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Search Continues for Missing Malaysian Plane; North Korea and South Korean Exchange Artillery Fire; Russian Troops Mass on Ukrainian Border; WSJ Reporter Looks Closer at Flight 370 Pilots; Capt. Zaharie a Well-Liked Man

Aired March 31, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: They have set up a new Australian Joint Agency Coordination Center to take the lead in synchronizing the search efforts in Perth. From your perspective was that lacking at this point? Are is this just another agency as things enter its fourth week?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: In this phase of the investigation, you have to assure that all the evidence goes to one place. I think that's what this about. And it's not uncommon in an accident investigation to have sub-teams and subgroups to do specific tasks, and although they didn't say that, I would suspect that's mostly what this is about is making sure all these different governments, when they find this material that they have a standard way of processing it, they have a standard way of cataloging, identifying where they found, where it came from --

BOLDUAN: Getting more process in place as we enter our fourth week. And as we enter our fourth week, Mary, we've had this refined search area. We have definitely seen more sightings. But as we see more sightings, we're also seeing a lot of it is trash. I was talking to the New Zealand squadron leader of the Air Force there this morning show said a lot of what we're they're looking at is rubbish. Is that promising that they're at least finding rubbish, or does that not tell you anything?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Unfortunately, that doesn't tell us anything. If the aircraft broke up when it hit the water, at this date a lot of the pieces that might have been floating will have sunk. But the colors from an aircraft, they're white, they're yellow, they're blue, the inside of the plane is grey-green. The orange actually didn't ring true to me because there's not much on the plane that is orange. But luggage, shoes, baggage containers, food carts, that can flow. But this kind of debris doesn't suggest anything aircraft.

BOLDUAN: And when they spot debris, David, they obviously -- first you spot it from the plane. Then the ships are in the area. They go to pick it up and then they determine one way or the other. If they have brought something on the ship that is clear it's not, let's say, a dead squid, which was something we saw this morning, how long do you think it would take to get informing? Do you think the pieces would be so broken up and so demolished, you would need more inspection and closer investigation, or do you think it's going to be pretty obvious?

SOUCIE: Historically Boeing is very good at identifying any even small piece of the aircraft. So with photographs and information about it, they can usually get that quickly and identify it. But remember, these aircraft, about every two or three fight of any metal structure on this aircraft, which even honeycomb structures, is identified with a part number. That part number will start with either 200 or 300 on this airplane. So it's identified, it should be very readily identifiable if it's a part of the airplane. As Mary pointed out, shoes, baggage, these other things are more indicative in a site like this. Most of the stuff I'm talking about would maybe carry down with the aircraft.

BOLDUAN: And one of the big concerns there is this new area, you are still talking miles upon miles going down. We're not even looking there at this point because everything has been a surface search. Let's talk about the underwater search that will eventually happen, Mary. Where do you think, where are you at this point entering our fourth week of this search of the black box? Do you think there's still real hope to send out this high-tech equipment if the search area is refined a little better then we can find it?

SCHIAVO: Well, I think the earlier part of your question might be the key. I would like to know, and I'm sure they must be doing it, that Boeing experts, the National Transportation Safety Board, FAAA, the Australian experts, that they're looking at the data to try to further refine the search area. Given this late date, any refinement, any shrinking of that area to use the pinger finder and then later the scanned sonar would really help because there is a sense of urgency because if the equipment worked as it's supposed to, we would have a few good days. And I've seen cases where the battery has lasted longer than 30 days. But now is the time if at all possible to narrow that down, and I'm sure they've been trying to do that, but I would like to see better data. And short of that they need to wish for some luck because it's a big area to hit with that pinger finder.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. David. I know that you have some strong opinions about how that black box, the possibility that black box is still working.

SOUCIE: Right, for two aspects on that. One is that I've got information that they weren't properly stored. And I don't know about this particular aircraft because I can't get that information, but I do know that they typical practice is to, the pinger system, store them properly is higher temperatures. And I've gotten back from manufacturers --

BOLDUAN: And what does that do?

SOUCIE: It kills the battery life basically. It can cut it in half. And there's no way to test it when they put it on these aircraft, which is every 1,000 hours. So I have some concerns about that, that this pinger may not go as long as it was intended to. But as Mary pointed out, if it was properly stored and it was working fine, they do go past 30 days. I'm just not confident we're looking that. BOLDUAN: How do we further refine the search? It was a big announcement when we moved closer to Perth and more north in this further refined search area. That was a better analysis of the existing data that was had, when more minds kind of came together in this big analysis group. David, how do we first refine the search area? Is it just continuing to look at this data? Is it once we've, they call it the mowing of the lawn of the ocean, once you've done that you can move on?

SOUCIE: I think they answer to this is crowd sourcing. You may not think that, but let me tie it together. Crowd sourcing, I'm getting tweets from lead professors at Columbia, at Harvard, everywhere else in the world that are specialists saying give me the data, let me provide my opinion to you as to where this might have gone. And I was hopeful this morning. He said that it was going to be released, and then later retraced and said it hasn't been released. But give us the raw data so that we can get it into the hands of these other experts. The more information at point, since you're lacking confidence in the data, let's get some more opinions, some more options.

BOLDUAN: Mary, do you have quick view on that?

SCHIAVO: I do, and I agree completely. I get every day in my mailbox full of people with sightings. And it's hard for me to tell because I'm not on the Australian search team. And if there was a way to harness the source these people crowd sourcing, maybe that could help too. And also we'll know if a crew thinks they're getting closer. You mentioned what do they do underwater. There are a couple of U.S. ships. If they think they've got it, they will call in the "grapple" and a "grasp." And those are submarine recovery ships. They're very technical. They have dive teams with them. We'll know if they think they've got it because those ships will be called in.

BOLDUAN: Hopefully they'll get that call sometime very, very soon. Mary, David, thank you very much, as always. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kate, thanks.

We're also tracking another story that's been breaking overnight. North and South Korea exchanging artillery fire. Now, this started with the north conducting military drills and then spilled over into South Korean waters. The South Koreans didn't like it. They retaliated. There was literally artillery fire going back and forth, hundreds of shots. Let's bring in CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. Jim, great to have you. Now, important to note before we deal with this incident, the past is prologue. There has been deadly altercations over this area before, yes?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, no question. You have a very volatile mix now. Every day is volatile in the zone between North and South Korea, especially volatile now because you have competing military exercises on both sides of the border. That's means people are lobbing artillery shells. It's dangerous.

And leading up to it as well, you have other threats coming out of North Korea, just yesterday the threat of another nuclear test. Missile launches last week, which the U.S. condemned. Then we talked about this a number of times. You had this assassination inside the very center of the North Korean camp, Kim Jong-un executing his own uncle. This is a very dangerous place both inside the country and between these two countries.

CUOMO: So it's important because to be smart about this when you hear they shot fire but it wasn't really at each other, you can't look at it that simply, though, because the past is suggestive of what the intentions may be going forward?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. There was an exchange of artillery fire a couple of years ago and South Koreans died. When you're firing at each other, people can die.

CUOMO: Hundreds of rounds, too?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And that leads to further escalation because you have to react, right. South Koreans died, and the South Koreans would have to fire back. And this is the kind of thing that's hard to control.

And the real difference here now, Kate and I were speaking about this earlier. North Korea has been provocative. We've become used to that. They're becoming more unpredictable, and not just for Americans, but even for the Chinese. The Chinese have been kind of like the North Korea whisperers for us, right, they have the best contacts. But when the Chinese say they don't know what's going on inside that country, that's a problem, because China is the best channel for them to the outside world to understand when they're truly serious and when they're not truly serious. And that's a problem. We don't have that now. You had a Chinese military spokesman say today that the temperature is rising there and they're nervous. If they're nervous, we ought to be really nervous.

CUOMO: And really it falls under the category of facts sometimes being stranger than fiction. Again, Dennis Rodman being the person who had better exchange with the leader of North Korea than anybody on the diplomatic side of the United States.

SCIUTTO: And possibly not the best American envoy for that situation. I know you have an experience with that as well.

CUOMO: A matter of debate, not one to take up this morning. But thank you very much, appreciate it. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Also happening now, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is visiting Crimea this morning. He's the most senior Russia official to visit the peninsula since it was annexed from Ukraine. Meanwhile Secretary of State John Kerry discussing a diplomatic solution, the potential of one, with his Russia counterpart Sunday in a four hour closed meeting session in Paris. So far, of course, no agreement, this as nearly 50,000 Russian troops have massed near the Ukraine border. CNN's Karl Penhaul has a look inside the forbidden zone in that military camp near the Russia border. Karl? KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the Russian border is just ten miles that way, and here the Ukrainian military have set up a range of tents. There's logistics, there's supplies here and also, importantly, a medevac hospital facility, a field hospital. You don't set one of those be unless you are really expecting to come to blows with the Russians, and that really is what the Ukrainian troops here feel.

If you look out into the field beyond, and I can't show you for security reasons, but there are tanks dug in. There are armored personnel carriers dug in. Again, what these troops is preparing for is some kind of tank battle with the Russians across these potato fields. But the civilian population is not being left behind. They also have decided that this moment in their history is critical. They're dividing up into self-defense committees and they say they, too, would join any fight against the Russians, diving into guerilla style groups and fighting the Russians from the forests and the swamps.

Only yesterday at a church just a little bit further along the border, we heard a priest talking to the congregation there, and he said -- he certainly wasn't saying you've got to turn the other cheek if the Russians are coming. He was saying quite the contrary. He said you've got to stand and fight, and I'll be there alongside you.

And just another additional detail, a camp commander here was saying that during the day just along that border line things are quiet, but if tonight when things start to move, he said even from this position 10 miles back he can hear Russian tanks rolling around at night. He said psychological warfare is already underway. Back to you, Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Karl Penhaul along the Ukraine-Russia border, thank you for that report.

Let's take a look at your other headlines right now. Today is the last day of enrollment for Obamacare, sort of. It's giving people who started or had difficulty signing up a little bit of wiggle room. The White House now calling the troubled program a success, touting 6 million enrollees last week and another 2 million visitors to this weekend. The final tally could take weeks to determine.

Search operations get back under way in Washington state more than a week after that devastating mudslide. The death toll has risen to 21 this morning with 30 people still missing. The governor tells CNN that officials will be in an active rescue mode as long as there's any possibility of finding survivors.

More earthquakes in southern California over the weekend. A 5.1 magnitude quake shook Orange County followed by more than 100 aftershocks. The quake also set off a rockslide in a canyon, causing minor injuries to the driver. The latest series of quakes breaks a decades long dry spell of significant seismic activity in southern California. Frightening moments at a Georgia university campus. Police at Columbus State shot and killed a gunman near a student apartment complex. The man reportedly was seen loading a weapon earlier. Police gave chase and the suspect then turned to face officers, and that's when the shots were fired. No one else was injured. Police say the 20-year-old suspect was not a student. The case is now under investigation.

Jurors in the patent dispute trial between Apple and Samsung won't be seeing a recent instruction video about how patents work. On Sunday a U.S. district judge overruled Samsung's objections to showing the video. Samsung claims the video suggests that Apple's products are patentable and innovative. The company recommended showing another video that does not feature products and brands at issue in the trail.

Those are your headlines at the hour. It's nice to see the two of you. We haven't been together in a while.

CUOMO: The family is back together. It feels good.

Coming up on NEW DAY, this morning Malaysian authorities say they know the background of the pilots and they put it out there. So the question is do they have the basis for keeping these two men under a cloud suspicion? We'll talk to a reporter who has done interviews with the pilots' friends, colleagues, and loved ones. What has he learned? You'll find out.

BOLDUAN: And we're going to go inside politics where Bill Clinton has some advice for his fellow Democrats. What he says the party is doing wrong with regard to Obamacare.


CUOMO: Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY. Qualified and experienced -- that's what a Malaysia official is now saying about the men at the helm of Flight 370, adding, quote, "We know our pilots." So far nothing has connected them to the loss of the plane so the question is why do investigators keep focusing on them?

Now, earlier this morning, I spoke with Mark Magnier, he's a "Wall Street Journal" reporter who has taken one of the deepest looks yet at the pilots.


CUOMO: Mark, thank you for joining us. They are still a focus for investigators under this cloud of suspicion, and the question is why? What have you developed? Let's start with the co-pilot, Fariq, obviously younger. This flight was his first flight as a full-fledged co-pilot. What does that mean? What did you learn?

MARK MAGNIER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: The co-pilot, this was -- as you mentioned, this was his first fully unsupervised co-pilot position on the Boeing 777. He emerges as a young guy, there's less that's known about him because his record at the company wasn't too long, who had filled in all the boxes and really wand to fly. CUOMO: So the question comes to motive. With the co-pilot, there doesn't seem to be much there. One incident about him inviting women into the cockpit. Do we care about that? Did that mean anything to you in your reporting?

MAGNIER: One of the things I think to remember on that was that the pilot, whoever he was, and this was not with Captain Zaharie, this incident -- the pilot is always the one that's ultimately in control and has the full authority over the cockpit. And so the pilot also would have allowed this. I -- my own reporting, I don't think this was all that significant.

CUOMO: Yes, so this was an earlier indent. We should dismiss it; it's something that's out there as detail, probably not instructive.

That takes us to the pilot, the senior member, obviously in control, long history with the company. And you developed some interesting looks at him as a person that we haven't heard of before. A sweetness to him, that he had a side business that you should tell us about. People referred to him as a poor man's Tom Cruise for making it in as just one of a dozen out of 5,000 to make it in. What are some of the sweeter sides of his story, as a profile?

MAGNIER: He comes across as a very modest character in some ways. It's a pretty big deal in Malaysia to be a senior pilot with the national carrier. There's still a vestige of this pride of nation building. And he was -- when he would introduce himself at various events, he didn't tell people he was a pilot. And that said quite a bit. He loves to cook; in a part of the world where being the man is often quite important, he would kick his wife out of the kitchen on account and make dinner for everybody.

He's been a bit of a geek, as I think has been fairly well broadcast with his love of technical issues. And he had a bit of a willingness to sing karaoke, humiliate himself almost in front of a number of people.

CUOMO: Now, to main points to cover with him. You just hit on one there. Karaoke. Part of his personality, and also part of the perception of him as a political actor. But you cleared that up somewhat. His political background, the questions about it, actually lead us down the road of karaoke. Tell us how.

MAGNIER: He was kind of nudged to sing with the local M.P. from his district. They performed "Hotel California," the M.P. told me. Horrible rendition, they were pretty bad singers, but he was a fun guy.

He showed up at some of the local political events in early 2013 or late 2012. This -- the sense that I got was that this is a time when you saw a real transition in the Malaysian political context and there were tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of middle class Malaysians looking at the opposition. You had greater polarity in the political process.

And so in the end, I couldn't read too much into that. He was like many, many other people who were looking for an alternative.

CUOMO: And then the last component, of course, is the flight simulator and his activity online. Part of it is completely innocent, him showing people how to save gas with they run their air conditioner. But did you hear anything about the flight simulator, and how it was used or what it might mean that was instructive?

MAGNIER: On the face of it, no. We had a couple of pilots who told us I love to fly, too, but this was slightly off. I think it's just -- on the one hand, we all love our jobs, but to go home and do it as well is sort of interesting. On the other hand, you've had people that said good for him to really, really have found something that he loves that much. It's very hard to get a grip on it, but there was a long history of loving flying from the days of kites and model planes. So it seemed to be just a quirk of his personality.

CUOMO: Married 30 years, hard to find people to speak against him. Creates more questions in a situation that is desperate for answers. Mark Magnier, thank you very much for sharing your "Wall Street Journal" reporting with us this morning.

MAGNIER: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Kate?


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, as the search for Flight 370 intensifies, more family members of the missing passengers have arrived in Malaysia for what's being described as high-level meetings with the government there. But are they getting the answers that they want? And also ahead, inside politics with Russian troops amassing on the border with Ukraine. We're going to look at the brewing fight over how the U.S. react, should act to keep Russia at bay.


PEREIRA: 26 minutes after the hour. Let's take a look at your headlines. Over 1,100 men and women on 20 ships and planes are now searching the Indian Ocean for Flight 370. Orange objects that were spotted turns out to be discarded fishing gear.

Right now, a U.S. Navy ping detector is on an Australian Army warship. It will be used in the search zone. It should be there by mid week. Time is running short, though, to find the black box. Its battery shelf life expires in the next few days.

North and South Korea exchanging artillery fire at sea overnight, signaling a new level of tension between these two nations. The North was connecting live military drills near the maritime border when some of its shells landed in the South's territorial waters. The South responded with artillery fire. The North also warning it might conduct a new nuclear test soon.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer demanding a federal review of security at the World Trade Center. This comes after daredevils snuck to the top of the 140-storey skyscraper twice. To make matters worse, a newspaper published a picture of a World Trade Center guard sleeping on the job. The Port Authority insists it has taken significant steps to tighten things up and is inviting federal officials to tour the site once again.

The Secret Service pouncing on a man they say climbed over the White House fence. He's now facing charges this morning. He was arrested on the North Lawn. This incident sent the White House into lockdown for a short time yesterday. Last month, a man was arrested after he tried to scale the same side of the fence.

Have you seen "Frozen"? Well, it shows no signs of cooling at the box office. It's now the highest grossing animated film ever, with a total take of $1.1 billion after opening in Japan this weekend. "Frozen" surpassed "Toy Story", which had held the top spot since 2010.

I'm thinking of having like a kidlet kind of weekend. I'm going to see "The Muppets" and "Frozen". It won't look weird, right?

CUOMO: I have seen that movie.

BOLDUAN: How many times?

CUOMO: Eight times.

PEREIRA: You know the lyrics to the songs.

BOLDUAN: I don't even have kiddies yet, but I will tell you, I was with some kiddies this weekend and I have, in permanent rotation in my head, a couple of those songs now.

CUOMO: I've seen it so much, that the kids are so addicted to it --

BOLDUAN: They're going to call you Prince Hans now?

CUOMO: -- that Olaf is the snowman in it? I now don't like snowmen because of the movie. I'm so oversaturated.


CUOMO: Every time they see it, they love it more. I don't know what it is about it.

BOLDUAN: Let's ask another daddy. Let's ask our John King for some "INSIDE POLITICS". I'm not going to ask you the politics of "Frozen", but is "Frozen" on rotation yet at your household?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. Eight times Mr. Cuomo has seen this movie?

CUOMO: Yes and I'm going low on that, JK.


KING: Well then even though he roots for the wrong team, he is as grateful as me that it is Opening Day then, if you've seen "Frozen" eight times. He's ready to move on. Even though, again, he roots for the wrong team.

CUOMO: Notice the pin stripes, my brother.

KING: No, no, world champion Boston Red Sox. Back to you guys in just a couple minutes.

Driving our day INSIDE POLITICS, Not just Opening Day, of course it's big deadline day for Obamacare. The president's healthcare plan, tonight is the deadline to enroll or else you'll face penalties.

With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of the Associated Press, Manu Raju of Politico.

Let's get right to this. The administration says, hey, OK, we messed up the roll-out. And I do want to say if you log on to right now, you might not get on. They're having maintenance issues. You see this here? Some of us have tried and got on. I tried a half dozen times in my office, three times I got, three times I didn't.