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Mystery of Flight 370
Aired March 31, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Hey, good evening. I'm Michael Smerconish. And you know, for the second time in a month, I find that I'm introducing my self to a new CNN audience. I just came aboard here to host a program of my own which now airs on Saturday mornings.
In fact, the day that my show launched which was March the 8th, that was the first time Malaysian Flight 370 was in the news. Like everyone, I responded to the demand for news about the missing aircraft. And tonight, we will continue the coverage. But when we can finally provide answers to all of our questions about what became of Flight 370, I'm looking forward to discussing the news from a perspective that I find to be lacking in the world of cable TV, one devoid of ideological bias.
I'd like to say that the only people that I meet who see the world entirely through liberal or conservative lenses of the talk radio host and television presenters with whom I rub shoulders over the years. Because when I'm leading my real life in the Philly suburbs, pumping gas, shopping for groceries, going to aback to school night, I speak to people for whom the issues are a mixed bag. They are liberal on some, they're conservative on others. But you'd never know that from listening to the radio or watching television where everything is presented in black and white terms without regard for the new ones.
In the last 30 years, we've experienced unprecedented polarization. Consider that in the early '80s on Ronald Reagan's watch, a full 60 percent of the Senate was comprised of moderates. Today, every Senate Republican is more conservative than every Senate Democrat. And every Senate Democrat is more liberal than every Senate Republican. Compromise has become a dirty word and incivility reigns. Now, that's the same time period that has marked the rise of a polarized media. And I don't believe in coincidence. I see a causal connection.
So, I'm trying a different approach by covering the news of the day in a way that enhances your ability to reach your own independent conclusions. I, myself, I have plenty of opinions. They just don't fit neatly under one label. I'm liberal on some things, I'm conservative on others, and there is plenty that I have yet to figure out.
Just take a look at today's headlines. If you ask me, we should be doing less saber-rattling in Crimea and Ukraine. I find it distressing. That all the 2016 Republican presidential candidates were sucking up to a Casino magnet in Vegas over the weekend. I'm happy to hear that six million have enrolled in Obamacare, but I remain skeptical of the economic viability of the insurance pool until I know who's in it. And went over the weekend, I read a report of the law firm hired by the Christie administration to investigate Bridgegate? It sounded more to me like an advocates brief than the result of an independent search for the truth.
So, I will make you one promise for the week. There will be no litmus tests for watching. And one more thing, I'm nervous. Not because you're watching, but because my family has tuned in. My mother is one of 11 children, eight sisters, and three brothers and one of my aunts called my mom when she heard that I would be on CNN in prime time and she wanted to know whether she should tune in all of the TV sets in the house to CNN while I'm on. My answer by the way was "Of course. And be sure to set the DVR too."
Now, let's get started.
First off, 10 planes and nine ships are closing in on the Flight 370 search area right now, but forecasters are warning a bad weather and low visibility. So there's no telling how long they'll be able to search.
My first guest is a man who knows all about the difficulties of a search like this. Peter Goelz is a former Managing Director of the NTSB. Peter, I've waited all day to ask you this question. Is there any good news about the search for Flight 370, because I've been paying close attention to CNN for the last several weeks and it seems like every lead we get goes aright?
PETER GOELZ, FMR. MANAGING DIRECTOR, NTSB: Unfortunately, Michael, there is not. And, you know, the reality is we discuss this from day one that this search was going to be extraordinarily difficult and chums (ph) challenging. Months, perhaps, years, not days or weeks and that's because of the enormity of the task and the lack of hard data to even start to narrow down the search area.
SMERCONISH: Is it also the result of an aptitude?
GOELZ: There is no question that the Malaysian government and Malaysian airways were overwhelmed by this at the beginning. They have a guideline to fall back on that the International Civil Aviation Organization Annex 13 guidelines on how to conduct investigations that are as complex as this. They apparently didn't fall back on that. They didn't use it. And during the opening week or 10 days, there was a tremendous amount of chaos and most, you know, sadly, there was a lot of misinformation.
SMERCONISH: And reports as of this hour, Anderson Cooper just reported in the previous hour that it seems like tying (ph) it again, we've spent time -- they've spent time looking the areas that prove to be unfounded based on bogus leads.
GOELZ: Right. The early search, you know, towards Beijing, towards Thailand was a complete waste of time. And, you know, I know from my experience, with something like this, you start with the radar and you'd focus on that, you get the very best people you can. And with radar, studying it much of it is, is technological or technology, but a lot of it is art knowing what to look for particularly in this situation where you have the transponder turned off and you were dealing with rare (ph) primary returns.
SMERCONISH: Let me bring in to this conversation Marc Lallanilla. How do I do, by the way?
MARC LALLANILLA, LIVESCIENCE: Perfect.
SMERCONISH: It's like Smerconish for god sakes. You wrote something. You said this is like looking for a needle in a garbage patch. I have been amazed time and again at these reports that "oh no, this was just garbage." In terms of how much garbage is in the ocean? Speak to that issue.
LALLANILLA: Well, we're finding out everyday just how much more garbage there is, not only in the Indian Ocean, but in the North Pacific, South Pacific, the North Atlantic, and the South Atlantic and dozens of other areas of the marine environment.
SMERCONISH: What kind of garbage?
LALLANILLA: Most of it tends to be plastic because plastic doesn't breakdown as rapidly as a paper or other organics, right.
SMERCONISH: So this is why when I go to Trader Joe's, I've got my own bag now?
SMERCONISH: You truly were talking about those bags coming back to haunt us.
LALLANILLA: It's those bags. It's children's toys. It's pouring equipment. It's -- anything you can think of that's made of plastic. And if you look around your house or your office, just imagine how much of that is plastic.
SMERCONISH: Where is it coming from? Are some countries worst polluters than others?
LALLANILLA: It's difficult to say what the sources of this vast garbage patches. Obviously, some countries produce more waste than others. Some of the waste comes from cruise lines or cargo ships, but it tends to come from all of us since all of us use garbage and there are used plastic and we all throw it away.
SMERCONISH: Are you surprised Marc that by now, three plus weeks into this that garbage, pardon me, debris from the plane has not yet come ashore to some land mass.
LALLANILLA: Given the nature of the ocean currents in that area, it's not surprising. See, what happens is these are ocean gyres that just tend to -- ocean currents that swirl in a circular pattern very slowly and like the drain of a bathtub, that's where the garbage all collects in the middle of a large ocean. The Indian Ocean, of course, is thousands of miles across and there's no land mass in that area where the garbage would collect. It's just out in the middle of a vast urban sea.
SMERCONISH: And Peter, I guess, in terms of the models for this investigation, one needs to consider the dispersion root from the airplane to the extent that it crashed in the ocean. You know, there was -- if and when they finally find the legitimate debris from the plane, it will have to be pieced back in a pattern that would fit where potentially it went down.
GOELZ: Sure. If we find wreckage tomorrow, it could be hundreds likely of miles away from the crash site. When TWA Flight 800 crashed off of Long Island in 1996, we were in the debris field. We were there the next morning and it still took us three days to find the actual begetting of the debris field.
SMERCONISH: Well, doesn't that mean that there's no such thing as we've already searched there because you could be in point A today and tomorrow, debris could wash into via the ocean currents into the areas. So it's not as if you can check it off your list, right?
GOELZ: Absolutely. You can't check it off your list. In fact, in the search for Air France 447 which crashed in the South Atlantic, they searched over the original -- the area where they eventually found the aircraft during the first month of the investigation enlisted. So, this is tremendously challenging.
SMERCONISH: Marc, is there potentially a silver lining in all of this that there will be a worldwide cause of action to clean up the oceans and for there to be less polluting, greater fines, more regulation?
LALLANILLA: I think so. That's something that all of us are hoping for because this is drawing a lot of attention to something that is largely an invisible issue for most people because nobody's out there in the middle of the ocean. In fact, the Indian Ocean garbage patch wasn't even discovered until 2010 by groups going across the ocean to see if there was a garbage patch there. Similar to the -- a fairly well-known garbage patch called the Great Pacific garbage patch.
SMERCONISH: The cargo containers, I came up from Philly out of train and you see them along I-95 stocked and ready (ph). I'm reading that a tremendous number of them fall overboard.
SMERCONISH: That there are part of the garbage picture that you're describing.
LALLANILLA: Right. Exactly. Cargo ships, cruise liners, and again, just about every river in the world drains into an ocean and it's full of -- carrying everything in that river into the ocean.
SMERCONISH: Marc, thank you very much. Peter, thank you as well. We appreciate you having been here.
GOELZ: Hey, and congratulations and good luck.
SMERCONISH: Thank you sir. I need it. Tracking Flight 370, the device that could have kept the plane from ever being lost in the first place.
And Mike Rogers is getting out of Washington and I think I know the real reason why.
SMERCONISH: You know, we've heard the same question over and over since Flight 370 disappeared. How could a 777 with 239 people onboard simply vanished? This image just might show the answer, a vast and changeable search area of hundreds of thousands of miles of open sea. On Monday alone, planes and ships scoured 98,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean and came up with nothing. They're out their again right now, but, are we even looking in the right place? That's our unfinished story tonight.
Weeks of not knowing has torture for the families of Flight 370. But my next guest says it didn't have to be this way. Jay Monroe is the CEO of Globalstar. A satellite company that offers a tracking device that he says could have told us exactly where the plane is. Jay, welcome. You sir, an entrepreneur, I read, this is true that you invested 700 million personal dollars when you acquired this company out of bankruptcy?
JAY MONROE, CEO, GLOBALSTAR: We acquired the company in 2004 and had spent pretty close to that number investing in it during the last few years. It's been very, very tough times at Globalstar but that's over. A new constellation has been repopulated and we are happy to be back offering services.
SMERCONISH: So here's the question that I asked. Is the market going to sort this out? We are all so frustrated and I have to tell you, on my radio program for the last three weeks, everybody calls with an example of saying, you know, "If I can track my iPhone, why the heck can't they find this plane?" I said the other day, I flew home on Jet Blue across the country a couple of days ago watching CNN. If I can watch CNN in Real-time, why can't we find the plane? You think you have a solution? What is it?
MONROE: Well, the technology does exist and in fact there's a next gen system that the FAA is mandating which has a component called ADS- B. ADS-B allows you to track aircraft from a signal that is emitted from the belly of each airplane to ground infrastructure. The challenge with ADS-B is that A, it's not rolled out everywhere, and B, it doesn't work in areas that can't see ground infrastructure. So, therefore, if you have service then -- in tracking that you need to occur over an ocean or in deep canyons in places like Alaska and so forth. If you can't see the ground infrastructure, you have to have an augmented system.
The augmented system goes over Globalstar and the result is that you can continuously track one second at a time for continuously across any trip and know exactly where an airplane is. That is invaluable. And in the case of 370, it would have told us whether the plane turned, whether the plane continued straight, and when it stopped emitting all together.
SMERCONISH: Is government delaying the implementation of the product that you want to bring to market?
MONROE: They're not. We're in the process of certifying this new product at this time, that certification process if necessarily lengthy. The FAA only wants to put these kinds of devices on aircraft after they're fully vetted and the implementation path for the total ADS-B network is required in all aircraft by 2020, so.
SMERCONISH: Can the ADS-B that you're describing be dismantled if someone who's a bad actor wishes to shut it down. Do they have the opportunity to do so?
MONROE: I think that's up to the FAA. I see no reason at all why the system which we use couldn't be hardwired so that could not be shutdown from the cockpit if in fact that was the problem in 370.
SMERCONISH: Is there any opposition to the programming methodology that you're describing from the pilots? And I ask that question because I previously advocated the real-time transmission of cockpit data and I know that that raises privacy concerns among the pilots. But it seem to me they'd have no issue with what you're describing.
MONROE: I have never heard that the pilots unit had -- pilots union had any problem at all with what I'm describing. I think it's a tremendous enhancement to what we all want to have. In a post 2001 world, it just seems so obvious. And since the technology is there, let's use it.
SMERCONISH: OK. Final question if I might. Watching this case as closely as you are, what stands out to you in terms of the evidence or lack thereof that we now have?
MONROE: Well, to me, it's all a great mystery. I don't have any further knowledge than anybody else that's watching it on the news. It just is sad that the information that would be available using devices like the ones that I have been talking about were not in use at this time.
SMERCONISH: Agreed. Jay Monroe, CEO of Globalstar. Thank you sir for being here.
MONROE: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Time is running out to sign up for Obamacare. More than six million people around board, but that may not be enough to make it a success.
Also, the man who says it's in Boeing's best interest if Flight 370 is never found.
SMERCONISH: Take time for Headlines Redefined. The headlines that got the story half right. First stop, from Bloomberg.com, "Obamacare Enrollment Heading to Seven Million at Deadline." Here's what's going on in this story. The pundits like to treat this like it's a top boarded big sale (ph). You know, how many did they enroll, acting as if all you need to know is how many have enrolled to know whether this economic model under the Affordable Care Act is going to be viable. But, I think that's not the most accurate metric that we should be monitoring and Drew Altman at Kaiser Health has written about this effectively. And he makes the following point.
What we really need to know is what's the relative mix of the sick and the healthy. Because unless there is representation from both, then the economic viability under the Affordable Care Act is not going to be something that can be sustainable long term. A better question is to ask about the healthy and the sick and to keep in mind that the risk pools are aggregated on a state by state basis. And so, you need to know what's the relative risk pool for each state and in addition, the question we should be asking is "are the premiums going to be affordable?" So here's the headline that I would have put on the story. "The Mix Matters Most"
Now, on to number two and this one comes from Media Eye, "Representative Mike Rogers Leaving Congress to Host Radio Show." Mike Rogers has an awfully powerful position in Washington that's a Republican control of House. He's the chair of the House intelligence committee. He's a former FBI agent, and he's a very talented guy relative to his ability to articulate, I mean, he gives good sound that's why we see him on television a great deal and that's why he's often the subject of radio interviews.
I see this as a sign he's leaving the Congress and going to the world of talk radio of who really wields power in Washington. And it's not the members of Congress. You know, it's not the members of Congress who are held in such lower guard by the public. It's not the members of Congress which is continually played by partisan good luck (ph). No.
Unfortunately, for the nations, real power is wielded by those who have platforms and microphones in front of them. And far too often, at least according to me, elected officials are taking too many of their cues from individuals with microphones instead of the constituents who put them in office. So, here's how I would have written this headline. "Conservative Radio Hosts Have More Influence Than the Congress."
The last headline is from the New York Times. Today, as a matter of fact, "U.S. Agency Knew about G.M. Flaw but Did Not Act." May I do something that is a rarity? Allow me to defend trial lawyers. Full disclosure, I am one, and I say that for the following reason. Our civil system, our civil litigation system often maligned is actually a great check on free enterprise. And frankly, sometimes, it does a better job than government regulation does. And think about the following examples.
The FDA was slow to react to the Vioxx cases. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has often malingered in its response to defective products including BB guns. How about the NHTSA? Same issues with regard to motor vehicles. Anybody remember the Ford Pinto? I mean, the reality is that we know what we know about G.M. today because a Georgia trial lawyer hired a Florida engineer and despite what they were being told by G.M. and the government, they were able to piece together the defective nature of the product that was put into the stream of commerce.
So here's I would have written this headline, "Litigation Exposes G.M. Ignition." Deadly defects in millions of G.M. cars, I'll talk to the engineer who discovered them.
And are some countries keeping secrets when it comes to the search for Flight 370?
SMERCONISH: Hey, welcome back. I'm Michael Smerconish.
The mystery of Flight 370 remains just that, a mystery. Even after more than three weeks of searching for the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board, we still don't know where the plane is. We still don't know if there was a catastrophic mechanical failure. We still don't know if a terrorist of rogue crew member did something horrific. We don't even know for an absolute certainty that plane crashed.
And the list of things that we thought we knew is just as long. We thought that the plane had to be in the South China Sea until we learned that it had taken a sharp left turn. We thought that two passengers with stolen passports were to blame until we learned that they had no terror links. And we just today learned that the last words from the plane were not "All right, good night", they were "Good night Malaysian 370".
With so much uncertainty, a lot of people are convinced that somebody, somewhere knows something that they're not telling. And it seems not all of these countries looking for the missing flight are too keen about revealing to each other the kind of spying capabilities that they have.
For example, Indian officials were reluctant to discuss radar data from the Bay of Bengal along one of the plane's possible paths. Why? Apparently, because the area is a weak spot in that country's coverage, a limitation that they wished not reveal.
There have also been complaints that China won't share all of its data and that when it has done so the images have been altered to hide their true capability. You know, dumb down according to one expert. Thailand has come under scrutiny as well. Its radar picked up the jet heading west back on March 8th. But Thai officials waited 10 days to report that. The list goes on and on. So did the allegations of secrecy and deceit. And furious families are looking to hold somebody accountable. Some of them are looking in the direction Boeing. But how do you when a government or a big corporation is covering up?
Keith Masback is here. He's an expert on satellite technology and has extensive experience in intelligence gathering. Also aviation attorney Steven Marks, he says the best case scenario for Boeing might just be that the plane is never found. Steven, why do you say that?
STEVEN MARKS, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Well, because the plane has details such as the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder that's key evidence that would indicate whether or not there was a product failure.
Without that evidence, we're left with all the speculation that is occurring right now. Boeing right now is participating in the investigation. They have great deal of information that the public doesn't have. They have even more information than the investigators. They're providing the investigators with information. They're stirring the investigation as they often do because these foreign accident investigators, they've never had experience doing these. So they need Boeing's expertise and in other cases.
SMERCONISH: What knowledge -- this intrigues me. What knowledge could Boeing have that the Malaysian officials don't have about what went on here?
MARKS: Well, we know there were ACARS messages and we know the aircraft emits other information. They are also dealing with a company that they've had a long relationship with, Inmarsat that they've been in business for 30 years who has done the satellite reconstruction. They are privy to the information that the Malaysian government has giving them and other sources as to analyzing that data and figuring out burn rates, altitude rates, other information that only they have the expertise, not only they, but as far as participant for the investigation ...
SMERCONISH: But you sound suspicious that Boeing is not being forthcoming in giving that information to the Malaysian investigators.
MARKS: Well, I don't know if they are or they aren't in this case. I know in prior instances I was involved in this Silk Air matter that Boeing and the investigators, the Indonesian government in that case very quickly came to a suicide theory just like occurred here. There was no real evidence of suicide and everything after that point they try to fit into that conclusion. We proved years later after a lot of investigation, a lot of flight simulations and I've even heard it recently that Boeing hasn't accepted the true fact which was a tail rudder problem and ever tail rudder was replaced on every Boeing 737.
So I know from prior experience we were able to prove a defect just like you said about travelers before. After years and a lot of money and effort, we did in fact prove this ...
SMERCONISH: Keith Masback, let me ask you, what's your level of concern that if something isn't discovered within the next few days by the time that battery on the black box expires that all hope will be lost?
KEITH MASBACK, CEO UNITED STATES GEOSPATIAL INTELLIGENCE FDN: This is a tough problem, Michael. You know, we have used the satellites to take a look before we were able to ships and aircraft on station. Now, we've got the ships there. We've got helicopters flying of those ships. We've got some of the most capable sub hunting, surface scanning aircraft in the world over that area everyday searching as much as they can. And, you know, we're going to be in a though spot. We are loosing the battle against time.
SMERCONISH: Look, this right in your wheel house, Keith, this issue of satellite technology because of the role that you used to play on behalf on our government. Are you concern that not all the nations actively involved in this search are sharing sufficiently their data? I gave the examples at the outset of this conversation and of course, you know, that Chinese image that looks blurry is one that raises a lot of questions.
MASBACK: You know, we talked a little bit about this on Saturday, Michael. This is a contested part of the globe. You've got, you know, problems from the Spratlys down to the Senkakus, right, where you've got disputes over mineral rights and oil issues and territorial issues. Then you came around in a long standing issue in the Strait of Malacca, where you at least had Indonesia and Malaysian and Singapore come together for a little bit in 2004 cooperate to deal with the piracy issue. But there is a lot of tension of tension here and they just simply don't have the sort of sharing regimes, the relationships and organizations that create the opportunity to share readily.
SMERCONISH: Is this a blind spot for the United States Government? Because it occurs to me that there's been no satellite imagery at least that I'm familiar with that's been produced by our government of that area?
MASBACK: Well, I can tell you that imaging in the middle of nowhere in the ocean is not a blind spot. It's just not somewhere you're going to use resources, right? Think about what the national security infrastructure of the United States has to deal with today. They got to worry about tensions between North and South Korea. They got to worry about Russian Armor massed on the Ukrainian border. They've got to worry about Syria. So they have lots of things to do and there's a finite number of assets.
SMERCONISH: Steven Marks, the development today as you know is that the last words from the pilot apparently not as initially reported of what significance, you know, read those tea leaves if you would.
MARKS: Well, it's hard to put a lot of significance. What's significant is the fact that the Malaysian government is giving us misinformation. The second and most recent report is a more common type of report that a pilot would give to a controller. So it gives you some indication that the pilots were acting appropriately. But we would like to have and what everybody should have is the actual voice recordings, because you can tell from the tone, the intuitions, you can actually tell so much more if you actually listen to the recording as oppose to a transcript. I've heard even on your show earlier, there are comments made that the transponder was turned off.
Now, we don't know for sure if it was turned off. We know it stopped emitting. At least that's what we're told. But there as where you jump to conclusions without any facts, without the raw data, without the information that's available to the investigation. We can't independently verify what's going on.
SMERCONISH: But Keith Masback, to follow up Steven's point, if only the final two hours are that which is recorded and if in fact this plane was flying on it's own devises for seven hours, those tapes could be blank.
MASBACK: Absolutely, you know, welcome to intelligence work, welcome to law enforcement work, welcome to crash investigation, Michael. It is piecing together a puzzle and every new piece of information has to be dealt within the context of what you already have and what your assumptions are.
SMERCONISH: But to state the obvious, Steven Marks, I mean there's such frustration. I feel for those families but, you know, here in the States around water course, everybody says, "Oh my God, with the technology that we have today, why isn't there a solution to this? Why after Air France 447, have we put ourselves in a position like this?"
MARKS: With Air France we have the ACARS systems, so we had all the aero messages going back to France. We pretty much knew in real time what was occurring. What's amazing here is that the ACAR messages stopped, which might indicate some type of catastrophic failure. We don't know. It's unlikely in my opinion that it would have been intentionally turned off. There would be no reason to do that. That's surprising.
When we have cellphones where a 100 of millions of people can be tracked at one time in the United States, when we need to figure where somebody was. We can do that, but we can't follow a 747 or triple seven jet around the word. It's unimaginable to me. And the pain and the agony that these families are facing should have been avoided.
SMERCONISH: And Keith, to his point because this is something that I have come back to, if I'm up to no good, if I'm acting with sinister motivation aboard that flight, why am I wasting time with ACARS, you know? I want that transponder turned off, but who cares if there is information transmitted from ACARS because that's not going to tip off a government as to what's in progress.
MASBACK: Yeah, obviously that's one of the mysteries here, Michael. And I think what's important and what his referring to is that the capability exists on orbit. We heard about Globalstar, we've got Iridium, we've talked about in Inmarsat. The capability readily exist on orbit, I think you got to go to some of your aviation experts and ask them about the decision process to get these things into the cockpit.
SMERCONISH: Steven Marks and Keith Masback, thank you gentlemen. I appreciate you being here.
MASBACK: Thank you.
MARKS: Thanks very much.
SMERCONISH: What did GM know? And when did they know it? I'll talk to the engineer who discovered a fatal flow affecting millions of cars and risky business. Why so many politicians are getting caught behaving badly.
SMERCONISH: GM recalled 1.3 million cars today over a problem with power steering, exactly what they didn't want to do one day before CEO Mary Barra testifies before Congress about a different recall of 2.2 million vehicles for the ignition switch problem that has been tied to 13 deaths. One of those who died was 29 year old Brooke Melton. Her family's Attorney Lance Cooper joins me, also the engineer who discovered the flaw, Mark Hood.
Councilor, tell me what happen to this woman.
LANCE COOPER, ATTORNEY FOR BROOKE MELTON'S FAMILY: Well, Brooke Melton back on March 10th of 2010, was driving her 2005 Cobalt on a rainy two-lane road when her key shut off and as a result of her key shutting off, she lost her power steering, her analog (ph) breaks, she lost control of her car. It went in to the oncoming lane of travel where there was a collision and Brooke died as a result of the collision.
SMERCONISH: As far as you know, had she made contact with the key?
COOPER: It appear she did. Yes, given the fact that it was in the accessory position at the time of the impact.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Hood, you're the engineer whose put it all together. I mean you're the guy who -- not the government, not GM but for you, and I read that profile of you in the Times recently, we wouldn't what we know today. Can you explain to me in terms that I can understand what you discovered?
MARK HOOD, MATERIAL ENGINEER MCSWAIN ENGINEER: After Lance brought the ignition assembly from Brooke Melton's vehicle to me. We started diagnosing the way the switch worked, looking at the particular mechanics inside the switch that holds the switch in the run position. And after looking at switches, testing switches from Brooke's vehicle as well as switches from exemplary vehicles and new switches, I found that the detent plunger in new switches was longer than the plunger in Brooke Melton's vehicle as well as the other 2005 and 2006 Cobalt switch that I test.
SMERCONISH: Do you have one in your possession right now? And if so, can you hold it up so that we can see what it looks like?
HOOD: Let me see if I've got -- I don't have the detent plungers here with me. I think they maybe -- those might be available though.
SMERCONISH: The original part differed from the store bought replacement, is that a way of simply stating what you detected?
HOOD: Yes, that's correct. The plunger in the 2005 to 2007 Cobalts was approximately 1.6 millimeters or the width of a quarter shorter then the detent plunger on a new replacement part. SMERCONISH: And you put these together by sleuthing at junk yards, right? You went to like 18 different junkyards to put this case together?
HOOD: Well, we called pulled switches -- we tested a total of 18 different switches, about 10 steering columns we actually pulled from vehicles in salvage yards and then tested the torque on those switches. And particularly on all of the 2005 and 2006 vehicles we tested, the torque was low on all of those switches.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Cooper, here is what GM is saying in a statement, "With the safety recalls and lifetime warranties, we are going after every car that might have this problem, and we are going to make it right. We have recalled some of these vehicles before for the same issue and offered extended warranties on others, but we did not do enough." Your response to that.
COOPER: Well, there's no doubt they did not do enough. The question is, "Whether they're doing enough." And the answer is, "No". They've known about the problem with the ignition switches since 2005. But they also have a problem where the key is located on the column. So even if they repair the switches, consumers are still going to bump these keys driving down the road because of how the keys sits on the column.
The GM engineers understand this and they should fix it. So what they're doing now is a partial solution, it's not a total solution and what the company needs to do is step up and completely fix these cars so consumers can be assured that they will be safe driving these cars.
SMERCONISH: What was GM saying to you as an attorney for a decedent before Mr. Hood, the engineer, put all the pieces together?
COOPER: We don't know what the problem was. They would not step up to the plate and it wasn't until Mark and this is important. Mark Hood is the primary reason why this recall occurred in addition to the Melton family who pursued this claim. If he had not done his work, GMs position was even last summer, we never change the switch even we when showed them or Mark showed them that they had changed the switch and it wasn't until February of this year that they finally acknowledge that fact.
SMERCONISH: So Mr. Cooper tomorrow, Mary Barra the CEO of GM testifies before the Congress. What do you want to hear her say?
COOPER: I want to hear her say, "We are going to completely fix all of these vehicles, we are not going to partially fix them, and we're going to make it right for the families who have gone through these horrific experiences over the last 10 years".
SMERCONISH: One other piece of this because I've said at the outset that, you know, that the government in my view has some culpability if the facts are the way they seem to be now unfolding, meaning that they had knowledge and did nothing about it. Will you speak to that, Mr. Cooper? COOPER: Yes. The Government did have knowledge obviously and did nothing about it. And what she spoke about earlier is critical. This case -- the poster (ph) child for the need for a robust civil justice system, the Melton's who are a family from DeKalb County, Georgia got to point where they hired an attorney who hired experts who ultimately caused GM to recall over 2.2 million vehicles. If it weren't for the Melton's and Mark Hood, we wouldn't be here today and millions of people will be driving these defective vehicles in the future.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Hood, how hard in your estimation to fix the problem that you've uncovered?
HOOD: Well, at least from the point of view of the switch and here are -- I don't know if you can see, here are two of the detent plunger. This is, you know, the shorter one, it's the difference and the thickness of the quarter between those two plungers. And it's basically just the change of that plunger and the spring is what we found that makes it different and whether at least from the switch portion of whether that device works as it's supposed to or does it allow the switch to rotate from run to accessory.
SMERCONISH: A final question for you, Mr. Hood, I have just 30 seconds. Is this in your opinion an expensive fix?
HOOD: I don't believe so. It's at least from the price of the plunger or for the plunger, you're looking at and here's -- looking at the other end, it's just a very small spring. So at least for the switch, I would think it's a minimal cost.
SMERCONISH: It makes it even worse if that's possible. Thank you gentlemen, I appreciate you being here. And of course we'll be paying attention tomorrow for the testimony of Mary Barra. And I'm sure we'll have a report on that tomorrow night at this time.
Well, Richard Nixon famously said, "I am not a crook". Are corrupt politicians really just risk takers at heart?
SMERCONISH: I'm wondering if there's something that separates the politicians from the rest of us. And here's why.
Over the weekend, I read the 360 page report from the law firm hired by the Christie administration to get to the bottom of Bridgegate.
Now, for me, as an attorney, the document it read more like an appellate brief that advocates rather than the result of any independent investigation for the truth. The public is asking, what did Chris Christie know and when did he know it, relative to closing of the access lanes for the GW Bridge.
Christie says he did not know of the lane closures until media reports after the incident had ended. And on page 127 of the report, it stated, "Nor did we find any credible evidence that the Governor had knowledge of the lane realignment while it was occurring from September 9th through 13." but with regard to whether he knew about the realignment while the lanes were closed.
On page 88 it says, "Wildstein claimed that he had mentioned the traffic study to the Governor at a public event during the period of the lane realignment." Well, If David Wildstein, then a Port Authority official claims that he told about Governor Christie about the closures while they were occurring.
How can the report be so definitive otherwise especially where the three most important players in this inquiry refused to be interviewed? In this case, a politician allegedly behaving badly is one of many that are right now in the news.
In my home town of Philadelphia, five public officials were reported caught on tape accepting cash and gifts from a government informant.
Plus, last week, the Mayor of Charlotte and a California State Senator were arrested.
These stories make me wonder, what is it about the politicians? Do they posses a certain personality type that makes them more susceptible to bad behavior than say a group of accountants or engineers or bus boys or carpenters?
Dr. Frank Farley is a Temple University Psychology Professor. He's the former President of the American Psychological Association. I asked him, he told me that the basis of any discussion, about political scandal is the tolerance for risk. In fact he has coined the term, Type T behavior to describe the personality of the big risk taking.
The T stands for Thrill. And those who are big T individuals can account for much of our enormous creativity on one hand and crime on the other. Politics by its nature is attracted to risk takers. Now this doesn't mean that all politicians are criminals. But according to Dr. Farley there is T-plus behavior, charisma that we often want in our politicians and T-minus behavior which is negative, destructive, and sometimes criminal.
Says Dr. Farley, "I am convinced after having studied political behavior for a long time, that the risk-taking personality and behavior is a key ingredient in much of that corruption and destructive behavior." Well, that's what the expert says.
Now let me play armchair psychologist, because I believe that this is what happens when we're represented by a permanent political class, you know. Democracy in our country hasn't developed according to the plan. The idea was that we pick the best and the brightest, those very successful in life who would serve despite reluctance because of an understanding that the needs of the community require their service for a limited amount of time.
And then once their obligation was completed they'd go home and resume their productive lives outside the government. Well, those days ended long ago. And today we have two many who were drawn to a risky profession for all the wrong reasons.
I'm Michael Smerconish, I'll see you back here tomorrow night. CNN Special Report, the Mystery of Flight 370 Don Lemon starts right now.