It's never been clear what really happened on that foggy morning of April 10 when a Polish airplane crashed on a Russian runway, killing all 96 people aboard including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, cabinet ministers, military service chiefs, intelligence officials, the central bank president, parliamentarians, historians, decapitating the conservative government and gutting the country's elite.
Given the occasion -- the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's long-denied massacre of 22,000 Poles at Katyn Forest -- and given many of the crash victims' dedication to exposing Soviet-era treachery and opposing Putin-era Russian expansionism, was the crash, as reported, an epically tragic accident? Even as the Russians immediately cited "pilot error" (they did wait, as former CIA officer Eugene Poteat has noted, until after the plane had gone down), they also pledged to Poland a joint, transparent investigation. But four months later, Russian obfuscation casts doubt on both notions: pilot error and Russian cooperation. Little wonder that Polish parliamentarian Antoni Marcierewicz, a member of the late president's conservative Law and Justice Party, has recently announced a parliamentary probe into the crash, which he calls a "crime."
What sort of crime? I caught up with the story's latest twists at BigPeace.com (where I am a contributor) in a post called "Polish Airplane Crash Cover-Up?" After seeking attribution for the post's more sensational clues from a Polish journalist, I believe that "cover-up" might turn out to be the least of the problem.
Point one. Russia hasn't turned over the plane's black boxes to Polish investigators. This may well follow an odd, post-crash agreement between the two countries, whereby Russia provides Poland with recordings of the black boxes and Poland controls the recordings' release (typical Russian-Polish agreement). But it also hoists a red flag over the entire investigative process. After all, "who" might have done "what" to a black box in a Russian recording studio?
Meanwhile, writing in the Polish newspaper Nasz Dziennik, some Polish pilots have challenged the authenticity of the recordings. Among other aeronautical reasons, they cited the length of the transcript, which appears to exceed the 30-minute capacity of a black box tape. The pilots also noted the transcript is missing the signature of the sole Polish expert involved. Further, Polish Radio RMF has reported that one of the Russian-made black-box recordings contains a 16-second gap.