Return to Transcripts main page


Focus Of Search Narrows; Obama Consoles Fort Hood After Shootings; The Cost Of Searching For Flight 370

Aired April 9, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. More now on the significant, new developments in the hunt for Flight 370. Two sets of fresh pings have searchers encouraged that they may be getting very close to what could be the final resting place of the missing jet. Every ping is a data point that is helping investigates cull down what was once a sprawling search area.

Let's bring CNN's Tom Foreman. Tom, four sets of pings, 17 miles apart, how much closer do these new developments get us?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, compared to the 3 million square miles, we are talking about a long time ago, a lot closer. Not as close as they want to be yet. Take a look at this because this is really fascinating. That big arc we talked about some time ago. If you move in from that arc established by the satellites this path that just traced there is the exact path followed by the "Ocean Shield" as it was dragging that ping indicator out there.

This is where it pick up those various pings, those four pings. Now, I mentioned the satellite track, the satellite track actually runs right about here. So this is remarkably close to the area that they were aiming for. If you look at all of this, that just looks like a hodgepodge, well, they're going every which way. Not so. These are the rudiments of a system out there, which allow them to tighten this up more.

This is within a 17-mile box. What they're trying to do essentially is create a grid out there by going back and forth one way, and getting a series of pings, going back and forth another way and getting another series of pings. By doing that, they can measure which ones are the strongest, the closest together.

And they can reduce this big box which right now is around 560 square miles down to hopefully a much smaller one, as long as they can get pings. That's why they keep trying, Jake, because they are saying every bit of data they can get helps make that box smaller. Once you go underwater at these depths to do something about it, you're going to need all of the help you can get.

TAPPER: Of course, there are parts of the ocean floor that are very well known, very well tracked, we know the topography. Much, much more of the ocean floor that we know nothing about. What do we know about the ocean underneath the surface area you're pointing out? FOREMAN: What we know here is that a difference that is relatively small in the lateral sense can make a very big difference in a depth sense. If we take a look at ocean floor here, you have a plateau. In the area they're searching now, the hits on the side of the plateau. Look at the top end here, you'll have about 1-1/2 miles deep up here, way over here you're going to be at three-plus miles deep.

So quite a big difference. This seems to be around the 2-1/2 mile range right now. They haven't narrowed it down. But this is on the edge of performance, in terms of all of the vehicles they can get down there to deal with this, unless you are talking about pure robots and pure robots are great for this, but they have to go down very far and it's very delicate work. Every step you move closer this way, it gets that much harder. It's hard from here all the way down, but it gets harder.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

At these daunting depths up to 3 miles down, as Tom just said, even a potentially narrowed search area still leaves many questions unanswered. Let's bring in CNN analyst, Rob McCallum, an ocean search specialist and David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash," along with Anthony Roman, he is a commercial pilot and founder and CEO of the global investigation firm, Roman and Associates.

Gentlemen, thanks for being here. Rob, I want to start with you. You say we are potentially in the right haystack in finding the needle. How big is this haystack?

ROB MCCALLUM, CNN ANALYST: Well, as you heard, the moment, it's around 560 square miles. But that could reduce quite quickly if we get another ping or two. Every time we establish another contact with the pinger, that helps to reduce the area right down, and the smaller, the better. Once we start deploying the Bluefin, then you know it's a very slow process indeed.

TAPPER: David, how confident are you that these are pings from the plane? I mean, the battery life seems to have held out somewhat miraculously given what you told us about the technology. Are you fairly confident we're on the right track here?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I'm very confident we're on the right track, simply put, there are other items out in the ocean that use this frequency, the commercial fishing equipment, that sort of thing. But it's important to point out none of them, that I'm aware of, that anybody I've talked to has told me occur at one-second interval. So to me that's very distinctive and it's very conclusive for me.

TAPPER: Anthony, obviously we don't know for certain, but do you think these are the last pings we are going to get? We are really running on borrowed time here.

ANTHONY ROMAN, COMMERCIAL PILOT: I think the pings can last up to 45 days. So I think we have some time here. The diminishing sound effect that Angus Houston referred to during his press conference can be related to a number of things. The diminishing battery life, topography of the ocean floor, the consistency of the ocean floor, relative to the silt, what's the depth of the silt and consistency of the silt, and the just basically shape of the bottom.

It can change the way the pings are heard and the magnification. In addition to that, there are various temperature layers, as you move down in the ocean and that changes layers' ocean density. That can also play havoc with locating these pings.

TAPPER: David, the next step, theoretically would be AUVs, towed, sonar. I have to say I wonder why they're not already in the water given this narrower search zone.

SOUCIE: Well, the strategy that Angus Houston had mentioned last night was that they want to keep it clear, keep it clean, so there's nothing else in there interfering with these signals. And as Mr. Roman pointed out as well there can be other things that interfere with how it gets around, whether the silt or whatever. You don't want to disturb any of that. You want to keep it clean and quiet so you can narrow those in, as Tom Foreman showed us, narrow those in on the strongest pings.

TAPPER: Rob, explain the pros and cons of some of these different technologies.

MCCALLUM: You know, well, the way you image the sea floor by using sonar. Sonar can be deployed one of two ways. Either on an AUV, a battery powered torpedo-like device or a towed sled, a sled that's literally towed behind the ship at great depth. The advantage of an AUV is it is very good for tight spaces, you know, because it can turn on a dime, and it's good for high resolution work because it can slow down and really focus.

Towed rays are much better if you're looking for a large search area. They are able to cover between three and six times as much area per day. They're much cheaper to operate and the key advantage is that they can work in every kind of weather, and provide data in real-time. AUV, of course, has to be recovered and downloaded and you see the data it recorded yesterday.

TAPPER: Anthony, how long could this take, this search?

ROMAN: We believe now the search area will be narrowed dramatically, simply because the "Ocean Shield," following this grid pattern search, is securing not only the strength of the pings, but also the relative magnetic bearing that they believe the pings are emanating from. The additional magnetic bearings that they secure will help narrow the search area exponentially. So I think there's an excellent chance, we're talking weeks or months, not years.

TAPPER: David, we're talking about something potentially, potentially, three miles under water. What kind of variables does that depth bring to the search?

SOUCIE: Well, the fact is AUVs don't go that deep, so the resolution of the AUVs going to be restricted. The swath of the AUV is about 150 meters at a certain depth above the bottom. So if it goes that much deeper, then the AUV isn't able to quite go that far below the surface if it reaches that limit. So that can affect the ability to be identify smaller objects, but at that point, you'd be bringing in other retrieval equipment, which could operate at that depth. But again, you've got to find it first.

TAPPER: Rob, lastly, you've been down 2 miles. What's that like?

MCCALLUM: You know, it's an interesting place to be. We call it inner space because it's hostile to us as outer space, but it's on our own planet. It's a very calm place, which sounds an odd thing to say, but there's not a lot of current down it there. The temperature is usually fairly consistent, just at or slightly below freezing and of course, it's pitch black. You lose light around 3,000 feet.

TAPPER: And has there been a lot of progress in this technology? Is this more promising than previous salvage operations? What do you think?

MCCALLUM: You know, the assets that could be used here, because of the region that they're in, it's relatively easy to get more assets sent to the area, both sonar assets but also submersibles. We heard earlier about Alvin, the Chinese also have a 7,000-meter rated submersible and the Japanese have a 6-1/2,000 meter rated submersible.

TAPPER: David, Rob, Anthony, thank you so much. We appreciate it. Wolf Blitzer is now here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, the search teams have picked up two more sets of signals that potentially could be pingers from the black boxes. You are speaking to somebody in the U.S. Navy that knows how this underwater search will work.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Now he's got a lot of experience in this whole area, Mike Deane, he is the deputy director of U.S. Navy salvage and diving. We're going to go in-depth, I guess --

TAPPER: Was that on purpose?

BLITZER: In-depth with him. You know, our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, had an exclusive with the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, live from Beijing. They spoke about the search for the Malaysia Airliner and Ukraine. So we got a lot of news coming up.

TAPPER: All right, Wolf Blitzer, coming up. We appreciate it.

Coming up in our "Money Lead," the evidence has been scarce and the resources enormous, we'll look at who's paying for the hunt for Flight 370.

Plus we are now minutes away from a news conference on the mass stabbings earlier this morning at a high school outside Pittsburgh. We'll bring that to you live as soon as officials start talking. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. More national news, he did it after Tucson. He did it after Aurora. He did it after Newtown, and now for the second time, he did it after Fort Hood. President Obama, in what has become an all too frequent ritual in the country, had to find words to comfort a community and the nation after another mass shooting.

Around this time last week, a soldier opened fire inside Fort Hood, Texas, killing three fellow soldiers before turning the gun on himself. The victims' names, Sergeant Carlos Rodriguez, Sergeant Timothy Owens and Sergeant Danny Ferguson. In his remarks, the president spoke directly to the parents of those men.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know that the men and soldiers they became, their sense of service, their patriotism, so much of that came from you, you gave your sons to America. Just as you will honor them always, so too will the nation in they served.


TAPPER: The president's words, of course, have an eerie ring of deja vu to them because, after all, he did stand at Fort Hood five years ago to memorialize the victims of a different mass shooting at that post, 13 people were killed in that 2009 rampage.

Also in national news today, they want her charged. Today in a party line vote, a House committee asked the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against former IRS official, Lois Learner. GOP lawmakers accuse of her, quote, "aggressively engineering the crackdown on conservative groups that wanted tax exempt status during the 2012 election cycle and of singling out Crossroads GPS, which was founded in part by former George W. Bush political aide, Karl Rove."

The committee noted that Learner talked about getting a job at organizing for action, non-profit spin-off of President Obama's campaign. She wrote in an e-mail quote, "Maybe I can get the D.C. office job." Learner's attorney calls the latest move another attempt by Republicans to smear her for political game.

Now the "Money Lead" now, Australia's prime minister has described the search for Flight 370 as the most difficult in human history. While the search area that once spanned two hemispheres has been refined to a great deal over the last month. It's still a monumental, multinational effort, including cutting-edge equipment that has to be paid for somehow.

Our Joe Johns is live in Kuala Lumpur with a look at the tally so far and where this cash is coming from -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it is likely, likely, to be the most expensive search of its kind in aviation history and it's -- the end is nowhere in sight. As much as $21 million a month for all of the countries except China, and China, by the way, has committed enormous resources, more than half possibly, of the passengers of the plane were Chinese.

Now we have some pictures of the Haixun 01, which was out patrolling over the weekend. Beijing's foreign minister says they've used something like 18 naval vessels, eight helicopters, three planes, 10 satellites, some estimates in Chinese media put that country's price tag, by itself, as high as $25 million thus far.

As far as the other assets, including those of the United States, there's another hefty price tag with some estimates suggesting the cost of about $21 million a month. Most of that money coming from military training budgets, some of it also from humanitarian organizations and from U.S. Navy operations.

For example, U.S. Navy P-4 aircraft costs about, $4300, $4400 an hour to fly. The Pentagon originally earmarked something like $3 million for this search. But they say they've already spent about $7 million -- Jake.

TAPPER: So is there any indication that anyone is going to help underwrite some of these costs?

JOHNS: Well, the fact of the matter is, most of the countries are likely to bear their own costs. There's no international convention on sharing search costs. Though, in the past, some countries have attempted to bill the owner of the missing plane or its insurance for the cost, not clear how successful an attempt like that would be -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Joe Johns in Malaysia, thank you so much.

Coming up next, his life was ripped apart by two accused terrorists and it was his description that helped police track those terrorists down. Now, Boston marathon bombing victim, Jeff Bauman, is talking to me about moving forward. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. For more on our "National Lead," around this time last year, Jeff Bauman was standing at finish line of the Boston marathon, cheering on his girlfriend, Erin, waiting for her to complete the race. Before she could make it to the finish liner two bombs were sent off, one taking off both of Bauman's legs.

The moments that followed captured in the photo that made him the face of the Boston marathon bombings, but Jeff Bauman survived and thrived, and now one year later, he calls himself Boston strong. That girlfriend is now his fiancee. They are expecting their first child together.

And I got a chance to talk to them. When I asked her how the difficult rehab process affected their relationship, she said it was the struggle that made them stronger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIN HURLEY, ENGAGED TO BAUMAN: He did say to me when he was in the hospital, you don't have to do this. If you want to be here for me, that's great, but you don't have to stay with me. And you know, I think that not being there was never really an option for me. I never really thought about, you know, leaving. I just didn't even cross my mind, I wanted to be there for him as much as I could.

I think that we have to learn a lot about each other in a very short period of time. Which you know, has a silver lining to it because now, you know, we both know we're going to be there for each other, no matter what. But definitely it was a hard year for both of us and for, you know, individually and also in our relationship.


TAPPER: Two of the best people you'll meet. We'll have lots more with Jeff Bauman and his fiancee, Erin and their incredibly inspiring story tonight in the prime time edition of THE LEAD. That's at 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Pacific.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I will see you back here at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for a prime time edition of THE LEAD. Now stay tuned to CNN for breaking news on the stabbing at that Pittsburgh high school. There's a press conference coming very shortly with the latest from police and school officials. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.