Top of screen on today's Washington Free Beacon bulletin

Read with caution

A conservative internet news site, the Washington Free Beacon is claiming that Libyan passenger jets have been stolen and may be used for a suicide 9/11 type attack.

There are huge problems of credibility and practicability with the US report but as with all scare stories it is difficult to totally dismiss the possibility, however remote, that some such deeply flawed plan may have been made.

These are the main (and obvious) reasons why the Free Beacon report may be hysterical junk journalism.

1. It is difficult to hide airliners in the open from reconnaissance satellites and on the ground intelligence detection and reporting.

2. If hidden in hangars the movements into and out of cover are discoverable by the same intelligence processes detailed above.

3. The practical reality would be that the intended target be within the non-stop range of the allegedly missing airliners without a passenger payload. 

4. While some of these allegedly missing jets could fly across the Atlantic so loaded they would be identified and intercepted during the course of very long flights.

5. Should they get anywhere near a US city they would be destroyed in the air, and probably live to air on world news networks.

6. There are more plausible targets in southern Europe and even elsewhere in the Middle East, but the risks of interception remain high, especially in southern France,  a successful flight into German airspace is implausible, and anything that Israel might suspect to be headed toward Tel Aviv rather than say to a target in Baghdad would end up as burning metal confetti in very short order.

While composing this list a US contact has emailed this story in Janes which probably tells us where the Free Beacon found its source information, as well as why it is wrong, as well as making it clear that any such plot would have involved internicine targets in northern Africa rather than in Europe or in a real flight of fantasy, the US.

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