Return to Transcripts main page


Report: Video from Plane Shows Chaos, Terror; Lufthansa Knew of Co-Pilot's Earlier Depression; Could Technology Have Prevented Crash?; Iran Nuclear Talks to Go on Past Deadline; U.S.: 'Military Option Will Remain on the Table'. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 31, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:05] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now. Final moments captured. A video reportedly taken inside the doomed airliner and recovered at the crash scene is said to show the chaos, the terror, the passengers' experience as Flight 9525 went down. Will this video ever be seen by the public?

What the airline knew. Lufthansa now says it was aware of the co- pilot's severe depression years before his final flight and that he was cleared to resume his aviation career.

Co-pilot's girlfriend, she tells investigators she knew he had psychological issues but did not know the extent of the problems. Why were they optimistic they could solve things?

And deadline delay. The U.S. and Iran extend the cutoff for reaching a blueprint on a nuclear deal. What can they accomplish in an extra day that they didn't manage to get accomplished over the past 18 months of negotiations?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news. A very disturbing new turn in the aftermath of the Flight 9525 crash. Video of the airliner's last seconds shot from inside the plane has reportedly been found at the crash site. French and German publications say it was recovered by a, quote, "source close to the investigation." They have not published the video itself. CNN hasn't confirmed it.

But the reports describe a chaotic scene in which passengers were screaming in terror until the very end.

All of this comes as Lufthansa's now revealing that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, did inform the airline's flight training school of a previous episode of severe depression. And French investigators now say they'll study procedures for detecting psychological issues, along with systemic weaknesses, including the cockpit door locking system.

Our correspondents, our analysts, our guests, they're all standing by with the latest developments. But let's begin with CNN's Will Ripley in Dusseldorf, Germany. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A shocking discovery, apparently from the crashed plane. Cell-phone video believed to be shot from the back of the aircraft, capturing the chaos and terror on board Flight 9525 in the final seconds before it slammed into the Alps.

The German newspaper "Bild" and the French magazine "Paris Match" say they viewed the video, found by an investigator, on a memory card that survived the crash. It hasn't been made public, but the news organizations say the images make it disturbingly clear that passengers knew what was about to happen.

According to "The Bild" and "Paris Match" accounts, screams are heard with cries of "my God" in several languages. There's metallic banging more than three times, which "Paris Match" suggests may have been the captain trying to force his way back into the cockpit after being locked out by the co-pilot.

Toward the end, there's said to be a heavy shake stronger than the others, apparently, as part of the plane scrapes a mountain. The screams intensify, and then nothing.

Tonight Lufthansa Airlines is acknowledging for the first time that it knew the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had a history of psychological problems before he deliberately crashed the jet. The parent company of Germanwings releasing a statement, saying Lubitz informed their flight training pilot school in 2009 that he had a previous episode of severe depression. The airline says Lubitz provided that information in the medical documents he submitted before resuming his flight training, after taking a break for several months. Lufthansa revealed last week that Lubitz was cleared to fly after that interruption.

CARSTEN SPOHR, CEO, LUFTHANSA (through translator): He continued his training. He then also passed all medical tests, all flight examinations and all checks. He was 100 percent set to fly without restrictions.


BLITZER: And Will is joining us on the phone right now. Will, where do they expect this to move over the next few hours, the next day or so?

RIPLEY (via phone): We actually have some more breaking news from French investigators, Wolf. They tell us that this is not the only cell phone that was recovered from the crash site.

There were a number of cell phones that have yet to be analyzed. The investigators are also questioning whether these new reports of the video are accurate, because they believe that they are in control of all of this potential video. And they say it hasn't gone to the lab yet. They don't know how these publications got ahold of it. But nevertheless, they're gathering evidence: more cell phones, potentially more videos of the final moments of this plane, Wolf. BLITZER: That's amazing. All right. Thanks very much, Will. We'll

get back to you.

And CNN has just obtained new information from Lufthansa concerning what it knew about Andreas Lubitz's history of severe depression, as it's described by Lufthansa, and how that was handled.

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's also joining us from Dusseldorf. What are you learning, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Wolf, of course, one of the big questions after we learned that Lufthansa knew in 2009 that Lubitz suffered depression was whether he had to go through another psychological exam after that.

And Lufthansa tells me today that, after that break, after he had reported that he had gone through a severe depression bout, that he was required to once again prove his suitability for this position. And that includes from a medical perspective Lufthansa saying all the relevant facts were examined.

So Lufthansa basically saying that he had to go under additional scrutiny after coming to the company and saying this is why he had to take a break for several months back in 2008.

Lufthansa also saying it has one of the most intensive and comprehensive selection procedures in all the airline industry, say that it assesses the aptitude of candidates who are working in the cockpit through additional assessment centers and through additional psychological tests -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The co-pilot's girlfriend, I know she's been speaking to investigators, Pamela. What is she telling them based on your reporting?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have learned that she's been speaking to investigators at least a couple of times that she's been cooperative. And a source close to this investigation tells me that she told investigators she was aware that her boyfriend, Andreas Lubitz, had psychological issues and that he was seeking treatment for it. She was aware that he was going to see the two doctors.

But apparently, she did not know the extent of the problems, as a source tells me today. She didn't know the full method that was taking place. And she was optimistic that they would be able to get through this. She thought he was seeking treatment, that the problem would be resolved. And the source telling me that she was just as surprised as everyone else to learn what he did, according to authorities, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good reporting, Pamela, thanks very much.

While the black box with the cockpit audio was found very quickly and immediately revealed stunning details about how and why the plane went down, the flight data recorder still missing somewhere in the rubble of the crash site.

Let's go live to the French Alps. Our CNN correspondent, Karl Penhaul, is standing by. What are you seeing over there, Karl?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've been talking a lot to the commanders of the rescue and recovery teams. The very people that are out there at the crash site pulling in debris, pulling in body parts.

Now, there's some good news. The phase of recovery of human remains and their personal possessions could be completed by this week, quicker than expected. And now those recovery and rescue teams have a new hunch. They believe that, if the black box data recorder survived that crash, that it could be buried under shale and gravel at the crash site.

Once those body parts are removed, then they're going to start to probe and rake through that gravel to see if the black box may, in fact, be buried, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're also hearing some serious skepticism about that reported video of the airliner's last moments reported by that French and German publication. What are you hearing from your sources over there, Karl?

PENHAUL: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. And I would categorize this as much stronger than skepticism, talking to, again, the heads of the rescue and recovery team.

These are the guys that would have recovered this material that "Bild" and "Paris Match" is saying that they're now leaking. And they say that, yes, they have recovered cell phones and parts of cell phones at the crash site, but they say that there's a chain of custody, that the material is brought from the crash site to here, the staging zone; and from here it will be sent to a criminal research laboratory in Paris.

But they're saying that right now any cell phones and cell-phone parts that have been recovered are still here. They have not left this area, and none of the data on any of those cell phones has yet been extracted. Hence, they say, they simply do not believe what "Bilt" and "Paris Match" is reporting, because they say all that evidence is still here and has not been extracted yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, you live there in Europe. How reliable are these two newspapers, "Bilt" and "Paris Match"? Because they're both reporting the same thing, that someone found at least a part of a cell phone, and on there is this horrific video of the last few minutes of what was going on inside that cabin. How reliable are these two publications?

PENHAUL: Well, we know, certainly, that European tabloids, including "Bilt" and "Paris Match," have very good, very aggressive reporters. But we also know that those two publications pay for material. They're in a very competitive environment. And we do know that they've published false evidence before. All I can tell you is that we can only talk to named sources that we

have been talking to throughout the week and build a very close relationship with.

I spent the whole afternoon talking to rescue and recovery, guys. When we heard of these allegations, I put in a phone call to them again. And they said, "Look, Karl, we're the guys that pick that stuff up. We're the guys that are picking cell phones and that kind of material up from the dirt. And that material is still here in France. It has not been sent up to the capital for extraction for data recovery yet."

[17:10:19] We -- there's two sides to the story here. We'll have to see what comes out of it, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will, Karl. All right. Thanks very much. We'll get back to you, Karl Penhaul reporting for us from near the crash scene in the French Alps.

Joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien. He's a private pilot. Also joining us, our aviation correspondent Richard Quest; our safety analyst and former FAA safety inspector David Soucie; our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes. Guys, thanks very much.

Richard, let's start with you. The leaks in this investigation clearly continuing, according to these two publications, the French and the German tabloids. They say they have actually seen this video, remarkable video, horrific video of the final few moments before the crash from inside the cabin. One person is -- several people are heard screaming and crying, crying out "My God, my God" in several languages. What do you make of this?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, when I heard about it, unbelievable is what I first thought. Unbelievable on several grounds, first that anybody had managed to get this yet; secondly, on the grounds that anybody had printed it; and thirdly, that anybody had leaked it.

It is absolutely extraordinary. Now, of course, we're hearing that it's not accurate, which seems to me -- look, I don't really -- the problem in the investigation is the pressure and the size and the scale of it. There's no doubt that everybody is under enormous pressure to find out whatever they can.

But, Wolf, if this is true, then it is -- it ranks, in my view, amongst the most despicable things I've heard about in an accident investigation, that somebody would leak it. If it's true.

BLITZER: "Bilt" and "Paris Match," they both are jointly reporting, let me read to you what they're reporting. I want Miles to stand by and weigh in. Miles, listen to this.

One can hear cries of "my God" in several languages. Metallic banging can be also heard more than three times, perhaps of the pilot trying to open the cockpit door with a heavy object. Towards the end, after a heavy shake, stronger than the others, the screaming intensifies. Then nothing.

Now, we know, Miles, you and I are journalists -- we know the way this is supposed to be handled. If someone finds video like this piece of a cell phone, it's supposed to go through the chain of command. But you and I know there's a lot of individuals who might want to leak it, if these publications want to pay for information like this. Maybe somebody's tempted to go ahead and release it. What's your thought?

O'BRIEN: Well, I'm never going to come out and say it's a bad idea to get information out to the public in these cases. There's a huge global demand to know what happened on that aircraft.

Now, you know, this is in a category of horrifying. I can only imagine what this is like for the families. But I would like to point out to people that this is the basis for their legal claim against the airlines. Every second of terror that they have is exactly how they can build their case for some sort of reparations.

So, as horrifying as it is, this is useful information for the families. And the fact that it's out now or later, to my mind, doesn't really matter. It should come out. It should be -- it's very clear what happened on that aircraft. And if nothing else, we do need to make sure to the world that it's not a malfunction of the airplane. This is a workhorse of an airplane, and at least we're getting that kind of information out in a timely way.

BLITZER: Yes. I will say this, that what is reported by these two publications, according to this alleged video, is pretty consistent with what we have heard coming into the final few minutes of what happened aboard that doomed flight.

Everyone, stand by. New information coming in. Much more right after this.


[17:18:36] BLITZER: We're back with breaking news. New controversy erupted today after French and German publications claimed a video from inside the Germanwings plane shows the terrifying final moments just before it crashed. French police are now calling the reports completely wrong. All of this comes as new details are also emerging from the investigation.

We're back with our aviation and law enforcement experts. Tom Fuentes, what do you make of this? Because it's possible someone decided to leak this information for payment or for whatever other reason without the authorities even knowing it was being leaked. It got to these publications.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. Very easily. And I thought from the beginning that they would probably find a couple dozen sim cards or cell phones, because that's a solid state chip. And you can take that out and easily analyze it later. It won't be typically destroyed, any more than the black boxes would typically be destroyed. But the idea is that a rescuer -- it sounds to me like somebody on

that mountain put this in his pocket, went back to the hotel, gave it to a reporter, got money for it, and then maybe the next day turned it back into the authorities.

But it just taught -- to me, the lack of integrity and discipline in this investigation, I think, is appalling. These leaks are incredible. You know, we pretty much know what happened. Unfortunately, having the voice recorder, we kind of know already what happened.

So -- but if we didn't and this was what we were looking at, if every little fact mattered, the fact that so much has been leaked haphazardly would be to me just very difficult.

[17:20:03] BLITZER: You know these publications, David Soucie. They're all pretty aggressive over there. They're aggressive here in the United States but very aggressive in Europe. Very competitive, and they are willing to spend money, to pay money for sources for this kind of information, which are huge bombshells. Your thoughts?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, when we're on these investigations, it happens all the time. You've got the news people hounding you, pounding you. You try to separate this area. If there's people there, right when you get back, you're tried. You want to work on something and they're constantly hammering you. "What can I get from you? What can I get from you? What happened out there?"

So I can definitely see that this -- something happened here. But as Tom had mentioned, this -- the fact that they've had leaks like this, these are very controlled investigations. You have an inspector in charge. Everything is documented from point A to point B.

So the fact that this leaked, it is not a tight investigation, and it's not looking good for that. I just hope that everything from here forward starts to tighten up. But it doesn't appear it's going to go that way.

BLITZER: Yes. Every day, every few hours there's a major leak in what people are learning about what's going on. So I guess we shouldn't be so surprised.

Miles, let me get back to you, because another major development, the word now that this co-pilot actually told his superiors at Lufthansa back in 2009 of what was described as a previous episode of severe depression. He actually received injections of antipsychotic medication. Should the pilot at that point back in 2009 have been allowed to fly?

O'BRIEN: It doesn't seem like it, Wolf. And this is the most troubling piece of information so far, that Lufthansa admits they were informed of this, and ultimately, he ended up back in the cockpit.

What we don't know is what kind of follow-up and monitoring occurred subsequently? I would imagine that, if they were going to release this information, that they were aware of his severe depression and the fact that he self-reported it, they would have also said, and we monitored him in a very careful way subsequently.

But it sounds like they sort of looked at him, gave him the once-over, pronounced him fit to fly, and that was the end of it. Well, it he had an ongoing heart condition, they would have forced him to take an EKG every six months.

So I -- I sure hope that we get a nice open accounting on the part of Lufthansa as to what happened here. And I'm hopeful this leads to some serious reform about how the airlines handle issues of the brain. Mental illness issues and depression are every bit as troubling, clearly, and should be monitored carefully.

BLITZER: Richard Quest, how troubled are you by Lufthansa now supposedly clarifying its earlier denial that there had been any knowledge of any issues, psychological issues these co-pilot may have had? Now they're acknowledging they did, in fact, know it.

Here's the question, Richard. Did Lufthansa drop the ball?

QUEST: Initially, we don't know, because he leaves training. Lufthansa -- he self-reports that he's left for -- that he's left for severe depression, for treatment.

Now, when he comes back, and then he goes from training to being a flight attendant -- remember he was a flight attendant first before a job became available -- and then he's given a job in 2013.

What we don't know is how much the person who gave him the job looked back, saw what had happened three, four years previously. See, this is a difficulty, Wolf, because a four-year gap from when he says he suffered from depression to when he actually gets into the cockpit as a pilot.

Now, we do not want to stigmatize or condemn anybody who's had recovery from depression in any way at all. The issue here will be, what did Lufthansa look at or Germanwings when they finally gave him the job? That's the full (ph) question, not what they did back in 2009.

BLITZER: David Soucie, given the excellent safety record that Lufthansa has had, their record for precision, obviously excellent aviation, does this make you more concerned about airline standards right now? If it could happen to Lufthansa, one of their subsidiaries, presumably it could happen to almost any carrier.

SOUCIE: That's exactly it, Wolf. The first things we look at are, did the pilot mess up? Did he break regulations? Obviously, that happened. Did the airline follow the regulations and follow procedures? And knowing Lufthansa, I would guess that they did.

So there leaves only one thing, which is if the regulations themselves are what need to be examined. And the regulations and the enforcement of those regulations is something that I'm looking towards right now to see where that moves. Because that's where I think the crux of this problem is, is systemic within that regulation. BLITZER: All right, everybody. Once again, stand by, because we have

much more coming up. We're about to take a very close look at the technology that might prevent these kinds of crashes. Why don't the airlines want to use it?


BLITZER: Investigators now say the co-pilot put his Airbus jetliner on autopilot to crash into the French Alps. Could a different kind of technology, could it have been used to take control of the plane to prevent a crash? Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, has been looking into this.

What are you finding out, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the aircraft computers knew the plane was in trouble. There were loud audible alarms warning the co-pilot the plane was in danger, but it appears those warnings were ignored. But the question is tonight, could enhanced crash-avoidance technology, capable of essentially taking control of the plane, prevented this crash? Well, CNN has learned that more than ten years ago, Airbus and the manufacturer of the crashed plane, which is Airbus, as well as the tech company Honeywell, they were working together to develop software that would allow planes' computers to essentially take over flight operations when the plane gets too close to land.

So Honeywell describes it like this. Today as we speak, if a plane is coming in for a landing, an instrument landing, the pilot does not have to manually land the plane. There are a series of radio signals coming from the ground, kind of guiding the plane in, which is denoted with that yellow line that you saw there. So essentially, the autopilot locks onto those radio signals and is able to land the plane on autopilot.

The thinking is, if the autopilot can land a plane, perhaps software can take the current system just a step further so that perhaps an aircraft coming too close to land would essentially be able to avoid it.

But, you know, when you talk to pilots, they say that they don't think that this is a good idea, simply because they're afraid that when you have technology like this and you essentially give over control of the aircraft to a computer system, there is the chance that, of course, someone could hack the system; makes it very vulnerable to that.

In speaking with Honeywell today, Wolf, they tell me that they scrapped the plans with Airbus. They are not developing it at this point, because they do not feel that this technology was mature enough.

BLITZER: All right. Rene, thank you.

Let's bring back our aviation and law enforcement experts. We're also joined by Dr. Lisa Van Susteren, the forensic psychiatrist. David Soucie, this technology that Rene just shared with us, could it

really have prevented that co-pilot from crashing the plane? Or could Andreas Lubitz have actually found a different way to bring that plane down?

SOUCIE: He was intent on bringing that plane down, so rest assured, he would have found a way to do it. This is not 100 percent safe, and you can't protect everyone from every terrorist or any kind of violent activity such as this.

However, that technology, I was very involved in that during that time. The Boeing Uninterruptible Autopilot System, BUAP system, was very, very well done. The technology did what it could at that time. Technology has advanced quite a bit, but it's that vulnerability that's created by that ability to take over the aircraft by ill intent that made this program scrapped. It's just not there yet. I do think we'll see it in our lifetimes, but it's not ready yet.

BLITZER: What do you think, Miles, about this technology? Presumably, it presents a lot of its own dangers if it's activated, for example, accidentally, but let's say by some terrorist.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's interesting. When people say they're nervous about, you know, computers being on board airplanes, the horse is pretty far to the barn on that on the Airbus. The Airbus, basically computers already fly that aircraft, and the pilot is really a voting member in all of this and oftentimes, it's overruled by the computers already. So adding this one layer of protection is probably not a bad idea, frankly.

However, a pilot intent on cashing an airplane can come up with all kinds of ways of doing that, including just flying around until you run out of fuel. Now would the door hold that long? That's another question.

But in a system like this, the one thing you need is a carve-out for an airport. You have to be able to make it to the ground at an airport, so a clever pilot intent on crashing the plane could just fly to an airport, and then nose it in there.

So there's ways around systems like this. You know, adding one more check and balance, though, you know, why not?

BLITZER: Lisa, you're a forensic psychiatrist. Lufthansa now clarifying earlier denials, now acknowledging that this co-pilot in 2009, he was -- they were told of what they described of a previous episode of severe depression and that he had received injections of what were described as antipsychotic medications.

Here's the question. Should he have been allowed to become a pilot?

LISA VAN SUSTEREN, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Not with the psychosis. If he was deemed -- and this is part of their regulations -- if you're psychotic, that eliminates you. And that's...

BLITZER: If you're just treated back in 2009, you can't be cured of that? You're going to be suffering from that?

VAN SUSTEREN: Psychotic is really a degree of gravity that you really need to pay attention to. It could come up upon a pilot when it was unexpected. That is really a degree, I think, of vulnerability that I certainly wouldn't want to assume and I cannot imagine Lufthansa would.

BLITZER: So if he was injected, Lisa, with what are described as antipsychotic medications, give us an example. What does that mean?

VAN SUSTEREN: An antipsychotic medication is something that treats psychosis. Psychosis means that you're out of touch with reality. I don't know that that was the case with him, but if you are treating someone with an antipsychotic, that means that that person is really having a hard time staying grounded.

[17:35:14] And it means that that person has a degree of agitation, and it needs to be calmed down very quickly. So it's a marker to anyone in this business of real serious illness.

BLITZER: And you're -- you write prescriptions for these antipsychotic medications, presumably, all the time. What kind of -- give us a name of a drug you would use.

VAN SUSTEREN: Haldol, Prolixin, Thorazine. But I have to tell you, I never use these medications now. These were all the old drugs used when people were in hospitals and needed to be hospitalized. These are not drugs that people are using now. Now, this was a few years ago. But this was decades ago. This is not something that you give a person who has a depression, every day...

BLITZER: Do they have different guidelines in Europe than here?

VAN SUSTEREN: For the antipsychotics?

BLITZER: These antipsychotic medications?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they specifically address psychosis as a reason not to be and if you take an antipsychotic drug, presumably that eliminates you.

BLITZER: Please stand by, Lisa.

Tom Fuentes, stand by, as well.

We're going to have much more coming up on this new controversy that's erupting just over the past few hours over claims that a video taken inside that German airliner shows the terrifying final moments before it crashed. Stand by.

We're also on the lookout for new demonstrations this hour against an Indiana new law that's sparking national outrage. The state's governor insists it was not intended to allow discrimination.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:41:06] BLITZER: We're following new information about the investigation into the crash of Flight 9525, but we have other breaking news to tell you about.

The make-or-break deadline for reaching a framework deal on Iran's nuclear program was supposed to be just minutes from now, but negotiators will get a little extra time to keep at it. The United States wants Iran's nuclear effort put on the back burner for years. Iran is looking for relief from crippling sanctions.

Our CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott is joining us from Lausanne, Switzerland, right now.

So what's the latest over there, Elise? Are they within reach of a deal?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they've been within reach of a deal for several days, they say. But there have been these key sticking points.

Today deputy spokesperson Marie Harf of the State Department said that the talks would go on for another day into tomorrow, past that deadline, which is 15 minutes from now.

But now we understand the French foreign minister has told the Iranian delegation that he will be leaving in the morning, 5 a.m., Wolf, in just about six hours from now or eight hours from now, saying that he has to get back to Paris. And a real effort, it seems, to put pressure on the Iranians to take the deal, Wolf.

BLITZER: So it's approaching midnight over there where you are right now. Are they still working through the night, or have these men and women gone to sleep?

LABOTT: Well, negotiators are still working. I don't know if they'll be working through the night. They may take a few hours of rest and go back to their own delegations, come back in the morning.

But these negotiations are going to end sometime in the morning. The French foreign minister, one of the key negotiators in this, says he is leaving. And we understand that other ministers are starting to get frustrated, really want Iran now to take the deal.

These ministers feel they have presented a good deal to Iran. And the fact that they haven't come to agreement is reflective of the fact that there are so many unresolved issues, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. These negotiations have only been going on for 18 months. And now we see where it stands right now.

Thanks very much, Elise. We'll get back to you if they break up with an announcement, one way or another. Let us know right way.

While the talks go on, for now the United States has not rules out military force to prevent Iran from going nuclear. And it's not the only country weighing its options. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's standing

by -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Wolf, here's the problem. Critical elements of Iran's nuclear program are now buried so deep underground that it may be taking one of those options off the table, and that is a quick, easy military strike.


STARR (voice-over): Even as the U.S. and Iran struggle to reach a nuclear agreement, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said there are other ways to stop Iran's nuclear program.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The military options certainly will maim on the table.

STARR: But bombing Iran's nuclear sites could be tough.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even military action would not be as successful as the deal that we have put forward.

STARR: If there is no deal or Iran violates a deal, any potential bombing campaign by Israel or the U.S. would have problems.

Iran's nuclear sites are spread out, and at least two of them, at Natanz and Fordo, are buried underground.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The deal being formed will most likely leave Iran with underground facilities, a nuclear reactor and advanced centrifuges.

STARR: That's a problem for Israel's F-15s, because they have to be refueled in midair.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: The Israelis are going to have difficulty getting to all of the targets in Iran. They'll be able to go after the western Iranian areas. In essence, they can do things in the 500- to 700-mile range.

STARR: And Israel doesn't have large enough bombs to fully destroy those underground sites.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think that it's a fair characterization to say that could delay but not destroy Iran's nuclear capability.

STARR: That's where the 30,000-pound U.S. bomb comes in, built by the Air Force with Iran's underground facilities in mind.

Even then, it could still take repeated airstrikes, exposing American pilots to Iranian surface-to-air fire.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): For this to be a one- mission and we're done kind of scenario is not only unrealistic, it is practically suicidal at this point. STARR: All these options on the table as the U.S. experienced a

recent brush with Iran's military. CNN has learned earlier this month a Navy helicopter patrolling over the Persian Gulf was endangered when an Iranian surveillance plane came within 50 yards of the U.S. aircraft. The Iranians made two passes in what the U.S. viewed as an unsafe manner before the Americans broke contact and were able to fly off.

A U.S. military official tells CNN the incident may have been ordered by a local Iranian commander, most of the interactions with the Iranians in recent months have been safe. This was not.


STARR: And the U.S. military official tells me tonight, if, if a U.S. strike was ordered against Iran's nuclear site, the U.S. military is in a better position to carry that out than they were even a year ago, that there have been classified improvements to its intelligence and aircraft capabilities but still the question is Iran. Nobody thinks Iran would just stand by if that happened -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we have any idea how many of those 30,000 pound bombs the U.S. has if they wanted to do a military strike and try to destroy Iran's nuclear capability?

STARR: I'll tell you, Wolf, that weapon is strictly classified by the U.S. Air Force. Very little public information available about it. The general understanding may be somewhere in the range of a couple of dozen or less. But the real question is -- not the real question but one of the key questions is getting into Iranian air space. They have considerable air defenses. And if you are going to put manned aircraft into Iranian air space, you're going to have to take out those air defenses first before you can even try to get to the nuclear facilities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Still ahead, there's new controversies erupting over reports a cell phone video shows the chaotic final seconds before the German airliner crashed. We have new information.

But coming up next, amid-nationwide outrage. Indiana's governor now promising to, quote, "fix" a new law that critics say allows discrimination against same-sex couples.


[17:52:06] BLITZER: We continue following the investigation in the crash of Flight 9525. We're also on the lookout for new protests in Indiana. The state has been the focus of national outrage over a new religious freedom law that critics say allows discrimination against same-sex couples.

Today, the state's Republican governor promised a quick fix to prevent businesses from denying services to anyone. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: So the suggestion that because we passed a law to strengthen the foundation of religious liberty in our state courts, that we had in some way created a license to discriminate is deeply offensive to me and deeply offensive to millions of Hoosiers, and we're going to correct it and move forward.


BLITZER: CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us from Indianapolis right now.

Did Governor Pence explain how he's going to fix this legislation to make it more acceptable?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the million dollar question. In the state House right behind me legislators are working furiously presumably trying to figure out what that fix would look like and how they can get it procedurally to the governor's desk because even they come up with a fix, it's not exactly easy for them to get it to the governor. He has said it, he will not sign a -- any sort of legislation that includes protections for gays and lesbians statewide, adding it to their civil rights charter.

He's talking about some specific piece of language for the SB-101, the Religious Freedom Act that they have passed here. But they are not specifying what it is -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We understand that the Arkansas state legislature, they just passed similar legislation. The Governor Asa Hutchinson, he says he's going to sign it into law. Tell us about that.

MARQUEZ: It is very similar in nature to Indiana's. Not quite exact but it does define very broadly entities such as individuals, businesses, others that could deny services. All of this relating back to gay marriage and the concerns that many conservatives have after the Hobby Lobby case where they ruled -- the Supreme Court ruled that individuals could be businesses that they are now taking that and making it into law.

I asked Governor Pence specifically about that today and here's how he responded on his personal beliefs about providing services to gay and lesbian couples from person and businesses.


PENCE: I don't support discrimination against anyone. The question that you pose, though, I believe, is -- it's -- we're dealing here in a free society with always a careful balancing in interest. And the facts and circumstances of each case determine the outcome.


MARQUEZ: And this is the tough thing that Republicans are now dealing with. Balancing that concern over gay marriage with religious freedom -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

We'll have more on this story in our next hour.

Coming up, right at the top of the hour, more on the breaking news, a video reportedly taken inside the doomed airliner. It has now been recovered at the crash scene. We're getting new information.


BLITZER: Happening now, crash video playing new reports, described horrifying images apparently recorded inside Flight 9525 as the plane was going down. What we're learning about those final seconds before impact.

[18:00:02] Severe depression. Lufthansa Airlines now admits it knew the co-pilot had a history of psychological problems before he crashed the plane. Why was he allowed to fly?