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
Dear Sirs: I have sent several messages with my findings and recommendations re: MH370. I have a specific question for ATSB. What is the exact reason ATSB refuses to release the recordings of the putative underwater acoustic "pings?"
The ATSB reply
From: ATSB - Info To: John Fiorentino ; ATSB - Info Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 12:01 AM Subject: RE: Flight 370 [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
Dear Mr Fiorentino, Thank you for your email. You will need to contact the Australia Defence Force (http://www.defence.gov.au/). Regards, Dan Daniel JT O'Malley Communications Officer Australian Transport Safety Bureau E ATSBinfo@atsb.gov.au / P 1800-020-606
After I forwarded my request to the ADF, I received this:
The ADF reply
----- Original Message ----- From: MediaOps To: 'John Fiorentino' Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2014 5:09 PM Subject: RE: Flight 370 [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED] UNCLASSIFIED
Good morning John, We have referred your email to the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), who we believe is better placed to assist. Kind regards, Media Operations | Department of Defence
And finally, the JACC response
Dear Mr Fiorentino Thank you for your question regarding the release of acoustic information obtained during the initial search for MH370. The acoustic information recorded in April was obtained under the provisions of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is classified as restricted information as defined in Part 1 Section 3 of the Act. Unfortunately this information is therefore not releasable to the public at this time.
Thank you for your interest in MH370.
Joint Agency Coordination Centre
So, what is the big deal, you might ask? Perhaps we are just looking at the typical government run around. Perhaps yes and perhaps no. The problem as I see it is that the same Act used by JACC to deny my request, is the same Act that says this:
12AB Independence of the ATSB and Chief Commissioner ^^^^
(1) Subject to section 21, the ATSB is not subject to direction from anyone in relation to the performance of its functions or the exercise of its powers.
(2) The Chief Commissioner is not subject to direction from anyone in relation to the exercise of his or her powers. However, when exercising his or her powers, the Chief Commissioner must act consistently with the ATSB in the performance of its functions or the exercise of its powers.
Note: This means that the ATSB and the Chief Commissioner would not, for example, be subject to direction from anyone in relation to: (a) how a particular investigation will be carried out; or (b) the content of a public report on a particular investigation
So, are we to believe that the ATSB is ignorant of it's own authority, or is something else going on here? Just who is running the show regarding the Australian Investigation into MH370? Just what is the true role of the JACC?
I'm still investigating.
Notes and References
**The Curley Shuffle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKAfXdb5LsA
+++ Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 https://www.atsb.gov.au/media/4081392/TSI%20Act%202003%20C2013C00020%20Jan2013.pdf
^^^^ Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 – Pg. 15 Section 12AB
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