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CIA's Brennan Accused of Giving Go-Ahead for Ukraine Crackdown; MH370 Search Rests on Navy's Bluefin-21; More Information on Killer White Supremacist; West African County Fighting Fast-Spreading Ebola

Aired April 14, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Now to Ukraine. And moments ago, Jay Carney confirmed the CIA director, John Brennan, was in Ukraine over the weekend. Ukraine's former president is accusing Brennan of giving the go-ahead for Ukraine to crackdown on pro-Russian militants. But up until Carney's confirmation, they wouldn't reveal Brennan's travels.

Here's the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you confirm that he was there?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't normally comment on the CIA director's travel, but given the extraordinary circumstances in this case and the false claims being leveled by the Russians at the CIA, we can confirm that the director was in Kiev this weekend as part of a trip to Europe.


BLITZER: The vice president, Joe Biden, by the way, he's heading to Ukraine later this month. I think on April 22nd he's expected to be there.

Let's get more from Nick Paton Walsh, joining us from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Nick, there were reports the militants were moving towards the airport. What have you seen?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's not the case, certainly on the ground here. There may have been confusion. So much misinformation being passed around here at this point. And it may actually have been misreporting. In fact, they seem to have moved in on an airfield in Slavyansk, the key town that was the focus a couple of days of anti-terror operations by Ukrainian forces. That spectacularly failed.

It's interesting to hear the White House now confirming John Brennan's travel here. They have said it had nothing to do with issues on the ground, part of a trip to Europe. This suggestion that he gave approval for the crackdown. We haven't seen much of a crackdown of pro-Russian protestors. If he did give the green light, which is what Russian media alleges, there's a remarkable absence of Ukraine government and military wherever you go in eastern Ukraine. A brief sighting of two helicopters passing over our heads here in central Donetsk, probably the closest we've got to that much of the day. And otherwise, I've only seen two Ukrainian policemen slowly walked past the protesters who have still taken the regional administration behind me.

But this White House admission will feed into the Russian machine here that's very keenly trying to focus blame upon what's happening in eastern Ukraine on the West, suggesting that their desire to turn Ukraine towards Europe has fomented the trouble here. Although, I think the Ukrainians are dejected by how little support they feel they're getting from NATO, from the United States at this point. Appeals for more assistance have been launched by Kiev. Confusing times, indeed -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Very confusing. The so-called Donetsk People's Republic, that's where you are, has asked Russian President Putin to step in, so are these pro-Russian demonstrators tied together under that flag, the so-called People's Republic, the pro-Russian element that's there?

PATON WALSH: It seems to be the case. I mean, when you go between towns, these are groups of often young, angry men, often quite xenophobic, anti-Western, certainly, aggressive, obviously want to take over these key buildings. They wear the symbol of St. George's banner, black and orange, a symbol from what we refer to as World War II, fighting fascism, as the Russians call it, across Europe. That binds them that mostly expressed pro-Russian sentiment. too. If you dig into it, that suggests they want some sort of independence or federalization of Ukraine that will bring it closer towards Russia.

Is there a central command politically? We haven't seen much of that although officials inside that seized regional administration building a couple hundred meters from where I'm standing gives the suggestion that they're in charge over all of this, but that seems to be less the case on the ground. Someone from inside that building said, look, when you go to Slavyansk, give us a call, we'll make sure you get through easily. Actually, we don't know anybody there. But pass the phone when you arrive at the barricades. So complex chain of command, though it's pretty clear that when the attacks happen on key buildings, when those pro-Russian militants move in, they're organized. They know where they're going. And they seem to have a much more strategic plan about which buildings they move on first -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us, as he always is. Thank you.

Still ahead, more on the search for flight 370. It now rests with a single piece of high-tech equipment but it could take weeks with no guarantee of success.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The search for flight 370 is entering the next phase now. Authorities are warning we could be in it for the long haul. Here are the latest developments. The search by the locator ships is all but over. The policy is that the batteries of the two black boxes of the plane have likely died. Now the Bluefin 21 unmanned sub will slowly scour the ocean floor for signs of the plane.

CNN is also learning the plane's co-pilot had his cell phone on while the plane was about 250 miles away from where the transponder stopped working. This from U.S. officials with knowledge of the Malaysian investigation.

And a search of the ocean's surface for signs of debris is also winding down. Planes and ships doing a visual search of the Indian Ocean. That could be called off at any time now. So far, they have found absolutely no debris.

Let's bring back our panel, our CNN safety analyst, David Soucie; our aviation analyst, Les Abend; and Bluefin expert, Tim Taylor, the president of RV Tiburon.

Tim, the Bluefin-21, talk about what it can do and can't do.

TIM TAYLOR, PRESIDENT, RV TIBURON: The Bluefin is simply launched to the bottom and it slowly maps the bottom with sound. What it can do is get about 15 square nautical miles of bottom coverage to see if there's wreckage. Then it has to be deployed again. They go down and look closer and take pictures.

BLITZER: Not like they're streaming live pictures to the surface. That has to come back and then they have to review it?

TAYLOR: All downloaded. And the vehicle is a very high-tech system that protects itself. 16 hours of bottom time, takes two hours to go down, two hours to come back, two to four hours of turnaround, and downloading data. You have a limited window of bottom time. It could come back on you and you only get eight hours or four hours that day. We have to couch the expectations of the public that this is a slow process. The 16-square-nautical miles could be four one day, could be 10 one day, zero the next day.

BLITZER: Are you confident, David, they're looking in the right place? The whole thing is based not on any wreckage or debris, based on the four pings.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I'm basing it on the one ping, the big long ping they had for two hours.

BLITZER: The two-hour ones?

SOUCIE: Yeah. I think the others are artifact or bouncing off the thermal layer, like we talked about before. That's the place to start the search. That's the general area they need to start digging. I'm sure that's where they are going to begin.

BLITZER: Is it surprising to you, as somebody who studied this kind of stuff for a long time, they heard a two-hour ping but spotted no wreckage any place?

SOUCIE: It's very peculiar to me that there isn't some kind of wreckage especially with an aircraft of that side, if it breaks up just a little bit into small pieces, yes, I can understand that there would be debris all over. But we're indicating that there's no breakup, no pieces, no cushions, nothing, very strange to me.

BLITZER: Must be strange to you, too.

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This whole mystery has been unprecedented. You would see something, life jackets, cushions. It's a big ocean, granted.

TAYLOR: You also had a hurricane go through and storms. And we didn't get zeroed into this location for almost 30 days.


TAYLOR: I've been on the ocean all my life and things scatter and travel.

BLITZER: Do you remember a time where they heard pings but never spotted any wreckage?

TAYLOR: No, never.

BLITZER: Any of you ever seen anything like that before?


BLITZER: This would be unprecedented if they go down there and actually find the cockpit voice recorder or the flight data recorder without any wreckage at all.

TAYLOR: And satellite data and --


SOUCIE: Actually, there was one in the '80s where it went down altogether but it was more of a ditching, then a sinking. With that, there was some wreckage but they were there quickly able to retrieve the box. That was the only other one.

BLITZER: What would make you most confident? Let's say they find one of those black boxes, who should get custody of that and inspect it?

SOUCIE: Annex 13 Section 3 talks about custody, chain of custody, everything about the legalities of it. It's in international waters, so therefore the country of registry, which is Malaysia, controls where it goes. If they delegate it, they already said they don't have the capability to deal with it, so I expect it will go to Australia. We like to think the NTSB can do this. But Australia handled the Qantas. They did an excellent job on that. They have all the equipment they need. They're very capable to handle that.

BLITZER: There's some speculation the British might get their hands on it first.

ABEND: There's a lot of great experts out there, the NTSB, the British.

BLITZER: And you would trust the British and the Australians?

ABEND: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Even though the U.S. has more experience in this area?

ABEND: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SOUCIE: And the French have the experience.

ABEND: The French do as well, yeah.

BLITZER: That black box -- this may be a silly question. The black box on the Boeing 777, is that unique to the Boeing 777? Or is that a standard black box --


ABEND: That's a great question. I don't really know. I think it's a standard unit.

SOUCIE: It is.

ABEND: It records all sorts of digital data.

SOUCIE: The manufacturing specifications on that black box are very specific. So even if it was a different manufacturer --

BLITZER: I asked you the question because it's a U.S.-made flight data recorder, flight voice recorder. So you would think the U.S. has the greatest experts to actually review it and go through it and you want to do a thorough job, give it to the NTSB.

ABEND: We pull data off it almost every day to look at certain safety trends.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks. We'll get more on the story.

Much more coverage of the mystery of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. That's coming up.

And a hate crime in the heartland of the United States. One white supremacist now accused of taking his views to the extreme. That's coming up.


BLITZER: We're learning new information about the suspected shooter in the Kansas City Jewish center attacks. A law enforcement official tells CNN's Evan Perez, Frazier Glenn Miller obtained his firearms from a straw buyer. That means Miller did not go through federal background checks to get the three guns he had when he was arrested. Investigators are trying to find out if the straw buyer knew anything about Miller's criminal past and his plans. Miller has a long history of spouting hate. He is the former leader and founder of the Karolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He later founded a white supremacist group called the White Patriot Party and he was also the focus of a nationwide manhunt in the late '80s after he violated the terms of his bond.

Let's get some more now with our CNN political analyst, the editor-in- chief of "The Daily Beast," John Avlon.

Jon, I read your piece today on "The Daily Beast," "Hate and Hitler in the Heartland, the Arrest of Frazier Glenn Miller." Tell us a little bit more about this guy.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: This guy's got a whole resume of hate, Wolf, over decades and decades. He was a decorated Green Beret in Vietnam but got sucked into joining really the Nazi Party in the United States and then formed his own branch of the Ku Klux Klan, choosing to wear fatigues instead of robes, and taking direct inspiration from Hitler. He later served time in prison and had threatened assassination of folks, including the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees. He is a terrible, terrible kind of individual. Exactly the kind of hate that you see percolating on the fringes of society, but really erupting in this blaze of violence yesterday. Recently, he has run for elected office with no success. A frequent protester on white supremacist websites. This is someone who has had a dossier for a long time. One of the questions we will be asking is whether folks should have seen this coming.

BLITZER: He wasn't just anti-Semitism. He was clearly a racist -- still is -- and a Neo-Nazi. When he was arrested, we saw the video, he was shouting, "Heil Hitler." So he's got a long history.

AVLON: Oh, he absolutely does. His screens on his website, he is deeply invested in a vicious kind of anti-Semitism as well as racism. That is exactly where an interception of the KKK and Neo-Nazis would place someone in the imagination. This guy, in many ways, sort of the nightmare image, almost a cartoon image of these hate groups nestled in the heartland. And he's been a figure on the periphery of these conversations. He went on the lam from the FBI. He's been arrested with weapons and explosives in the past. The interesting detail that you mentioned which is he purchased the weapons through a straw buyer. But this is somebody who the Southern Poverty Law Center has had an extensive dossier on, somebody who has embodied some of the worst of hate speech and white supremacist paranoia and expressed it on the web and in other ways throughout the past decades.

BLITZER: You wrote, based on information you had obtained, he was recommending, together with other hate groups, that if you kill, let's say, a Jew, you get a certain number of points. If you kill an African-American, you get a certain number of points. If you kill Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, you get a lot of points. Tell us about that.

AVLON: Yeah, this is an extraordinarily sick letter he sent out to supporters in the Arian Nation when he was underground in the 1980s. This was a time when he was associating himself with a group that killed the Denver radio show shot, Allen Berg (ph). This is going a ways back. But he mailed supporters this time with a hit list, the number of points they would get for killing certain ethnicities and individuals. It's sick stuff but it's the kind of hate that percolates. And the question is, usually when it reaches -- the actual body count happens rarely, but when it does nobody can say they didn't see this coming. This is the sort of hate and violence that he has been stoking for decades. And it just erupted on Sunday outside of Kansas City.

BLITZER: What a horrible story. Our hearts go out to those families who have suffered so much as a result of what this individual did.

John, thanks very much.

John Avlon did a strong piece on --

AVLON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- "The Daily Beast" on this subject.

Panic and urgency in West Africa as doctors scramble to fight to rapidly spreading deadly virus before it goes global. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he is on the ground in Guinea right now in Africa. You have to see what he is reporting on. This is critically important.


BLITZER: A small country in West Africa is dealing with a grim and emergent reality, struggling to stop a deadly Ebola outbreak. The various rarely makes it out of the remote areas of Africa but this one is spreading fast and experts want to make sure it doesn't go global.

Here is our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A simple blue box containing one of the most deadly viruses in the world on its way to be tested. In less than four hours, we'll find out if it contains the Ebola virus. The fate of three patients depends on what's inside.

Simply getting the blood samples is a life-threatening job. One of the workers tells us he has a nine month old baby at home. They will do everything they can to protect themselves. Three pairs of gloves, booties and layer after layer of gowns. They go in to see the patients, every single inch of their body covered in impermeable suits. Nothing in, nothing out.

You see, even a drop of Ebola virus that gets to a break in your skin can infect you, and we all have breaks in our skin.

(on camera): This is the painstaking detail and process you have to go through to be able to interact with these parables with Ebola. This is as close as we can get. They are decontaminating themselves. But they have taken the blood samples and put them in this blue ice chest and it is highly suspicious that it contains Ebola.

(voice-over): WHO Lab technicians suit up next. They have just been hand-delivered the blue boxes. It is their job to test the sample of the deadly virus. They will have the results just two hours from now.

But a few years ago, being able to test for Ebola on its own turf was impossible. Precious blood samples had to be taken out of remote forested areas in Central Africa and flown to the CDC in Atlanta, where the WHO in Geneva. Pilots would sometimes refuse to fly the dangerous pathogens. And even if they did, it could take days or weeks to get the results.

8:00 p.m., we get the call.


GUPTA (on camera): Two of the three patients now have confirmed Ebola.

(voice-over): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Guinea.


BLITZER: Sanjay is doing incredibly important work for all of us in Guinea right now.

To find out how you can help the victims of the Ebola outbreak, go to

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I will be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern for a special two-hour edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM."

NEWSROOM with Brianna Keilar starts right now.