Return to Transcripts main page


MH370 Search Shifts by Hundreds of Miles; How Families Can Deal with Grief; Answering View Questions on MH370; Russian Troops Engaged in Exercises Near Ukraine Border But Obama Skeptical

Aired March 28, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

We're following major new developments as the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 moves into day 22. The search area has shifted by hundreds of miles, and multiple planes have spotted objects in the new location. Australian officials say five of ten search planes reported sightings in the water. This picture from CCTV, Chinese state television, shows what's described as a suspicious object spotted by a New Zealand military plane. The new search area is 1,150 miles from Perth, Australia, 680 miles northeast of the previous site. Analysts say this shift in location is based on new calculations. They say the data suggest the plane didn't fly as far south as they earlier had thought.

Joining us now from New York is Keith Masback, expert in satellite technology and airborne reconnaissance.

Keith, thanks very much for coming in.

What's your reaction to these new photos showing various colored objects on top of the Indian Ocean and this new search area?


What's exciting about these new objects, I think, they have come from the aircraft. Doing this from 400-plus miles in space through clouds is tough. When you've got these aircraft down under the cloud deck with very sophisticated sensors, you're really getting a new level of information that adds to this puzzle.

BLITZER: Based on the radar and satellite data, the investigators have now concluded the plane was traveling faster than initially thought. Why do you think it took this long to draw that conclusion and come up with this new search area nearly 700 miles away from the earlier search area?

MASBACK: Well, I think, as an intelligence professional, Wolf, we're looking for more information. We can never have enough. You want to get every bit of information. And every time something comes into the bucket, it's adding to your analytic picture. It's adding to your knowledge of what's going on. And you get a better idea of honing in on possible alternatives. And you're also excluding possible alternatives, as you add more information into the problem set.

BLITZER: The transportation administer of Malaysia says all of the objects spotted earlier in some of those other satellite images -- French, Thai, Chinese, Australian -- they could still be parts of the plane, because ocean currents have pushed them in various directions. Do you buy that?

MASBACK: Well, I'm telling you, until you've got a piece that you've seen and you've got it up on a ship and in somebody's hands, in the hands of an aviation expert who knows that aircraft, how do you rule anything out, Wolf?

BLITZER: Well, apparently, the Australians don't believe the earlier 122 images spotted -- I think in the French satellite, the 300 spotted in a Chinese satellite image -- they don't believe these are parts of the plane. That's the Australian assessment.

MASBACK: Look, we have certainly done a lot of polluting of our oceans. There is no dispute about that. But again, you know, you've got to work in absolutes. We owe answers to these grieving families. We want to solve this mystery that has sort of captured the attention of the world. And until you've got a piece of that in your hand, I don't understand how you can rule it out.

BLITZER: You're an expert in U.S. geospatial intelligence gathering. We have seen all these images, these satellite images from China, Japan, France, Australia. But we really haven't seen much from the United States. The U.S. has terrific satellite imagery capabilities. Why is that?

MASBACK: So the United States and China and a number of other countries have very capable systems, which they hold closely, which they protect so that people don't understand their full capabilities, or as we would call in the intelligence community, sources and methods. You have seen Digital Globe, the world's leading commercial satellite provider out of the U.S. They have put some imagery out into this, and doing some of that crowd sourcing through their platform.

But imagine China -- just think about it, Wolf, 13 years ago, we have a three P-3 aircraft have a collision with a Chinese airplane and they get that technology, and that was a big deal. People are forgetting that. Now we've got these aircraft working together. You can imagine that this is very, very sensitive. Right? You've got these Chinese and U.S. spy planes, if you will, sitting on a tarmac together in Australia. They want to protect what they're able to do because they were actually built to look for each other's submarines and surface aircraft.

BLITZER: I assume -- and I'll leave you on this note. I assume all the sensitive imagery that the U.S. is collecting is being shared in the NTSB, the FAA, with confidential U.S. government sources, even though they're not being released publicly. MASBACK: I can't speculate to that, Wolf. I would imagine they're doing everything they can, just like the Chinese who have their citizens so impacted by this. You can imagine they might be going to the Malaysians and saying, hey, here's a place we really think you ought to look. But they're really not revealing the sources and methods behind where they gathered that information.

BLITZER: Yeah. I hope they're revealing the bottom line information. And as you point out, not necessarily compromising U.S. sources and methods or classified information. But helping in the overall investigation. I assume that's what's going on. But we'll learn more.

Keith, thanks so much for joining us.

Keith Masback, helping us better appreciate what's going on.

The only constant for the families of those missing on flight 370 is their grief. How can anyone deal with that kind of personal stress? We'll speak with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Chinese relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight have had all they can take. They're so angry over Malaysia's handling of the search they want China to launch its own investigation.

Our own David McKenzie has more now from Beijing.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For days, family members have been sitting, listening calmly to briefings from Malaysian authorities. Many of them complaining they're not getting the answers they want. So today they stood up.




MCKENZIE (voice-over): This man getting up, saying that they are united, that the Malaysian authorities have been hiding the truth and that they will get their punishment. All of the family members stood up and walked out.

(on camera): This hotel has been their environment for weeks now, stuck in the cycle of meetings, recrimination and anger. Now they say they want to go to K.L. to complain.

David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: The families' frustration certainly adds to their grief. You can see it on their faces. For three weeks now, they have had to deal with competing emotions, unrelenting fear, while clinging to hope. Sometimes those emotions certainly boil over into deep anger. It's hard to imagine those -- the agony those families are going through right now.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Sanjay, we have seen these family members crying, even collapsing from the strain, carried out on gurneys, wheelchairs. What's the physical impact of such intense grief and stress?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you alluded to, Wolf, it's unimaginable in so many ways. Obviously, it's going to be different from person to person. You know, just the pragmatics, people aren't eating as well, they're not sleeping very well, the idea of somebody collapsing from just pure fatigue is probably not that surprising then. But also your stress hormone levels, cortisol levels, for example, typically go up and down in anybody's given day. But in people going through this sort of thing, those cortisol levels may never come down.

So you're always -- have an additional level of stress that affects your heart rate, your blood pressure. But it also really puts you on edge. Perceiving what would otherwise be harmless threats as potentially dangerous. And it just becomes this never-ending cycle. So it's a really difficult thing, hard to sustain for a long time -- Wolf?

BLITZER: And with so much uncertainty, Sanjay, the experts -- I want to know what they say, the best hope for these people as they prepare themselves. I assume they are preparing themselves for the worst.

GUPTA: Yeah, you look at the various ingredients of things, unpredictability, uncertainty and loss of control, and really all thee ingredients are here. But the notion of hope, the notion of still not knowing, not having full closure, is really interesting. And, again, people are going to vary in terms of how they respond to this, but the idea that this is, in some ways, a more heroic period. You know, the whole world has been focused on your loved ones, as have you, and they're looking and caring in some ways. It's called the heroic period. And that can actually be beneficial in terms of just the concept of hope overall.

The problem, Wolf, though, is that at some point that goes away. The media attention starts to die down, the heroic period starts to come to an end and the grief that may have been just delayed as a result of just all this lack of closure and anticipation and waiting could be even -- the decline could be even greater. The fall could be even greater when that period ends. So, you know, people are going to respond in different ways. But that's a real concern -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Because, you know, I keep hearing closure. We always talk about closure. And people get -- they move on with their lives, but for so many of these people, you lose a child, you lose a mother or a father or a wife or a husband, you never really, Sanjay -- you never really have complete closure. It's going to stay with you forever.

GUPTA: It does. And, you know, the idea that you never fully get over it, I was talking to a couple people who specialize in this area last night in anticipation for the segment, and I was asking about this very point. And they say, look, at some point, even if there is not absolute closure, subconsciously, a lot of people do eventually get closure, even if they can't vocalize it. But also this pain, Wolf, that you're describing this visceral pain. At some point, it actually starts to be greater than the pain of the loss itself. I don't know if I'm explaining that very well. But when the physical pain of this just going on for so long exceeds the pain of the loss itself, that is a type of closure, as well. And it's heartbreaking to think about, but that's what happens, especially when you lose somebody, you know, like a child or a loved one.

BLITZER: Certainly.

Sanjay, thanks very much. Good explanation.

Up next, what do you want to know about the missing flight 370? Tweet us your questions, use the #370Qs. Our panel of experts standing by. We're going to try to provide some answers.


BLITZER: It's now been 22 days since flight 370 vanished without a trace. Apparently, not a whole lot closer to discovering what happened than we were three weeks ago.

Many of you have posted questions using the #370Qs.

Let's bring back our panel to try to get some answers. Our aviation analysts, Mark Weise and Peter Goelz; and law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.

Peter, let's start with you.

Since the new search area is more northern and calmer, would there also be more debris from regular ocean traffic?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Who knows? But that is an area that is well-populated with debris. I think we have got to get eyes on the water and pick up some of it and get a look at and hopefully it gets done in the next hours.


BLITZER: -- More traffic going through that part of the world.


BLITZER: They throw junk overboard and don't care about it.

GOELZ: Yeah. BLITZER: Here's a question for Tom. How can they back track the plane from 22 days ago when they can't retrace the debris from two days ago? Daunting.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST & FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: It is daunting. That will be a challenge even if they find the debris to go back three weeks to where it came from. In this part of the ocean, maybe the currents and wind won't be as strong and they might have an easier time.

BLITZER: Here's a question for Mark. Sharon is wondering, did any of the five aircraft that spotted the debris drop buoys by it so they can find it again?

MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think they do, Sharon. I think that the idea was you not only want to know the position, longitude and latitude, but you also want to understand how the currents will take that debris.

BLITZER: We asked this question before. We got an answer, I think, from our previous quests.

I will ask it to you again, Tom. You're former assistant of the FBI. Where are the American satellite images of the debris in the Indian Ocean? Haven't seen it.

FUENTES: Well, there were some. Well, there were some.


FUENTES: The early, first day that the Australians announced that that was going to be the search area.

BLITZER: A U.S. commercial satellite.


FUENTES: But it works for the government. There have been some.

BLITZER: But we heard from our previous guest, for confidentiality reasons, sources and methods. They don't like to reveal that what the U.S. is capable of doing. That can underline the national security.

FUENTES: We heard it a lot.

BLITZER: Here's another one for Mark. You are a 777 pilot. Do planes have tracking devices that send signals to the airline company when off track their destination?

WEISS: Actually, no.

BLITZER: They didn't get anything special?

WEISS: Not to Boeing. But, as an example, if we have to divert to an alternate airport, we have to let the company know.

BLITZER: Malaysia Airlines, would they get special information --


BLITZER: -- from off-track devices.

WEISS: No, not automatically. It would have to be initiated by the flight crew.

BLITZER: That's a good question.

Here's another one. We'll give this one to Tom. If the plane was commandeered, how likely would it be been for the passengers to break down the reinforced cockpit door?

FUENTES: Well, modern cockpit doors, that's the unintended cost to flights. It would keep the good guys out of the cockpit if that happened. If the captain came out to use the restroom and somebody was able to squeeze in there, that person could lock everybody else out, and that would be it.

BLITZER: On the Egypt Air suicide flight, you were investigating that. What happened there? There were two pilots.

GOELZ: Yeah, the captain in the left seat left the cockpit to get a bite to eat and go to the restroom. The door was not reinforced. It was shut and locked and the copilot initiated the suicide dive. The captain fought his way back into the cockpit and into his seat and broke the dive. But the copilot eventually shut the engines off.

BLITZER: Here's another question for you, Mark.

Peter -- let me put it to Peter. Who takes financial responsibility for the search efforts of Malaysia flight MH370? Just curious. I'm sure it's pricey.

GOELZ: Right now, each company is covering their own cost. Going forward, in another two or three weeks, that will be reassessed. But right now, each country is covering their own costs.

BLITZER: Is a final question from Rosalind. Has anyone checked the flight attendants on board this ill-fated flight?

FUENTES: Absolutely.

BLITZER: You know that?

FUENTES: Yes, for a fact.

BLITZER: Assume they checked all the passengers as well.


FUENTES: Everybody on the plane.

BLITZER: Based on everything you heard, nothing suspicious jumping out, including the two Iranian young men who had the stolen passports? FUENTES: Nothing so far.

GOELZ: Not a thing.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Good Q&A. We'll continue this investigation for our viewers.

We'll have much more of the coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 coming up.

Also coming up, the latest on Ukrainian troop movements bracing for a possible incursion by thousands of Russian forces now massing along the border. President Obama said Russia should stand down.


BLITZER: We'll have much more coverage of the missing plane at the top of the hour. But first, let's look at the other stories making news right now.

Russian troops massing along Ukraine's eastern border could invade without warning. If that happens, it's not certain how Ukrainian forces will respond. Russia said its troops are merely engaged in exercises, but President Obama was skeptical, especially after Russia's swift annexation of Crimea in southern Ukraine.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have seen a range of troops massing along that border under the guise of military exercises. These are not what Russia would normally be doing. And, you know, it may be an effort to intimidate Ukraine or it may be that they've got additional plans.


BLITZER: U.S. officials estimate up to 40,000 troops are along the Ukrainian-Russian border. Ukrainian officials believe the number is more than double that figure.

Fresh off his visit with the pope, President Obama is now in Saudi Arabia, where he is meeting with key Saudi officials, including Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. Today's meeting an important one the White House hopes to shore up its sometimes tenuous relationship with the Saudis. Among items that are likely to be discussed, Iran, Syria, and human rights.

Still facing federal and state investigations, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will hold his first news conference since January later this afternoon. He can be expected to take a bunch of questions about the scandal over lane closures of the George Washington Bridge. Christie says he never knew his staffers created the log jam. Critics alleged it was political pay back. Attorneys hired by the governor's office issued a report yesterday that found no evidence tying Christie to the scandal. The death toll from Saturday's landslide in rural Washington State is expected to continue to rise. County officials will update the numbers later this afternoon. And a district fire chief said it is likely to rise, quote, "very much." 17 deaths have been confirmed. So far, seven more bodies have been located and not recovered. Rain is certainly complicating the search efforts. Geologists are assessing for the potential of another landslide.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I will be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern with another special two-hour edition of "The Situation Room."

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.