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MH370 Families Denied Request for Communications Recordings; MH370 Search Teams Face Harsh Conditions; Answering Viewer Questions on MH370.

Aired April 4, 2014 - 11:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Confusion and frustration on board for the families on flight 370. The roller coaster of emotion just took another turn. CNN has learned that authorities denied their request for recordings of communications between the cockpit and control tower. Not even the pilot's families are going to get to hear these communications.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Sara Sidner is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and psychiatrist, Gail Saltz, is back with us.

Sara, we will start with you.

What is the reasoning the families are being given that these recordings, they are not allowed to listen to them? They are being kept under wraps.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Department of Civil Aviation tells them, it is a part of the ongoing investigation. They are not finished. They are not going to hand those audio recorders over. Interesting to note why the families are so frustrated. Number one, they feel like all these discrepancies are absolutely creating a trust deficit. They don't believe what they hear verbally from the authorities. They want to hear it and see the evidence for themselves. They have already released the actual transcripts. They just haven't released the audio recorders and some of the family members are saying, why aren't you releasing those recordings. You must be hiding something. The government says, no, this is part of the investigation. They may get to cease these eventually.

But it is interesting to note, so many things have changed, little details. Basically, they have said, look, they have changed what they heard. The last communication from what they believe was the pilots. First, they insisted it was, "All right, good night." We all looked at the transcript. It turned out it was, "Good night, Malaysian 370." Then, they talked about the co-pilot saying that. For many weeks they have said they think it was the co-pilot. Now, they are saying they are not sure. So the families again, that trust deficit is growing. They simply feel like if they don't see it on paper or hear it for themselves, they simply can't believe it.

BERMAN: Gail, the families have now seen it on paper. Seemingly, nothing out of the ordinary in the transcript, granted, we got that transcript very late. It was contradictory to what we heard before. Why do you think it is so important for these families to hear the words?

GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST & PSYCHOANALYST: They are looking for answers. It is to some degree of fantasy that they will hear something in the voice or see something that someone missed. Somehow that will give them insight into what had happened. They are grieving. When you are grieving and you partially want to deny what has happened, you are looking for what is the story line that will say they are somewhere else. They are somewhere safe.

PEREIRA: We have seen such raw emotion coming out of some of the briefings when they have been in front of the cameras and they picked up scene. It is interesting what Sara was saying, some of the families feel like something is being hidden from them. Any absence of fact, our brain will start inventing all of these theories and paranoias. That's understandable.

SALTZ: It is completely understandable. It is more understandable today. Let's face it, lots of countries are feeling questionable about their governments, about big institutions. Are they being lied to? I think that's become -- with our global world, people hear about scandal and controversy and lies all over the world. So I think that feeds the idea.


PEREIRA: And social media.

BERMAN: Right.

PEREIRA: People are hearing the theories and questions --

SALTZ: Exactly.

PEREIRA: -- and I'm sure some of the families are seeing that.

SALTZ: They are. And they are in a state of grief, which is somewhat an altered state of consciousness. They are exposed to complicated grief. It was a sudden, unexpected loss without closure.

BERMAN: It is understandable why they are so angry, even justifiable. This question at this point, 28 days in, is it productive for them in their healing process?

SALTZ: You know, the old Kubla Ross (ph), the stages of grief, anger is -- denial and anger is one of them. It is not a great place to land and stay. You hope for them, they will be able to move on to acceptance, which is a place where they can then get on with their lives. Staying in this angry, blameful -- they want someone to blame. There is no one to blame. They are angry they are not hearing the tapes. They are angry they have lost their loved ones. They can't turn back.

PEREIRA: You hope they have that right kind of support. People progress through it differently. You don't need to be forced. SALTZ: Everybody involved is in the same place. It depends on your psychological background, how much trauma you have had. So individual people may need more assistance to be able to resolve enough to move forward.

BERMAN: Great to have you here, Gail Saltz. Excellent discussion.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

And don't forget, you can tweet us some questions. We are going to bring back our experts to talk about the ongoing search, the investigation, #370qs. We also on Facebook, /@thishour.

Ahead, a racing legend in a coma for more than three months. Today, we learned why Michael Schumacher's family and friends are not giving up hope.


PEREIRA: It's time to catch up with headlines happening @ THIS HOUR.

Millions of Americans from Nashville to Atlanta are facing the threat of severe weather. You may be experiencing it already Powerful wind and rainstorms make their way east, all while people across Texas and Missouri are trying to clean up. After multiple tornadoes touch down yesterday destroying cars and trees, homes. No known fatalities. Rain and hail slammed cities causing severe damage.

BERMAN: Speaking of baseball, was it wrong for Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy, to miss two games to be there for the birth of his first son? Some people think so, including Boomer Esiason, former football star, now radio host and father of two. He called out Daniel Murphy on his radio show saying the new father and his wife should have planned a C-section for when he wasn't playing. Listen to what Boomer first said.


BOOMER ESIASON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Bottom me, that's not me. I wouldn't have done that. I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day. This is what makes our money. This is how we are going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I will be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to, because I'm a baseball player.


BERMAN: This set off a firestorm to say the least.

PEREIRA: Oh, yeah, it did.

BERMAN: Comments like that only times a billion. But Boomer Esiason took to the radio and apologized profusely, I mean, profusely. I do not think this conversation is over.

For their part, we should say, Major League Baseball does allow players to miss three games for paternity.

PEREIRA: As they should.

BERMAN: Indeed.

PEREIRA: An update for you on Formula One champ, Michael Schumacher. He was in a devastating ski accident just after Christmas and has been in a medically-induced comma. His agent says the racing icon has moments of consciousness and is awakening and making progress. But last week, a doctor says, the longer it goes on, the slimmer the chance of recovery. Schumacher hit his head on a rock while he was skiing in the French Alps.

BERMAN: Another change in the works for late-night television in case you have been living under a rock. Let me be the first to tell you, David Letterman is retiring. The 66-year-old television legend didn't say when he would step down from "Late Night" on CBS, only it will be some time next year. No word on who will take that spot.

PEREIRA: End of an era.

BERMAN: It is the end of an era.

And in other television news, meet Ryan Nurse. Be very nice to him. He is the first ever chief cannabis correspondent. This is according to "Variety" who reported the Fusion TV Network hired the author/journalist to cover pot's growing market and its culture. I like the idea he is the chief cannabis correspondent, implying there could be many, many others.

PEREIRA: And who thought all the good jobs were taken.


BERMAN: Right.

Here's a sad reality. Some farm workers cannot afford to buy fruits and vegetables that are all around them.

PEREIRA: This week's "CNN Hero" chooses to live in one of California's most impoverished communities and is working to bring health and wellness to the people that most need it.


SARAH RAMIREZ, CNN HERO: Pixley is a small community located in central California. We are in this agricultural rich area. Yet, people who live here and work here are hungry, are impoverished. Some are working in the fields that feed the entire country and they don't have the resources to support them in their health. It is heartbreaking. I can't just watch that and not wonder, is there something more that we could do?

What we do, we gleam mostly from backyards. Today, we are looking at a glean of about 6400 pounds. That's incredible. My husband and I grew up in Pixley. My parents worked in the field. I had family members that died at very young ages due to chronic diseases like diabetes.

For those of you that are high school students --

Looking at these issues of poverty and obesity, we are deciding how do we provide our resources for our community and home?

We also have a component in our garden that is a U-pick area. Some fruits and vegetables.

We really try to teach how to use what we are growing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peach and cucumber, wow.

RAMIREZ: I want to grow old and I want to grow old in a healthy way. I want that for everybody.


PEREIRA: That a girl, Sarah. Great work.

This year, Ramirez and her group have already donated more than 20,000 pounds to produce to those in need.

BERMAN: That's wonderful.

Each week, we honor a new "CNN Hero," a person making a big, big difference. If you want to get in, this is how you do it.

PEREIRA: Let me tell you, John, go to if you would like to nominate someone you know who is doing great work. It is going to be hard. You can do it.

BERMAN: Ahead for us @ THIS HOUR, the search is using incredible sophisticated equipment to look for flight data recorder from flight 370. They're hoping they can hear a tiny little ping from deep, deep under the ocean. Is this hope realistic? Details next.


BERMAN: Four weeks after Malaysian flight 370 disappeared, the search now focused below the surface. The pinger locator trying to pick up the chirps from the missing jet's flight data recorders. The locator can detect the sound from up to two nautical miles away. It can look for them around the clock with no break.

PEREIRA: This is assuming the beacons are still emitting a signal at all. The batteries could be dead or it could be malfunctioning. There is also aiding in the search an underwater robot ready to search the seabed for wreckage if the ping locator picks up a signal. But there is a chance they could be looking in the wrong area. Right now, searchers are making educated guesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: We have not searched everywhere where the aircraft might have gone. We are concentrating in an area that has been developed as a consequence of the analyses.


PEREIRA: Above the surface, meanwhile, 14 planes in the air, nine ships in the water searching the area some thousand miles off the coast of Western Australia.

BERMAN: CNN's Will Ripley is near Perth. He has more on the conditions being faced by these teams.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After a day of clear weather, we are now starting to see some light rain just off the coast of Western Australia. And the weather, about 1,000 miles from here in the search zone, we're told, has been similar. Relatively calm seas, which was good for search crews today, because they weren't distracted by those white caps on the waves. White caps that can easily be mistaken for possible debris floating in the water.

Even though the visual search is now over for the day and these planes from a number of different countries are flying back to Peers Air Base (ph) in Perth, we know the underwater search, the SONAR is going to be active 24/7. The U.S. Navy towed pinger locater behind the "Ocean Shield" is going to be functioning 24/7, underwater listening for any signal from the in-flight data recorder from flight 370.

But the problem is, with all that sophisticated technology, the TPL, the submarine in place, and then the ship that's using SONAR equipment as well, all that technology is just fine, but it needs a more narrow search area than what we have right now. The search area needs to be about 100 times smaller for this technology to effectively locate possible debris. And those are answers that we simply don't have right now.


BERMAN: Will Ripley, off the coast of Perth in Australia.

PEREIRA: Ahead @ THIS HOUR, our viewers have been tweeting. You, the viewers, tweeting questions about the missing plane. We'll put those questions to our experts to answer right after the break.


BERMAN: So much unknown in the search for flight 370. And a lot of you tweeting us questions.

PEREIRA: Our experts, Jeff Wise and Mary Schiavo, are back here to answer them.

Mary, want to start with you. Before we get to those questions from our viewers, we know today that the news was that families were denied their request to hear the recordings from the cockpit to the air traffic control. They really wanted to hear those voices for themselves. They were denied that request. I want you to answer if that is standard operating procedure and investigation. And also I know that you feel that oftentimes the families can aid in recognizing voices on those recordings.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST & FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: That's right. It's not standard operating procedure. And, in fact, the United States, air traffic control tapes and correspondents are considered public record. They're released right away. In fact, you can apply the Freedom of Information Act and get them. It's the cockpit voice recording that the actual voices are protected. And it takes a court order to use those in court. But the transcript on the CDR only is released. And yes, it's very important for people to listen. There are experts that make their living by interpreting what's on those tapes. Many times, the public can hear. And by the way, the pilot and co-pilot's family would be able to identify their voices so there wouldn't be any mystery.

BERMAN: Jeff, we'll turn now to questions we're getting from viewers. This is one a lot of people are asking. If the plane went down in the water, why didn't the ELT, saltwater emergency beacons, why did they not activate and signal the plane's position? This plane, we think, had at least two of them.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST & FORMER PILOT: Well, you know, the problem is that in many, many cases, these things just don't work. And they should, but the fact that there is no evidence doesn't mean there is an absence of evidence. Or I should say an absence of evidence is not an evidence of absence. So they just often are unreliable. Might be as simple as that. It was broken.

PEREIRA: I think you want to take executive privilege --


BERMAN: That is my executive privilege. You took executive, executive privilege.

PEREIRA: OK. I didn't know my executive usurped.

Back to Twitter. Mary, a lot of people are wondering why not every resource was scam belled immediately. If you were asked, when the plane first turned around, why didn't they scramble a few jets? It was on military radar.

SCHIAVO: Well, people might be surprised to know after September 11, 2001, that pretty much every day some plane strays off course. People go astray. It's private planes, get lost, if you will. They put the wrong frequency in and people can't reach them. It happens all of the time. And we don't -- very rarely do we or other nations scramble jets, because most of the time it's just somebody literally lost in the hertz or messing up. BERMAN: Well, scrambling jets is one thing, Jeff, but this seems to be one of the biggest missed opportunities in this whole mystery, which is why didn't Malaysia first act when they saw this actual radar blip tracking across their screen. Why didn't Thailand act when they saw this blip tracking across their screen? And then, of course, the whole question of Indonesia. We don't know what they saw or didn't see, because they're not telling anybody. But they certainly didn't take action if they did see something.

WISE: Right. No matter where the plane went, there are at least four countries that it traversed their military radar system. And it's not like these people aren't watching their radars. In 2012, an American flying a private plane, who was sort of bumbling about in Indonesia, he got intercepted by two Sucoy (ph) jets. So they do take their air space seriously. They are able to detect these things.

BERMAN: I've had people ask on Twitter, are the Malaysians embarrassed, Mary? Do you think they're hiding something because they're simply embarrassed they didn't react more quickly to these signs?

SCHIAVO: Oh, I think so. I think they're probably embarrassed. And they're concerned that the world may not think that they're on top of it or that they're vulnerable. And besides, now that we have all the discussion whether or not this is a criminal act, and we have no evidence that it is, but, you know, then the nations have to be wary of copy cats. And what -- and people who want to emulate and people might think, hmmm, that's an interesting plan. So the first -- the first event is, you know, an eye-opener, but the second event are people out there who want to do a me-too.

PEREIRA: Yeah. A me-too.

Really quickly, Mary, we've talked about this, about compensation, families will receive. They wanted to know, one of the viewers wanted to know if the same rates would apply regardless of the deceased nationality. Does it depend, nation to nation?

SCHIAVO: Well, there are a lot of different variations on that rule. And sometimes it depends where the plane goes down. For example, in the United States, if it goes down in Virginia, they apply the law of Virginia. If it goes down in New York, they apply the law of the place of residence. Usually, on an international flight, it's where the person resided and sometimes where the plane crashed. And that's kind of the rule of thumb. So if one nation is generous and that's where they reside, they will have far more generous compensation. And it does depend on how much you make, who you support, you know, the circumstances of your family.

BERMAN: Mary Schiavo, Jeff Wise, thank for answer our questions as well as viewer questions. Always interesting to hear what people are asking.

PEREIRA: And thank you to you for participating in this conversation with us.

Thank you for joining us also @ THIS HOUR. I'm Michaela Pereira. Have a great weekend.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.

Can we do the bump thing?


PEREIRA: Oh, I see how that is.