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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Who Will Get The Black Boxes; Anti-Gun Politician Accused Of Arms Trafficking; Going Deep Beneath The Sea

Aired April 11, 2014 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's a loophole that may have left two-thirds of web sites vulnerable to attack. If that's not alarming enough, today we are learning that the National Security Agency may have known about this bug for two years without saying a word. Why?

Because according to Michael Riley of "Bloomberg News," the National Security Agency actually used the encryption flaw to gather intelligence. If that's true, it's news that could re-ignite the debate over government spying. But don't worry, the president has already promised whatever the NSA is doing, it's all for your own protection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The United States only uses signals and intelligence for legitimate national security purposes and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the e-mails or phone calls of ordinary folks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So what was jeopardized? A lot for starters, Facebook, Gmail, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Netflix, even some Amazon services. By now most sites that were vulnerable to the flaws say they have patched it, but your information along with your credit card information could potentially be at risk without a password change.

When we come back, the Australian prime minister now confident recent under water pings are coming from Flight 370's black boxes. So assuming searches do find them, what country will take the lead on analyzing the data?

Plus, he won accolades for working to get guns off the street so how did this California Democrat end up facing federal charges that he was trying to fund his campaign by selling guns illegally himself?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Continuing our "World Lead," while much of the recent focus in the investigation into Flight 370 has been on finding the black boxes, there is, of course, another important aspect of the search to consider once the black boxes are found, who gets them? CNN senior correspondent, Joe Johns has more on that from Kuala Lumpur.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over two dozen countries have been involved in the search for the missing plane. Any hope of unravelling the mystery in the fate of its 239 passengers and crew rest in two boxes, the flight and data recorders.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have very much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the black box on MH-370.

JOHNS: If they find them, the question remains, who gets the black boxes and who will lead the investigation to uncover what really happened to Flight 370? Typically following a crash, the country of origin for the airliner, in this case, Malaysia, is tasked with taking charge of the investigation. But Malaysian authorities have already asked for help.

KHALID ABU BAKAR, MALAYSIA'S INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICY: We don't have the expert to open up the black box and to analyze what are the contents of the datas, the voice data and the flight data. We have to get experts to do it for us.

JOHNS: The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the British Air Accident Investigation Branch as well as other authorities each have capabilities with sophisticated labs and technicians, but an international working group of experts has also been suggested. If they are found, decoding the black boxes could be complicated. The boxes are built to withstand extreme conditions including fire and heat damage.

But depending on the circumstances of the crash, memory chips extracted from the data recorders could still be damaged and might require cleaning until the raw data begins to paint a picture of what happened.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: We still don't know what condition they are in and they've been sitting on the bottom of the ocean under extreme pressure for, you know, weeks, perhaps months by the time we get them up. The water could have caused some deterioration of the circuitry. You just need to be careful when you first download it because if you screw it up, you may lose vital data.

JOHNS: And time is now a vicious enemy.

ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTRE CHIEF: The batteries are starting to fade and as a consequence, the signal is becoming weaker.

JOHNS: Even if authorities retrieve the black boxes, there's another worry. Cockpit voice recorders run on a loop and a lot of critical audio can be erased before investigators ever get a chance to hear it. Joe Johns, CNN, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Let's bring back our panel to discuss what happens to these black boxes once they are found, hopefully once they are found. Tim, let's start with you. We showed it earlier in the show, the Remora 6000 that was used to retrieve the black boxes after the Air France Flight 447 disaster. How exactly does it work?

CAPTAIN TIM TAYLOR, SEA OPERATIONS SPECIALIST: Well, it's ROV, remote operated vehicle. Essentially it's tethered from the ship. It will go down and has its own power source. That power is fed through an umbilical or cable that runs the whole depth that it is operating. It has copper for electricity and fiber optic for data that feeds the machine and sends up the telemetry whether it be cameras or sonar or whatever its payload that is installed on the ROV is.

TAPPER: And David, how do they extract that data from the black boxes? How long does it take?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: You know, in today's world, it doesn't take that long honestly. It can be downloaded. The most time consuming part is taking it apart to make sure the circuits are not damaged and that it doesn't dry out in certain areas if it has salt water in that area, it can crystallized and can cause damage to components.

TAPPER: Miles, there's been a lot of questions about how this investigation may have been different if the U.S. or France or Australia or Britain who were leading in the first place. There are rules in place to determine which country leads the investigation. We should clarify here, the Aussies are in charge of the recovery, but the Malaysians are still in charge of the investigation. What are the roles of each country and how is it decided?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, basically, it's the Malaysian aircraft so they take pre-eminence on the investigation and we've seen an investigation that I think we can all agree has been inconsistent, opaque, and, frankly, uncoordinated. Internally, that's what we are hearing as well. What would be better, I think, is if countries who are purchasing things like 777s could demonstrate the ability to do a proper investigation should something go wrong.

And I'm not convinced that that expertise lies necessarily in Malaysia. I think, frankly, these are global issues. We all care about the 777 because all of us are traveling on it throughout the globe and maybe the way to do these investigations is to bring in the best and brightest minds of the world and have it run under some international control.

TAPPER: David, what do you think?

SOUCIE: Well, you know, I'm a little confused about this and conflicted because Annex 13 says the state of occurrence is one in which takes control of the investigation and although in international waters it goes back to the state of operator, the operator country. So there's a little back and forth here in my mind as to who should have control of it. And Malaysia can delegate that investigation, but they have not officially delegated.

And here's why I think that there hasn't been a preliminary report filed yet and it's been more than 30 days. IATO 13 Annex 13 Section 7 says a preliminary report has to be filed with both the state of occurrence, the state of operation, the state of manufacturer, all of the various people involved should have received a preliminary report by now regardless of whether they found wreckage or not and that hasn't been done.

TAPPER: Tim, the intricacies of multiple countries working together in this search can affect your role as well because of the technology being used, right? Give me an example of that.

TAYLOR: Yes. This technology is not in every country and it is proprietary. Some of the stuff that is on these vehicles are State Department controlled. The AUV especially international navigation system on board that system is a classified piece of gear and foreign nationals, even British or Australian foreign nationals are not allowed to look inside, not without State Department permit.

So this has to be handled by the country's crew, the U.S. Navy or in our case when we ran the Bluefins, we were licensed by the State Department and had to clear it with customs every time we moved it and reported it in and out and signed an affidavit that we would not let any foreign nationals look inside.

TAPPER: All of the ease and transparency of international travel. Tim Taylor, David Soucie, Miles O'Brien, thank you so much.

Coming up, if it is true, it's hall of fame caliber hypocrisy. An anti-gun politician allegedly funding his ambitions for higher office by setting up illegal arms deals.

And later, he brought the Titanic back to life on the big screen and plunged to the bottom of the ocean in real life. We'll talk to Director James Cameron about the search for Flight 370 and the unknowns on the ocean floor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "National Lead," just a few weeks ago, Leland Yee, a California Democratic senator from San Francisco seemed to be a promising candidate for secretary of state. At the end of March, he had been honored with an award as public official of the year for his efforts to make government more transparent, well known for his restrictions on guns. He had also been named to the gun violence prevention honor roll by the Brady Campaign.

But that was then. This week, Yee pleaded not guilty to charges that are stunning in their reach and, if true, hypocrisy. The FBI is accusing Yee of a litany of charges and most shockingly the gun control advocating Democrat was allegedly trying to fund his campaign by setting up arms deals for weapons you'd typically only see in a war zone. In a court filing yesterday, federal authorities said that more charges are coming. Our Jason Carroll has more of the story for us from San Francisco.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The defendant packed into a California courtroom facing stunning allegations, trading guns for campaign cash. The characters straight out of a Hollywood crime drama with aliases like "Dragon Tin" and "Shrimp Boy" Chow. The star of the group is Leland Yee, an California corruption scandal that has angered voters.

REGINA DON, SAN FRANCISCO RESIDENT: I think it's a disgrace and a betrayal of the public's trust.

CARROLL: The allegations outlined in this 137-page criminal complaint including details about Yee's conspiracy to traffic firearms into the United States to pay bills and finance his campaign for California secretary of state. Some of his co-defendants, Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, an alleged Chinatown gangster. His campaign consultant, Keith Jackson and Dr. Wilson Lim, a dentist with alleged ties to a Muslim rebel group in the Philippines.

All three deny the charges. Yee allegedly told an undercover FBI agent posing as a mobster that he knew an arms dealer who had contacts who, quote, "has things that you guys want, but warned this is not a business for the faint of heart." According to the complaint when the undercover agent asked about Yee's commitment, Yee replied, "I think we can make some money. Do I think we can get the goods? I think we can get the goods."

Prosecutors say the undercover agent offered up to $2.5 million for weapons, such as shoulder-fired missiles, AR-15s and M-16s. All of these allegations and yet Yee is known in the state as a gun control advocate. After the Newtown school shooting, he pushed for limited access to weapons.

But behind closed doors, Yee allegedly told a man he thought was a real mobster, there is a part of me that wants to be like you. Yee did not answer his door at his home. His attorney denied our request for an interview. Yee did plead not guilty during his court appearance.

DAVID LEE, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY: It's really amazing that something like this happened.

CARROLL: David Lee, a political science professor at San Francisco State University says while political scandals are not uncommon, the allegations here are simply unheard of.

LEE: There would be a discussion of shoulder-fired rockets, which is really out of the line of imagination for somebody who is in public services to be trading arms for campaign donations.

CARROLL: Losing his job could be the least of Yee's problems. If convicted on all counts, he's facing up to 125 years in prison. Jason Carroll, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: If you logon to the web site of the California State Senate, you will not find Leland Yee. He has been essentially been erased as have two Democratic state senators in legal trouble. One convicted in a case involving perjury and voter fraud. The other indicted but pleading not guilty in a case involving bribery charges. All three men have been suspended by the state senate, but they are still being paid their $95,000 annual salaries.

Wolf Blitzer is here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, it's unclear at this point which passengers and crew of Flight 370 are still being investigated. Your team is looking into it. What else is on the show?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": As you know, you get these conflicting statements from Malaysian officials. One the other day said all of the passengers have been cleared. Now not so fast. Maybe some of them haven't been cleared. We're going to try to find out what is going on. Ken Beazley, he is the Australian ambassador to the United States, very impressive guy. He's going to be in "THE SITUATION ROOM" and we'll talk about what his Prime Minister Tony Abbott had to say. He seems to suggest that they are only a few kilometers away from finding at least one of those black boxes so we'll go in depth on that.

TAPPER: In depth. Once again you can't help yourself with -- thank you, Wolf Blitzer. We'll be watching, of course.

Coming up, he's directed some of the biggest blockbusters of all time and he's no stranger to the deepest depth of the ocean. Next, Director James Cameron will tell me what it is like going nearly seven miles underwater as we discuss the search for Flight 370.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. And our coverage of the hunt for Flight 370, which brings us to our "World Lead" today. He shot our hearts into our throats with the 1989 film "Abyss."

Then, of course, there was a little film, I'm not sure if you've heard of it, it's called "Titanic." Academy-Award winning filmmaker, James Cameron, remains the master at depicting the depths of the ocean on film. His fascination with the sea goes deeper than that.

Cameron is also an environmentalist and underwater explorer who holds the record for the deepest solo dive beneath the surface after he plummeted 6.8 miles down into the Mariana Trench in 2012. I asked Cameron about what it is like down there in the absolute darkness and what challenges those depths could hold for investigators trying to find Flight 370.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Obviously investigators are now looking for an airplane that could be 3 miles below the sea. Give us an idea about what happens that far down.

JAMES CAMERON, FILMMAKER: Well, 3 miles down you've got a tremendous amount of pressure. That's the sort of depth of the Titanic wreck and the Bismarck wreck. Any vehicle that goes down there has to be able to withstand these incredible external forces. Plus, radio frequencies will not go through water. It's a very, very difficult regime to work in.

TAPPER: And one thing this story does tell is something that you talk about all the time, which is how little we know about our own oceans. Do you think that society should be devoting more energy and resources to studying deep sea topography?

CAMERON: I think we need to know more about the oceans in kind of realtime. We need to know more about what is happening in the water column and that feeds into climate modelling and all of the other stuff. The ocean is a vast volume. The land -- you know, we can see the surface of the land from orbit. You can Google just about any spot on the surface of the land. But the ocean has depth, you know, 3 miles down to 7 miles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Well, my full interview with filmmaker, environmentalist, and deep sea explorer, James Cameron tonight when THE LEAD returns tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We'll be back here for a special primetime edition of THE LEAD at 9 p.m. Eastern. Wolf Blitzer is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" and that starts in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, the mystery of Flight 370 --