Return to Transcripts main page


South Korea Ferry Accident; Using Sound Waves to See; The Technology of Side-Scan Sonar; New Al-Qaeda Video Raises Fears of Resurgence

Aired April 16, 2014 - 12:00   ET


MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Without a doubt they will assign other countries to do that. Australia can do it, but they don't have the experience with large planes. So I suspect it will be U.S., Britain, France and Australia.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Mary, Jeff, thank you. And thank you, everyone, for all of your questions and for joining us at this hour.

"Legal View" with Don Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A desperate search for survivors in the sea off South Korea after a ferry filled with hundreds of high school students capsizes and quickly sinks.

Also this hour, day three of the deep sea search for Flight 370 and the ups and downs of the high-tech robotic sub. Will it finally manage to put in a full day's work?

And pro-Russian militants that have overrun nearly a dozen Ukrainian cities and towns, now taking Ukrainian troops hostage and seizing armored vehicles. Is NATO ready to step in and stare down Moscow?

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, in today for Ashleigh Banfield. It is Wednesday, April 16th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

We have some breaking news first up.

A high school class trip to paradise gone horribly wrong. Military dive teams working the dark, cold waters off the Yellow Sea off the southwest coast of South Korea to find nearly 300 people, mostly teenagers, missing after their ferry suddenly sank. The approximately 459 aboard, more than 300, nearly 70 percent, are students from a high school. They were on their way to the resort island considered the Hawaii of Korea. The ferry is called the Sewol. It pulled out of port at 9:30 p.m. last night. But not even 12 hours later, shortly before 9:00 a.m. a passenger says he felt a tilt, then heard this warning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There was an announcement telling us to sit still on the ferry, but the ferry was already sinking. Some of the students were not able to escape. The ferry started to list, so we asked if we should escape now, but the announcement kept telling us to stay still. I'm so worried about the other students in our rooms.


LEMON: All right, let's try to figure out how this could happen. I want to bring in now Andrew Salmon in Seoul, meteorologist Jennifer Gray at the CNN Center in Atlanta, and Gerry Dworkin, a technical consultant for Aquatics, Safety and Water Rescue.

First, Andrew, I want to start with you. What is the latest on the search for these missing passengers?

ANDREW SALMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest on the search is literally (ph) as we speak the search is being resumed. It was halted for two or three hours in the hours of darkness for reasons which are a little bit unclear to us. They seem to be recalibrating the search. But now they should be up and fully underway, probably under the light of art (ph) lights and parachute flares. So this will be happening right now in the Yellow Sea in those cold waters where the ship went down at 9:00 a.m. this morning. It's -- that's what, 13, 14 hours ago.

LEMON: Yes. And speaking of cold waters, Jennifer, you know, we've been talking a lot about this, especially with the hunt for the missing plane. What can you tell us about the tides and the water temperatures in that area where this ship went down?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Don, the water is very cold. When the incident happened, they were approaching low tide. And you have to keep in mind that we're having a full moon. And so when you have a full moon, the tides are even more dramatic than they are on a daily basis. Weather outside for that search, temperature at 55 degrees, winds are calm right now but weather is expected to deteriorate over the next 24 to 48 hours.

You have to keep in mind, the waters are very, very cold. They're in the middle of two currents. You have this cold current coming south off of South Korea, and then you have the warm current going north along South Korea. And so they are situated right in between that. Water temperatures are expected to be anywhere between 50 and 60 degrees. Very, very cold. Waves right now are about three feet, expected to jump up to about 12 feet as we get into the next one to two days. So, Don, very important that they get the search underway very, very quickly.

LEMON: Gerry, a question for you. You heard Jennifer mention the water temperatures. How long can one survive in 50 degree water?

GERRY DWORKIN, AQUATICS SAFETY AND WATER RESCUE: Well, in 50 to 60 degree water, you have a survival time of up to about six hours. Within one to two hours, however, you're going to become exhausted. And that's why it's absolutely critical that you have a life jacket on. And most probably everyone on that vessel had a -- a life jacket there.

LEMON: But, Gerry, if you have a life jacket on and - but what if you're inside the ship? What about the people on the inside of this ship? There are - there is a possibility that there could be air pockets or air bubbles and people are in those now?

DWORKIN: Absolutely. There's a possibility of the air pockets so people can be -- can be breathing. The other issue is whether or not they're exposed to the cold water. And if they're in a dry area, their survival time is as long as the air pocket will hold out. If they are wet, again, within one to two hour they'll begin to get exhausted. Their ability to help themselves will be deteriorating rapidly. But they can survive for up to six hours.

LEMON: For up to six hours. I mean it's been a while now. What do you do in that situation because it is probably dark and if you're not familiar with this particular vessel, all you're doing is sort of tapping around in the dark? Would people stay put or would you suggest that they try to figure how to get their -- make their way out of there?

DWORKIN: Well, wearing a life jacket, that's going to be difficult. They're going to have to wait for rescue. What they can do is what we call the help position, heat escape lessening posture. And that basically you're trying to conserve body heat by maintaining heat loss from the high heat loss areas of your body, which is the top of your head, your neck, your sides of the chest and the groin area.

In the help position basically you place your arms right against the sides of your chest in order to insulate that area. The life jacket will help you keep your head and neck above the water and dry. And then you bend your knees in order to prevent water contact against your groin area. And if you have multiple people, they can do what's referred to as a huddle position in which everyone basically insulates each other's sides of the chests by holding together while wearing their life jackets.

LEMON: So, Andrew -- back to Andrew Salmon now.

Andrew, what are they telling you? Are they hearing survivors, any tapping? What's the latest from investigators? Are they updating you on that?

SALMON: No, actually nothing. I should add, just to recap, this has been 14 hours since the ship actually founded (ph). So any survivors in the water, 14 hours, the prognosis is not looking good. Are they trapped in air pockets in the hull? If they are, how do we get them out? We've got navy SEAL UDT teams, which are naval special forces, there's the naval salvage unit diving team. About 76 divers are on station.

But assuming even the divers can enter this labyrinth (ph) fine interior of this underwater ship, you know swimming through these black corridors into cabins, how do you actually extract any possible survivors from the air pockets? I mean this is an extraordinarily difficult operation for even the world's most skilled people.

These South Korean lads (ph), you know, they're the nation's top people. These are naval commandos and so on. But whether even they are up to the task of pulling survivors out of this ship, which is -- it's 130-meter ship. From what we understand, the only part of the ship above water is a piece of bow protruding. The ship listed, capsized, then sank by the stern.

So as far as we're aware, anyone who's alive is going to be pretty deep under water. I can't really see a good outcome at this point. Although, of course, fingers are crossed and we're seeing enormous emotion understandably from the families who have lost children and family members in this tragedy, which seems to be expanding in scope as the hours pass.

LEMON: It is really unbelievable, but we remain as optimistic as possible and I'm sure the families are as well. Thank you very much to Andrew Salmon, Jennifer Gray and Gerry Dworkin.

And coming up this hour, we're going to go through the possible scenarios that could have caused this ship to sink in the first place.

We're going to get back to our top story though, the search for the missing Malaysian plane, next. Right now, the Bluefin sub is under the Indian Ocean using sonar to try to find any sign of that plane. Just ahead, we're going to give you a live demonstration of how that sonar technology works.


LEMON: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW. Don Lemon, in today for Ashleigh.

Crews leading the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 hoping to get a full day's work out of the Bluefin. Since it first hit the southern Indian Ocean on Monday, the so-called AUV, autonomous underwater vehicle, has cut short its 16-hour seabed mapping shifts twice. Now, first it was literally out of its depths. And today, an unspecified technical issue forced it to the surface. And so far it has spotted no signs of the Boeing 777 that took off from Kuala Lumpur 40 days ago on a scheduled flight to Beijing.

You know they're exhausted and exasperated. The family members today stormed out of a video conference with Malaysian authorities. The families want face-to-face meetings, plus they also want an apology.

We cannot go two and a half miles beneath the ocean's surface with the Bluefin, but CNN's Stephanie Elam did the next best thing. She is on a boat off Santa Barbara, California, with the same kind of sonar equipment the Bluefin has and a guest who knows how to use it.

Stephanie, take it away.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Don. We are - we came out here to show you how sonar works. And I want to introduce you to James Coleman. He's the senior hydrographer with Teledyne RESON.

And we know now that the Bluefin are equipped with sonar that are made by the company you work for. Can you tell us, first of all, how does sonar work?

JAMES COLEMAN, SR. HYDROGRAPHER, TELEDYNE RESON: Sure. And this is an example of a sonar. There's a number of different types of sonar. This is a multi-beam 7125 mapping sonar. But all sonars work on the same fundamental premise, which is they're emitting sound. And we emit sound from here and we receive it here. As that sound hits the sea floor and comes back to the sonar, the sonar's going to interprets it to generate an image of what's on the sea floor or a map of what's on the sea floor.

ELAM: And now twice they have tried to take an AUV down into the Indian Ocean and it has had issues with the sonar. What is some of the complexity, some of the difficulties that they're encountering?

COLEMAN: Right. It's important to remember the sonar is really just one part of this entire process. You have to get the sonar down near the bottom of the sea floor. But in addition, you have to know where you are. And so that unmanned vehicle has controls for itself, it's got navigation systems, it's got sonar systems. All of those things have to work in concert and they have to work at the immense pressure of the bottom of the ocean. It's a very complicated process.

ELAM: And you're talking about the Indian Ocean, which they're basically flying blindly because they haven't mapped it.

COLEMAN: Right. They have very coarse information about what's down there, so they're doing their best estimate of what's down there to do their planning of how they do this.

ELAM: So let's go inside because I want you to show us what that mapping looks like and so we can see how this works.

COLEMAN: Right. And so we're building up a map right now. What they're going to is they've got - they'll have a plan of where they're going to map and they're going to just drive that vehicle up and down along the lines. And so we've mapped out a segment already here. And here we are now. We're adding to that segment as we go. And so this is what they're doing. They're going to build up this map of what's on the sea floor.

ELAM: And what with the resolution of - this is for the sonar, obviously.


ELAM: But some of the issue with the resolution of how far they go down to get that image of the floor -

COLEMAN: Right. OK. So this is what side scan sonar data looks like. And the resolution comes in a number of flavors. The more detail that you want to get, you have -- you search a smaller area. And so they're going to make choices in terms of what frequencies they're using, what kind of detail they want in order to decide, look, can I cover a broad area quickly but I have low resolution, or do I have to cover a smaller area and take more time, even more time, but get higher levels of detail.

ELAM: And so with the side scan sonar, it's basically looking out from where we are, right? It's looking out and taking a look at what's around us that way. COLEMAN: Right, we're looking sideways. And as we look sideways, we're pinging now and we're building up -- as that sound wave comes back, we're building up an image of different things that are on the sea floor. And it just generates an image. The image in shallow water has a lot of complexities to it, but this image is really crisp and clear when you get to deep water like the southern Indian Ocean.

ELAM: Because there's less movement, there's less to mess with it, right?

COLEMAN: Right. Right, it's a simple environment for the sonar, but a very complex environment for the unmanned vehicle that has to go down.

ELAM: So, as you hear, Don, it's just a lot of work, and it's tedious. And, also, they have to keep redoing their mapping and what they're sending the AUV down to do because of the fact they don't know what they're looking for.

So, because of that, it's sort of go down, see what you get, maybe tinker again and see what you need to do the next time you send the AUV down. So it's a very tedious process, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good stuff, Stephanie.

May I ask a question of him and you? The question is, he sort of, you know, touched on it a little bit about your question the Bluefin, but is that Bluefin and are these AUVs that temperamental, because twice now we've had issues with it? Just an educated guess on what kind of glitch the Bluefin might have suffered and how temperamental is it?

ELAM: It's important to remember that the sonar is just one part of the Bluefin, but can you speak to that, what the troubles would be potentially?

COLEMAN: That's really what it is. It's a complex system with multiple different components. And so, you have navigation. You have vehicle control. You have all kinds of health checks that run on the vehicle, and if any of those things go out of specification, you want to get the vehicle back.

It's way down. It could be going way down to the deep of the ocean. You don't want it to drift up on its own and show up 10 miles away from you. You want to get that vehicle back.

ELAM: But they do stay in communication with it, so the boat sending it down will communicate with it and try to get it back if there is a problem, correct?

COLEMAN: Yes. Yes, and that's part of the vehicle's own logic.

ELAM: So, yeah. So the vehicle does some of it on its own but, yeah, it's also part of the issue too is just the depth, Don. Since they don't know really what they're dealing with, that's part of the problem on getting that data back.

LEMON: Stephanie Elam, James Coleman, thank you. Great demonstration, we appreciate both of you.

A new video released by a terror group, I want you to take a look at this. This is the latest gathering of al-Qaeda in years, the largest, I should say, gathering of al-Qaeda in years, and it has U.S. officials worried.

We're going to show you why, just ahead here on CNN.


LEMON: If you think the U.S. has al-Qaeda on the run, think again.

A disturbing new video posted to a jihadist website shows just how real the threat is and how strong the terror network remains.

Here's CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's the largest and most dangerous gathering of al-Qaeda in years, and the CIA and the Pentagon either didn't know about it or couldn't get a drone there in time to strike. U.S. officials will not say, but every frame is being analyzed.

In the middle, the man known as al-Qaeda's crown prince, Nasir al- Wuhayshi, brazenly out in the open, greeting followers.

A man who says he wants to attack the U.S., seemingly unconcerned he could be hit by an American drone.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is quite an extraordinary video, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who's also the number two of al-Qaeda, worldwide, addressing over a hundred fighters somewhere in Yemen, taking a big risk in doing this.

STARR: In his speech, Wuhayshi makes clear he is going after the U.S., saying, "We must eliminate the cross. The bearer of the cross is America."

U.S. officials believe the highly produced video is recent. With some fighters' faces blurred, there is worry it all signals a new round of plotting.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The U.S. intelligence community should be surprised such a large group assembled together, including the leadership, and somehow they didn't notice.

STARR: There is good reason to worry. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, is considered the most dangerous al- Qaeda affiliate

The CIA and the Pentagon have repeatedly killed AQAP leaders with drone strikes, but the group, now emboldened.

BERGEN: The main problem about this group is that it has a bomb maker who can put bombs onto planes that can't be detected.

STARR: That bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, is believed to be responsible for several attempts against the U.S., including the failed 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomber attack.

He is not seen in the video, which American emerged on jihadist Web sites. He remains in hiding, and intelligence experts say he and other AQAP leaders have gone back to using couriers to communicate to avoid detection, making it even harder to figure out what Wuhayshi may be up to next.

CRUICKSHANK: And his message to the United States was very much the same as bin Laden's -- we're coming after you.


STARR: And that man, Ibrahim al-Asiri, the master bomb maker for al- Qaeda in Yemen, he's the one man not seen in this video. The U.S. very much believes he remains in hiding, and there is a great deal of concern about what he may be up to next.


LEMON: Barbara Starr, thank you, appreciate it. Let's talk about the significance of this new al-Qaeda video to our very own Christiane Amanpour.

What does this say, if anything, about the resurgence of al-Qaeda? Does it?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does, actually, and you heard our own terror experts and Barbara speak about the fact that the U.S. didn't know or couldn't do anything about it is pretty significant.

And it just shows that they're still very active, not just bold, as that video shows, but very active, as we know, in the Arabian Peninsula, as we know, in Africa, whether it was in Mali before the French and others went in, whether it's in the Libya area, whether it's all around that area, and particularly, particularly now, in Syria.

They have regrouped under a whole new sort of trans-national banner. They're in Iraq again. We had Fallujah not just so long ago fall to these black flag waving militants, again, al-Qaeda-types.

And so what happened shortly after the Iraq war, after they were put on the run, during the surge, because of the Syrian war, one of the most important new elements over the last several years that has not been confronted, these people have a base of operation, and they are operating, and they're destabilizing that part of the world, and now threatening the United States again.

LEMON: It looks like from the video that they're pretty bold, as Barbara pointed out --


LEMON: -- out in plain sight, not worried about drone strikes or anything like that. So the very simple question is then, now what? What do we do?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, again, it's very difficult to have a pinpointed targeted fight against one group. It comes as a whole. When the U.S. had the surge in Iraq, it started to tamp down that whole al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, that whole group of people.

And then there was, you know, many, many fights, as you know, by the West, by the U.S. against al-Qaeda, and that started to put them on the run.

They have got a new Afghanistan, if you like. They had it under the Taliban in the early 2000s that led up to 9/11. Now they have it thanks to what's happening in Syria, this massive war that has gone unchecked, which has fulfilled the prophesy, so to speak.

Everyone said, oh, it's the bad actors. It's al-Qaeda. It's the extremist. Well, yeah, they have been given the space to operate unchecked, right there in Syria, so they are infecting, again, Iraq. They're traveling to places in North Africa and Somalia and elsewhere.

Plus, Western recruits who are going over to Syria are now -- Western intelligence agencies incredibly afraid that these people are going to come back with the al-Qaeda mission, the al-Qaeda banner, to target, whether it be Britain, whether it be the United States or other countries.

LEMON: Christiane Amanpour, I'm sure you'll be on top of this, as well as our Barbara Starr. Appreciate you.

AMANPOUR: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much for coming on. You know, I want to tell you this search for this -- people on board this ferry, hundreds of people.

We've just received some brand-new video from inside this sinking ship. We're going to show you that after this break.

Plus, we're going to update you on the latest for the search for the missing.