Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Transcript Released of Missing Plane's Communications with Air Traffic Control; Search Conditions Challenging in Indian Ocean
Aired March 21, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, breaking news. The mystery of Flight 370. A British newspaper says it has a transcript of the radio communication between the airliners' pilots and ground control from takeoff until the plane vanishing with a mysterious message before those final words, quote, "All right, good night."
Search planes will shortly resume their hunt for possible debris from the airliners. Naval vessels from a number of countries head toward one of the most remote places on earth. But bad weather may also be closing in. And time is running out to find the airliner's recorders.
But if they are located, there's also a good chance one of those so-called black boxes could be a blank box.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We begin with extraordinary new information just coming in involving the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. No apparent struggle, no apparent panic.
A British newspaper says that it has a transcript of the final 54 minutes of communication between the cockpit and ground control. It allegedly shows nothing out of the ordinary beyond an unexplained call minutes before the final transmission.
FBI experts are working nonstop to recover clues from the hard drives belonging to the pilots, especially from the captain's flight simulator. We have new details on evidence that files were deleted later than previously thought.
And it's morning in the ocean -- in the Indian Ocean. Search planes are getting ready to resume looking for possible debris from the airliner, but they may once again be facing some rather rough weather.
We have the kind of coverage only CNN can deliver. Our correspondents and analysts are standing by. Let's begin, though, with the new information coming in on this transcript. It's potentially, Rene Marsh, very significant. RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, Wolf. And we have a copy of the transcript right here. We should say, though, translated from Mandarin to English, so all of the wording here may not be quite exact.
But usually, we can tell you this, air traffic control tells the pilot when to push back, taxi to the runway and take off, and the pilot communicates the plane's altitude. Now we are examining the transcript of this 54-minute conversation between one of the pilots of Flight 370 and air traffic control.
MARSH (voice-over): A purported transcript that details what Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 told air traffic controls from takeoff until it disappeared has been obtained by London's "Telegraph" newspaper.
On commercial flights, one pilot usually flies while the other handles radio calls. The conversations match with what Malaysian investigators and U.S. officials have told CNN, that the recordings indicated a normal flight.
"The Telegraph" says the radio calls were slightly casual but gave no sign the plane was about to disappear.
At 1:07 a.m., a message saying the plane was at 35,000 feet, a potentially odd sign identified by the paper, because that same communication had already been given six minutes earlier.
At 1:19 a.m., Malaysian authorities say the co-pilot makes his final transmission to air traffic control, "All right, good night."
Two minutes later, the transponder that helps air traffic controllers track the plane goes off. Flight 370 hasn't been heard from or seen since.
MARSH: All right. And the newspaper says that they've asked Malaysian Airlines as well as the civil aviation authority to confirm the transcripts, but the prime minister's office would only say that they would not release that data, Wolf.
BLITZER: So what you're saying is that originally the co-pilot was speaking to ground control in English, but there's a transcript that was translated into Mandarin, and this has been retranslated into the English? Is that right?
MARSH: Exactly. And for that reason, we're making that footnote that some of the wording may not be as precise.
BLITZER: Sure. It's a retranslation. It's going to change a little bit of that. No doubt about that. Rene, thanks very much.
CNN is also learning new information about the hard drives from the pilots' computers and especially the captain's flight simulator. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has new details about deleted files.
Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're gathering new information from sources, Wolf. In fact, my colleague, Evan Perez, has learned through his sources that U.S. investigators have uncovered evidence that files were deleted after February 3. Now, that's the date Malaysian officials initially said the last deletions on the captain's hard were made.
So while we're learning that files were deleted or purged closer to the plane's final flight two weeks ago, we still don't have a lot of critical information here, like when the deletions happened, how many there were, and who made them.
The FBI didn't receive the hard drive until this week, nearly two weeks after the flight went missing and outside consultants have been meticulously combing through that hard drive. They're looking for any valuable information for both the cockpit simulator as well as both of the pilots' laptops.
And the first piece of evidence investigators are looking at is whether the deletions were done in a routine fashion, like we would do, to make more space on our computers, or whether they were scrubbed clean in a more sophisticated which, of course, would be more of a red flag.
So investigators are also looking at information, such as a browser history, visits to chat rooms, even online research that the pilots might have done, anything to help them build profiles of the two men who were flying Flight 370.
At this point, important to note we have no information indicating the pilots were planning the plane's disappearance, and the hard drive could ultimately end up being an insignificant part of the process. We just don't know.
BLITZER: They are working hard to try to figure all that out. Pamela Brown, thanks very much. Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our justice reporter, Evan Perez. He's got new information on the investigation.
Also with us are aviation analyst Mark Weiss. He's a security consultant and a triple-7 pilot. Also, our aviation analyst Peter Goelz. He's the former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, along with CNN's law-enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes.
Evan, let's start with you. You're talking to your sources. You're learning new information. Tell us what you've learned.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the leading theory, we're hearing from counterterrorism officials here in the United States, is that they believe this is ultimately going to prove to be an accident.
Now, you know, they're not ruling out anything. There are still a lot of questions that they're -- that they're looking into, but they've come to this conclusion, this initial conclusion, at least, simply because they've looked at online profiles. They've done interviews with neighbors, friends. And they've done everything they think they can to put together profiles of these two pilots to try to determine whether there was anything that indicates they could have done this. And so what they -- what they've reached at is simply, you know, the lack of other information, leads them to think that this is probably the leading theory that they can come up with.
BLITZER: So these are counterterrorism experts who are coming up with this analysis? Right?
PEREZ: That's right.
BLITZER: These are counterterrorism experts. They have said they see no evidence there of terrorism. Do they see any evidence potentially of pilot suicide?
PEREZ: Well, you know, that's obviously still an open question. They're still looking at that issue. But they can -- similarly, they're trying to figure out if there's anything they can find out in the pilot's background that might give them a clue on this, and so far, nothing.
BLITZER: So that's -- but these are U.S. officials?
PEREZ: That's right.
BLITZER: Counterterrorism officials, working closely with authorities in Malaysia and elsewhere, that they see no evidence two weeks into this...
PEREZ: That's right.
BLITZER: ... of any terrorism as a result they have concluded most likely it was some sort of either catastrophic failure, whatever, or pilot suicide, but they haven't seen any evidence of terrorism?
PEREZ: That's right.
BLITZER: All right, Mark, you're triple-7 pilot. You're an aviation expert. These are counterterrorism experts. They've reached this conclusion, tentative conclusion, we should say, two weeks in. What do you think?
MARK WEISS, AVIATION EXPERT: Well, remember two weeks ago they also thought that it was a hostile takeover of an aircraft. This speculation is just that at this point, and there's no validity in either direction.
BLITZER: What do you think, Peter? Because you've worked with various branches of the U.S. government, and sometimes they come up with different conclusions. PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think if they've done that kind of scrubbing, that we'll accept it to date. But let's keep looking. I mean, we've got to zero in on the cockpit. We've got to know what happened inside there. We just don't know yet.
BLITZER: Tom, you're a former assistant director of the FBI. If counterterrorism experts are telling Evan they haven't seen any evidence of any terrorism along those lines, as a result they suspect some sort of a mechanical failure or something else, what do you -- what do you say?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I'm skeptical of that, frankly. I think it's too soon for anybody to draw a conclusion or say we don't think it's terrorism, or we don't think it's suicide, or we don't think it's mechanical. I think that, you know, somebody -- with the amount of data that we have so far that would come to that kind of conclusion, I think is pretty premature.
BLITZER: Because all along, Peter -- correct me if I'm wrong -- you've suspected that there was a human being responsible for this horrible situation?
GOELZ: That is where I've come down. That's at the top of my list. I haven't eliminated any other potential causes, but that's where I've been.
BLITZER: And you also believe a person was responsible for this or persons?
WEISS: Yes, there was human intervention that caused this catastrophic accident.
BLITZER: So you're surprised that counterterrorism experts are coming to a different tentative conclusion?
WEISS: Well, I'm a little surprised at it this early, yes.
BLITZER: Evan, you want to weigh in?
PEREZ: I think, as I said, nothing has been ruled out yet. I mean, there's still plenty of investigative work to be done. It's just, you know, these guys are looking through everything they can, everything that they -- from these interviews that have been done with family members, with any indications. They've looked at financial records. They've looked at online records. They see nothing that can explain this in any other way. And so right now, that's where they're resting their theories. That can change, obviously, as they continue...
BLITZER: You used the word "accident." Is that different than mechanical failure? What does that mean, an accident?
PEREZ: That's a broad theory that covers a lot of that, exactly. It doesn't mean -- it means that they believe that, you know, nothing so far indicates someone did this on purpose. Crashed this plane on purpose, perhaps, wherever it is. BLITZER: You want to add something, Tom.
FUENTES: Wolf, 11 months ago we had the Boston Marathon bombings, and in that case the two brothers that committed the bombing didn't tell anybody. Nobody knew what they were thinking. Going to school, their friends, their relatives, you know, family. There was nothing to indicate what they had on their mind until they did it.
So we've had other cases of lone wolves that really you'd have to read their mind, and just because they didn't go to jihadi Web sites or exchange e-mails with known bad guys or go to, you know, meetings with other people, it doesn't mean that one or two -- one or both of these gentlemen in the cockpit didn't become self-radicalized.
BLITZER: Or someone else on that plane somehow got access to the cockpit, did something that forced this plane to move hijackers, if you will, or something along those lines.
It may not be one of these two pilots responsible. It could have been somebody else.
FUENTES: Counterterrorism officials might say we don't suspect a wider conspiracy. We don't expect al Qaeda central was behind this or something. That's one thing. But to rule out that anything like that happened on that plane at this point is wrong.
BLITZER: Quickly, Mark, you're a triple-7 pilot. You've read the transcript now of what the co-pilot was telling ground control during the first 50 minutes or so of this flight before it took that sharp left turn. Anything untoward, anything suspicious pop up at you?
Not necessarily suspicious but, you know, on a quick read, there's a couple of questions with the six-minute delay, why you say twice your altitude. He could have forgotten that he had been there or reported back into. So on a quick read, not really that suspicious.
BLITZER: Nothing suspicious. You agree?
GOELZ: The only thing I saw was that early in the flight they were quick to respond to air traffic control. Three seconds. Late in the flight, it took them minutes to respond. Now, I don't know why, but that's -- that's what the transcript shows.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on, guys, because we're going to take a quick break. We've got a lot more news. We're following the breaking news here.
Also coming up, the ferocious winds, the raging seas, the very rough weather. That's what searchers can expect in an area of the Indian Ocean known as the roaring 40s.
And Malaysia makes an urgent appeal around the world for the latest in search technology. We're taking a closer look at the tools available in the hunt for the airliner.
BLITZER: It's now morning in the search zone, and planes are getting ready to resume the search for possible debris spotted days ago by a satellite. Malaysian authorities are asking for high-tech help from the United States. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's learning more about what's going on -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Australians have just announced the plan for today, of course. The sunrise coming up in Australia right now. Four military aircraft will go up and search. And now, they have two -- two -- commercial long-range jets that will also go up and search. They hope to find something.
STARR (voice-over): CNN has learned Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a team of military underwater surveillance experts to see what technologies the U.S. can use to help hunt for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 wreckage and data recorders. This after a 30- minute conversation between Hagel and Malaysian Defense Minister Hussein.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The defense minister of Malaysia, who is also the acting transport minister, asked Secretary Hagel to consider providing some undersea surveillance equipment to help them locate the black box and/or the -- whatever wreckage might be underwater.
STARR: The Malaysians are interested in both the U.S. sonar that can listen for pings from the data recorders and deep ocean salvage capability to raise any debris from the sea. But experts say first the debris must be found in order to begin to even know what to do next. The outlook for finding debris discouraging. So a new plan.
JOHN YOUNG, AUSTRALIAN MARITIME SOCIETY AUTHORITY: Knowing that we got no radar detections yesterday, we have re-planned the search to be visual. So aircraft flying relatively low, highly skilled and trained observers looking out of the aircraft windows and looking to see objects.
STARR: As the search goes on, some sensors are being dropped to monitor water direction and speed in hopes of further narrowing down the search area.
But still, the mystery about what happened. Inmarsat, which monitored the last data from the plane, now believes it likely flew at a stable altitude, raising questions about whether the plane was flying on autopilot.
STARR: Wolf, this aerial search now has gone on so long that these aircraft and their crews are going to have to take crew rest days, land a full day for routine maintenance. They can't keep going around the clock. It looks like the U.S. is going to take its turn and then other aircraft. Don't expect at this point to see the U.S. flying in the next 24 hours. But we're told it's routine crew rest and maintenance, at least at this point, wolf.
BLITZER: We'll check in with what's going on at Perth, Australia, at that base. Barbara, thanks very much.
Talk of the middle of nowhere. The search for the missing airliner is focused on one of the most remote areas on the planet, where powerful winds, raging seas are the norm, making search conditions extraordinarily difficult.
Brian Todd is here. He's got a closer look at this part of the story -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one oceanographer calls this region, quote, close to the ends of the earth. He says you could not find a place more remote, more harsh to operate in for search teams than the southern Indian Ocean. And with the coming change in seasons, conditions are about to get worse.
TODD (voice-over): These are the kinds of extreme conditions that searchers are up against. As this YouTube video shows, the Indian Ocean can face massive swells. This clip shows a Russian vessel having a tough time in the same area that's now the focus of the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: It's about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the earth.
TODD: That search area, roughly 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, four hours each way in a plane, is notorious for its horrible weather and sea conditions, especially in the fall and winter, the season about to start in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mariners call that region the roaring 40s, starting at about 40 degrees south latitude, right about there, extending to about 65 degrees south latitude, almost to Antarctica. There are no land masses in that entire area.
CAPT. VAN GURLEY (RET.), FORMER NAVY OCEANOGRAPHER: So what that means is you have a weather pattern that sort of starts ringing the world with nothing to break it up. So you get high winds and high seas that are persistent with major storms rolling through every three or four days.
TODD: High winds from those storms create some of the world's worst conditions for ships. Search aircraft have to navigate through rain and low cloud ceilings.
GURLEY: So when you have aircraft trying to do a visual search of the ocean's surface in a rainy, low, overcast environment, it's a hard time for them to really get down low enough to see anything.
TODD: And because there are no land masses, vessels can't stop anywhere to load up on food and water or address a maintenance issue.
CHRISTINE DENNISON, EXPEDITIONS LOGISTICS EXPERT: It's not something that they're just going to wrap up at the end of the day and go home. They're going to sit there.
TODD: If they get a good lead, there's another potential problem. Search teams will likely use sonar to locate possible wreckage. They may need to pull along a sonar sled from the ship. That's called a towed array.
ROB MCCALLUM, OCEAN SEARCH SPECIALIST: If you want to search vast areas of the ocean, then you use a towed array, because it's a much more powerful system.
TODD: But that requires crew members to be on the deck of the ship for a long time. And how can they stay on deck when this is happening?
TODD: Now, another feature of that region that makes it problematic for search teams, a sea floor that has not been well- explored. Van Gurley says there's been no detailed mapping of the topography at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, at least that region of the Indian Ocean. And with depths of 10 to 13,000 feet, that is a big problem, too, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, another big problem is a lot of trash floating in that area. Under normal circumstances, a lot of ships, they just dump stuff into those waters. How big of a problem is this right now?
TODD: Well, it could be a significant problem. In some regions it is, Wolf. You know, experts call those circulations of current in these oceans the so-called gyre. And often huge chunks of trash and flotsam get caught up in these things. Van Gurley says that's more of a problem in those busier shipping lanes in the Atlantic and Pacific then it is here in the southern Indian Ocean, but of course with the weather and everything else, it could still add to the problems.
BLITZER: Another problem there. All right. Thanks very much, Brian Todd.
Coming up, the sun now rising over western Australia. Search planes are preparing to take off. Will they actually take off? We're going to go live to Australia for the latest on the search. And we'll get the expert opinion of the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, retired vice admiral Robert Moret. They are walking into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll discuss what's going on. Stand by.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our breaking news. Aircraft are set to resume the search for debris in the remote part of the Indian Ocean, but a U.S. surveillance plane will not -- repeat not -- be among them on this day. Naval vessels from several countries are also heading to the area. The staging point for the flights is Perth, Australia, the west coast of Australia.
CNN's Kyung Lah is there with the latest, the sun just coming up. Kyung, what is the latest?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're about 30 minutes away from the real daybreak here. You can see it's just on the cusp of it, and when daybreak does happen here in Australia, we are expecting that the planes will take to the skies.
So what's going to happen today? Three P-3 Orions from Australia, one from New Zealand and two long-range civilian planes will be taking off from this military installation, heading that four hours down to the search area, taking two hours to search and then returning.
The P-8 Orion, we have just learned from the U.S. Navy, will not be taking to the air today, the second day in a row it will have routine scheduled maintenance -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What does that mean? Routine scheduled maintenance the second day in a row. Are they giving you any further explanation why that U.S. P-8, the Poseidon, will not be involved in the hunt on this day?
LAH: It's not really clear. We know that they have to have a certain number of hours down, but we're not sure why it has to be two days in a row. So we need to check in on that, and hopefully, I'll have more for you shortly.
BLITZER: All right. We'll check back with you. Kyung Lah, Perth, Australia.
Let's get a closer look now at the aircraft and the ships involved in this massive hunt for the missing airliner, some of the high-tech equipment they can deploy to try to pinpoint a location. Our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is picking up this part of the story -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Wolf, time is running out quickly to find those flight data recorders which are likely deep in the sea. But they do have a battery life of about 30 days. We're 14 days into this.
Once they go dead, however, the search is going to get a lot harder. So the Malaysian government is now asking countries around the world to step in and step up in providing the best equipment to find this missing flight.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): A robust international search force is scouring a treacherously dangerous area, 1,500 miles off the coast of Australia, in the frantic hunt for missing Malaysian Flight 370. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just stress that the most sophisticated planes, aircrafts and vessels are heading in that direction.
MALVEAUX: From Norway, the first ship to arrive to the search field. From China, three warships, an ice breaker and aircraft. From Australia and New Zealand highly sophisticated aircraft, the P-3 Orions, flying to search the 8900 square mile area before refueling from western Australia.
Then there is the U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon, which can search for as long as nine hours. Earlier in the week, the surveillance planed picked up 400 radar contacts during the flight but, unfortunately, none of them were from the Malaysian plane. The P-8 flies at an altitude of about 5,000 feet but can drop to 1,000 feet to eyeball objects picked up by radar.
JASON SUMMERS, APPLIED RESEARCH IN ACOUSTICS: The information is going to have to come from a visual search, whether that's from actual people looking outside of the plane or more likely from things like satellite imagery.
MALVEAUX: The plane will then drop so-called sonobuoys into the sea.
SUMMERS: It's a compact module. They can be deployed from a ship or in this case, a plane. It drops into the water and when it makes contact with the water, there's a variety of hydrophones, which are like microphones used underwater that are deployed out of it in a big array.
Listening from this case the pinger from the black box. The sonobuoys have a radio frequency transmitter. So when -- what they are listening to with their hydrophones is sent back to the planes that deployed them by radio frequency.
MALVEAUX: Operators on board the aircraft are trained to listen and read the signals.
SUMMERS: Perhaps an analogy we might all be familiar with is you're listening for your cell phone in the middle of the subway when the trains are running by. It's a signal that we know exactly what it is but it's quite quiet relative to the background.
MALVEAUX: But even with all the sophisticated equipment in the world, finding the missing plane also depends on Mother Nature.
SUMMERS: You're dealing with relatively deep ocean, a very, very quiet signal, these black boxes don't produce much sound at all. And especially when -- if it's very deep, it's very hard to hear.
MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, we're talking from satellite to visual to sonobuoys to robotic submersibles. This is all about narrowing that search field to find this missing plane and of course we're talking about time that is quickly running out -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that.
Joining us now retired Vice Admiral Robert Murrett. He's the former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency along with the former Joint Chiefs chairman, retired General Richard Myers.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in.
General Myers, first to you. How extraordinary is this search right now? You're a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Have you ever seen anything like this before?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: You know, yes, probably we've had searches of this magnitude before and what is encouraging here is the number of nations that are participating and it sounds like Malaysia has put out the calls and my guess is there will be more because given the size of the area they're searching, they're going to need a lot of eyes on that area. And maybe -- I mean, we don't even know if this is the right area.
BLITZER: But a lot of those nations, they don't like each other. So here's the question. Will they all contribute their best? Will everyone give them their best high-tech equipment or will they hold back?
MYERS: In my experience, for something like this, which is along the scale of a humanitarian issue, they'll give their best equipment and their best people for this. They want -- they want to do well.
BLITZER: Admiral, you're an expert on radar and satellites. You understand this stuff a lot better than I do and our viewers do. Why is it so difficult, given the technology out there, to find a 777?
VICE ADM. ROBERT MURRETT, FORMER DIR., NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL- INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I think there's a couple of factors at work there, Wolf. The first is the delay, so to speak, that we had between we didn't know which area needed to be searched most carefully, and it wasn't really until, I guess, about last Saturday, about a week into the disappearance of the aircraft that people really knew that we needed to focus on the southeastern Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia.
I think the second factor is the challenges, a tenet with an open ocean search over a vast area of ocean, especially given the currents and so on over the week or so before we knew with any precision at all where to look for the missing aircraft based upon the delay that we talked about earlier. And I think the third factor is the -- just the challenges for any kind of technical sensor or for the surveillance flights that we've talked about here tonight, when surveying the high seas because of wind states, the darkness, fog, just the --
BLITZER: You saw those satellite images that were released.
MURRETT: I did.
BLITZER: Showing a large chunk of something, smaller chunk of something from a commercial satellite, you've spent your career looking at those kinds of images. Did that look like a 777 to you?
MURRETT: We don't know, Wolf. I mean, it was a piece of, you know, lots of (INAUDIBLE) in the ocean. There are a lot of things out there. There wasn't enough -- and you need to go to an imagery analyst to look at it in detail but there wasn't enough precision in that and (INAUDIBLE) wherever it was.
BLITZER: The first -- the first week or so everyone wasted time apparently looking totally in the wrong direction, General. How big of a problem was it?
MYERS: Well, it's always a problem and there are still some question now and as time goes on, if this is really where the plane went down --
BLITZER: In the southern Indian Ocean.
MYERS: Southern ocean. The bigger pieces likely could have sunk, then you have smaller pieces that are going to be dispersed by the currents and by the wind down there and so it becomes more difficult. It's not going to be as concentrated I think it might have been the first few days.
BLITZER: Do commercial satellites have the same capability as a U.S. government satellite? Because -- I mean, you've studied these and I don't want you to give away any sensitive or classified information. But how good is the resolution from way up there to look down atop of the water and see something on your -- the government satellites as opposed to commercial satellites?
MURRETT: Wolf, I can't comment on the capabilities that we have (INAUDIBLE) for our government compared to the commercial ones. I can only say that I'm very confident if we had any data at all that was actionable on the government side, it's like General Myers would (INAUDIBLE), we'd be providing it.
BLITZER: Even if it would compromise national -- if compromised sources and methods, you'd still show those messages?
MURRETT: I don't know if we need to go there, Wolf. There are ways of releasing data. You know, we've had a lot of experience, the gulf oil spill, for example, Hurricane Katrina, we've gotten fairly proficient, I think, in the organizations like over the past several years in releasing data that needs to be released without compromising where it came from.
MYERS: And I know there's some government agencies in particular Air Force Space Command that on their own has been using some of their resources to help look and nobody has asked them to do that. They did that early on.
BLITZER: They just volunteered. Have they found anything?
BLITZER: Have you -- from all your indications, your sources, have you heard if they're making any progress in really locating where this airliner is?
MYERS: No, I have not heard anything.
BLITZER: Have you?
BLITZER: So is it your sense -- and both of you are experts in this area -- that -- and I'll ask General Myers first that this was a mechanical failure or an individual or individuals were responsible for the disappearance of this aircraft?
MYERS: First, you don't know. Nobody knows and I don't think anybody that opines is -- knows. They are all guessing. Probability, when an aircraft mishap happens, probability is, it's pilot error. That's been historically true since Oroville and Wilbur flew, so you'd have to go there first. Mechanical is down that list. And then misconduct by somebody -- an aircrew member or somebody -- some passengers, somebody -- terrorism or something like that I think would have to be considered.
BLITZER: As far as your concerned all of those options --
MYERS: They ought to be all on the table and people that are investigating ought to keep their intellectual aperture wide open to address all of these.
BLITZER: Do you agree with all of that?
BLITZER: Is -- do you have confidence that the Malaysians know what they are doing when it comes to this -- or do they need an international consortium to come to their aid?
MURRETT: I would say, and as General Myers mentioned earlier, I think the international consortium coming together is important. Perhaps they could have come together earlier. I don't want to pass on judgment but certainly the fact that so many people are participating is just (INAUDIBLE) and I think a good sign.
BLITZER: Do you have any indication of when we're going to find this plane?
MURRETT: We don't. You know, the -- just one thing I'd mention, Wolf, I mean, the part of the world assuming that the search should be focused on the Southern Indian Ocean, I mean, it's very, very challenging. Just when -- compare and contrast, for example, this aircraft had, say, gone down to the Mediterranean, it would be a simple task to find debris and locate it but in this part of the world, it's just several orders of magnitude.
BLITZER: One final question. If it had gone north over land, towards India or Pakistan or Kazakhstan, you think there would have been some indication of that? MYERS: It's possible. All of those countries have radars. They might have picked something up. Again if the transponder is off, they're looking for what we would call a skin painting on the aircraft. It would be a lot more problematic but yes, I think it'd be a lot easier search even if it went down over land in a general area, an easier search than the ocean search. A sea state makes such a difference.
BLITZER: General, Admiral, thanks very much for coming in.
Up next, time is running out in the search for Flight 370's flight data recorder. But one move in the cockpit could make the whole search for nothing. We're going to explain the newest theory of sabotage and a transcript that shows the last conversations between Flight 370 and air traffic control. What clues does it hold?
BLITZER: The clock is racing as search teams scour the Indian Ocean and beyond for Flight 370 and its all important flight data and voice recorders. But a new theory has some worried that the search for the so-called black box may be for nothing.
CNN's Athena Jones is joining us now to explain -- Athena.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf, well, apart from finding the plane, these recorders are the most important part of this investigation. If they don't find them, what happened could remain a mystery forever. And even if investigators do find them, there's still a big question about what's going to be on them.
JONES (voice-over): Time is running out to find the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder for Flight 370. The devices could be miles under water, the pinging signals they send only have a range of a few miles and their batteries are only required to last 30 days.
STEVEN WALLACE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It is a needle in a haystack and obviously it becomes substantially more difficult to find them once the pingers have gone silent.
JONES: The flight data recorder tracks 80 or more data points during the flight including the plane's pitch, altitude, speed, cabin pressure, the placement of the yolk and the throttle and automation codes, like whether the pilots turned it manually, used autopilot or a combination of both. That kind of information is essential to figuring out what happened.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: There is a rich amount of data on that flight data recorder, you a assuming it is intact, it's found, and some circuit breaker wasn't pulled.
JONES: That's right. There's a possibility both recorders were shut off, either because the circuit breakers were intentionally pulled or due to a catastrophic power failure. Even if investigators find both devices, there's a big chance we won't hear any voices on the voice data recorder. Why? Unlike the flight data recorder which goes for 36 hours, the voice recorder only records on a two-hour loop.
So if the plane kept flying for seven hours or more, as authorities believe, we may not ever know what was happening at that critical point early on when it changed course. But experts say even if the device was deliberately shut off, that doesn't mean investigators would be out of luck because it would still record the moment the breaker was pulled.
But why is it even possible to shut off these devices?
O'BRIEN: Pilots want to be able to turn everything off if they can. If you have an electrical fire, and you're trying to figure out what's going on, you need to have the capability of taking the energy out of every box you have. So it's a safety thing.
JONES: Now a lot of folks are probably wondering why those voice recorders only go for two hours before looping back. Is there a technical reason? The answer to that is no, technology exist or record and store many more hours of voice data than they are doing right now. Some say the real issue is pilot unions who've been very sensitive to the issue of being recorded in the cockpit, whether via a video camera, an idea that has been suggested, or by these hours-long voice recordings, perhaps fear of liability issues.
Now I reached out to the Airline Pilots Association to talk about this and they didn't get back to me -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena Jones, thanks very much.
Let's bring back our aviation analyst Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board.
This is potentially a big problem, that there's a limited amount of voice -- there may be nothing on the voice recorder, this is the flight data recorder that we have here. That would be awful if you didn't hear anything because there's just a two-hour limit. The last two hours would be recorded and could be silenced.
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That is more than likely. The event is not going to be covered. It is likely recorded over or, as Miles pointed out, they could have pulled the circuit breaker just before the event started if there was an event in the cockpit.
BLITZER: Can they do that from the cockpit, pull that circuit breaker?
GOELZ: They have to get up and go back and pull it, but yes, they can pull it.
BLITZER: They have to go outside of the cockpit?
GOELZ: Well, no, just within the cockpit.
BLITZER: That is -- that sounds so crazy.
GOELZ: Well, it's --
BLITZER: That a human being -- given the history that there are pilot suicide episodes out there, that someone could just pull that circuit breaker and end it?
GOELZ: It has been an issue for the NTSB, and with the FAA, and with pilots for years.
BLITZER: After this is over, everyone is going to sit down and learn lessons from this and make changes to make sure we don't go through this again. Because if we don't learn from history, we're bound to repeat it.
BLITZER: Peter -- all right, thanks very much.
Just ahead, what were the final communications between Flight 370 and air traffic controllers? A transcript may, repeat, may contain some clues. And deleted files on the pilot's flight simulator even closer to Flight 370's takeoff. CNN is digging for the latest on the investigation.
BLITZER: Get back to our search, our coverage of the search for Flight 370 in just a moment. But first another urgent story we're following right now.
The United States closely watching as Russian troops are amassing on the Ukrainian border. The source telling CNN the Obama administration is suspicious of the military movement, fearing a further push into Ukraine by Russia.
Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us now with the very latest.
What are you hearing, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is a question that White House reporters have been pressing this administration to answer all week and that is whether the U.S. is reassessing its relationship with Russia and earlier today, National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, gave a pretty straightforward answer to that question and that is yes.
Rice who spoke at the White House briefing earlier this afternoon declined to specify what the White House thinks in terms of Vladimir Putin's motivations are in terms of what he's doing right now in Ukraine but she did say the U.S. is keeping a close eye on those thousands of troops building up on the Ukrainian border. Here's what she had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's not clear what that signals, the Russians have stated that they are intended military exercises, obviously given their past practice and the gap between what they have said and what they have done, we are watching it with skepticism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now senior administration officials have warned all week that if the Russians were to move into other parts of Ukraine, the U.S. would start ramping up sanctions very quickly. Next up in the sanctions would be the energy industry. That is obviously a very important part of Russia's economy.
And, Wolf, all of this is going to overshadow the president's overseas trip next week. He is scheduled to meet with leaders from the G-7, the president of China, leaders from NATO, all about Ukraine and of course all of this comes as the president already has a very busy agenda for next week. He's already scheduled to meet with the Pope in Rome and King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He's got a busy trip ahead of him. Are you hearing anything about the president delivering potentially a direct message to the Russian President Vladimir Putin?
ACOSTA: Well, I put that question to Susan Rice earlier today and she said that the president has been doing that all along. She didn't say that he wouldn't. So I would expect the president to do that once again next week and keep in mind that the president's key speech of the week will be in Brussels. On Wednesday White House officials say that will be on European security and much of it will of course be on the Ukraine -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you.
Coming up, we're examining the final 54 minutes of communication between Flight 370 and air traffic control on the ground. We're going to show you what we're learning.
And it's the FBI's top priority right now, the files deleted from the pilot's flight simulator just ahead a Flight 370's takeoff.