Return to Transcripts main page


French Satellite Images May Show Objects; Deadly Landslide in Washington State; Crisis in Ukraine

Aired March 23, 2014 - 08:00   ET


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, we don't know what date these images were taken or even, you know, what this object could be. All we know is it's an object of interest at this point. We don't know the size.

So, what they are going to have to do is compare it with the satellite images they already have. Remember, they some from a Chinese satellite, but also an Australian satellite. And then they're going to have to figure out exactly where it's at, whether it's worth to go check out what is now a third search area in that southern corridor.

But there's cautious optimism that with each much these new sightings, it means they're able to cover more area. And even if they're not able to -- for example, with the P-8 coming back saying they didn't see any debris, it does mean they can keep on searching and trying new areas. So, the more they can cover, the more they can see, the more they'll know they have covered.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We've talked about the searches as well as today. Can you talk to us about the Malaysian government because they have been so criticized about their handling of this, and this is a real issue of pride for them because this plane -- I mean, this is a government owned airline, Malaysian Airlines.


SHUBERT: This is a huge issue of pride. I mean, Malaysia Airlines represents in many ways the country. So it's more than simply an airline that went missing with 239 passengers aboard. It's an entire nation's pride is at stake and the whole country, really, is following this and watching every move.

I mean, remember a lot of the passengers on board were Malaysian, even a lot of the Chinese passengers have relatives there's. There's a sizable China population here in Malaysia. And so, this is why it's become so critical for the entire country.

The Malaysian government has come in for a lot of criticism but a lot of Malaysians feel that the Malaysian government is doing the best it can in an unprecedented situation. Nobody has ever seen an airliner like this simply disappear. And so, the Malaysian government has really struggled with something that nobody else has dealt with before. And for that reason, a lot of Malaysians are very defensive about the criticism that's come.

PAUL: A good point. OK, Atika Shubert, appreciate the update. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So, now, day 16 of this search for Flight 370 and the question today is as it has been every day, are teams any closer to solving this?

Let's bring in now CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien and former CIA covert operations officer Mike Baker.

PAUL: Mike, I want to start with you, if you we could please? And hello to you, Miles.

But, Mike, we talked about these satellite images that are coming in, the pilot's personal flight simulator that's being investigated by the FBI. If you can what else are investigators looking at that we haven't necessarily spent as much time talking about?

MIKE BAKER, FORMER CIA COVERT OPERATIONS OFFICER: Well, I mean, I think it's been extremely well covered because unfortunately now we're two weeks into this tragic mystery, but at the end of the day, the investigative standpoint, you've got frustrating little you can do.

Now, unfortunately, some of that work got started fairly slowly. As you pointed out, there's been a lot of criticism on the Malaysian authorities and they were, you know, basically engaged in some self- inflicted wounds at the start.

What could you do? You investigate the crew. That should have been one of the first things they did. In terms of the data that they had in knowing that they had a problem, within 24 hours they should have been conducting forensic tests on everything, the crew's laptop, communication, certainly flight simulator and should have called in outside resources.

But it's a very proud nation, a very nationalistic nation. So, that part of it is not necessarily surprising that they didn't turn to the FBI or others for assistance. Then you look at the passengers and tear apart the passenger manifest. And the problem there, you know, to give the Malaysians some credit they are dealing with a multination situation.

Imagine trying to get data specific on all those Chinese passengers from the Chinese authorities. Not exactly the font of transparency. So, you look at the passengers. You look everything in the hold. And then at the same time, you're doing all this data pull. You're trying to get information on the flight path from all the various nation.

You're talking about military radar in some cases, capabilities that a lot of nations don't want to give up. So, the Malaysians have had some issues here and didn't help themselves at all, but it's extremely complex because you're dealing with these other nations. BLACKWELL: Miles, let me bring you in here. We learned that NASA, that it will start to assist in this search. We've seen all these satellite images from different countries. We know maybe they are low quality because they don't want to release everything they have.

But what would be the difference between what we've seen from China, what we've seen or what we expect to see from France, the Australian image and what we'll see from NASA once they start to release images potentially?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, you know, in the commercial world, companies like Digital Globe provide tremendous capability. One meter resolution, meaning you can see something at three feet in width and resolve it. So, there's a lot of expo ability outside of NASA's realm as far as imaging. You know, any set of eyes you can put on the scene is a good thing.

But I think we should back up here a little bit and question exactly where the scene might be. Remember, this has been identified by using primary radar targets which are sketchy at best along with a pinging between the Inmarsat satellite and the system onboard, the ACAR system that communication device that was turned off but was still passively pinging back and forth. That was not designed to be identifying the location of an airplane.

So, you have to wonder if they are in completely the wrong direction this morning because it's a possibility. We have, if you take earth of those out of the equation and both of them are kind of sketchy, you're back to kind of square one.

PAUL: Miles, you just walked me into my very next question and I want to hear from both of you on this and, Miles, I'll go to you since you were on it. I have been bombarded by people, I don't know about you, who are convinced this thing landed somewhere north and it's going to be used for a very nefarious purpose.

You know the theories.


PAUL: How plausible is it to you, Miles, first and then, Mike, I want to hear your take on it, too. How plausible is it that that could -- that could it have landed somewhere?

O'BRIEN: Well, here's the thing. When you have a transponder on an airplane, you light up like a Christmas tree on a radar screen. Your -- the type of aircraft, your speed, your altitude -- all kinds of information is overlaid that tiny blip that the radar picks up. When you turn off that transponder, you're back to that tiny little blip. None of that data is there.

So, is it possible in overnight hours of that night that either radar installations were turned off or people who are supposedly manning these radar installations weren't paying close attention. That's quite possible. And would countries want to admit that? Of course not.

So, it is within the realm of plausibility that the plane went north and did, in fact, avoid being detected by rather, or perhaps there was some detection that we're not aware of. But the point is, these nations are not going to want to admit a radar site was down or not being properly monitored.

BLACKWELL: Mike, what's your theory on that?

BAKER: Well, you know, unfortunately this is very an unsatisfying answer. But, frankly, that scenario is as plausible as good as most other scenarios at this point, and it's two weeks down the road. I find it hard to imagine in one sense that plane could have taken that northern arc that you're referring to and bypass somehow either accidentally or willingly or with motivation all the radar capabilities that are within that northern arc, but you can't take that scenario off the table.

And so, from an investigative point of view, there's no evidence, you know, to conclusively support one scenario or another. From a psychology point of view this has been fascinating because people have gotten on one particular scenario or another, and they defended with emotion.

You think, well, I'm not quite sure how you do that. If you're an investigator in this, you try to keep an even head and you look until some conclusive evidence allows you to do that, you can't take anything off the table.

BLACKWELL: I want to come to you, Mike, with this. Your former covert operations and we see this 26 country multinational force, a lot of countries working together that really don't have the most cordial histories together. You got Chinese planes in Australia. We're day 16.

If this goes to day 26, 36, 46, is there a points at which, you know, these countries feel that this is a lost cause and feel less likely to share imaging, less likely to share resources, intelligence. I imagine time is of the essence as you look at this politically.

BAKER: Well, exactly. It certainly is because at a certain point, I hate to say this, but there are budget issues involved. There are certainly, you know, self-interest involved from the various nations that are engaged in this exercise.

But I think the thing that we have going for us in a sense is that there are perhaps some 1,200 777s operating out there around the world. The industry itself has a real high motivation to understand what happened to this because of the other assets that are up in the air at this time. So, I do think the core governments here involved in this, Malaysian, Chinese and others will stay engaged. They will continue to work this until we have resolution and the industry will be a big part of driving that.

PAUL: OK. Miles, real quickly I just want your viewpoint on this. The prime minister, Tony Abbott, of Australia said we'd now had a number of very credible leads.

A lot of people look at this and say, I don't understand what's so credible necessarily.

Do you believe, and I'm sure there is some doubt to some degree, but I guess how much do you believe authorities may be holding back from releasing to the public that they know that we don't right now.

O'BRIEN: I think there's an awful lot we haven't heard. I still would like to hear the air traffic control tapes. They haven't released that. They have not released an accurate transcript. We don't know anything about their investigation into the flight crew.

There's a lot of information that we would have heard if this had been conducted in the U.S. with the National Transportation Safety Board running the investigation. They don't run their investigations in the same way and frankly it's been an incomplete release of what they know and that has fueled a tremendous amount of speculation.

So, when I hear the prime minister of Australia saying they are credible leads with all due respect, he's a politician in Australia, he's not running this investigation nor is he an expert. So, I think we should take that with a grain of salt.

BLACKWELL: Still a lot of questions, including, will we see this image that the French have handed over to the Malaysians in Australia.

Miles O'Brien, Mike Baker, thank you both.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And we'll have much more on the search for Flight 370, straight ahead. Today's searches had been visual searches, relying on eyes more than radar, of course. But we'll a new set of the satellite images refocus this investigation again.

PAUL: And listen, we don't want to forget about another story we're watching out there. We're getting brand new pictures we want to share with you of a deadly, devastating landslide in Washington state, cries from underneath mud as rescues are going on as we speak.

Stay close.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

Obviously, we're going to keep our eyes open here for you and get you apprised of all the developments.

We're hearing about this French satellite that spotted, quote, "a possible object" in the search of Flight 370.

However, our eyes also on the folks in Washington right now who have really urgent situation on their hands and it's deadly. BLACKWELL: Right. Right now, these emergency search-and-rescue teams are following cries for help and taking what they are calling extreme risks. They are hoping to dig out survivors of this wreckage. Look at it. This is near the town of Oso in Washington. A massive landslide. This is northeast of Seattle.

PAUL: And listen, let's just take a look at this picture too from officials. You see the cutoff there, that's the size of the landslide that eclipsed that area, killing at least three people we know, three others including a 6-month-old baby in critical condition right now. No one knows how many people, though, are buried under that deadly mixture of rocks, trees and mud at this point.

BLACKWELL: Unimaginable, CNN's Nick Valencia has the latest.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Paulo Falcao captured this video of the mudslide that came down right in front of his car.

PAULO FALCAO, EYEWITNESS: I was coming down the hill and I just saw the darkness, like somebody wants to grab you and everything was gone.

VALENCIA: Falcao says the debris buried cars and trucks in front of him.

FALCAO: We heard a woman and a baby screaming.

VALENCIA: The massive mudslide cut off the small town of Oso, Washington, and Stillaguamish River and prompted an evacuation notice.

CHIEF TRAVIS HOTS, SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASHINGTON: We've got a massive amount of mud out there and debris with a very, very fluid, unstable situation.

VALENCIA: This morning, dangerous search and rescue efforts are under way to find any other survivors.

HOTS: Only safe way right now with the water building behind that big mud slurry is to rescue people that are on top of the mud that are alive with helicopters and hoists and actually get them out of there.

VALENCIA: While some people were rescued, others are still trapped under the tons of earth and debris.

HOTS: We have people that are yelling for our help and we are going to make, we're going to take extreme risks to try to get them out of there.


VALENCIA: We're standing by for a press conference later on this afternoon about 12:00 Eastern we're hearing from our local affiliates to hear from local officials to update on the situation, very urgent situation guys. People still trapped.

And as you were talking about, Victor and Christie, you're hearing screams from people still trapped from the debris yesterday afternoon. We're going on 24 hours nearly. 24 hours that they have been trapped.

PAUL: Well, because it's so urban. Such an area there, the Darrington, 75 miles northeast of Seattle. It's blocked.

VALENCIA: It's cut off.

PAUL: It's cut off.


PAUL: So I guess we have to wait to hear if they are able to get into them and get people out.

VALENCIA: That's creating a big problem for search-and-rescue crews because of the cutoff, because this town is cutoff. And, initially, we heard that the stream, Stillaguamish River, was going to create a possible, you know, another fatal event -- a catastrophic event is what they are saying. National Weather Service saying later this morning, earlier this morning I should say, that there's potential for flooding but it's not catastrophic potential.

BLACKWELL: Some improvement.

Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

VALENCIA: You got it, guys.

BLACKWELL: So, Moscow is tying up some loose ends to exert complete control over Crimea. There's a barrage of gunfire and stun grenades, we've heard about. Russian armored personnel carries rammed through the gates of Belbek Air Base.

PAUL: The takeover removes one of the last barriers, though, to total Russian control of the Crimean peninsula. So, let's get Erin McPike and she's live for us from the White House. This seemed, Erin, when you look at it like a calculated show of force by Vladimir Putin.

How is the U.S. reacting this morning?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, we heard from a spokeswoman from the National Security Council just yesterday who said that Russia is responsible for all of the casualties and all of the damage that they are inflicting now on Ukrainian forces from these incursions into the Crimean peninsula.

And we have known from the White House in the past few days that there has been increasing concern that Russia would be doing more and President Obama said on Thursday that he wants to see more severe action take towards Russia as this continues, and we do know that he will be meeting with foreign leaders when he leaves tonight for a foreign trip all next week, and this will be a heavy focus of his trip over the next week, Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Erin McPike there at the White House for us. Erin, thank you.

PAUL: So, getting back to the missing flight. Searchers are scanning the Indian Ocean for debris and we have some new satellite image, not from China this morning.

BLACKWELL: Yes, from France. Malaysian officials say French officials passed on to them and Australia potential objects that they've captured via satellite. We'll that have latest on that next.



BLACKWELL: listen I know it doesn't sound like much but that noise, that click, click actually we're calling it a ping, it's been altered so it can be heard by humans. That's what could help to solve this international mystery, what happened to 370. Investigators have about two weeks, 14 days or so until the battery of the flight recorder dies.

And once that battery goes that ping which helps pinpoint the jet's location will fade, until it just runs out exactly.

So, why haven't investigators been able to detect that ping, that click you heard? You need to have a listening device within two nautical miles to here it and the search area is almost 23,000 skies miles.

PAUL: We do have something new this morning too in terms of the French satellite now, these images that they say may help search crews as they look for that flight in the Indian Ocean.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Malaysia says the images show or at least they're told by the French potential objects in the southern corridor of the Indian Ocean.

Let's go to CNN's Andrew Stevens. He's there in Perth, Australia, where all those planes are heading out the search every day.

We know two of the P-3s, Andrew, are back now. Have they found anything?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nothing at all, Victor. We're get nothing word from any of the search craft today which will take us any further on this potential discovery.

But what we are getting is what you're talking about. We're getting more and information. It is still no linkage yet but is this third set of satellite images, this time from the French. Tantalizingly, we're not getting any information. We don't know where they are at the moment. Perhaps more critically, we don't exactly know where they are at the moment. Are they close to the images that were taken of the objects by the Australians and by the Chinese? Does it put it in the same zone? If it does it just continues to build this case. Remember too there's been small pieces of debris spotted in the same zone. That was spotted yesterday by a corporate jet, spotters on board.

All they could distinguish was a wooden pallet. They sent planes back to the zone today but no other sightings. Very frustrating for everybody. On the back of that you are continuing to see this big, big ramp up in the air search. Now we had eight flights out today.

Tomorrow, the search will be joined by two Chinese aircraft. They carry optical equipment, long range. They are a good platform for visual sightings. Japanese sent two planes, they just arrived. They will be going out in the next day or so as well, plus the Australians, of course, plus the New Zealanders, and plus, the Americans.

So, it really continues to ramp up. This is the best lead. And if anything, it seems t o be getting stronger.

PAUL: All right. Andrew Stevens in Perth, Australia, thank you so much for the update. We've been waiting to see what planes may have found once they came in and as he said, nothing so far this morning. But we do know that that P-8 had to, the P-8 that went out which is incredibly, you know, technologically advanced had to fly, I think 300-foot level because the weather was so bad.

But thank you so much. We'll keep you informed throughout the day.

BLACKWELL: We'll keep watching the breaking news.

Stay with us. "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" right after this quick break.