Return to Transcripts main page


Bluefin-21 Hits Obstacle in MH-370 Search; Significance of Co- Pilot's Cell Phone Being Turned On; Hate Crime Charges in Kansas City Shooting; Ukrainian Forces Surround Slavyansk as Obama Talks to Putin; Answering View Questions about MH-370.

Aired April 15, 2014 - 11:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: AT THIS HOUR, search crews are hoping to re-launch the unmanned submarine Bluefin-21. The weather today, however, preventing the device from being deployed. Crews plan to move to a shallower area and try again as soon as possible. The first deployment of the underwater vehicle to hunt for flight 370 ended abruptly and the drone resurfaced after just seven and a half hours into a mission that was supposed to have lasted 24 hours. Officials say a built-in safety feature automatically aborted the mission when the device exceeded its maximum depth. Also today, the first data from Bluefin-21 was analyzed. The U.S. Navy says no objects of interest so far have been found.

Another interesting piece of the puzzle, investigators are trying to determine the significance of a cell phone signal. It was picked up from the co-pilot's cell phone after the plane made that suspicious west turn.

CNN safety analyst, David Soucie, says that should never happen.


DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Rare in my opinion to have someone with a cell phone on in the cockpit. It's never supposed to be on at all, part of every economic list I'm familiar with.


PEREIRA: Not supposed to be on. We do know protocol does get missed.

Our technology analyst, Brett Larson, is here with me.

It is interesting to hear David say that certain protocols pilots are supposed to follow, especially in the pre-check and once they are in the air. Right.

What is your take away about this cell phone being detected on the co- pilot's cell phone?

BRETT LARSON, CNN TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: I think, given that they do have this very specific checklist that is part of the checklist, I find it very suspicious that the cell phone signal was picked up. It was picked up in an area that -- you can see the cell phone tower sort of near the coast. It was picked up when the plane was below the 10 to 12,000-feet mark, which is where you need to be the most part to get a signal in the sky. To me, it smells very much of this was a phone that was turned on, not left on after the departure. Quick, easy way to find out if it was left on from departure is -- well --

PEREIRA: That does happen.

LARSON: Yeah, a quick, easy from -- describing it in terms of technology, not so much the way we have been getting information on this. They could check the cell towers at the airport where the plane left and sort of the path that it takes when it takes off, because one of those cell towers where that cell phone left on would have picked up the hardware shake every cell phone makes when it is near a tower.

PEREIRA: The thing that some people are wondering, why then were there not those cell phone handshake signals detected from another passenger?

LARSON: Right. Yeah.

PEREIRA: The fact is there's always somebody who forgets to turn off their cell phone, whether they fall asleep before takeoff, why that might not have been detected?

LARSON: That's where this becomes a little more questionable, because one of the statistics I heard was 30 percent of passengers forget to turn their phones off.

PEREIRA: Is it that much?

LARSON: I have done it before. Of course, the time you remember when it's turned on is when it starts ringing, and you go, oh, my gosh, my cell phone was left on.

PEREIRA: Then you're embarrassed. Right.

LARSON: But this is -- it's very unusual that it was pinged on the -- on a cell phone tower. It does suggest it was turned on and maybe tried to be used.

PEREIRA: I want to get your tech-pertise with the other issue with the flight. The FAA announcing that GPS satellite tracking technology, this technology that has been around and is in use right now in some planes, some airlines use it, will be in all planes by 20. What is this technology? How will it work? Give us a briefer.

LARSON: It is the FAA's next-gen technology. They've been developing it for quite some time. Most commercial airplanes have GPS technology in them. In the cockpit, you can watch where you're going with GPS. This will actually roll it out to be used for guidance and for tracking.

What's interesting about this is it has, like, a two-way communication. So an airplane can say I'm here and a nearby airplane can say, OK, well, I'm here and it is going to give us a lot more control. It's going to let planes fly closer together because they're no longer flying between way points, actually flying more direct. It'll be better for the environment because they will be able to fly shorter routes. But it also gives pilots and air traffic controllers a lot more information about where airplanes in the sky

PEREIRA: The one "if" is if it's turned on.

LARSON: If it's turned on.

PEREIRA: And it sounds like MH-370 had this, but it was turned off --


LARSON: Their transponder was shut off. It will be interesting to see if they require this new technology, the ADSB, to stay on or if it will have the ability to be shut off. Something like this is very critical.

PEREIRA: They have my vote to keep it on.


LARSON: Yeah. It is shocking that our Smartphones, tablets, laptops have GPS in them but billion-dollar commercial airplanes are still flying under the radar.

PEREIRA: Brett Larson, good to have you on our radar.

LARSON: Thanks.

PEREIRA: Appreciate it.

Ahead AT THIS HOUR, to our story out of Kansas. A 73-year-old former Ku Klux Klan leader has been charged with murder in that Kansas shooting. Will hate crimes be among the charges he faces? We will bring you a live report.


PEREIRA: Three lives cut short. The suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, faces two charges so far, one count of capital murder, one count of premeditated murder. Additional charges could come soon.

Our George Howell is in Overland Park, where we have just learned today of the charges he is going to be facing.

What else can you tell us, George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michaela, when it comes to those two charges, we know that the prosecutor does not have to declare the sentence that they will be going for. But we do know that the sentence can be life without parole or it can be the death penalty. That's something, again, they don't have to declare at this point. We know Cross will be in court at 2:30 p.m. eastern time here in the Johnson County courthouse and the bond has been set at $10 million. But again, as you mentioned, right now, looking at one charge of capital murder for the death of William Corporan and Reit Underwood. Corporan, you'll remember, was the grandfather who drove his grandson here to the Jewish community center. His grandson was going to perform, compete in a singing competition. Both were shot and killed in their car.

A mile away, also, I want to talk about this first-degree premeditated murder charge. That's for the death of Theresa Lamatto.

If you would, take a listen to this news conference. We just turned around a sound bite as to what prosecutors announced to the public. Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED PROSECUTOR: Good morning, everyone. We are here to announce that, this morning, we filed two charges related to this case, one count of capital murder for the deaths of William Corporan and Reit Underwood, and one count of first-degree premeditated murder in the death of Theresa Lamatto. The bond is currently set at $10 million. His first appearance is today at 1:30 at the Johnson County courthouse.


HOWELL: 1:30 p.m. central time, 2:30 p.m. eastern time. We will, of course, follow those developments.

But to reiterate, we know the bond has been set at $10 million. And at this point, prosecutors could seek life without parole or they could seek the death penalty. They are not indicating either at this point. But we will, of course, follow the latest and bring you what we find.

PEREIRA: George, I know a lot of people were wondering if hate crime charges would be pursued here. We know that this -- this situation, all three of the victims, were outside Jewish community centers, Jewish facilities, yet it turns out all of them were Christians. So do we know anything more about that? Was any of that brought up in the press conference today?

HOWELL: It was not brought up in this particular press conference. But you know, as far as the landscape of newsgathering, what we've heard yesterday, as far as federal prosecutors, we understand that they may look into whether this case could basically get to the point of being a hate crime. We also heard though from police who believe that it is a hate crime. So prosecutors will be going through the process of understanding all the evidence and we presume will make that official announcement if they deem it appropriate.

What we do know though today, from this press conference, is that these prosecutors will file these two charges. Again, the charge of premeditated murder for the death of Theresa Lamatto and then capital murder charge for the death of this grandfather and grandson, Reit Underwood and William Corporan, both killed here at the Jewish community center.

PEREIRA: All right, George Howell, we'll wait to see if other charges are imminent.

Thank you so much for that report from Kansas.

A short break here. Ahead AT THIS HOUR, an ominous turn in Ukraine, Ukrainian military is on the move. Could be headed for a showdown with pro-Russian separatists. We'll give you a live update, coming up.


PEREIRA: In Ukraine, developments are moving rapidly. Even as the government is asking for U.N. assistance, its military is on the move. Ukrainian forces have surrounded Slavyansk, a city with pro-Russian leanings, headed for perhaps another showdown. There's been another phone call between President Obama and Russian President Putin, and another strong urging for the Russian president -- Russian leader, rather, to withdraw his troops from the border.

Arwa Damon joins us now in Kiev.

Arwa, we know the campaign against the separatists has started. What more do we know about it?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you mentioned, there's a lot of fast-moving events when it comes to the city of Slavyansk. The pro-Russian mayor there reportedly saying that the Ukrainian military has that city surrounded, but saying that if they do enter the city, they will take actions to stop them.

Separately from that, Russian security forces also launching another offensive, this time in the town of Kramatorsk (ph). There, the Ukrainian security forces have reportedly been able to take over the airfield. The president here, the acting president, telling parliament just a short while ago that Ukrainian special forces did manage to clear pro-Russian activists protesters out of that area. The spokeswoman for the acting president, going even further, vowing that shortly, very soon, she said, there will be no more terrorists on Ukrainian territory. It does seem at this stage the Ukrainian government is making good on its promise to try to retake control of this country.

PEREIRA: But I guess, Arwa, the concern here is couldn't this give president Putin the excuse he needs to send troops into Eastern Ukraine, under the pretext of protecting the Russian-speaking people there?

DAMON: And that very much is the concern. The issue here has not been whether or not Ukraine has military capability to take these various areas that are under pro-Russian activist control, but what the ripple effect of that kind of action would be. The Russians have around 40,000 troops stationed along the Russian/Ukrainian border. Russia constantly maintaining those troops are there for military exercises, but the Russian president himself has constantly maintained that Russia reserves the right to protect its interest located inside Ukraine. In fact, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently released a report saying it was greatly concerned about the parallels that exist between activities in Eastern Ukraine and those we saw in Crimea -- Michaela?

PEREIRA: We know the Ukrainian government has asked the U.N. for assistance. What particular assistance is the U.N. asking for?

DAMON: Well, that was a request that came from the acting president, who told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that they would welcome United Nations assistance as part of this anti-terrorism campaign. Of course, much has developed since then. The Ukrainian government has been calling for assistance not just from the United Nations but also the United States, Europe, the European Union and from NATO as well. All of those parties have been urging the Russian government, the Russians to move their military troops back from the border to try to deescalate the situation. Again, circumstances here moving very, very quickly.

PEREIRA: Arwa Damon in Ukraine. Developing news there almost by the minute.

Thank you so much for bringing us up to date.

We'll take a short break here. Ahead AT THIS HOUR, our experts are going to answer your questions about flight 370. You had some good ones about black boxes, tracking systems and cell phones. We'll put them all to our experts in a moment.


PEREIRA: Hey, big thank you to all you who have been sending us questions via Facebook and Twitter. We have those questions we're going to put to our experts now, Jeff Wise and Mary Schiavo, to tackle some of them.

Why don't we start with the news about the FAA doing a big tech upgrade so planes can be tracked by GPS rather than ground radar? The question, why can't we make this tech affordable so it can be mandated all over the world?

Let's starts with you, Jeff.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The cost is a big issue with this. It's not just the big planes that are going to have to carry this kind of equipment. Everything has to carry this kind of equipment. Now, I recreationally fly a Piper built in 1947. That has to have this new equipment installed and it costs thousands of dollars because everything that shares the airspace, including now increasingly drones, they all have to be able to see and detect each other or it doesn't work. Because you don't want to run into anything. Around the world, this problem becomes greater. Already, as we've seen, this plane was flying from Malaysia to China. It was equipped already with this sort of equipment.

PEREIRA: Mary, I'll put the next question to you. Do black box flight recorders have serial numbers to prove that it's from flight 370?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: They do. Black boxes are aircraft specific and they have identification numbers, as do literally almost all critical parts on the plane. They have unique identification numbers that say that that part is on this plane and those records have to be maintained by the airline.

PEREIRA: And that way they can always confirm, in case there was other debris or an area where, let's say, it wasn't at the bottom of the ocean, maybe the end of a runway, they could make sure that belongs to the flight in question.

Another question here, passengers of flight 93 on 9/11 -- I know you were involved -- when they learned their plane had been kidnapped, flooded the air waves with cell phone calls to family. Why wasn't their cell phone traffic following traffic and for those many hours?

SCHIAVO: See, I think that's a very big mystery. I can't believe there isn't or there wasn't. Unless, truly, folks just didn't know anything was going on and didn't have a chance to respond if something was going on on the plane. Because not just on flight 93 -- and the public probably didn't hear a lot about the others, but we worked on those cases for 11 years. On every single flight, people managed to get out phone calls. That's what led us know what was going on on the planes. It wasn't just flight 93. It was all of them. It was unbelievably useful for the investigation that those passengers and flight attendants were able to do that.

PEREIRA: On this day, over 30 days in, what is the biggest question mark to you? What is the point you want to understand and know, Jeff?

WISE: The big one that I've been talking about for a long time now is that Inmarsat ping data that we know the Malaysians have, they've been resistant to releasing it. I think a lot could be understood about where the plane was and what happened to it if we let different experts look at it. That's really the big one.

PEREIRA: Mary, you've pushed for that, as well, if other experts around the world can crunch some of this data.

SCHIAVO: That's right. And people -- I'm sure Jeff gets the same thing. People send me things all the time that they have found, and it's really truly remarkable findings. So I think the Inmarsat data. But also the Malaysian radar data, both the civilian and military radar data -- I'm not sure it's all there -- but that would be tremendously helpful. As you know, I'm a skeptic about the military data. That would be a tremendous boost to figure out what went wrong and where truly is the aircraft.

PEREIRA: A healthy dose of skepticism is always warranted, as far as I'm concerned.

Mary Schiavo, Jeff Wise, always a delight to have you both with us.

I want to say thank you to all of you at home as well for tweeting question, joining us on Facebook. That wraps it up for us AT THIS HOUR. I'm Michaela Pereira. John Berman will be back with us on Thursday.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Chris Cuomo, a very special edition of " LEGAL VIEW," starts also right now.