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U.S. Imposes Sanctions on North Korea; Search Continues for AirAsia Crash Victims

Aired January 2, 2015 - 18:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: New discoveries. Will a new piece of wreckage lead crews closer to the sunken fuselage of Flight 8501? The hunt at the AirAsia crash site getting back under way.

Monsoon danger. Air teams and divers recover more bodies, despite fierce storms that are slowing down the search for victims and for those critical black boxes.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Breaking news this hour, President Obama gives the order to hit back at North Korea for that damaging cyber-attack on Sony with new sanctions designed to punish members of Kim Jong-un's regime.

And we're also following the search operation at the AirAsia crash site. It's getting back under way after some pretty dangerous weather conditions. We have correspondents and analysts standing by covering all the news that's breaking this hour.

And, first, our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He is in covering the breaking news on U.S. sanctions against North Korea. He's with President Obama in Hawaii.

This may be just the beginning, Jim.


And the Obama administration is stressing it's a rare and dramatic move for the U.S. to launch sanctions over a cyber-attack. These sanctions are just the latest sign that the White House is standing by its allegation that North Korea was behind this cyber-hack on Sony Pictures and its movie "The Interview."

Senior administration officials say the executive order signed by the president takes aim at all officials of the North Korean government, the RGB, the communist country's intelligence organization and cyber-operations, as well as something called KOMID, which the White House says is Pyongyang's major arms dealer. On top of all of that, 10 individuals, most of them associated with that arms dealer and stationed around the world, are also targeted in these sanctions. In a statement on those sanctions, White House press secretary

Josh Earnest reiterated what the president vowed just before his annual vacation in Hawaii, saying, "As the president has said, our response to North Korea's attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment will be proportional and will take place at a time and a manner of our choosing. Today's actions are the first aspect of our response."

That comment suggests that the administration is really denying any involvement in that recent and vast Internet outage in North Korea. On a conference call with reporters earlier today, a senior administration official said it's possible the North Koreans did that to themselves. But, Brianna, there wasn't a blanket denial that the U.S. wasn't involved at all.

KEILAR: Jim, North Korea is already the target of U.S. sanctions. How much of this is really going to hurt Pyongyang when it's just targeting individuals?

ACOSTA: Right, I think that is a big question, and administration officials acknowledge that the 10 people targeted in these sanctions may not even have assets in the U.S. that could be frozen.

But the White House, Brianna, is indicating this is just the beginning, that they will start working with other countries to put the squeeze, to tighten the grip on the North Koreans and their economy. It is a strategy the president has used before on Russia, and the White House believes that approach has had some success with Moscow, although it hasn't completely changed their behavior. They're doing almost the same thing with North Korea, almost the same thing with North Korea now, Brianna.

KEILAR: Jim Acosta in the president in Hawaii, thanks, Jim.

Let's go now to our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, and our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, also digging on this breaking story.

Jim, to you first. I heard one expert say this is like a shot across the bow. What do officials expect these sanctions really to do?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is a shot across the bow because it goes after both the way North Korea gets its arms by targeting these entities, but also how it makes its money, because North Korea deals in arms.

It is a tremendous source of foreign exchange for North Korea which is really their economic lifeline to the outside world because they really don't really have anything else to sell to the outside world. But this is a limited group to start with, three major government-connected entities as well as 10 individuals.

But the idea is there is kind of a force multiplier effect on this, because other companies outside North Korea that do business with this, they're not specifically targeted by these sanctions, but it's the belief they will be unlikely to do business with these entities because they would worry about costs that might be imposed on them as well.

So, you know, this is a strategy that the administration has used, for instance, with Russia following its actions in Ukraine, with Iran over its nuclear program. It's worked, you can argue, by raising the economic costs on those countries and it's one the administration has confidence in.

KEILAR: Pamela, are you seeing in this list of names here from the Treasury Department anyone who was actually involved in the hack?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have been asking sources this, and I'm told that no one on this list that is going to be sanctioned is directly tied to this, Brianna.

They may be indirectly complicit in the hack. I think the U.S. government was just trying to get to who they can get to as far as people connected to the North Korean government. Remember, the FBI investigation is ongoing, and at this point they're still investigating who the individuals are that actually hacked Sony.

KEILAR: They're still looking into that.

Jim, the administration has said there will be more. So what does round two look like?

SCIUTTO: It's hard to say exactly what step they will take next, but what they can do, which would really be punishing, is go after the Chinese entities that do business with North Korea, because China is truly North Korea's lifeline to the outside world for food, for fuel.

If you were to go after Chinese banks in particular who do business with North Korea, and this is a tactic the U.S. has used before, for instance, to enforce economic sanctions against Iran going after Chinese entities and others that trade with Iran. It has worked in the past. That was over Chinese objections, but if the U.S. were to do something like that, you would have enormous effects.

Of course, the worry, Brianna, of course, is you don't want to spark further provocations and the administration has said from the beginning they want this to be proportional, and you always have to factor into those decisions what the retaliation might be from North Korea.

KEILAR: Certainly do. And one of the things, I'm hoping to learn some more information, perhaps, Pamela. We're going to be hearing in not too long from the FBI director. Do you think we will hear anything about this from him?

BROWN: That's absolutely a good question, Brianna, because I know a lot of people want to learn more about how the FBI came to this conclusion. We know James Comey, the director of the FBI, will be speaking up at Fordham University at this big cyber-security forum.

I'm told by sources, though, not to expect him to give any new information. He's going to likely reiterate what we already heard from the FBI press release as far as why they concluded it was North Korea, what little they could, and then also talk about the fact this is a good example of the cyber-security threat we face.

But he's not going to cross the line and give us any new big revelations that we haven't already heard about. We know, though, that from sources, Brianna, that there have been discussions in the FBI to release more information, though, new evidence.

The challenge here is that so much of it is classified, so they would have to declassify the information, but there is a possibility we could hear more from the FBI. They're trying to figure all that out now whether they even should release more evidence.

KEILAR: All right, we will be watching. Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto, thank you to you both.

And now to the search for AirAsia Flight 8501. It's due to get back under way right about now, just after daybreak off the coast of Indonesia.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is here with all of the breaking developments.

Hi, Suzanne.


They did discover 30 passengers' bodies today, and they also found what appears to be a panel of the plane with an intact window. Beyond that, there is really not that much. It is about 6:00 in the morning there, so as daybreak comes, they will start searching again for the bodies as well as that debris.

And this really is a race against time, because searchers desperately need a break in that bad weather.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Day six of the search for AirAsia 8501 and only 30 bodies have been recovered of the 162 people on board, and from the plane, just a few pieces of debris. Today, Indonesian officials recovered this one resembling a window panel. The biggest obstacle, searchers say, is the treacherous weather.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The main obstacle was the height of the waves and the strong current. It was enough to stop us from continuing the search.

MALVEAUX: High winds threaten helicopters above and 13-foot waves batter ships and divers below, making this search painstakingly difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The frequency of the waves is the big thing. They're just so tight together, that it's just too hard for boats to launch and recover equipment. The torrential rains that are happening every day, the divers are facing potentially zero visibility with all the dirty water.

MALVEAUX: The international search effort is in the shallow waters of the Java Sea, an area 2,000 square miles, or roughly the size of Delaware.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Sunday will be the best day of the search. And this -- that may be the day that they actually can find something, because waves will be about two to three feet.

MALVEAUX: But another two days adds to the agony for families who have been waiting for answers since Sunday. Only four bodies have been identified. For those families, they can at least begin to say goodbye, like the parents of Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, the 22-year-old flight attendant who posted on Instagram two weeks ago a love message to her boyfriend.

HAIDAR FAUZI, FATHER OF VICTIM (through translator): She knew the risks, but she loved this. It was her dream. She loved traveling.

ROHANA FAUZI, MOTHER OF VICTIM (through translator): Goodbye. Goodbye, Nisa.


MALVEAUX: There's just heartbreaking goodbyes.

We are now just learning Russia is joining this international search, providing two planes and 22 divers experienced in this type of recovery, and you heard Chad say the weather is going to be getting better on Sunday.

The analysts I talk to say you need just two weeks of clear weather and you could probably find the main portion of the plane, as well as those victims right away -- Brianna.

KEILAR: That is the hope, certainly.

Suzanne Malveaux, thanks for your report.

And let's get more now on the search for those victims and the remains that are being identified right now.

CNN's Gary Tuchman joining me now live from Surabaya, Indonesia.

Gary, what's the latest?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're at the Surabaya police headquarters, Brianna, and set up at the police headquarters is this tent.

And that's it says. There's a sign on it, waiting room for the families. And the reason they have set it up right here is we're right next to the hospital where the bodies are being brought for identification. What's interesting about this tent, by the way, there is no one

in it right now. Part of the reason is because each day fewer families have been coming here, they have been staying home. But also the weather has been so bad, as Suzanne was just talking about, that this tent has flooded over the last couple days, so it was too wet.

So, actually, they built a raised floor inside the tent with carpeting on it so when they come back later today, it's very early here, it's 6:10 in the morning, but when they come back today, they won't get flooded out.

One thing we can tell you is that for the first few days, Brianna, there were many people who were still holding out hope their loved ones were alive. We were at a church service yesterday. People there at this church service were hoping their loved ones were maybe on an uninhabited island, maybe they were on a raft.

What was unique about the church service that we were at yesterday -- and this is just very unusual -- is that this a predominantly Muslim country. But there is a small Christian denomination here in Indonesia with 45,000 members, and 30 of the passengers from the plane were from this small denomination.

It was so sad. They had a service at a church right near here. It's a church used by police officers, and these were some of the people who were hoping their loved ones were alive. Most of them don't think so now, but the pastor there told them right now, until their bodies are discovered, your loved ones are in a place between life and death -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Gary Tuchman in Surabaya. Thank you.

I want to go now to our panel. We have CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz. We have CNN safety analyst David Soucie and CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien back with us.

You have the search-and-rescue right now, Peter, and this is being complicated right now by really tough weather. Could these rough weather conditions, do you think, actually hinder not just the recovery, but also the investigation?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it slows it up and it postpones the discovery of the main wreckage field.

And that's really the critical thing right now. They have got to find where the main wreckage field is. They need a few days of calm weather so that the vessels with side-scanning sonar can start their grid searches in the highly -- most high-target-rich area. Without that, it's going to be slow going.

KEILAR: Will it disperse any of the wreckage or maybe damage it in a way that hinders being able to figure out what happened?

GOELZ: Sure. It's going to disperse the lighter-weight material. It's going to spread it out. Some of the bodies may also be dispersed. It's going to make that part of the investigation challenging.

But the critical evidence is still in one place and hopefully will be found soon.

KEILAR: David Soucie, one of the things we have been talking about, a theory that you had, was this thought that perhaps the pilot actually made a water landing, that -- was able to land on the surface of the sea, but then the plane sank. As we're getting more evidence here, do you think that that's possible?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It's certainly possible. The evidence that we had that was pointing me in that direction earlier was that the over-the-wing exit door was found, the slide below that door was found, the bottle that engages it was found, that inflates it was found, and that there were three or four people who had no evidence of having seat belts on and which would indicate that.

Now, we definitely have indications and evidence of breakup, in- flight -- not in-flight breakup, but of breakup of the aircraft. We don't know if it was in-flight or subsequent, but it appears to me if there was an attempt to ditch that that wasn't a successful attempt and there was some breakup in the aircraft. But it doesn't mean that there weren't some survivors, and we still need to leave that option open until we hear more from the autopsies of the victims.

KEILAR: All right, David, Peter, Miles, stand by for just a moment.

I want to bring in Geoffrey Thomas. He's joining us from Perth, Australia. He's the managing director of

Geoffrey, I want to ask you if you think there is a chance the plane could have landed intact.

GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, it's a very interesting theory. My feeling, though, is if the pilot had a chance to do a controlled landing on the water, he would have also had a possibility of making a mayday call, and that wasn't received.

I believe the plane did hit the water intact, whichever way it hit the water. It would be extremely unusual for the fuselage to break up in flight. Parts of the fuselage, parts of the airplane, I should say, like the tail or horizontal stabilizer, may have broken up in flight, but the fuselage itself should have remained intact until impact on the water, and then certainly would break apart on impact.

KEILAR: I know you share Geoffrey's thought on this, that because there was no mayday call, that you think if the pilot had been able to control the plane enough to land it, that the pilot would have been communicating with air traffic controllers, saying something. But physically, is that possible to be in a storm like that, to be on those kinds of seas and actually land on the water?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think it stretches credulity on several fronts. First of all, it wouldn't be great weather to be doing a

ditching, that's for sure. It's not going to be a glass smooth Hudson River, like we saw with Sully. Number two, if you can trim the airplane and control it, you have got a little bit of time. You actually have quite a bit of time, even falling at 15,000 feet per minute, which is pretty precipitous, some 35,000 feet. That's two whole minutes, two minutes.

If you want to sit here and just stop for two minutes and stop talking, and think about how much time that would provide to squeeze the button, which is right there on the wheel that you're using to control the airplane and just say mayday, I assume -- there is nothing here that tells me this was a ditching.

This was a plane that got thrown out of the sky, I think, and it might have plummeted down kind of in a flat spin, and it might have landed intact -- very hard impact on the surface and then broke up, or it could have broken up on the way down, or maybe both.

KEILAR: Because, Peter, this is a matter of a pilot saying something very quickly. I went back and looked at the -- listened to the audio of that flight, Captain Sullenberger's flight. And, one, he is not very high up in the air, tremendous risk, being that close to the ground, even though the conditions were more clear.

He is talking to air traffic control, he told me, within 25 seconds of having an issue and really until the very end of it. He's not saying much, but he's getting his point across. Unable to get to this airport. We're going to be in the Hudson. He just -- he said these things. We hear nothing of that from this pilot. So what does that tell you?

GOELZ: I think it confirms what Miles was stating.

These pilots had their hands full. Sullenberger was at 4,500 feet. These guys were somewhere at 35,000 feet. If there was any kind of controlled flight, if they had any ability to control this plane, they would have declared a mayday. I think it was catastrophic and they had their hands full.

KEILAR: All right, we have many more questions ahead. Gentlemen, stick with me. I'm going to get in a quick break and then we will be right back.


KEILAR: We're back now with our panel talking about the new discoveries and the challenges at the AirAsia crash site and also what we may be able to discern now of what happened to the flight.

Geoffrey, you were given a screen grab earlier this week from an Indonesian source that purported to show the flight path of 8501. It showed it ascending after air traffic controllers had denied the request to do so. And I'm wondering if you have learned anything else about this screen grab, if it still appears to illustrate the flight at the time that it encountered this turbulence. THOMAS: Yes, the screen grab showed the aircraft climbing

through 36,300 feet.

Its speed had decayed through 540 miles per hour down to 406 miles per hour, which was not enough airspeed, forward airspeed, to sustain flight at that altitude and at the aircraft's weight. Since then, we have actually received also radar feedback, taped information which showed the plane initially after permission was denied for it to climb, we have information saying it was climbing at 9,000 feet a minute, and then it went into a dive at 11,000 feet a minute with some burst of speed up to 24,000 feet a minute.

Now, we believe the information is reliable. It came from Navaid, Indonesia. And it portrays a very, very catastrophic event, and with obviously a very tragic outcome.

KEILAR: David Soucie, can you jump in here? Because I know you had some concerns about some of the readings on this and you certainly wanted more information before drawing conclusions.

SOUCIE: Well, certainly, but if this is -- I'm sure it is reliable information, but here was my point about a potential attempt to ditch the aircraft.

What was interesting to me is the fact that the first set of evidence that we got was the emergency exit door for over the wing. The second thing we got was the slide itself which deploys right under that wing. The third set -- the third piece of information we got was the tank that inflates that wing, and then the fourth was the bodies that were located in that same area as those.

Now we have another piece of evidence that to me looks like the outside door that deploys when the slide comes out as well. Remember, there is no other evidence of debris at all in this area. There hasn't been anything other than the interior window piece that we looked at as well.

So there is no other debris other than those things. So unless we have a case of really smart water that filters out every bit of debris except that associated with the escape hatch and the associated slide, I find it very difficult to believe that there was something else that went on with that airplane.

I do believe that he did make an attempt to land the aircraft and ditch it or at least be able to maintain control. I have investigated three accidents in which the stall -- severe thunderstorms similar to this, in Colorado, Wyoming and in Utah, all of those aircraft were in that situation.

None of the three made a mayday call. They were all able to very nearly recover and skim the earth, which destroyed the aircraft. I think there is more to this than just simply saying he lost control, because he still would have had a chance to do a mayday even if he wasn't in control. There is more to this than just simply he tried ditching or he didn't, and I agree with all your other guests.

KEILAR: And you want the indicated airspeed, right? Explain that to us, basically the -- not just the net airspeed.



The indicated airspeed, I think -- and maybe Geoffrey can help me with this, but I didn't see that we knew the indicated airspeed there. So what we're talking about is the distance that it traveled from one point to another and how far it went on the ground speed, indicating -- help me understand this -- but it looks like the aircraft was then at an extremely high descent rate, which would make sense, but then at the same time we're saying it was an ascent rising, too.

So help me understand that part, Geoffrey. It doesn't seem to make sense to me without the indicated airspeed.

THOMAS: Well, indeed.

The winds that were forecast in the area was only a tailwind of about 25 miles per hour. So that wasn't a major factor in the overall speed of this aircraft as far as the differences indicated in the ground speed are concerned.

SOUCIE: OK. That answers the question completely, Geoffrey. Now I fully understand.

The ones I had mentioned earlier, there were some headwinds that turned to tailwinds very quickly, indicating wind shear, but if that's only 25 indicated in there, then it's possible that it wasn't as sever. So I'm on board.

KEILAR: Miles, what do you think?

O'BRIEN: Well, listen, I have spent a lot of time flying around in thunderstorms in little planes, and I can tell you the forecast for winds aloft, what you see in that forecast and what you encounter in the real world are very divergent, particularly in a dynamic situation when you're talking about these incredible thunderstorms.

We don't really know what the wind speed was for this. We know ground speed, but we don't know the wind speed, and we won't know that until we get flight data recorder, which will be able to have a measure of that information.

I think it's risky to get into interpolating what the airspeed might be vs. ground speed. This is important. The wings don't know anything about the ground. All they know about is air molecules passing over the rig, and that's what gives it lift. That can be very divergent depending on where the wind is coming from, was there an updraft, was there a downdraft, was there a shift in wind, what we call microbursts?

There's any number of scenarios that could be at play here which could make that ground speed be a little bit misleading.

KEILAR: And why those black boxes are so important. Peter, really quickly before I let you guys go, the bodies that

have been found, you expect that investigators are looking at the flight manifest to see exactly where people were sitting on the plane?

GOELZ: Sure.

With 30 victims recovered, you want to know, were they sitting in a certain area of the plane? The flight attendant, was she assigned to the rear of the plane, was her seat in the front of the plane? That might give the investigators an initial feel about where the breakup occurred, what part of the plane. So it's vital to find out where these 30 -- to identify them, of course, and to find out where they were sitting.

KEILAR: Peter Goelz, thank you. Thanks as well to David Soucie, Miles O'Brien with us and also Geoffrey Thomas. Thank you so much. Really appreciate your insight.

Still ahead, we are going to map out the AirAsia crash zone and the challenges for dive teams, even though the waters are relatively shallow there. We have experts on sea operations standing by with their takes on what's next in this search.


KEILAR: Russia is now joining the international search for AirAsia Flight 8501, sending a team of rescuers and two planes to the crash site. Our Tom Foreman is looking at the search area and the challenges that are there.

Tom, what are you seeing?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're getting smaller, at least in terms of the search area. Look at it this way. If you were to take this red box we're now talking about and make it about 45 miles by 45 miles, that's how much room you're talking about.

Still, that could involve weeks ahead, maybe even months before they find everything they're looking for there, even though they're having some success in that area. Why is that? Several reasons.

First of all, No. 1, because when you have rough weather up here, not only does it cloud the water down here, making it very hard for anyone to simply go down and look or to look from above, but it also makes it hard for ships to operate up here with robotic craft below the surface. All sorts of things just get much more complicated when the water is rough out there.

In addition, here's a second reason it's a problem. Every hour of every day that you get further away from finding the main bulk of the plane if it's down there in one place, everything on the surface is getting pushed around by wind and by currents, so it's getting further away from its origin point.

And the last reason, really, is pretty simple, Brianna. Any time you're going under water, even a little bit of water trying to find something, it's just a lot more complicated than on land. It seems easy from a distance, but I'll assure you, the people who go there to do the work know how hard it can be, Brianna.

KEILAR: What about the shallowness of the water? This is certainly something a lot of people have talked about. You're not talking about, you know, about south India sea depths. This is probably a hundred feet of water. Does that make it a little easier?

FOREMAN: Yes. Yes, it makes it easier. The question is, easier and easy are two different things. Look, this is where we're talking about. Right up here, around 100 feet. There's -- go over here to the side a little bit and look at this. We have them upside-down here.

This is the tallest manmade structure in the world in Dubai. There's the Statue of Liberty. There's the Eiffel Tower. So you can get a mental picture of what we're talking about.

The Lusitania in World War I, about three times as deep when it was recovered. Parts of the Space Shuttle Challenger, back in the 1980s, at about 1,200 feet down. When you start talking about things like the Titanic down here, now you're talking about something that went way, way, way down in the water. And if you go to something like the Air France disaster, that was in some 13,000 feet out there.

And of course, the current search going on right now for the Malaysia Air flight, that's somewhere at around 16,000 feet. That's way down there. There's no light.

These are all much harder in theory than this, but that doesn't make this easy. It might make it easier, but not easy, and there's still no guarantee of success, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. So much work to be done, and as you said, no guarantee of success. Tom Foreman, thank you.

I want to bring in aviation consultant and retired Lieutenant Colonel Ken Christensen. We also have sea operations specialist Timothy Taylor and CNN analyst David Gallo. He's the director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

And David, I want to ask you the first question here. You helped successfully narrow the search zone to locate Air France 447. We just saw Tom explaining that and just how deep the water was there.

But this new probable search area for Flight 8501, we're talking 2,000 square miles at this point.


KEILAR: How long does it take to search that area, and how do they narrow it down to that area?

GALLO: Well, I think they've used probably a combination of all the clues of what they found at the surface so far in terms of bodies and things like that, maybe incorporating a bit about the currents and the wind drifts to get some idea.

They have reduced it quite a bit. I mean, it started out as this area as big as West Virginia and South Carolina, and now we're down to something much smaller than that.

But it could take anywhere from days, depending on how many instruments they have in the water, to weeks. But you know, you've got to have cooperation from the weather before we even get that far, because at this point they're only getting a few hours at a time out there.

KEILAR: Tim, you specialized -- specialize in submersibles. I think a lot of us are familiar with submersibles after the Malaysian Air flight. But this is in shallower waters, so I know that some of the submersibles that you would use would be different. How would they be used in a situation like this?

TIMOTHY TAYLOR, SEA OPERATIONS SPECIALIST: Well, if we're talking autonomous underwater vehicles or ROVs, they don't need to be as robust as the ones that are going down into the deep water. They can be a lot smaller and, therefore, cost a lot less and are much easier and faster to deploy. A lot of these things fit in the trunk of your car, and you can ship them on a plane and have them there instantaneously on-site.

And this industry, this AV industry, is moving into smaller vehicles. All the big vehicles are needed to get to deep water. The smaller vehicles, again, are less expensive and much more rapidly deployable.

KEILAR: That's a really good point. Ken, you worked with the air force doing search and rescue. In the first week of something like this, tell us how critical the aerial search is, because a lot of times throughout this search, planes haven't been able to be deployed.

LT. COL. KEN CHRISTIANSEN (RET.), AVIATION CONSULTANT: That's right. And the aerial search really drives where the ships are going to go, because they have a better view from the -- being at altitude.

But, again, the weather -- weather can really hinder a successful visual search. You want to, of course, get on station as quick as you can, but sometimes the weather just doesn't cooperate with you. Occasionally, you can drop down below, down to about 150 feet, but when you're at 150 feet, just like if you're on a ship, you can't see very far out, and when you're in the air if you're at 150 feet, you can't see very far out. So it's very difficult, and you have to do shorter back and forth patterns to look for the debris than you would if you were flying higher.

In addition, if the sea state or how big the waves are, if they're whitecaps and they're breaking, all of this can look just like aircraft debris. You're moving at over 125 knots, 150 knots when you're flying over the water. So a relative speed appears faster the lower you are over the water, and that yet makes it more difficult for the rescue, the visual rescuers. KEILAR: David, how much of the plane's fuselage could be moving

around in the turbulent waters? And then also talk about some of the debris that's more buoyant and how that could be affected.

GALLO: Well, at depth, Brianna, it's tough to say, because you'd have to know the current's strength exactly, and then also the shape and weight of those items on the bottom.

I'm sure the engines and the landing gear, they're probably staying put, because they're incredibly heavy objects. Something smaller can be drifting around.

At the surface, every minute of every day, every second of every day, those items are moving north, south, east and west, depending on their shape and size and the wind speed and the current speed. So that's very dynamic. It's not only in the north, south, east and west. It's also up and down in the water column. So it's an accident seen with the wind and currents moving all the evidence every second of every day.

KEILAR: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much. David Gallo, Tim Taylor and Lt. Col. Ken Christensen, I really appreciate your insight as this recovery goes on.

And for more on the victims of AirAsia 8501 and how their families are coping, please visit

Still ahead, we are constantly monitoring the search for AirAsia crash victims and wreckage from the plane.

And stand by for more on the new U.S. sanctions against North Korea for the Sony cyberattack, and also any response from Kim Jong- un's regime.


KEILAR: Tonight, Democrats and Republicans are feeling the loss of one of the most eloquent liberal voices in modern politics, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. He died on New Year's Day at the age of 82.

Our own Wolf Blitzer looks back at Cuomo's life and career.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "WOLF" (voice-over): New York Governor Mario Cuomo burst on the national political stage with his keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.

THEN-GOV. MARIO CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: And we proclaim as loudly as we can the utter insanity of nuclear proliferation and the need for a nuclear freeze, if only to affirm the simple truth that peace is better than war because life is better than death.

BLITZER: It was so powerful, so well-delivered, that it rocketed Cuomo to instant political fame. His political appearance led some party faithful to wonder whether Cuomo wanted to be president himself.

CUOMO: He said, will you think about it? I said, I have been thinking about it.

REPORTER: Are you going to think about it anymore?


CUOMO: I'll try, Sam, to keep it out of my mind.


BLITZER: But it was that kind of indecisiveness that frustrated Democrats, especially those on the liberal end and garnered Cuomo the nickname, fair or not, "Hamlet on the Hudson". Ultimately, Cuomo chose not to run for president.

CUOMO: It has nothing to do with my chances. It has everything to do with my job as governor and I don't see that I can do both. Therefore, I will not pursue the presidency.

BLITZER: Mario Matthew Cuomo was born in New York City in 1932, in the apartment above his father's grocery store. His Italian immigrant heritage helped shaped Cuomo's values, which centered around family, education and the law. After a brief shot at a minor league career, Cuomo pursued a law degree, graduating top of his class from St. John's University.

The allure of public service was strong, but early attempts at seeking political office ended in defeat. His first electoral success came in 1978 as running mate to Governor Hugh Carey. Four years later, Carey stepped aside. Cuomo then entered the race for governor and won. It's a position he held for 12 years, winning two more terms handily by emphasizing lower taxes, balanced budgets, public education and affirmative action.

In 1993, he passed up the chance to be appointed to the Supreme Court, choosing instead to run for a fourth term as governor.

CUOMO: It would have been wonderful to be a Supreme Court justice in many ways. It was more important to me to try to run and win again because I thought I could serve better as governor than as a Supreme Court justice.

BLITZER: But Cuomo lost that race to newcomer George Pataki. He later said after 12 years, voters were just ready for a change.

The constant in his life were faith and family. Cuomo was Catholic, and married for over six decades to the love of his life, Matilda. The couple raised five children, including Maria, who's the wife of the fashion designer Kenneth Cole, Andrew Cuomo, who followed in his father's footsteps also as the governor of New York, as well as journalist and CNN anchor, Chris Cuomo.

In later years, Cuomo hosted a radio show, returned to the private sector both as an attorney and author and continued to speak out for the party he loved and the causes he held close to his heart.

Asked once how he wanted to be remembered --

CUOMO: One of the simple things I wanted to achieve. I want to be governor. The hardest working there ever was. I want when it's over, and I figured at four years, I want people to say, now, there was an honest person.


KEILAR: Let's bring in now, CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza. He's a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker".

And I was reading his obituary where he wanted on his epitaph, he wanted it to say "he tried".


KEILAR: He said that sometime ago. I thought that was interesting.

He's really this icon for the left side of the Democratic Party. Not just in New York but also nationally.

LIZZA: Absolutely. I mean, he came along in 1984 with his famous speech that we've all been watching over the last 24 hours, and sort of eclipsed Ted Kennedy as the liberal conscience of the Democratic Party.

Now, the irony was, 1984, of course, Reagan is running for his second term, Reagan goes on to win that election in a landslide 49 states.

So, what was happening politically in the country is the Cuomo style of liberalism was actually on the decline. Ronald Reagan was on the rise, and that speech was sort of the last -- was sort of the peak of New Deal -- the New Deal defense of expansive role in the government that candidates the Democrats that came in just after Cuomo like Bill Clinton and right through Barack Obama were all about adjusting to the rise of conservatism.

I think what's so fascinating is only now has the Democratic Party, after the Clinton years and the Obama years, is it returning to more of a Mario Cuomo style of liberalism, if you look at the rise of the younger candidates in the Democratic party.

KEILAR: Yes, and I am going to ask you about that. But I want to ask you one of the things that struck me in that piece that Wolf did was the kind of joke of him running for -- of Cuomo running for president. It became this running joke. He said I try to keep it out of my mind to the chuckle of journalists.

Why didn't he run? Was it because -- did he think he couldn't win or?

LIZZA: You know, it's a great mystery. And I don't think anyone has solved the mystery to anyone's satisfaction. I mean, he was asked about it so many times in later years and he said the truth was the budget situation in New York was important and it wasn't settled and he needed to -- he needed to concentrate on that.

I think one lessons for politicians who have a moment like Mario Cuomo had in 1984, very similar to Barack Obama's moment at the Democratic Convention, and Obama immediately turned around and ran for president in 2008. And one of the lessons --

KEILAR: Grab it? Is that the lesson?

LIZZA: One of the lessons is strike while the iron is hot, because when you are a politician at that level and people are clamoring for you to run for president, you do it that cycle or you might do it at all. You have to wonder how someone like Elizabeth Warren, and she's watching this play out over the last 24 hours, and we're talking about Mario Cuomo and the disappointment of not running for president, you have to wonder how someone like that might be thinking about her own future.

KEILAR: Yes, you might not have another window. So, is that really when you see having politics coming full circle with the liberalism taking more of the Democratic Party by storm. Is this Elizabeth Warren that you see as carrying on in his footsteps?

LIZZA: Well, Cuomo, he resented this when people would say this, but, you know, his famous line you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose. He's much more known for his poetry. As a governor, he had a very mixed record, was not able to governor as sort of -- as liberally as he often spoke and he was governing in a period of high crime and rising conservatism.

But the one issue, look at the death penalty. He never wavered on the death penalty. Democrats were sort of come around on that issue. Defense of government, Democrats are talking much more about a more expansive role. And so, we're edging back towards Cuomo's politics.

KEILAR: It is very interesting observation. Thank you for talking with us, Ryan. I really appreciate it.

LIZZA: Happy New Year.

KEILAR: You, too. Happy New Year.

And still ahead, we have the latest clues from the AirAsia crash area. CNN correspondents and analysts are standing by with some new details.


KEILAR: As we begin 2015, another Hollywood award season is getting underway without the input of legendary film critic Roger Ebert. He is the subject of a documentary making its debut on CNN this Sunday.

CNN's Jake Tapper has more on the man who influenced the movie industry with a simple hand gesture.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thumbs up. It's the mistakenly simple sign for good.

The Fonz made it a sitcom favorite. But along with Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert in the 80s, turned the single digit decree into one of the most recognizable measures of success.

PETER DEBRUGE, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL FILM CRITIC, VARIETY: He was the most famous thumb in America, in addition to being at the end of his life, the most influential film critic this country had ever had.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roger Ebert calls them like he sees them.

TAPPER: And now, critics argued that the yes-no model was too simplistic. In 1987 for instance, Ebert gave Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" a thumbs down and "Benji the Hunted" a thumbs up.

GENE SISKEL: This is a show where you give "Benji the Hunted", a positive review and not --

ROGER EBERT: Now, Gene, that's totally unfair because you realize that these reviews are relative.

TAPPER: Ebert agreed with the limitations of the digit, writing in his journal, quote, "The problem comes with the movies in the middle." "The only rating system that makes any sense", he wrote, "is the little man of 'The San Francisco Chronicle', which shows a range of emotion."

Nevertheless, Siskel and Ebert trademarked the two thumbs up approach. And as their influence grew, the ranking could sink a film.

EBERT: Who ever thought that that was a good idea for a movie?

TAPPER: Or shine a spotlight on new talent with a simple flick of the wrist.

EBERT: At the top of my list is "Hoop Dreams".

TAPPER: "Hoop Dreams" director Steve James credits Ebert's support for helping to make the small budget movie a time honored classic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve, shoot yourself in the mirror.

DEBRUGE: If that's the first gust of wind you have in your sails is an endorsement from Roger Ebert, I think it has lasted many filmmakers an entire career.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to rest a little bit or work a little bit.

TAPPER: And now, nearly two decades later, James turned the camera on Ebert for the documentary "Life Itself", a look at the icon at his highest and lowest points.

Ebert kept his thumbs held high throughout his brutal battle with cancer and up until his final hours, he flooded social media with the kind of candid commentary that made him a household name.

DEBRUGE: There was worry to any filmmaker that they would end up on the wrong side of the thumb, because it was coming from someone who seem as reasonable as Ebert.

TAPPER: His reasoning is what made even his most blunt reviews resonate with audiences and filmmakers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a nice guy but not that nice.

TAPPER: Today, new films are flickering unto the screen without the benefit of Ebert's critical assessment, those made with one finger, and with all 10 on his keyboard. Father Michael Pfleger concluded the memorial for Ebert with, "the balconies of heaven are filled with angels saying thumbs up."

Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.


KEILAR: "Life Itself" airs Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks so much for watching. I'm Brianna Keilar in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.