Internal disagreements reportedly caused Malaysian officials to wait four days before releasing crucial satellite information last week that showed how missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 flew thousands of miles away from the area being covered by an international search effort.
The Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday that the satellite operator turned over data analysis and other documents to a partner company on March 11. That information indicated that the plane was not near the South China Sea or the coast of Malaysia, where the search effort had been focused since the plane vanished from radar screens early March 8.
The Journal also reported that among the documents was a a map showing two divergent north and south corridors for the plane's route stretching some 3,000 miles from the plane's last previously known location.
The information was relayed to the Malaysian government on March 12, and the satellite operator, the British company Inmarsat, disclosed the information to British security and air-safety officials on the same day. The Journal also cited two people familiar with the Malaysian investigation who said that the information could have come to investigators as late as March 13.
However, disputes over how much of the data to release publicly and questions of corroborating the data meant that the decision to redirect search efforts based on the information was not taken until March 15. On that day, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak admitted that the plane had turned away from its planned flight path as a result of "deliberate action." The search in the South China Sea was wound down that same day.
Malaysian officials told the Journal that the delay stemmed from an order given by Najib to cross-check any satellite or navigational data with other agencies, including the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration.
However, as a result of the delay, investigators are still refining search maps, dividing regions to cover and seeking satellite-surveillance records from several countries along the routes the aircraft is now suspected of taking, nearly two weeks after the plane's disappearance.