Here's a troubling detail from the news of the Malaysia Airlines crash:
BEIJING — Malaysian officials investigating the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane Saturday said they were not ruling out terrorism — or any other causes — as reports emerged that two Europeans listed on the passenger manifest were not aboard and may have had their passports stolen.
According to the airline, other passengers on the flight included 38 Malaysians, five Indians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, four French, two Ukranians, two Canadians and two New Zealanders. There were also a Russian, an Italian, a Dutch and an Austrian aboard, the airline said.
However, shortly after the list was published on the airline’s website, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported that Luigi Maraldi, 37, who was listed on the manifest, was in fact not on the plane (link in Italian). The agency said he had phoned his family to say he was alive and well in Thailand.
Austria’s APA news agency made a similar report about an Austrian citizen listed on the passenger manifest, Christian Kozel, 30 (link in German). APA reported his passport was stolen about two years ago in Thailand.
LATE UPDATE: The Times digs in and learns this:
Use of Stolen Passports on Missing Malaysian Airliner Highlights Air Security Flaw
Interpol created a database of stolen and lost passports in 2002 that has grown to more than 40 million documents available for governments to screen for terrorists, smugglers or swindlers who travel the world illicitly. But according to the international law enforcement agency, only three countries — the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates — systematically screen travelers against the agency’s database of stolen passports.
The two men with stolen passports who boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing over the weekend did not have their passports screened. And last year, Interpol said, passengers around the world were able to board planes more than a billion times without having their passports checked against the database.
One of the many vexing mysteries of the plane’s disappearance was the hunt for the true identity of the two passengers who used passports stolen from European tourists in Thailand in the past two years. A senior American law enforcement official said Sunday that Thai officials were investigating a so-called passport ring operating on the resort island of Phuket, where both passports were stolen and where, he noted, false documents were routinely used by drug smugglers.
So apparently stolen passports are routinely used by criminals, not just terrorists.