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New Satellite Images Show 122 Objects; Hagel Not Ruling Out Terrorism On Flight 370; Deep Sea Devices; President Obama's Speech

Aired March 26, 2014 - 13:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. It may be the most significant discovery so far in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A possible debris field spotted in the southern Indian Ocean.

Here's what we know right now. Malaysia's transport minister says new satellite images show 122 objects floating in the ocean. The objects range in size from about three feet to about 75 feet. Searches of the area resumed today after a delay caused by bad weather. But the last planes have now returned to base without finding anything definitive.

Meanwhile, specialized equipment for the United States arrived in Australia today. The equipment includes a blue fin underwater vehicle that would be used if and when officials determine roughly where the plane went down.

This latest satellite photo showing a possible debris field is raising hopes of locating Flight 370, but officials warn, finding anything from the plane could still take some time. Let's bring in our CNN Correspondent Will Ripley. He's joining us from Perth, Australia. That's where the search effort is based. Will, what can you tell us about these 122 pieces of possible debris?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know a French satellite spotted these objects three days ago during a time, as you know, when the conditions in the southern Indian Ocean were extremely treacherous, huge waves, gale force winds, lots of rain. So, they are scattered around 154 square miles, about 1,600 miles off shore from Perth, Australia. And where they were then and where they are now are two very different places which makes the search effort much more complicated.

BLITZER: You know, Will, these pictures, these satellite images were taken on Sunday. Now it's Wednesday. Did the pilots who flew out on a dozen missions earlier today, including a P-8 Poseidon flown by U.S. Navy personnel, were they given the exact pictures where these 122 objects were spotted when they flew out in the morning and have now returned to base?

RIPLEY: As far as we know, they were informed about these satellite images. Malaysia learned about them yesterday, passed that information along to Australia. But the issue here is that the satellite doesn't exactly give you a precise location. And, again, because these photographs were taken on Sunday, now here we are mid- week, the objects have likely moved, possibly moving at one mile an hour. The searchers today came up empty-handed. The good news, though, weather conditions continue improving so they're hopeful that tomorrow they'll be able to get back out there and hopefully find these things.

BLITZER: So, so far, all of those planes returned empty-handed today, no spotting of anything. We'll see what happens in the next day. Will Ripley on scene for us. Thank you.

So, they're not ruling anything out, that's the official word from the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, on what happened to Flight 370.

Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr. She asked Hagel for his assessment. So, what did he have to say, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he had a short meeting with reporters here at the Pentagon, just a while ago, Wolf. And we asked him, is it at all possible that it could have been a terrorist attack? Have you been able to rule that out? I want you to listen to his very careful words.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't think, at this point, we can rule anything in or out. I think we have to continue to search, as we are, and you know the United States continues to stay committed. We have aircraft in the area working out of Malaysia and Perth. As you know, we have moved two of our most sophisticated locators to the Perth area. So, until we have more information, we don't know.


STARR: Now, if it was a terrorist attack or some act of political violence, the problem, investigators say, in and a number of U.S. officials we have talked to, is there's been no claim of responsibility. And that's what you would expect to see in terrorism. They always, almost always, claim responsibility for it. They want the publicity.

There is a related additional theory that is beginning to emerge with some U.S. officials that this was some sort of deliberate act from someone in the cockpit. You and I have talked about that at length. In part, because they come to that idea, because they've -- they can't -- they can't come up with a plausible explanation otherwise, because until they can find more data, more intelligence, they really don't know.

But the cockpit theory, maybe somebody in the cockpit still very much something U.S. officials are contemplating -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Did he -- did he -- was he asked, the secretary of defense, about that theory that, let's say, the pilot may have done something, may have, on his own, decided to do, for whatever crazy reason, this kind of maneuver and move that plane off course towards Beijing, towards the Indian Ocean? STARR: No. To be very clear, the secretary was not asked that directly. But he's really underscoring what the official line in Washington is, nothing ruled in, nothing ruled out. It's really behind the scenes that you're beginning to hear some of these other ideas being floated. And officials emphasize, they are just ideas. Things that they're looking at. Things that they're chewing over. They need to hear what information the Malaysians may have, what the Malaysians are really investigating.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks very much.

Let's get some more now on the search for Flight 370 and those 122 objects found in the southern Indian Ocean, at least on that satellite image.

Joining us now, Mark Weiss, he's an Aviation Analyst, the former 777 pilot for American Airlines; Steve Wallace, is an Aviation Analyst, former director of the FAA's Office of Accident Investigation; and Tom Fuentes, is a CNN Law Enforcement Analyst.

So, Tom, let me get right to you. This notion that an individual increasingly -- at least a lot of people are suspecting, and there's no hard evidence, an individual may have been responsible as opposed to catastrophic failure of the plane or of the engine, batteries, whatever. What are you hearing on that?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, what I hear -- you know, what we've all heard from the beginning is that when they don't come up with one definitive solution, it has to be something else. And so, this reporting goes in circles about mechanical failure, deliberate action; mechanical failure, pilot suicide; mechanical failure, pilot or, you know, being forced to turn the plane by a hijacker or intruder.

But I was informed by a senior Malaysian government official this morning that the more they have looked at the pilots, the less they believe, in Malaysia, that they're involved in this. That everything comes back negative on them. That the search of their residences found no notes or nothing incriminating. No notes of potential suicide or saying goodbye to the world or anything like that. And the investigation goes on.

BLITZER: Because these are Malaysian sources you're talking to.

FUENTES: Malaysian government sources.

BLITZER: If you remember, the Egypt Air pilot who committed suicide took that plane into -- the Egyptian government, to this day, denies that it was pilot suicide. They -- for whatever patriotic nationalistic reasons, they refuse to accept that. And there's some suspicion that Malaysians would refuse to accept the notion that how a distinguished pilot in Malaysia could go ahead and do such a dastardly --

FUENTES: Well, in a way, they're in trouble either way, as a government, because if not, then how did an intruder pass knew through security, get into the cockpit, that their airlines and their security measures were deficient to allow that. So, either one of these scenarios is bad in terms of the Malaysian government appearance. They also say that they expect the FBI's final report on the computer searches to be given to the Malaysians by Friday this week.

BLITZER: And we would have a better sense -- at that point, if the FBI does have something on the hard drive from the flight simulator taken from the pilot's home, or the hard drive taken from the co- pilot's home, or whatever, we would have a better sense if there is anything at all incriminating.

STEVE WALLACE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think so. But I'm not -- we're -- we remain optimistic that there will be some clue there. But I actually think that's fairly unlikely. And I think what Barbara Starr said was exactly right. It's -- nothing is ruled in and out. And, of course, every transport accident these days is a -- is a one- off event. And a one-off event that we have never seen is a suicide type event, like you referenced Egypt Air, two years before that, Silk Air in Indonesia.

BLITZER: That was a pilot suicide, too.

WALLACE: Agreed by all of the western experts. Not accepted by the country (INAUDIBLE.)

BLITZER: By Indonesian.

WALLACE: Correct, correct.

BLITZER: In that particular case. And the Egyptians never accepted it in their cases.

WALLACE: Exactly.

BLITZER: And that's why I -- people have said to me, the Malaysians might be reluctant to accept that notion if, in fact -- we don't know if it is. We don't want to, you know, convict the pilot without any real hard evidence.

But here's a hypothetical question, and you're a 777 pilot, Mark. If a pilot were to do such a horrible thing, this 53-year-old pilot, could he do the whole thing by himself from within that cockpit?

MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, on the assumption that this is a hypothetical response, yes, he could. You can -- you can have one of the pilots get out of the cockpit. You typically could do that to go to the lavatory. Certainly, you could do that. You can also keep somebody out of the cockpit. There are ways of doing that. And in that case, if you had a suicide on -- in your own mind, yes, you could put that plane into a dive. You could take it off course. Everything that we have seen so far or led to believe to be true could have been done by one person in the cockpit. Again, a pilot or somebody with aviation knowledge.

BLITZER: What do you -- quickly, to you on this 122 pieces of debris that the satellite image -- it could be junk or it could be parts of the plane. The planes apparently flew over that area. They didn't see anything today.

WALLACE: Well, I agree with that exactly, Wolf. I mean, typically, what you do see are scattered, numerous pieces of scattered floating objects, not usually 75 feet long. Again, I think what we have never seen is a suicide situation where someone decides first to fly the plane to the ends of the earth. Maybe that's something we're going to see for the first time. I don't know.

BLITZER: And we don't know if the pilot or the co-pilot or somebody else on that plane or if it was a mechanical failure.


But you have to assume the FBI is taking a very, very close look at both of these pilots.

FUENTES: Very close, that's correct. You know, and that's --

BLITZER: They would be derelict if they weren't.

FUENTES: Well, yes, and that's been going on from day one. I mean, the first night that plane disappeared and the FBI was invited to go to the command post at the airport in Kuala Lumpur. That's been on the table from day one to look at the pilots, look at the rest of the crew, look at the passengers, look at the cargo, look at all of the ground maintenance people. And that's something that has been intensively pursued from it the beginning and is still ongoing. Everybody on the ground that could have touched that airplane, that's hundreds more people in addition to just the pilot or co-pilot or people that are on the aircraft.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, guys. Don't go too far away. Our viewers have been sending us lots of excellent questions and you guys are going to answer those questions later. We're also waiting for President Obama to speak in Brussels, Belgium. He is set to begin momentarily. When he does, we'll listen in. Stand by for that.

And the hunt for Flight 370 may ultimately depend on mapping the ocean floor in one of the most hostile environments on earth. We're going to show you how that unfolds.

And later, one family's search for answers includes records on the plane and its parts. We're taking a closer look at the potential first lawsuit.


BLITZER: If a likely crash site for Flight 370 is actually located, the next step will be to send large, unmanned vehicles to search the ocean floor for the wreckage. CNN's Rosa Flores is deep in the Louisiana bayou with a company that actually operates these really impressive machines.

Rosa, explain what we're looking at and how it works.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So what this is, is this is a multimillion dollar probe that dives into the ocean, Wolf, and gives you a map of the ocean floor. This is what is called an AUV, or an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. And it uses side-scan sonar -- you can see it down here -- to create that picture.

Now, it also has GPS, because it's important for the crew to know exactly where this piece of equipment is at all times. The GPS is on this antenna.

I'm going to ask Brian to go ahead and start launching this for us because we're going to give you a demonstration as to what this would look like in the real world. Now this probe is owned by CNC Technologies. It is in Golden Meadow, Louisiana. It is highly customized. And it's on the "Miss Ginger" today. Now, one of the things that's really important to point out about this particular probe is that it has in the past helped identify and recover plane wreckage in the deep seas.

Now, what we're going to demonstrate here is on a dock. So what you see is this probe is tethered. In the Indian Ocean, of course, this would not be tethered. But because we're on a dock, you're going to see that it is tethered, it is being brought down and it's buoyant. You're going to see that it's going to float.

Now, under normal operations, you would see it dive into the ocean several miles and then a crew in a control room would program a mission for this particular probe. And what's really important to mention, Wolf, is that it immediately starts generating a picture of the ocean floor. And in the case of MH-370, time is of the essence.


BLITZER: Rosa, thanks very much. Impressive demonstration.

The president of the United States starting to deliver a speech in Brussels, Belgium, now on U.S.-European relations. Let's listen in.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Laura, for that remarkable introduction on -- before she came out, she told me not to be nervous. And I can only imagine, I think her father is in the audience and I can only imagine how proud he is of her. We're grateful for her work, but she's also reminding us that our future will be defined by young people like her.

Your majesties, Mr. Prime minister, and the people of Belgium, on behalf of the American people, we are grateful for your friendship. We stand together as inacceptable allies. And I thank you for your wonderful hospitality. I have to admit, it is easy to love a country famous for chocolate and beer.

Leaders and dignitaries of the European Union, representatives of our NATO alliance, distinguished guests, we meet here at a moment of testing for Europe and the United States, and for the international order that we have worked for generations to build. Throughout human history, societies have grappled with fundamental questions of how to organize themselves, the proper relationship between the individual and the state. The best means to resolve inevitable conflicts between states. And it was here in Europe, through centuries of struggle, through war and enlightenment, repression and revolution, that a particular set of ideals began to emerge. The belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose. The belief that power is just derived from the condense of the governed and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding.

And those ideas eventually inspired a band of colonialists across an ocean and they wrote them into the founding documents that still guide America today, including the simple truth that all men and women are created equal.

But those ideals have also been tested, here in Europe and around the world. Those ideals have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power. This alternative vision argues that ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs. That order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign. Often this alternative vision roots itself in the notion that by virtue of race or faith or ethnicity some are inherently superior to others and that individual identity must be defined by us versus them, or that national greatness must flow not by what people stand for, but what they are against.

In so many ways, the history of Europe in the 20th century represented the ongoing clash of these two sets of ideas, both within nations and among nations. The advance of industry and technology outpaced our ability to resolve our differences peacefully. And even among the most civilized of societies on the surface, we saw a dissent into barbarism.

This morning at Flanders (ph) Field, I was reminded of how war between peoples sent a generation to their deaths in the trenches and gas of the First World War. And just two decades later, extreme nationalism plunged this continent into war once again, with populations enslaved and great cities reduced to rubble, and tens of millions slaughtered, including those lost in the Holocaust.

It is in response to this tragic history that in the aftermath of World War II, America joined with Europe to reject the darker forces of the pas and built a new architecture of peace. Workers and engineers gave life to the Marshall (ph) plan. Sentinels stood vigilant in a NATO alliance that would become the strongest the world has ever known. And across the Atlantic, we embraced a shared vision of Europe. A vision based on representative democracy, individual rights, and a belief that nations can meet the interests of their citizens through trade and open markets. A social safety net. Respect for those of different faiths and backgrounds.

For decades, this vision stood in sharp contrast to life on the other side of an iron curtain. For decades, a contest was waged. And ultimately that contest was won, not by tanks or missiles, but because our ideals stirred the hearts of Hungarians who sparked a revolution. Polls in their shipyards who stood in solidarity. Czechs who waged development revolution without firing a shot. And East Berliners who marched past the guards and finally tore down that wall. Today, what would have seemed impossible in the trenches of Flanders, the rubble of Berlin, a dissidents prison cell, that reality is taken for granted. A Germany unified. The nations of central and eastern Europe welcomed into the family of democracies.

Here in this country, once the battleground of Europe, we meet in the hub of a union that brings together age-old adversaries in peace and cooperation. The people of Europe, hundreds of millions of citizens, east, west, north, south, are more secure and more prosperous because we stood together for the ideals we share.

And this story of human progress was by no means limited to Europe. Indeed, the ideals that came to define our alliance also inspired movements across the globe. Among those very people, ironically, who had too often been denied their full rights by western powers. After the second world war, people from Africa to India threw off the yolk of colonialism to secure their independence. In the United States, citizens took freedom rides and endured beatings to put an end to segregation and to secure their civil rights.

As the iron curtain fell here in Europe, the iron fist of apartheid was unclenched, and Nelson Mandela emerged upright, proud, from prison to lead a multiracial democracy. Latin American nations rejected dictatorship and built new democracies. And Asian nations showed that development and democracy could go hand-in-hand.

The young people in the audience today, young people like Laura, were born in a place and a time where there is less conflict, more prosperity and more freedom than any time in human history. But that's not because man's darkest impulses have vanished. Even here, in Europe, we've seen ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that shocked the conscience. The difficulties of integration and globalization recently amplified by the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes strained the European project and stirred the rise of a politics that too often targets immigrants or gays or those who seem somehow different.

While technology has opened up vast opportunities for trade and innovation and cultural understanding, it's also allowed terrorists to kill on a horrifying scale. Around the world, sectarian warfare and ethnic conflicts continue to claim thousands of lives. And once again, we are confronted with the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way. That recycled maxim that might somehow makes right.

So I come here today to insist that we must never take for granted the progress that has been won here in Europe and advanced around the world because the contest of ideas continues for your generation. And that's what's at stake in Ukraine today. Russia's leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident. That in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force. That international law matters. That people and nations can make their own decisions about their future. To be honest, if we define our interests narrowly, if we applied a cold-hearted calculus, we might decide to look the other way. Our economy is not deeply integrated with Ukraine's. Our people and our homeland face no direct threat from the invasion of Crimea. Our own borders are not threatened by Russia's annexation. But that kind of casual indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this continent. It would allow the old way of doing things to regain a foothold in this young century. And that message would be heard, not just in Europe, but in Asia, in the Americas, in Africa and the Middle East. And the consequences that would arise from complacency are not abstractions. The impact that they have on the lives of real people, men and women just like us, have to enter into our imaginations.