Return to Transcripts main page


Search for Flight 370 Intensifies; Koreas Exchange Artillery Fire At Sea; Obamacare Deadline Arrives

Aired March 31, 2014 - 08:00   ET


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest analysis of satellite and radar data has zoned in on this search area more than a thousand miles off the coast of Perth, Australia.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We've just got very general information about where this aircraft has come down. But nevertheless, we are giving it the very best shot we can.

NEWTON: Prime Minister Abbott refusing to put a timeline on the search as distraught relatives of the missing passengers pray for their loved ones' return at a Buddhist temple in Kuala Lumpur.

ABBOTT: We owe it to the families of the 239 people on board and we owe it to the whole world, which has been transfixed by this mystery now after some time.

HISHAMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN MINISTER OF TRANSPORTATION: We will continue searching and we will keep investigating and we will never give up until we find out what happened to MH-370.


NEWTON: And the message from the prime minister is everyone settle down get comfortable we'll be here at this investigation for months to come no matter what happens next.

And, Chris, I have to tell you with those planes, ships and now helicopters, when they spot something they will be able to get to those objects much more quickly and really just scan much more territory.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Paula, obviously, words comfort to a families. But I wonder how legitimate will they remain to be over time.

Let's bring in Mary Schiavo. She's a CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the Department of Transportation.

And ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Miles O'Brien, certainly an esteemed member of the CNN family legacy, an aviation analyst for now and a science correspondent for PBS "NewsHour".

Miles, great to see you. Mary, always a pleasure.

Now, we are going to maintain this search as long as it takes. That's what we need to hear. That's what families need to hear, Mary. But over time, can we bank on the commitment of all these countries and all these assets that they'll stay looking as long as it takes?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, probably not all countries and all assets. I think the word of the prime minister were very encouraging because I know a lot of us were wondering after the time for the black box and respectable measure of time after that runs out, how long can they keep, as they call it mowing the ocean before countries go home.

But I think those words are very encouraging and certainly that gave me the impression they were there not for the coming few days or weeks but, perhaps, as you mentioned months.

CUOMO: Now, something that's been a point of curiosity for me and many following this story, and I want to both of you to give me a take on it.

It still bothers people that in this age of surveillance, Miles, we'll start with you. All these sovereigns, you're just basically off the coast of India, this huge aircraft is going through airspace that's very sensitive, especially with the tension between India and Pakistan, nobody detects it. Mary will say, well, it's not as easy to detect as you think once you turn off the transponder surveillance. But you have this Diego Garcia, this mythical U.S. surveillance stronghold there that's supposedly can see anything anywhere. It's right in the region.

Is this about us not understanding technology? Is this about people not sharing information? What's your take, Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think a little bit of all of that is in the mix, Chris. A primary radar target should be something that a military radar should track, identify and, of course, get a fighter or two to intercept that's the whole idea of having a military defense shield. The bad guys don't turn on their transponder to identify where they are, what their altitude is.

So, I think the reason we're not hearing a lot is either some people were asleep at the switch, or the radar did not perform as planned and there's some holes that have been exploited and discovered by this particular flight. It's extraordinary that there wasn't a fighter intercept of this particular aircraft.

CUOMO: I mean, Mary, look, you have done so much of this. You understand it. Miles is a pilot as well. He understands this stuff very well. But you know that this is probably the biggest question on people's minds in terms of leading home to a conspiracy is that this is the age where everybody knows everything and here you got Diego Garcia, so capable. It's in the area and didn't see this plane.

What does that tell us? SCHIAVO: Well, for me it tells me people get so complacent in their jobs and we saw this even before September 11, 2001. The airlines and the security companies were warned that something was afoot. But people get so complacent day in and day out and we know they didn't see or didn't percept they could have seen if they were working a radar blip. They didn't get excited about it because they didn't send the fighter jets.

And what's amazing to me is over time how complacent people get at these jobs we perceive as very high importance and very high sensitivity such as air traffic control and the radar that scans our skies and I've seen it many times in the U.S. And in U.S. for U.S. airports, they just get complacent and they just don't see it.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting, Miles. In talking with David Soucie, he wrote "Why Planes Crash". You know him. He's one of our experts here.

He said, you know, there's so much fascination with looking forward when are you going to find it, where will you find it? He's like, you know, it's going to take time. It's frustrating. But that's the nature of these things.

You really should be looking back. After Air France, they said you should have a longer battery life on the black box. After Air France they said you should have it float to the surface as it does in military aircraft. After 9/11 we said we'll never be able to be taken by surprise by an airplane.

Do we learn the lessons of these situations, Miles? You've covered Air France.

O'BRIEN: I'm afraid we don't learn them very well. You know, this is -- the airlines are not going to do this unilaterally. It's a regulatory issue.

Until the governing bodies step up to the plate and say it's important that we be able to track a 777 wherever it is in the world which in this day and age is not asking an awful lot and is not a technological problem. Until the regulatory bodies at the various levels insist upon this, the airlines are just not going to do it because they are in a tough business and looking to save pennies.

Of course, in the end, there is no saving. When you look at the cost not just financial but the emotional cost for these families right now is horrendous.

CUOMO: So, that ends us with how this investigation is being conducted as we wait. Mary, at this point, having been through so many investigations and understanding logistics and necessary process, do they have it coordinated the right way now? This -- what we're seeing between the families in Malaysia that seems a little bit of just emotional difficulty them not wanting to hear the plane has crashed.

I mean, that's about emotion. But do you think they are doing it the right way?

SCHIAVO: I do think they are doing at any time right way. I think Australia setting up the joint task force is really quite good because now it's removed from Malaysia, people were suspicious of Malaysia. I think as time goes on we'll see that Australia does play the lead role even though Malaysia can't relinquish it.

By setting up this task force, I think it needs where it need be. And it's with the country that, you know, they weren't flying the plane. I mean, it's not an Australian airline. And I do think it's where it needs to be.

And, by the way, there's a bit of irony here because the black boxes were invented in Australia. It's very interesting, perhaps -- I've taken dozens and dozens of depositions of airline executives and when I ask them why they didn't do these things, they give the same answer, because the FAA didn't require it, because ICAO didn't require it. So, we have to come back to government. Government needs to require these things.

CUOMO: It is one of these things. You know, why are we so fascinated by this story? The mystery, of course, but all these side issues, how they are conducted, that you can't find this plane but find a person through their cell phone. You know, all these side questions about security and everything else make this very interesting as well.

Mary Schiavo, always important to have your perspective and you did let us know you're an aviation attorney. Your introduction is so long it takes up half the segment.

Miles O'Brien, my first time with you, a pleasure to be with you. It's a great to have you here. It's a pleasure to be with you, Miles. Thanks to both.

O'BRIEN: Pleasure.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Also breaking overnight, tensions ramping up between North and South Korea again. The two nations exchange artillery at sea overnight. It started with the North conducting military drills that spilled into South Korean waters.

Let's bring in CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr for much more on this. It's breaking overnight, Barbara, what more are we learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, here at the Pentagon, a lot of concern that this could signal a new round of military provocation by North Korea. They began these exercises off the western coast and their artillery shells landed in waters controlled by South Korea. According to "Reuters", the north fired 500 artillery shells the South Koreans fired back with 300.

Not the first time there's been tensions in these waters. Back in 2011, the North Koreans fired a torpedo that wound up sinking a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. But this comes, this latest incident comes one day after North Korea hinted that it might conduct another nuclear test.

So, this question of provocation very much on the minds of the Pentagon right now and it comes as there are 13,000 U.S., South Korean troops and other nations in South Korea conducting their own military exercises. So, as always watching that peninsula -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Barbara, thank you very much.

In Washington this morning some irony or just painful reality for Obamacare. The open enrollment period is set to end today and this morning, it appears the system is down again. Up until now, sign ups were surging, the administration says, going so far to suggest they could hit Obamacare's original 7 million sign up target.

CNN's Jim Acosta is at the White House with more.

Jim, what's up with the system?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you what's up right now, Chris. You're right. Earlier this morning, the Web site was down. They were calling in for maintenance. Tech crew working on a software bug, we're showing that to you on screen right now.

I can tell you in the last couple of minutes I went back on the Web site and now it says, we need you to wait here so we can make sure there's room for you to have a good experience on our site.

So, what we're hearing from an official is that they are now getting the Web site back up and running again but because of the surge of demand it's not exactly performing like it should right now. You know, this has been the story throughout this whole process. It got started this way.

That's the reason why administration officials say they may not hit that 7 million enrollee target that they originally hoped for. But as you heard in the last week, they've got 6 million people signing up. That is good news.

Of course, the two metrics that we're waiting on over the next couple of weeks is just how many people have paid for their coverage. That could bring down the overall enrollment coverage. And, of course, just how many are young adults. They need the right mix of younger to sicker older adults to make it function properly.

So, those are things that we're watching over the next couple of months. And for the rest of the day, they are still trying to ramp up interest.

Vice President Joe Biden goes on the "Rachael Ray Show" later today, so they're still not backing down just yet in terms of getting people sign up -- Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Joe Biden and Rachael Ray, one to watch. Jim Acosta, thanks so much for that.

Let's take a look at our other headlines right now.

Sobering warning about climate change. A sweeping United Nations report concludes the worst is yet to come. U.N. researchers say ice caps are melting, heat waves are intensifying. Climate change is having a sweeping effect, like greenhouse emissions must be brought under control and quickly.

Former Israeli prime minister convicted of bribery. One of ten defendants found guilty in what some are calling the largest corruption scandal Israel has ever seen. Olmert still denying that he took payoffs for a luxury property development. The case forced him to leave office in 2008. He denies taking bribes and faces up to ten years in prison.

Southern California keeps on shaking, more than 100 after shocks over the weekend. A 5.1 magnitude quake struck Orange County, damaging more than a dozen homes. Recent quakes in California break a decades- long dry spell of significant seismic activity.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming, a 4.8 earthquake shock Yellowstone National Park Sunday. That's the largest quake in the area in 34 years.

Tear gas and riot gear in Albuquerque as protesters clash with police. Hundreds of demonstrators marched across the city protesting the number of shootings where police have been the ones to pull the trigger. There's been 37 shootings since 2010, 33 of them fatal. Several protesters were arrested. The mayor said one officer was hurt. The hacker group Anonymous helped launched a cyber attack on the police department's Web site. It was down most of Sunday.

General Motors new CEO Mary Barra set to testify before Congress tomorrow. We've learned federal regulators consider investigating G.M. back in 2007 and again in 2010 but declined. The auto giant is accused of knowing about a problem with faulty ignition switches for decades before issuing that recall. The problem has been linked to 13 deaths and 31 crashes.

Little comfort for those families to know that investigation --

CUOMO: One of the hardest things in these situations that come up is when you learn that the companies make assessments based on what might happen if they don't fix the glitch. What's more expensive, paying for even deaths or fixing it beforehand?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: How bad does it have to get before we have to care about it?

CUOMO: And each time it winds up it becomes a matter of money.

BOLDUAN: Now, we're going to face the music.

CUOMO: I'm sure. Play it wrong you pay.

Coming up on NEW DAY, 24 days since Flight 370 vanished, so many resources from so many nations now being used to find the jet. But is it even close to enough? We're going to take a look at what the search is and the conditions that are being faced by the men and women on those planes and ships.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, diplomacy kicking into high gear over Ukraine. Are the Russians poised to invade further or will they blink? Christiane Amanpour will be joining us, coming up.


CUOMO: Two big stories we're following that need analysis. We have the shots fired in North Korea between North and South Korea, and we have the situation in Ukraine and what looks like a possible further step in there by Russia. Is that true? Let's break both of them down.

Let's bring in Christiane Amanpour. She's going to give us the latest on this. Of course, our CNN chief international correspondent. Everybody knows who you are.

Christiane, great to have you.

Let's look at the Korean situation first. When we hear shots fired no one hit -- you may think it's not that important. But what do people have to keep in mind about what has happened in this region before, what the history suggests and what the unknown about North Korea means in understanding what the future could hold?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right. The unpredictability of the North Korean leadership is what keeps everybody on their toes and everybody anxious, try to figure out what the aim of Kim Jong-un is, and what will he do next. So, this weekend, the North Korean authorities gave a press spokesman who basically failed to rule out the possibility of another nuclear test by North Korea. So, that sent all sorts of people and put them on edge especially the South Koreans.

Then, in the last several hours, the North Koreans faxed to, gave a warning to South Korea that they are conducting military exercises. They don't usually fax these warnings or talk about them, but so they started firing and some shells fell into the sea in South Korean territorial waters -- South Korea then respond but, again, into waters. So, they're not actually firing at each other, but some of these shells and things are going pretty close to each other.

All of this could be called a legitimate accident or as it does worries people a lot and that's what's going on right now because North Korea is unpredictable, because this Kim Jong-un has conducted a nuclear test they are not ruling out another one, because last week they fired two ballistic medium range missile and he's being increasingly pushed into a corner by his own actions and is really sort of hunkering down, building up his own power, keeping his own sort of military towards him.

And very, very interestingly -- I interviewed a former British ambassador to Korea a few last -- months ago and said leaks at that time indicated that there would be a provocation, he said and I'm reading by note between January and March. We're at the end of March and it looks like this provocation has happened.

So, let's see where that all leads.

CUOMO: Quick follow on this before we go the Ukraine. Given the fact that even China seems somewhat unaware of what's going on in North Korea and as Jim Sciutto was saying, the North Korea whisperer to the United States trying to explain what's going on.

Given that the United States is trying to reach out diplomatically to all these countries, Iran, Syria, how do they do better with North Korea than they are doing right now?

AMANPOUR: Well, look it's incredibly difficult because all sorts of efforts have failed and not gone very far in the past with various degrees of some success, particularly back in 2007-2008. But since Kim Jong-un came to power all the indicators have been going backwards, and that's problem. Most people and here's the cliches that get churned out over and over again.

This was a young man who had been educated in Switzerland. So, everybody thought well maybe he's somebody the world can do business with. What he's shown is an exceptionally ruthless streak. He had his uncle and mentor executed in these show trials a few months ago, and he's, as I said, building his military close group.

And even China which used that particular uncle as a conduit into North Korea doesn't quite know all that's going on in the North Korean leader's head.

So, people are sort of, you know, flying a little blind right now, trying to figure out what Kim Jong-un is going to do. He's drawing inwards and more militaristic, more provocative, more antagonistic and that worries the neighbors and it worries the United States as well.

CUOMO: So, speaking of more militaristic, more provocative and more concerning, we turn then to Vladimir Putin.

Do you believe there is a basis for concern that Russia is planning further incursion into Ukraine?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, again, I think many people are very, very concerned about that. The news today seems to be that they are reducing their military exercises on that border but, again, who really knows until people sort of evaluate satellite images and this and that.

But I have been talking to very senior European former ministers, former Russian minister, former deputy secretary of state over the last week, and everybody is concerned about the next move. Some people believe Crimea was just the opening gambit in the words of the Swedish foreign minister and Putin could go further. Others believe this is an impromptu kind of policy that sort of happened in Crimea and Putin plays it as it comes, so to speak.

But it's all very worrying because if you annex Crimea, how do you get into Crimea from Russia? There isn't a direct border.

You need to go through some Ukrainian territory. That is very worrying. Will he go in there to form some kind of land corridor? We don't know.

What we do know is diplomatic talks have been under way. Foreign ministers of the United States and Russia were talking in Paris this weekend. There have been various political options of negotiations put on the table. And it really does remain to be seen whether Ukraine, Russia, the United States and those interested parties can actually solve this in some kind of diplomatic way because again it's very, very concerning and the neighbors of Russia who fear that there might be some moving against them are very concerned as well, particularly with the Moldovan situation.

CUOMO: Right, which is a little bit of a parallel situation, they are worried about the same thing because of the past and now the present danger that Putin is fearless. But we'll have to watch that as well.

Christiane, thank you very much for the perspective. Hopefully time is on our side in terms of diplomatic efforts. Russia is taking a beating economically from this as well. A lot of people pulling money out of Russia. Maybe that's something that will change their attitude.

Thank you, Christiane. Always great to have you on the show.


BOLDUAN: All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY: they have the best technology at their disposal to find Flight 370 but it could be useless if the ocean doesn't cooperate. We're going to talk about how much searchers are at the mercy of unstable weather conditions down there.

And later earthquakes leave people in southern California shaken and have many people wondering, is this a signal that the big one is on its way?


PEREIRA: All right. Time for the five things you need to know. Number one, a U.S. Navy pinger detector heading to Flight 370 search zone on board an Australian war ship to look for the plane's box. That's expected to arrive Thursday.

The death toll from the Washington mudslide now stands at 21. 30 other people remain missing. The governor tells CNN officials will be in an active rescue mode as long as there's any chance of finding survivors.

Open enrollment ends tonight for Obamacare. Administration officials say interest has surged as the deadline approached. People who fail to get coverage will face a fine of 1 percent of their income.

Secretary of State John Kerry on his way to Israel after his Paris meeting with Russia's foreign minister. Kerry and Sergei Lavrov discussed the Ukraine crisis but no diplomatic breakthroughs were announced.

Here are your match-ups for final four. Saturday night in Dallas. The top overall seed Florida taking on Connecticut, followed by Kentucky battling Wisconsin.

And we always update those five things to know. So, be sure to go to for the very latest -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

Back now the massive search under way for Flight 370 now missing for 24 days. Despite the massive deployment of resources from seven different countries there has still not been one piece of confirmed debris picked up.

Here to walk us through the challenges of this search as it continues Major General James Marks. He's a CNN military analyst and former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.

Major General, thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: So, we've been in this new search area for a handful of days now. Nothing concrete has come out of it that we well know. Let's talk about -- let's put it in perspective of what we're talking about.