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Rescuing Passengers from Overturned Ferry Dangerous; Leaflets Demand Jews Register in Ukraine; What Should U.S. Do in Ukraine Crisis; Experts Answer Viewer Questions About MH-370; Parents Accuse Nigerian Government of Lying Over Missing Girls.

Aired April 17, 2014 - 13:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Trying to rescue passengers from an overturned sunken ship is very dangerous, extremely difficult.

Brian Todd has been looking into the challenges for us.

What are you discovering?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have spoken to a former U.S. Navy diver named Bobbi Schole (ph). She is experienced in these kinds of things. She says there very well may be air pockets in that vessel in South Korea not only keeping that part of that ship above the surface but also possibly keeping some people alive down there. They've got to try to get to those air pockets, the passengers do. Also, if they're down below decks, they have to try to shut watertight doors, as many as they can, and get into those air pockets. Survivable, yes, because we've seen from past instances on ferries and tugboats sometimes, if someone can find an air pocket, they can last maybe a couple days, maybe longer. We know the rescuers will possibly try to pump air in there and also help them. But what she said was they do need to bring in barges and tugs -- and you mentioned cranes -- to moor those to the ship. She's not sure why part of is it afloat. She said it could be the depth of the water. Or it could be that the air pockets are keeping it up. So that's the key, to maintain that buoyancy. And get barges or cranes in there and keep that thing afloat and possibly move it, as you guys just mentioned.

BLITZER: What about the danger the divers face?

TODD: She said, if they send in divers, they have to be careful because they are going to want to try and move in and rescue people and also pump air in. You have to be careful not to drill too many holes because, if you do that, some air pockets could be compromised and people could be hurt. The divers know all that. The rescuers in South Korea are very experienced and have good credentials and they are doing everything they can. They have calculated all that. But those are some of the potential dangers in this operation. It is very sensitive at this point. You hope, for the sake of the families and people on board, they get to as many as they can.

BLITZER: Thanks, Brian.

TODD: Sure.

BLITZER: I know you will have more today in "The Situation Room" later today.

Just ahead, Malaysian officials are talking about regrouping. Is that cause for concern? A panel of experts standing by.

As the situation in Ukraine spirals out of control, many are asking, what should the United States do about the situation. Former congresswoman, Jane Harman, she is here. She'll discuss what's going on.


BLITZER: On this day in history, April 17, 1968, CIA-sponsored Cuban exiles tried to overthrow Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, in an operation known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The 1400 member force was defeated by Castro's Army. And just two days after the invasion attempt, Castro asked the Soviets for more military aid which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis a year and a half later, on this day in history.

Ukraine now, Russian and Western diplomats are holding emergency talks in Geneva today. They are hoping to resolve the crisis involving pro- Russian protesters seizing cities in eastern Ukraine. It all comes as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine tells CNN's Jake Tapper, leaflets distributed in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk are demanding that Jewish residents there register their property and register their religion. It's not known who is behind that, whether it's a propaganda ploy but it's causing lots of concern.

Jane Harman is a former congresswoman. She is director, president and CEO of the Wilson Center in Washington.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us.


BLITZER: What do you make of these pamphlets being distributed? Jews were leaving synagogue during Passover, they were getting pamphlets signed by this ostensibly pro-Russian leader -- he denies he had anything to do with it -- saying you have to register and register your religion. That sounds pretty ominous.

HARMAN: It sounds like some ultra-nationalist group in Ukraine is behind this. Actually, Vladimir Putin's relationship with Israel and with Jews has been pretty positive. That's why Israel abstained in the vote condemning Russia's aggression into Crimea. Kind of unusual. My point is you better find out who's behind this first. This is one thing I don't hold Putin accountable for, at least not yet.

BLITZER: It's a disturbing serious of --


HARMAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Let's talk about options, the U.S. options for Ukraine. Military options, for all practical purposes, there aren't any. But there are economic, diplomatic, political sanctions that really can be tightened. Do you see that going forward?

HARMAN: I hope it does go forward. I think it is going forward. The reason Russia is at the table -- and there seems to have been productive four-way talks today -- its economy is cratering. John McCain is right. Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country. Oil and gas are the only economy it has other than corrupt oligarchs inside and outside the country. And the sanctions we've taken against individuals are starting to bite. And now they are worried we will do sanctions on the gas and oil directly. I hope we do.

BLITZER: Supposedly, Putin's popularity has skyrocketed as a result of this. The question, does he care about those oligarchs losing a billion here or there, or does he care about doing what he's doing?

HARMAN: I think he cares about what he's doing. And, yes, he's popular this minute. In a month, if the stock market crashes way below where it is now, and if Russia tries to borrow money on the international market and is cut off, which is one of the options under consideration, I don't think the people who live there will be very happy because, all of a sudden, their lifestyle will go south big-time

BLITZER: They would suffer, the Russians, certainly, if there were these kinds of severe economic sanctions.

HARMAN: No question.

BLITZER: But the European allies, Germany and others, they would suffer, too --

HARMAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- because they rely on natural gas exports from Russia to fuel their economy.

HARMAN: Russia is the gas station for Europe, no question about it. 350,000 German jobs depend on the relationship, the energy relationship with Russia. Short term, that's true. Longer term, if we don't stop this aggression, it could get worse for Europe.

There's also an opportunity for us. Tom Friedman has written brilliantly about a grand bargain between Democrats and Republicans in this country where we could find safe ways to extract, transport and export natural gas. It's happening in Houston now and could be up next year. Why doesn't the U.S. become not just the gas station but the energy station for Europe?


BLITZER: That's a long term proposition.

HARMAN: Well, but it is not long, long term. It's five years. It seems to me we should plan forward. I think Putin's options, after this burst of nationalism, are pretty circumscribed. And our asymmetric power against him is our economy.

BLITZER: Putin had this long, long Q&A session on Russian TV. One of the questioners was Edward Snowden. I will play a little clip of how that went.


EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: I'd like to ask you a question about the mass surveillance of online communications and the bulk collection of private records by intelligence and law enforcement services. Recently, the United States, two independent White House investigations, as well as the federal court all concluded that these programs are ineffective in stopping terrorism. They also found that they unreasonably intrude into the private lives of ordinary citizens, individuals who have never been suspected of any wrongdoing or criminal activity.


BLITZER: Putin, in response to Snowden's question, denied Russians are engaged in this massive kind of surveillance. But it seemed certainly not coincidental that Snowden, who is wanted for charges in the United States, was allowed to ask the Russian president a question. What did that say to you?

HARMAN: It said to me that Snowden has asylum, or whatever he has, temporary asylum in Russia for a reason. He's a propaganda tool for Russia. I believe -- we haven't proved it yet -- the material that he stole, two million pieces of material, a lot having to do with our technology playbook not just what NSA does against Americans, and that's carefully circumscribed. That the material he has taken has been exploited by Russia and they're helping to dribble it out. So this is a really bad story. I am not sympathetic to this guy. I think if he truly is a whistle-blower, he should come back to the United States and face trial. A lot of people are sympathetic. Two newspapers just won Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage. He would get a fair trial here. Why doesn't he try that?

BLITZER: Was Putin poking President Obama in the eye --

HARMAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- by letting Snowden ask a question?

HARMAN: Of course, he was. Putin doesn't miss an opportunity to poke President Obama in the eye.

BLITZER: Jane Harman.

HARMAN: We need to be clear about him.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in, Jane Harman, of the Wilson Center. In the search for flight 370, crews are analyzing data from the underwater drone. What happens next? Our panel of experts standing by.

And why are the parents of the Islamic school girls, kidnapped by militants, accusing their own government of lying? We're going live to the West African nation to find out what's going on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An underwater drone conducts its third search for Malaysia Air flight 370. Here are the latest developments. Crews are now analyzing data from the Bluefin-21 submersible. It completed its first full mission today. Malaysia's transportation minister says search officials may have to, quote, "regroup and reconsider if the scan of the ocean floor doesn't pan out." But he insists the search would continue in some form. And an oil slick detected by the Australian ship "Ocean Shield" is not connected to flight 370. A sample tested negative for aircraft engine oil and hydraulic aircraft fluid.

Let's bring in our panel of experts to discuss the latest developments. Peter Goelz is a CNN aviation analyst, former NTSB managing director; Tom Fuentes is a CNN law enforcement analyst, former FBI assistant director.

Guys, thanks for coming in.

This third mission -- first mission they had a problem. Second mission they had a problem. The third one ended completely. It is now back. We're not being told yet when a fourth mission will be attempted. We're not yet being told what the results were. It shouldn't take too long to download the information to find out if they saw anything during that third effort.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think they said about four hours it would take to download and they will start analyzing it. I think we can expect to see the drone working on a regular basis. I'm sure they will run into a couple of glitches down the road because it's a tough environment, but they're on track.

BLITZER: If the third mission comes back and a full mission says they didn't see anything, what does that mean?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It says they have to keep on going. They said this could take weeks to do, so we can't, just two or three days into it, say we quit.


BLITZER: The Bluefin-21, that is the equipment they will use at least for now?

GOELZ: That's all they've got. That's what they're going to use. I happy to subscribe to the Miles O'Brien theory, they know a little more than what they're telling us, and that the Bluefin is looking at a specific spot. Let's hope so.

BLITZER: If they keep coming back and saying nothing spotted, the frustration level, not just for the families but everyone else, will intensify and pressure will build. You heard, at one point, the acting transportation minister say some ominous words. I will play the clip, from Hishammuddin Hussein, the defense minister acting transportation minister of Malaysia. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIA DEFENSE MINISTER & ACTING TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: There will come a time we need to regroup and reconsider but, in any event, will always continue. It's just a matter of approach.


BLITZER: Those words raise suspicions that maybe they're not looking in the right place. Maybe those pings they heard from the black boxes were not really pings from black boxes.

FUENTES: He has a way of saying things that actually make everything worse. The way he makes a public announcement, the way he phrases things, the types of things he says, you either lose hope, or you think one minute the passengers are alive, and the next minute they're not, they're in the ocean, we should pray for them. He has constantly done this from day one and continues to do it. All the oceanographers say we need as much as six weeks to search that bottom. At the very least, if he wants to make comments like this, wait five and a half weeks, and do it then.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

GOELZ: I agree. I think he's trying to inartfully say that the air search may be phasing back.

BLITZER: They've been going on for six weeks.


BLITZER: They haven't found one tiny little piece of wreckage or anything.

GOELZ: No. No.

BLITZER: So, they're apparently -- we've heard, the Australian who is in charge of this search say, within the next day or so, they will end that, that air search, and focus on the water search.

Here's a technical question. Peter, maybe you know the answer. I've been getting conflicting results and conflicting answers. The ping of the black box supposed to go to 37.5 megahertz. The ping detected that was two hours and 15 minutes and five and six minute, four separate pings, that was coming in a little less at 32 megahertz.

GOELZ: That's right.

BLITZER: So what does that mean?

GOELZ: I read a number of comments on that. In one case, it's raised flags it might not have been the black box. The Australians said that's understandable, we still think it's legitimate. But there certainly is concern about that fact.

BLITZER: You've seen those reports?

FUENTES: Right. I've seen them. I think it goes back to -- and what the Australians is -- what else could it be they heard that often in that spot in the general frequency range? They can't determine it is from any other company or, you know, group of people trying to do something on the bottom of the ocean where they would put a pinger down there. You know, I think that's why they are going with that spot.

BLITZER: We are just going to have to wait and see. I assume, the next few hours, we will get word from Australia when that Bluefin-21 goes down for a fourth mission. More importantly, we will get word in the next few hours if it detected anything now that they downloaded all the position from the Bluefin-21. See you later in "The Situation Room." Thanks very much.

Terrified parents in Nigeria wondering what happened to their daughters who were kidnapped by Islamic militants. You'll hear what is being done to rescue the schools girls and why they are calling government officials liars.


BLITZER: We want to take you to the crisis in Nigeria now. The parents of more than 100 kidnapped school girls are moving from anguish to anger. They say the Nigerian government is lying to them when it says nearly all of the girls have been rescued from suspected members of the Islamism militant group. According to the families, after four days, nearly all of the girls are still captive.

CNN's Vladimir Duthiers is joining us now from Nigeria with the latest.

So what's going on, Vlad? Explain why there are these conflicting statements?

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So let me break it down for our viewers, Wolf. Yesterday evening, at approximately this time, the Nigerian military released a statement to us saying nearly all of the girls that had been kidnapped from their dormitory on Monday evening by the Islamist group had been freed, and that only eight were still in captivity and that they were in pursuit of the group and of the girls. This morning, we spoke to parents. We spoke to the school principal of the school in north eastern Nigeria. And they tell us it is simply not true. As you said in the intro, the anguish of the families is -- we can't even imagine.

I want to read to you what one of the fathers had to say about what the military told us yesterday. He says it is a blatant lie. He goes on to say that, "For the military who is supposed to find and rescue our children, to be spreading such lies, shows they have no intention of rescuing our girls. It is the highest form of an insult and it displays insensitive to the calamity that has befallen us."

So these parents say this is not true. The principal of the school said he never told the military that the girls had come home and he doesn't know where they are getting this.

We have reached out to the Nigerian military to respond to these statements. We tried them on the phone, e-mail, they have not returned our calls. We will keep digging on the story to bring you the latest -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Tell us about the Islamic militant group. They abducted girls in the past, right?

DUTHIERS: That's right. This is a typical modus operandi. Just last November, the Nigerian military did conduct a raid in Nigeria, and during that raid, they uncovered 25 girls that had been abducted. Many of the girls were pregnant and many had been force flood marriage by their captors and still others had babies by their captors. This is what they do. Since 2009, they have killed thousands of Nigerians. In the first three months of this year alone, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say that 1,500 citizens of this country have been killed. Just this week, here in the capital, the jihadist group was blamed for blowing up a bus station that killed 71 people and injured more than 130. This is a group that Human Rights Watch says is really carrying out a campaign of terror across the country. And because the president has instituted a statewide state of emergency in three states in the northeast, that gives the Nigerian military a very wide latitude in dealing with this problem. In doing so, the Human Rights Watch is saying that this is fueling the cycle of violence. In other words, in using heavy-handed tactics against the militants, the militants are striking back. Now, they have moved not from just the area in northeastern Nigeria, they struck in the capital. You may remember back in 2011, the last big attack they had was the U.N. compound, and in that attack, some 20 people were killed.

BLITZER: I remember it well.

Vladimir Duthiers, joining us live from Nigeria, thanks very much. We will stay on top of this story. Another shocking story, indeed.

By the way, millions of girls worldwide faced barriers to getting an education and many risking their lives just to learn to read and write. If you want to find out how to support all those girls across the world, just log on to You will be able to impact your world.

It was a special moment at the White House today. The president welcomed wounded veterans on their annual soldier ride. For eight years now, the Wounded Warrior Project has sponsored the event. The cycling event helped pay for programs to help recover from the physical and emotional wounds that they suffered in war. The soldier ride also raises awareness of veterans' ongoing needs.

On a much lighter note, there's something else brewing at the White House. The vice president joined the popular selfie trend. He decided to start at the very top with the very first one he posted to his new Instagram account, a picture with the president in the White House limo. There they are. The White House Twitter account posted a photo with a simple caption: "Pals." Not to be outdone, the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, posted his own Instagram picture with the vice president, Joe Biden. That was taken many years ago. He wrote to the vice president, "Throwback Thursdays trump selfies. Welcome to Instagram." That's what Mr. Christie did himself. There he is. Young Chris Christie, a younger Joe Biden as well.

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

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.