Return to Transcripts main page


Flight 370 Search Going Underwater; Pinger Locator Deployed in Indian Ocean; New Details on Deadly Fort Hood Shooting; Will Obama's Big Week Help Democrats

Aired April 4, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, the hunt for Malaysia Flight 370 goes underwater. An urgent race against time to find the plane's black boxes, even as the air search is about to resume. Why are officials keeping secret the audio recording of the conversations between the cockpit and ground controllers? Even the families aren't allowed to listen.

And new details on the bloody rampage at Fort Hood as investigators are scrambling to learn why the shooter attacked fellow soldiers. We have new information on the hunt for a motive.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Exactly four weeks after Flight 370 disappeared, there's now a major turn in the search. Here are the latest developments.

The search is now going underwater. An Australian vessel is towing an American pinger locator, which is listening for the airliner's black- box signals thousands of feet below the surface. A British ship is using its sensor devices in the same area.

Without knowing where to listen, this is a big roll of the dice, and there's another huge problem. The batteries powering the black-box pingers are due to run out in a few days, but the manufacturer now tells CNN those batteries were never returned for maintenance, and they actually may already be dead.

Aircraft are getting ready for another urgent day of searching. If they can spot debris, the pinger locators could narrow the hunt for the airliner's recordings.

Our analysts and our reporters, they're all standing by in the United States and around the world with the kind of special coverage that only CNN can deliver.

Let's go to Perth, Australia, and begin with CNN's Kyung Lah. She's got the very latest on the search -- Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, normally at this time in the morning, we're talking -- at least morning, Australia time -- we're talking about awaiting the search to begin, but the search is underway right now. It is happening under the water. There are two pinger locators. There is one from the U.S. Navy being towed by the Ocean Shield, and there's another by a British ship, the HMS Echo. And they're starting at one end, either end of a 150-mile track, and then they're going to converge upon each other and meet.

It is frustratingly slow. They move three miles per hour. The U.S. Navy says that, if there is a ping, they can hear it up to 20,000 feet away. It's extremely effective if they are in the right debris area. So, are they there? The U.S. Navy captain who's in charge of this says it is a shot in the dark.

So this is adding to the search capability. The air search is set to begin in about one hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Kyung, the families, they are increasingly angry and frustrated that Malaysia, the government there isn't sharing information they want.

LAH: What they really want is to hear the audio of -- whether it's the pilot or the co-pilot, saying those final words -- they want to hear the audio. They want to hear what that man said, and they weren't allowed to listen to it.

So we spoke to the partner of passenger Phillip Wood. She sent us an e-mail statement. And take a look at the statement.

She writes, "It is impossible that this relatively sophisticated military power didn't see it. They are clearly hiding something. We just don't know what."

She's talking about how the plane flew over Malaysia; nobody saw it. She says that they are not releasing this audio. It is making them increasingly angry. And she also points out, Wolf, that the Malaysian families, yes, they feel the same as the Chinese. They may not be as vocal, but the sentiment is the same. People are angry, and they want more information.

BLITZER: They certainly do. Kyung Lah in Perth, Australia, for us. Thank you.

Let's bring in CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien, plus, CNN aviation analyst and former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz, along with CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes.

Well, Tom, do you think that they are hiding something, as we just heard the Malaysian authorities, from these families?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I don't know, Wolf. I don't know what you would normally be hiding from that broadcast. It's one thing the voice recorders from inside the cockpit, you would have everything that went on in that airplane in the cockpit. But this is the ground controllers talking to either the captain or the co-pilot as the plane was leaving for takeoff and then during the short time it was in the air on their radar, let's say. I don't know what they could be hiding in that. BLITZER: You can't blame them, Peter, these families for being so frustrated and angry right now. They just want a few simple things. Let us hear the audio. Let us know what was in the cargo. These are not complicated issues.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No, they're not. And historically, the FAA releases these tapes within days of an accident. And, you know, the voice recorder, that's more restricted. You don't get access to that. But the tower tapes, let them hear it. What's the issue? These families themselves have suffered through 30 days of mismanagement. Try and make it right.

BLITZER: And you know, Miles, these families, a lot of them are hoping against hope that their loved ones may still be alive. They're hearing all these rumors out there on the Internet, and they don't have any confidence left, I suspect, in the Malaysian authorities. Is that your sense?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. I think this is about confidence and a sense of understanding that the investigation is going in the right direction and is -- has some basic expertise at the core of it. You know, I wonder if there is something on that recording, which might be very key to the investigation.

You know, a couple of things that come to mind, if there is, for example, a voltage change on the aircraft, that can be detected in the transmission, the radio transmission. That might be something that might be important. Was there sort of an abrupt communication that ended? We were given a transcript, but are there parts of that transcript that have been redacted? Maybe they gave it out just to try to satisfy the families and the media, for that matter.

There could be some things on there they're trying to hold back that have nothing to do with the investigation. Maybe the controller -- it's evident the controller was asleep at the switch and they're protecting the controller.

So I'm not being an apologist for the investigation. I would love to hear these tapes. But there are some reasons, perhaps, that they're holding back.

BLITZER: You accept that, Peter?

GOELZ: Sure. But then you say that. I mean, the issue is, here, maybe there's another voice in the cockpit that is overheard during one of the transmissions. Maybe you hear the cockpit door opening during one of the transmissions. But you would say that. You'd say this -- there is something on this tape that we're examining.

But they've lost the confidence in the investigators from early on. This is not the way to recapture it.

BLITZER: But is there a legitimate reason -- and they can say, look, this would compromise sources and classified information. There's an ongoing investigation. We're narrowing it in. Presumably, there could be some legitimate reason other than the fact that maybe they're incompetent.

FUENTES: There could be a legitimate reason in terms of the investigation. The problem is that this many days into it, they don't have the credibility. They're not going to be given the benefit of the doubt by the families or worldwide media because of all times of the past. They've either withheld information or changed it on the fly. And that's why now whatever they say is not going to be believed unless they produce it.

BLITZER: The new development -- the new development now, Peter, in the last 24 hours, now they are underwater with sophisticated sonar and other devices. They're trying to determine if they can hear that ping from the black boxes.

But as we've been saying all along, they're not even -- they're looking for a needle in the haystack, but they're not even sure they found the haystack?

GOELZ: Exactly. We've said this from day one. This is extraordinarily difficult, months, perhaps years, dropping it into the water, and unless they have some classified information that says this is the spot, really it just smacks of desperation. It's tough.

BLITZER: And is there any reason why they can't release the cargo manifest, what was in the belly of that plane?

GOELZ: I have no idea. That should be another thing. And it's not just what was in the plane, what part of the storage area of the plane was it put in is another issue.

BLITZER: What do you think, Miles, about that? Because the families want to know what was in the cargo.

O'BRIEN: The report said the lithium batteries, of course, are the thing that come right up to mind when we think about this. Supposedly, as much as 450 pounds. The Malaysians have indicated that they were packed according to IKO standards. These sort of batteries do not fly in the cargo hold below passenger aircraft in the United States.

So it's -- you know, we've seen some serious fires with these lithium batteries on the 787. They burn hot, and they burn furiously, and there's a lot of fire suppression on these aircraft, but it can cause a lot of problems, up to and including electrical failures, which could knockout communication, perhaps depressurization. There is a scenario you can build based on that notion. So why not lay that out on the table so we can get some understanding.

BLITZER: Have you ever seen, Miles, an investigation into -- an aviation disaster investigation, exactly four weeks into it right now, and obviously everyone knows so little?

O'BRIEN: Four weeks in, and basically have about two or three facts, Wolf, that are really out there and verified by the authorities themselves. It's extraordinary. Completely unprecedented and on so many levels. BLITZER: Have you ever seen anything like this, Peter?

GOELZ: No. Never in my life. And not -- you know, it's just -- as Miles said, it's extraordinary. And they haven't handled it well.

BLITZER: And you worked in the NTSB for a long time, so you're very familiar with all U.S. investigations of aviation disaster.

GOELZ: And we've had tough investigations. Some of the investigations went on for four years, but you pass out information. You identify it as factual. You keep the families informed, and they trust you.

BLITZER: Have you seen anything like this before?

FUENTES: No. But we've had so many of these over the years that we've been able to refine the way it's investigated, the way it's reported in the media, you know, what should be released to the public as soon as possible.

You know, part of the -- part of the, I guess the excellence in the way we might conduct something like that is also based on bad experience over the years. They've not had that benefit. But they have had the benefit to be able to learn from other countries like the U.S., like Great Britain, like the French, and maybe that's been part of the problem, is not taking the advice of people who really have been through this and there's a reason why we do it the way we do it.

BLITZER: And I think everyone is going to learn major lessons from this experience moving forward so we don't have to endure this kind of disaster again down the road. All right, guys. Stand by.

Up next, as the search goes underwater now for the first time, planes are getting ready to resume the aerial search for any traces of Flight 370. I'll talk with one of the commanders of the operation. He's standing by.

And new details on the Fort Hood shootings. As investigators look for a motive, we're learning more about what may have set off the deadly rampage.


BLITZER: As the search goes underwater now for the first time, the aircraft are also getting ready to resume the hunt for debris from Flight 370. Let's get the very latest on the operation.

Joining us on the phone is Air Commander Kevin McEvoy of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Commander, thanks very much for coming in. Any strong leads today? Any progress, as far as you can tell?

AIR COMMANDER KEVIN MCEVOY, ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE: Good evening, Wolf. The search has another eight aircraft going up, day 29 today. Eight nations, 16 aircraft, 600 people, including ships involved in this. So it certainly is a big effort. But the efforts yesterday still had nothing of significance to report in terms of finding the aircraft.

BLITZER: And the underwater search, obviously, they're looking at what they suspect could be an area of interest. How confident are you, Commander, that they're even looking in the right place?

MCEVOY: Well, I've certainly had some returns in terms of radar and sonar, in terms from the underwater effort, but yesterday we went out and dropped some further self-locating markers, which seems to be GPS. Those will be used over the coming days for modeling, because obviously, the sea currents will carry those things. They'll be used to model and best articulate where the next day's search is. So it continues to evolve.

Do you still believe, Commander, you will find something on the surface of the Indian Ocean?

MCEVOY: New Zealand, our aircraft have been recently upgraded, and people are well-trained and motivated, as are all of the other nations. We're certainly doing our upmost to help with the recovery effort.

If there is something on the surface, I'm very confident that we will find it, but it's just a matter of making sure that we're in the right area, at the right time, in the right weather conditions. So all of the planets need to align. So we're really confident that if there is something there we'll find it, but we've still got a long way to go.

BLITZER: The last time you used an actual satellite image to try to pinpoint something, when did that occur and how effective, if at all, was it?

MCEVOY: I haven't engaged in the recent satellite imagery stuff, but I know that those are being used by the coordinating authorities in Australia along with a number of other means in terms of underwater routines from the ships and the submarine on the -- in the several area for all of the aircraft. The authorities are using every available method to try and make sure that we can locate this aircraft.

BLITZER: Tell us, Commander, why the search zone, the area you suspect this plane could be located, keeps shifting, sometimes by hundreds of miles.

MCEVOY: Well, one of the main things is just the sea currents themselves. We've essentially dropped the locator buoys yesterday to help assist in the recovery to make sure that we are searching in the right area.

It's obviously a very large area for a start with a lot of uncertainty in it and as each day goes along -- this is day 29 of the search -- that search area can actually get bigger. So we're using other means, as you said before, satellite imagery and all the other means available to us to make sure that we're actually locating this thing. BLITZER: Have you ever seen a situation like this, Commander, 29 days into the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, and all of a sudden -- all of a sudden there's nothing, really? There are 239 people missing, a huge Boeing triple-7 missing. Have you ever seen anything like this without a trace?

MCEVOY: Certainly, it's unprecedented in my career. I've never been involved in a search that's gone on that long. But I've also never been involved in a search that was actually this remote. I mean, it takes three hours to fly from Perth. We're getting around 4, 4 1/2 hours in the search area and then another three hours back. So it's a very long day for all of the crews involved.

But I can assure you that everyone is doing their utmost to find this plane. It's an amazing effort. Eight nations all working together, and cooperation on all sides (ph). It's great to see. And we're very confident, if we see something there on the surface, that we'll go pick it up.

BLITZER: Air Commander Kevin McEvoy, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, good luck to you, to all of the men and women who work as part of this major multinational search effort. Thank you.

Coming up, the pinger locators had good success in the past, but the underwater search for Flight 370's recorders is still a roll of the dice. We're going to show you why.

And did a routine request for paperwork set off a chain of events leading to the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas? We have new details on the investigation.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The search for Flight 370 has now gone underwater. There's a race against time to find the plane's black boxes before the batteries on their signal beacons die. So even as air crews get ready to take off in an urgent search for debris, an American device is now listening below the surface of the Indian Ocean for those all- important signals.

CNN's Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's got more details on this enormously complicated venture.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is, Wolf. You know, the batteries on that pinger were sent signals from this black box, are expected to run out within days, if they haven't already.

The towed pinger locator, as Wolf said, is now underwater actively searching on a 24/7 schedule for those signals. The pinger locator is a sophisticated device. But some say right now, given how little information there is on the plane's location, too much is being asked of that technology.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): It can descend 20,000 feet below the surface to detect this sound coming from the black box's pinger from two nautical miles away.

But experts say deploying the towed pinger locator right now is a "hail Mary" pass.

ROB MCCALLUM, OCEAN SEARCH SPECIALIST: We're asking a big, big ask. You know, it was never designed to do this.

TODD: Officials at Phoenix International, the manufacturers of the pinger locator, agree that these conditions are far from ideal. To be effective, it needs a starting point, a confirmed piece of wreckage from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

(on camera): If they haven't found debris, is it pointless to use this?

PAUL NELSON, PROJECT MANAGER, PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL: Your question of pointless is not a good description. It is very, very difficult if they have not found debris to even know where to start.

TODD (voice-over): The pinger locator's limitations: it's passive. It listens for signals from the pinger. It doesn't send out signals to pick them up. Obstructions like underwater hills or mountains can impede it.

NELSON: Weather is a big factor. If the boat is doing this on the ocean waves, now you're attached to an umbilical to this thing, so this thing goes up and down, and it's much less stable in the water.

TODD: The first towed pinger locator was designed in 1976. In the last 18 years it's been used four times in major commercial air crashes.

In 2009, it passed right over the black box from Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic and failed to find the pinger. The manufacturer says that's because the pinger had broken off from the black box. It may have been damaged.

But in three other cases, success. A 1996 Bergen (ph) air crash in the Caribbean. The Egypt Air crash in the Atlantic in 1999 and the 2007 of an Adam Air jet off Indonesia. The black boxes were found, but the search areas were relatively small. Malaysia Air is the fifth attempt, and it's still a long shot.

MCCALLUM: We've got nothing to lose. It's certainly got a better shot out on the Indian Ocean than it has alongside the dock in Perth.


TODD: And we have this just in from the Airline Pilots Association, main union for the airline pilots. They are calling for stronger pingers to be used, better emergency transmitters and that kind of equipment. That's a very strong signal from the Airline Pilots Association as it relates to this case. And today we just got another vote of confidence on the towed pinger locator, of course, from the manufacturer, expressing total confidence in that device. He said if that pinger is still working, if they are searching in the right area, they'll find it. He said the pinger's -- the pinger locator's track record speaks for itself, Wolf.

BLITZER: The -- the locators have been successful in finding pingers in military crashes, right?

TODD: That's right. And one very prominent one. The manufacturer actually says that there's been several instances where it's found military planes because of its success record there.

In one very prominent one, in 1997, a U.S. and a German plane collided off the coast of Africa. Dozens were killed in that accident. The towed pinger locator found that pinger in that case, in a lot of instances in military.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks very much.

Let's bring in CNN's Richard Quest right now, along with Colleen Keller, a senior analyst at Metron Inc., a defense contractor who helped in the search for Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic back in 2009.

Colleen, you were brought in after they basically gave up. It still took two years to find those flight data recorders, cockpit voice recorders. You came in and came up with some new strategy and helped them. Here's the question. What do -- if you were brought into this current search, what would you do?

COLLEEN KELLER, SENIOR ANALYST, METRON INC.: Well, Wolf, we're just raring to go on this search. What we would do, the first thing we have to do is look at all the data they have and estimate the uncertainties in the data. We're talking going back to the satellite and the radar and the endurance calculations and you can lay all that out on the map and tell them -- validate for them that they're looking in the right spot, existing right now.

And then on top of that, we would start accounting for their searches. Every time they do a search and don't find something, that's very good information.

And from my experience in the Air France search investigation, the surface searches were not very well documented. We got pretty conflicting and vague information about where they looked. And so it was very difficult to use that.

It's critical right now to preserve the information they've got documenting their search efforts so that we could pick this up as a cold case and keep looking into it.

BLITZER: Richard, is it worth using the sophisticated and expensive pinger locator, if you will, under this -- under the water without any really strong lead where they're looking? RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: The best answer I can give you is from that last report. It may not be doing much good but it's doing more good than if it was sitting against the harbor in Perth. Unless they've got some very strong evidence and, frankly, they haven't told us, which would be a bit of a disgrace.

If they were sitting on some very strong evidence that they believed it was there and they deployed the pingers because of that and they are just going about this without letting the public know, I think that would be nothing short of scandalous at this point. There are families that want to know. The public wants to know. The traveling public wants to know.

So I -- we have to assume, Wolf, that they're doing this because it's better than just leaving it tied up alongside.

BLITZER: Given the fact that those batteries will run out in the few days, maybe three, four, five, six days, tops, if you will, Colleen, what are the chances of finding those black boxes in the next few days given the fact that they are just randomly searching.

COLLEEN KELLER, SENIOR ANALYST, METRON INC.: Well, Wolf, you can't fish if you don't put your bait in the water, just like Richard said. The pinger locators are not doing anything if they are not in the water listening. So it doesn't hurt but it would sure be nice to be putting them in the water where we know they have a higher probability of detecting something.

But we need to keep remembering that we found the Air France wreck without the benefit of the pinger locator. So it's still possible to do that. I mean, if you have lots of time and lots of money, you can map the whole bottom of that part of the ocean and if it's there, you'll see it, more or less. So, you know, it can be done. It's just inefficient and that's the problem here, is will they run out of money or will they run out of time before they find it?

BLITZER: But, Colleen, so much of that water, so much of that surface underneath the water there, the bottom of the Indian Ocean has never been mapped to begin with.

KELLER: Well, I guess we'll be getting maps when we do it this time, Wolf. That's the best thing I can say. I mean, it's possible to map it. It's just a matter of, do you have the will to do so.

BLITZER: Once the black box batteries, Richard, are dead what do they do then?

QUEST: Well, I think what they do then is continue what they've been doing. They have been working one step ahead. They've not been relying on finding the black box because of the pinger, nice or desirable though that would be.

My feeling here, Wolf, is that they are already looking -- what we know for a fact that the Malaysians have said that they are looking at if they don't find the black boxes and if they don't find the wreckage but the minister didn't want to speculate or talk about what plan B was.

My guess is plan B is a regrouping of the entire operation to review, as Colleen says, review the science, review the search, review the locations and then plan for the next time when they would go out, which would probably be next year. But we're still some way off that.

BLITZER: If they do a complete review, a regrouping, as Richard says, Colleen, how surprised would you be if in this kind of reassessment, complete technical, the satellite data, the radar data, everything else, where they've looked, how surprised would you be if we learn at that point, you know what, we're looking at a totally wrong area, it's someplace else, would that shock you?

KELLER: No, actually, it wouldn't shock me at all. I can point to other searches, notably the search for Steve Fawcett, that they had the right data and they were looking in the wrong state, and if they'd gone back and re-look at all the data carefully, they might have revisited the site where they actually found him eventually.

So these things happen, you know, we might be sitting on a piece of information that would lead us to the correct spot and it's going to take a careful review of everything after all the dust has settled in this and we've given up looking for the pingers to figure that out.

BLITZER: Colleen Keller, Richard Quest, guys, you've been very, very helpful to us and to all of our viewers. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

We're going to continue our coverage of the search for Malaysian Flight 370 but there's other breaking news emerging right now out of the Fort Hood shooting. CNN has learned the gunman started stockpiling ammunition weeks ago. We have new details from the investigation. That's coming up.


BLITZER: We're going to continue our special coverage of the search for Flight 370 in just a few moments but there's breaking news we're following right now about the bloody shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in which a gunman killed three people and wounded 16 others before turning his weapon on himself. Officials now say the shooting may have been triggered by an argument.

Let's go live to our CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown. She's at Fort Hood with the very latest -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, military officials confirming today there was an argument that escalated between Lopez and another soldier in the moments right before the shooting happened. Officials believe that was the impetus that caused Lopez to snap and we're learning more about this altercation from the father of one of the victims who says it all started over a leave request form.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BROWN (voice-over): CNN has learned in the weeks before his deadly rampage at Fort Hood, Army Specialist Ivan Lopez was creating a stockpile of ammunition. Sources say when Lopez bought his .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun at this store, Guns Galore in Killeen, Texas, on March 1st, he also purchased what one source calls a large amount of ammunition.

CNN has also learned the 34-year-old returned to the store repeatedly to buy even more bullets. It's the same place where Major Nidal Hasan bought the weapon he used in the 2009 Fort Hood attack. In a presser late today, the Army said it now thinks the shooting started as a dispute with another soldier.

LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: We believe that the immediate precipitating fact was more likely as escalating argument in his unit area.

BROWN: Tonight CNN has learned Lopez went to a base personnel building Wednesday to pick up a form to request time off. The father of Jonathan Westbrook, one of the soldiers injured in the attack, says after Lopez was told to come back on Thursday, he snapped, returning a short time later with his gun.

THEODORE WESTBROOK, FATHER OF WOUNDED SOLDIER: The first guy he shot right in front of my son was killed. And then he turned the gun towards Jonathan, aimed it, and fired.

BROWN: Investigators are still trying to piece together an exact motive of the shooting and why Lopez came on base armed. Tonight they are looking at evidence, such as his gun, extra ammunition, his reported mental health issues and the medications he was prescribed, like the sedative Ambien.

On Capitol Hill, Army officials told Congress that while Lopez, an Iraq war veteran, had a spotless service record, he also appeared to have an unstable psychiatric condition.

JOHN MCHUGH, ARMY SECRETARY: He was seen just last month by a psychiatrist. He was fully examined. And as of this morning, we had no indication or record of that examination that there was any sign of likely violence.

BROWN: Sources tell CNN police searched the apartment where Lopez has recently moved with his wife and young daughter but have found no evidence such as a suicide note to explain the shooting.


BROWN: And Lopez's family broke its silence for the first time today through a statement that was released by a family spokesperson and in the statement the father says, "My son must not have been in his right mind. He wasn't like that."

Also, we're hearing from friends of Lopez that he was struggling to support his wife and daughter and family back in Puerto Rico but, Wolf, this is an ongoing investigation with more than 150 investigators on the case.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown at Fort Hood for us, thank you.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, while officials say an argument may have triggered all of this, they are still doing a very intensive investigation right now and it may be very early in that investigation?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely right, Wolf. They are going to have to look at everything. They will look, they are looking at his medical records, his mental health history, what issues he had. He had said he thought he had a traumatic brain injury. He was in the process of being evaluated for posttraumatic stress. He was on -- he had a number of prescription medications, as Pam said.

The argument with fellow soldiers may have been the precipitating factor as the Army says but they will look at the underlying causal factors. What else might have been going on with this soldier?

One of the things sources are telling me is they believe he may have had some adjustment problems. He's only been at Fort Hood a couple of -- several weeks. This is a massive military base. He came here, he had a new job as a truck driver, a new boss, a new chain of command, was looking to get better housing, perhaps, they think, was trying to settle in to a very large new military installation where he may not have known very many people and it is still an open question how much the medical team at Fort Hood might have known the details about what had been going on with him in the past -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mental health is particularly important, not just to this investigation, Barbara, but to the military in general right now. They've got a big problem there.

STARR: They do, Wolf. This is the mental health of the force is one of the biggest issues. It ranges from the crisis in suicide and several years ago in the middle of the war in Iraq, Fort Hood had a huge spike in the suicide rate. They instituted programs, they brought that down. It's suicide. It's the battle injury of posttraumatic stress, the injury of traumatic brain injury.

There are tens of thousands of troops who've served over the last 13 years who suffer from a variety of these both illnesses and conditions. So in this case it's exceptionally important, sources say, they have to find out as much as they can about what happened because every one of these cases adds to the military's body of knowledge about what is going on with the troops and it's the only way they believe they can continue to try and improve the mental health of the force -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, reporting from the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Today we also learned the names of all three men shot and killed at Fort Hood. There will be a memorial service for them on Wednesday. Thirty-nine-year-old Sergeant Danny Ferguson. He entered active service in 1993. He served in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. His fiance, who is also a soldier, says Ferguson was killed trying to hold a door shut to stop the gunman and he likely saved lives.

Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney Rodriguez, he was from Puerto Rico, he served in Kuwait and Iraq. He was 38 years old, he had been on active duty since 1995.

Sergeant Timothy Owens was an Army counselor who served in Iraq and Kuwait and had been on active duty for the last decade. He was 37 years old.

Our deepest, deepest condolences to the families of those three soldiers.

Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll have the latest on the search for Flight 370. It's Saturday morning. Search planes should be taking off soon.

Also coming up, a rare week of good news for President Obama that has Democrats wondering if their prospects for the midterm this year may be a little bit better than they had hoped.


BLITZER: We'll continue our special coverage of the Flight -- of the search for Flight 370 in just a moment but there's other news we're following including a new report on the U.S. economy.

It shows employers created 192,000 jobs in March plus more jobs than first reported back in January and February. The unemployment rate is unchanged from February, holding steady at 6.7 percent. The news wraps up a week that's given President Obama a number of things to celebrate.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski. She's got the very latest -- Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. You could say not a bad week at all around here. In some ways, health care enrollment numbers surprising even to the administration. And job gains actually over the course of years, but does the average American even know that and will it matter enough for Democrats at election time?


KOSINSKI (voice-over): The president didn't talk economy today, but the addition of nearly 200,000 American jobs last month had the administration putting it out on social media. Nearly nine million jobs gained in the last four years. More than two million this past year.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. KOSINSKI: After that something of an Obamacare victory lap this week. With seven million Americans signed up, giving the president fodder to hit out at critics on many key items.

OBAMA: You've got some Republicans saying we shouldn't raise the minimum wage because -- they said this. Because, well, it just helps young people. Now, first of all, I think it's pretty good to help young people. I don't know what's wrong with helping young people. Folks say that, the next thing you know they'll say, get off my lawn.


KOSINSKI: At times sounding like a sort of stump speech heading into midterm elections, but it's not as if these positive numbers have translated into a hike in job approval in the polls in recent weeks, hovering around the mid-40 percent range.

(On camera): I mean, you're good at putting these numbers out on social media, 8.9 million jobs, but would the average American know that? And what do you do with the message from there?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Our strategy has been to focus on expanding economic opportunity for everybody in this country.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): Whether the message is getting out strongly enough to sway the undecided or motivate Democrats to vote in numbers in midterms is something this administration is concerns about. Republican criticism has been vocal and consistent.