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Report: Course Change Came From Cockpit; U.S. Pulls Naval Destroyer From Search; Crew Members Missing After Ships Collide; Alleged Wannabe Terrorist Captured; Obamacare Enrollment Tops 5 Million; Russia Talks Sanctions

Aired March 18, 2014 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first diversion that the plane made was done by a computer system on the plane.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, a new report that the missing Malaysian plane's course was changed in the computer, not manually. What this means to investigators and to the search. We work through all the new information with our experts.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Malaysia, that new report adding even more focus on the pilots. We talk exclusively to a man who knew the co-pilot well. Does he think his neighbor could have done this intentionally?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Vladimir Putin set to address his nation as he officially begins to tighten his grip on Crimea. In a new twist, he may now be leveling sanctions against U.S. senators.

CUOMO: Your new day starts right now.

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

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. I'm Chris Cuomo in New York. We have breaking news on that missing Malaysian plane. Authorities there just holding a press conference. The headline, they have expanded the search area. There's a new report out saying the pilot used the plane's computer to alter the course. Let's get right to Kate Bolduan live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris. Malaysian officials now saying the search area is nearly 2.24, two and a quarter million nautical square miles, nearly that huge. That's bigger than the size of Australia, if you can believe it. The U.S. will scale back its role in the search as other countries seeming to pick up the slack at this point. Meantime, emotions are starting to boil over now, 11 days after the plane vanished.

Relatives of people on the flight venting at officials. One woman saying she wants the truth and doesn't want to be used as a political pawn. All this as a new report this morning leave little doubt that the missing plane went off course because of a command from the cockpit.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): New this morning, growing suspicion around Flight 370's pilots. The "New York Times" citing unnamed senior American officials reporting someone in the cockpit likely programmed the missing flight to deliberate turn to the west in the cockpit computer. This person possibly typing seven or eight key strokes into the system to divert the aircraft off its course to Beijing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone put into the computer system a new direction for the plane to go in. It shows that whoever did this had expertise in flying. This was not someone on the plane that grabbed the controls and moved it.

BOLDUAN: Also this morning, China is ramping up its search within its own borders. Chinese authorities say background checks on their passengers have come back clear. No links to terrorism or hijacking. Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities under fire for an apparent discrepancy in the missing aircraft's time line. On Monday, the CEO of the airline said the co-pilot's final words from the cockpit at 1:19 a.m., "All right. Good night" could have come before or after the plane's communication system shut off.

The CEO saying the system could have shut off anytime between its last transmission at 1:07 a.m. and 1:37 a.m. when it was supposed to send out another message. This clarification comes just a day after Malaysian officials said the communication system was disabled before the co-pilot's final message prompting the investigation to shift toward the pilots. For the family members of 239 people now missing who were about Flight 370, the possibility of hijacking has actually lifted some spirits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Among many families, almost euphoria because that means they could still be alive. I heard cheers. They're trying to hold on to any little bit of hope.

BOLDUAN: With Australia now heading up the search in the Andaman Sea, the U.S. is scaling back its search in those waters pulling out the USS Kidd and its helicopters. Instead they're basing a P8 aircraft in Australia to help with the search.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now in Kuala Lumpur is Jim Clancy. You've been covering the story from the very beginning, a difficult one to track day by day. Jim, today is no different. What is your take on this report coming out from the "New York Times" that key strokes happened, the plane diverted because of command in the cockpit?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the normal way -- I'm not aviation expert.

BOLDUAN: None of us are.

CLANCY: You know, but I'm learning in the last 11 days. This is a normal way for a pilot who is familiar with where he's traveling to enter in a digit code and will then steer the plane to a pre-set, what they call a waypoint. That might take him, you know, towards another course that he wants to take.

BOLDUAN: This is good information to have. But does this give us any clearer idea of was this a hijacking or was this something else?

CLANCY: The hijacker could have forced the pilot to do it, to start off in his course, not likely. They just steer the plane. The other option is the pilot was in trouble and wanted to get that plane on the ground. He entered the coordinates that would take him to the nearest airport that could handle that aircraft, which is no -- you know, it's not a regular aircraft. It weighs a lot. It needs more than 12,000 feet of run way.

BOLDUAN: So while it still gives us something, it still gives us more questions.

CLANCY: More questions because we don't have the answer to the questions. We know that it didn't make it. We know that this plane went off. We don't what happened? Was there in a fire in the cockpit? Was it hijacked? Was the pilot in on some nefarious plot? There's no evidence for any of that yet without the flight data recorder.

BOLDUAN: And during the press conference that we just heard from the defense minister, he says that they still believe that this is all a result of an action, a deliberate action in the cockpit. Still not the hard evidence one way or the other of who's behind it. Clearly, we still don't know. Of course, the biggest question, where this plane is. Jim, great to see you. Stick with me. Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right, Kate, so let's begin at the beginning here. Let's bring aviation attorney and former Department of Transportation inspector general, Mary Schiavo. She is also a CNN aviation analyst and Mr. Les Abend. He is a contributing editor of "Flying Magazine" and 777 pilot himself.

Mary, let's do what I said. Let's start at the beginning. Do we believe at this point that the plane altered course, Mary?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think it's clear the plane altered course.

CUOMO: So we believe the radar pings. They know enough to know it did deviate from its course. We are good with that. Les, agreed?

LES ABEND, 777 PILOT: It seems that way.

CUOMO: So now, the question that's getting advanced today is, how that happened. This "New York Times" report doesn't suggest, Les, staying with you. This idea spoken with great confidence by the reporter. There were key strokes done. It was done. It was put into the computer. Going through the reporting, do you believe there's reasonable basis for this conclusion?

ABEND: Well, based on the fact that that's truthful information or information that is accurate, let's go with it. It still goes with my assertion that an entry into the flight management computer with those keystrokes could have been indication they were trying to go back to Kuala Lumpur or another alternate airport.

However that being said, an airport only takes me four keystrokes. So that's a little confusing to me if indeed it was seven or eight keystrokes. I'm not sure they really know. But to me that means I've got a problem, I need to head back. That's part of my emergency checklist in a way.

CUOMO: OK, so let's go back even one more half step on this part of the analysis, Mary. Knowing what we know about why they believe a pilot did anything with the computer, do you think they have a sound basis for believing that that somebody did something?

SCHIAVO: I think they have a sound basis for believing that somebody put in the four key strokes or more to try to get the plane turn around. It's hard to say when. The timing seems to be off. I think there is a reasonable basis to believe that something was keyed into the computer.

CUOMO: And a lot of this is coming because of this ACARS system, right. That it did record this data. Now that must mean that investigators have to move off their theory of yesterday, which is that this system was disabled before anything else happened. If the ACARS recorded these keystrokes, then obviously it was working, right? Common sense conclusion.

ABEND: Maybe it's possible, but I mean, you know, who knows if that time line is correct.

CUOMO: Right, but if the ACARS recorded the data, then it was on. If it was on then it was on when they were put in the key strokes, you don't have to be an expert to know that. Right? Let's get to what this means. Why would you do that? We've had pilots coming at different directions from this. Some say you would never do that if there were distress in the cockpit. Other pilots have said that's exactly what you do. That's the protocol. If you are in distress, you key this in. Les, your take.

ABEND: That would be my take, the latter. The fact that they recognized they had a problem. They had to return to somewhere. I don't know. They have an alternate page where they could select an alternate airport nearest to them. However, in confusion, if I knew an identifier of a specific airport, I would have put in the identifier and put in the key strokes. That would be -- I was on auto pilot.

SCHIAVO: I think that too. You want to go home, almost like on star button. Key in the nearest airport to get the plane down. The waypoint isn't the nearest airport for it to get the plane down.

CUOMO: So how do you make sense of that? That what they put in doesn't seem to line up with what you would do?

SCHIAVO: Well, it's hard for me to make sense of that and also with the timing. You know, originally we thought that the systems were fine and they gave the last all right good night and then turned. That's when everything happened. Now the time line doesn't make any sense.

CUOMO: Again, playing it from common sense perspective, why weren't they on the radio? That's not exactly how things work when you are flying an airplane even though you think -- the regular person, the uninitiated thinks why weren't they talking right a way to somebody? Doesn't always work that way?

SCHIAVO: Communication comes in third place if you're extremely busy. We know the co-pilot was the one not flying. It's a mystery to me, if they had the ability to key in the code, turn the plane around, they didn't have time to talk.

CUOMO: So Les, they're expanding the search area. OK, my understanding is that Malaysian officials were talking to U.S. officials on the defense side, saying we need your help, but the help we need is finding that box. We believe there's something like 20 days left as long as it will be sending out a signal. Does that sound right to you in terms of how long -- how much time you have?

ABEND: Chris, I'm not familiar with the system, but it does sounds correct with the Air France situation, yes.

CUOMO: Does it make sense to you that with the black box they'd be looking about another 20 days to 30 days in all?

ABEND: Chris, I'm not familiar with the system, but it does sound correct, you know, with the Air France situation, yes.

CUOMO: Does it make sense to you that with the black box, they'd be looking about another 20 days to 30 days in all?

SCHIAVO: That's right.

CUOMO: And it also seems highly suggestive that they're thinking that box is in the water? That's the only reason you'd need to find it in this period?

SCHIAVO: At least the United States folks seemed to think so.

CUOMO: And expanding the search area, yes, it is very big, but what do we know about how much ground you can cover with all these countries and all the different assets in the area on water and in air?

SCHIAVO: Well, you know, depending on the number of ships, you know, they do the grid where each country can be assigned a certain grid and they break it up into several square miles each and go back and forth across until they cover it. It just depends how many hundreds of square miles they have to cover. CUOMO: It's very important for people following this at home. This new information if it's all 100 percent true and accurate does not lead you to a reasonable conclusion about why this was being done. Whether it was because of an accident in the plane or because someone was directing the action forcing the pilots to do it or because someone else had taken over, right?

SCHIAVO: Right, it just lets me know that someone there was coherent and able to key something in, which is at least some news.

CUOMO: Right. And last point, Les, could I do it? Do you have to -- how much sophistication do you have to have to make this type of entry into the computer?

ABEND: I could probably train you in about 15 minutes on how to make entries into the computer. It's a little confusing. It's not that user friendly.

CUOMO: All right, so knowing what we know right now isn't enough to take any step in the direction of who did it and why they did it?

ABEND: Not really, no. I wouldn't say.

CUOMO: All right, good. Les, Mary, thank you very much for helping us along. It's important to test each piece of information as it comes out. We'll continue to monitor the missing flight, of course. But there's a lot of other news for you as well. Let's right to John Berman with that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Chris. Breaking overnight, a desperate search for eight Chinese crew members missing after two ships collided in the waters off Japan. The Japanese coast guard rescued 12 people from the ship after it collided with the South Korean vessel and capsized. Official say nearly a dozen ships and a Coast Guard helicopter are taking part in the search and rescue operation.

An alleged aspiring terrorist is now behind bars. Police say 20-year- old Nicholas Teausant was captured near the Canadian border. A California is accused of attempting to travel to Syria to join the al Qaeda-linked militant group. He appeared in court Monday. He's charged with providing support to terrorist and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

A major milestone for Obamacare as we head toward the March 31st deadline for coverage this year. The White House now says more than 5 million Americans have signed up. That's 1 million in just the last two weeks. That's an encouraging pace to the White House no doubt considering the program had such a rocky roll out. It is expected to fall short of the 7 million that administration officials had initially hoped for.

So after a 90-minute delay, Day 12 of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial finally did get underway. The focus so far today, cross examining the crime scene photographer who said police took more than 900 pictures related to the killing. Pistorius that seemed to show the gun was tampered with and some evidence was moved.

President Obama will correct a historic injustice today a warding the Medal of Honor, the highest possible combat honor to 24 Jewish- Hispanic and African-American veterans. Congress had order a review to determine if service members were previously overlooked for the medal because of their ethnicity. Among them (ph) whether they were overlooked previously because of their ethnicity. Melvin Morris is one of three who are still a live that served in Vietnam. A high honor well deserved -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: The fact the families can celebrate that recognition finally.

All right, so the weather yesterday, how about that? A little colder, turned out to be a snow maker for D.C. Indra Petersons has been watching that. It's on its way out right?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I mean, we are talking about sic here was another system behind it this morning. This guy also making its way out. Keep in mind there's a little freezing rain around Virginia this morning. What is this guys? It's supposed to be spring, right, two days away? We are talking about another system coming out of the Midwest making its way to the Ohio Valley and eventually east tomorrow. Keep in mind, it's not going to have a lot of rain and snow. Definitely windy conditions.

The bulk should be rain as it makes it's way across. Upper portions of the Midwest, Minnesota out toward Michigan, highest points could see heavy amounts of snow. Everyone else, only a half inch of rain as this kicks through. The winds are the concern. Possibly flight delays, 40 to 50 miles per hour as it continues to push across. That's one of the bigger stories we're watching.

Behind it, we're looking for spring. We're so close. Atlanta, 49 for their high today. Don't worry, by the time it's officially spring, talking 60s and 70s. D.C., you are going to go from 30s to 60s. In New York City, going from 40s up to the 50s. We'll all be feeling a lot better a lot sooner. Spring itself, official day, it has to feel good . I'm going to try, guys (ph).

PEREIRA: All right.

PETERSONS: Just for you.

PEREIRA: Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: I like she can control the weather.

PEREIRA: Very powerful lady.

CUOMO: That's always a plus.

PETERSONS: Remember it.

CUOMO: We're going to take a break on NEW DAY. When we come back, investigators turn their attention to the pilots of flight 370. What do we now know about 27-year-old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid? We'll talk to his neighbors in Malaysia in a CNN exclusive.

PEREIRA: And we're waiting, Vladimir Putin addressing his nation's parliament about the annexation of Crimea. We're now getting word that the Russian president may plan to punish specific U.S. senators in response to White House sanctions. We've got all that ahead here on NEW DAY.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. In a moment we'll have more on our breaking news coverage of the ongoing search for flight 370.

First, though, the latest on the crisis in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin will address the annexation of Crimea when he appears before his nation's parliament at the top of the hour. Earlier this morning he formally notified his parliament that Crimea wants to join Russia.

Meanwhile, the White House and European Union have slapped sanctions against 28 Russian and Ukrainian officials including some of Putin's top aids. One of those aids called being targeted quote "an honor." We have live reports from Moscow and Washington, we'll begin with White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi Michaela, right, 11 people have been identified by the U.S., 21 by the EU with some overlap immediately subject to asset freezes and visa bans. And already the administration talking about expanding these sanctions. For now, targeting some key players while still leaving that door open to diplomacy. Not everyone agrees, though, that this is actually doing much, or on what should or even can be done at this point.


KOSINSKI: U.S. and EU have decided that the Crimean referendum to rejoin Russia is something of a red line.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're making it clear that there are consequences for their actions.


KOSINSKI: Announcing sanctions on two dozen Russian and Ukrainian officials. On the list, a close aid to Putin, one of his advisors, members of Russian parliament, ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, the new Russia-backed prime minister of Crimea and Russia's deputy prime minister who then tweeted, "Comrade Barack Obama, what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or you didn't think about it?"

It's true the actual effect of this multinational move was hard to define. Britain and Germany described it as a statement. For the U.S., Russia isn't a major trading partner. Many Russians have bought property in America, but even significant investment is often done anonymously through offshore entities, and so identifying the actual investor is incredibly difficult. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's going to dissuade him, I don't think it's going to change his course of policy. I think what it does is it tells Putin that if the crisis escalates there would be a stronger response. And I do think that sanctions do deliver that message.

KOSINSKI: Limiting trade with Russia, especially by the EU, would have a strong isolating effect. Repeatedly, U.S. officials have cited volatility in the Russian stock market, the ruble hitting record lows. But analysts say those be attributed to a threat of sanctions -- rather to Russia's own actions in Crimea worrying foreign investors that Russia needs. That's what might hit Russia the hardest for now.


KOSINSKI: Senator John McCain, for one, called the sanctions timid and said why not do something like provide military assistance to Ukraine? Many others have asked how about sanctioning Putin himself? But administration officials for now didn't want to discuss fully what all those options are on the table at this point. Michaela?

PEREIRA: All right Michelle, from the White House. Now to Moscow where, an we mentioned, a defiant President Vladimir Putin is ignoring sanctions and paving the way for Crimea to become apart of Russia. And this morning, "The Daily Beast" reports that Moscow will retaliate against those very sanctions by banning (ph) several U.S. senators from visiting Russia. CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us live from Moscow. Sounds like a little bit of tit for tat, isn't it, Fred?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sounds like a little tit for tat, Michaela, and it's exactly what the Russians have said that they're going to do. In fact, we know that the Russian parliament is going to meet today and one of the things they're going to talk about a side from the Crimea issue is possibly counter levying counter-sanctions on several U.S. officials.

It's unclear who those officials would be, but we do believe that if there are sanctions that some top-level U.S. senators might be among them simply because of the fact that among those official -- Russian officials who have been sanctioned by the U.S., he's also the speaker of the upper house of Russian parliament. So, we would expect them to provide tit for tat sanctions for that.

Meanwhile, as you said, the Russians are showing (ph) absolutely no sign of letting up on the issue. Not only has Vladimir Putin officially recognized Crimea as an independent state, he's now also approved a draft treaty between Crimea and the Russian Federation, that would pave the way for Crimea to join Russia as fast as possible. The indications that we're getting from Russian officials here is they want to move this along quickly.

Then again, we're going to hear from Vladimir Putin in one hour, less than an hour. We'll hear what's on his mind and how fast he wants this process to go forward. Don't look for him to be backing off. Certainly the Russians seem to be in for confrontation with the west. PEREIRA: Certainly going to monitor those comments from the Russian leader. Thanks so much Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. We should point out, in response to that report, that Russia will ban members of the Obama administration and U.S. senators. One of them, Senator Dick Durbin, told CNN, quote, "my Lithuanian-born mother would be proud her son made Vladimir Putin's American enemies list." Chris, it sounds like leaders and politicians in both nations are sort of taking pride on being on each other's sanction list.

CUOMO: I know, and yet, none of it seems to be creating and progress in that situation.

We'll take a break here, on NEW DAY. When we come back, Kate spoke exclusively to the neighbor of the missing jetliner's co-pilot in Kuala Lumpur. The question: is there anything in the young man's background to suggest he may have done something sinister? And because of this new report out about what they believe the pilots were doing in the final moments here, we'll take you to inside a flight simulator to test out this information about what investigators now believe. Did the flight veer off course because of a preprogrammed computer instruction? How easy would that be for the pilot to pull off? We'll take you through it.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY everyone. I'm joining - I'm Kate Bolduan, of course, joining you from Kuala Lumpur, following breaking developments this morning in the search for Malaysia flight 370.

The search grid has been expanded once again. Now covering almost two and a quarter million square nautical miles. Malaysia is also getting more help from other countries after being criticized for its response.

Also this morning a "New York Times" report out all but concludes the decision to turn the plane off its original course, its route, came from within the cockpit where the change was entered manually into the plane's computer.

Now to a NEW DAY exclusive for you. So much of the focus has been on the cockpit, notably the pilot and co-pilot, the co-pilot being Fariq Abdul Hamid. I spoke with his neighbor here in Malaysia, who said he often sees the Hamid family but they have not been at the house since Saturday, the very same day police searched the home, and like many others, the neighbor was very hesitant to speak to the media and did not want his identity revealed. Here you go.


BOLDUAN: The family of flight 370's co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, reclusive since the crush of media attention flooded their home on Saturday.