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Search Continues for Missing Malaysian Airplane; Vladimir Putin Gives Lengthy Press Conference on Ukraine Situation; Family Members of Flight 370 Passengers Growing Impatient; Interview with Sara Bajc

Aired April 17, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Miguel Marquez is live in Perth, Australia, with the latest. Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, this latest news that the oil is not from MH370 comes as a great frustration to families who are waiting for some physical evidence the plane is actually down there. This as the Bluefin-21 is down for its full first look at the ocean floor there. Some 16 hours it's been down there. They now have all that data back. They're going through it, and then it will go down into that area again to continue the search.

Officials hopeful that they can find that plane. If they don't find it in the area most likely where it will be, where they believe that those pings came from, then as the Australian prime minister and as the transport minister in Malaysia said today, they will have to reassess this, they will have to figure out a new area to search and begin again. Chris, Kate, back to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Miguel, thank you very much.

Let's bring in David Gallo. You will remember him. He was the co- leader in the search for Air France 447 and director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Shawn Pruchnicki, air safety expert and aviation teacher at Ohio State University. Shawn, David, good to have you here. Let's start with what we hear from the Australian prime minister. I just want to make sure. The word is "regroup." We may have to regroup in a week. How is that statement to be assessed? Does that mean this may be a failed effort? Does that mean that they may have to rethink because this is insufficient, or does it mean something else?

DAVID GALLO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I hope that we're just misinterpreting his intentions because if I was on board that ship and part of that team I would be frustrated with that statement. And we're just getting going here. They've had their first solid mission and there's a bunch more they've got to complete before they can cross off what they're doing now. So I think we're a ways away.

CUOMO: And also, Shawn, we're understanding more about why there is confidence in searching this particular area. Turns out it's not just about handshakes and pings, but analysis done through expected data of performance from this aircraft. So what do we now know about what analysts were able to put together that gives them this confidence? SHAWN PRUCHNICKI, AIRPLANE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: Well, what we know is that -- that they are saying they have more information, some more information from the -- from the aircraft, and I think more importantly in the last day or so is information from the satellite. Recalibrating, looking at their calculations and trying to narrow down where this search area might be.

We still have a long ways to go and to try to figure out what really are the best areas when we start introducing new data, right? This is a very much a still dynamic process. And even though this first area doesn't appear to be panning out, although, you know, I caution even those ideas because I think as David might have mentioned earlier, that the Bluefin is still very early in its attempts. And so, you know, I think we still need to kind of wait and see what information that's able to provide before we move on to other areas.

CUOMO: Fair criticism of all of us, not you guys because you're enlisted as experts, but us pushing you with the questions. It took you two years to find it there and successful effort.

GALLO: Two years of calendar time is about 10 weeks of actually at sea time. But yes, everything at sea is slow at sea.

CUOMO: That's an important distinction there.

GALLO: Sure.

CUOMO: Two years calendar time, 10 weeks. They're actually catching up on you because they're doing week after week here.

GALLO: That's right. Again, nothing happens very quickly and it's all a matter of covering terrain with that vehicle. We had the same thing. We had more vehicles but we had -- we were working initially a larger area than they're looking at right now.

CUOMO: It may have been headed to Perth. Why have any confidence in that assumption?

GALLO: I'm out of my expertise, but following the arguments about whether there was an autopilot on, and that's I guess the latest argument. Maybe Shawn is better off to answer that question.

CUOMO: Why would we have any confidence it would be headed to Perth? Why would we have any confidence that it was on autopilot?

PRUCHNICKI: I don't think we should have any confidence in that. We don't really have any data points to help really build a story or an idea around that. Here's the problem. We're still trying to piece together from such sketchy data points and such vague evidence that we're really grasping at straws here. Until we get some more information, and that's going to be from the boxes, unfortunately we're not going to know if this aircraft was on autopilot or not.

CUOMO: All right, and also, help me with something, David. We're getting mealy-mouth talk about this Bluefin-21. It's needs to be recalibrated. It's out of its depth. There are challenges. Is it working or not?

GALLO: It's working, Chris. Mealy-mouth, I don't know. I think it's just unfamiliarity with this ocean exploration. So it's a fairly new piece of technology. It's high tech. It's operating in rough environments so that this is to be expected. Even on air France we had a number of aborts s early on because of depth or electronic issues. So this is not unusual to people that go to sea.

CUOMO: Now, you've become a very familiar face on the network that is taking this story most seriously.

GALLO: Right.

CUOMO: As a result, you have the actual representatives and family members of the assumed victims of 370 reaching out to you directly, true?

GALLO: I've heard from assorted people, yes.

CUOMO: What do they want to know?

GALLO: I think they're questions are just the same questions we have. What are the solid facts that lead us to believe that plane headed south? What are the solid facts, tangible facts, that we're looking in that area? Why are we looking in that specific area?

CUOMO: And, Shawn, as you evaluate the situation, it doesn't size up as a goose chase? Do you believe that they have real facts here but there are a lot of unknowns and that's the cause of the frustration?

PRUCHNICKI: Absolutely. You know, this is a very dynamic process, right? We have very vague data points. So to be able to but those points together to develop search areas and theories and so forth is extremely challenging. And there's going to be this going back and forth, where we think we have an area pinned down, we search it, we don't find anything. We have to move on to another area. Although it may seem frustrating, and I can certainly understand why it is, this is a normal part of these types of search efforts.

And I think as David alluded to, you know, there's numerous challenges that everyone that the world is just now becoming aware of because most people do not operate in these environments, you know, these are normal events for these types of search efforts. Certainly this one being as massive as it is and drawing out as long as it is we're, you know, really in unchartered waters, no pun intended. But, you know, there's no playbook here being followed to the letter, so to speak. It's being developed as it goes and there are new ideas.

And I think it's great they're bringing in fresh perspectives, looking at new data, and willing to go back and look at previous data through a different perspective is -- really shows the professionalism and the talent these individuals have.

CUOMO: I think we're probably a little bit of a lack of confidence in the Malaysian side of the investigation bleeding over to the Australians who seem to be doing everything they can as best they can, certainly in terms of how they communicate. Shawn, David, thank you very much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris.

Also new this morning, fiery words from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He declared Kiev is to blame for troubles in Ukraine on his Russian television show, a marathon kind of press conference that he had. He also said Russia did not plan to annex Crimea from Ukraine. This all comes as foreign minister for Ukraine and Russia meet in Geneva to try and establish a diplomatic framework to calm the tensions there while pro-Russian militants are starting to gain ground in some parts of eastern Ukraine.

Joining us to discuss, Christiane Amanpour, host of CNN's international "AMANPOUR" and CNN's chief international correspondent. You can see "AMANPOUR" at 2:00 p.m. on CNNI. Another marathon press conference from Vladimir Putin. A couple of things stick out to us, one being we says our plan was not for the annexation of Crimea, but he also admits that Russian troops were there before and during the referendum.


BOLDUAN: I would have been, full stop, wait a second, that's the opposite of what you said.

AMANPOUR: It goes to two interesting issues here. First and foremost, everybody knew they were Russian troops under a disguised situation. So are they soon going to admit Russian troops in eastern Ukraine? We don't know.

But secondly, many have analyzed that actually Putin is making all of this up as he goes along. He probably didn't have plans to annex Crimea five years ago. This is what some of the Russian individuals and western officials have been saying. This is what makes it very difficult to predict what he's going to do next.

And he did go on to say that he has the right to invade eastern Ukraine. He said his parliament has given him that authority. He has the right to do that. He hopes he won't have to do that, but he can do it. He also, and I find this very disturbing, called all those parts of yearn Ukraine new Russia. He named those very areas that are having these separatist struggles right now, called them new Russia.

He did say the talks in Geneva are important and they have to figure out a political way out of this, a political way out as long as it satisfies Russia. So we'll see what they can negotiate in Geneva if anything at all.

And then you have this constant bleating by Russia, by Vladimir Putin again, that what they're doing they have to do in order to protect the Russian speaking, ethnic Russians there in eastern Ukraine. The problem with this is that even now there are polls being taken there which are saying that actually these people do not feel under threat by the Ukrainians, by the interim Ukrainian administration. This is all being stirred up. The United Nations said while there had been some cases of harassment, by no means was it widespread or systematic or planned by the Ukrainian authorities. So the premise for Putin's intervention is based on mythology and fabrications. And this is the problem.

BOLDUAN: It's constantly, you say one thing and then you almost say the opposite. It's very difficult to square what he's saying. In one breath he says these talks in Geneva are important to try to figure a way out of this. But in the next breath he continues to call the government in Kiev illegitimate, and then also said that the elections planned for next month, they can't go on because they're illegitimate as well.

AMANPOUR: This could be a situation that then becomes the next crisis. Are they going to have these presidential elections? Russians are saying they have to be constitutional. But we'll see. That's all very politically difficult and in the woods. The real issue is, what does the west do, what does NATO do, what do the countries who are concerned do about what they have described as the force-able annexing of territory.

BOLDUAN: President Obama in an interview with CBS talked about there will be a greater cost if Russia does not stand down but he did not give the detail into what kind of costs that would be.

AMANPOUR: They've already decided there will probably be more sanctions but not blanket sanctions on the Russian economy. More and more officials, people who understand sanctions, people who understand these kinds of diplomatic negotiations are saying that unless the west as a whole, that means the United States plus all its western allies, gets super tough on sanctions, sanctions that will hurt them as well as hurt Russia, it's not going to work. In other words, in order to hurt Russia you've got to be willing to take pain yourself, which is not popular, which is not easy to do, but that will be the only way to impose economic pain, isolation pain on Russia, if these western countries are willing to take some pain themselves.

BOLDUAN: Are we seeing that kind of change that Germany, Poland, that they're more along the line of we're ready to take that step?

AMANPOUR: Some countries are. Some aren't. And this is the problem. Within in United States, Europe, some countries have a much more hardline attitude to this. Others don't. The big issue, of course, is how do we become more energy independent so we're not reliant on Russian national gas and energy?

BOLDUAN: That's a long-term problem that they all knew was coming.

AMANPOUR: But they have to deal with it because otherwise they have no leverage and no pressure on Russia. And Putin in his presser today has, I think, doubled down to an extent. He's been incredibly aggressive again in his public statements.

BOLDUAN: All coming probably not a coincidence on the same day the talks are set to begin in Geneva. Christiane, great to see you, thanks.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's get to John Berman now show is in for Michaela for some of today's other big stories.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We do have some breaking news from just moments ago on the subject of Vladimir Putin on this long stem-winding news conference he's giving. NSA leaker Edward Snowden asked Vladimir Putin a question about surveillance in Russia. Snowden asked if Russia spies on people and saves the data. The Russian president responded that Russian intelligence is not carrying out mass collections of citizen data, but he said they do listen to telephone calls, Internet communications with court approval. The question was asked during this question and answer question on Vladimir Putin's television show, a very surreal moment right there.

Meanwhile, a new wrinkle in the IRS scandal involving the targeting of Tea Party groups. The activist group Judicial Watch has released e- mails that show the agency in talks with the Justice Department to investigate some tax exempt organizations for possible fraud. The new documents show just how close the government came to criminal investigations before the IRS targeting became public knowledge.

One year after a deadly fertilizer plant explosion rocked west Texas there is new video showing just how powerful this blast was. Pictures here are just simply stunning, taken from a car nearby which is moments to spare. You will remember 15 people were killed, hundreds of people damaged or destroyed. The explosion actually registered as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake and was felt 50 miles away. Exactly what sparked that plant fire is still unknown. The community will hold a memorial tonight to remember the fallen.

Pope Francis taking a Holy Thursday ritual directly to the people. Earlier he held mass at the Vatican. Later today he will highlight the dignity and value elderly and the disabled by washing their feet. The event commemorates Jesus washing the feet of his 12 disciples before the last supper. Last year the pontiff washed the feet of prisoners at a detention center.

CUOMO: What a perfect metaphor for what Francis as a Pope is trying to relay as the message that the church has to put itself before the people who need help, and the washing of the feet is a great example.

PEREIRA: He delivers that message every day in really every way, including the way he lives.

CUOMO: And he's going to include Muslims and women in the people he selects to do this, which is also sending a signal of equality. Good stuff.

Coming up on NEW DAY, frustration finally boiling over. Flight 370 families are taking their anger and putting it into a lengthy list of demands. The question is, will they finally get what they want and need from Malaysian authorities? We're gonna talk to one of them, Sara Bajc. She's a partner of one of the missing.

BOLDUAN: Plus, also ahead, the search for Flight 370 is pushing the limits of deep-sea technology. CNN's Martin Savidge -- you're taking a live look at Martin right there getting up close under -- an up- close underwater look at a submersible in action. His live demonstration ahead.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. And while the underwater search continues for Flight 370, families of the missing passengers are growing increasingly frustrated with Malaysian authorities over the investigation and how it's being run.

They've released a list of some very technical questions that they would like answered, asking for air traffic control audio, specifics on black boxes, and whether protocol was followed throughout.

Sara Bajc is joining us live from Beijing this morning. She's the partner of Philip Wood, an American on board Flight 370.

Sara, thank you so much once again for joining us. I think it's important that we always start with the simple question of, we're now past day 40 in this search. And there is still no physical evidence of the plane or where the plane could be. You've talked before about the roller coaster of emotion that you continue to go through. How are you today?

SARA BAJC, PARTER OF FLIGHT 370 PASSENGER: Well, I'm feeling like it's day one instead of day 41, if we consider what we actually know has happened to this plane. And before we go forward with any more questions I would like to put out a huge thank you to David, who was on your show earlier today. He has been an enormous help and support to the family groups, and I admit to being one of the people who is regularly peppering his e-mail box. So thank you for having him on the show and thank him for his efforts.

BOLDUAN: So are you talking of David Gallo?

BAJC: Yes, yes.

BOLDUAN: I wanted to ask you about that. Because we looked through the list of questions that the family of the Chinese passengers have put forth -- put forth to Malaysian authorities. And some of them are very technical. And I wonder, what questions you have, what is your big question, and why -- and why do you reach out to David Gallo? What are the questions that you're seeking from him?

BAJC: Well, the Chinese family group is filled with a lot of very, very smart people, many of them with good scientific training, as well. So, you know, they've taken that kind of an approach to education. And I think you'll see another round of those kinds of questions coming out of the Malaysian families in this Saturday's briefing.

I kind of sit between the two groups because I live in Beijing currently. I've been here for seven years. And therefore, I have the chance to meet with the Chinese families in person, but I'm also moving to Kuala Lumpur in the summer, and I'm a regular party of those family meetings, as well.

So I think what we're trying to do is be smarter than the investigators at this point. They're not getting very far, so we started to take research into our own hands.

BOLDUAN: Do you not trust the investigation, both in Kuala Lumpur and in Perth? Or is I one part of the investigation in particular?

BAJC: Well, it's hard to trust an investigation unit, speaking of the Malaysian government, that is so consistently contradicted itself. We're not talking about other people contradicting them. They're contradicting themselves.

I think the Australians are doing a terrific job, but the reality is they can only do what the Malaysians ask them to do. They're in assistance role, just like the NTSB, just like the U.S. government, just like any other government, they can only do what the Malaysians tell them to do.

So one thing that I would personally like to spend some attention to is how to perhaps get the Malaysian government out of that role of power. You know, they're mishandling this to gross negligence, and we need to get them out of the way.

BOLDUAN: What are some of the questions that remain unanswered for you, that you would like to pose to Malaysian authorities or to anyone else in charge?

BAJC: Well, we would like to go back to the very beginning. You know, what happened on that first day? What happened in those first five hours in between when the flight went missing and when they reported it missing? We would like to go back to where the flight actually did disappear and whose jurisdiction it truly belongs into.

You know, we've all just assumed that Malaysia was taking control of this, but recently it surfaced that it could have happened actually in Singaporean controlled waters instead.

Now, I'm not an expert on that, so I could be completely misreading the information that I've been given. But certainly, we need some people who know more about that than I do to look into it.

BOLDUAN: We heard from the Australian prime minister. He spoke with the "Wall Street Journal." And in their conversation, he said that they believe they will have kind of exhausted this search area where that Bluefin underwater submersible is in about a week. And after that they will regroup, reconsider, and kind of rethink where they are with the search. Does that worry you?

BAJC: It worries me in some ways because, you know, again, we're just back to square one, but it also makes me more confident in the fact that we need to completely change our approach here because, you know, they never have even shared why they believe that's the area. So how can we be confident that they will pick the next area correctly?

BOLDUAN: Is there some -- is there some bit of information or is there some conversation that you think you could have that would make you more comfortable with the investigation? Is it simply just getting the Malaysians out of the equation, though that doesn't seem like a likely scenario?

BAJC: Well, it's worth push for. I mean, it might not be likely, but we can at least try to get other organizations with more expertise and more accountability engaged in a more active role.

But, you know, at the core of this is, is that nobody really has access to raw data. The Malaysians have only distributed bits and pieces and sometimes even modified data to others for assessment. So we really need to get back to square one and gain access to the original raw data that was coming out of the flight control, out of radar systems, out of any kinds of communication devices that might have been on board that plane. You know, we need to go back to the beginning.

BOLDUAN: Sara, we really hope that through our conversations we can continue to understand the questions that you and the other families continue to have and also push to get some of the answers that you so deserve and you demand. Sara Bajc, it's great to see you. Sara, thank you very much for coming in once again. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kate.

Coming up on NEW DAY, every second counts. The latest on the rescue efforts to save hundreds of teenagers and others who may be trapped inside a sinking ship. Is there still time to find survivors? We have the latest and experts on standby.

Also, Inside Politics. Is Vladimir Putin mocking the president of the United States? That was the question put to the president himself. We'll see what he had to say.