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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Search for MH370 continues; Grieving Son Doesn't Trust Malaysian Government Story; Some MH370 Families Consider Legal Action; Aviation Attorney Talks Lawsuits; Recovery Continues after Mudslide in Washington State; Osama bin Laden's Son-in-Law Found Guilty in NY Court

Aired March 26, 2014 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back, everyone. This just in to CNN, the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, the man named Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has been found guilty in a New York federal court of conspiring to kill Americans and other terror charges. This stemming from the time around 9/11 and just after that. A jury deciding unanimously that he actively recruited people into the terror network with the idea, again, of killing American citizens.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: For his part, the 48-year-old Kuwaiti born preacher denied that he knew of a plot to harm Americans. He denied he was a member of al Qaeda. But, again, he went on to marry a daughter of bin Laden. Surprised a few people that he decided to testify in his own defense. But, again, he's been found guilty on all counts that he faced.

BERMAN: Back to our main story right now, the search for Flight 370. It could be the best lead yet; a satellite, a French satellite, spotting 122 objects in the southern Indian Ocean in an area a lot smaller than they've been looking in. It's about an area the size of Denver.

PEREIRA: We should point out these images were taken Sunday. We don't know, and this is where caution is really important, we don't know if they're plane parts. Searchers haven't found them yet. They were spotted on satellite, but they don't have them in their hands.

The biggest object, we're told, is about the size of a plane's wing. Malaysian officials again are cautiously optimistic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HISHAMMUDDIN BIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN ACTING TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: The findings were immediately forwarded to the Australian Rescue Coordination Center in Perth yesterday. It must be emphasized that we can not tell whether the potential objects are from MH370. Nevertheless, this is another new lead that will help direct the search.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREIRA: These were spotted on satellite. Now, they need to be found and secured for a second time by the flotilla ships and the planes that are looking through one of the most remote and most hostile places on the planet.

Our analysts, Jeff Wise, is back, and Dr. Bob Arnot, a pilot and long- time aviation correspondent.

Jeff, it seems like a specific number that the satellites picked up on Sunday. Obviously, Malaysian and Australian officials are cautiously optimistic.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: We feel like we have been down this road before. Debris is spotted and the search teams go out and try to find it. So far, we are empty-handed. They are 12 hours ahead of us. They have already been out and come back. Once again, they haven't found it. So, tomorrow, hopefully, it will be the lucky day. It has to be somewhere. So hopefully we will find the right spot.

PEREIRA: It is making people crazy they haven't been able to. The satellites picked them up. Why can't we locate them? It is such a vast area. We need to remind people of.

WISE: We haven't looked in the right place yet. We haven't looked in real time at the ocean. We are seeing all this stuff on the satellite. By the time we get there four days later, it is heavy currents and chaotic currents. If it was there four days ago, it is somewhere else later. It is naturally frustrating. It is not failure if you go to an area and look and something is not there. That's positive information.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You have to rule it out and look somewhere else.

WISE: It does narrow down this big ocean a little bit.

BERMAN: Bob, the 122 possible objects spotted by the satellite, that's one big lead. There has been another big development over the last 24 hours or so. That's the news about the analysis from the Inmarsat satellite data. The partial handshake, there were a series of handshakes we knew about. Then, the partial handshake. What does that mean to you and what is the analysis?

DR. BOB ARNOT, AVIATION ANALYST & FORMER PILOT: John, this is fascinating. We know at 2:20 a.m., that plane made a turn. After that urn it, there were three pings in rapid succession. They believe that those rapid pings have to do with a rapid change in altitude. That may be why those pings were generated. So with this final ping, which was a failed hand shake, it may be that that too was generated by a rather rapid change in altitude, which, of course, could mean the plane's final path into the ocean and could give them a great lead in terms of pinpointing where the plane went in.

One other hint. There has been a lot of controversy, about whether this is a ghost plane flying itself or whether pilots were directing it to the most remote part of the ocean. That has to do with whether it was a magnetic course or a great circle route. A direct would be like this and a magnetic would be more of a curve. If the autopilot weren't set by a human pilot, it was just sort of drifted on its own. Whereas, a great circle route would mean the pilot set the course and deliberately meant to go into the Indian Ocean. Those are two great hints into exactly where this plane may have entered the ocean.

BERMAN: Any sign of which one it could be. Does the data yet tell us which is the more likely?

ARNOT: I have read through all the blogs. They aren't really clear on this yet. They seem to side a little bit more towards the magnetic. The other reason this would make a difference, if you are following the trajectory of the airplane? Are you going to follow the debris field down here or like this, more of a curve? We have seen those two different routes there. The other thing going a little bit more for a delivered route, we saw after it crossed the Malaysian peninsula, it made a couple more turns before it headed further south down to its final destination.

BERMAN: Interesting, fascinating, some of the questions.

(CROSSTALK)

ARNOT: Amazing stuff, yeah. The aviation blogs have been fans t fantastic on this. They deal with this stuff every single day. This satellite, it drifts north and south. When they talk about this Doppler Effect, it is if you are trying to I say, is the siren coming from this side or that site. You might shift your head. The satellite shifts north and south. The blogs also point out that this isn't real hard data. That's why they are still a little bit uncomfortable with this analysis. It has been brilliant. Those at Harvard think it was a really good analysis.

BERMAN: Dr. Bob Arnot, Jeff Wise, one of these great writers who has been writing about this. Thank you so much for all your help.

Ahead AT THIS HOUR, grieving families say they just don't trust the Malaysian government, almost anything they say at this point. Why one man, whose mother was on the flight, is not buying the story. You know what? He is not alone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So many of the families with loved ones on flight 370 refuse to believe that the flight did end in the Indian Ocean.

PEREIRA: Some are even saying it is unfair for the Malaysian government to say that their loved ones are gone before any debris and wreckage is found. In Beijing, families marched the Malaysian embassy to voice their anger and frustration. Some of them are accusing the airline of failing to properly staff the resource center.

BERMAN: A lot of them believe that Malaysia Airlines and the government are not being truthful, flat-out being deceitful. They don't plan on abandoning hope until they have answers and what they want as concrete evidence. PEREIRA: Steven Wang's mother was aboard flight 370. He spoke with our Pauline Chiou this morning on "NEW DAY."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVEN WANG, MOTHER LOST ON FLIGHT 370: Me and most of the relatives here are seeking for the truth, the truth about what happened to the plane and the truth about where it was. That's what we want.

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN ANCHOR: Why don't you believe the data and the answers from the Malaysian government, because you have said time and time again that you believe the Malaysian government is actually hiding something? Why do you believe that?

WANG: Well, because the conclusion is just by a theory, is just by analysis from the data. There is no direct evidence that shows up that they summed up some of the things from the plane. I don't believe in such kind of a conclusion.

CHIOU: The data from the satellite company and from the U.K., the aviation authority, has been collected. The Malaysian authorities have taken that into account and when you take into account also the amount of fuel that the plane would have had at that point. They are saying the logical conclusion is that it was in this part of the southern corridor in the Indian Ocean. Why is that not good enough for you?

WANG: Because it is still a theory. It is just still analysis, no one has seen anything. They just said that it should be, or where it might be. It should turn back. They say that it is based on the speed for the whole theory. But, if the plane is out, it might come to a different result.

CHIOU: The families have been having meetings with the high-level delegation from Malaysia. You have asked very technical questions, even questions about the civilian radar and military radar. Have you asked the question about, after 1:00 a.m. when the civilian radar lost contact with the plane and then after 2:00 a.m. with military radar losing contact? Have you asked the question about whether or not the civilian radar team passed on their information to the military radar team and what had they said to the families?

WANG: Well, what they said is, I think, ridiculous. First, they said we are in the same office. So if we lose a contact from the radar, we -- so they could help us. After that, they said, we are in the same building. So it take time for us to notice the military side. Well, from the beginning, it was ridiculous. They gave different answers several times. Last, they confirmed that we have the tracking on the military radar from the beginning but they didn't do anything.

CHIOU: Let's talk about your level of hope. A few days ago when you and I talked, you had said that you are realistic but at the same time, you feel most families are sort of 80 percent ready for bad news, 20 percent hoping for good news still. Today, where do you stand in terms of hope? WANG: Well, to me, I think it might be 5 percent that there is still hope but most of the families don't believe the bad news. Most of the families think there will be hope.

CHIOU: When you say 5 percent hope, hope for yourself. Hope for what?

WANG: That it was maybe negotiating by the hijacker and the government or something like that and they are just imprisoned by some of the hijackers and stuff like that. They are still negotiating, I think. If they make a deal, maybe our family will come back.

CHIOU: You still have a sliver of hope. In a very convoluted way, you are hoping that this was a hijacking situation.

WANG: Yes. There is no evidence that shows it is not a hijacking.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Steve is wearing a T-shirt that essentially says to pray for the families and the people on board flight 370 that they return home safely.

PEREIRA: Beautiful sentiment.

Ahead AT THIS HOUR, while loved ones wait for an answer, some families are considering taking action. What it will take for them to get a measure of justice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: They are upset and in agony. Some of the families on flight 370 have been offered an initial payment of $5,000. It is possible they could be entitled to much, much more.

PEREIRA: Aviation attorney, Floyd Wisener, is not currently representing any of the families of flight 370. He knows a lot about how to make the case. He led the charge after several other plane crashes, including TWA flight 800.

Good to have you with us, Floyd. I think one of the questions a lot of people are wondering, given the fact that they don't have wreckage or debris in hand, is this premature and if it is, how would the lack of physical evidence affect litigation down the road.

FLOYD WISENER, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Well, the lack of physical evidence definitely will affect litigation against the manufacturer, Boeing, or component manufacturer, such as the engine manufacturer, Rolls Royce. It will not necessarily affect litigation against Malaysia Air, the air carrier. It is going to be responsible under the Montreal Convention, which governs claims arising from debts and international carriage by air. That convention provides for an intention payment of 113,000 special drawing rights which is an international monetary unit coming to about $176,000, plus additional damage, unless the airline can prove that either it cook all necessary measures to avoid the loss. I don't think Malaysia Air will be able -- (CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: So at a minimum, the Montreal Convention -- at a minimum, in your mind, the Montreal Convention rules will apply, which will be over $100,000 per person. Beyond that, frankly, this is an awfully complicated case, passengers from 15 countries, Malaysia Air and Malaysia Airline. An American plane, the Boeing plane. You know, the first legal steps we understand were just taken for some kind of possible suit in Illinois. What can you tell us about this?

WISENER: Well, John, I'll tell you. This is one of these days when I'm embarrassed to be a lawyer. I can tell you, first of all, this is not a lawsuit, it's a petition for discovery. It's wrongfully used, in my opinion. A petition for discovery is a unique procedure under Illinois law that allows an injured person to discover the identity of a party against whom they may want to bring a suit. It's not to be used for the purpose this law firm is using it.

In my opinion, this is nothing more than a shameful marketing ploy to get clients. It's embarrassing to me personally, as a lawyer. I can guarantee you, I've been practicing in Illinois for 37 years. I can guarantee you, there is absolutely no chance that the families will obtain any investigation evidence as a result of the filing of this petition for discovery. It's just not --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Very strong language.

WISENER: Not what it was intended to do. Well, it is. And I stand by it.

PEREIRA: I'm glad you spoke your mind here.

I want to ask you about something we used to sort of reference, the fact this is a complex situation because there's so many people internationally who have got this American-made jet, et cetera, et cetera. We know that Americans generally are more litigious. Do you think we're going to see some Malaysians trying to find American representation here to pursue litigation or will they pursue in their own countries? How do you see it playing out?

WISENER: Well, definitely, I think that there will be other non- American seeking American representation. I've been in contact with some of the families discussing this already. It's a little early to be doing anything, but we have been in discussions. And, you know, what's funny, Michaela -- not funny, but what is in some ways shameful, again, is the despair treatment that they're likely to receive, based on their nationality. You could have the same person, same age, same number of dependents and may be worth a fraction of what an American's would be.

BERMAN: You say what's going on in Illinois is shameful. But do you believe these families and passengers have some legal right to compensation here, yes? WISENER: Oh, they absolutely do. And it's a matter of doing it the right way. My point, John, is just that don't go off filing something that's never going to work, and let other families think you're doing something for them when it's not going to work. Do it in a responsible manner that a competent, able, aviation attorney with that particular expertise will know what to do.

PEREIRA: And this is certainly not the time line yet, as you said, premature at this point. But we anticipate that we're going to be talking more about this in the coming weeks and months.

Floyd Wisener, thanks so much for joining us from Florida. We appreciate you joining us.

BERMAN: I've got to say, he opened my eyes to something I hadn't thought about yet.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: The difference in nationalities, and how that will affect the lawsuits and the unfairness. Something to think about.

Ahead for us AT THIS HOUR, the recovery effort continues northeast of Seattle today after the deadly, deadly landslide. We'll have a live report from the scene in Washington, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Today marks day five of a grim search effort in Washington State. We should point out to you, we're waiting a press conference, press briefing at the top of the hour there in Arlington, where we expect that authorities and some of the emergency management folk will update us on the latest conditions of the search and the latest efforts to search for survivors.

At this point, what we do know is that authorities have spotted what they believe are eight more bodies that are buried, but they have not been able to reach them because of the debris from the landslide that smashed through two towns. Right now the death toll stands at 16 and some 176 others missing.

BERMAN: No one has been found alive since survivors were pulled from the muck and debris on Saturday. We now have video of one of these harrowing rescues.

I want to bring in Bill Weir.

What's the latest?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, yeah, we've just gotten this video of what was probably the brightest moments of the search and rescue. This is the camera they have mounted on the winch in a rescue helicopter, you see them helping out this 4-year-old boy and his father as they try to climb to the top of that debris pile. Helicopters were needed on Saturday, but these days, the tools of choice are shovels and bare hands, because there have been no signs of life.

They found a dog a couple days ago trapped. And that sort of lifted the spirits. But even with their, you know, sort of earthquake equipment, search and rescue teams in this part of the world, because this is an earthquake zone, they have all of the stuff you need. The microphones and the little cameras you can put into voids, but that has not really done much good.

And as they talk to the searchers, some hold out hope, some say, hey, my dad was a survivalist. We think he's up there somewhere, he just needs a hand. But others like a gentleman I met, by the name of Dayn Brunner, he has been looking for his sister, who was on the phone with their mother driving on highway 530. It went dead at the moment that the slide hit. And so he says it was two days ago that he and his 16- year-old son came to the realization that they were no longer looking to rescue his sister, but recover her body.

This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: A chance to mourn your sister, to --

DAYN BRUNNER, LOOKING FOR RELATIVES: No.

WEIR: -- so call this in?

BRUNNER: No, I've had my moments. Mainly with my family members and stuff, and my boys, and my wife. But I -- I haven't had a chance to sit and just let it all out. Because I'm still in this adrenaline mode, where I need -- we need to get her, and we need to bring her home. Because that's what my mom wants. My mom wants -- my mom wants to hold her one last time. And that's what we want to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: Just that thought, I think, put most of us into emotional pieces. Dayn is a cop, so he's tougher than most. But he's back out here this morning. He's heading on to the pile to keep searching, and he tells me also that his team, they're not just looking for bodies, but recovered a wedding dress and photo album and a diploma. So these sort of human signs of life, Mich and John, really drives it home.

PEREIRA: It really does. And I'm sure being there you feel it that more acutely. We're also seeing -- CNN has their hands on this report by the county from 2010, Bill, that warned of landslides in this area. Have you had a chance to look at that?

WEIR: I have. Yeah. This came to light in -- after one of the federal -- or one of the county emergency management officials say we couldn't see this coming. This area was completely safe. Well, no, it's not. They have known about this for a long time. In fact, they spent federal money to do a survey, they had geologists, engineers look and identify the riskiest places, and this town was one of them. But then what do you do? How do you get people out of these areas? They love this place, for obvious reasons. But this is the price they see of such a beautiful spot.

BERMAN: And they're sticking together right now all through this.

Our thanks to Bill Weir out of Washington.