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New Satellite Images Indicate Possible Field of Debris; Rescue Efforts Continue in Washington after Mudslide; Russian Troops on Border a Red Flag; Northwestern University Athletes OK to Unionize; Countering "USA Today": Sources Claim Investigation Not Focused on Pilot

Aired March 27, 2014 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: But U.S. officials say to CNN that while both pilots are being looked at, nothing jumps out yet. And now the captain's son is coming to his defense. Let's get more on this now from Jim Clancy live in Kuala Lumpur. Jim?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the family of Captain Shah has gone into seclusion. They voluntarily talked to investigators, John, but they've avoided the media. The media camped out on the co- pilot's lawn, and they wanted to avoid all of that. They've been running from the press if anything.

And so a local newspaper did get an interview with the son, Seth Sahari, who said whatever I've read has not changed my heart. I've ignored those speculations because as a son, I know who my father is. He said, we understood each other.

Also talking about him to CNN today was the former head of Malaysia Airlines, 81-year-old founder of it. He told me that he remembers Shah as a student, as a cadet with Malaysia Airlines, and he said he was a great pilot. And he said he was a great gentleman as well. He had praise for the co-pilot. He knew the family. They were from his hometown. His father taught the Koran in his hometown. He said that both men were good Muslims. He does not believe that the investigation of these two pilots is justified.

At the same time, it has to be done. Let's face it, everybody has been a suspect in all of this. The investigators have to sort it out, but there is no evidence against them at this time. In order to really clear them and really understand what has happened, they have to find that flight data recorder. And that's why so much attention, so much an anxiety is associated with that search underway in the south Indian Ocean. Back to you, Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jim, thank you for your reporting. Thank you so much, we appreciate it.

We have two experts here to examine this information with us. We have David Soucie, he is a CNN safety analyst, and former FAA inspector, also the author of a book, "Why Planes Clash." Mary Schiavo is a CNN aviation analyst and a former inspector general of the Department of Transportation, also an aviation attorney representing victims and families after airplane disasters. Mary, let's start with you since you're in front of me now, I appreciate that. Talk about this discovery, this Thai satellite showing 300 objects about 100 miles away from the objects spotted by the French satellite. Encouraging news to you, bolstering news?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, it is because there's so many objects. And that's the way an airplane crash debris field looks in an accident on the ocean. They are widely spread. There are pieces bobbing literally miles and miles around. This is 100 miles away approximately from the other sightings, but the currents, we've been told, could have carried it in some cases 100 miles in a day. And since the sightings are clustered in the same area, that's what you would expect. You would expect a big debris field. The objects get pretty small over time because the surf and the wave break them up. But it is encouraging. Let's just hope they can get some of those piece on board a ship to examine them soon.

PEREIRA: Let's talk about that for a second. We want to talk about the search effort be stymied by this bad weather that seems to not be cooperating. But David, I want to get to some new reporting we talked to you about and to refresh folks that are joining us at the top of the hour here. This new reporting that you had about the batteries potentially being improperly stored on the 777s and how this could hamper the investigation and the search for the black box.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It can. The good thing about it is we can start to understand about whether the pinging is going on or not. Remember flight 447, the original search with the tower. We're towing this along listening for pings, and they covered an area. Then they said subsequently, well, it can't be in that area because if it were we would have picked up the pings. So subsequently when it came back after the next winter they and started searching around and they had no luck. Now, finally let's say, maybe they weren't working in the first place. If they weren't working we have to go back and search that area, which they did, and they found the boxes.

PEREIRA: Mary, that's the key. They had an area to search. We haven't even zoned in on a specific area. We have a rough area. And now with these new satellite images being 100 miles away from the images we say yesterday, it is focusing it more.

SCHIAVO: That's right. They had the data that we are missing. Air France did have the data download services. It's called system status updates, where the plane relayed information continuously, including in the problem part of the flight. When the plane was in trouble and started going down it continued to relay messages, so they knew exactly where it went down or pretty close to it. And here we don't have that. Really the best thing we have is that partial ping. It's a lot to hang on, just a blip of data. But that partial ping may be in fact where the plane went down. So even if they can't find the debris, if I was running the submersibles and the side sonar listening devices, I'd put them there where the partial ping was heard.

PEREIRA: Mary, I want to talk to you about, people waking and probably looking at their newspaper, very likely looking at this "USA Today" report that is taking about -- their reporting is indicating suspicion of premeditated actions on the part of the pilot. Obviously, investigators were looking at the pilot early on, the pilot and the co-pilot. I want your take on this, also talking about the co-pilot not having enough experience or expertise to fly the plane solo. Your thoughts on all of that?

SCHIAVO: The important thing you don't do in an investigation -- I was a federal prosecutor and worked with the FBI for years before I became inspector general. And while everyone is a basically suspect until you rule them out, what you never do in an investigation is announce someone's guilty, because what happens in the investigation then is you make the evidence fit. You cognitively say in your mind, well, that's the guilty one so the evidence must point to him. And this is a terrible thing to do in an investigation because it's going to color their results and they're going to overlook other evidence. So I wish they wouldn't do that. Everyone has to be looked at, but it's not a good thing.

PEREIRA: You're agreeing with Mary?

SOUCIE: Absolutely. In the investigations that I've done, every day you have a meeting. You talk to everybody and cross check each other. You say, is this real data, is it not real data, and not from your perspective but someone else's.

PEREIRA: I want to get quickly from both of you, and we'll start with you, David, it must be so infuriating to think we've got this new data from the satellites, we're zoning in on this area. We can't fly the planes today because of bad weather. They make this decision prudently. They don't rush on this, they want to get those planes out there, but they had to call off the air search. It seems we can't get these things lined up. That's frustrating.

SOUCIE: It's frustrating. And there's two factors going on here. First of all, I want to point out yesterday was a clear day. If you notice these satellite images there's always clouds and it's really hard to get good satellite images. I'm really encouraged, I talked with Steve Wood backstage to about it, and he said it was a clear day, really going to get good satellite images from yesterday.

But the problem with it is everybody's so upset about how long it takes to get the images to us. You have to understand, that satellite is following the earth with daylight. It waits for the daylight, so at night, it downloads that information to a space station. So you have to wait 24 hours for those full images, a lot of information in there, to get from the satellite to the base station then to where it needs to get processed. A lot of information --

PEREIRA: Good to have you point it out, because I think some people are suspicious that it's just them taking their time, not wanting to show their cards of their technological capabilities right away, giving data that is not as clear, doesn't have the clarity that we would want to see.

SOUCIE: There's technological limitations and, again, just plain clouds. You can't see them.

PEREIRA: Those pesky things, the clouds. David Soucie, Mary Schiavo, we appreciate both of you joining us.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll have much more on the breaking news in the search for flight 370, but right now let's talk about an historic first meeting this morning between President Obama and Pope Francis. What happens when the most powerful world leader meets the world's most powerful religious leader? It's a little bit hard to hear, but try.




BERMAN: That was just the very beginning of the meeting. They went onto talk for quite a long time. So let's bring in our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski and CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman who covers the Pope. Michelle, the president just got out of the meeting with the Pope. I understand it lasted a little bit longer than we were all expecting. Any read out on what went on in that conversation?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We were expecting, according to the detailed schedule that the White House puts out ahead of time, we were expecting maybe 30, 40 minutes. But we were told it lasted 52 minutes in private. No read out yet as to what was discussed, although some details came out prior. And a senior administration official said last night that they were going to talk about shared values, values that President Obama calls universal. The rights of the individual, freedom, democracy, social justice, equality, diplomacy, those are values president Obama has tried to refer to repeatedly in further policies at home in the U.S. as well as referring to them repeatedly throughout this trip in explaining the U.S.'s stance on the crisis in Ukraine. It's doubtless that crisis came up during these discussions. Common ground we know was going to be discussed.

But I asked as to whether they got into issues that the U.S. and the church don't always agree on and the president in particular. The president did acknowledge in an interview that he did with an Italian newspaper that they don't agree on everything. So we'll have to see later on if a read out is put out on what was discussed exactly.

It started out pretty formally. You see the ornate pictures. It's interesting to see President Obama on the other side of the big wooden desk. He's been a sort of rock star during this European trip and meeting with other world leaders. As one Dutch paper put it, he stole the show. Today he got to sit down with a man who has been called the rock star of the Catholic faith. As it ended you saw the warmth between them a little less formal. They were shaking hands and sharing smiles as well as laughs, John.

BERMAN: Ben, Michelle brought up the areas of agreement, but also mention that there are areas of disagreement between the Vatican and the United States obviously on the issues of abortion, specifically, I should say, with the Obama administration on the areas of abortion and also the contraceptive mandate within Obamacare. Ben, what are the chances you think that Pope Francis proactively discussed these things with President Obama, because in the past Pope Benedict in a way did bring up these differences?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm sure there's no question about it. In fact, he did bring up those subjects proactively, keeping in mind, for instance, that when Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Vatican counterpart in January, he did discuss these issues then. But that particular meeting went on for an hour and a half and they discussed abortion, contraceptives, and gay marriage for only about five minutes. In a sense, even though the American bishops have expressed their opposition to such matters, here in Italy for instance, the National Health Service provides free abortions and free contraception. So this goes on in the Pope's front yard. So there's not an awful lot he can do except voice his objections regarding what goes on across the Atlantic in the United States.

BERMAN: All right, Ben Wedeman, Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much for being with us. It was a very interesting picture to say the least. I also wonder if they talked about Twitter because both men have millions and millions and millions of Twitter followers and could have made a big impact on social media today.

PEREIRA: John, thanks so much. We want to go to Washington state now. Official have now reduced the number of people missing in the huge landslide north of Seattle. They reduced it now to 90. That's nearly half of what it was. As many as 24 people have died. CNN's Ana Cabrera is live in Arlington, Washington. And 24 people in a small community. That means everybody knew a victim, Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everybody knows everybody here. That's what's making this tragedy so heavy for this area. We do know that that number of missing, as you mentioned, is at 90. Officials tell us they expect the number to continue to go down, but we also expect the death toll to rise, and we're awaiting new numbers this morning at this morning's press briefing.

Now, we are seeing the hope that once was so strong in this community starting to fade as the grim reality is really sinking in. There are some 200 emergency responders that continue to scour and comb through the debris that spans one square mile, so very challenging and slow, methodical work, so much so that they have been able to get in and actually recover several of the bodies we know they believe they've identified at this point. So that, again, will raise the death toll.

At this point, the area very tightly controlled. And so we're hearing frustration from residents so desperate to go and help in the search effort, but they've been told to stay away. Emergency responders still worried for other people's safety and not wanting to have additional work on their hands in terms of rescue-type efforts. Still no signs of life, but we are learning more about some of the lives lost. We've learned of the Navy commander, of a school board member and librarian and a woman who worked with horses, so some families are finding closure, but, John, a lot of families still waiting for answers.

BERMAN: Of course, the sun just about to come up there. And again, the search will continue for them. It will be so difficult. Ana Cabrera, our thanks to you.

PEREIRA: Such an important thing to put a face to that number and a name to that number. Librarians, Navy commanders, these were people in that community.

BERMAN: Family members, so many of them.

All right, let's get a look at the headlines right now. Christine Romans is here with that.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, guys, thanks. Serious concern in Washington this morning that Russia is about to invade Ukraine and maybe press on for a land grab in the Baltics. A new classified report says an invasion into eastern Ukraine looking more likely. One big red flag, the excessive number of Russian troops near the border and their capabilities for quick military moves. One U.S. official says the buildup is similar to what Moscow did before sending troops into Chechnya and Georgia.

New details about that drunken Secret Service episode in the Netherlands. "The Washington Post" reports managers were already under strict orders to avoid more embarrassments to the agency after a March car crash involving agents in Miami. Now the newspaper reports a supervisor told a group of the agents to stay out of trouble on Saturday night. By Sunday morning, one agent was found passed out in a hotel hallway. That agent and two others were sent home.

Due out today, a full report from an internal investigation into the Bridgegate scandal in New Jersey. A lawyer hired by Governor Christie is expected to put out over 300 pages detailing what he found in the aftermath of allegations two of Christie's top aides conspired to shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge. Christie received the report in full on Wednesday.

And this could be a game-changer for college sports. A federal agency clearing the way for Northwestern University football players to create the first ever union of college athletes. The National Labor Relations Board ruling, says the players fall squarely within the broad definition of employees. Northwestern plans to appeal. The NCAA says it is disappointed by the ruling.

But, look, that ruling found that these players work more than they study, they act more as employees than they do as students and should be recognized as much.

BERMAN: They spend more time on the field than they do in the classroom. They spend more time on the field than most workers do in most jobs that they have.

ROMANS: And they work more than 40 hours a week.

PEREIRA: A lot of schools are watching this. BERMAN: Explosive ramifications for college sports.

All right, next up for us on NEW DAY, while the search planes sit idle now, returned to base because of the weather, the investigation into the captain of Flight 370 seems to be picking up steam. His son saying that anyone who thinks his dad was a fanatic or a hijacker is just plain wrong.


BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. This morning, the air search for Flight 370, it's on hold right now. Planes are grounded because of bad weather, though ships are still out looking. Now this is coming as investigators keep combing through the backgrounds of both pilots as they try to figure out what happened inside the cockpit And there really are conflicting reports this morning over where that investigation stands. Nevertheless, we are hearing from the captain's son who tells "The New Strait Times" that his father was not a political fanatic, not a hijacker; he has full faith in his father.

For more, let's bring in CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, and CNN aviation analyst and former NTSB managing director, Peter Goelz. Both join me from Washington this morning.

And, Tom, I want to start with you, because "USA Today" has this article out that has a lot of people talking, a lot of people asking questions, suggesting that an official involved with the investigation in Malaysia says the sole focus now is on the pilot doing this as some kind of deliberate act. And the evidence they seem to have in this article, it appears rather then. It says, "Only the captain possessed the experience and the expertise to fly the plane." Now I know CNN sources say that right now the investigation isn't focused solely on the pilot; they haven't seen this kind of evidence that would suggest it was him. What have you seen?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning, John. The evidence is not only thin, it doesn't exist. I have very senior officials from the Malaysian government telling me -- and told me this before the "USA Today" article came out -- that the investigation is not focused or zeroed in or greater suspicion on the pilot or co- pilot. The investigation, they don't rule it in or out, but they said there had been no indication and no evidence developed to implicate either one of them and that the investigation continues to do that.

After the article came out, I heard again that the article is false. And this is what the government is saying there. It's false to say they've zeroed in on the pilot. And as analysts have said, the police, if they had announced something like that or said they had zeroed in, would be wrong, but they haven't done it. And the evidence to it basically is not there to say it. They found nothing incriminating in any of the hundreds of interviews they've done with family members -- not just the son, not just immediate family, but coworkers, neighbors, everybody else that knew both pilots. They found nothing incriminating in the search of their residences. No notes indicating suicide. Nothing in their financial records, phone records or anything to indicate members of an extremist group. Yes, the political opinions, but in a democracy you're allowed to do that.

So they're saying there has been nothing that they've developed. They expect to get the FBI report by the end of the week, which would be tomorrow or very soon after. And even that, preliminary indications are, although the report isn't final, that there still has not developed anything to actually cause them to zero in on the pilots. So this report keeps going out. It's gone out now for the last 24 hours on CNN as if it's a fact, and I'm being told it's patently not true.

BERMAN: Well, we're being sure to report your reporting, which says that it is not a factor, simply nothing there, which is why we're glad to have you here this morning, Tom Fuentes.

Peter Goelz, let me ask you this, because that line of reasoning, which Tom flat out discredits, that suggests the pilot might be somehow involved, one of the possibilities would be some kind of suicide mission. He went up there to deliberately crash the plane because he wanted to kill himself. Now, you did investigate a situation where you do believe that took place. You were at -- part of the NTSB investigation into Egypt Air. What led you to finally believe that that was a pilot suicide, and is there anything similar about these two cases?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, we did do the investigation into Egypt Air and we did determine that the most probable cause to that accident was the intentional act of the co-pilot. And we had, within a few days of the tragedy, we had reports and verified incidents that the co-pilot had been severely disciplined the day before, that he had been told by his chief pilot that this would be his last flight, that they were going to remove him from the flight line. And we verified that over weeks of investigation that this guy not only was in -- had the frame of mind and the skill to do it, but once we got the voice recorder back, it was laid out in such clarity that we knew that this tragedy was caused by the co-pilot and that there was an actual struggle in the cockpit between the captain and the co-pilot as the plane went down.

BERMAN: So you had facts to suspect it and you had facts to confirm it, neither of which we have the case of Malaysia Air Flight 370.

GOELZ: That's exactly right. And Tom is completely correct. I mean, these kinds of unsourced rumors spring up in a vexing investigation like this where it is painstakingly slow and painfully slow because of the facts. And it's really unacceptable. We just don't know yet whether there was action on the part of the pilot or the co-pilot. Hopefully we'll be able to find out, but it's very unfair.

BERMAN: Tom, quickly, just in about 30 seconds here, this type of misdirection, does it actually get in the way of finding out the facts?

FUENTES: Well, it gets in the way of the credibility, and the Malaysians are fighting that now. They haven't had to deal with that on the police side as much on the -- whether the plane changed directions or the satellite reporting, other technical reporting. I want to add, if I could clarify, the police are not saying the pilots have been cleared. They've just said that they haven't zeroed them out, but they haven't zeroed them in. and the report that they're absolutely focused and convinced that the pilot did do it, and that's the direction of their investigation, that's the part that's false. They are completely open to any possibility yet. They continue to gather as many facts as they can. They haven't developed any of the negative facts which would justify the opinion that they have zeroed in on the pilot or think he did it.

BERMAN: Got you. And we are expecting to hear the FBI report on that flight simulartor in the next day or two. That will be interesting to see. Tom Fuentes, Peter Goelz, great to have you with us to understand what is known and what is not known, and what is not known very important in this case. Appreciate it, guys.


PEREIRA: All right, John. Next up on NEW DAY, we'll continue to separate fact from fiction concerning Flight 370. Based on the information we do have, can some theories be discounted? We'll speak with an aviation expert ahead.

And on "INSIDE POLTIICS", we'll take a look at the president and the Pope and the ideas that Barack Obama, our president, says he borrowed from the pontiff.