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PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Aired March 11, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: This is Piers Morgan Live.
Tonight, four days and counting, that's how long it's been since the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board vanished, simply disappeared, no distress signal, no flash and explosion, no wreckage despite a frantic search by 34 planes, 40 ships and search crews in 10 countries. The fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remains a complete and utter mystery.
Here's what we do know right now. A Malaysian air force official says the flight was hundreds of miles off course traveling in the wrong direction, although other officials are now contradicting that. The plane's transponder signal was lost before it disappeared.
Two people on board have stolen passports and now reports that a co- pilot had invited two young women into the cockpit on a flight in 2011. I'll talk exclusively to one of those women in a moment.
So what does it all mean? Well, tonight, I'll ask the experts including a man who've seen it all, Dan Rather. Was it a catastrophic failure, a hijacking, terrorism or something else?
Our Big Story, of course the vanishing of Flight 370. Joining me now is Steve Wallace Former Director of the FAAs Office of Accident Investigation, Aviation Trial Attorney Michael Verna, Bill Palmer a Commercial Pilot and the Author of "Understanding AirFrance 447", Fran Townsend, CNN National Security Analyst and Homeland Security Adviser to President George W. Bush and Errol Southers a Associate Director and a Researcher for the Homeland Security Center at the University of Southern California. Welcome to all of you.
MORGAN: Fran Townsend, let me start with you.
It seemed like yesterday, everyone was trying to pushback on the idea that this could have been an error. But today, the CIA seemed to put it back into play and said, "Look, we just don't seem to know what has happened here so we can't rule anything out."
What is your understanding of where this investigation is going?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Look, Piers, I think the more facts we get the kind of crazier and less clear murky that it seems to get.
So now we think that the plane not only changed direction that the transponder may have been turned off, and that it actually crossed over the country of Malaysia on its way back in the wrong direction.
Now, there are conflicting reports, but you can understand when the Director of CIA is asked and you absolutely ruled out that this could be terrorism, why he would say no. There are stolen passports, tickets paid for with cash at the same travel agent.
I mean all of these leads them to want to look at things like are there any time to do it, are there relations between passengers, other passengers on the plane that we're unaware of, whether other stolen passports, is there a relationship between any of the passengers and anybody in the cockpit, could it be that one of the pilots, remember there was EgyptAir 990, is it possible that one of these pilots had psychological problems and decided to put the plane down?
There are all these things that have gotten -- all these leads that have to be run down. And now on top of all of this sort of uncertainty, we have questions about the cooperation, the transparency of the Malaysian government and Malaysian Airlines. And so it makes it all the more complicated and all the more difficult frankly for the victims and the families to get straight answers and understand exactly what's the state of that plane and their loved ones.
MORGAN: Bill Palmer, you're a very experience commercial pilot and author. Have you ever known anything quite like this in all your time flying?
BILL PALMER, COMMERCIAL PILOT, AUTHOR "UNDERSTANDING AIR FRANCE 447": I'm sorry, I couldn't understand the question. Can you say it again, please?
MORGAN: I was just asking you if in all your time as a commercial pilot if you've ever come across the story quite as bizarre as this where it was literally no trace or whatsoever of this plane and no apparent warnings or any indication that there was any problem.
PALMER: Well, it's certainly unusual. However, the way that things are happening it is consistent I think with certain type of electrical failure that took out both the transponder and the flight management computer where the airplane's route is stored.
If this were to happen and leave the autopilot engaged which is separate than the flight management computer, the airplane could very well revert back to the heading select mode. Now, the heading is always selected at something and it just may happen to be at the heading that took off after the transponder clicked off.
So this is really consistent with the failure that could lead -- let the airplane turn completely automatically and head in that new direction essentially until someone ...
MORGAN: But ...
PALMER: ... turned it another way and manually or -- go ahead.
MORGAN: Right. But if that happened, would there still be no way of anybody on board in the plane indicating to the airline that there was this problem going on? Are you assuming that there's been some catastrophic fault maybe involving lack of oxygen or something which means no one is in capacity to be able to do that?
PALMER: Well, I don't know what happened to the crew or anyone on board. That's not part of my theory but if there was a certain electric malfunction that took out both the transponder and the flight management computer could also take out other communication aspect, radios, automatic diallings (ph) et cetera, you know, that would account for the automatic turning of the airplane to a new heading of which it stayed on essentially forever.
Now, before that happened, we see that the airplane turned I think from link 25 to 40 degrees. And that, if we look back at the previous days of flights, that's a normal turn in the route. So it indicates that at that point, the airplane was still flying on the programmed course and then at some point there was some malfunction that took out the transponder and the programmed route and then the airplane reverted to this other heading select mode, and then went in the other direction.
MORGAN: OK. Let me turn to Steve Wallace, Former FAA Director Office of Accident Investigation. Steve Wallace, when you hear this -- I mean that was a very plausible explanation if that is what happened and one I haven't heard spelled out at a such a coherent manner and extremely useful because many people are rushing I think to judge here from a very inexperienced position.
When you look at this in an accident investigation point of view, clearly it's a very difficult thing to investigate because they don't seem to really know where this plane may have come down. Where would you start from now if you were brought in right now with all the knowledge that you have of this today. Where would you start in trying to really find this plane?
STEVE WALLACE, FMR. DIRECTOR, FAA'S OFFICE OF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: Well, Piers, I'll start by saying that I'm confident this accident will be solved to a high degree of certainty because I think they will find the wreckage and find the recorders.
But, you know, investigators without speculating will draw on what they've seen historically happen. And we've seen airplanes go on -- off course because a pilot made an error, the Korean Airlines' 007 shutdown in 1983 because pilots deliberately flew them off course, we've just recently had the Ethiopian pilot who wanted to defect to Geneva or something and then we've had a couple of cases in EyptAir and perhaps SilkAir where the pilots crashed the plane. Those were the conclusion that the investigators and even some of those conclusions were not accepted by the host country (ph).
But here, you really have to look at -- now this is a highly advanced airplane with a great deal of redundancy in the navigation communication system and the fact that this airplane made what looks like an 90 degree or perhaps more turn and at the same time the transponder was turned off or at least the transponder disappeared.
You know, that would suggest to me a higher probability that someone unauthorized had gained control over that airplane.
MORGAN: And that obviously is still a matter of conjecture. There are conflicting reports from various Malaysian government officials and that is part of the problem here, the information flow has not been great.
Errol Southers, you're with me here, the Associate Director of the DHS National Center for Risk. Looking at this in totality, what is your assessment of where this investigation is right now?
ERROL SOUTHERS, NATIONAL CENTER FOR RISK AND ECONOMIC ANALYS OF TERRORISM EVENTS: Well, as Mr. Brennan said this morning, we cannot rule out terrorism at this point and we will follow terrorism to the ground until we know something different.
You've got 239 people on this flight. So there are 239 people crew included that we have to vet and make sure that nothing post nefarious was on board. We know that there were two people that had passports that were fraudulent. We only note that there were two at this point. There could have been more.
To Fran's comment about who else is on board and the relationships, that's very, very important but what we'll do now is we'll look at that plane as a center of this investigation. We'll look at what might have happened in the cockpit. We'll look at everyone that had access to that aircraft from the point origin including the grounds crew maintenance, baggage handlers, everyone that could have had access to that plane, what went on it and who went on it in order to run this investigation forward and find out exactly what we're dealing with.
MORGAN: I want to play this clip from John Brennan, Director of CIA. Listen to what he said today about the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: We at CIA are working with FBI and TSA and others and Malaysian counterparts are doing everything they can to try to put together the pieces here. But clearly this is still a mystery which is very disturbing and until we actually can find out sort of where that aircraft is, we might have an opportunity to do some of the forensic analysis that will lead us in the right direction.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, you're not ruling out that it could be sort of terrorism (ph).
BRENNAN: No. I wouldn't know that. Not at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Michael Verna, you're an International Aviation Trial Attorney. Obviously, this is going to be a hideously complex legal matter as well whichever way it all gets resolved.
What do you think of the way that the Malaysian government is behaving, the American response and those aspects of this so far?
MICHAEL VERNA, AVIATION TRIAL ATTORNEY: Well, first off, while these circumstances surrounding this accident are very mysterious, the law that would apply to Malaysia Airlines is not that mysterious. There's an international treaty called the Montreal Convention to which both China and Malaysia are signatories and that dictates the responsibility of the air carrier Malaysia Airlines in this case regardless of the circumstances whether it was a pilot that intentionally crashed the aircraft or it was a terrorist or hijacking. It would still come within the ambient of the Montreal Convention. And that create certain liabilities of Malaysia Airlines to the families of the passengers.
Now, in terms of the response that Malaysia Airlines has made so far to this accident, I understand the position that they're in and the fact that there is very little information out there. But I would just pace and to add that only a couple of weeks ago the Department of Transportation find Asiana Airlines over $500,000 or I think it was $500,000 precisely for not providing proper support and guidance and counseling to families in that accident and that only happened last July.
MORGAN: Yeah. I want to go back if I may to Bill Palmer who was a very experienced Commercial Pilot. I just want to go very quickly Bill Palmer through the various theories and see if where you can absolutely rule out from your experience, because I found that your description of ...
MORGAN: ... your theory fascinating earlier. If it had been a mid- air explosion, would you have expected there to be some sign of this by now?
PALMER: I don't know.
PALMER: I guess it would depend on the degree of the explosion. So I can't speculate on that.
MORGAN: If it had been a mechanical failure, however catastrophic, would you have expected that to show up with the airline where they have had a record of what happened as it happened?
PALMER: Well, that's quite possible like we saw in AirFrance 447. However, you know, what I'm proposing as a possibility is that, you know, a failure that took out communication and navigation equipment at the same time which inhibited both the transponder, the flight management computer with the stored route and possibly other communications equipment.
I don't know exactly what electrical components would have to fail to do that in that precise manner. Sure, Boeing could figure it out. I don't have the capacity to figure that out but it's a possibility. MORGAN: But just to clarify, it would be very, very unusual would it not for a plane so modern and so high-tech to simply disappear off radar like this unless it was the very circumstance that you outlined originally.
PALMER: Of course it's unusual, it's -- yeah, because airplanes are extremely reliable.
MORGAN: OK. Let's take a break and when we come back the tourist in the cockpit. Did the co-pilot of Flight 370 invite two tourists to stay on the cockpit during a flight in 2011? One young woman says yes and she tells me her story exclusively next.
MORGAN: As a mystery of what happened to Flight 370 deepens, this is a story that's almost too strange to be believed.
In December 2011, the flight's co-pilot who was now missing along with 238 other people apparently invited two South African tourists to stay on the cockpit during the entire flight from Thailand to Malaysia, a clear violation of the airline's rules.
Well, here now exclusively one of those women, Jonti Roos, she joins me via Skype from her home in Australia. Welcome to you Jonti Roos.
Tell me exactly what happened. You were on this flight and the co- pilot's name is Fariq Abdul Hamid. What happened?
JONTI ROOS, ENTERTAINED IN COCKPIT BY FLT. 370'S CO-PILOT ON A 2011 FLIGHT: And so and I think my friend and I were standing inline at the boarding gate with all the other passengers waiting to board and the co-pilot and pilot walked past us and then came back and then asked us if we like to sit with him in the cockpit during the flight and we said yes.
We boarded the plane only with -- all other passengers and went to our seat. And as sure well after taking our seat, and he just (ph) to came to us and asked us if we would like to meet him in the cockpit and after which we did and that's where we spend the flight.
MORGAN: And they were smoking and posing for pictures with you in the cockpit.
ROOS: They were smoking and yes they were posing for pictures but I just would like to make it very clear that I don't think they were distracted at all by posing for pictures. We did take pictures with him but I don't think they were a distraction.
MORGAN: No. But having said that you must have been as surprised as I'm sure all our viewers are at the ease of access of people they didn't know presumably at all before this to go into a cockpit at all.
ROOS: Yeah. I was pretty surprised. I thought that the fact that they did it (ph) must mean that it's something that happened quite often. I didn't realize how much against regulation where we actually thought it was something that was allowed if they were doing it, I would assume they were allowed to do it.
MORGAN: Yeah. But I think that I can remember when I was much, much younger, you know, sometimes a pilot would invite young kids into the -- to have a quick look at the cockpit. But certainly after 9/11, everything changed pretty dramatically. I assumed that every other that's why this story coming when it did is so shocking I think.
But did you get the feeling they done this before with other people?
ROOS: Yes. It didn't feel like it was something new to them. The crews have seemed to be quite comfortable with us there. And she talks to me like it was something that has possibly happened before.
MORGAN: I want to read a statement from Malaysia Airlines which says this, "Malaysia Airlines has become aware of the allegations being made against First Officer Fariq Ab Hamid which we take very seriously. We are shocked by these allegations. We have not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident. As you are aware, we are in the midst of a crisis, and we do not want out divert our attention. The welfare of both the crew and passengers' families remain our focus. At the same time, the security and safety of our passengers is of the utmost importance to us."
Obviously, Jonti Roos, a lot of concern about all aspects of security here. There had been people with stolen passports on this particular flight that's disappeared and so on. And clearly, your testimony is important because it just shows a pretty lacks of attitude generally by these one of the pilots involved in this flight to general security on the plane itself.
ROOS: Yes. I think possibly security was a little bit lacks but I'm in no way trying to imply that the co-pilots and all the pilots were at fault in any way. This is just my theory so I'm just telling it but actually I don't know.
MORGAN: Yeah. And it's important also to say that at this stage because we have no idea what's happened to this plane, it maybe that this co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid did absolutely nothing wrong. He may have been heroically trying to save the plane. We just don't know.
But you've had a lot of attention today from all this. Some people questioning the validity of it. The airline not committing to saying it genuinely happened. Other than these pictures that you have, why should people believe you?
ROOS: Well, why else would I come forward with something like this? I think pictures pretty much prove that I have. You can see the pilot's face is in the pictures. I have no reason to make something like this up. It's not malicious at all. My heart really goes out to Fariq Abdul Hamid and his family and all the family of the passengers. I wouldn't want to make something up that could potentially risk them in.
MORGAN: And presumably, there were number of other passengers on the plane who would assume you both going into the cockpit and coming out afterwards.
ROOS: I'm sure they would have been. They must have seen us go in. We only (inaudible) and with the pilot and the co-pilot but I'm not sure they saw us leaving but people have seen us going into the cockpit.
MORGAN: And I believe that the co-pilot made contact with you after the flight. He sent you a message on Facebook. Is that correct?
ROOS: Yes. He just sent me a friendly message just saying have a safe flight back home.
MORGAN: When you heard what happened. How did you realize that it was the same pilot?
ROOS: I was scrolling through my Facebook because I was scrambling everything (ph) on Facebook. I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and I saw how a lot of people tagging this person in (ph) post saying that they're so sorry to hear about what happened, that that they have (inaudible). So I clicked on this post and see what had happened and what was going on and that's when I realized that he was a pilot and then I realized he was one of the pilot on the plane and then I realized that it was the same co-pilot that (inaudible).
MORGAN: Well, Jonti Roos thank you very much indeed for joining me from Australia. I do appreciate it and it's certainly a startling twist to all this and I appreciate you taking the time to come on the show tonight. Thank you.
ROOS: Thank you so much.
MORGAN: When we come back, I want to get the reaction from our experts to what we've just heard. Is it more common than we think for crew members to invite guests like this into the cockpit? Is it dangerous?
MORGAN: You heard Jonti Roos' story. She told me she was invited into the cockpit during a flight in 2011 by one of the pilots on the missing plane. I want to know now what the experts think of this.
Joining me is Mary Schiavo, she's a former Inspector General at the Department of Transportation and now works for a law firm and represents victims of negligence of airline automotive, commercial trucking and motorcoach and rail companies. And back with me Fran Townsend, Bill Palmer and Errol Southers.
Let me go to you Mary Schiavo, just your reaction to that revelation by this South African woman about the co-pilot on this missing plane inviting her and a friend into the cockpit. What did you make of that?
MARY SCHIAVO, FMR. INSPECTOR GENERAL DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, it's a shocking violation of requirements and protocol and it reveals a sloppy attitude towards all of the rules that go into making flying safe.
Sadly, it's not the first time I've heard at such a thing though. And there have been at least two or three crashes caused by this very kind of behavior. But it does like I said, it also boast that they maybe sloppy about other pilot rules and not follow the rules and be really strict in the cockpit which is vital to safety.
MORGAN: And Errol Southers, you mentioned a good point to me in the break there which is that it may not be a security risk involving women like this who may have just been invited in because they look good to these pilots and they want to talk to nice looking women. It may have been much more sinister in terms of dry run potential.
SOUTHERS: Absolutely, I mean, you know, we're dealing with an adaptive adversary and an intelligent adversary. They watch news, they learn from every failed attempt, every successful -- and so we've seen an evolution overtime, we've seen shoe bomb technology, we've seen Abdulmutallab in 2009 with the underwear attempt and then most recently the cargo issue.
So have we now exposed a new opportunity? Have we now actually presented a new vulnerability? If I have the right women on board, is that a way into the cockpit?
MORGAN: Right. And it maybe they'd been watching planes. This is pure hypothesis and there maybe no link to terrorism whatsoever. But now that you know that one of these pilots had a habit it appears of inviting completely random passengers into the cockpit for the duration of the entire flights. It does open up a whole different security issue.
Fran Townsend, you know, I've flown hundreds of flights in the last eight or nine years and I can't remember ever seeing any passenger on any of the flights I've ever been on going into the cockpit. It used to happen when I was a kid and it should be, you know, young kids who go in but I haven't seen that happen.
So I find it quite shocking, not shocking that these two young women were invited in but the fact that anyone is going into the cockpit. What do you think of it from a security point of view?
TOWNSEND: Piers, you don't even see, you know, the bringing small children up to the cockpit that used to happen before a plane took off. You actually -- that's a rarity anymore. A child maybe invited to stand outside the cockpit and look in and go back to their seat, but never when it's in flight in the post 9/11 certainly here in the United States. And I saw -- I think most Americans will find this very shocking.
And, you know, one of the other things we haven't mentioned if you look at the map that we've shown, the graphic, where the plane is diverted and the transponders go off. It is until this -- until the radar loses contact, there is an hour and 10 minutes. This plane had only been -- had been up in the air less than an hour from its take off in Kuala Lumpur. It then makes this hard turn and it is up in the air, no transponders and completely going in the wrong direction for an hour and 10 minutes. That is a very long time. It's headed in the direction of Indonesia.
It's sort of incredible one has to begin to ask where is the Malaysian government? Did they notify the Indonesians? Why did no one think it was a problem for an hour and 10 minutes that the transponders were often it was going in the wrong direction and why weren't the jet scrambled. I mean, in this country, to Mary Schiavo's point, it violates sort of every protocol you can imagine in terms of Civil Aviation Security.
MORGAN: And important to know it again. There are conflicting reports about this turn of the plane and supposed (inaudible) got one Malaysian government official saying one thing. But I think the spokesman of the Prime Minister's office is contradicting that. So we need to wait, I guess, and find out if that actually is what happened. But certainly, Fran is right, that if that is what happened, it is extremely bizarre, unusual, and I would argue, quite sinister.
Now, let me go back to Bill Palmer, the commercial pilot here. Bill Palmer, when you heard Jonti Roos talking about her experience with this co-pilot on this flight, what did you think is the pilot?
PALMER: Well, for U.S. Airline, that would be unprecedented especially in a post 9/11 age. I don't think that ever happens on the U.S. Airline.
MORGAN: Would a U.S. pilot -- commercial pilot be fired if they were caught doing that?
PALMER: I don't know what the penalty would be. But it would not -- it wouldn't be good. And I don't -- it's hard to imagine that it actually happened.
MORGAN: And she didn't think that there was any destruction element involved in what happened. But, looking at the pictures they were posing for, it's hard to imagine that they weren't destructive. They're supposed to be focused on flying the plane.
PALMER: I can't argue with that. Yeah.
MORGAN: From your knowledge, Bill Palmer, do other airlines in -- perhaps in the Far East, perhaps Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, wherever, do they have notoriously slightly more lax rules about this kind of thing? Have you heard any stories like this outside of America before?
PALMER: I've not heard any stories, no. I don't think that the rules on that are quite strict as here in the United States but I don't know specifically what they are.
MORGAN: Is smoking prohibited for all pilots in cockpits in America?
PALMER: Yeah. I believe smoking is prohibited on the entire airplane in the U.S. so that it takes care of the flight deck as well.
MORGAN: Mary Schiavo, I mean, it does, you know, people are tweeting me saying, well, I know, this is all a complete diversion, you shouldn't be taking it seriously, it's just a couple of pretty girls that boarded (ph) the cockpit. I don't think it is. I should think that it is...
MORGAN: ... a very significant revelation about the upholding the lax security of at least one of these pilots.
SCHIAVO: Well, and I actually have some firsthand knowledge of what would happen in United States. There have been a few cases. In one case, and it was a few years back, pilots came out on a charter flight to judge a wet T-shirt contest not only where they disciplined by their airline, but they were prosecuted for civil aviation violations by the FAA. And any behavior such as this would be prosecuted by the FAA, in Civil Aviation Security violation, they would be fined, they could even possibly lose their flying privileges. The FAA takes a really deemed view of this behavior as they should. So there is precedent in the U.S. that the FAA would take action against of such pilots in addition to their airlines.
MORGAN: Fran Townsend, let's again hypothesize here because nobody has a clue what is responsible for this plane disappearing or where it is. But let's assume for a moment it was a terrorist operation. Who are the most likely people to have had the capability to do this and the willingness to do this? Is it al-Qaeda? If so, would they have already claim responsibility, if not, who else?
TOWNSEND: So, al-Qaeda has been known to use Kuala Lumpur as a center or hub of operations. We know two of the 9/11 hijackers went there for a planning session to plan the USS Cole attack in addition to the 9/11 attack. We know that Bin Laden would often send the injured members of al-Qaeda to Kuala Lumpur for medical treatment. So, there is an association in Kuala Lumpur as an infrastructure port for al- Qaeda sympathizers and operators.
If not al-Qaeda, who then? Interesting. We know that two -- the two individuals who were on the fraudulent passports were Iranian. We know the middleman who purchased the tickets at the same travel agent -- using cash was also Iranian. That Iran is the single largest states sponsor of terror, the group that they give their money to in support to is (inaudible). They were responsible of the Beirut Barrack bombings against the Marine Barracks in Beirut in the 1980s, very militarily capable.
And so, those are the two groups that immediately come to mind. Again, Piers, I think we have to emphasize while the CIA director today wouldn't allow terrorism, that may not be what's going on here and it could very well be either a pilot who put it down intentionally or we haven't ruled out all the other causes like a mechanical failure.
MORGAN: And there are have also been revelations just this week that Iranians may have been involved in the Lockerbie plane disaster terrorist attack as it was -- back in Scotland. So, that cannot be discounted having said that the investigators are keying to Iranian angle seem to be leaning towards the fact that this was more of a mule smuggling operation that this young Iranian students trying to get asylum or get out of the country. Who knows? We just don't know yet, but certainly fascinating.
Thank you all very much indeed. Bill Palmer, Fran Townsend, Erroll Southers, and Mary Schiavo.
When we come back, he might have seen it all when it comes to news that maybe nothing quite like this (ph). I'll ask Dan Rather what is his instinct is telling about the mystery of flight 370.
MORGAN: My next guest has seen it all. He's current anchor of the CBS Evening News for more than two decades. He also reported to 60 minutes and 48 hours. I want to know what he thinks of the missing Malaysia plane.
Well, joining me now is Dan Rather, host of AXS TV's "Big Interview with Dan Rather." Dan, great to see you. You covered pretty much every major plane disaster spending decades. What do you make of this? It's a story that's gripping America, gripping the world.
DAN RATHER, AXS TV'S "THE BIG INTERVIEW WITH DAN RATHE: Well, gripping is the word in all show confounding. I'm tempted to say this thing is so confounding. You would give an aspirin for headache, but one doesn't want to joke about this situation. Number one, each of these plane crashes, plane disappearance is unique into itself. Number two, it's still very, very early in this. And I'd be willing to bet to trade our money, Piers that most of the conjecture, that with speculation we're hearing now, including my own, will prove to be wrong. Usually, the early speculation is wrong. There is some really, say confounding, almost dumbfounded things to these.
The fact the plane, struck a V not really a U-turn but a V-turn, and it was of many, many hours, I think more than a day before we found out that that was the case. And as several of your previous guests had pointed out, there are so many questions that arise out of this thing. One, I think it would be a long time before we know what happened. Two, there bound to be all kinds of conspiracy theories, and I for one just would say gently, when you put aside all conspiracy theories for the moment. But in my own mind, I rule out nothing, whatsoever.
There are two other points about this. Piers, we might want to consider, you know, we think of -- in modern terms of the world being small, and nobody says the world has shrunk and gotten smaller. We tend to forget that there are so many vast areas, not just the oceans, there are also jungles and other places that are remote and -- this -- there's more of the world that we don't know of, and we can't reach with things like this and there is that we can't. The other is we used to have an information snap at of our finger tips and we tend to be stunned when all of a sudden we don't -- we know almost nothing.
MORGAN: It does seem extraordinary, I think, to most people that in such a high-tech modern world with, you know, most of the passengers probably had cellphones, or laptops, or iPads, whatever it may be. And you got this incredibly sophisticated cockpit with all the gadgetry and technology and backup systems, but no one's been able to trace any of these. I mean, what does that instinctively tell you Dan about what happened to the plane. Did they just dive straight into the ocean and that's why no one can track anything?
RATHER: Well, that's certainly a possibility. I don't happen to buy that theory. But we're all dealing with theory. But, I think with Fran Townsend just a few moments ago, made a very interesting point. And that is that, well, over an hour far more than an hour, nothing was heard from this airplane. I was one who travels a lot intercontinentally, as I know you do, you're always thinking of somebody, somewhere is monitoring the airplane. What this tells us about, what was supposed to be happening in charting the flight, in following in the flight with airport control, what were supposed to be happening obviously didn't happen.
This is not to blame anybody, but this is a simple question. The plane had no communications, anybody from, well, over an hour and nobody noticed, nobody caught that (inaudible). I wouldn't be surprised if anything that happens the way the story goes. But I emphasize again Piers, it will be a long time before we know what happens, if ever.
MORGAN: Yeah. I mean, they could get lucky tomorrow, it could take years. We just -- no idea how it's going to play out. Certainly, I think the key part of what we do know is still I think not completely lock down which is this Malaysian government official who revealed, as you say 24 hours later, that the plane had taken a massive detour for an hour. That has been contradicted by other government officials including, I think, the Malaysia Prime Minister's official spokesman. So, we have to get to the bottom of that.
But if that is true, that would seem to me, and I'm not -- I am not an aviation expert. But, having talked to quite a few of the, that would seem to me to suggest foul play in some form.
RATHER: Well, there are a lot of things ...
MORGAN: I can't imagine a plane just this flying around for an hour without being able to communicate with anybody involuntarily.
RATHER: Well, exactly. And that's -- the simple point I was trying to make earlier, and it's worth underscoring, very strange indeed and you say, well, it would seem to suggest foul play. There are all kinds of things that quote "seem to suggest foul play." And I for one don't rule out foul play. In fact, as times goes along, you're a little more inclined to say, well, we have to consider it. There are always voices and say, well, you know, it doesn't -- it had to be mechanical failure, it had to be the pilot error, there are all kinds of reasons to question that as well. But, at this point, one, we should be careful of any conspiracy theories. Two, nothing should be ruled out, nothing including the fact the plane made wrong somewhere and landed.
I'm not suggesting that happened, but we shouldn't rule out anything. It's far too early. It's a time for a -- that word that Edward R. Murrow suggested during the World War II another crisis time. Time, one, is to stay steady, stay steady, don't conclusion jump, it will be a long time before we know what happened.
MORGAN: And what do you think Dan of the potential Iranian link with all these. We know that these two young Iranian males who are onboard using stolen passports, it would appear that the real reason is probably connected to asylum or whatever it maybe and not terrorism. But it comes in the week that Al Jazeera has broadcast his documentary making startling new claim that it wasn't Libya that ordered the Lockerbie bombing, but it was actually the Iranians in retaliation for an attack on one of their civilian airliners.
RATHER: It's very important ...
MORGAN: What do you think of that? Is it -- yeah...
RATHER: ... very important point.
MORGAN: ... what did you make of that coming together at the same time?
RATHER: Well, that would raise my suspicions and I think it would raise any reasonable person's suspicions keeping in mind that Iran is the principal sponsor of terrorism around the world, the principal sponsor of terrorism. And the fact that two Iranians using false passports are board the plane, naturally, it's going to be suspicious. Again, I'm not gathering (ph) any conclusions, I don't know if you are, but you raise a very strong point. Why rule that out? In fact, I think, increasingly is they always go by, you have to rule it in as a possibility, perhaps a remote possibility. With this stage, anything is possible.
MORGAN: Yeah. I know either that you can rule anything in or out. And I think people are trying to rule out terrorism. I think of -- a jump in the gun as much as people who try and rule it in. As you say, important to stick to the facts as we get them. One of the big problems of this, as you and I know, is that the facts coming even from the official bodies in Malaysia are contradictory and that is an issue.
But, Dan Rather, listen, I can talk to you a lot about this into a riveting story and our hearts, I'm sure yours do to, go out to all these poor families sitting there waiting for some knowledge, some information about what happened to all their relatives. But Dan, thank you very much indeed.
RATHER: Thanks a lot Piers.
MORGAN: Coming up, the latest on the search for flight 370. I'll ask the man who found the Titanic where he thinks the missing plane may be.
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MORGAN: Poor families of 239 missing people understandably desperate for this about four days of relentless searching (inaudible) no trace of flight 370.
Our next guest knows a thing or two about deep sea searches. He's the man who found the Titanic. Bob Ballard, Director of the Center of Ocean Exploration at University of Rhode Island. Thank you so much for joining me Bob Ballard.
You've found big old ships which people thought would never be found. The Bismarck, the Titanic, and others, and you found them at awesome and very difficult terrain and waters. What is your reading of the situation that we're now we're now in with this missing plane?
BOB BALLARD, DISCOVERED TITANIC WRECKAGE: Well, it seems to be changing every hour. But the latest information suggests that it's now went down or could have gone down in the Malacca Strait. That's relatively shallow, I mean, anywhere it's from 400 feet to 200 feet. So, it's not terribly deep water which means there's a lot of assets that can go and be deployed there. It's an area of very strong currents. So, you have to remember that if there is debris in the water, as time goes by, that debris is moving. And this particular time, the currents in the Malacca Strait are to the Northwest.
So, if you go to the spot where it went down, the debris will not be there. And so, you need to be able to search to the Northwest and then extrapolate backwards. So, time continues to move if there is debris. I cannot believe that there is not debris in the water. But, as you know, they've only recently begun to look there. But, there are now good assets, the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet, has helicopters in there with very, very sophisticated search radars that can pick up debris in the water. So, let's see what happens in the next 24 hours.
MORGAN: Would you make an assumption, obviously, a guesswork assumption, but would you make an assumption that it's more likely to be in the water on the basis that how did it crashed into land, there would have been some sign of it by now that somebody would have picked up.
BALLARD: You would think, I mean, but if you look, you know, I've been searching and looking at the land mass in Malaysia. It's not -- in some areas, not densely populated. It's very overgrown. So, it's conceivable it went down in land, but since their last contact was over water, it was actually headed towards Indonesia. And if you extrapolate, which I haven't seen anyone really do, where is it headed? And it's really headed towards the northern part of Indonesia near Banda Aceh. After that, it's out in the Indian Ocean. If it heads out into the ocean -- Indian Ocean then -- which had certainly have the fuel to do that, then it's a whole another ball game.
MORGAN: Now, the Straits of Malacca, as you say, and that's a shallow water, and I'm right in thinking that this can confuse the sonar sound waves that used to locate objects in the ocean floor (inaudible)? BALLARD: Well, it can. But, I mean, the typical way of looking would be using a sonar systems, a particularly site scan sonar systems where there's -- which is sort of the tool of choice in a situation like this and that would not be an issue. It's not that shallow. So, using side-scan sonars, you could put out tremendous number of those assets into the field because there are -- there's so many of them in the world, and also, the use of AUVs. There's a lot of tools that you can bring to bear once you can really sort of narrow the search area down.
So, I think what people are waiting to see is, is there any new information? Does the Indonesian Air force -- did they pick up anything, or are we really now concentrating on the area of the Malacca Strait. And if that's it, then that's where you would begin your search.
MORGAN: What about the black box that we always hear about in these circumstances, presumably, it is there somewhere. Do you know the nature of modern black boxes in planes like this?
BALLARD: Oh yes. In this water depth, it's certainly not an issue. They can work down to 20,000 feet. You do can -- you can get interesting pathways in shallow water which would be an issue but, the issue is how long will the black box continue transmitting. I believe the numbers I've heard is something like, you know, up to a month. So, I think there's plenty of time for that black box to be heard. So, certainly, that's what I would see happening.
People tying to hear the black box, and then at some point, being comfortable to begin mounting an actual search, and that to me is what we're going to be seeing happening. I'm confident that they will -- they want to find it and they will spend the time and energy to find it.
MORGAN: And as we just seen it, they're not always actually black, but they used -- that's the term that is used generically for the -- for those particular box is.
MORGAN: Yeah. That's what we're looking at, yeah. Final question Bob, and very briefly, if you don't mind with your answer, is it easier to find a plane that is broken up, or one that has stayed as it is when it gets into the water?
BALLARD: My personal experience is it's a lot easier to find one that's broken up because it's over such a large area. And you do have significant pieces and certainly the engines and big parts of the fuselage. So, if I were to have a choice, I would pick a plane that is fragmented and is covering a much larger area.
MORGAN: Bob Ballard, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
BALLARD: Thank you. MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. "Weed 2: Cannabis Madness" with Sanjay Gupta starts right now.