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THE SITUATION ROOM
Malaysia Airlines Boost Security on Its Planes; Search for Flight 370; Obama Victory Lap
Aired April 1, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jim, thanks very much.
Happening now, the mystery of Flight 370 -- Malaysian authorities make very clear they and international investigators now believe the airliner's movements reflect, "deliberate action by someone on the plane."
An official transcript is released of the conversations between the cockpit and ground controllers.
But just who on board the aircraft was doing the talking?
And as air crews prepare for a new day of searching, we'll show you what they're up against and we'll take you inside the search with one of the commanders of that effort.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with new information on the hunt for the missing airliner.
Here are the latest developments.
Malaysian authorities release the transcript of radio communication between the cockpit and air traffic controllers and they stress the airliner's movements reflect deliberate action by someone on board.
Malaysia Airlines steps up security on all of its aircraft, as the disappearance of Flight 370 focuses on new attention on the cockpit safety situation. And a top search official says the vast area being scoured is unprecedented and says the calculations that pinpointed the search zone amount to a very inexact science. He warns the hunt for the airliner, quote, "could drag on for a long time."
Our analysts and our reporters, they are standing by here in Washington, as well as around the world, with the kind of special coverage that only CNN can deliver.
We begin with our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.
He's joining us from Kuala Lumpur with the latest -- Nic? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, officials have now released the transcript of the communications between air traffic controllers and Flight MH370 as they moved between the different zones of air traffic control operation. This lasts -- this communication lasts for about 53-and-a-half minutes. What is said perhaps not surprising.
But who is saying it, that's the very big question.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Malaysian officials finally released the transcript from inside the cockpit. The government took pains to highlight, quote, "The international investigations team and the Malaysian authorities remain of the opinion that up until the point of which it left military primary radar coverage, MH370's movements were consistent with deliberate action by someone in the plane."
The transcript confirms that the final words said by either Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah or First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid at 1:19 local time were, "Good night, Malaysian 370," a routine handoff. Officials here did not say who on the flight deck was talking.
A source with intimate knowledge of Malaysia Airline operations says that prior to takeoff, it is customary for the first officer to handle communications for pushback and taxi. After that, this source says, either could handle radio communications.
The transcript shows continuing routine pleasant back and forth instructions and acknowledgements.
At one point, the transcript shows the air traffic controller telling the crew "Good morning" in Malay, as the aircraft climbed out.
The controller confirmed that the aircraft was canceling SID -- standard instrument departure -- and that Flight 370 was taking a right turn to its first weigh point, called Igari.
Among the questions being raised here, why who is talking is being so closely held. Since the co-pilot routinely speaks during the push- back and taxi, it should be easy to identify who made the final handoff.
Whatever happened to Flight 370 remains steeped in mystery. A source tells CNN that the real key may be finding out, if possible, what took place in the two minutes or so between the last transmission at 1:19 a.m. and the shut down of the aircraft's radar transponder. And another source familiar with air accident inquiries tells CNN investigators will want to know why, in those seconds, no radio call was made to Vietnamese air traffic control.
And until the flight data recorders are recovered, investigators have little chance of figuring that out. Even then, the cockpit voice recorder may reveal no clues, because it would have been over recorded several times before the flight ended.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROBERTSON: Now, one air accident investigator I talked to said what he would want to do would be to take a plane to the same altitude, 35,000 feet, to then take it to the same location, which should be known to within approximately two miles of that last communication, and try to make radio contact with Ho Chi Minh, which was what would have been normally expected, to determine whether or not there was some kind of radio black hole there. He doesn't think there would be, but for investigators, that would be something very important to rule out at this early stage -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's a good idea, Nic.
They should probably do that.
Here's a question.
Why don't they release the actual audiotape of that 51 minutes of conversation?
ROBERTSON: That's not clear. And perhaps because it may lead to clues or further speculation about who was in control of the aircraft at that last handoff. Certainly, by saying that they're not aware right now surprises former investigators. They say it would be normal at this stage for people who knew both the pilot and the first officer to have been brought in to listen to the tapes. These tapes are held for six months, so they are clearly available. The transcripts have been made. The information is available.
Indeed, according to one person familiar with the operations at the airline, he said within 16 hours they should know precisely who made that final handoff. So again, this gives an indication that perhaps this information is too sensitive to share at this time. It would show who was in control in those final minutes and, presumably, who made the turn that we are being told by sources here it is essentially a criminal act -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's what the sources are suggesting, indeed.
All right, Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur.
Let's bring in our CNN aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien; our aviation analyst, the former NTSB managing director, Peter Goelz; and CNN law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes -- Miles, you've gone through this transcript. We all have read it. It's not very long, two and a half pages or so.
Anything at all jump out at you?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: A couple of things to look at. There is the repeated check-in by the 370 crew. They get a response from air traffic control, I think it's four, maybe five times. I don't have the exact number right here.
What happened in that case?
Initially, I thought well maybe they were politely trying to ask for a different altitude. As it turns out, they were at the altitude they filed for. So that's not it.
Here's the thing. The recording is done on the ground, obviously. So air traffic control might very well have been responding and the crew was not hearing it at all.
So was there a radio problem, a communication problem, or something even worse that was brewing at that time?
BLITZER: Peter, anything jump out at you?
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No, I thought it looked pretty normal. I looked for any unusual responses, any, you know, repeated delays in responses. I really didn't see anything. I thought it looked pretty normal.
BLITZER: And you agree?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: Totally normal.
All right. It took three weeks for the Malaysians
--- I'll ask you, Tom, this question. You've worked with the Malaysians.
Why did it take so long to release this document?
It should have been released right away.
FUENTES: It should have been. And I don't -- I don't know what their rules are internally of why they held onto that. You know, I've worked with the police. But this part of the investigation is really the aviation side of it, the defense ministry, the transport ministry, who are determining what aspects of the flight, the radars, the satellite information, is being released.
So on the criminal side, practically nothing is going to be released, other than a continued finding that said nothing negative has come up on either pilot.
BLITZER: And you agree, Peter, they should release the audiotape.
GOELZ: Of course. Isdn in the US. Isdn worldwide. The audiotape is nothing more than confirmation of what's already been released. They should have done it weeks ago.
BLITZER: There could be clues on that audiotape that you don't see in a transcript.
O'BRIEN: Absolutely. There are microphone clicks. There is stress in people's voice. There's -- was it a different crew member talking at any given time?
And another point here, Wolf, we have not heard a peep, we haven't seen a transcript from the Ho Chi Minh City side of this transaction. That's an important piece of this, as well, because we've had persistent reports that there was an aircraft that was asked to relay to that Flight 370 crew. And they supposedly heard mumbles or something. This report has not been confirmed, but it would be nice to see that transcript and also hear those recordings.
BLITZER: Why don't the Vietnamese release that?
GOELZ: Well, there may be some international challenges between the two countries. But Miles is right. That report of a call to a Malaysian Airlines plane perhaps a half hour in front, critical that we find out whether that took place.
BLITZER: Here's the statement that the Malaysian government put out today, Tom, and I'll put it up on the screen. "The international investigations team and the Malaysian authorities remain of the opinion that up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, MH370's movements were consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane." So that suggests criminal activity, not mechanical failure.
FUENTES: Well, not necessarily. I mean you could still have that they had a mechanical and that's why they were deliberately flying the way they did. So it doesn't really rule that out. You know, the criminal investigation has been ongoing from day one, just in case it is a criminal matter. But we don't know what caused the turn or what the pilots were doing. And if there was some problem on that plane and it disabled their communications capability and they were trying to turn around and -- you know, it still does not say for sure that they committed suicide or that it was terrorism or that it was hijacking. It just said the plane was being flown in that direction.
BLITZER: It's consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane. I know there's this loophole. Tom is right.
But it sounds to me, in the average use of those words, that someone deliberately, a couple of minutes after they said "Good night" from the cockpit to ground control in Kuala Lumpur, someone, two minutes or three minutes later, made that sharp left turn, deviated from the flight path toward Beijing for whatever reason. It sounds like when they say delib -- "consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," it sounds criminal to me. At least that's the way I interpret it.
FUENTES: And that's the way I read it. I think from the beginning, once we established that these were deliberate acts of turning off the transponder, turning off ACARS and a deliberate turn, the odds favored some sort of criminal acts.
O'BRIEN: A lot depends on what the flight path looks like. I mean we saw those reports yesterday -- and this came from the Chinese families -- of a 270 degree turn. We have no way of verifying that.
But if you saw that, you'd say that's a deliberate and criminal act. You could say -- make that conclusion.
But if you saw something that was a steep 90 degree turn and a drop to 10,000 feet in altitude, that could be a deliberate response to an emergency situation.
So delib -- it's a -- there's a semantic discussion here, I think.
BLITZER: But if they had a real emergency -- I know that they always have to deal with the emergency first, but they would alert someone, you know, that they've got a real problem here.
O'BRIEN: Yes. This is the hardest thing to get around, you know, you aviate, you navigate, then you communicate. That's the rule.
But why couldn't they get a mayday call out?
BLITZER: Yes, that's...
BLITZER: -- still inexplicable. But we'll continue this analysis.
Guys, don't go too far away.
Coming up, Malaysia Airlines boosts security on its entire fleet, as authorities suspect the disappearance of Flight 370 was a deliberate action.
And as air crews get ready for a new day over the Indian Ocean, we'll take you inside the search. I'll talk with a key military commander.
BLITZER: Right now, air crews are getting ready to resume the search for any signs of Flight 370, and we're learning a British nuclear submarine is also joining the search.
CNN's Kyung Lah is joining us from the staging area in Perth, Australia, right now with more on what's going on. What's the latest, Kyung?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in just about the next hour, the search, the air search is expected to resume. The sea vessels have stayed at sea, even though there has been some rough weather. They're basically combing the area back and forth.
And we are getting that late word that a U.K. British nuclear sub is joining the search. It is in the search area. It is the HMS Tireless, and it is going to lend some extra heft to the search, at least putting some eyeballs underneath the sea, hoping to find the wreckage as quickly as possible -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kyung, there were still more sobering words coming from officials today. Share some of them with us.
LAH: Sobering and quite blunt. Basically, the men leading the operation saying, "Look, we are not going to find this very quickly." He is saying this is based on inexact science off of those blurry satellite images we've been showing. He says, we need to look at this as a long game. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER AIR CHIEF MARSHAL: We need to pursue the search and continue to do that for some time to come. But inevitably, I think if we don't find wreckage on the surface, we are eventually going to have to, probably in consultation with everybody who has a stake in this, review what we do next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: He's saying this is not going to take two weeks. This could potentially take longer. The local paper here, Wolf, did say that Perth should expect to potentially be the command post for years -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Years, wow. That's pretty sobering, indeed. Kyung Lah in Perth for us. Thank you.
Joining us now, one of the key operations figures behind the search, Wing Commander Andy Scott of the Royal New Zealand Air Force commander. Thanks very much for joining us.
I know that the search operation is about to resume with daylight over the Indian Ocean right now. Do you have any new fresh, credible leads you're working on?
WING COMMANDER ANDY SCOTT, ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE COMMANDER: So no. Following our search last night, the New Zealand aircraft sighted two objects of significance, which they then went back and further investigation. Both of those objects were photographed and then passed back to answer (ph). And since then they've been recovered by a Chinese vessel that was in the area and, unfortunately, haven't given any new credible leads for that particular area.
BLITZER: So are you just going to fly over this vast area and look and look and look? Is that basically the bottom line?
SCOTT: One of the things that we're starting to look at now is, obviously, the search that we've had in that area. So any future discussions around the area that will actually be covered will be based on the evidence from the international investigative team in Kuala Lumpur and also looking at expert data from ocean modeling in drift currents that ANSA (ph) has access to. ANSA (ph) have indicated this morning that search area is likely to shirt, and now that we have the confidence that we've actually covered this area and haven't found it, significant debris, that's likely to shift further to the north and northeast.
BLITZER: What do you make, Commander, of the British announcement, the U.K. announcement, that one of the their nuclear submarines, the HMS Tireless is now being dispatched to the region to look for any wreckage, to look for so-called black boxes. That's a significant development, isn't it?
SCOTT: So that was actually the first (UNINTELLIGIBLE), so thank you for that. But at the end of the day, it's another search asset that's in the area and what is, of course, a very complex search operation and that's now -- there are nine search vessels in the area. That will bring it up to ten for the surface vessels and another half a dozen helicopters that are operating in addition to the large fixed- wing aircraft that are, of course, participating from Perth.
So, again, another set of eyes out there, another set of senses, so to speak, after the water is also going to be very useful to the search.
BLITZER: Your surveillance planes that are flying over, what are their capabilities of detecting any material underwater, as opposed to just stuff that's floating?
SCOTT: So primarily, the searches that we're engaged in at the moment are based on stuff on the stuff that's on the surface. So it's still a visual search pattern that we're doing primarily, also supplemented by radar searching.
So in the case of New Zealand, our P-3 systems have all recently been upgraded, and they are state-of-the-art when that comes to the radars and all the equipment that they have on board, and they are ideally suited for this sort of search. It's limited and what we're doing beneath the surface in the caravan (ph), actually.
BLITZER: What kind of time frame, Commander, have your leaders in New Zealand given you, as far as expect to be involved in the search for how much longer. Have they given you any time frame at all, because the pingers, you know, from those so-called black boxes, within a matter of days those batteries will dry up.
SCOTT: That's right. So we've -- obviously, we've had those reports, as well, but fundamentally, that's not changing what we're looking for. Obviously, on the surface we're just looking for any signs of debris that can help narrow down the search area. And at this stage, the New Zealand government is committing a military search, and we haven't gotten any indication of whether that's going to change.
BLITZER: Are you sure you're looking in the right area?
SCOTT: We are looking in the -- in the area where the weight of evidence is suggesting it's the right place to look.
Now, of course, the more searching that we do in that area, the more we can discount. So at this stage it is the best leads that we have, that leads us to this particular area, and once we've gone and searched it thoroughly, that's likely to move on to the next area, which of course, is all still based on certain assumptions. And until those assumptions may either be proved correct or incorrect, you have to keep going until you've exhausted the area.
BLITZER: As you know, this is a multinational effort. Commander, how good is the cooperation among the various countries involved?
SCOTT: The cooperation has been outstanding. So obviously, we have traditional and nontraditional partner nations that are involved, and it really has been truly excellent.
At the moment, as I said, from the aircraft point of view, there's nine military aircraft and one civilian aircraft that are up there at the moment. And there was the addition yesterday of the E-7 Witchtail (ph) aircraft, on behalf of Australia, it's going to help with that coordination in what is, of course, a very complex space with a lot of aircraft helicopter surface assets, all trying to negotiate a similar area during those daylight hours where they have the best effect.
BLITZER: Andy Scott, the wing commander for the Royal New Zealand Air Force. We'll check back with you, Commander. Thanks for joining us. Good luck to you and all the men and women involved in this very important search.
Coming up, Malaysia Airlines steps up security on all of its aircraft as the disappearance of Flight 370 focuses new attention on cockpit safety.
And did investigators waste precious days in the search by failing to fail what they were learning? We're taking a closer look.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Malaysian officials have again stressed that investigators the disappearance of Flight 370 that, quote, "deliberate action." That's drawing new attention to events inside the plane's cockpit, and for that matter, and all airliners. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is looking at this part of the story. What are you finding out?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, CNN is learning Malaysia Airlines has stepped up security on all of its aircraft following Flight 370's disappearance.
The airline won't tell us what that means exactly. This as sources tell CNN Malaysian officials believe the disappearance of the flight was a criminal act by one of the pilots or someone else, renewing questions about cockpit security.
BROWN (voice-over): These pictures appear to show Flight 370's co- pilot, Fariq Amid, with two women in the cockpit of a Malaysia Airlines plane during a flight three years ago. One of the women says Hamid invited her and a friend inside. The airline says it was shocked by the photo. But now, what sources say and investigators are terming (ph) Flight 370's turns off-course as a criminal act, industry experts are asking if cockpits are really secure.
MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This should be -- for every single airline around the world, this should be that wake-up call that says, let's review our procedures.
BROWN: After hijackers breached the cockpits of four planes on 9/11, rules were severely tightened and cockpit doors reinforced. But aviation security experts say even in a post-9/11 world, current regulations are not always strictly followed by every airline in every country.
WEISS: Human nature seems to take over. There's seems to be some type of a degradation of procedures, whether pilots are giving briefings to their crews or whether the doors stay open longer than necessary.
BROWN: The TSA requires all airlines entering or leaving the U.S. to keep cockpit doors locked and two people, including a pilot, must be in the cockpit at all times. If a pilot has to leave, a crew member must replace him or her, and the door is blocked during the switch. No one could reenter without someone inside confirming his or her identity. Still, experts say there are inevitable vulnerabilities, such as the bathroom being outside of the cockpit.
WEISS: The cockpit door is very much like a moat that is used to protect the castle. But if the moat it down, what good is it?
BROWN: And some airlines choose to exceed those minimum safety standards in the U.S., such as putting up a secondary barrier before the cockpit. But that costs a lot of money that many airlines are not willing to fork over.
BLITZER: Yes. They're going to have to learn some lessons potentially down the road from this. Pam, hold on for a moment. I want to bring in our aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien, and CNN's Richard Quest. Miles, what do you make of trying to beef up security in the cockpit? It seems like after 9/11 we should have been doing that for a long time.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, you would think the hardened door and the procedures of having a person come in to replace an absent crew member would be a good idea. But the Israeli airline El Al has double-door systems so that when the crew that needs to use the facilities, a second door is shut and they are completely, hermetically sealed that way. So maybe that's something that the airlines should look at.
Anybody who has been in a plane knows when a member of the flight crew has to use the facilities. They put the drink cart out in front, and a flight attendant stand there. Well, is anyone really thinking that's going to stop a terrorist who has a plan? BLITZER: Yes, that drink cart never impressed me. Richard, I'll get your thoughts on this as something that would be a real deterrent. It somebody wants to push that drink cart to the side, it's got wheels and shouldn't be very difficult.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, but it's, I suppose the best one can say is it's designed to sort of delay rather than completely prevent. It's designed to obstruct in a moment so the door can be shut and deadlocked. Other airlines, for example, have a - some of them have a metal grill that they pull across on some of the 757s. It's all designed to sort of prevent rather than obstruct -- or obstruct rather than absolutely prevent.
Fundamentally, though, if you're talking about the cockpit and in this case, since the allegation is out there that the pilot might have been involved, you do suffer from one really deep, unattractive problem, and that is that someone has to fly the plane. And as long as it's a human being that has to fly the plane, they've got to go both get in and out of their office, if you like. And if one of them is involved you've got a very serious problem indeed.
BLITZER: Richard, a week before this incident, you were in a Malaysia Airlines 777. You were in the cockpit. You sat there, you were invited in with your crew. You filmed it at the time. We're showing our viewers some pictures. Describe what it was like. How secure is that area?
QUEST: Well, it's as secure as those involved wish to make it. So it has exactly the same level of security that one would expect on any other airline in terms of physical hardware. Yes, there was the hardened door, there was the door release button with a little flip on it so you couldn't do it by accident. You had to make a conscious effort to lift it up and push the button to really -- there was the camera outside the cockpit so you could see who was trying to get into the cockpit from outside.
So this is not a question of physical plant. It's a question of how you implement it. And we were, of course, it's not like we turned up on a Tuesday and said we're here to film. Everybody was well aware. So, they were arguably -- the door was slightly more relaxed in the environment because we had to bring equipment in and out and that sort of thing, and there was a lot more of us around the door. It would have been quite challenging if someone had wanted to do something while we were there.
BLITZER: Pamela, this stepped up security in the cockpit, the new steps that they are taking right now, I assume it's related to the fear, the suspicion that the pilot or co-pilot or someone got into that cockpit and deliberately turned that plane into a different direction?
BROWN: Yes absolutely. Malaysia Airlines released a statement saying that it is stepping up security and sort of reiterating to employees to rigorously follow the steps that are already in place, Wolf. But they are not going into specifics about what that stepped-up security is obviously for security reasons. BLITZER: What do you make of all of this?
O'BRIEN: Well, I think one thing to consider is, you could come up with a scenario where you have an 18,000 hour, 30-year veteran, high- time pilot, a check airman. This is the guy who the young first officer would hold in great esteem and would want to impress in any way he could. You can imagine a scenario where that captain, given the apparent laxity that we've discussed, could have sent the first officer out of the cockpit without having a second person coming in, shutting the door and isolating himself. That's a scenario that could happen.
BLITZER: After one of them may have said good night and signed off, we're going into Vietnamese air space. Potentially -- we don't know if that happened.
O'BRIEN: Go get me a cup of coffee, or whatever.
BLITZER: I'm sure they are looking at that. Guys, thanks very much. We'll have all of you back later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, the new report looks at why searchers apparently wasted three days looking for Flight 370 in the wrong part of the Indian Ocean. And we're also waiting for word that the search planes, once again, are up in the air.
BLITZER: The hunt for Flight 370 has been hampered by delayed and bad information, and a new report blames a recent shift in the search area on investigators who were not sharing what they knew. Brian Todd is looking into this story for us. What are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Malaysian officials have been under fire for their handling of this investigation, as you know. Now they are being called out for not coordinating two teams of investigators who were both looking at the flight's path. That, according to experts, wasted valuable time during that first big search for the Indian Ocean.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For ten days, several ships and aircraft combed an area in the Indian Ocean the size of Mexico. Then, abruptly, last Friday, everything was moved.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have shifted the search area approximately 1,100 kilometers to the northeast.
TODD: Now the "Wall Street Journal" reports it was a lack of coordination between investigative teams which led to that initial search presumably in the wrong area. The Journal citing people familiar with the matter to determine the path, one team was calculating its speed and fuel consumption rate based on radar and the aircraft's past performance. It says another team worked separately using satellite data. It was only after information from both teams was merged, the Journal reports, that the search was shifted 700 miles a way.
MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FORMER FAA OFFICIAL: It's kind of a case study in how not to do an investigation. In this case, we had separate investigations of separate pieces of this that unfortunately may have cost us critical time in searching in perhaps the wrong area for the aircraft.
TODD: Former FAA official Michael Goldfarb points out U.S. investigations have also in the past been hampered by internal problems. After the 1996 TWA Flight 800 crash, the FBI and NTSB was widely reported to not be cooperating well.
GOLDFARB: That was an example that really changed the way the resources were coordinated.
TODD: Now, he says, in the U.S. different teams looking at mechanics, weather, satellites communicate everyday with each other during an investigation. Former U.S. ambassador to Malaysia James Keith the Malaysians simply weren't equipped that way.
JAMES KEITH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MALAYSIA: They haven't had to organize themselves to do this on a regular basis in the past, and therefore, not only do they not have the experience but they don't have the structure in government.
TODD: And most experts give the Malaysians a break, saying this disappearance is so bizarre, so perplexing, there's relaly been nothing like it ever seen before. But as for those first days of intensive searching in the Indian Ocean --
GOLDFARB: We wasted valuable time, precious resources and now we're in the fourth quarter down by fourth touchdowns.
TODD: The Malaysians have defended their conduct here, saying that the searches has to be done basically using the best information available at the time. The NTSB, though, which has a team helping in this investigation, pushes back hard on "The Wall Street Journal" report. An agency spokesperson telling us that all of the teams have been working well, sharing information, and they have been coordinating with each other from the beginning. Wolf?
BLITZER: There also, though, could be a problem in the sharing of the satellite pictures.
TODD: That's right. There are a lot of whispers about that during this investigation. Michael Goldfarb says the politics of sharing satellite information is very sensitive among the countries. He says there's a disincentive for some of the countries taking part in this search to share what they can do using satellite data. The U.S. and China, two countries taking part in this search, they don't want to let each other know what they can do with their satellites. So they may be a little reluctant to share that information. That could be hindering things right now.
BLITZER: I think it is. Thanks very much, Brian, for that.
Andy Pastor, by the way, one of the co-authors of today's "Wall Street Journal" report on the search delays, will join us live in THE SITUATION HOUR during our next hour.
Joining us now from New York, Colleen Keller. She's a senior analyst at Metron, Inc., a defense contractor that helped with the search for Air France Flight 447, which went down in the Atlantic Ocean back in 2009.
Colleen, how much time do you think was wasted in this search?
COLLEEN KELLER, SENIOR ANALYST, METRON, INC.: I hate to call it wasted. I mean, it is possible that we were in the wrong area. But you know, it's really not fair to just come down on the Malaysians. I mean, searches like this under high visibility, they often have problems like this. It was my understanding that the Inmarset analysis was done on the initiative of the Inmarset analyst. It wasn't necessarily -- they came forward and said, hey, we can do this extra stuff.
So, you know, they might have been doing that in parallel while the other analysis was going on and just brought this to the Malaysians' attention. This kind of information sharing or lack thereof is very typical of a big search under high visibility. I could name many examples of the same thing.
BLITZER: I want you to listen to this clip. This is the Australian Air Chief Marshal Allan Grant Houston talking about some of the challenges. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGUS GRANT, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTRE AIR CHIEF MARSHAL: We are working from a very uncertain starting point and I just wanted to reinforce that because it will take time. It's not something that's necessarily going to be resolved in the next two weeks, for example.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Might not be resolved longer than that. Look, in the Air France 447 search and you were directly involved back in 2009, within five days off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic, you did find some debris but it then took, what, another two years to recover the so- called black boxes? Is that right?
KELLER: That's correct. The debris -- we were in the right place. And so the debris was basically there to be found and it took five days, which is kind of surprising, but we did stumble across it and picked up many, many pieces which we used in the analysis. The reason why the search took so long was the -- they did an underwater beacon search for the beacons on the black boxes in the first 30 days after the wreck and they didn't hear anything.
So they assumed they were looking in the wrong place. That started a long protracted search in other areas, you know, using unmanned underwater vehicles with cameras and side scan sonar and it was only after a year and a half that we went back and reconsidered the initial search area where the beacons were supposedly not found, and we looked there with the cameras and that's when we actually found the wreckage there.
BLITZER: So how far was the black box from the actual initial wreckage that you discovered after five days?
KELLER: The debris field was literally like five to eight miles off of the last known point and basically in the direction of flight.
BLITZER: If they were looking in the right area, given the resources they have, Colleen, right now, the fact they've come up so far with nothing, not even a small piece of that plane, do you think they're looking at the right area or potentially is this another false lead?
KELLER: Well, it's really tempting, Wolf, to say that they are looking in the wrong area but search is imprecise and just because you've flown over an area once doesn't mean you've seen everything down there and we've seen this so many times where people think they've, quote, "covered" an area and they really have just missed what's important.
I mean, think about how many times you've looked multiple times for your car keys and then you find them right where you looked the last time. So, you know, it's -- we have to reserve judgment and we may be in the wrong place but we may just need to put more effort into this box.
BLITZER: Colleen Keller, thanks very much. We'll check back with you tomorrow.
KELLER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll have a live update from the airfield where search planes should be taking off momentarily. And in our next hour, an exclusive look at the Iranians who boarded Flight 370 using those stolen passports. We've gotten in touch with a friend who said good- bye to one of them at the airport.
BLITZER: Just a little while ago President Obama called reporters to the White House for something of a victory lap, sounding more exasperated than usually, also slammed the opponents of his health care reform effort.
Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is there for us.
Jim, they seem to be celebrating right now that they've gone over their goal of seven million.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And White House officials say this was not a victory lap but it sure sounded like it has the president touted the new enrollment numbers for Obamacare, 7.1 million people signing up. And White House officials tell me, Wolf, that that is based on the latest enrollment data. Now you saw the president stand in front of some very embattled administration officials in defending this law. And keep in mind, this is after he nearly pulled the plug on healthcare.gov last fall after so many problems with that Web site.
But the president, as you mentioned, Wolf, was setting the stage for the upcoming midterm elections throwing down the gauntlet for the Republicans saying bring it on.
Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance? Why are they so mad about the idea of folks having health insurance? Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still to death panels. Armageddon has not arrived. Instead this law is helping millions of Americans and in coming years it will help millions more.
I've said before, I will always work with anyone who is willing to make this law work even better. But the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now what made a difference certainly that last minute rush of consumers on to healthercare.gov actually helped a lot including all those people who called into those call centers, Wolf. But keep in mind White House officials are also saying that yes, those viral videos, like the ones starring Zach Galifianakis and those celebrity endorsements from people like LeBron James, that also drove people to healthcare.gov.
And one other thing to keep in mind the White House is not releasing key data points, Wolf. Those people who have not paid for their enrollment that could suppress the numbers. That came out today. Also want to keep in mind that the young adults who have signed up, we don't have the enrollment data on that. That is very critical to the overall performance of the Affordable Care Act.
But no question about it. What a difference a working Web site makes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Six months later. There's no doubt that they have -- people who tried to get on couldn't get on. They still have a couple of weeks if want -- still try to get on and in some states where they have their own computer programs they have at least a month to still become eligible.
ACOSTA: That's right. The White House says and you heard the president say if people were in line coming -- you know, at the stroke of midnight last night that they'll have some more time to sign up and the other thing to watch, Wolf, is what happens with premiums, the people that have signed up for Obamacare, what happens to their premium, the amount of money they pay for their health insurance. Does that skyrocket? Is there sticker shock? That's one question we'll be watching as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will. We'll have more on this story in our next hour as well.
Jim Acosta, thank you.
Coming up our SITUATION ROOM special report, the mystery of Flight 370. It includes an exclusive look at the Iranians who boarded the airliner using stolen passports.