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THE SITUATION ROOM
Passengers' Relatives Anguished Over Lack of News; No Sign of Plane Over Northern Corridor; New Details of Plane's Route Change; False Leads Emerge Daily; Mysterious New Radar Data
Aired March 19, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: a special report on the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
New clue: Investigators make an intriguing discover be the plane's route change. Was it programmed to be done automatically? The search narrows. The massive operation is now focusing in on one specific area as Malaysian officials reveal they have received new radar data. What does it show?
Families anguished, emotional outbursts as relatives of passengers reach a breaking point. What are they demanding the airline do?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In just the last few hours, we have learned of some significant new developments in the search for Malaysia Flight 370. A federal official has just told CNN new clues suggest the dramatic route change that sent the plane heading west toward the Indian Ocean may have been programmed into the plane's computer to be executed automatically.
Also, Malaysian officials now say they have received new radar data from another country, but they won't reveal who provided the data or what they show. And the FBI is now looking at the flight simulator seized from the pilot's home. Experts are trying to recover some deleted files that could potentially contain some critical clues.
Our correspondents and analysts are working all angle of this story using CNN's unparalleled global resources.
Let's start with CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She has some breaking news on the search for this flight.
What are you hearing over there, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Look, Wolf, there's growing worry behind the scenes that the world may be running out of time to find this airliner. Every day brings everything closer to that 30-day limit before the recorders stop transmitting.
The Australians have now narrowed down some of the search area, but there is still a lot of water to cover.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice-over): The U.S. believes Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 most likely fell somewhere within 230,000 square miles of water off Australia.
Based on the latest technical analysis, the immediate search is zeroing in here. A U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft searched 1,500 miles west of Perth. There are now 26 countries, 60 ships and 50 aircraft joining the hunt under Australian coordination. Commercial satellites are also scouring the ocean.
JOHN YOUNG, AUSTRALIA MARITIME SAFETY AUTHORITY: The sheer size of the search area posing a huge challenge.
STARR: Raising the question if the plane will ever be found.
REAR ADM. DEBORAH LOEWER (RET.), U.S. NAVY: I would lean more towards the if we find debris, can we find enough debris to really ascertain precisely where the aircraft wreckage is if it is on the bottom of the ocean? It really in my mind is an if situation.
STARR: The search area is based on radar and other data calculated by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA, the Malaysians and other experts. The starting point? Transmissions from the airliner.
YOUNG: Those transmissions were detected by a communications satellite over the Indian Ocean, and with the time of those communications and the distance, they can't plot an exact position for each one, but sequentially they can be built up into a possible route that the aircraft took.
STARR: But the data is now changing every day.
YOUNG: The search area is here. It's based on the last one of those reports, what would likely happen to the aircraft after that, and it has then been moved to account for water movement and weather since the 8th of March.
STARR: The Malaysians hinting they may have additional clues.
DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: I can confirm that we have received some radar data, but we are not at liberty to release information from other countries.
STARR: And what about that northern sector, those 11 countries in Asia? Well, a search still goes on there, but no verified reports of any aircraft crash or landing.
So, as the days go on, at least U.S. officials continue to believe that the flight is somewhere in the Indian Ocean -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.
I want to go to Commander William Marks. He's the spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet. He's aboard the USS Blue Ridge command ship. He's joining us on the phone.
Commander, we have been checking in with you every day. Any luck today? Are you getting any closer to finding this plane?
CMDR. WILLIAM MARKS, U.S. NAVY: Yesterday, we had another flight out of Perth. This one went to the west.
Once again, no -- nothing associated with wreckage or debris. The ranges are increasing. So, in one aspect, that's a positive that we're getting out there more and more, but it's still a challenge. Even with the ranges, so what you have to realize is when you're flying these P-8s and P-3s, they're flying essentially in a straight line out to a point.
And then once they get there, you have to calculate the on-station time and then come back. So if they're flying at their max range, which is well over 1,000 miles, we're talking 1,200, 1500 miles, once they get there, they have a smaller amount of on-station time, so then they have to come back.
Even though we can get out to these ranges with these very advanced aircraft, the search time out there is pretty short. So huge area, still a challenge, but we are getting pretty far out there.
BLITZER: Here's a disturbing development today, Commander. That P-3 that was supposed to leave Kuala Lumpur and fly out there, it stayed on the ground, was canceled. That operation was scrubbed today because Indonesia refused to allow this U.S. plane authority, permission to fly over, through its airspace. How is that possible?
MARKS: The report I have seen, it was a difficult situation. I can't get into any of the discussions on the ground.
I wasn't personally there, but from what I understand, we're looking at it. And this is an international effort. It's not just one country. It's not the United States alone. It's not Indonesia alone. We're looking at it. I can't really give you any details on what happened on the ground there, but I'm confident we're going to be flying, if not today, than very soon up in the northern sector.
BLITZER: Because that's pretty outrageous when you think about it. The search is desperate. Every day is desperate out there. Could be locating something, that P-3, that Orion plane just wasting an entire day there on the ground because Indonesia says it can't fly through its airspace. That's pretty outrageous, I must say.
Yesterday, you suggested you're looking at the possibility of increasing your aerial assets in the region, bringing some more planes in. Have you made a decision on that front?
MARKS: Right now, we're working with all of our international partners. Australia has a number of P-3s. India has P-3s. Right now, what we're doing is looking at this international coalition and looking at our assets. We haven't made a decision yet. That's something to look at for the future.
BLITZER: What about submarines? Are you willing to tell us if any submarines are being brought into this search?
MARKS: Great question. I actually get asked that a lot based on, one, could the aircraft have sunk and then, two, one of the other keys is the black box. If it's pinging, if it's on the surface, if it's sunk, right now, movement of submarines is a very sensitive question.
I can't tell you where our submarines are and I can't tell you if we're going to move them there. We have a number of submarines in the Seventh Fleet. And once again Seventh Fleet stretches from north of Japan all the way south to Australia. We have submarines on assignment through all that area.
So the movement of submarines is a very sensitive issue. I can't discuss it at this point.
BLITZER: I know. The policy is the U.S. Navy never discussing submarines, where they are, what they're doing.
Let's talk about this more restricted limited airspace, the space in the Indian Ocean you're now looking at. When we spoke yesterday, it was virtually the size of the continental United States and now it's about the size of the state of New Mexico. Should we conclude from that, Commander, that you're making progress and narrowing in the possibility where this plane might be?
MARKS: Well, every time we fly, we cover a pretty big chunk of area. So the P-3, as it flies out, it will fly typically at about 5,000 feet or so.
And the radar looking down at the surface covers an area on each side 10 to 20 miles. So you're getting a large swathe of water space just as it flies out. Then once again, depending on how far it is, when it gets there, it will have some on-station time left. And that on- station time is where it can do a pattern search going back and forth and recover that box or a chunk of water.
So it is encouraging. We're getting some pretty good ranges out there. It's encouraging that we're now covering the southern sector which at first really wasn't covered very well by assets. So every day that goes by and we cover another 15,000 square miles, it's a positive.
BLITZER: Commander, good luck to you. We will check back with you tomorrow, as we have been every day, Commander William Marks, the spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet. He's aboard the Blue Ridge, the command ship out there in the Pacific.
Let's continue now with the breaking news.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is watching what's going on.
Jim, we're told the plane's route may have changed, may have changed because it was preprogrammed into the flight management system. What have you learned? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This new information indicates that when this plane took the now familiar turn to the west, it followed two geographic waypoints. These are geographic points on the map that planes use to navigate their route, but it followed them so precisely, it would indicate that the plane was on autopilot under the control of the computers, rather than under control of the pilot because the pilot would generally make less exacting moves than the computer would.
This then corroborates the idea that this turn was preprogrammed, premeditated perhaps, as opposed to a sudden reaction to some sort of sudden event in the cockpit or on the plane.
BLITZER: What are you finding out about the new radar data that the Malaysians received? Because they say they received some new data, but they're not sharing a whole lot of information about it.
SCIUTTO: They did say they received new information today. We already know that Thailand has provided its information. We know Malaysia itself has talked about how the plane passed three of its own radar search areas.
We know now another country is providing its data, in addition to countries here Pakistan and India saying that their radar showed nothing of interest passing through the area at the time. What that is giving us is a further sense that this area here, this northern area, you have a lot of radar coverage here, you have a lot of satellite coverage in the sky.
If they have not found -- this is what U.S. officials are telling me. If they have not found a sign of the plane to this point, in light of all that radar and satellite coverage, this is one reason why more and more they're focusing on this area here, that smaller and smaller search area that Barbara was just describing, in part because the coverage is so great up here and getting better.
BLITZER: Jim, come on over to the table here, Jim Sciutto reporting for us.
Let's continue the conversation. We have a panel of experts joining us. Michael Schmidt is here from "The New York Times." Our aviation analyst, the former NTSB Managing Director Peter Goelz is with us, and our CNN law enforcement analyst, the former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes.
Tom, how difficult will it be for the FBI in Quantico to go through those hard drives, to go through the flight simulator that the pilot had in the home and see what was deleted, go through the hard drives and find out if anything suspicious is there?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, it will depend on how the files were deleted and whether the files were overwritten after they were deleted.
It's kind of a misconception. People think when they delete a computer file that it's gone, it's erased off the hard drive. It is really not. The first letter of the name might be taken off so that you can't locate it. When you ask your computer how much memory I have, it would tell you that it's all the memory, including those files that have been deleted.
When you save the next file, it may write over a file you previously deleted or corrupt a previously deleted file. That would make it more difficult. It's kind of like a GPS system, you have 20 previous destinations, when you put in the 21st, it erases the first, when you put in 22, it erases the second, because only so much data can be held.
It's going to depend on that. If you reformat a hard drive, what the forensic cyber-people refer to as nuking it, it means it wipes everything off, and you would have to reinstall the operating systems, the software, everything back from the start.
BLITZER: That's a difficult process.
All right, stand by, because the president, President Obama today for the first time since this plane went missing what about almost two weeks ago, he spoke out, he was interviewed by KDFW and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have put every resource that we have available at the disposal of the search process. There's been close cooperation with the Malaysian government, and, so, not just NTSB, but FBI, you know, all -- anybody who typically deals with anything related to our aviation system is available.
And, so, you know, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, but I want them to be assured that we consider this a top priority, and we're going to keep on working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's the president.
Michael Schmidt of "The New York Times," you have been doing some serious reporting on this since the beginning of this mystery, since the beginning of this search. I take it everyone in the U.S. government who deals with aviation, as the president said, this is priority number one.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, we were actually -- someone recounted something pretty interesting to us today about what happened over the weekend, when they sat down with the Malaysian prime minister.
And they basically said, hey, you guys are looking in the wrong area. You really need to be looking here. This is why we think this. And then within a matter hours, the Malaysian prime minister said we're going to look elsewhere or whatever. This was sort of the first example of the U.S. saying, hey, let us help you here a little bit. Now we see this development with the FBI today that the Malaysians seem to be sort of coming along. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called his counterpart yesterday and said, hey, we think you should have a little more transparency on this. It's taken a long time, but I think the U.S. is starting to see some things that make it feel a little bit better, but obviously there's still no sign of anything.
BLITZER: Peter, as you well know, there was a lot of waste in the first several days of this.
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The first few days were really pitiful. I mean, we were looking in the wrong direction, there was no coordination. I think this is good news.
The last three or four days appears to be more focused. The president's remarks do keep the Americans focused, but it also lets the Malaysians know that the resources are there. Use them.
BLITZER: It's still pretty shocking to me and I'm sure it is to you that Indonesia, a neighbor over there, would not allow this U.S. aircraft to fly through its airspace to search in the Indian Ocean for this plane.
SCIUTTO: It does show, though, the sensitivities in that region. We talked about that a bit this week.
You have got a lot of capabilities there that these countries don't want to reveal. That's played out with the radar data. Yes, another country shared radar data in the last 24 hours, but why not in the first 24 hours?
This is the kind of thing. It's been slow-going and these roadblocks certainly don't help. But it's interesting to hear the president there say that the U.S. is offering all available resources because listening to Commander Marks, he basically acknowledged something that they tend not to acknowledge, that submarines are involved in the search.
Now, we could have guessed that because we know the U.S. has submarines running around the Indian ocean. And he didn't specify where and how many and what they're doing. But we know the U.S. helping out here under the water and over the water in planes and in space with satellite as well.
BLITZER: Are you getting any sense, because you're doing a lot of good reporting on this, Michael, that they're making progress, they feel like they're making progress, they see at least a little glimmer of light at the end of this mystery?
SCHMIDT: No, I don't think so. I think they're focused on the pilots and the investigation has a focus that it didn't have a week ago.
But -- and they have these computers where they think they may get some answers, but beyond that, sure, they're narrowing in the ocean and they're looking at a hard drive. But we don't know. I don't know anything more than I did just a few days ago. We do know when it flew to the left that it was preprogrammed and it was when they said good night, but what does that really mean? We still don't know.
BLITZER: A lot of questions that we don't know. And it's so frustrating. It must be especially -- remember 239 people were aboard that plane. The families are going through agony. We will have much more on this part of the story coming up. Guys, stand by.
Copies of that hard drive them the pilot's home flight simulator are now in the hands of the FBI. Can the experts over there recover the deleted files? We will go in-depth.
Plus, the agonizing wait proves too much for the relatives of some passengers. We will show you some extremely emotional scenes.
BLITZER: This note for our North American viewers. "CROSSFIRE" won't be seen tonight so we can bring you more of our special report on the mystery of Flight 370.
The search for clues is unfolding right now not far from where we are in Washington, D.C., in Quantico, Virginia. That's where FBI experts are looking at data from the flight simulator that Malaysian officials found in the pilot's home.
Our justice support, Pamela Brown, is working this part of the story for us.
You're learning fascinating new details. Tell us what you're learning.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Wolf.
I just spoke with a U.S. official involved with the investigation who says figuring out what's on the simulator's hard drive is a top priority. It's being handled with a great deal of urgency because so far it's the biggest trove of evidence we have right now. Investigators are methodically trying to rebuild the pieces of the data that were deleted more than a month ago according to Malaysian officials.
BROWN (voice-over): Sources say FBI agents are already combing through the hard drive from the flight simulator inside the home of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, where today Malaysian officials confirmed files had been deleted February 3.
SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI has very sophisticated capabilities and are oftentimes able to retrieve files that appear to have been deleted but actually weren't. There are artifacts of those files that are left on the hard drive.
BROWN: While experts at forensics lab in Quantico, Virginia, are trying to retrieve missing files from that hard drive, they're also looking at how the data was deleted. HENRY: I think that if you were just deleting files off the hard drive in order to provide more room, that you would delete it once. You wouldn't go through the extra effort to completely destroy the file and make it irretrievable.
BROWN: Many in U.S. law enforcement are baffled because Malaysian investigators left that simulator in the pilot's house for a week before retrieving it.
But officials say only some of the data was deleted and there's no indication at this point the pilot was trying to cover his tracks in any way.
DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: I would like to take this opportunity to state that the passengers, the pilots and the crew remain innocent until proven otherwise.
BROWN: While the FBI may uncover key information from that hard drive, the most important piece of evidence is yet to be found, the plane itself.
HENRY: You have to look at the totality of the evidence. And it's just not there right now. The most important piece is going to be when you find the physical structure. That is going to demonstrate whether it was mechanical failure or intentional act. If it was an intentional act, then you are going to start to backtrack again, looking at whether it was hijacking, pilot action or terrorism.
BROWN: While there are experts with sophisticated technology looking at the hard drive at Quantico right now, there's a lot of graphics- heavy data they have go through and it's a complicated multilayered process.
So, it could take some time until we have a complete picture of what's on that hard drive. As one of my sources involved with the investigation put it, whatever data is retrieved could end up being a very insignificant detail in the process. We just simply don't know right now.
BLITZER: Let's bring Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the FBI, our law enforcement analyst, into this investigation.
There could be some major developments discovered on the hard drives, but as Pam says, there might be nothing.
FUENTES: Yes. Most of the people I talked to, Wolf, really are leaning toward probably not a lot, because if he had put in destinations that are somewhat suspicious and exotic, we know he used that simulator for recreation.
It might have been just for the heck of it. There are a whole lot of destinations all over Australia, all the way down to the major cities of Australia, China, other major countries that the Malaysia Airlines flies to. As a senior captain, he could be getting ready to change routes and this week it was Beijing and next week it might be Sydney, Australia, or Tokyo or some other place.
You just don't know. And, additionally, not only the major cities they fly to, but when they file the international flight plan, they have to designate alternate cities that may not be where they fly to ever.
BLITZER: Let's say, Tom, they discover that he deleted some simulation that he had to go to Somalia or Pakistan, not the regular routes that Malaysia Airlines flies. Would that presumably be some sort of rehearsal? That's what the suspicion is out there, some sort of rehearsal this pilot could have been doing?
FUENTES: Could be a rehearsal and that's where he was going to take the plane and it's completely sinister. Could be he wanted to see what would it be like to go there, what's their airspace like, what are the mountains like around that?
You just don't know and you still won't know. You will have to read his mind as to why he wanted to put those destinations in and practice it.
BLITZER: Pamela, I assume FBI sources, people you're talking to, they're happy -- it might be late. They're happy that at least the Malaysians are sharing this kind of raw data with the United States, the FBI in this case.
BROWN: Yes, it definitely is. As one of my sources put it, we're in a dramatically different posture with the Malaysians right now than where we were at the beginning of this investigation.
But still the Malaysians have not put in a formal request with the State Department to send over an FBI team to Malaysia to help with this investigation. So they're still limited in what they can do, but this is certainly progress that they're able to analyze the hard drive.
BLITZER: Should have done this from the beginning, but you live and learn. Thanks very much, Pamela Brown. Tom Fuentes, thanks to you as well.
Meanwhile, there's heartbreaking scenes in Kuala Lumpur, where some relatives of Flight 370 passengers are enduring an excruciating wait for any information about the missing plane's fate.
Today, some just couldn't take it any longer and their emotions boiled over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I am Li Le's mother. My son was on the plane. My son. I just want my son back. My son is Li Le. QUESTION (through translator): What have Malaysia Airlines told you in the past days?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They just kept brushing us off, saying, keep waiting and waiting for information. I don't know when we are going to wait until. It's already 12 days. My dear -- I don't know where my dear is, 12 days. My son, where is my son?
They never answer the questions we raised every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): On that day, I woke up and saw the news that the Malaysia Airlines flight had gone missing. But I didn't think much, and I didn't think about whether it was the flight that my brother had taken. Then I saw the name list of passengers on the news. I immediately started looking through it and found his name.
There is no one to whom I can express my feelings. I cannot show my agony in front of my elderly father. All I can do is write it down.
It feels like they gave us hope, and now they are gradually taking it away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We don't need to be taken care of. What we need is to know the truth, to know where the plane is. We are in a terrible mood. Every day, we sit here waiting. We will keep waiting and will never leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What a heartbreaking scene. CNN's Atika Shubert is in the Malaysian capital right now. Atika, you were there. You were right in the middle of those emotional scenes today. Tell us what you saw, what it was like.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was utter chaos, frankly. What happened was these family members came here specifically to address the press briefing. They unfurled this white banner, and they began to speak to the press.
But as they became more emotional, more press came in. It was just jam-packed. And at that point, security came in and literally dragged these women out. And you could hear that -- that heart-rending scream of one of the mothers.
It was very badly handled by Malaysian officials. And the fact that you had these hoards of press following them didn't help it either.
And what family members have told me, essentially, is that they -- what they need is just some sort of consistent story, some sort of closure. This drip, drip of information and conflicting narratives is just heartbreaking for them. One day their hopes are up that their relatives might be alive. The next they're utterly crushed when they're told that they're looking for the plane in the Indian Ocean. And so these kinds of conflicting stories is what's causing such distress and anguish. BLITZER: Total anguish. All right. Atika, you're there. You're on the ground in Kuala Lumpur. What are Malaysian officials doing right now? what's the latest as far as their efforts?
SHUBERT: Well, in terms of the investigation, they are looking at that flight simulation, what was on that deleted data. No indication at this point that there's anything significant. But they are looking at that.
The other factor that they're looking at is whether or not this new -- this diverted flight plan was preprogrammed into the computer before communication was cut off. This is something that they are looking at, but they have not had any concrete details at this point.
In terms of the search, they now seem to be focusing on a very specific area off the west coast of Australia. And looking at -- it's about 600 square kilometers, I believe. And that certainly seems to indicate that they believe, to some extent, that perhaps the flight somehow came over there and crashed into the Indian Ocean.
Now, the problem is it's been 12 days. And in that time, currents have probably taken the debris anywhere across the Indian Ocean. So looking for it at this point is going to be very difficult, Wolf.
BLITZER: Atika Shubert in Kuala Lumpur. Atika, thank you.
Let's go to China right now, where CNN's David McKenzie is learning new details of their search efforts. David is joining us now from Beijing. That's where Flight 370 was originally headed. Never made it, obviously.
David, so what's the latest there in China?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is the military here in China saying that their satellites and the other military assets, including radar, didn't pick up any sign of that flight going over that northern corridor. You know, China and Kazakhstan were put in charge, in a way, of searching that land route that the plane could have taken.
This kind of meshes with what investigators have been telling CNN that they believe it's more likely the plane went south because of all the military assets in this region. China has also put out more boats into the Andaman Sea and southwest of Sumatra to search for this missing plane. So certainly, no effort spared from the Chinese side to try and find this vanished plane -- Wolf.
David, as you know, some two-thirds of the passengers aboard that -- that airliner were Chinese. And now the government in Beijing, China's really slamming the Malaysian government for its handling of this situation. What's the latest? What are they saying?
MCKENZIE: Well, Wolf, though they are saying they're coordinating search efforts and working closely with the Malaysians, on the state media side they seem to continually be slamming Malaysia, as you say. Another state media editorial coming out today, basically calling the Malaysians an underdeveloped country and a system of government that's wracked by corruption and proven by the fact the way they're handling this mystery and the search for MH370.
Now, this is important, because it all plays into the reaction of these families. Of course, it would be terrible to wait through these days and hours to figure out what happened to your loved one, but it's almost like a ticking time bomb, with the people stuck in that hotel in Beijing and in Kuala Lumpur. All these Chinese people are getting for information in general is from the Chinese media, which is heavily controlled by the government here and by censors. So they will believe everything mostly that they're reading, that it's the Malaysians' fault.
And that, counselors tell me, is a very bad scenario, for if this plane is found, if it's found in the ocean, in particular, it could be a very bad situation, because Malaysia they think is to blame.
BLITZER: Yes, all right. Thanks very much, David McKenzie, for that report from Beijing.
Just ahead, Flight 370 may have stopped verbal communications, but crucial data was still being transmitted. Our own Tom Foreman is standing by to explain how the plane kept relaying information even with key systems shut down.
And it's been a story full of false alarms. We're going to take a closer look at why so many leads in this case of Flight 370 are turning out to be bogus.
BLITZER: Welcome back. You're watching THE SITUATION ROOM special report, "Mystery of Flight 370."
Investigators now believe someone reprogrammed the flight to make a sharp turn to the west. They say the flight path was followed so perfectly, the pilots probably weren't steering that plane manually. But there's still a lot of confusion as to how this information was collected.
CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now from our virtual studio to try to sort some of this out. Tom, what are you finding?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Malaysian government keeps saying over and over again that a lot of the search right now is about data collection and analysis. So where is this data originating? We don't have any real answers with all of this, but we have a lot of ideas that are worth talking about here, because it is such a mystery.
Every plane that's in the sky is emanating a tremendous amount of information about itself, largely through the ACARS system. Most of the time that's going out through VHF radio when it's over land. It goes through a radio tower, and that's where it goes. If it moves out over the water, if it's further out where it can't quite reach those land stations so easily, then this plane will connect through a satellite, and that satellite in turn will send that signal down to a ground station of some sort.
Now, what sort of information are they collecting in all of this? It may be information about how the engines are performing, about how much fuel is being burned. It may be a simple message from the captain. We've been flying and someone says we have some gate information. That may come in through this very same system. A simple readout.
They can even have information about if something goes wrong with the engines, as happened with the Air France, there can be big bursts of packets of information coming out of the plane, or you can have this regular check-in with the satellites that we're talking about that happened after ACARS was turned off, or at least mainly turned off. Other parts were still there.
No matter how this information gets here, though, it's then passed to the airline company, because that airline company uses that on a normal basis to monitor things like whether or not an engine needs to be checked when it lands or a tire replaced or a seat replaced or any of those bits of information.
Once that information gets to this airline, though, they may pass on to the maintenance department or the gate agents or to all sorts of people. Maybe the company that makes the engines, as we know is Rolls Royce, is monitoring the engines.
One of the mysteries here is, really, do we know the extent of how much information is being passed on? Because what investigators are now trying to do is make sure that they have all of the information that came down and all of the places it went, and pull it all together. Because only with all that information might they come up with that extra clue they need so badly now, Wolf, to figure out where to focus the search for that missing plane.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's hope they do. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.
Just ahead, we'll have more of our SITUATION ROOM special report, "The Mystery of Flight 370." There are new leads that emerge, seemingly almost every single day. Unfortunately, they're almost all false leads. We're going to take a closer look at why so few clues in this case are actually panning out.
BLITZER: Since Flight 370 lost contact nearly two weeks ago, new leads about the plane's whereabouts have popped up almost daily. Unfortunately, though, almost none of them have panned out.
Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns has been following this story from the very start. So, a lot of false alarms.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Wolf. For every big mystery, there are all these blind alleys, leads and tips that steer investigators in the wrong direction. In the case of the missing 777, it could be the granddaddy of them all for false information.
JOHNS (voice-over): A satellite image appeared to show a plane above a jungle. It was spotted by a university student from Taiwan, on Tomnod, a map search Web site that's being used by 3.6 million people, so-called crowdsourcing", with 426 million map views, trying to help find the missing plane. Tomnod said today this wasn't the plane authorities are looking for.
Epiphanies using images from space have turned out to be illusions more than once. Remember the Chinese satellite picture that looked like for a day the clue that would solve the case. Three suspected floating absence floating in the China Sea, turned up nothing, all but forgotten now.
HISHAMMUDDIN BIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN ACTING MINISTER OF TRANSPORTATION: We deployed our SFs, but found nothing.
JOHNS: An IT analyst in the Andaman Islands thought he may have seen the plane flying low in satellite pictures, but not so much.
Eyewitness accounts appear to be equally unreliable. There was the New Zealand oil rig worker who claimed in a letter he saw a plane go down, turned out to be more of nothing.
And as you might expect, social media hasn't been able to get it right either. Musician Courtney Love tweeted on Facebook the coordinates of where she thought the plane was located but it turned out to be another apparently bad tip.
At the end of the day, the question is whether all the public input into an investigation like this helps or hurts. A former investigator and ATF official says more is always better.
MIKE BOUCHARD, SECURITY DYNAMICS GROUP: What we say in a lot of cases in law enforcement is we are one tip away from solving this case.
JOHNS: Mike Bouchard helps supervise a massive investigation in the U.S., very different from the search for the plane. It was the beltway sniper case in 2002, with more than 100,000 leads coming in in just over 23 days. But he says rules on managing tips from the public are simple and clear.
BOUCHARD: It's like a triage, and you treat some more importance than others and others you put off until later on.
JOHNS: The other thing law enforcement authorities in the U.S. have found is that information at public briefings in an ongoing crisis has to be clear, consistent and coordinated. Without that you get what's been called the theory of the day that can spread around the world before anyone comes forward to correct the record. Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. All right, Joe. Stand by. Don't go too far away because Tom Fuentes is here, our law enforcement analyst, former FBI assistant director.
All these leads, false -- are you surprises there hasn't been a good lead yet?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, this happens all the time. The more important or significant the case is, the more this happens. Other case where a huge reward is offered, same thing. In this case, the reward would be fame, if you're the one that provides the lead that solves the case.
But that does lead to millions of pieces of information that come in, that have to be gone through, and in some case, you know, investigators refer to that as drinking through a fire hose, that you're just getting too much to deal with too soon and it's very difficult to sift through that and narrow it down.
BLITZER: Joe, as you point out, all these leads, they could really overwhelm investigators, too, if they check out everything.
JOHNS: It's very true. In the sniper case, 100,000 or more leads, just a fraction of those were anything substantive at all.
The other thing I think is true, and we know in our own business, information self corrects. So you get a certain piece of information, maybe it's not quite right, the more time you massage it, try to figure it out, then you'll get to the kernel of the truth, but it does take a long time. It's very frustrating and expensive.
BLITZER: How much of this is because the Malaysians early on weren't sharing the information?
FUENTES: Well, think the dilemma they had and the path they went down was that we're not going to put something out until we've corroborated it, verify it had through the experts and all that. And in so doing, they left a vacuum that appeared that they were not forthcoming, they were not cooperative, why aren't they putting something out.
So, it was really very poor job of media management. Later, after taking that criticism, say right away, we are going to put stuff out and the then you've got, as Joe mentioned, the theory of the day. It might not be true, we don't know if it's true, we are going to put that out so you don't think we are holding back information.
And really, this is what has created the confusion.
BLITZER: And one of the other problems, you've got a lot of rivalries out in that region. You got the Malaysians, the Indonesians, Singapore, China. Everybody -- I mean, they're not really working together, are they?
FUENTES: Well, it's hard to tell. Usually, would you think they are and Commander Marks has said that, you know, the militaries in the region train together and they work together in the past through training. And, yes, do military exercise that even include rescue and recovery operation.
But you're trying to explain what happened today with Indonesia saying, don't fly over our war space. This could be the next war zone in the world, Malaysia and Indonesia going to war.
BLITZER: That's pretty shocking. They got to fix that, the Indonesians.
All right, Joe, thank you. Tom, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, the FBI is working to recover deleted files from the pilot's personal flight simulator that it was in his home. Could we -- could he have used it to practice flying in unfamiliar territory?
More of CNN's special coverage of the mystery of Flight 370. That's coming up.
BLITZER: We will get back to our breaking news coverage of Flight 370 in just a moment.
But first, other urgent stories we're monitoring here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tensions on the Crimean peninsula are reaching a fever pitch. Ukraine says it's prepared to evacuate military personnel and their families from Crimea, just hours after Russian supporters stormed the Ukrainian navy's headquarters there in Crimea and kidnapped the navy chief. Ukraine says Russian security forces were involved.
The markets are hurting after Janet Yellen's first meeting as Fed chief. The Dow fell more than 100 points, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ finished lower as well. The slump came as Yellen announced the Fed stimulus program would likely end this fall and that interest rate could rise as early as 2015.
The trial of the Olympic star Oscar Pistorius has taken a graphic turn. Prosecutors and police debated the bloody details of the night the man nicknamed the Blade Runner shot and killed his girlfriend, as Pistorius covered his face and put his fingers in his ears. The industrial adjourned until next week when Pistorius may take the stand. He admits to (AUDIO GAP) but has pleaded not guilty saying he mistook her for a burglar.
Rand Paul is taking his criticism of the Obama administration to an unlikely place, Berkeley University. The Republican senator is speaking at the famous liberal college campus in California, attacking the president for his continued support of the NSA and its phone metadata collection. Paul says that as the first African-American president, President Obama should know better, given the history of surveillance on civil rights leaders.
Quickly recapping what we've learned today in the mystery of Flight 370, a federal official tells CNN new clues suggest the dramatic route change that sent the plane heading west may have been programmed into the plane's computer to be executed automatically.
Also, Malaysian officials now saying they have received new radar data from another country but they won't reveal who provided the data or what they show.
And the FBI is now looking at the flight simulator seized from the pilot's home. Experts are trying to recover some deleted files that potentially, potentially could contain some critical clues.
Remember you can always follow us on Twitter. You can tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can certainly tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.