Radar Data Provides a Clue, but Not an Answer

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There's no point trying to connect the dots, because they're all over the page. Radar data released by the NTSB late Wednesday showed that EgyptAir Flight 990 plunged precipitously at nearly the speed of sound for 16,000 feet, but then climbed about a mile — and possibly began breaking up in midair — before falling into the ocean. That might suggest a last-ditch attempt by the crew to gain control of the stricken craft, which could have broken up under structural stress if the pilot had attempted to pull too quickly out of a 700-mph dive. But the cause of that initial dive — like everything else associated with Flight 990's final moments — remains in the province of speculation, which can't begin to be resolved before the flight data recorders have been analyzed. And those remain on the ocean floor off Nantucket, as stormy seas again prevented their retrieval Wednesday.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, a U.S.-based nonprofit group, appears to be connecting dots of its own, meanwhile. The organization wrote to the Department of Defense Wednesday, urging full public disclosure over the revelation that 33 Egyptian military officers had been aboard Flight 990. The Pentagon has said Cairo asked Washington to withhold details about the Egyptians aboard the plane pending notification of next of kin, but Arab newspapers have alleged the personnel may have been training in the U.S. "The facts of this case are not as important as the impression that our government is attempting to conceal the facts," the council wrote. "In order to extinguish any rumor of conspiracy in this matter, we ask that you offer full disclosure on the details of this aspect of this tragedy." But the air crash aside, there's nothing unusual about the Pentagon being a little circumspect about the mission of a group of foreign military officers here. And disclosure is hardly likely to placate those prone to theories of conspiracy.