Return to Transcripts main page
NEW DAY SATURDAY
More Information on Germanwings Co-pilot; Rescuers Work to Locate Black Box, Bodies from Crash; Investigators Working to Piece Together Life of Co-pilot; Bergdahl Defense Taking Shape; New Information on Germanwings Co-pilot; Friends Say Co-pilot Showed No Signs of Anything Wrong; Germanwings Crash Reignites Debate over Cameras in Cockpits; Saudi Air Strikes Pound Yemen Rebels; Controversial Religious Freedom Law in Indiana. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired March 28, 2015 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials with Germanwings and the parent company, Lufthansa, still staying very tightlipped about the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz. But we are learning what investigators are finding inside his apartment. According to the prosecutor here in Dusseldorf, right next to Cologne, they found a crucial clue inside of the trash bin inside of Lubitz's the apartment, the torn-up paper, a doctor's note that said he was excused from work on the day that he, according to authorities, deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps.
Now CNN is learning more about Lubitz from talking to Lubitz's acquaintances, pilots that he was in a club with. And one said that he was very healthy and liked to run a lot and never gave any signs that anything was wrong.
Here is what he had the say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[07:00:30] JOHANNES ROSSBACH, FRIEND OF ANDREAS LUBITZ: He was a very healthy guy. He does not smoke. I can't imagine that he was mentally ill or depressed and sad. He didn't seem that. I was shocked when I hear that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And we're also getting some more insight from an ex-girlfriend that spoke to "Bild" newspaper, the largest newspaper here in Germany.
For more on that our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, joins us.
Fred, you're from Cologne. You can set the stage for us as far as this newspaper and this interview that really does shed light on two different personalities he had.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. The credibility of the newspaper is important in all of this. The "Bild" newspaper is the largest newspaper in Germany. It's a tabloid newspaper. They say that they have talked to the ex-girlfriend of Lubitz, that they met her somewhere here in Germany. They posted a picture of her, standing backwards towards them. And what she says was that he was a man who was very sensitive and needed a lot of care and attention. He was very flattering at times.
But that he was also someone with two personalities and he could get angry, especially when talking about work. That he was someone who woke up at night with bad dreams. That he was someone that just gets erratic at times. And she said, at times, she was afraid of him. That's, in the end, why they split up. They were together for five months last year and then split up. She says that she is shocked what she has heard now.
BROWN: She told the newspaper that he was very fearful of losing his job as a pilot. He had a childhood dream to be a pilot. His goal was to be a Lufthansa pilot. What more will did we learn about that?
PLEITGEN: Well, the childhood dream would be a Lufthansa pilot and especially one flying long distances. The A320 her flew was more of a short-hall and medium-haul plane. We know that he was in a flying job and that he had this medical problem. He was afraid that the medical problem would mean that the dream would be destroyed. Keep in mind, he was at the height of what he wanted to achieve. He was a pilot. He was getting good records from the company, from Germanwings. They said that he was 100 percent fit to fly. At the same time, every year, these pilots are evaluated and have to go through a medical check. There are some that say he may have been fearful of losing all of that. That certainly could be something.
BROWN: Do you know if that medical check included a psychological evaluation?
PLEITGEN: That's a good question. They usually don't. They don't when it's medical checks when you're already a pilot. When you want to become a pilot, when you're a cadet, you get put through psychological checks all of the time. Pretty much the whole process of becoming a pilot is a big psychological evaluation because pilots get put under pressure. They have to do multitasking in pressure environments, just to make sure that the people are mentally tough and fit to fly a plane. He would have had to go through all of that, but we do know that he had the several months of breaks when doing the pilot training.
BROWN: Officials with the airline are not saying why he took the break. "The New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal" are reporting that he was being treated for depression. Officials are not saying what the illness is. They will only say that he is being treated for a medical condition.
PLEITGEN: Right. They're not saying how long he was being treated for a medical condition. They are saying that it was quite a while. They say, in his apartment, the one in Dusseldorf, they found extensive medical records saying that he had this medical condition and that he was being treated for it for a very long time, and also that they found these sick notes that said this man is not fit to go to work. If he's a pilot, that means he is not fit to fly. They're saying what it is. There's reporting saying that it might have been depression or some other form of mental instability.
BROWN: The fact that he ripped up these doctor's note, doctors say, is telling that he was trying to hide the illness from the airline.
A good perspective.
Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. We're going to be talking to you again soon.
I want go to the crash site on the French Alps. There have been high winds there. That rescue workers have had obstacles getting to the site. An access road is being built. At this hour, there are two missions, recovering the data box and recovering the bodies.
Our Karl Penhaul actually trekked right near the crash site, and he joins us more -- Karl?
[07:05:03] KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Morning, Pamela. That recovery operation continues in full swing. Behind us, there are two helicopters we have seen in action again this morning ferrying out the recovery crews high into the mountains. But this is being made tougher and being more treacherous because of the terrain. Yesterday, we hiked into the mountains, all day hiking. It was a tough hike, but we thought that that it was important to get there so we understand what the workers are facing.
Let's take a look.
BROWN: In fact, I flew on Germanwings from Zurich here into Cologne, Germany, yesterday, and I was trying to get a sense of what the emotions were like and how passengers felt. It struck out to me that it was business as usual. The pilots did not take any extra steps to talk to the passengers or make announcements. But a producer of mine did take another Germanwings flight and she said the pilots on her flight took an extra initiative and talked to the passengers and addressed the crash, knowing that some of them have been uneasy about what happened and also talked about the fact that the rules have changed now for the airline in the wake of the crash, that now there has to be two people in the cockpit at all times. If a pilot leaves, someone else has to go in the cockpit with the co-pilot. That's a rule in place in the United States ever since 9/11, and now it's taking affect here in Europe.
Back to you, Alison and Victor.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Pamela, thank you so much, in Cologne, Germany, outside of the headquarters of Germanwings.
In other news, after eight years, Amanda Knox, those legal troubles, the drama now. It's all over. What she said after an Italian court overturned her murder conviction.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, a close on a school bus that caught fire with students on board. How the driver got the kids off before the engine exploded.
[07:10:37] KOSIK: Right now investigators are working to peace together the life of Germanwings Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who officials say was hiding an illness from his employers. So far, there are no signs of a motive.
Former FBI assistant director and CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, joins me now; along with pilot, John Ransom, here with analysis as well.
Let's start with Tom.
The planes are equipped with so much technology. We're talking about controlling planes from the ground. Could any of this fancy technology really prevent this kind of crash?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Alison, I don't think so. You know all of the things that they come up with will solve one problem, but not every problem, so even the new rules of having a second person in the cockpit. If somebody like this co-pilot was intent on killing everybody on the plane, maybe they will kill that person first and kill the remaining 148 later. You can not just solve every single problem.
KOSIK: And that's a good point there, which brings me to John Ransom. A question for you on the condition that he had. He had the notes from the doctor and one saying that he was not fit the fly, one on the day of the crash. Why are there any regulations for the doctor to contact the employer? Someone dropped the ball here, didn't they?
JOHN RANSOM, PILOT: There are not really any communications capabilities for doing that. Often times, the physician may not know that the person is a pilot. It's really up to the pilot to notify the company that they're not capable of flying. In this case, clearly the crew member had no interest in doing that.
KOSIK: We understand there are lots of health assessments done for pilots in training. What about when they become pilots? Is there drug testing or psychological testing, regular testing?
RANSOM: There's random drug testing. Sometime inbound on a flight, a crew member is notified that they will have a drug screening when they get in. There is not regular psychological testing. There's observational work going on. Any time that they do any simulator work. And, in fact, I was involved in a couple of cases where the simulator seemed to be deteriorated for certain pilots and it turns out that they had an under lying problem that they were able to deal with medically. But as far as continuous psychological training, there was none.
KOSIK: So pilots that could have psychological problems could be flying under the radar of the employer?
RANSOM: Sure. Sure. KOSIK: How do you overcome that?
RANSOM: The only way to overcome it really is to have a serious self- reporting method similar to the way that we have now and just trust that the pilots are going to do that fortunately.
KOSIK: Tom, question for you. The FBI has been called in to assist in the investigation. What's the FBI going to offer that other agencies aren't offering?
FUENTES: Well, world wide database recoverage with the 80 offices the FBI has outside the United States and around the world. Access to all of the terror watch lists and warning lists and criminal databases that the FBI has in the states. Plus, the fact that he went to flight school in Arizona. He spent a considerable amount of time studying in the United States and would have had friends and teachers and classmates here that would be worth interview, and try to find out what his back ground was then. Don't forget, when the investigation started, the concern also was whether or not he might have joined some extremist group and had an ideology motive for doing this, as opposed to maybe a more personal mental health issue with just himself.
KOSIK: That has not been ruled out yet, has it?
FUENTES: I think, almost. We have not seen every document or e-mail. They're pretty much convinced that it looks like he did not have a motive that was political or religious or some other ideology. Also, we, from the beginning, knew that we did not have a plane that was shot down, like the one in Ukraine or that exploded in midair like TWA 800, because those planes tend to come down in separate large pieces as opposed to this plane, which was obvious that it crashed into that mountain going 400 miles per hour.
[07:15:06] KOSIK: OK. John Ransom, thank you so much for the time.
Tom Fuentes, as well, thanks for your analysis.
RANSOM: Thank you, Alison
FUENTES: You're welcome.
BLACKWELL: There's a lot going on this morning. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: Huge exPLOsion in this bus fire. But we have to tell you about the rescue. The kids trapped inside and the heroic efforts of the bus driver to get them out.
Plus, new Saudi air strikes pound rebels backed by Iran in Yemen. With the country close to civil war -- some would say they're already there -- can the leaders work to keep the conflict from spilling over its borders?
BLACKWELL: 19 minutes past the hour now.
We will have more on the Germanwings plane crash and investigation.
First, a look at other stories developing now.
KOSIK: After eight years, a grateful Amanda Knox can put the high- profile murder case behind her. Late last night, Knox made a brief statement after an Italian judge overturned her verdict on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA KNOX, MURDER CONVICTION TOSSED OUT BY JUDGE: You saved my life, and I am so grateful. And I am so grateful to have my life back. Thank you. That's all that I can say. Right now I am still absorbing what all of this means and what -- what comes to mind is my gratitude for the life that's been given to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[07:20:04] KOSIK: Knox and her Italian boyfriend were accused of murdering her roommate in 2007. Knox was facing 28.5 years in prison.
The U.S. says it's up to Iran to make the necessary compromises for there to be a deal on Iran's controversial program by Tuesday's deadline. Secretary of State John Kerry says progress is being made, but he says, quote, "We're not there yet." He is in Switzerland along with foreign ministers of France, Britain and Russia to try to hammer out an agreement.
BLACKWELL: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wiped her server clean and deleted all e-mails from her personal service, according to Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, who says Clinton's lawyer informed him of the news. Gowdy has asked that Clinton turn over the server to the State Department inspector general for an independent review. Clinton's lawyer, David Kendall, said no. Last year, Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of e-mails to the State Department. We'll have more on this story the next half hour.
KOSIK: Astronaut Scott Kelly has spent 342 days on the international space station, the longest stretch of time that any U.S. astronaut has spent in space. Kelly and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off last night. Part of Kelly's mission will perform be parallel studies on Scott Kelly's identical twin brother, retired astronaut, Mark Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Fire burns through a school bus in California. 35 middle school students were on board the bus when it began to smoke. The bus driver is a hero. She was able to get the kids off the bus safely before the exPLOsion.
We have new reports coming out this morning about the co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings plane. What his girlfriend told a German magazine about their relationship.
KOSIK: Plus, why safety experts are calling for cameras to be placed in cockpits. But will it really detour criminals and terrorists?
KOSIK: A slight dip in mortgage rates this week, thanks to a decline in 10-year Treasury yields. Take a look at your rates.
[07:25:59] KOSIK: We have new details this morning concerning the government's desertion case against Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. For the first time, we're learning what could be the defense.
Let's get details from CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: After being charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's defense may be taking shape. Defense officials tell CNN Bergdahl has told Army investigators that he did not intend to desert, that his plan, his intention was to walk to the next nearest Army outpost in eastern Afghanistan in July 2009, in the middle of Taliban country, that he was walking to the outpost to report what he thought, what he believed at the time was a lack of leadership, order and discipline in his unit, that was his intention. That's what Army investigators have been told. Now, whether this is going to be a valid defense, a defense that the Army accepts, remains to be seen. It may not matter what his intention was. He is facing a charge of desertion.
This week, we're learning new details of the conditions that Bergdahl was held in for five years after quickly captured by the Taliban when he left the base. He faced five years of isolation, beatings. He was held in conditions that lead to illnesses, wounds on his body. All of this detailed by his lawyer in a release of documents.
But again, all of this will be up to the Army justice system to decide if this is enough for those charges to either stick or to be dismissed.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. BLACKWELL: This morning, new developments in the case of this co-
pilot that deliberately, reports say, crashed the plane into the Alps, this Germanwings jet.
KOSIK: And there are new reports surfacing about his past treatment for mental illness. That, as investigators are trying to see why he would crash a plane into a mountainside, killing himself and 149 other people.
BLACKWELL: Let's get right to Pamela Brown in Germany. She's live outside the offices of Germanwings in Cologne -- Pamela?
BROWN: Well, good morning to you.
This investigation is really spread out. We have an investigation here in Germany and also, of course, in France at the French Alps. We know that rescue teams are still working to get to the crash site. They're trying to, of course, recover the bodies of 150 bodies there. We're being told that it could be a couple of weeks. And also they're trying to recover the black box. And we're taking a look here at some new pictures coming in of the rescue teams that are in route to the French Alps to the spot. We know the conditions are treacherous. There have been high winds. Officials are trying to build an access road into the area. That could take a while. We will keep you updated on the developments there.
Our Karl Penhaul actually trekked to right new the crash site, the same path that the forensics teams took. We'll hear from him later in the show.
But right now, I want to go to Montevallo, Germany, where the co- pilot, Andrea Lubitz, is from, that's where his parents live, and that's where investigators have been.
CNN has also been interviewing those that knew Lubitz. And Diana will take it from here with more on that.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The house where Andreas' parents live in the German town of Montevallo is shuttered and guarded by the police. Investigators, the only ones granted access.
(on camera): (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
[07:29:48] MAGNAY (voice-over): We were told that the grandparents lived in this nearby house, but they're unwilling to speak about the man French prosecutors say may have deliberately crashed flight 9525. I asked if they are relatives. "No, thank god, we're not," they say, getting into a police car. "We're just trying to get away."
But gliding was clearly a passion for the young Lubitz.
(on camera): Between the ages of 12 and 14, Lubitz was a regular fixture at this gliding club where a senior member described him as a regular teenager and one that was committed to following his dream.
(voice-over): "A very normal young person full of energy," he says. "What can I say? He had a bright future. He made his hobby into a job. What more can you hope to achieve?"
Germanwings said Lubitz had 630 hours of flight time behind him, that he had trained at the Lufthansa Academy but Lufthansa's CEO told journalists there had been some kind of a break.
CARSTEN SPOHR, CEO, LUFTHANSA (through translation): There was an interruption with regard to the training and after then, the candidate managed to go through. He continued the training. He then also passed all medical tests, all flight examinations and all checks.
MAGNAY: Whether that break holds the key to this horror, we don't know from the clues from the black box to Lubitz's psychological state as the plane went down, simply that he was silent but breathing as the pilot knocked desperately on the cockpit door.
BROWN: So disturbing.
I want to bring in Diana Magnay, on the ground there in Germany.
Diana, you have been there for a few days and speaking to people that knew Lubitz and they seemed shocked by this, right?
MAGNAY: Very much so, Pam. Completely shocked. This does not fit into the image of Lubitz as a man. In all honestly, this little road where I am that fronts the Lubitz family home has been swarmed by press, as you can imagine, for the last few days. Most residents are refusing to speak to any of the press. It's very hard to get comments from people that really knew him quite well. All on the flags are flying at half mask. The house where the Lubitz parents left on Thursday morning to go to Marseilles on the flight is still shuttered. There is a bunch of flowers on the doorstep but the parents have not returned, presumably still in interrogation and in counseling with the police.
But one thing that you have all read that's lying around is the "Bild," Germany's biggest tabloid newspaper, and its headline citing an ex-girlfriend of Lubitz. And let's just ad a caveat, the girlfriend is not named, her name is being changed. "Bild" says it's all verifiable but, anyway, they say that this ex-girlfriend said that he had threatened that one day everyone would know his name. That's therefore obviously a line that's circulating here as people talk about this terrible strategy and the man whose name is on everybody's lips -- Pam?
Diana Magnay, Germany, thank you very much.
I am here in Cologne, Germany, near the apartment in Dusseldorf of Andreas Lubitz. We know investigators have been visiting there, trying to piece together a motive.
Alison, Victor, back to you.
BLACKWELL: Pamela, thank you so much.
I want to go to psychologist, Dr. Eric Fisher, and talk about something that we just heard from Diane Magnay, is that friends and people that knew Lubitz well say that they did not see any signs or indicators like this. How typical is that?
DR. ERIC FISHER, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, in so many situations that we see in the news where we have these tragedies that happens, whether it's a theater shooting or things like that, these individuals are able to maintain the ideal self, their ideal view that they want to world to see of them. They're able to hold it together and situations in public, even around family members. It's when they do get around sometimes by themselves or a few people that they can let the real self or the feel self out. That's one thing that is difficult for us psychologists to detect and other health professionals to detect because the person only has to be on for this period of time or they only have to -- they know that they have to behave a certain way during a flight or in front of certain officials and things like that. It's easy for people to hold that up for a period of time. It's the long-term observation you have to look at in terms of being able to evaluate what's truly going on.
BLACKWELL: The "Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" reporting that he was treated for mental illness and hid the diagnosis from Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings. We have a question from a viewer. We have asked everyone to use the #Germanwingsqs. Here's one of them. "Why is there no mechanism in place to have doctors notify airlines or licensing bodies to flag those that should not fly?"
Question to you, what kind of screening procedure should be in place? We know there's the psychological at the beginning of employment. Should it be every six months or every year? What's the right balance here?
[07:35:19] FISHER: Again, we're looking at such a rare situation that occurs that the ability for even screenings to catch this would still be minimal. It's reasonable to ask that every six months someone undergoes screening. Now the different ways to screen or test for that is objective tests of personality and mood. We can look at more projective tests, which look at more underlying issues. There's also the ability to look at some of the brain scan technologies to look at is there any trend in brain wave profiles that may suggest a depressive episode or schizophrenia or other psychological issues that they can further assess.
BLACKWELL: And there would be push back because that comes with a hefty price tag if you're doing that for every person, not just the pilot but for, in some cases, the fright attendants or anyone involved with the maintenance of the plane.
Last question before we go to our next segment. The German magazine is reporting that the girlfriend heard him say things like he was going to do something so heinous that everybody would remember his name. How typical for relatives, someone close to someone making that kind of statement, especially a pilot, to say nothing if he said nothing medical professionals?
FISHER: A lot of people with impulse-control issues -- and we don't know how he was behind the scenes. He might have said a lot of things. You never want to believe that someone can follow through on things. If this is someone's occupation or their life, often we do not want to say the wrong thing to affect somebody we care about and love. If a relationship ends in this situation, do we want to leave with such ill will that we feel like we negatively impact the life. Like I said, the chance of something like this happening is so rare, we don't want to err on a false negative.
BLACKWELL: Yeah. And we have to add, of course, examine all of these -- we did not want to hurt anyone's feelings or go and start something and cause troubles.
We will have a deeper conversation on that.
Dr. Fisher, thank you so much.
FISHER: Thank you.
KOSIK: The possibility that airlines could hire pilots intent on crashing airplanes, it has many safety experts calling for cameras to be placed in all cockpits. But would that detour the bad guys?
And explosions heard around Yemen's capitol as the Saudi-led coalition intensifies air strikes against rebel forces. We're going to look at what part the U.S. is playing in this. That's coming up ahead.
[07:41:13] KOSIK: We're looking at new angles of the investigation of Germanwings flight 9525. 150 lives were lost, including the co-pilot. German prosecutors say he deliberately crashed the plane into the Alps.
BLACKWELL: And this tragedy has reignited the debate over cameras inside airplane cockpits. Some say it's a good idea. Others consider it a violation of pilot privacy.
Our Brian Todd looked into this -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alison and Victor, safety experts are now calling for cameras to be installed in cockpits. A mechanical eye inside the cockpit, they say, could detour pilots from reckless, capture any potential threats and help investigators after a crash.
A key question now, would a camera have made any difference in the Germanwings crash?
TODD (voice-over): Andreas Lubitz had locked himself alone in the cockpit as the captain pounded on the door. Now safety experts are calling for a bold move to avoid another disaster, cameras in the cockpit.
JIM HALL, FORMER NTSB CHAIRMAN: The cameras would not be on the face of the pilot or co-pilot. They would focus on all the manipulations that are made.
TODD: Former NTSB chairman, Jim Hall, says cameras in the cockpit would be a deterrent to bad behavior or careless piloting and would be a key investigative tool. What can cameras trained on the control panel detect?
LYNN SPENCER, FORMER COMMERCIAL AVIATION PILOT: You can see what they're seeing on their instruments. You can see what they're seeing on their instrument panels and screens. You can see what they're doing with their hands.
TODD: Cameras on the instruments would not necessarily give investigators much in the Germanwings crash. They already know how that plane went down technically. But former commercial pilot, Lynn Spencer, says cameras trained on pilot's faces could catch certain moments that the voice and data recorders may miss.
SPENCER: Was the pilot chocking or having a seizure?
TODD: The technology is already on the market but one manufacturer said no airlines have bought the cameras.
Cameras are already used to monitor key missions like Friday's launch to the international space station. There used to watch some train operators or taxi or bus driver, including this one, caught looking at his phone and then crashing.
TODD: Cockpit video could be live-streamed back to controllers on the ground in real time, although the expensive of installing and screening thousands of live cameras could be prohibitive.
Spencer says cockpit cameras could have provided key evidence in some of the most infamous disasters in aviation, including 9/11.
SPENCER: If we had cameras in the cockpit on 9/11, we would have been able to see how the hijackers took over the cockpit, how they killed the pilots, how they tried to manipulate the controls.
TODD: The top pilot's union in America is stanchly against the idea. In a statement to CNN, it says cockpit video, quote, "is subject to misinterpretation and may lead investigators away from accurate conclusions."
(END VIDEOTAPE) (on camera): Pilot union officials are also worried about a video leaking. They say voice data clips have been made public in past cases, especially over seas, and no pilot wants their final moments to be posted all over the Internet. As one pilot most famously said, "I do not want my spouse, children and grandchildren and a million strangers to be able to watch me die."
Alison and Victor?
KOSIK: New Saudi air strikes pound rebels backed by Iran in Yemen with the country in a civil war, can leaders work to keep the conflict from spilling over its borders?
[07:44:40] BLACKWELL: Next, tensions grow in the Hoosier State following the passage of a new bill that says that some can discriminate against others, including the gas and lesbian communities. See which basketball legend is speaking out about the controversial law.
KOSIK: New developments this morning about the crisis in Yemen. Saudi Arabia says that military operations there have taken key rebel targets out, and that there's word that a major announcement is set for later today. This, as huge explosions are heard in the country's capital of Sanaa after the second day of a campaign targeting the Houthi militia. This group has taken over the capital in Yemen and capture an airbase along with key parts of the port city of Aiden. That's where the country's president was staying before he fled the country.
Let's go ahead and bring in CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
Good morning to you.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning, Alison.
KOSIK: General, why is the conflict in Yemen so important to the U.S.?
HERTLING: Yemen is an interesting place, Alison. This event or the multi-country effort from the Gulf Cooperation Council, lead by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is attempting to get the Houthi rebels to stop fighting and get the Houthi representatives back to the table with the elected Yemeni government of President Hadi. We have been asked just to provide some support in this. This is a critical area because of the terrorist organizations that make their domain in this small country to the south of Saudi Arabia.
[07:49:52] KOSIK: But the Houthies are backed or allied with Iran's government, and this is a precarious situation for the U.S. On the one hand, you see the Obama administration sort of some would perceive as trying to cuddle up with Iran to try to get this nuclear deal out by Tuesday. Some would day ostracizing Israel. Then you have the U.S. fighting against or maybe taking a role against Iran via the Houthies to protect Yemen. What does this say about the U.S. in all this?
HERTLING: I think too many people truthfully, Alison, are making this into a proxy war and looking at it between Riyadh versus Tehran, where is the U.S. going to fall in, the Houthies backed by the Iranian rebels. This is more of an internal and very parochial conflict within Yemen that has been going on for some time. It certainly has turned into a civil war. There are some that think it will turn into something bigger. But right now, this is just being led by internal drivers to the country.
And truthfully, what I think Saudi Arabia is attempting to do -- and they've asked for our help to do this -- is to get the elected representative government back in power. When Mr. Hadi left office a few weeks ago, I think it surprised the Houthies. They weren't looking for an abdication of the government. They were looking to try to influence more. When he left, I think it surprised that rebel group.
KOSIK: Very quickly, yes or no, do you think that the U.S.'s role, proxy or not, in the Yemeni war that's going on, is that going to hurt a nuclear deal with Iran?
HERTLING: It will certainly affect it. I don't think it will hurt it. But it's critically important as part of the negotiations. And I think that's why we're tip-toeing around some of these areas and why we should not get involved directly in Yemen.
KOSIK: All right, General Mark Hertling, thanks for your analysis.
HERTLING: Thank you, Alison.
BLACKWELL: Back to our coverage of the Germanwings plane crash. Next hour, we'll take a closer look at the background of the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, and new details of his mental health. The German tabloid magazine, "Bild," reporting details of an interview with an ex-girlfriend. We'll take you live to Cologne, Germany.
Also, new tensions in Indiana after the passage of this religious freedom bill now law signed by the governor. Some say it helps businesses discriminate against the gay and lesbian communities. Well, here's the question. Should the Final Four stay in Indianapolis? We'll talk with a basketball great about that.
[07:56:03] BLACKWELL: Let's talk about this new law in Indiana. Some say it could make it easier for religious conservatives to refuse services to gay couples. It's touched off a fire storm of controversy.
KOSIK: Protesters for and against the new legislation turned out in the state capitol this week. Passage of the measure has been described by advocates as protecting religious freedom. It also has drawn concerns by the NCAA which will hold its Final Four games in Indianapolis. Charles Barkley weighed in saying this: "Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me as long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state I believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states' cities."
BLACKWELL: CNN's Shasta Darlington has been following this story.
And we're hearing more voices, more people chiming in on this discussion.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Victor. This legislation was passed on Thursday, but it's a divisive bill with national implications, so the controversy is not going to die down.
DARLINGTON (voice-over): Opponents shout out their frustration, supporters applaud as Indiana Governor Mike Pence signs into law a measure will allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers, but the governor says will uphold freedom.
MIKE PENCE, (R), GOVERNOR OF INDIANA: This bill is not about discrimination. And if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way, I would have vetoed it.
DARLINGTON: The backlash, fast and furious. The NCAA, which is holding its men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend, saying it's concerned about the impact on players and employees and warns it's going to rethink future events.
Openly gay NBA player Jason Collins tweeted is, "It going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me and to others when we come to the Final Four."
CEOs like Apple and Yelp denounced the bill, saying it could affect business.
Opponents of the law point to famous cases of bakeries that refused to make wedding cakes for gay couples and were found guilty of discrimination, saying now Indiana businesses could turn away gay customers on religious grounds.
But the governor insists it couldn't be used that way.
PENCE: This legislation restricts government action. It doesn't apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved.
DARLINGTON: Last year, Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a similar bill amid threats to the Super Bowl being held there. Other states have similar legislation but activists say the Indiana law is one of the most sweeping and reaction could impact whether other states take up the cause.
(END VIDEOTAPE) DARLINGTON: In fact, Arkansas also just passed a very similar legislation so there are now 20 states with some kind of religious freedom bill on the books. At the same time, there was a bill being discussed in Georgia. And with all of this controversy, some Republican legislators stepped forward and said, no, let's add anti- discrimination language so it cannot be used to turn away gay customers. So we're seeing reaction on both sides.
What this comes down to, Victor, is states are laying the groundwork for a ruling expected later this year that could legalize same-sex marriage when it comes to the Supreme Court.
BLACKWELL: Yes, so this is about more than one state and one law, really a national conversation.
Shasta Darlington, reporting for us live.
Shasta, thank you.
Stay here. We've got a lot coming up this morning.
KOSIK: For our international viewers, "Newsroom" is next.
For us, the next hour of your NEW DAY starts now.
[07:59:55] BLACKWELL: New revelations about the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525. Did he hide depression from his bosses? Should they have been aware of his condition?
KOSIK: We're going to go high into the French Alps to get a unique view of the dangerous and grim recovery efforts.