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Search Continues for Missing Malaysian Airlines Plane; Japanese Coast Guard Searching for Missing Sailors; Enrollment in Obamacare Cracks 5 Million; Putin Speaking to Parliament on Annexing Crimea

Aired March 18, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That woman in Beijing says she wants the truth and doesn't wanting to be used as a political pawn. That's the latest, and it continues to develop still today on this 11th day, Chris, after the mystery disappearance of that plane. Back to you in New York.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kate. Let's bring in Matthew Wald. He's the coauthor of this story in "The New York Times" about the altered flight plan. Matthew, it's good to have you with us this morning. We have very interesting reporting. Start at the beginning. Tell us, what is the basis for this report?

MATTHEW WALD, REPORTER "NEW YORK TIMES": The basis is various officials at various American officials at various agencies who don't want to be named because the Malaysians are in charge of the investigation, but all these agents have initials you would recognize.

CUOMO: Got you. So that's on the sourcing side in term of why they believe it. This is about data that came from the ACARS system which of course also adjusts the sequence of events investigators have been laying out. Tell us about it.

WALD: That's correct. ACARS can be set up variety of different ways. And it's not completely clear which way it was set up on this airplane. It can radio back to the ground the current leg you are flying. If you set it up differently, it will radio back to the ground the next leg or leg after that is going to be. At some point it radioed back or perhaps satellited back this change in course, this very sharp left turn.

There are a lot of ways to change the direction of the airplane. You can grab the yolk, you can turn it, you can reach up to the glare shield where there's an autopilot with a heading mode. You can just twist the dial. But the smooth, easy, standard way to do it is enter it into the computer to head for another waypoint, another three dimensional point in space. That was done in this case. It's standard, it's unhurried. And it was done by somebody who knew what he was doing.

CUOMO: Standard, unhurried and someone that knew what they were doing. Where does that lead your sources on this? Do they believe it was the pilot or does it feed the idea it was some type of insurgent? WALD: This is a tough crash because the facts as we know them -- as you know the facts change as time goes on, the change in sequence et cetera. The facts as we know them don't fit into any familiar pattern, anything we recognize. It appears to go to intentionality, but by whom and why isn't clear.

The other point, there are two cases in the last 15 years in which pilots decided on a murder-suicide. But in both those cases they just pushed the nose down and flew into the water. This isn't what happened. This airplane went on flying for hours. So this is a really confused pattern that we with our limited fact base, and sometimes the facts are slippery, we're having trouble putting into context.

CUOMO: That is, you know, a simple reality that you don't need to plot a course to ditch a plane. It sounds obvious, but it's important to note.

WALD: Right.

CUOMO: Did you get from your sources because it's all the same facts here. The ACARS system, what your reporting does is it establishing the ACARS system must have been functioning when the key strokes were put in. Obviously we wouldn't know about them otherwise. But anything there your sources about who would have the know how --

WALD: That's close.

CUOMO: Go ahead, Matthew, and qualify it for me.

WALD: That's close. Not necessarily when the key strokes were put in. The key strokes could have been put in while still at the gate. They could have been put in during climb-out. However, at some point either because the airplane had made the turn or about to make the turn, this was the current instruction or next instruction. Then it was radioed back. It depends on how this was set up. It's not completely clear how ACARS was set up to inform the maintenance on the ground -- remember also this is maintenance, not air traffic control-- Inform the maintenance on the ground what's going on in the airplane.

CUOMO: That's interesting. They know it was put in but they don't know when necessarily. Another answer that gives us a couple more questions which is the way this has been progressing anyway.

Matthew, appreciate you coming in and telling the us what the reporting is on "The New York Times" side. Helpful. Thank you very much. I'm sure we'll talk to you more.

So now let's figure out how this fits in the overall mystery here. Let's bring in aviation analyst and former U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo. Mary, it's great to have you with us as always.

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: Thank you. CUOMO: You can see I'm thinking through this what we just heard. Let's try to keep it straight. We know from the sourcing, let's trust "The Times," that their sources on the U.S. government side say ACARS recorded this other point had been put in by pilots.

SCHIAVO: Correct.

CUOMO: We don't know when they put it in?

SCHIAVO: That's correct. ACARS tells you when the plane was starting to move towards that point. But somebody had to put it in. It didn't do it by accident. For example --

CUOMO: It's not part of the main route to Beijing?

SCHIAVO: That's right. And it wouldn't be the safety point. We talked before when you're going somewhere you always have to have a safety point, enough fuel to get to your safety. This can't be it.

CUOMO: The idea of who did this. There's a scenario that's a little neglected here. We're thinking in a binary way, either I did it as the pilot or you did as the hijacker. There's also a third scenario of someone forces me to do it. You make me do these things and then you don't have to do it yourself.

SCHIAVO: That's correct. Another scenario, someone on the ground before the pilots took control or commanded the flight got in and did their preflight. But of course you check your various waypoints and make sure you have Beijing and safety at the time on your preflight.

CUOMO: Now, we've been talking about this ACARS system, it's become part of the common vocabulary of people following this story. We keep hearing it's very sophisticated to turn this off. It's designed to stay off so even a big event in an airplane like an explosion even, it would take a lot to knock it out completely. Do pilots know how to go underneath in belly of the plane to turn it off?

SCHIAVO: No, they don't. That's not part of pilot training. You're not certified to do it. Mechanics training is just as rigorous or almost as rigorous as pilots. And to do that you have to leave the cockpit. It's under the floor. You'd have to take the floor panel up and go down there and work. You have pictures how big that bank of equipment is. You'd have to know it, understand it. It would be difficult. You'd have to have a team. We know from the timing ACARS was still on when they were making the turn. Someone is flying the plane. You can't put it on autopilot and go down to the space. Now we have two people in whatever was occurring.

CUOMO: And what is more likely in terms of testing the information as it comes out, somebody doing something to disable ACARS or something happening on the plane that knocks it out despite the fact of how difficult it is to knock it out because it's designed to stay on no matter what?

SCHIAVO: In the scenario someone is manipulating the controls, putting waypoints in or using waypoints to fly the plane and then ACARS goes down, the likely, statistically likely to happen is something has happened in that electronics bay to knock it out.

CUOMO: David Soucie you're with us now. You're aviation analyst obviously and author of "Why Planes Crash." You've looked at this professionally and personally. When you hear this, that, OK, ACARS was recording. This was put in as a safety waypoint. Somebody decided to fly that way. Does it make sense?

DAVID SOUCIE, AUTHOR, "WHY PLANES CRASH": You know, it does. But there are a couple of things that are still puzzling to me. One is that I've been of the thought that this was very well-planned and well-executed, planned way in advance. If that were the case, then I can't see why ACARS would have been left on while the waypoint went into place. If they were hiding the fact then ACARS would have been turned off first, then the waypoint and then the turn would have been made. To me that's a little perplexing. So far if this was a planned event, that's not very good planning from my perspective.

CUOMO: In term understand this overall event, of how you turn off ACARS versus how it gets knocked out by any event, how likely is it to knock it out completely? What type of sophistication, what kind of planning would you need to take it out manually? It seems like a very difficult either way.

SOUCIE: As Mary said, if you try to knock out ACARS physically by disabling circuit breakers, that's done down in the compartment. There are some ACARS systems can be shut off from the FMS system. You have to get into maintenance screens. It's not really shut off. You can put transmission on standby. That's only available on certain ACARS. I'm not certain which this aircraft had in it. But it's possible it may have been shut off from the cockpit. But I think more likely, as Mary pointed out, it had to be done intentionally from the compartment which as we talked about before, that compartment is accessible from the cabin.

Then there's another new factor today to test which is that the Thai government says we tracked the plane that we believe to be 370 on radar and it wound up all of a sudden going in to opposite direction. It was no longer transmitting data. Mary, the idea that the flight was not transmitting data is very helpful in identifying it as 370, but what do you think?

SCHIAVO: Maybe it's finally a break or development. I don't know why they just figured this out now, but if they truly were tracking a plane that didn't have a transponder, wasn't transmitting data, wasn't squawking or communicating, hopefully this is a break, and it gives us some indication of where it was going, maybe even direction, heading, and if we're lucky, air speed.

CUOMO: And what do we know about what they saw in terms of where it was? Do we know yet?

SCHIAVO: No. They haven't exactly said what they have seen. And of course that would make sense. You want to give it to investigators and get them working on it first. But hopefully it is a break.

CUOMO: That's an excellent point. What matters most is investigators have the information, not us. We just want to press them to make sure they're doing their job and test what comes out.

David, let's end this particular segment on this idea, the black box. We have reporting Malaysian officials are asking with urgency for help in finding the box. To remind people following this story, what are we dealing with in the life of a black box? What happens once it hits water? How much time do we have?

SOUCIE: The box goes for 30 days, send a signal 30 days. This black box signal is not picked up by satellites. It's only for proximity locating the box. When onsite and looking through the wreckage, it's designed to tell you where it is in the wreckage. It's not designed like an emergency locater transmitter that would go off during an accident where satellites would pick it up. So we only have 30 days.

But remember, in Air France flight 447 the French authorities made strong recommendations the box life be extended to 90 days. That was over four years ago -- almost six years ago now. Why has that not happened? That's very concerning to me. I think action needs to be taken on that. Here we are again waiting and waiting with not enough time to find the boxes.

CUOMO: We have the three alternate courses we're following in this investigation. One is what happened and why inside the plane. The other is why is this plane so difficult to find in terms of what you're discussing now, the technology involved in the black box and how little it turns out there is in a plane to find it if something happens. And then, of course, the most important one, as Mary pointed out, hopefully a break through from investigators, where is the plane? Hopefully this latest news the Thai government said they were tracking the plane they believed to be 370 for different reasons. They have new radar coordinates which will help shrink the size of the search area which is now the size basically of the United States.

We'll leave that right there for now with Mary and David. Thank you very much for this. There's other breaking news on this story as we follow it. For that we want to go back to Malaysia where Kate is in Kuala Lumpur. Kate, what's the latest?

BOLDUAN: Thanks. Chris. I'm coming to you live again from Kuala Lumpur where the disappearance of Malaysia flight 370 is not only a heartbreaking mystery for the families of everyone on board but also for the people of Malaysia. Joining us now for a better understanding of how Malaysians view the government response to this and also the social implications of this, social activist and columnist and daughter of one of Malaysia's former prime ministers, Marina Mahathir. Welcome.


BOLDUAN: We have heard over and over from government officials. We hear most from the defense minister. But how are everyday Malaysians reacting to this unbelievable mystery?

MAHATHIR: We're all following it minute by minute, all the time because we've never had this happen to us before. And we all feel for the families of the passengers and the crew on the plane. So we've been trying to do what we can mostly to support the families. We've been writing messages of hope, we call them, trying to tell them we're here for them and we're just as heartbroken as them that this happened.

BOLDUAN: At the very same time, the government specifically, government officials, have faced criticism for being slow to respond, slow in the investigation and slow in giving out details of where things stand. Do you agree?

MAHATHIR: Well, yes, I do to a certain extent. Then, we've never been faced with a situation like this before. I think everyone is grasping what to do. There isn't a manual somewhere about what to do when a 777 disappears. But I think they're slowly getting their act together. I think they're understanding that they are scrutinized by not just by Malaysians but by the world over. And they just have to be faster and hopefully they will get it.

BOLDUAN: And you, Marina, have a very unique perspective. As the daughter of a former prime minister, you know government agents and also the office, maybe the culture of the office better than most. Do you think the prime minister is getting this right?

MAHATHIR: Well, I was -- hate to say it, but I think something like this. You need strongly to share it with someone who is in charge of everything and telling people what to do and all that. And right now I'm not sure, you know, whether that's happening or in a coordinated fashion.

BODLUAN: Now, if one thing can be learned from this, especially from the prime minister and the government, what should that be?

MAHATHIR: That you have to be fast, you have to be open, and most of all, you have to speak with one voice. Because we don't want --

BOLDUAN: Not with the voice to Malaysians and then a voice to the world?

MAHATHIR: Well, I think they're speaking the same voice. It's just that there was so many people, especially at the beginning all saying different things and sometimes contradictory things. And that's no good for anyone, least of all the search.

BOLDUAN: Marina Mahathir, it's great to meet you. Thank you so much.

MAHATHIR: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

All right. We're going to leave that here in Kuala Lumpur for just a moment. Let's get back over to New York where John Berman has many -- many other of today's top stories for us. John?


Breaking overnight, the Japanese coast guard sailing for eight missing sailors after two cargo ships collided off the coast of Japan. Officials say a Panamanian-flagged vessel with a crew of 20 Chinese sailors sank after the collision with a South Korean ship at the mouth of Tokyo Bay. Twelve of the Chinese crewmen were rescued. Nearly a dozen ships and a helicopter are taking part in the search and rescue operation.

An alleged want to be terrorist behind bars this morning. Authorities say 20-year-old Nicholas Teausant was arrested near the Canadian border. His ultimate destination, police say, Syria where he hoped to link up with an al Qaeda-linked militant group. The California man is accused of using social media to connect with extremists abroad, allegedly helping them play part in America's downfall. He appeared in a Seattle court Monday. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Enrollment in Obamacare has cracked the 5 million mark. That's according to the White House, which says more than 1 million have signed in last two weeks alone. The deadline for getting coverage this year is March 31st. Despite the strong finish, however, it seems the administration's early goal of reaching 7 million sign-ups by then is likely out of reach.

The Oscar Pistorius murder trial focusing on the crime scene photos this is morning. The blade runner's attorney cross-examining the crime scene photographer about the pictures he took and who was with him at the time. Pistorius' defense arguing evidence, including his gun was tampered with and that some items at the scene were moved. Police took 900 pictures related to that killing.

General Motors issuing another huge recall, three actually, totaling 1.5 million vehicles, the vast majority, SUVs suspected of a wiring defect that could prevent air bags from deploying. In addition, GM is recalling 300,000 mid-sized vans and 64,000 luxury sedans. This all comes after the auto maker is under investigation for its alleged decade-long delay in addressing an ignition problem linked to at least 12 deaths. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, John. Thank you very much.

We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, we're gonna continue with this news out of Thailand they were tracking flight 370. Maybe it will help limit the search area. We'll tell you the latest on that.

And also, how difficult is it to find a plane once it hits the water, let alone in an area roughly the size of the continental U.S.? If this plane did crash into the ocean, we will show you an expert on underwater searches what may be the tools to help find it.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Also, Vladimir Putin setting the wheels in motion to annex, break away Crimea. While Russia mocks sanctions from the west and threatens counter measures, we're gonna take a look at a potential fallout.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: Welcome back. And there's breaking news coming out of Russia right now. You're looking at President Vladimir Putin. He's speaking to the Russian parliament about Crimea's vote to join Russia. There was a round of applause as representatives of Crimea were mentioned. And here he's insisting Russia needs to defend the Crimean people, that Crimea has always been a part of Russia, cannot be divided.

To dig in deeper, let's bring in CNN political commentator Peter Beinart. He said that when Crimea was taken from the Soviet Union and added to Ukraine, it was robbed. Strong language, the strongest we've heard. The intentions now clear. What should we expect to come, Peter?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the fact that Crimea is going to be part of -- enter Russia seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. I think the real question is, is this the end or the beginning? Is this a prelude to the destabilization of eastern Ukraine, an attempt to bring new the new government over the country, maybe even a Russian military invasion over of eastern Ukraine? I think I would look for signs as to that from this speech.

CUOMO: Why would he want Ukraine? There's gonna be a lot of unrest there. They need a lot of money. He's already got the port that he needs, the warm water port if he has Crimea. Does that at least give us a chance of thinking there's not much in it for him other than just rattling the cage of Europe (ph) and U.S.?

BEINART: Well, to a certain point it looks irrational in the sense that Ukraine is a very poor, economically dysfunctional country. Why would you want to control it?

On the other hand, I think Vladimir Putin sees his role as reconstituting Russia as a great power. And that begins with reasserting Russian control in territories that Russia still feels like it has right to ownership over. And so, pushing back the frontiers of Western power and expanding the frontiers of power, this Eurasian customs union that he's talked about, a kind of a Russian version of the European Union, which puts Russia again at the center of a powerful block of countries, I think that's how he sees his legacy.

CUOMO: Not since and probably even more pronounced than Ahmed Ahmadinejad, have we heard somebody basically just thumb their nose at the idea of sanctions from the U.S. and Europe. He seems not concerned at all. How much of that is bravado and how much is just plain practicalities of what Russia needs versus what everybody else can do to him?

BEINART: Well, first of all, these actions so far seem popular in Russia. We don't know if that will continue or not. But Putin, like any politician, is basking in the current popularity and kind of nationalist wave that's engulfing Russia.

Economically, maybe this will start to bite over time. But so far the sanctions we've put in place are not that severe. They target a few people. Russia is difficult to economically isolate. It's not like Iran where you can get all great powers together. Russia itself is a great power. It's got huge natural resources, a vast place. And we have to do business with it to some degree in some areas. It's hard to isolate.

CUOMO: Now, on that point, we have to do business with. You can extend it. We need Russia. When you look at Syria, how do we get Assad to get rid of arms? Well, Russia needs to help us do it. And Iran, how do we deal with that? Well, Russia has to help us. How are the prospects looking right now for getting any cooperation on those two much more serious fronts than Ukraine?

BEINART: Well, Syria, I think, certainly this looks much harder. Because I think if anyone was going to pressure a Bashar Assad, the Syrian leader, in order to come to make some kind of a deal, it's gonna be Iran and Russia. Looks very, very unlikely the U.S. is gonna get Russia to do anything on Syria.

Iran, perhaps you could say that if the U.S. and Iran come to terms on a diplomatic agreement, that we'll be able to do something regardless of what Russia wants.

But I think the tragedy of all this, is that Syria, which is a ghastly situation, now looks even further from a solution.

CUOMO: You know, when you look at Ukraine, there's a lot of muscle here in the U.S. right now saying put the thumb of oppression down on showing Putin who's -- but they're neglecting the smart thinking about, well, what are you going to do in Syria and Iran if you keep isolating Russia? You have no ally there. And they're most important. So I guess this has to play out a little bit further. And hopefully, they find something that Russia wants the people can agree on.

BEINART: Right, and at least hopefully you stop Putin from going further.

CUOMO: Right. Peter, thank you very much for your perspective. Appreciate it.

Mich, over to you.

PEREIRA: All right, thanks so much, Chris.

Next up on NEW DAY, if Malaysia Airlines flight 370 ended up in the ocean somewhere, how hard will it be to locate? We're taking a closer look at that.

Also, new photos show Hillary Clinton like you've never seen her before. We'll take a look next when John King goes inside politics.