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Huge Earthquake Hits Chile; Getting Rid of Pilots?; Flight 370 Being Investigated as Criminal; Malaysian Officials Meet With Families

Aired April 2, 2014 - 06:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's half past the hour.

Let's take a look at your headlines. A devastating 8.2 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile triggering mass evacuations, landslides, fires, and power outages. There are reports of wide- spread damage. Seven-foot tsunami waves were reported overnight off Chile's northern coast. At least five people have died.

New revelations about NSA spying on Americans. The director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, admits in a letter the agency used a legal back door to perform warrantless searches of e-mail and other electronic communications. This is the first public confirmation by intelligence officials that the NSA searched data bases specifically for information on U.S. citizens.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson assuring Senate committee members that recent misconduct by agents are isolated incidents. She spoke in a closed meeting after three agents were sent home from the Netherlands last week when one was found passed out drunk. This is just the latest in a string of bad behavior. She told senators that she made clear to her staff that she has a zero-tolerance policy for unprofessional behavior, both on and off duty.

Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray suffering a stunning setback in last night's Democratic primary. He's out after one term, soundly defeated by Councilwoman Muriel Bowser. Gray is facing corruption allegations involving his 2010 campaign. Bowser supporters are hailing her victory as a win for honest government.

Those are your headlines at this hour. Kate, over to you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Michaela, thank you very much.

This morning, Malaysia's chief of police confirmed the search for flight 370 has been classified now as a criminal investigation. And now Malaysia Airlines is increasing security on their planes. This, after a Malaysian government source told CNN the flight's turn off course is being considered a criminal act.

But with so little evidence -- so little evidence at least released to the public, what are investigators looking at? How is this a criminal investigation?

Joining me now to discuss is retired FBI supervisory special agent Steve Moore joining me from Los Angeles.

Steve, thank you very much for waking up early. I want to get right to that question.


BOLDUAN: We have such little direct evidence that at least has been released by Malaysian officials leading the investigation. What do you see here that points to a criminal investigation?

MOORE: I see nothing that would lead anybody to make it anymore of a criminal investigation than just a speculative investigation. As Chris said earlier, they're checking everything from food to cargo. That's responsible. Checking to make sure it could -- that isn't a criminal act is part of the responsible process, but you can't just label it as such.

BOLDUAN: Now, one of the things you just pointed out is one of the new things we're learning as being reported by the Associated Press is they're also looking into the cargo and the food on the plane for the possibility of a poisoning or at least to eliminate the possibility of a poisoning. You say that's just responsible. You don't think that indicates that they're leading the investigation one way or the other.

MOORE: Absolutely not. What you have to do is just cover every base. There can't be any questions when this is over. You -- if somebody says, "Ah, but did you see that?" You know, yeah, we did. We looked at everything. This is what it is.

But right now, it is no more responsible to say it's a criminal act than it is to say, by the way, we've decided it's food poisoning. There's no evidence.

BOLDUAN: They're also pointing out the four possibilities -- this is also new that's coming out this morning in terms of their investigation, which they point out would be hijacking, sabotage, personal problems and psychological issue.

Does this at least tell you they're ruling some other possibilities out or does this for you also say they're just kind of running the gamut?

MOORE: I think this says they're running the gamut. I would add a few to that. I think you have to have a holistic approach to this investigation. And until you find the wreckage, and until you examine the wreckage, we probably aren't going to know anything definitively.

BOLDUAN: Now from -- obviously, from a distance, how do you -- what do you think, what's your assessment of how the investigation has gone so far?

MOORE: I think the investigation by the Malaysian authorities has been kind of embarrassing. I think the Australians and the rest of the western world's investigation and the eastern world has been much more credible.

The problem is, when you lose credibility with the passenger families, you get them doing things like -- like picketing your officers or having sit-ins, things like that. They've lost people's confidence. And now it's really going to be somebody else who's going to have to give the definitive word on the investigation.

BOLDUAN: Now, they're still leading the investigation, though. I mean, you -- you -- you've called it an embarrassment. Is there a way to make up -- to make up for it? Are they -- they have acknowledged that things were slow to pick up in the beginning, but are they gaining ground at all now?

I mean, they're calling it a criminal investigation. And I was talking to David Soucie about this earlier. And he said that also assists them in being able to restrict the information flow. If they say it's a criminal act and they're looking at it in that direction, they also aren't going to be releasing maybe the amount of information they would if they classified it as something else. Do you see that?

MOORE: Yes, I can see that. And I can see there's political reasons why they might want to call it a criminal act.

But right now, I don't think it's retrievable. I mean, if your family, God forbid, was on that airplane, you would certainly not consider the Malaysian authorities' word the last word on this. You would want to hear it from somebody else. I think they've lost the confidence of the world essentially in this investigation and they're gonna -- the world is going to take somebody else's opinion on this or somebody else's evidence on this.

BOLDUAN: We do know that many nations are assisting as much as possible, as much as they're allowed to. They said they've done some -- they've gotten 170 statements at this point, and it's clear that this investigation is to far from over. Obviously, the main piece is still missing, where the plane is.

Steve Moore, it's always great to see you.

MOORE: Right.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.

MOORE: Thanks.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And Kate, the point that you and Steve are making there obviously counts the most with the families. And coming up on NEW DAY, we're going to speak with a man whose mother was on board the missing jetliner like so many other family members. And he is desperate for answers. He wants some straight talk from Malaysian officials, and we're going to find out what they disclosed to families overnight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: Now to the search for Malaysia flight 370. Overnight, several relatives of the plane's Chinese passengers met with Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur demanding answers as they have been from the beginning.

The meeting was also watched by families in Beijing over videofeed. Now, many of them have chosen to stay in China, determined not to go to Malaysia or Australia until solid evidence that debris or remains are found is available.

Joining us now from Beijing is Steven Wang. His mother was on flight 370. He attended the briefing with officials.

Steven, thank you very much for joining us. Did anything come out of this meeting that was helpful to you and your family?

STEVEN WANG, MOTHER WAS ON FLIGHT 370: Well, today's meeting, I don't think it -- it just give us any useful information because they just let us to ask question for -- maybe we just asked four, five questions. And after that, they said the investigation team is very busy, that time is precious. And they also said we will also request later. So we didn't have any useful information today.

CUOMO: Do they tell you that they can't give you information because it's part of a criminal investigation or they just don't have the information that you need?

WANG: Well, it is not -- they -- they didn't mention whether it is a criminal investigation or something like that. They just said that some of the key information is still under investigation, so they cannot give us.

CUOMO: All right. And now, that's very hard to hear, not for the media, but for you it is because this is about family for you.

WANG: Yeah.

CUOMO: What does your T-shirt say? Under the shirt here, what does that say, the T-shirt you have on?

WANG: Well, this says first pray and pray for MH-370, and this is come back safely.

CUOMO: Come back safely. Now, that message for you personally goes to your mother. Tell us who was your mother? Where was she coming from? When was the last time you got to speak with her?

WANG: Well, she is from Beijing and the last -- the last time I connect her was at about midnight before she was getting on the plane. She was in Kuala Lumpur's airport, and she told me that I should pick her up the next morning because it is cold in Beijing. So she told me that I should take a coat for her, and that is the last message.

CUOMO: You've been waiting for answers. Obviously, the waiting is the most difficult part for family. Do you believe that investigators are doing everything they need to do? WANG: Yes. Well, I'm not sure, but I'm sure that there are still something that was hidden.

CUOMO: Something that was hidden? You think something happened and the government knows but they're not telling you? Is that what you're saying?

WANG: Yes. Yes. Because it was ridiculous that a flight heading to Beijing, but it turns west and flying over the whole Malaysia for one hour, but they didn't take any action. It was ridiculous. Because what does the military do? Their job is to save the country. But the flight might -- (inaudible) didn't take action. It was impossible. I think there might be other information but they didn't tell us.

CUOMO: Family members, members of your own family, how much hope are you keeping that family members will be found alive? Where are you in terms of what you're ready to accept?

WANG: Well, I have to say that it might be 1 percent, even less than 1 percent. But it -- but it was very little, but I think there's still hope.

CUOMO: And certainly there should be hope to find out what happened. I know that's very important to the families. It's a big reason that we're staying on this story, so that answers can come so that you can figure out what happened to your mother, and your family can then cope with whatever the situation is. So we're going to try to keep the story going. And as you hear information or as you have questions, let us know, Steven.

And the best to you and your family. Thank you for joining us. And we are praying for your mother and the other people who were on that plane.

WANG: OK, thanks. Thanks. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're gonna have more on the search for flight 370. An expert on our show Tuesday suggested the safest flight may be one without a pilot. He's back with us to debate whether technology could make pilots obsolete.

Also ahead, death and destruction from a magnitude 8.2 earthquake in Chile. Tens of thousands forced to evacuate. We're going to be live in Santiago just ahead.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. The details of what happened in the cockpit on flight 370 before it disappeared, they're still unknown. But the mystery has certainly sparked a conversation about what can be done to stop something like this from ever happening again.

On Tuesday's show, CNN aviation analyst and Slate contributor Jeff Wise suggested that pilots are actually the least secure aspect of a flight. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: If you're looking at a zero accident rate, which is exactly what the FAA wants to do -- they want this planes to never crash. And if you want to do that, it's hard to have, you know, essentially, this highly evolved monkey sitting in the cockpit.


PEREIRA: Unsurprisingly those comments turned up quite a bit of backlash from the pilot community. Here to discuss whether aviation technology is making pilots obsolete is Jeff Wise and Les Abend, CNN aviation analyst and 777 pilot.

Gentlemen, good to have you both here. So obviously, there has been some backlash about what you said yesterday. We actually reached out to -- they reached out to us, the Airline Pilots Association. And they sent a statement. And I'd actually like to read it, and then I want you to clarify, refute, or whatever you want to say to the comment.

Let's take a look at that. I think we have a full screen of it here. "Technology and air transportation is a powerful tool, but is no substitute for a professional pilot's ability to communicate, gain from experience and exercise sound judgment." They particularly took issue with the fact that you talked about pilots as being evolved monkeys in the cockpit Do you stand by those statements from yesterday, Mr. Wise?

WISE: Well, you know, I think when you liken people to monkeys, they -- you often --


PEREIRA: People get upset about that, yeah.

WISE: But, I mean, listen I am also a highly evolved monkey. I'm proud to be a highly evolved monkey, so --

PEREIRA: Highly evolved, Jeff?

WISE: Well, slightly evolved, maybe. I mean, not as evolved as most pilots, granted. But --

PEREIRA: Your point was more that it's the human factor, correct? I don't want to put words in your mouth. But is that what you took -- your point was being made?

WISE: I think the baseline thing that people need to understand is that aviation is unbelievably safe. It's -- at any given time, there's thousands, tens of thousands of planes in the air, and they almost never crash.

And if you want to get from this unbelievable level of safety to an even more unbelievable level of safety, you start to get to the level of performance that human beings perhaps were never intended to achieve. To err is human. And if you want to never have a criminal act engaged in, never to have someone have a psychotic break or whatever, you start to wonder, you know, can you build the system to exclude human element?

PEREIRA: So you heard his comments yesterday. What were -- (inaudible) spent a lot of time in the green room with our Jeff. What were -- what were your thoughts, and were do you stand on the idea of taking out the human factor?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think it's predictable where I'm going to stand on that. The Airline Pilots Association, not my union, but, you know, reacted appropriately to -- to -- to Jeff's statements.

Look, the machines that we build are designed by humans and it's designed with flaws. We have to operate them as humans. It's sexy to -- to -- to blame or put probable cause on an accident making it pilot error. It makes better news and so on and so forth.

But when that occurs, there may be a flaw in the system in the way it's designed and the way we operate it.

PEREIRA: So you're sort of saying it could be a one-two punch. And we saw this with Asiana. They came out with a statement just the other day saying pilot error was partly to blame. We know with Air France, the pilots didn't -- weren't able to read some of the readings correctly, and they did not handle the situation. But there was technology that was also partly to blame. So there's a situation where you see human and technology not working together.

ABEND: Well, here's something -- but here's something else. Now you throw in the pilot element and go back to Sioux City, Iowa. And -- and here is a machine that broke down on these pilots, and it took basically three people to -- to take control of this airplane. And we had survivors out of something that was not a survivable situation.

PEREIRA: Les brings up a really great point, Jeff. And I think we all can think of the miracle on the Hudson. I want to know that there's going to be a heroic measure on the part of the captain to save a situation when everything goes sideways.

ABEND: And culturally, I'm not sure we can -- you know, that we can generally accept getting into that airplane looking forward and seeing no -- I mean, the axiom for us as pilots internally, we say, you know what? Some days it's just going to come down to one pilot in that cockpit and the dog. And the dog's only there to bite the pilot if he touches something. But we all know that's so unrealistic and it's not -- it -- it's -- there's no way culturally, I think, that we can accept that.

PEREIRA: Quick reaction?

WISE: Well, I also feel that. It's an emotional response. And I share it. But the way that the world is changing is to take humans out of the loop. You know, it used to be you went to buy an air ticket, you went to a travel agent. That's long gone. Now they're selling cars where the car won't let you rear-end the person in front of you. We're becoming increasingly comfortable with humans being taken out.

PEREIRA: A couple other topics I want to get to real quickly: training. Let's talk about that, because we know the training has changed. Are these younger pilots that are being trained on more automated systems, are they at a disadvantage if they have to revert to manual systems in the case of an emergency? Or is that not a true assessment?

ABEND: Well, let's go back to the old guys like me. You know, my experience started with what we've been calling stick and rudder skills way back when. And we've slowly been integrated into this new automation. So now these folks that are starting early on with their careers are now presented with all this new automation.

So they don't get -- you can't train experience. And they don't get the opportunity to get the experience from the original type of stick and rudder. So they're trained specifically for the automation of today, and maybe that proficiency hasn't gotten to the point until they get to a certain level of experience, which is time.

PEREIRA: I'd like to get the two of you back to talk about cameras in the cockpit, talk about the CVR, the cockpit voice recorder. There's been questions about that two-hour limit that's not helping us and won't help us in this investigation. Or will it? We don't know. But those are two other technologies that people are certainly looking at of how they can be improved and there's some debate, privacy litigation, et cetera.

Jeff Wise, Les Abend, always a pleasure to have you both here. Thank you so much.


CUOMO: All right, Mick. A lot of news happening this morning. We have breaking news of an earthquake overnight, the G.M. recall hearings that are revealing some real problems, and the very latest on the search for flight 370.

So let's get to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sirens blaring, people running into the streets as a powerful 8.2 magnitude earthquake hits off the coast of northern Chile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why won't you give us anymore information, sir? Sir, are you hiding something?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; Based on that statement that they made, they must have something that they haven't released publicly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Think about how we died and that's not fair. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: G.M. now admits it knew about the defect as early as 2004.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who knew what when?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Images don't fully capture the devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Digging through this debris field, it's overwhelming.


CUOMO: Good morning. We want to welcome our viewers from across the U.S. and around the world this Wednesday, April 2.

We're going to begin with breaking news. Chile rocked by a massive 8.2 magnitude earthquake. At least five people are dead. We caution estimates are premature at this point. We're getting reports of fires, landslides and widespread damage. Power is out in many areas. Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate. The earthquake centered just 61 miles off Chile's northern coast, sending seven foot waves crashing into coastal communities.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Rafael Romo. Rafael?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. The Chilean government just confirmed that the death toll that's a result of this earthquake has increased to six. They're also telling us this morning that as many as 900,000 people had to be evacuated overnight because of this earthquake. There were fears of a tsunami.

Now, the tsunami warning has been lifted already, but daylight is beginning to reveal the true extent of the damage. The earthquake caused at least three fires in the city of Vekili (ph).

There was also a situation where 300 inmates at a women's prison escaped during the earthquake. And also major highways were damaged by mud slides. President Michelle Bachelet is traveling this morning to the affected areas. Overnight, she dispatched the national police and the military to help people in need. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right, Rafael, thank you very much. We'll be checking back in with you -- clearly continues to develop in Chile this morning.

Let's also get to our other big story of the day, the search for flight 370. Overnight, a stunning confirmation from Malaysia's police chief. He told reporters the search is now a criminal investigation and acknowledged the focus is on hijacking, sabotage, and psychological issues. Those are the possibilities that they're looking into.

Also new this morning, Malaysia Airlines increasing cockpit security and new measures that a source to CNN said directly relates to the missing flight. Let's talk more about this with Mary Schiavo. She's a CNN aviation analyst and a former inspector general for the Department of Transportation, now an attorney who represents victims and families after airplane disasters.

And also with us, David Soucie, CNN's safety analyst and the author of "Why Planes Crash," also a former FAA inspector.

Good morning again. Another morning, another big -- another round of details that we need to work though.