Cairo insists, however that American investigators have been too hasty in pointing a finger at the crew. "People here simply don’t buy it," says TIME Cairo reporter Armany Radwan. "That phrase is widely used in a variety of different contexts, and you’d have to know a lot about the individual and his own religious habits before concluding that he was deliberately taking down the plane. It’s widely believed here that the plane was sabotaged, but not by the crew – and that shifting the blame onto the relief pilot is part of a cover-up." Egypt has sent its own investigators to review the evidence, prompting NTSB officials to delay handing over the case to the FBI.
Underlying the furor is the question of who gets blamed for the tragedy. After all, mechanical problems potentially point back to the manufacturer (or, of course, to EgyptAir's maintenance) and sabotage by a third party raises questions about U.S. airport security. But criminal action by a member of the crew is an uncomfortable prospect for a country whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism. While Washington is prepared to go the extra mile to accommodate Egyptian concerns, Egypt has voluntarily turned over jurisdiction, and the U.S is likely to retain it. "There were a number of Americans on board, and the flight originated at JFK," says TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon. "Even just one American on board is enough for the U.S. to claim jurisdiction in a case where terrorism is suspected."