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AirAsia Flight 8501: Searchers Find 4 Large Pieces of Jet Plane

AirAsia Flight 8501: Searchers Find 4 Large Pieces of Jet Plane

By ABC NEWS via GOOD MORNING AMERICA

PHOTO: This photograph from April 2014 shows Indonesia AirAsia’s Airbus A320-200 PK-AXC in the air near Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International Airport.


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Ships with sensitive sonar equipment found four large sections of AirAsia Flight 8501, Indonesian officials said Saturday.

The objects were found close together at 30 meters in the Java Sea in the sixth day of the operation. Officials told reporters that sonar located the plane parts, which are about 7.2 x 0.5 meters and 9.4 x 4.8 x 0.4 meters long. Weather conditions have stalled an effort to recover the objects.

At least 30 bodies of victims have been recovered, authorities said earlier.

Five of the victims were found still strapped in their seats, Indonesian navy official Col. Yayan Sofiyan said.

Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, said the search would be stepped up as long as the weather allowed.

“We will focus on underwater detection,” said Soelistyo, adding ships from Indonesia, Malaysia,Singapore and the United States had been on the scene from before dawn today to try to pinpoint the wreckage and the all-important black boxes, or the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

The Airbus A320 crashed into the Java Sea Sunday with 162 people on board. A number of the bodies were found by a U.S. Navy ship, said Suryadi B. Supriyadi, operation coordinator for the National Search and Rescue Agency.

Nine planes, many with metal detectors, scoured an 8,380-square-mile area off Pangkalan Bun, the closest town on Borneo island to the search area. Two Japanese ships with three helicopters are on their way to the area, Soelistyo said.

But he said bad weather, which has hindered the search the past several days, was a worry, with forecasts of rain, strong winds and high waves up to 13 feet until Sunday. The strong sea currents have kept debris moving.

PHOTO: Crew members of an Indonesian Air Force Super Puma helicopter of the 6th Air Squadron look out of the windows during a search operation for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 over Java Sea, Indonesia, Jan. 1, 2015.
Crew members of an Indonesian Air Force Super Puma helicopter of the 6th Air Squadron look out of the windows during a search operation for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 over Java Sea, Indonesia.

He estimated that the fuselage was at a depth of about 80 to 100 feet, and vowed to recover the bodies of “our brothers and sisters … whatever the conditions we face.”

It’s unclear what brought down the plane during its flight from Surabaya to Singapore. It lost contact with air traffic controllers over the Java Sea shortly after the pilots requested a change of flight plan because of weather.

So far, an evacuation slide, a life jacket, an emergency side door and some luggage have been recovered. The water is less than 100 feet deep in the area where the objects were found, officials said.

PHOTO: Indonesian air force personnel carry parts of a plane found floating on the water near the site where AirAsia Flight 8501 disappeared, at the airport in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Jan. 2, 2015.
Indonesian air force personnel carry parts of a plane found floating on the water near the site where AirAsia Flight 8501 disappeared, at the airport in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Jan. 2, 2015.

There were 155 passengers on board, with 137 adults, 17 children and one infant. Also on board were two pilots, four cabin crew and one engineer, according to the airline.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

AirAsia QZ8501: Officials say debris is missing plane

AirAsia QZ8501: Officials say debris is missing plane

Relative of victim at Surabaya airport - 30 December
Families had to endure an agonizing wait for news

Indonesian officials have confirmed that bodies and debris found in the Java Sea off Borneo are from AirAsia flight QZ8501 that went missing on Sunday, a statement by AirAsia says.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said he was “devastated” by the news.

President Joko Widodo told media he had instructed all search teams to focus on finding the passengers and crew.

The Airbus A320-200, carrying 162 people from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, disappeared on Sunday.

The head of Indonesia’s search operation, Bambang Soelistyo, says three bodies have been retrieved, not 40 as previously stated by naval officials.

President Widodo says efforts will focus on recovering bodies

The discovery came on the third day of searching. A navy spokesman said rescuers were “very busy now” with the salvage operation.

‘Families are priority’

The AirAsia statement said the remains were found in the Karimata Strait, south-west of Pangkalan Bun in the Borneo province of Central Kalimantan.

Mr Fernandes said: “I am absolutely devastated.”

He told a news conference there could now be an end to uncertainty for everyone involved.

“This is a scar with me for the rest of my life. It doesn’t change anything, there is at least some closure as opposed to not knowing what’s happened and holding out hope.”

The AirAsia statement said family members would be assigned care providers and an emergency call centre would be set up for those seeking information.

BBC map showing last communication of AirAsia flight QZ8501

Widya, wife of the pilot, Iriyanto - 30 December
The pilot’s wife (pictured right, with headscarf) was among those waiting for news at Surabaya airport

 

Indonesian air force crew carry what is believed to be slide from missing plane to military base in Pangkalan Bun - 30 December
Searchers have found what they think is the missing plane’s slide.

 

Debris floating in the Java Sea
Pictures of debris were taken by search and rescue aircraft.

 

In a news conference shortly after the discovery was confirmed, President Widodo urged relatives to be strong in facing “this difficult moment”.

“I have instructed all the teams to focus on finding the passengers and crew,” he said.

The first debris from the plane was spotted earlier on Tuesday. Pictures of debris and bodies were shown on Indonesian TV. Relatives of passengers on the plane watching the pictures were visibly shocked.

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At the scene: Alice Budisatrijo, BBC News, Surabaya airport

They had been hoping for a miracle, but in the end they had to watch the worst possible news.

Relatives of the passengers screamed and wailed as local television networks showed pictures of what was clearly a human body floating in the water.

Grown men put their hands to their faces. At least two people collapsed and were taken out of the room on stretchers.

The mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, went from one crying relative to another, and at one point walked out with a grieving man, while telling him: “We don’t have a choice. Today this happens to you, tomorrow it may happen to me. Nobody knows. So you have to be strong. Our lives belong to God.”

It’s been a trying and exhausting wait for the more than 100 relatives who have been gathering in that room, but no-one could have been prepared for this ending.

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The head of the search operation, Mr Soelistyo, said that a shadow was also spotted under the water, which appeared to be in the shape of a plane.

All resources were now being sent to the area where the debris was found, he said.

Mr Soelistyo added that ships with more sophisticated technology were being deployed to check whether larger parts of the plane were submerged beneath the debris.

AFP journalist Bay Ismoyo, who took some of the first photos of the debris, said he saw “an orange object floating on the waters”.

“We saw an unusual object floating. We tried to zoom in and we recognised what looks like a life vest.”

At least 30 ships, 15 aircraft and seven helicopters joined the operation when it resumed at 06:00 local time on Tuesday (23:00 GMT Monday).

The operation, led by Indonesia, includes assistance from Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, with other offers of help from South Korea, Thailand, China and France. The US destroyer USS Sampson is on its way to the zone.

On board the plane were 137 adult passengers, 17 children and one infant, along with two pilots and five crew.

Most were Indonesian but the passengers included one UK national, a Malaysian, a Singaporean and three South Koreans.

AirAsia previously had an excellent safety record and there were no fatal accidents involving its aircraft.

At least 40 bodies, debris found in search for missing AirAsia plane

At least 40 bodies, debris found in search for missing AirAsia plane

FoxNews.com

At least 40 bodies have been found in the area where AirAsia Flight 8501 last made contact with air traffic controllers, along with debris from the plane.

The bodies were found in the Java Sea about six miles from the plane’s last known point of contact. The plane disappeared Sunday with 162 people on board traveling from Surbaya, Indonesia to Singapore.

The bodies were were not wearing life jackets, according to Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Director, SB Supriyadi.

Rescue workers were shown on local TV being lowered on ropes from a hovering helicopter to retrieve bodies. Efforts were hindered by 6-foot waves and strong winds, Supriyadi said, adding that several bodies were later picked up by a navy ship.

“The warship Bung Tomo has retrieved 40 bodies and the number is growing. They are very busy now,” a navy spokesman added.

Sky News also reports that the “shadow” of a jet has been spotted on the seabed.

Crews in dozens of planes, helicopters and ships looking for the aircraft discovered what appeared to be a life jacket and an emergency exit door, according to The Associated Press. Part of the plane’s interior, including an oxygen tank, was brought to the nearest town, Pangkalan Bun, along with a bright blue plastic suitcase that appeared to be in perfect condition.

Family members watched the graphic details unfold on local television. Indonesian television showed a half-naked bloated body bobbing in the sea. Many screamed and another man fainted and was rushed from the room on a stretcher.

Tony Fernandes, the CEO of AirAsia, offered his condolences in a message on his Twitter account.

Pilots of the jet had been worried about the weather on Sunday and sought permission to climb above threatening clouds, but were denied due to heavy air traffic. Minutes later, the jet was gone from the radar without issuing a distress signal.

The suspected crash caps an astonishingly tragic year for air travel in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia in particular. Malaysia-based AirAsia’s loss comes on top of the still-unsolved disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March with 239 people aboard, and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine, which killed all 298 passengers and crew.

Nearly all the passengers and crew are Indonesians, who are frequent visitors to Singapore, particularly on holidays.

Ifan Joko, 54, said that despite the tragic news he is still hoping for a miracle. His brother, Charlie Gunawan, along with his wife, their three children and two other family members, were traveling to Singapore on the plane to ring in the New Year.

“I know the plane has crashed, but I cannot believe my brother and his family are dead,” he said, wiping a tear. “… We still pray they are alive.”

Several countries are helping Indonesia retrieve the wreckage and the passengers.

The United States on Tuesday announced it was sending the USS Sampson destroyer, joining at least 30 ships, 15 aircraft and seven helicopters in the search for the jet, said Indonesia’s Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo.

A Chinese frigate was also on the way, while Singapore said it was sending two underwater beacon detectors to try to detect pings from the plane’s all-important cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Malaysia, Australia and Thailand also are involved in the search.

Officials: No sign of AirAsia Flight QZ8501; likely at ‘bottom of the sea’

Officials: No sign of AirAsia Flight QZ8501; likely at ‘bottom of the sea’

(CNN) — A second day in the search for a missing AirAsia plane proved fruitless Monday, with Indonesia’s top rescue official saying the commercial jet probably crashed into the sea.

“Our early conjecture is that the plane is in the bottom of the sea,” Bambang Sulistyo, the head of Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency, told reporters, saying the view was based on the plane’s flight track and last known coordinates.

But searchers still don’t know exactly where the aircraft is, he said, and may need help from other countries for an underwater search.

AirAsia Flight QZ8501 disappeared in Indonesian airspace with 162 people aboard.

Ships, planes and helicopters are looking for the missing aircraft, led by Indonesia.

It’s unclear if weather played a role in the aircraft’s disappearance, but rescuers say it could be a factor that influences how quickly they find the plane.

airasia plane airplane

Large waves and clouds hampered the search for the plane Sunday, and bad weather at sea hampered search efforts again Monday. But Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters his country will not give up or set a time limit for the operation.

Authorities say they’re combing a “very broad search area.”

A possible oil slick within the search zone has been discounted as not being from an airplane, Indonesian authorities told CNN. Likewise, reports of a very faint flight recorder “ping” are false, Indonesian local media reported.

There were reports of objects found in the search zone, but given that the area has a great deal of traffic along the water, authorities have said objects found won’t automatically indicate a sign of the plane.

Kalla told CNN there were “some reports from Australia” about possible objects found, but it was unclear whether they were from the plane.

The aerial search will resume Tuesday.

What role did weather play?

Report: Higher altitude request denied

AirAsia says air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft at 7:24 a.m. Sunday, Singapore time (6:24 a.m. in Indonesia).

The plane, flying from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, went missing as it flew over the Java Sea between the islands of Belitung and Borneo — a heavily traveled shipping channel with shallow waters — Indonesian authorities said.

Before the plane, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic controllers, one of the pilots asked to change course and fly at a higher altitude because of bad weather, officials said. Heavy thunderstorms were reported in the area at the time.

Air traffic control approved the pilot’s request to turn left but denied permission for the plane to climb to 38,000 feet from 32,000 feet, Djoko Murjatmodjo, an aviation official at the Indonesian Transport Ministry, told the national newspaper Kompas.

The increased altitude request was denied because there was another plane flying at that height, he said.

Djoko suggested that Flight 8501 ascended despite air traffic control denying it permission.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said storm clouds caused the pilot to ask for a flight plan change. But he added, “We don’t want to speculate whether weather was a factor. We really don’t know.

Once the aircraft is found, there will be a proper investigation, Fernandes said.

In addition to Indonesia’s teams, several other countries have joined the hunt for the missing plane.

A C-130 plane from Singapore has been participating in the search, and the country’s military says it’s sending two more ships to the search area. Malaysia’s transportation minister said his country has deployed three vessels and three aircraft to assist in the search. And the Royal Australian Air Force said Monday that it was deploying a patrol plane to help.

The U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet said it stands ready to assist the search efforts but so far hasn’t been asked to help.

Indonesia has reached out to the United Kingdom, France and the United States for help with sonar technology that may be needed for an underwater search, Sulistyo told reporters Monday.

AirAsia CEO takes to Twitter

Anxious wait for relatives

Several dozen anguished family members of the passengers met with airport and airline officials in a closed-door briefing Monday at the airport.

As they waited for news, some relatives took cell phone pictures of a flight manifest posted on a wall. The black-and-white papers showed every passenger’s name and seat number, but not their fate.

Others simply sat and dabbed tears from their eyes.

Oei Endang Sulsilowati and her daughter were looking for information about her brother, his wife and their two children.

“We don’t know what to do,” Sulsilowati said. “We are just waiting for news.”

“Our concern right now is for the relatives and the next of kin,” Fernandes said during a news conference in Surabaya.

Some police said authorities were seeking additional materials to help identify passengers, such as photos with close-ups of teeth, DNA, or fingerprints. But police later told CNN they were not immediately seeking these materials.

East Java Police have set up a disaster victims identification area at the Surabaya airport.

Of the people on board the passenger jet, 155 are Indonesian, three are South Korean, one is British, one is French, one is Malaysian and one is Singaporean, the airline said.

Eighteen children, including one infant, are among the passengers, the carrier said. Seven of the people on board are crew members.

Families of AirAsia flight passengers given support through the ‘nightmare’

The MH370 mystery

AirAsia, a successful budget airline group headquartered in Malaysia, had a clean safety record until the disappearance of Flight 8501. The missing plane is operated by the company’s Indonesian affiliate.

The loss of contact with the plane comes nearly 10 months after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which dropped off radar over Southeast Asia on March 8 with 239 people on board.

Searchers have yet to find any remains of Flight 370, which officials believe went down in the southern Indian Ocean after mysteriously flying thousands of kilometers away from its planned route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

But some aviation experts don’t think the search for Flight 8501 will be as challenging as the hunt for MH370.

“We are not talking about the deep Indian Ocean here,” CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest said. “We are talking about congested airspace around Southeast Asia. There will be much better radar coverage. There’s certainly better air traffic control coverage.”

Indonesia Verifies Reports On Missing AirAsia Plane’s Emergency Landing

Indonesia Verifies Reports On Missing AirAsia Plane’s Emergency Landing

A relative of a missing passenger has reportedly received a text message from an unknown sender, stating that the plane made an emergency landing and all passengers are alive

airasia plane airplane

The Indonesian Ministry of Transportation is currently verifying information claiming that the missing AirAsia aircraft has made an emergency landing in the eastern part of the Belitung island in the Java Sea, the ministry’s representative said Sunday.

“We at the [crisis] center [in Jakarta] have not received such information yet. According to some data, our colleagues in Surabaya have learned it. We are currently checking this,” the ministry’s representative J. A. Barata told Detik.com.

According to Detik.com, a relative of a missing passenger received a text message from an unknown sender, stating that the plane made an emergency landing and all passengers were alive.

AirAsia flight QZ8501 en route from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore, lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24 a.m. local time (00:24 GMT) and went missing.

Earlier in the day, AirAsia issued a statement confirming the crash of the aircraft, while the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation said it was not ready to confirm this information.

The destiny of the 162 people on board remains unknown.

Search and rescue operations are being conducted by the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) under the guidance of the Indonesian Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Malaysia, Singapore and Australia have also offered to assist in search for the missing aircraft.

 

 

AirAsia plane carrying 162 disappears over stormy Indonesian waters

AirAsia plane carrying 162 disappears over stormy Indonesian waters

FoxNews.com

AirAsia planes airplane flight disappear
AirAsia planes lineup on a runway (AP/File) (AP)

Indonesia and Singapore have launched a search and rescue operation after an AirAsia flight carrying 162 passengers disappeared over the Java Sea early Sunday.

Indonesian officials tell Fox News that the air search has been suspended for the night and will resume Monday morning local time.

Achmad Toha told The Associated Press that the planes involved in the search returned to their base Sunday evening, but that some ships were still in the area where the plane lost contact with air traffic control. The air search was set to resume at 6 a.m. Monday.

Flight 8501 was scheduled to make a relatively short early-morning flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore but lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control at 6:24 a.m. local time (6:24 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday), approximately an hour before it was due to land.

Eleven minutes earlier, according to Djoko Murjatmodjo, Indonesia’s acting director general of transportation, the pilot had “asked to hinder cloud by turning left and go higher to 34,000 feet.” Murjatmodjo said that there was no distress signal from the plane. AirAsia Indonesia had earlier confirmed that the pilot had asked to change course due to bad weather in the area.

“We hope we can find the location of the plane as soon as possible, and we hope that God will give us guidance to find it,” Murjatmodjo told reporters. “We don’t dare to presume what has happened except that it has lost contact.”

Flight 8501 was last seen on radar at 6:16 a.m., and a minute later was no longer there, he added.

“This is my worst nightmare,” AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes said in a tweet. Earlier, Fernandes, the face of the company and an active Twitter user, sent out a tweet that said: “Thank you for all your thoughts and prays[sic]. We must stay strong.” He also tweeted that he was heading to Surabaya.

Sunardi, a weather forecaster at the Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency who uses only one name, told the Associated Press that dense storm clouds were detected up to 44,000 feet in the same area at the time the plane was reported to have lost contact.

“There could have been turbulence, lightning and vertical as well as horizontal strong winds within such clouds,” he said.

The single-aisle Airbus A320-200 had an Indonesian captain and a French co-pilot, five cabin crew and 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant, AirAsia Indonesia said in a statement. Among the passengers were three South Koreans and one each from Singapore and Malaysia. The rest were Indonesians.

The airline’s statement added that the plane’s captain had a total of 6,100 flying hours, while the first officer had flown 2,275 hours.

At Surabaya airport, dozens of relatives sat in a room, many of them talking on mobile phones and crying. Some looked dazed. As word spread, more and more family members were arriving at the crisis center to await word.

Flightradar24, a flight tracking website, said the plane was delivered in September 2008, which would make it six years old. It said the plane was flying at 32,000 feet, the regular cruising altitude for most jetliners, when the signal from the plane was lost. AirAsia said that the plane had undergone its last scheduled maintenance on Nov. 16.

Murjatmodjo, the Indonesian official, said the plane is believed to have vanished somewhere over the Java Sea between Tanjung Pandan on Belitung island and Pontianak, on Indonesia’s part of Kalimantan island.

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters in Surabaya that the position was believed to be near the coast line. He said search and rescue efforts now involved the Indonesian army, the national Search and Rescue Agency as well as Singapore and Malaysia. The Search and Rescue Agency’s operation chief, Maj. Gen. Tatang Zaenudin, said 200 rescuers had been deployed to the east side of Belitung island.

Air Force spokesman Hadi Tjahjanto said three aircraft, including a surveillance plane, had been dispatched to the area. The Singapore air force and the navy also were searching with two C-130 planes.

The Singapore aviation authority said it was informed about the missing plane by Jakarta ground control about half an hour after the contact was lost.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, expressed solidarity with AirAsia. In a tweet he said: “Very sad to hear that AirAsia Indonesia QZ8501 is missing. My thoughts are with the families. Malaysia stands ready to help.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement that President Obama had briefed about the missing flight and officials would continue to monitor the situation.

According to the website FlightAware.com, Flight QZ8501 was scheduled to depart from Juanda International Airport, near Surabaya on the Indonesian island of East Java at 5:30 a.m. local time, with arrival in Singapore scheduled for 8:20 a.m. Singapore time (7:20 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday). It had last flown the route on Dec. 26.

The Airbus A320 is a workhorse of modern aviation. Similar to the Boeing 737, it is used to connect cities anywhere from one to five hours apart. There are currently 3,606 A320s in operation worldwide, according to Airbus. The A320 family of jets, which includes A319 and A321, has a very good safety record, with just 0.14 fatal accidents per million takeoffs, according to a safety study published by Boeing in August.

AirAsia, which has a presence in several Southeast Asian countries, has never lost a plane before. AirAsia Malaysia owns 49 percent of the Indonesian subsidiary. The airline typically flies short routes of just a few hours, connecting large cities of Southeast Asia. However, recently it has tried to expand into long-distance flying through its sister airline AirAsia X.

Earlier this year, national carrier Malaysia Airlines lost two planes. Flight MH370 vanished on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board. On July 17, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

William Waldock, an expert on air crash search and rescue with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, cautioned against drawing comparisons to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

“I think we have to let this play out,” he said. “Hopefully, the airplane will get found, and if that happens, it will probably be in the next few hours. Until then, we have to reserve judgment.”

The circumstances bode well for finding the plane since the intended flight time was less than two hours and there is a known position at which the plane disappeared, he said.

Google Searches Man’s Private Email Messages and Has Him Arrested

Google Searches Man’s Private Email Messages and Has Him Arrested

Internet Giant Searches Man's Private Messages and Has Him Arrested

If you think your personal email is a safe place to store intimate information, you might want to think again.

A Texas man is learning the hard way why Google has too often been under fire for spying on users.

Google has revealed the identity of a user after uncovering child pornography in the man’s Gmail account in Houston, KHOU reports.

Internet Giant Searches Man's Private Messages and Has Him Arrested

41-year-old John Henry Killern, a registered sex offender who was convicted in 1994 of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old boy, was arrested after Google alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which notified Houston police.

Police told KHOU that Google detected explicit images of a minor girl in an email Skillern had sent.

“I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can,” said Detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.

“He was trying to get around getting caught, he was trying to keep it inside his email,” Nettles explained.

Authorities obtained a search warrant, finding child porn on Skillern’s phone and tablet.

Skillern reportedly worked at a Pasadena restaurant where he also took videos of children in the diner.

Many are praising Google’s efforts that led to the capture of this pedophile, but others are quickly recognizing that this type of policing could lead to users’ rights being infringed.

Google refused to comment whether it searches users’ Gmail accounts, and for what type of activity it searches.

“I really don’t know how they do their job, but I’m just glad they do it,” Nettles concluded of Google.

Keeping sex offenders off the streets makes for a safer, better world, but what if this tech giant isn’t merely searching for criminal offenders? With conservatives, 2nd Amendment supporters, and pro-Israel protesters being a constant target of government, Google is a perfect media for cracking down on enemies of the liberal agenda.

Supreme Court Says Police Cannot Search Cellphones Without a Warrant

Supreme Court Says Police Cannot Search Cellphones Without a Warrant

The justices said cellphones are powerful devices unlike anything else police may find on someone they arrest.

“The fact that an arrestee has diminished privacy interests does not mean that the Fourth Amendment falls out of the picture entirely,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion of the court.

“Modern cellphones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet or a purse. A conclusion that inspecting the contents of an arrestee’s pockets works no substantial additional intrusion on privacy beyond the arrest itself may make sense as applied to physical items, but any extension of that reasoning to digital data has to rest on its own bottom,” Roberts wrote later in the opinion.

A Supreme Court visitor takes pictures with her cell phone outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, during a hearing. The Supreme Court is considering whether police may search cellphones found on people they arrest without first getting a warrant. ( AP/Jose Luis Magana)

Roberts said that because cellphones contain so much information now, police must get a warrant before looking through them.

“These cases require us to decide how the search incident to arrest doctrine applies to modern cellphones, which are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy,” Roberts wrote. “A smart phone […] was unheard of ten years ago; a significant majority of American adults now own such phones.”

Roberts continued that cellphones include “vast quantities of personal information” and therefore “[bear] little resemblance to the type of brief physical search” that took place in another case in which warrantless searches was upheld. He even said it was misleading to call them cellphones these days considering they offer the storage and capabilities of mini-computers.

The Supreme Court also knocked down arguments that the data stored on a cellphone could be used as a weapon to harm the arresting officer or help the arrestee escape. The court said officers are free to look at the physical aspects of the phone — for example, searching for a razor blade — but its digital information is off limits without a warrant.

“The United States and California both suggest that a search of cellphone data might help ensure officer safety in more indirect ways, for example by alerting officers that confederates of the arrestee are headed to the scene. There is undoubtedly a strong government interest in warning officers about such possibilities, but neither the United States nor California offers evidence to suggest that their concerns are based on actual experience,” Roberts wrote.

If destruction of evidence is a concern, Roberts wrote that law enforcement could seize and secure a cellphone until a warrant is obtained to search its contents. As for remote wiping or encryption that could occur, the court said there is “little reason to believe either problem is prevalent.”

Privacy advocates, like the American Civil Liberties Union, called the court’s decision a “big win.”

The two cases arose following arrests in San Diego and Boston.

In San Diego, police found indications of gang membership when they looked through defendant David Leon Riley’s Samsung smartphone. Prosecutors used video and photographs found on the smartphone to persuade a jury to convict Riley of attempted murder and other charges. California courts rejected Riley’s efforts to throw out the evidence and upheld the convictions.

The Supreme Court ordered the California Supreme Court to take a new look at Riley’s case.

In Boston, a federal appeals court ruled that police must have a warrant before searching arrestees’ cellphones.

Police arrested Brima Wurie on suspicion of selling crack cocaine, checked the call log on his flip phone and used that information to determine where he lived. When they searched Wurie’s home and had a warrant, they found crack, marijuana, a gun and ammunition. The evidence was enough to produce a conviction and a prison term of more than 20 years.

The appeals court ruled for Wurie, but left in place a drug conviction for selling cocaine near a school that did not depend on the tainted evidence. That conviction also carried a 20-year sentence. The administration appealed the court ruling because it wants to preserve the warrantless searches following arrest. The justices upheld this ruling.

Possible Black Box Pulses detected from Flight 370

Malaysia Airlines Flt 370 Possible Black Box Pulses detectedOn Saturday a Chinese ship reported possible Black Box pulses were detected from Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean.  The Chinese also stated the ship had a second detection.  However, additional pulses or “pings” have not  been detected since.

There is a race against time as the battery life on the Black Box is 30 days…which ends today.  The batteries can last up to 50 days depending on how good the batteries are.  We do know that Malaysia Airlines had a storage issue with their Black Box batteries.  Several audits of these batteries show they were stored in improper temperatures; temperatures that reduce the life of the batteries.  It is very hot in Malaysia and heat significantly reduces the life of these batteries.

Search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Possible Black Box Pulses detectedThe pings detected by this ship are near the search location calculated by satellite experts.  Other ships and a submarine are on the way to that area.  Some ships are expected to join the search today.  Ships move slow, 30 mph at best and more like 15 to 20 mph.  Just to travel 500 miles could take 25 to 30 hours.  And when searching for underwater signals, such as a Black Box ping, the ships travel much slower at 1 to 6 mph.

With the batteries running out, if they haven’t already, search crews are in a desperate race against the clock.

See our News Tracker for complete details on Flight 370’s disappearance.

Sources: CBS News

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