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EARLY START

Search for Flight 370 Resumes; U.S. Sends Underwater Vehicle to Australia; China to Malaysia: Turn Over Satellite Data; Obama in Belgium for EU Summit

Aired March 26, 2014 - 04:30   ET

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


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POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning: the search intensifying for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. New clues helping to narrow the search. Right now, investigators scouring the sound Indian Ocean by air and by sea for any sign of the vanished jetliner. We have live team coverage on the very latest for you.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. Nice to have you here, Poppy.

HARLOW: Good to be with you.

ROMANS: It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Let's begin with the search for Flight 370. It's resuming in the southern Indian Ocean. More than a dozen planes, ships from six countries. They are desperately looking for any sign of the missing jetliner. China now heavily involved in the mission sending in four ships and five aircraft to assist. So far, so far, nothing has been found.

Meanwhile, family members in China coping with this agonizing grief. Mounting anger. Many trying to rush the Malaysian embassy in Beijing for answers.

Let's bring in Andrew Stevens this morning. He's monitoring the search from Perth, Australia, this morning. It's just agonizing.

It was the day of poor weather, where the search was called off. It was postponed for a day. Now, they're all back out there and waiting to see to find any shred of this airplane so we can start to put these pieces together, Andrew.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Christine. The world is waiting. And at the moment, we have no fresh leads on the search, about 2,500, 1,500 miles southwest from where I'm standing at the moment. It has been a big search today -- the biggest number of aircraft so far in the air today, a total of six countries now contributing to that search. There are military planes going down there, small commercial jets with a dozen or so spotters on them. They have not reported anything back. We're still waiting for the search coordinators' answers. Maritime authorities, here in Australia to release the latest information about what they've seen down there. We have before this hour, it's now 4:30 in previous days, known that they've seen anything, we've got the news before now.

So, it doesn't look good at this stage, Christine. More and more importantly, getting more ship surface vessels in that area, the Australian naval ship, the success is back on location, and Chinese icebreakers there. Three Chinese naval vessels there as well.

But it is so frustrating for everyone, obviously. There have been sightings but those sightings are now two days old. There are sightings of what can only be described at this stage as objects of -- significantly large objects surrounded by smaller white objects. Very, very indistinct. They need the eyes on those objects. They need to get those objects over the side of the boat to identify, either discount them or pick up the charge from there.

But at this stage, we don't know whether there are any new news. But it would seem we're getting late in the day here now, Christine. No news yet.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, Andrew Stevens. We know time is of the essence, because the technology is waiting to go under sea to try to find --

HARLOW: Waiting --

ROMANS: Waiting, but they just don't know where to put it.

HARLOW: Exactly. And, you know, finding any piece of debris connected to Flight 370 is critical to locating the plane and finding that data recorder.

Take a look at this exclusive video of the high-tech autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV, that is being sent to the search area by the U.S. military. It's sophisticated sonar that can detect wreckage at depths of 15,000 feet. The Pentagon says it's there just in case they use it under they have a much smaller area to search.

ROMANS: In addition to sonar, search teams also have hydrophones at their disposal. These are microphones designed to be used under water. They're originally developed to ferret out enemy submarines. Now, they'll be used to locate those pings and hopefully, the wreckage. Then the sonar comes in with a 3D map of what's on the ocean floor.

Our Stephanie Elam off the coast of California has this demonstration of how all of this would work.

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STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really interesting technology. And it is a difficult task we're talking about. I'm joined right now by James Coleman. He's a senior hydrographer. He's with Teledyne Reson and he is going to show us the hydrophone, first of all.

Show us the difference between this and a sonar. So, let's start with the hydrophone. How does this work?

JAMES COLEMAN, TELEDYNE RESON: Exactly. So, this is a hydrophone. So, there's a number of varieties of hydrophones. But basically a hydrophone is an underwater microphone.

This is the type of device that they're going to be using either towed behind the boat in long tails or by dipping over the side of an aircraft, in order to listen for the underwater pinger.

ELAM: And then how far can it hear, how wide?

COLEMAN: Only about five miles.

ELAM: Only about five miles. So, this is how you're just trying to find the basic area of where any flight data recorder might be?

COLEMAN: Exactly. You need to find the wreck site.

ELAM: All right. So, if we go from this -- let's take a look at the sonar, because the sonar is what you're going to do to get a little bit closer or if that battery dies on that flight data recorder.

COLEMAN: Exactly. This is the example of a sonar. The difference is the sonar is going to emit sound down to the seafloor. As it receives a signal coming back from the seafloor, it's going to interpret that and build a 3D map of what's on the bottom.

So, this device is used to map out what's on the seafloor.

ELAM: But you've got to be right on top of it for that work?

COLEMAN: Yes.

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ROMANS: Deploying all of this cutting edge technology is crucial to the search. But it's also painstaking and extremely time consuming.

HARLOW: Well, China is demanding that Malaysia government turn all over the satellite data that was used to determine that the 239 people onboard Flight 370 are gone. The data is being used to narrow the search area in the southern Indian Ocean but what does it tell us about the fate of Flight 370, and what may have happened to the jetliner.

Our Jim Clancy has been tracking the investigation throughout. He joins us this morning live from Kuala Lumpur.

Jim, I understand there is a new investigation by Malaysian authorities, is that correct? JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. We got basically at least three investigations that are going on right now. The one that Andrew is talking about, the search for the plane, using data, using oceanographers, and everyone else, the visual searches. That is an all-important one.

Then, we've got the search for motives. We've got the search for individuals who might have links here, you know, writing all of these people off.

Just yesterday, the ahead of the Malaysia police here told us, they're not going to release anything on that investigation until some later date when they can could actually draw some conclusions. They say it would prejudice the investigation.

But now, we have a new military investigation that was announced. The Malaysian royal air force is going to investigate. They're really investigating how it was that it took so long to arrive at some of these conclusions.

They have, for instance, the radar data that showed that the plane left the South China Sea within 90 minutes of takeoff and headed towards the Indian Ocean.

Why didn't that information come out earlier? Was there some dereliction of duty by the radar operators? Did civilian radar inform the military that they were missing a plane in a timely fashion? What exactly happened there?

Those are the likely -- we say likely, because they didn't announce any details of it, those are the likely subjects of that investigation, an intriguing one, but one not relevant for the search for the plane right now.

Still, it's one that could cause some repercussions right here in Kuala Lumpur, because it's very much an internal look at how this whole case has been studied, how it's gone from the very stark investigating the disappearance of Flight 370 -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And, you know, Jim, the Malaysian government authorities, the airlines have come under intense scrutiny and criticism from some for not releasing more details. Do you get a sense being there on the ground that they have shifted and that they are being more open, forthcoming with details or has it remained steady?

CLANCY: They're trying to be more forthcoming with details. They're trying to release them as soon as they can. But in the case of the Inmarsat data that led to the definitive statement, we've lost the plane, you saw the pushback coming from China, they don't want to make a mistake.

HARLOW: Right.

CLANCY: They want everything to be corroborated. And they got burned on that at the outset but they've improved.

Back to you.

HARLOW: Appreciate the reporting throughout, Jim. Thank you.

ROMANS: It's been nearly three weeks since that flight disappeared. For family members, this has been a period of grief, outrage. Many of them suspecting the Malaysian government is withholding information, few of them accepting its pronouncement that the jetliner and everyone is gone. Paulina Chiou has been spending a lot of time with the family. She joins us live from Beijing.

And, you know, Pauline, hope is a really powerful motivator, especially in the absence of information in the past three weeks and conflicting information over the past three weeks, but sometimes hope can delay a natural grieving process. These families are in a very, very precarious position right now, aren't they?

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are. And you could call it denial, but these relatives say, before they say that, they just want concrete evidence. They want proof.

In fact, there's a meeting going on in the hotel behind me right now between the relatives and officials from the Malaysia government and also Malaysia Airlines. I have a producer in there. She's been telling me what's going on.

They're getting information about the satellite data and also about Inmarsat and civilian radar and the search procedure. And it's a power point presentation.

One relative says, how can you reach a conclusion that a plane went down from a PowerPoint presentation? Give us proof.

So, that's the sentiment we're getting from the relatives here. Also this whole ordeal, this whole tragedy over the past 18 days has really burned up social media. We were on Sina Weibo, which is like the Twitter in China.

And we look at some very high profile people. There's an actor named Chen Kun (ph). He has 72 million followers. And he says he personally will boycott Malaysian products as well as travel to Malaysia. And he says, if you agree, please repost. And in one day, 70,000 people repost it.

There's another TV host named Mang Pei (ph). He said, I've never from Malaysia and I don't plan to go.

Also, there's a writer who has a million followers. His name is Kung Erkwa (ph), and he talks about the tourism dollars that Chinese tourists have brought to Malaysia last year. He believes at least 1.5 million Chinese went to Malaysia. He says, "From now on, I hope the tourism dollars will become zero."

So, you see this emotion issue, Christine, going from Beijing and Kuala Lumpur and really hitting the social media world and it's getting very, very emotional.

ROMANS: They are.

All right. Pauline Chiou, who has been following the families for us for some days now. Thank you, Pauline.

HARLOW: Well, President Obama in a war of words with Russia this morning blasting the country as he met with world leaders criticizing its grab for part of Ukraine. We're going to take you live and tell you what's happening right now, straight ahead.

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HARLOW: President Obama is in Belgium this morning for the E.U. Summit. Talks expected to be dominated, of course, by the crisis in Ukraine. European leaders will reportedly press President Obama for more natural gas exports from the United States so they can reduce their dependence on Russian energy and punish Moscow for invading Crimea.

White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is traveling with the president. She joins us live from Brussels.

Michelle, a lot of developments out of the norm overnight.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, definitely. I mean, some U.S. lawmakers have been pushing for more gas exports from the U.S., trying to reduce that dependence on Russia.

Of course, the Ukraine issue will dominate today as well. The White House has said that when President Obama today gives a speech to the Belgium people, which he hasn't done before, lots of eyes will be on that speech. They don't really want to focus down the Ukraine crisis.

But everyone the president goes, those questions are what follows. Especially yesterday, he was really pressed on the U.S. response. Should it have been stronger? What about all the criticism? What do we do next? Where is this going from here?

Are sanctions working? What if they don't work? Does Russia really seem to care about any sanctions? We've heard those questions over and over again.

President Obama said, look, I kind of know where this is going, you're asking if there's going to be a military response. But both he and the European leader that he was with during this press conference, the prime minister of the Netherlands, both said they don't see this becoming a military issue or military response.

But, remember, some lawmakers in the U.S. have been calling for at least supplying Ukraine with some military equipment. That hasn't happened yet. Although the White House said they're considering many options.

From here, it's unlikely today at least we'll see more action against Russia because the situation is as it stands. I mean, troops are amassed at the Ukrainian border. But unless there's some change in the situation on the ground, it seems unlikely that the sanction situation, as relates to the U.S. and the E.U. will change. But that development that happened during this trip of Russia essentially being shut out of the G8 was the most significant development so far -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And of course, Michelle, also a development when it comes to those there to protect the president. What can you tell us about a few members of the president's detail being sent home?

KOSINSKI: Yes. Yes, I think as often happens, a few unexpected things have turned up. So, we found out that three members of the Secret Service detail, the advance team, they arrive before the president arrives. Apparently, this happened 24 hours before the president arrived in Amsterdam.

It appears they were out for a night of drinking. One of them ended up asleep in the hallway of his hotel. The Secret Service confirmed that three were sent home, and that an investigation it under way. But didn't give much more detail than that.

But of course this turns heads all over the world because of that scandal in 2012 in Cartagena when so many agents were involved in drinking, dancing and prostitution. Some agents were fired. Others resigned because of that.

So, this is just in the initial stages, but not the greatest image for others to see, as the president is traveling, of course.

HARLOW: Sure. Development, but certainly not the headline of his talks over there.

We'll be following it, Michelle. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. About 24 hours now of searching. It is evening in Australia, off the coast of Perth, where they've been looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

We'll tell you how they narrowed the search. Giving investigators a better idea of where the vanished jetliner could be. We are breaking down the very, very latest on this for you.

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ROMANS: Malaysian officials say Flight 370 crashed into the Indian Ocean on March 8th, some time between 8:11 and 9:15 a.m. What they still can't say is why or precisely where. And until they find solid evidence there will be no relief for the suffering Flight 370 families.

Joining us now is Alastair Rosenschein, former pilot, aviation consultant. He's in our London studio. He's been giving us excellent insight over the past few days.

We really thank you for joining us again, this morning.

Now, among the mysteries, according to the Malaysian government, there's analysis that the plane didn't answer the final ping from a satellite ground station at about 9:15 a.m. local time, leading them to think that the electronics on this plane stopped working some time between 8:11 and 9:15 a.m.

Do you accept that analysis? And what could it possibly mean?

ALASTAIR ROSENSCHEIN, AVIATION CONSULTANT: Well, I assume that they're referring to the final -- the end of the flight, where it was -- after it impacted the water, if that's indeed where the aircraft is. And that's presumably why they received no signal at that point.

And I have to agree with you, that until they get concrete evidence, basically, we're talking here parts of the aircraft on board one of those ships as positively identified as coming from the Boeing 777. Until that point, we're not going to be sure that the aircraft did go down there. I mean, it takes quite a lot to convince people, you know, especially relatives, that their relatives have died. And to do that, one does need evidence.

If you look back at -- you know, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Look at the MIAs, missing in action, families, many of the families, find it very difficult to accept that their loved one has actually perished on a battlefield. And they imagine even years later for a door bell to ring and they're going to walk in.

So, yes, we need that evidence. And that last -- failure to receive that final radio ping is more or less coincidental with when the aircraft disappeared.

ROMANS: Well, hope is such a powerful, powerful motivator. I mean, it really is. I mean, hope is something that people can hold on to that in a dire situation for a very long time and then the three-week investigation by the Malaysian government. Basically the messaging from the Malaysian government that was contradictory or late.

You can see why the families now that the Malaysian government is trying to give them something concrete, the flight went down in the area of the ocean, you can see why families would say, we don't really believe you?

ROSENSCHEIN: Well, I mean, grieving families, the very difficult to rationalize things. I do, in fact, feel a little sympathy for the Malaysian government, in the sense that this is a very, very unusual occurrence they've had to deal with. But having said that, I don't think they've dealt with it very well.

For me, the worst moment was when the grieving relatives were manhandled by some rough men out of the press room in Kuala Lumpur.

But, you know, speaking as an airline pilot here, watching this, I've rarely done this before during my career, it throws up the enormous, almost crippling responsibility that people in the industry, and particularly pilots in this case, have with the lives of the people they're carrying. It really, really does drive that message home to everybody working in this industry.

ROMANS: And now, we need to find some piece of that plane, you're absolutely right, so we can start to follow these clues and find out what happened to that flight. To give the families something concrete but also to begin the investigation so something like this doesn't happen again.

Alastair Rosenschein, thank you so much. We'll talk to you again very soon.

HARLOW: And we'll be back with more news, straight ahead.

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