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Search for Flight 370: New Developments; Crimea Votes Overwhelmingly to Join Russia; Russia Announces New Currency, Time Zone for Crimea

Aired March 17, 2014 - 08:00   ET




REPORTER: Can you tell us what you're doing inside the house? What were you looking for?


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: new developments in the search for Flight 370. A new report claiming the plane could have flown below 5,000 to avoid being detected on radar. If that did happen, is it possible the missing jetliner is somewhere on the ground? We'll test it.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Malaysia, new surveillance video of 370's pilot and co-pilot. They're believed to be going through security before boarding the jetliner. Their actions under intense scrutiny today.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Russia wasting no time taking over Crimea, already announcing a new currency and time zone for the region. The White House and western leaders scrambling to punish Vladimir Putin, but is it already too late to stop Crimea from seceding?

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. I'm Chris Cuomo in New York.

And we are following developments in the search for Malaysia Flight 370, now in its 10th day. There is a report out this morning saying the plane could have been flying as low as 5,000 feet across three countries to avoid radar. Now, this comes from Malaysia's "New Straight Times," citing unnamed sources.

For more on this and the investigation, let's get to Kate Bolduan. She is live in Kuala Lumpur -- Kate. BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris. Here's the very latest. Officials here are standing firm on their decision, their decision -- and how they are releasing information. They have been under criticism they have been slow to release information, that they are withholding details. But they say that they want to verify and corroborate all the information first before they release it.

We've also learned a Malaysian civil aviation engineer was on that flight. The 29-year-old worked for a private jet company. That's according to his father. He's going to be scrutinized, of course, because of his background.

But all of the passengers are being scrutinized, background are being looked at this point. The search area for the missing jet has expanded north into central Asia and south deep into the Indian Ocean, a massive area. They have done very little to narrow the search area at this point.

So many big questions to answer. Did the pilots play a role? Did someone have a motive to sabotage the plane? Could have Flight 370 have actually landed somewhere?

The histories of the 239 passengers and crew are being dissected in hopes of solving this truly mystery.


HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIA TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: We recalibrated our search efforts to the northern and southern corridors as announced by the prime minister.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Ten days in, the search area now expanding as the mystery of Flight 370's disappearance deepens. New reports this morning claiming that Flight 370 could have flown below 5,000 feet, avoiding radar across at least three countries according to the "New Straits Times."

This comes as officials say they are looking into all passengers, one, a 29-year-old Malaysian civil aviation engineer may be of particular interest because of his aviation knowledge. His father told CNN he's confident he's not involved.

This now as the investigation shifts focus to the pilots.

This surveillance footage posted on social media appears to show the captain and first officer passing through airport security. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the video or exactly when it was shot.

On Saturday, plain clothed police were seen exiting the first officer's home, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid.

Later police seized this homemade flight simulator from the captain's home, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

PETER CHONG, CAPTAIN ZAHARIE'S FRIEND: It's a reflection of his love for flying. He wants to share the joy of flying with his friends.

BOLDUAN: The last words heard from the cockpit "All right, good night" were spoken after the plane's communication system shut off. The plane then reportedly makes a deliberate sharp turn toward the Indian Ocean, leading many security experts to fear terrorism.

Over the weekend, authorities expanded the search area across thousands of miles of water and land, spanning 11 countries. Officials confirm the aircraft sent pings to satellites west of Malaysia the morning it disappeared, possibly flying for more than seven hours after its communication system shut off.

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.


BOLDUAN: Authorities are now looking deep into the background of the pilots as you might expect. But let's talk more about this and the news that really came out today.

Jim Clancy has been tracking this investigation from the very beginning for us here at CNN.

Jim, I want to get your take, because we hear these press conferences and sometimes people don't realize when the big news come out. They acknowledge they are looking into the pilots, Malaysian officials, but they say they are not ruling anything out.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I just listen to your report. It was absolutely correct.

From what we were told days before, but today in this press conference, what they've said is, no, we're not quite sure, we don't think that the com systems, the ACARS, and the transponder were turned off before and now we know it's the co-pilot who said, "all right, good night". So, suddenly what do we have?

BOLDUAN: We have a timeline that's been thrown up in the air.

CLANCY: We think now there's a possibility that after that point in time -- they say everything is fine on their aircraft, the com systems were all working, but then suddenly you could have a catastrophic failure, you could have an invasion of the cockpit. That changes some of the fundamentals on the ground.

Now, will they change it again tomorrow? This is the problem, Kate. You lose credibility when you have one solid source you made sure of all these facts and then you go back and we find, wait a minute, no, we're going to change that. Sometimes it has to happen. We know.

But that's, in this particular investigation, one of the problems.

BOLDUAN: Well, and the frustration when you hear from Malaysian officials they are not releasing information as fast as people want because they want it all verified and corroborated. And you hear reading in the "New York Times", U.S. officials are frustrated that the Malaysian authorities aren't accepting more assistance from Americans that they are willing to offer up in order to move this investigation along. There's frustration on both sides but not helping getting answers any quicker.

What do you make of the new report from the "New Strait Times," another theory they are putting out there, another possibility that the pilots whoever was flying the plane went around 5,000 feet over some three countries to avoid radar detection? What you hearing about that?

CLANCY: Great theory, isn't it?

BOLDUAN: It's a great theory.

CLANCY: You think about it. It scares you when you think of that kind of sophistication. Let me tell you something, because we have our own sources and the pattern, Kate, has been this -- we talk to an investigator, they all have theories. They are trying to disprove things. So, they are all testing out theories.

There's no reliable radar evidence that the plane ever went down as low as 5,000 feet. You know, the reports it went up to 43,000, 45,000 feet, the plane not designed to do that. Some wonder if it's capable to do that with that kind of a full load.

So, we don't think the radar is reliable and I can tell you for sure that these investigators, these Malaysian investigators, they are good but are really tasking themselves to come up with a scenario and disprove it or prove it.

BOLDUAN: And hard thing that figuring out --

CLANCY: There's no evidence.

BOLDUAN: -- is there's no hard evidence one way or another. Frustration amongst the families of course and that's what matters because they want answers and they are not getting them. Frustration, the story seems to change as will happen with such an unprecedented event with a plane that disappears into thin air.

Jim Clancy leading our coverage for us, Jim thank you so much. Stick with me.

We go back to Chris in New York now -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Kate. And that's why our job is to test what comes out, what makes sense and what doesn't and keep the record clear.

For more on that, right now, we're going to come back to John Lucich and Mary Schiavo.

We want to take a listen to what they just said there and see how it makes sense to us. Two big points: first -- which is the news of the day -- that Malaysian authorities are saying we believe the plane may have been below 5,000 feet.

Mary, based on the radar data they have access to could they, in quotes, "know that"?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, they couldn't know it positively. They are extrapolating from data they have and altitude radar data is not as good as directional, like where you are on earth as opposed to how high. Not as good.

CUOMO: John would it help you avoid detection if you were to fly at 5,000 feet?

JOHN LUCICH: Well, remember, we have to come to -- some have reported as many as three countries maybe more to get all three countries violating the airspace of numerous jurisdictions to get that far undetected? It's almost impossible I would believe. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'm just saying it's unfathomable.

CUOMO: And, Mary, even if they're right about the supposition, even if the plane was flying at 5,000 feet, there's just as good reason to believe it was being done by pilots for a legitimate reason as by hijackers, yes?

SCHIAVO: Right. If you don't have collision avoidance or transponder, you don't want to flight at the commercial flight levels where you need transponders and communications equipment. You need to be at the general aviation level with the rest of us, you know, stick and rudder pilots.

CUOMO: All right. So, now, that takes us by way of segue to the other big disclosure today. The Malaysian authorities said something that opened a lot of eyes. We believe that when the co-pilot said "All right, good night" that after -- they had the transponder off. That was the initial thing. Oh, the transponder was already off when they said good night. That suggested some type of sabotage. Now they are saying maybe it was work.

That makes a lot more sense, by the way, right, Mary?

SCHIAVO: Well; it does because often the co-pilot or pilot not flying handles the radio communications. I mean, it's very typical and makes perfect sense he would be doing the radios and the pilot in command would be doing the flying.

CUOMO: And that even though we do have something unusual, which is the handoff from tower to tower within the same state or even the same country, it's going to go from Malaysia to Vietnam, there might have been a delay in doing the obvious, John, which is, hey, the transponder is off, immediately communicate to the plane. We don't know that happened here.

So, it makes more sense when the pilot said good night he had working coms, yes?

LUCICH: Yes, absolutely. That's very possible. If you're going to do something like a 9/11 style hijacking that's the point you would do it. You already said good-bye. It's several minutes before they start looking for you.

You know, one of the things that disturbs me about this case, I think early on, they missed an opportunity, when this thing missing in the first hour, they should have reached for this downloaded data service that they didn't pay for and beg them to turn it on. We would have had so much data available to us.

I think there's a lot of missed opportunities early on, maybe because I don't believe other countries may not be as organized and resourceful as United States.

CUOMO: Take a half step back. What data downloading service that they don't have to pay for? What is that?

LUCICH: The ACARS System reports back. We saw this in Air France out of Rio de Janeiro, where we literally got mechanical messages, maintenance messages back. That ACARS system, in part, is designed to send messages back to let you know that it needs certain type of service, this way before the aircraft even lands they can get a crew ready to fix anything on board.

Well, apparently, Malaysia Airlines bought this multimillion aircraft but didn't pay for the data downloading service. So, while it was trying to communicate with the satellite, the satellite was rejecting much like a cell phone would be rejected if you didn't have an AT&T or Verizon account.

CUOMO: All right. Now, there's more data they could have had. They wound up getting it but not early enough so that helps change the sophistication.

Last point here before I let you go. They are looking again at the manifest. We still haven't heard about the cargo manifest. We still don't know it was in the belly of the plane, could be highly relevant especially if you had a mass decompression event, something blowing up down there. But we still don't know.

We do know what the passenger manifest is, or at least that they have, that they're looking. They find a civil engineer. That again, ooh, civil engineer, maybe they know something about this. They work in the airline industry.

You shake your head, Mary.

SCHIAVO: They say he works for Executive Jet. I know that company. They are in Columbus, Ohio.

When I was an aviation professor at Ohio State, they were the number one goal for my students. They wanted to work for Executive Jet. They have security. They have worldwide security. They do background checks and they've got the cream of the crop of kids coming out of college, at least back when I was a professor.

So, I would like very skeptical if someone, you know, said they worked for Executive Jet and in some sort of plot because Executive Jet does a pretty good job on background. CUOMO: Boy, I have to tell you, one reason it's so helpful to have people like you as experts the idea they find a civil engineer that works for the company, you know the company, you know what they do, it allows us to put it in the media perspective. Your understanding of the plane what it would take to disable all these systems, like any pilot could do it -- again, makes it clear just because thing are being said doesn't mean they are 100 percent. We're trying to test them.

Thank you for helping us do that.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

LUCICH: Thank you.

CUOMO: And we're going to lean on it, like I said.

And before we keep going Flight 370, there's a lot of other news. So, let's get over to J.B. for that -- John.


Breaking overnight, U.S. Navy SEALs have taken control of a commercial tanker in the Mediterranean. The Morning Glory has been seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans and is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government. The mission happened in international waters, southeast to Cyprus. The ship is being sailed back to Libya by the U.S. Navy.

At the White House today, President Obama will meet with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. They will talk about the state of the Middle East peace process. The U.S. is pushing a framework for additional talks. President Abbas has made clear that objects to some of the provisions, including recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. The meeting comes a day after Secretary of State John Kerry met with Abbas and urged him to make some tough decisions before the proposed April 29 deadline to agree on the framework.

World powers set to meet with Iran over its nuclear ambitions starting today on the agenda discussing dimensions of Iran's nuclear activity such as uranium enrichment, a heavy water reactor, as well as sanctions and international cooperation. Iran's foreign ministry said he does not expect to cement a final deal during this round of talks.

A 6.7 earthquake hit Chile's Pacific coast on Sunday. So far, there'd been no reports of major damage or injuries. Officials activated precautionary tsunami warning and urged residents to evacuate and move to higher grounds. A series of strong shocks struck the area just hours after the quake, registering between 4.9 and about 5.2 magnitude -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. John, thanks so much for that.

Well, let's talk weather now. The winter seems like it's never going to end. It's not done yet. We already know this other storm is moving into parts of the East. It's bringing with it more snow and more ice, making that morning commute a pain. We've heard of some closures around the areas that are being affected.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons, you got some explaining to do.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You don't like this, Michaela, no, right?

Once again, we're still talking about some 25 million of us under advisories this morning thanks to the next winter system. It's not spring yet. We are so close. But unfortunately, again, overnight all that cold air spilled farther down. What started out as rain turned over to that wintry mix and snow that we're dealing with this morning, and we've been seeing some good amounts. I mean, right around the Dulles, around D.C., about 10 inches has fallen in Baltimore, five and a half inches, Kate, towards New Jersey, seven inches of snow, but it's a very narrow swath we're seeing heavy amounts. More snow in the forecasts, D.C. could still see another two inches before all is said and done.

The good news, it's going to move out of here quickly. So, unfortunately for the morning commute by the afternoon should kick out of here. Here's one. Here's two. This guy still bringing heavy rain in the southeast today and in through tomorrow. Some good amounts. Several inches will be out there and not the only story.

Got to go back to the Midwest where another storm is the behind that. So, the series continue here -- more cold air filling in behind that and this will affect the Northeast by the middle of the week. For today, this huge contrast temperature-wise, 30s for the next system in the upper Midwest and down in the southeast especially in Florida, 86 degrees Miami.

You talk about that contrast and you have the threat for severe weather, thunderstorms and even a threat for an isolated tornado.

I'm with you guys. This is a long winter for the --


PEREIRA: That these winter storms will make the spring all the sweeter when it does arrive.


CUOMO: Look, it's very optimistic. That's who you are. J.B. sporting a little green stripe there in support for the holiday.

However, Indra Petersons, resplendent in green, supposedly celebrating St. Patrick's Day and yet mocking the Irish by putting this bad weather out, and basically saying their holiday doesn't want and want failed weather on them.

PETERSONS: They can stay home and celebrate.

CUOMO: I take exception.

I say Erin go brragh, no weather is blah, which is what Petersons is saying. But that's for you to figure out.


CUOMO: It was all to take a shot at times.

PEREIRA: Long way to go.

CUOMO: That's what I do, and now, I give you a break to digest and to have soda bread, enjoy yourself.

When we come back we'll don't give the latest on the search for flight 370. Terrorism was ruled out. Investigators are now saying we're not 100 percent sure. The longer the search is dragging on, anything is possible. We'll take a look what they are putting out, test what they say is theories and make sure it's the best information.

PEREIRA: And we're going to shine the spotlight on Crimea. Landslide vote there to secede from Ukraine. However, the White House not buying it.

Christiane Amanpour joins us next.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We are, of course, following breaking developments on the ongoing search for Flight 370. But we are also following another big story for you.

Overseas, final results from Crimea show nearly 97 percent voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Lawmakers in Crimea have approved the resolution to declare the peninsula independent from Ukraine. However, the White House calls this referendum illegal and expected to announce new sanctions against Russia today.

Here now with more is CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

So great to have you with us, Christiane, to look at this with us.

Let's start with that. We know the U.S. is saying there's no way we're recognizing this referendum, it's illegal. What are you expecting in terms much further sanctions being announced and do you anticipate those being announced today?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Probably, yes here in Europe because foreign ministers are, in fact, meeting. You know, we should have heard about them last night Sunday. But now the British foreign secretary saying we should know more about the specificity of these sanctions today.

And from what we know from Western diplomats, it's going to be very specifically targeted, travel bans in some instances, that would include visa obviously restrictions and also asset freezes. We understand that they are not going off to the so-called oligarchs or CEOs. What they are doing to begin with is targeting a type, a narrow band of people, individuals who specifically had something to do with organizing this referendum.

So, they're not going to President Putin, even though, of course, he did in the big picture, not going to foreign minister but they're working on those kinds of things right now.

The other thing is President Putin is going to address the Russian parliament tomorrow and everybody is waiting to see what decision he's going to take.

PEREIRA: Well, it's seemingly full steam ahead. You know, we were looking today, Crimea lawmakers have already addressed the fact they are switching to the ruble, that they're going to go by, adhere to the Moscow standard time, while the rest of the world says hold on not so fast -- it seems they are taking some of these practical considerations of how life in Crimea is going to be shaped and rolling with it.

AMANPOUR: Michaela, you're absolutely right. This is being consistent with how this crisis has unfolded from the beginning. It's really been like a slow motion evolving bad movie. And each move that the Russians and the Crimeans has made has been entirely predictable and entirely consistent.

I mean, the notion that we're even reporting the results of this referendum, you know, it has an absurd quality to it because there was never any doubt to what it was going to be, it happened at the end of a barrel of a gun and happened under the weight of massive state-run propaganda from Russia being broadcast into Crimea and with no option on that ballot to remain status quo as part of Ukraine.

So, this was all entirely predictable once this crisis came to a head. The only thing that's not predictable is what is President Vladimir Putin do. President Obama spoke to him yesterday, again, reiterating that the world, the international community, the West would never recognize this referendum in Crimea.

So, will he decide to annex? Will he decide -- and this is the worse case scenario -- continue to go into other parts of Ukraine? That's something everybody wants to know and hear from and we'll hear some tomorrow, presumably.

PEREIRA: And another thing that's not entirely predictable is what will happen to some of those ethnic minority groups. We know that 60 percent of the nation, ethnic Russian. But let's look at the Tatars, 12 percent of the population.

So, let's say you didn't vote for the referendum, you're opposed to it, what happens to you? What is their life set up to be like?

AMANPOUR: Again, this is very, very unknown at this moment. And, look, if you flip it, this is what the Russians were saying when the new Ukrainian authorities came in, to what about everybody's rights.

Well, up until now all the rights of the ethnic Russians had been respected under the current constitution, the Ukrainian constitution and as you know Russia had its Black Sea base.

The real question as you point out is what kind of guarantees are they going to give to those who remain, and will those tartars remain? Are we going to see a mass exodus of people who absolutely have no idea what their rights are going to be like and how they're going to be enshrine.

And as you say, fait accompli, facts on the ground of being created every minute, whether it's the ruble, whether it's Moscow central time and we understand Crimea wants to, quote-unquote, "nationalized energy companies in Crimea".

So, what does this all mean? You know, it's up to Putin to make these ultimate decisions.

PEREIRA: I want to take a left turn. You as we have been focusing on was going on with this search, the desperate search for Malaysian Flight 370.

I want to talk to you about your take. There's been a lot of criticism of the Malaysian government, of their handling of the investigation, a lot of countries have said, hey, we're willing to help, they are sort of rebuffing those offers.

What do you make of that? Is this a pride thing? Is this a cultural thing? What's your sense, Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Well, unfortunately, in a lot of these events that happen overseas you sometimes get this sort of national pride thing that comes in and interferes with the speed of investigation, the western nations are used to. The United States is used to being able to investigate very quickly and it has FBI members, FAA members, NSBS members and others in Malaysia and they can't quite get the kind of speedy information and acceptance of their off towers help that they want.

And now, the U.S., just like many other countries, is starting to push and say we want to help but we need more information, we need to know what's going on. Unfortunately, for Malaysia and the Malaysian people their government is shaping up to be the bad guy or the unhelpful guy in this dramatic scenario.

It's the greatest aviation drama that any of us can remember, and not only that it's a very human drama because while we're all focused on where is this plane, this mystery, those families who have no word are getting more and more upset. Now they are demanding as CNN has been reporting to have absolute quick and up to date information. Apparently, Malaysia is thinking of assigning each family group or each family member some kind of official to be able to get real answers but with this massive increase in this square area of the search this is going to be incredibly difficult to continue to pinpoint.

But, foul play for sure they suspect. Is it the pilots or were the pilots coerced? What was the motive? That is still anybody's guess at this point. PEREIRA: Well, to be sure the family's deserve pride being set aside so this investigation can be fully completed.

Christiane, we appreciate you lending your wise words and expertise to this topic today. Thanks so much for joining us here on NEW DAY.

Chris, over to you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you, Michaela.

CUOMO: All right. Mick, thank you very much.

We're going to take a break now on NEW DAY. When we come back one of the questions surrounding the investigation into Flight 370, could the plane have flown too low for radar detection across three countries? That's what's being suggested by investigators. We're going to unpack that.

Look, how low would they have to fly? Is 5,000 enough? We'll put this theory to the test with experts and using a flight simulator next.