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Search for Missing Boeing 777 Continues; Malaysian Authorities Claim Boeing 777 Crashed in Indian Ocean; White House May Propose Legislation Limiting NSA Data Gathering Capabilities; How Satellite Data Works; FEMA Team in Washington to Assist in Recovery

Aired March 25, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So visibility, not good enough for the search. Australian officials say the search, though, is expected to resume tomorrow as conditions are expected to improve. Malaysia airlines telling distraught family members they will never see their lost loved ones again, horrible news that they're having a very difficult time dealing with. The company is offering each passenger's family $5,000 and said it's preparing to make more payments as the search drags on, the money, though, little consolation for the anguish, angry relatives in China. Hundreds of them marched towards the Malaysian embassy in Beijing today, but police officers blocked them from reaching the building.

Now, as they do that, we've got much more to cover. So let's bring in Jim Clancy who has been following this investigation from the very beginning. He is live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Jim, officials are no longer focusing on the northern corridor. It's all the southern corridor. What more can you tell us?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They've narrowed down the search area, Kate, to about one-fourth of what it was before, just that area where they believe the aircraft is. It's down to now about 470,000 square nautical miles. The so called pinger-finders are headed your way, but they're not going to arrive we're told until the first week of April. That's really cutting it close to find the flight data recorder and the other black boxes.

On the investigation into the who might have done it, what would be the motive, the police inspector general shut down the media today, telling them they weren't going to release any details because it might jeopardize the investigation. Meantime, we have all kinds of theories floating around, suicide mission, things like this. I just want to caution everybody. This is how the police are investigating. They're taking a theory, trying to prove it or disapprove it. Those kinds of headlines probably sell newspapers, but there may not be a shred of evidence behind them. We've still got to wait for that. Back to John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much, Jim Clancy for us in Kuala Lumpur. I want to talk about the new information, the new data currently being analyzed. So for more let's bring in our CNN aviation analyst and science correspondent for the PBS News Hours, our friend Miles O'Brien, as well as CNN aviation analyst and former Department of Transportation inspector Mary Schiavo. Mary, I want to start with you on the news today about what's happening and, frankly, what's not happening today. A 24 hours suspension in the search area, the weather is awful, planes can't fly, ships are more than 100 kilometers away from where they spotted debris just yesterday. How much of a setback is this?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's a very big setback. I guess if there's any hope at all, all they need is just a little bit and they can always trace whatever they do find back and still try to locate where the place of impact was to search for those black boxes. They can also do that as the satellite data gets better and better, they will also be able to calculate where it might be likely that the plane impacted the water because it seems that the satellite data is getting better. And they have the last ping and they can calculate the fuel burn after that based on the initial information. So I think they can still certainly for the pingers, for the black boxes, even if they don't come back with any wreckage.

BERMAN: Even though it makes it much, much harder. Miles O'Brien, first of all, let me say, longtime fan. Great to see you here.


BERMAN: Talk to me about this new information from Inmarsat, this satellite data that was reanalyzed. Do you have issues now with the definitiveness of the conclusions they reached as compared to the information that they actually released?

O'BRIEN: John, I said it yesterday, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and we have not seen the evidence. Inmarsat has said it has crunched these numbers, and basically by using the difference in time between the plane and the satellite as it moves, the millisecond differences, they're able to determine basically on a big giant circle where it might be on the face of the earth. This is not a tracking satellite, it's a data transmission satellite, so I give them a lot of credit for trying to do this. But it would be nice as they make these definitive statements to release the definitive evidence so we can all look at it and make our own conclusions about it. And, frankly, I think they owe this to the families.

BERMAN: It makes you think that there might be more that they're not willing to release for whatever reason, whether it be for intelligence purposes, proprietary reasons, doesn't it?

O'BRIEN: They've said it is for proprietary information. But this might be one case where they have to figure out a way to share data that they may not normally share. I realize there's all kinds of protocols about releasing this kind of information, but the Malaysian authorities clearly are not inclined to release data behind their statements. And this is where you get into trouble with the families in particular. When you say something as drastic as was said yesterday and not lay out the facts for them, that's devastating emotionally. And I think they owe it to the families to lay out some of the things. We don't even have that actual timeline of events. We haven't even heard the ATC recordings. We haven't seen the maintenance records of the aircraft. Everybody says the media's not entitled to it. The families are entitled to it.

BERMAN: Mary, you work with some of these families, and I see you nodding your head when Miles was speaking.

SCHIAVO: Miles is so right. I've worked with hundreds of families, and they all say the same things, just give us the facts, just give us the data. And they always say don't sugarcoat it. They don't want people to manage them. They talk about all these mental health workers, they say we're not mentally ill. We're just grieving, we're angry, we want facts. And that is what I was told without exception. And by not giving it to them, they assume there's something -- that you're holding back or that the government has a conspiracy. And they just don't realize how devastating it is. The wreckage is very important too because they want the personal effects back and they become very, very valuable, any little piece, any little clue of information so they know. They say, OK, this is proof what happened to my loved one.

BERMAN: You almost can see how Malaysian officials have changed the way they operate over the last two weeks. They were very reluctant to release information, then releasing a lot of information, pulling back. They're trying to gauge the right way to act here, and I can tell it's very, very difficult for them.

Miles, I want to talk about scenarios right now with this new data that's been analyzed by Inmarsat. This idea that the plane may have dipped to an altitude of 12,000 feet, do those two facts coincide with each other? I think you still have issues with whether or not this plane could have flown to 12,000 feet and then ended up in the area they're now searching off the coast of Australia?

O'BRIEN: This is a key point. CNN has reported through its sources that the plane shortly after that good night call, turned fairly rapidly and fairly drastically dropped down to 12,000 feet from 35,000 feet. So taking aside why that might have happened, there's a whole bunch of reasons why that might have happened, at 12,000 feet, that aircraft is burning a lot more fuel than it is at 35,000 feet. They don't even published tables for fuel burn at 12,000 feet because these aircraft don't fly at that level. But it's probably going to reduce its range by at least 50 percent, maybe more.

So that raises a question about the search zone. If in fact 12,000 feet is the number, and the military radar which pinged and came up with that number, it's probably not the most accurate number there is. But assuming these are the only facts we have, at 12,000 feet, it would come way short of where this search a happening. The authorities clearly know this, but I'm curious -- again, I'd like to see a little more of the data why they're searching where they are.

BERMAN: Based on what we do know, what's been released with the new analysis of the Inmarsat data, from where they are searching, a mechanical scenario, some kind of mechanical failure still seem like the most likely scenario to you?

SCHIAVO: It does to me. Remember, you have to look at the whole picture. And the important part of this picture is there is absolutely no evidence, at least none that they've released, of any criminal activity, of any nefarious activity, of anything whatsoever. And oftentimes they just grab onto something, say it must be pilot suicide because we can't find out what it is. Just because we haven't found the evidence doesn't mean that it's something else. And I hope they keep searching with an open because if it's mechanical we must fix it. It would leave many, many people vulnerable in the future.

BERMAN: That's a whole separate issue. I hope we can talk about that again in the coming minutes, All right, Mary Schiavo, Miles O'Brien, great to have you here. Thank you so much. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks so much, John. Of course we'll return to our coverage of flight 370 in just a moment. But there is another big story that we're following here stateside. The number of dead in missing keeps rising in Washington state at the scene of a massive mudslide. Look at the images on your screen. It covered one square mile. It devastated two towns north of Seattle. We know at this point at least 14 people have died.

But this is the concern. There's 176 other people still unaccounted for. Officials say they still consider this is search and rescue operation, but they are describing this situation as very grim. CNN's Ana Cabrera is live in Arlington, Washington. Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Michaela. We're about three miles from the landslide itself and officials are urging people to stay away, saying it's still a very dangerous area. In fact, some of the rescuers had to be pulled out using ropes after getting stuck in the muddy debris up to their armpits we are told.

Now search and rescue will continue today with more help on the way, but officials say they aren't hearing any new signs of life as of the latest press conference. We do know they're using helicopters, they're using hovercraft with sonar and thermal imaging. They have search dogs, about 100 personnel on the ground right now continuing to search through all of that debris. We know 14 people are confirmed dead. At least seven people had to be hospitalized including a six- month-old baby and an 81-year-old man who at last check were in critical condition. And again, 176 people are unaccounted for.

But keep in mind, this community has lost a lot of their communications system, so their phone lines are down. Cellphone reception is sketchy at best, and even internet communications is down. So officials say they're hopeful the number of unaccounted for will continue to drop as we get through today and the next couple of days. Those who are still waiting for answers, family members of the missing, they are just holding onto hope, praying for a miracle. Michaela?

PEREIRA: We're acutely aware of how precipitation in that rain in the Pacific Northwest played a part in this landslide. The big question is, what are we expecting today in respect to weather, because that certainly sells us what rescuers are going to be up against.

CABRERA: Certainly it is dry right now. That is the good news. They had a nice dry day yesterday sort of allowing the ground to stabilize, if you will. But we are expecting more rain in the forecast that could come in the next few hours, and that's definitely going to play a role as officials continue to try to work through that debris. Yesterday they had to pull away for a while because there were concerns about a possible additional slide yesterday. So that concerns is still there. We'll continue to monitor the situation.

PEREIRA: Slow and meticulous work needs to be done there. Ana Cabrera, thanks so much for giving us the latest out of Washington state.

To the Obama administration now set to call for an end to the controversial bulk data collection of phone records by the NSA. A new measure would require the NSA to get a court order to access the data which would remain in the hands of the phone companies. CNN's Michelle Kosinski is traveling with the president in the Netherlands and she joins. us now from near the Hague. Michelle?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Michaela. Senior administration officials confirmed this morning the White House has been working with Congress and soon they said would propose legislation that would leave the collection of Americans' phone records with phone companies and the storage of it either with phone companies or possibly some third parties. Instead of NSA keeping Americans data for five years, the phone companies would only be required to keep it for 18 months, which they currently are required to do.

In addition, the White House's proposed legislation would make the NSA get specific judicial approval for every phone number it wants to search within this data. In the past it has been controversial that the NSA could authorize its own searches. So if this proposed legislation were to pass, that would essentially put the NSA out of the business of collecting and storing Americans' phone records but would still give them access to it when needed. Michaela?

PEREIRA: All right, Michelle, thank you for that. Certainly a big development there.

BERMAN: A lot of people watching that one.

PEREIRA: Let's get to Christine Romans. She's here joining us at the table.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Breaking overnight, something to tell you about here, two men found dead after a late- night shooting at naval station Norfolk in Virginia. The victims were a sailor and civilian suspect killed by naval security forces. Base officials say it took place on the USS Mayhem just before midnight. No other injuries have been reported and an investigation is ongoing.

The planned meeting of the G8 in June is off and so is the G8. It's now the group of seven economic powers after President Obama rallied U.S. allies to suspend Russia's membership over its annexation of Crimea. The president said the goal is to prevent Vladimir Putin from pushing further into Ukraine. Thousands of Russian troops are now gathered on the border. Meantime, Ukraine just voted to dismiss its acting defense minister reportedly over his handling of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

In South Africa, it's day 15 of the Oscar Pistorius trial, and a warrant officer just took the stand to testify about crime in Pistorius' neighborhood. The officer says there was no record of Pistorius reporting a crime even though Pistorius claimed in a bail application he had been a victim of burglaries. Pistorius says he shot and killed his ex-girlfriend because he thought he was an intruder.

Obamacare and freedom of religion will be front and center at the Supreme Court today. Two companies have sued over the birth control mandate in the health care law, saying that mandate violates the business owners' religious belief. The government claims corporations are not people and don't have the same free exercise rights. Justices will hear oral arguments later this morning. So this is a fascinating, fascinating case to watch.

BERMAN: And it goes far beyond Obamacare. It could seep into areas that involve gay rights and whatnot and getting to that area where we see in Arizona, as well, the religious beliefs and the religious rights of business owners.

ROMANS: That's right.

PEREIRA: All right, Christine, thank you so much for that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

PEREIRA: We're gonna take a short break here. Next up on NEW DAY, they're waiting for the weather to clear in the South Indian Ocean before they resume the search for the wreckage of flight 370. We're going to take a closer look at just how it was determined that the plane crashed into the ocean.

BERMAN: Plus, on Inside Politics, CNN's i-Report interview with Michelle Obama and what made her cry as a teenager.


PEREIRA: And welcome back to NEW DAY. Malaysian officials announced flight 370, they believe it crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean based on information that they were given by a British satellite company called Inmarsat.

They used ground-breaking and unprecedented satellite analysis to track the flight through a study of the plane's pings. Engineers concluded the flight followed a path along the southern corridor and likely went down in the Southern Indian Ocean. But how exactly did they do it?

I'm joined by CNN aviation analyst and contributor to, a man much smarter than I, Mr. Jeff Wise.

I'm really glad you're here to walk us through this. So let's begin and sort of get an idea of exactly how this system works. Because I think that's paramount to our understanding of how they used the data to give us this information.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Sure, we're using the system for a purpose it was not intended, OK?

PEREIRA: What was it originally intended for?

WISE: It's communications. It's basically, you want to make a phonecall. You want to send some data. Basically, the satellite says to the plane, "Hey, I'm here. Are you there?" And the plane says, "Yeah, I'm here," and then they talk.


WISE: That -- the system that talks on the plane was shut off, but the part that says, "Hey, I'm here," was still working. So what we do is, the satellite is over a point in the ocean right here --

PEREIRA: Do you want --

WISE: Yeah, let's go to the next one.

PEREIRA: I'll let you draw it. Let's draw it. You wanna go to the next one?

WISE: Let's draw it. No, no, this is good.


WISE: So the satellite's here. The plane is somewhere out there.


WISE: So the satellite says, "Hey," and then the plane says, "Yeah, I'm here." That's it. That's all they say because nothing further was discussed.

But -- so normally, that's not very much information. But we're so desperate for information in this case. The Inmarsat engineers went and they said, "OK, what can we derive from this information? How about how long it took the plane to respond?" There's electronics. There's the speed of light. You can figure out how far it is. Now, imagine that we're in a darkened room, and you have a piece of string. It's 20 feet long.

PEREIRA: Here, why don't I move onto this one? And that might be able to help you.

WISE: OK, sure.

PEREIRA: Because I think this really helps; 211 we get this ping, right?

WISE: Yeah, yeah. Well, but OK. We don't -- imagine we don't know where that ping is. So we get it. We know it's a certain distance away. It could be here. It could be here -- no, you can leave that. It could be here. It could be here. It's somewhere on this circle, OK?


WISE: Now, so then it so happens that -- at this time, it was still on the Malaysian radar track.


WISE: So this is our point where our Inmarsat data and our radar data overlaps, that we know that it's there.


WISE: Now, we wait another hour, and it's still the same distance away. OK, so it's 311. Now, we can -- can I draw on this?

PEREIRA: Yeah, you sure can.

WISE: OK, good. So we know it's somewhere --


WISE: That's at 8:11. At 8:11, it was on an arc somewhere like this. Actually, I'm drawing very badly and inaccurately, but you get the point. Now, so with each successive hour, the plane was located at a different distance from the satellite.

Now, we know the plane has to be moving. Otherwise it wouldn't stay in the air. And we know -- if you make an assumption about its speed -- say it's going 500 miles an hour. That's a typical speed. If it's still on the same arc, it must be about this distance away.

PEREIRA: You can drag and drop if you like.

WISE: OK. or it can be up here. We don't know which direction it's going, but we know how far it's going to go.

PEREIRA: So this was what it was allowing them to sort of hone in.

WISE: That's how you -- so you can draw a thing. OK, and now it's here or here or here or here. And then it's here or here, right.

PEREIRA: I think what people are struggling to understand is the or (ph). And in fact--

WISE: OK, that's confusing.

PEREIRA: -- this is what I want to talk to you about, because I know where -- we know the Malaysians have focused on the southern arc. You are saying don't discount the northern, correct?

WISE: That's what I had been saying because we didn't have any data that led us to determine north or south. Because all this math I've just been explaining to you is symmetrical.

PEREIRA: Sure. WISE: It's totally ambiguous as to north or south.

PEREIRA: Because the satellite is here looking, and it's about the distance away from the point that it was heard.

WISE: Exactly. The new heavy duty math, which has yet to be independently reviewed, says we have other ways of analyzing this data that says it has to do this.

PEREIRA: And that's important to you, this independent review?

WISE: I feel it is. That's how science works. I trust that these people are intelligent. I trust their integrity. But even very smart people can get things wrong. If you come up with a mathematical proof, in the real world, you publish it in a journal; it gets -- part of that process is independent experts will look at it. Mistakes can be found. Even Einstein made mistakes.

PEREIRA: Are we going to see Inmarsat used in this way and used further now because of this? Because you said it wasn't originally used. This is unprecedented, how it was used to locate this plane.

WISE: Yeah, I mean, this is -- we had the tiniest about of data, and these very smart people are just crunching and re-crunching and trying to figure out how they can extract useful information from a tiny piece of information. So it's a difficult challenge. Hopefully, they won't ever have to do this again. I mean, this is not --

PEREIRA: Hopefully they won't. And that's the key. Because, again, because we don't know, and until we find the wreckage, we won't definitively know. I think that's what's troubling to people, is that they say it likely crashed in the Indian Ocean. But in the absence of finding wreckage, those families and scientific minds like yours are going to say, "We don't know definitively."

WISE: Assumptions are made when you make this track. For instance, I said that it has -- you can go this. You can also go this far this way.

PEREIRA: That's a good point. Jeff Wise, always a pleasure. And good drawing on the board. Very impressed.

WISE: Thanks.

PEREIRA: All right, John, over to you.

BERMAN: All right, thanks so much, Michaela.

You know, this information, awfully hard to digest for these families. And next up on NEW DAY, grief, anger, the families of those on board flight 370, they demonstrate outside the Malaysian embassy in China. We're gonna have a live report just ahead.

Plus, on Inside Politics, more on President Obama's new plan for the NSA, how this is a major turn-around (inaudible) And a major victory, some say, for privacy advocates. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Good to have you back with us on NEW DAY. Let's get straight to Christine Romans taking a look at our headlines. A lot of developments overnight.

ROMANS: A lot of developments overnight.

You guys, we begin with the latest on flight 370. Malaysian officials say the search now focused on the southern tip of the southern corridor, but conditions are so dangerous on the Southern Indian Ocean right now, that search is on hold. Officials say they'll resume tomorrow.

Also the Malaysian ambassador to China met with the passengers' family members in Beijing, one relative describing that meeting as shameless, saying the ambassador couldn't answer simple questions.

A FEMA team is now on site in Snohomoish County, Washington to assist in the search for survivors following this deadly mudslide. At least 14 people have died, 14 dead; 176 people are still unaccounted for. The mudslide covers a full square mile and devastated two towns north of Seattle. Emergency officials say it's still an active rescue operation, but hopes of finding anyone else alive in the rubble fading.

An admitted lone wolf terrorist to be sentenced today. Al Qaeda sympathizer Jose Pimentel pleaded guilty to making pipe bombs to wage a holy war on New York. Prosecutors say he took on a jihad mission targeting soldiers, police officers and Jews. The 29-year-old cut a deal to avoid a life sentence. He's expected to get 16 years in prison.

Four men arrested for parachuting off one World Trade Center. The stunt happened in September. Police say they found video when they searched the men's' homes. Investigators say one was a construction worker at the site. A defense attorney says they accessed the tower through a hole in the fence. Last week a teen was arrested after he allegedly slipped through a hole in the fence and climbed the skyscraper. Big questions about security --

PEREIRA: Oh, absolutely.

ROMANS: -- at that facility.

PEREIRA: I don't even understand. That's the last thing I'd ever want to do.