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Search and Rescue Operations Continue on Sunken South Korean Ferry; Search Continues for Missing Malaysian Plane; Boston Prepares for Marathon

Aired April 21, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: still in all likelihood inside the body of that ship. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Jindo, South Korea. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we have very new information into us just the past couple of minutes. CNN has spoken to the spokesperson of the joint taskforce in charge of this search operation. And he has said this is still a search and rescue operation. They are still working on the assumption they may find survivors. He said that they haven't found any air pockets within the ship but there's still a possibility there may be air pockets because the ferry has not sunk completely.

He said at this point it's about 30 to 50 feet below the surface, and saying it's maintaining its floating level at this point. This will obviously give hope those desperate families wanting to know whether or not their loved ones are alive or dead. But this is the sixth night we're going into since that disaster happened, so clearly hope is fading.

But as far as the operation is concerned, it is still very much a search and rescue operation. The captains as you say, now has five charges against him including negligence. So does the third mate at the helm at the time of the accident. The driver wasn't even at the steering wheel. The captain was actually in his own personal room. So we are hearing they've been demonized by the president of this country Park Geun-hye, earlier on today, saying that what they have done is akin to murder. Kate, back to you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Paula Hancocks, thank you very much. We'll be checking in with you throughout the show.

Also happening right now, a joint U.S.-Yemeni operation targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is currently under way in Yemen. The strikes are being called massive and unprecedented and involve both Yemeni commandos on the ground and, they suspect, drone strikes from the air.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto and CNN national security analyst and former Bush administration homeland security adviser Fran Townsend. Good morning to you both. Jim, first you, this comes after we've seen the images that sparking a massive gathering of AQAP. Is anyone connecting these two things quite yet, the video we saw was startling to everyone and then this massive, unprecedented strike?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No official is making a connection. It was a demonstration of Al Qaeda presence in Yemen, and it shows the immediacy of the threat. But it's an ongoing threat and they've known about it for some time. And as Fran and I have discussed, the U.S. is not going to allocate resources, the Yemenis are not going to allocate resources unless they include intelligence that's going to direct them to do something there. That said, this was an embarrassment to see such a large gathering at that time, really kind of a challenge to show their strength there and really a reminder that this is a real threat.

BOLDUAN: Is it fair to say these two things are connected, Fran?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Not necessarily. They wouldn't have taken the shot because there had been this video release. And to Jim's point, what would have been required to launch this sort of an operation, drones, manpower, all of that, would have been very specific intelligence of real high-value targets to justify the investment of resources.

BOLDUAN: Who could some of these high-value targets be that they would be going after?

TOWNSEND: The number one person that everyone wants to know is al Asiri. Al Asiri is responsible for the underwear bomb and the computer cartridge found. He has been, frankly, the greatest threat to U.S. national interest and national security. So the big question is, he's certainly the target of an operation like this. Have they got him? Will they get him? And no Yemeni officials are saying.

SCIUTTO: You talk to intelligence officials about what is Al Qaeda today? It's very different than it was at 9/11. It's a more diverse threat, a franchised kind of threat, in effect. It's not just core Al Qaeda as we know in Pakistan formerly led by bin Laden. But you have these related groups, like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which is based in Yemen, other groups in north Africa, et cetera, more diffuse, maybe less ambitious, maybe less able to carry out large-scale attacks, but setting its sight on smaller attacks. And because it's more diverse and more dispersed, harder to keep track of, and it requires these kinds of operations in places like Yemen, drone strikes, et cetera.

BOLDUAN: When you describe it that way, which is obviously the right way to describing it, some watching might say it doesn't seem as much of a threat. But AQAP has been a growing threat, a big problem for the administration, for the United States. How big of a threat is it if they're not maybe going after the large-scale attacks but they're still a huge threat?

TOWNSEND: Well, when John Brennan was in the White House job and even the CIA director, Jim Clapper as the director of national intelligence referred to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group that's being targeted here in Yemen, as the single greatest, most capable threat against the U.S. and U.S. interests around the world. And I think that's right. Al Asiri, this bomb-maker is one of the reasons. Second is because they're able to project their power outside of Yemen where these operations are going on in the south, right near the port of Aden, you know, you don't realize, it's a real hub. You've got extremists from Africa, off the coast of Africa and Somalia. You've got them collecting from the Arabian Peninsula there. So there really is infrastructure in Yemen which is part of what they're trying to target here.

SCIUTTO: And they're always refining their tactics. You remember just a couple months ago we had a new threat alert that they had somehow refined shoe bombs to get past the detection we have at the airports. That's tied right back to al Asiri. And these are threats directed directly at the U.S. They want to get a shoe bomb on an American airplane. It's something they attempted before and nearly had success with the underwear bomber around Christmas four or five years ago. So this is a direct threat and this is why the U.S. is really on top of this.

BOLDUAN: And at the same time the operation is still ongoing, the use of drone strikes is controversial because of the concern and the real possibility of collateral damage. You said earlier in the show there were three already civilians killed during the ongoing operation. What does this potentially do to U.S./Yemeni relations? We know it has had a bad impact on relations with Pakistan.

TOWNSEND: Well, one, you've got to realize that President Hadi of Yemen, it shows real courage on his part. It also tells you, the fact that this is an ongoing effort with such massive resources behind it tells you that the target is a very high-value target. You don't commit the Yemeni army, you don't commit the drones without the target being very real.

It's worth saying there's a whole targeting process that three casualties in this sort of drone strike are actually quite unusual. You don't see often that level of collateral damage. Why? Because these are precision weapons. They're supported by very specific intelligence. And so, this -- it's tragic. You have one civilian casualty, it's tragic. But they've really refined the process to reduce those civilian casualties, because when we had those, there's a real strain in bilateral relations and it puts real pressure on the government, in this case in Yemen.

SCIUTTO: It is interesting, just to your point about how serious they must be about these targets. Typically when we see drone strikes it's a one-off. You hear about it later. You get a report of one vehicle hit. This is over a couple of days that we've been reporting over the weekend, and now this massive ground operation by Yemeni forces. So to your point, clearly there's something big here they're going after.

BOLDUAN: We're going to be watching it. Fran, Jim, thank you so much. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kate, if flight 370, the search for it is nearing an end, at least in terms of combing the area they set out to map. Why am I saying that? Because right now Bluefin 21 is on its ninth trip below the ocean surface and it's running out of places to look. Officials say more than two-thirds of the underwater search area has now been covered, still no sign of the missing jetliner. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in Perth, Australia, with more. Erin?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, with the majority of this narrow search area now ruled out, all eyes on Bluefin 21 as people waiting, watching, hoping, even praying MH-370 is found.


MCLAUGHLIN: The search for flight 370 is at a critical juncture, investigators say now only days away from completing the targeted search area with no sign of debris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I appeal to everybody around the world to pray and pray hard that we find something to work on over the next couple of days.

MCLAUGHLIN: The Bluefin 21 back in the water this morning. The search area six miles in radius represents the best guess as to where the plane may be. If nothing is found, that search area is set to widen dramatically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever the outcome of the next few days, we need to regroup and reconsider the operations. It doesn't mean that we are going to stop the operations.

MCLAUGHLIN: Over the weekend, investigators also amending crucial information about how they now believe the plane flew. Investigators say once flight 370 made its initial left turn, deviating from the planned routes, the aircraft climbed to 39,000 feet for about 20 minutes over Malaysia. Dipping in altitude over the Indian Ocean, Malaysian officials believe the plane flew for about another six hours before crashing.


MCLAUGHLIN: Searchers say that Bluefin will have scanned the entire narrowed area by week's end. That's if it performs as expected and if the weather holds, which is a big if given that there a cyclone named Jack currently to the north of the search operation. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: We know how weather can affect those search efforts. Erin McLaughlin, thank you so much for that.

Let's take a look at your other headlines right now. Vice President Joe Biden is landing in Ukraine this morning. He's going to hold meetings with members of the Kiev's interim government. The conflict turned deadly again Sunday. Six people were killed in a shoot-out. Pro-Russian groups say it started when one of those road blocks in the east came under attack.

The entire climbing season on Mount Everest could be canceled after last week's deadly avalanche. That's because the native Sherpas who guide climbers up the world's tallest mountain are threatening to go on strike. At least 13 Sherpa guides died as they prepared to get the route ready for summit. The Sherpa community is upset with Nepal's plans to compensate the families barely equivalent to $400. And a new study published this morning shows that many doctors are still prescribing codeine for children despite safety concerns. Researchers broke down nine years of pediatric ER visits and found just a small bit of codeine prescriptions for colds, coughs, and pain. The study's lead author says the drug can have fatal side effects for some children, but for many others it has no effect at all.

CUOMO: So as we all know today a 26.2-mile stretch of Boston and the vicinity might just be the safest place on earth. Why? Security extremely tight for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, the first, of course, since last year's bombings. Our John Berman live this morning at the starting in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. You were there for the worst and now what you're hoping will be the best. How is it up there, J.B.?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is the best, spirits incredibly high here, Chris. I've seen nothing but smiles on everyone's face. I was talking to the race operations director a short time ago. You could see it is bursting with anticipation for this race to get going, and it will get going in about three hours.

Many starting ways, why? Because 36,000 runners will be in this year's race. That's up 9,000 from last year. And they'll be running amidst incredibly tight security, as you said, unprecedented in many places. Officials calling this the safest place on earth today. In just the last few minutes I saw state police behind me. I've seen National Guard. I saw helicopters flying overhead.

And this is in addition to what we are not seeing. What we're not meant to see, 100 cameras, more than they've ever before, lining the route monitoring almost all of this race course. You can't monitor every inch of a 26.2-mile race, but they have sights and eyes on all the key locations. They are confident this will go off very well. They're asking runners, no backpacks on the race course itself. No camel backs, that water you carry on your back, that will not be allowed this year. Racers will not be allowed to wear costumes or masks. Every once in a while you see that in a marathon. Not here. Not today. They just don't want to take it risk.

And as for the fans, they've been told, if you can, leave the big backpacks and leave the strollers at home. You'll make the official security personnel, their jobs much, much easier if you do your part and you chip in. And everyone here does want to chip in. They're expecting nearly a million people or more to line this race. That would be the biggest crowd ever here. I've talked to a lot of people, friends, family, survivors, they all want to be part of this race today. This is a very important day to turn the page, as one runner told me, to change from tears of pain to tears of joy. Chris, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's going to be such an amazing day, and emotional day for so many there. We're going to watch it with you, John. Thank you so much. It's great to see all the life and happiness going on behind him.

CUOMO: I think it's very instructive that they're not expecting the most runners ever, but they are expecting the most spectators ever. And that shows confidence in the community surrounding. I went up there and I have some surprises for the guys a little later on in the show, what I brought them back from the land of Boston strong.

BOLDUAN: Presents or what?


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the search for flight 370, the underwater vehicle, the Bluefin 21 has already covered more than two- thirds of the intended search area, the focus. And right now, it faces yet another obstacle. We'll have more on that ahead.

CUOMO: And then on "INSIDE POLITICS," intrigue, why are some Democrats pushing 81-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to step down? Who do the Dems want to replace her?


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. We have new developments in the search for Flight 370. And they are not promising. Two-thirds of the underwater search area has now been covered by the Bluefin 21 with nothing found. And tropical cyclone Jack is making conditions above the surface dicey as the searching goes forward.

Let's get some perspective on the new information. Here joining us, Mary Schiavo, CNN aviation analyst, former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation and Mr. David Gallo, CNN analyst, director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

All right, we've discussed this. The information is out there. And yet, there's something very unconvincing and unanswered here, Mary. And I'm going to put it to you. The information has changed out of the investigation again; the data has not. How do you explain the analysis continuing to change when the underlying information isn't? Is this about disclosure or about competency?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I'm going to be charitable and say that it's about disclosure. You know, problem is, this is now the third or fourth set of data we've had about what happened in that crucial time between the last radio transmission and when it disappeared off of the -- you know, after the Straits -- past Indonesia, actually, passed the turn around in Indonesia.

So we've had different reports on altitude, different reports on what was going on. But the latest report now casts doubts on those previous reports because the latest information has the turn to the left occurring in Vietnamese airspace.

You remember, a lot of the theories centered on the fact that the -- that whatever happened in the cockpit and whoever is making the decisions decided to make that turn after the handoff from the air traffic control of Malaysia but before they entered Vietnamese airspace.

Now, apparently not. And the altitude to descent down to 5,000 to 10,000 feet while over Malaysia and other areas is out the window. So we still don't have definitive information, but the story changes once again.

CUOMO: But it's not that easy because the switch from 43,000 feet to 39,000 that may not be material difference, but it fueled all of these conspiracy theories and damnation of the captain and co-pilot that this proves that there was subterfuge, they were trying to avoid radar. That came out of the investigation. They now have changed their analysis. Do they owe the families an apology? Shouldn't there be more?

David Gallo, I'll put this part of it to you. Shouldn't they be saying more than, "Oh, the numbers changed"? Shouldn't they be saying more than that?

DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST: Well, yeah, one thing that's clear, is they need a better communication strategy because they really are having a tough time getting the right word out and not getting everyone upset by what seems to be contradictory and sometimes, spreading misinformation.

But you know the only witness to what happened during this flight are those black boxes. And, you know, we need to the right haystack and then go find that plane, get the black boxes, and there the answers will be.

CUOMO: Well, luckily, there -- this is bifurcated, right? It's split. There are two different searches and this information that keeps changing, that is one aspect. Bad for the families but not necessarily for the search.

So let's get to the search. Two-thirds covered. They don't see anything yet. Is this a scary notion that they may be in the wrong place, David?

GALLO: Well, you know, Air France 447, it took us 10 weeks total, two years calendar time, 10 weeks on the water. But we spent two months out there searching the wrong haystack, and that was horrible. And the pressure was building. All the same kinds of things.

You know, they've got a third of the area looked at. And so, let's see what they turn up. But the -- I'm sure they've got all the bugs worked out. They're operating at top efficiency right now, so we just have to wait and see.

CUOMO: Cyclone, another word for hurricane. That's not going to affect the Bluefin 21, but it will affect how much they can search. You already have people fatigued after 40-plus days of these flights. Ships have to be careful about the ocean, so that's going slow things down but otherwise, probably not worthy of discussion.

But what is, Mary, the ELT is not working, OK? We -- we -- specifically I keep bashing that these planes don't have enough equipment on them to be found. But they do have these ELTs and that none of them would have activated when they hit the water suggests what exactly?

SCHIAVO: Well, it suggests many things, but at least we've finally gotten from the Malaysian authorities confirmation -- apparent confirmation, that there were four of them on the plane, the locations of them on the plane. And that four out of four failed to activate in the water is troubling. It's troubling to anyone.

The explanations are that maybe it's so far, so deep under the water, that they just didn't -- they aren't able to pick up the signals, or the satellite, rather, would be picking up the signals, and that they didn't pick it up because it went so far underwater or that they all -- and this is the one that's hard to believe -- is that they all four failed to function when they hit the water.

And that causes people to believe that the next assumption is that it didn't hit the water. Whatever the reason, it's a mystery about how all four cannot work, failed to send the signal.

CUOMO: ELT is emergency locator transmitter. They're designed to locate -- they transmit a signal to satellites when they hit water. They didn't here.

But now it's going to fuel a new round of conspiracy theories that the plane is in a hangar somewhere. I mean, it just shows that the investigation only has the integrity that it does if its exactitude and the follow up of all the different records that are involved. And here, it seems to be lacking, and it's just punishing the families. And it's horrible.

But the information has to come out. We don't know what it means. But once again, troubling that these devices did not indicate what they're supposed to do if the plane hit the water.

Mary, David, thank you very much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, coming up on NEW DAY, more on the Flight 370 mystery. We've mentioned that the plane had four special beacons, I guess you could call them, designed to send signals after a crash. So why didn't any of them work? We're going to continue to explore that.

And then on Inside Politics, we'll go to Kansas as some high school students are against Michelle Obama as their graduation speaker. They say it isn't her politics that has them frustrated. We'll find out why.


PEREIRA: Almost half past the hour here. Let's take a look at your headlines.

Strong words of condemnation from South Korea's president calling the actions of the captain of a sunken ferry akin to murder. The captain's facing five criminal chargers, including abandoning ship. Four more crew members have since been arrested.

New this morning, video shows what the dive teams are up against searching in near zero visibility; 65 people are confirmed dead in that ferry accident; 237 remain missing. A government official in Yemen tells CNN an operation is under way to take out al Qaeda militants in the Arabian peninsula. That officials says at least 30 have been killed in a joint venture between the U.S. and Yemen. This operation is being called massive and unprecedented. The strikes are focused near an area where about 100 al Qaeda followers gathered recently.

It is now 45 days into the search for Flight 370, and Bluefin 21, the underwater drone, scanning the ocean floor for any trace of the mission jetliner began its ninth mission. So far that Bluefin 21 has searched more than two-thirds of its intended area without finding any signs of the missing planes.

Kraft recalling nearly 100,000 pounds of Oscar Mayer hot dogs because the packages might be labeled wrong. Apparently, they're actually cheese dogs, but the list of ingredients does not reflect that. The 16-ounce packages were produced last month and distributed throughout the U.S. -- concerned for allergies, obviously.

CUOMO: When you're afraid of a cheese dog, you know the world is not right.

BOLDUAN: I'm afraid of a cheese dog.

CUOMO: Oh, not me, especially those Oscar Mayer wieners. Go through a whole pack of them if left to myself.

So let's get to Inside Politics on NEW DAY with Mr. John King. I hope Easter was plentiful.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Easter was great. Have you guys seen Berman's tweets? That's what he's been eating at the starting line up there at the marathon. Berman has been eating those cheese dogs all morning.

BOLDUAN: OK, then fine, I'll try it.

CUOMO: Oh, they're delicious.

BOLDUAN: If John Berman is into it, then maybe I will be.

CUOMO: And his body is a temple.

KING: Not for breakfast, kids.

All right, we'll be back to you guys in just a few minutes. Let's go Inside Politics, a busy Monday.

With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of the "Associated Press," Alexander Burns of "Politico".

Let's start with the vice president, Julie. He's on his way to Ukraine. And more and more criticism of the administration. I don't know what list of options they have, but -- heard Bob Corker a ranking Republican on Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate was on Jake Tapper's show, "The Lead" on Friday. He was talking about, let's be more muscular, maybe some arms to the rebels.

And listen to him here over the weekend. He has this view that Vladimir Putin has a slow and steady plan.


SENATOR BOB CORKER, (R), TN: I think Russia's going to do it over time the way they're doing it with black ops intimidation. I think we're going to lose eastern Ukraine if we continue as we are, and I think it's a geopolitical disaster if that occurs.


KING: Short-term, long-term, what is it the vice president hopes to accomplish and the (inaudible)?

JULIE PACE, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": One of the vice president's main missions in Ukraine over the next day or to reassure the government in Kiev that they have U.S. support.