Created: 03/15/2014 2:43 PM KAALtv.com
(ABC News) -- U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials are focusing on the possibility that at least one of the Malaysia Airlines pilots is responsible for the disappearance of flight MH 370 after new information revealed the plane performed “tactical evasion maneuvers” after it disappeared from radar, two senior law enforcement officials told ABC News today.
The officials briefed on the situation said that the maneuvers appeared to be done to evade radar, and U.S. authorities believe only a person with extensive flight or engineering experience could have executed them.
After the plane’s transponder - which reports the plane’s location and altitude - was turned off about 1:20 a.m. last Saturday, the plane was picked up by military radar as it turned back towards Malaysia and passed above Peninsular Malaysia before heading into the Strait of Malacca.
After a week of scrutinizing passengers and the crew, one of the officials said there were no indications anyone besides the pilots had the ability to perform the complicated maneuvers done by the plane. Furthermore, officials said they have found no link between the passengers and known terrorist groups and that the plane could have been flown into a densely populated area if the incident was related to terrorism - but it wasn't.
There is also the possibility that the pilots could have been coerced or made to redirect the plane by force.
A week after the plane’s disappearance, Malaysian police visited the home of both Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the 53-year-old pilot of the missing plane, and his first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27.
Shah is a married father of three grown children with more than 18,000 hours of experience in the air. He has been described as an affluent aviation buff, with a home in a gated community that police spent about two hours inside today. Hamid joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007 and has 2,000 hours of flying time.
In recent days the Malaysian government has been criticized for not sharing information earlier with international investigators.
A senior Western law enforcement official told ABC News today that the Malaysian government repeatedly turned down assistance from Interpol to assist in its investigation. That offer has since been repeated several times and declined each time.
"It's the old pre-9/11 approach: close-hold information, don't share anything," the official said.
A spokeswoman for Interpol declined comment.
Law enforcement officials are now worried that critical investigative time has been lost and leads could well have dried up as sources of information could have dispersed in the last week. The FBI also hasn't been invited by the Malaysian government to help on the ground, sources said.
"Malaysia Airlines has shared all available information with the relevant authorities since the moment we learned that the aircraft had disappeared," read a statement from the airline. "This is truly an unprecedented situation, for Malaysia Airlines and for the entire aviation industry."
Prime Minister Holds News Conference Saturday
At a Saturday news conference Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the plane was steered off course by someone on board, was airborne for more than seven hours and may have traveled as far as Kazakhstan. He added that although the movements were consistent with deliberate acts, he wouldn't confirm that the plane was hijacked.
"We are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path," he said.