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Mystery of Flight 370
Aired April 1, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Michael Smerconish.
We're going to get the latest on Flight 370 in just a moment.
But we have breaking news tonight. Tsunami waves six and a half feet high reported off the coast of Chile following an 8.2 magnitude earthquake.
Chile's national emergency office tweeted tonight that it's asking for everyone to evacuate the South American nation's coast.
Shasta Darlington has the very latest. Shasta, what are you hearing from the local media?
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Michael. We're actually already seeing some evacuations underway. What we've seen so far is that they are -- they're very calm, they've been ordered to get to higher grounds but they're doing it in very orderly fashion.
We've actually also talked to people in the capital in Santiago who said they did not feel the earthquake. It was up along the northern coast near Etika (ph) off the coast of the mining town of Etika, that's where the epicenter was. For a lot of people in northern Chile, Southern Peru, that's where it's really being felt and that's where the evacuation are being carried out with a bit more urgency. This is where the waves have already started crashing on shore. As you said that six and a half foot tsunami and this is where we're going to see a lot of the action moving forward.
Hopefully, again, the warnings are getting out fast enough for people to get out of harms way and that's what we'll be keeping an eye on, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Shasta, you're in Sao Paolo, how common are these events in that part of the world?
DARLINGTON: Well, in Chile, it's very common, in Chile, Peru, we see these earthquakes, we've seen tsunamis before and something that just happens time and time again which means of course they're better prepared. They know when the warnings go out, what to do. They gather what's absolutely necessary and head for higher ground and that's what they're doing.
This -- it could take even hours for any possible tsunamis to get to further coastlines. There was actually -- the pacific tsunami warning center said for example that the waves were to impact Hawaii and it wouldn't be until the predawn hours.
So what we're seeing in Northern Chile is just the initial reaction of this earthquake which could continue to spread and so we're going to have to wait for that, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Is there any anticipated time by which waves could hit landfall or is it premature to know that?
DARLINGTON: Well, in -- right off the coast, or actually the coast nearest to the epicenter, we are already seeing those waves. The big question is could they get bigger in six and a half foot waves? It's not something anybody wants to see but the concern is that we could get a bigger tsunami as the ripple effect itself as it reaches further shores, will the tsunamis get bigger or could we perhaps not see any at all?
These are the questions we're trying to get answered as quickly as possible, Michael.
SMERCONISH: And Shasta, I know that it's all just unfolding as we speak but you mentioned a moment ago, there is a certain level of preparedness by folks in this part of the world because these things are not all that uncommon. Any sense of panic or is it orderly as far as you can tell at this moment?
DARLINGTON: Really, what we've seen in the images and we've seen that it's been very orderly. I think impart because this wasn't felt in the capital of Chile in Santiago. There's a sense -- this isn't one of those biggies. Of course, in northern Chile that's probably not what's going through their heads.
Nonetheless, they've been ordered to evacuate and everything we've seen so far that the -- those evacuations are being carried out in an orderly fashion. And the same goes for southern Peru where they've also ordered evacuations there. Everything we've seen so far, things are being carried out in an orderly fashion, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Shasta Darlington, thank you so much and stay safe.
Now, I want to go to Frank Gonzalez of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He joins me via telephone.
Frank, school me on some of the basics between a relationship between an earthquake and a potential tsunami.
FRANK GONZALEZ, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: Yeah, well, these particular kinds of zones are called Subduction zones. Subduction is a word that refers to a pacific plate diving under the continent. In this case, it's the pacific plate diving under Chile and the rest of South America.
So those plates stick together because the rocks rub against each other and so forth. And the pressure builds for years and years and finally the rock breaks the earth's crust springs back and the vertical motion generates the wave at the surface of the ocean.
SMERCONISH: How long does it typically take before we can discern whether the tsunami could meet some of the expectations?
GONZALEZ: Well, the measurements have already been -- I mean the tight gauges along the coast have already picked up as Shasta was saying six foot waves. I don't see a lot of other reports but undoubtedly there's very high waves all along the South American coast there.
SMERCONISH: And I was going to ask, Frank, where else might this make a landfall? What would some of the affected areas that would be most of concern?
GONZALEZ: Well, conceivably, you could have waves hit Japan all the way across the ocean. They would take about 20, 24 hours to get there. We will see a landfall along the California coast for waves somewhere between 12 and 15 hours, 12 hours at the Southern edge of California and 15 or so up in Washington State.
SMERCONISH: Frank, is there precedent in this part of the world for this type of an event, an 8.2?
GONZALEZ: Yeah. This place manufactures earthquakes all the time back in 2010. There was a large earthquake that killed more than 550 people and it's the cause of the nature of the subduction zone. It's just the way that nature works. The Pacific plates are always moving and where they -- where there's a junction between the pacific plate and land eventually the pressure builds up and breaks and so it's a recurring cycle. The same thing happens off of the Washington-Oregon coast.
SMERCONISH: Frank Gonzales of Noah. Thanks so much for joining us.
Now, on the phone, Lucy Jones of the US Geological Survey. Lucy, Reuters are saying there's some early reports of landslides partially blocking some roads, is that what we can expect from an 8.2 earthquake?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They misspelled my name and they didn't get the right ...
SMERCONISH: I think we lost Lucy. We will come back in just a moment after the break with Lucy and all the updates on this evolving story.
SMERCONISH: Our breaking news again. An earthquake and tsunami waves of the coast of Chile, we'll bring you updates throughout the hour.
Now let's get to the mystery of Flight 370, but tonight we'd like to do it in a different way and take you behind the scenes of the search. Is everything being done in the right way before time runs out? We're on that in a moment.
Here's what's happening right now. The search area has moved, yet again, this time to the east closer to Perth. Planes and ships are closing in on that area at this moment. In fact, there's so many aircraft in the sky that Australia is sending an air traffic control plane just to keep them from crashing into one another.
And now a nuclear sub, Britain's HMS Tireless is joining the search. Take a look at the search area. There's a lot of open water to cover, and they're running out of time. The batteries in the plane's data recorders, the so called black boxes are designed to last 30 days. The plane's been missing for 25, and until they find wreckage, the U.S. navy's pinger locator and submersible are of no use.
Meanwhile, Malaysia officials, airline officials are meeting with Chinese family members behind closed doors today in Kuala Lumpur. And here's an intriguing detail. Technical experts from three countries will be there along with the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia.
What will they tell the families about their missing loved ones? We'll bring you news from that high level meeting as soon as we get it.
Tonight, we've called in experts in aviations, satellites, radar and the law, including one who says, Malaysia has bungled this investigation from day one. We'll dig in to these unanswered questions. What does the transcript of the radio chatter between air traffic controllers reveal? Why does the Malaysian government say the plane's turn off course is being considered a criminal act?
Now let's get started.
So first off, what we've learned in this investigation. Why it's taking so long and who's to blame?
Joining me now to sort it out, Michael Goldfarb, a former Federal Aviation Administration chief of staff, also Keith Masback, he's an expert on satellite technology and has extensive experience in intelligence gathering, and aviation Attorney Steven Marks, he represented families from Air France Flight 447. That plane's wreckage was found in the Atlantic within days, but the black boxes were not recovered for almost two years.
Michael, let me begin with you, you're the one who believes that this investigation has been bungled from Jump Street, tell me how.
MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FMR FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, you know, we -- I know we're beating up on the Malaysians, Michael, and I know we have the best assets in the world and everybody is putting a good face on this in trying to do the best they can. So there's no question of that in whether it was by design or default the Malaysians were either caught off guard or just didn't know how to carry out this investigation.
Let's go back and understand why we're in this situation we're in. All we really know is the plane took off from Kuala Lumpur. It went missing between two air traffic controll facilities Ho Chi Minh and the Malaysian Air Center. It supposedly made a left turn and went west. We know that that turn, we don't know if it was criminal, whether it was willful, whether the pilots are responding to an emergency. We have a Malaysian radar which is the Primary Radar that just pings the target, it gives you no good information. Seeing that plane in the Straits of Malacca and then we have the Inmarsat satellites, which are getting this handshake pin. That's an incredibly small amount of information to base this investigation on. So we have that and basically using old fashion advanced algebra and geometry, the experts have been able to look and plot what they believe are the search zones.
But quite frankly at this stage of the investigation, we would consider success finding just a piece of that plane to find those so called black boxes is highly unlikely and most people believe could take many years.
And, Michael, the reason, the difference between this search and Air France comes down to a couple of things. Malaysia Air made a decision not to buy an application, an app that would have upgraded their avionics. So when ACARS, that reporting system went out, whether by design or whether someone took it out and the satellite just got a handshake, all the information that Air France had about attitude heading speed altitude.
All of those things that are critical to kind of zone in on the crash site, they were out of this. We did not have that capability. So those -- and I think the decision was $10 a flight, a $100,000 in the airport -- an airplane. The view is that the Boeing aircraft is a very safe aircraft and they just didn't want to do it from cost standpoint. And now we're paying a horrific price, we have no stability in the investigation, we don't know where it is and now we're moving the search zone.
So this is kind of a case study in looking back on this and how not to do it and it's going change aviation forever in some very important areas going forward.
SMERCONISH: Steven Marks, you heard what Michael Goldfarb had to say. You of course were involved in the Air France litigation. Does what his just articulated make sense to you?
STEVEN MARKS, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Well, absolutely. In Air France we did have the ACARS, so we knew in real time what was transpiring and the search site was pretty narrow and as much as we knew the general area. It wasn't shifting by thousands of miles and as is the constant day to day shifts that we're seeing right now. I'll be a little less diplomatic. I think that there has been terrible mistakes made early on in the investigation. It was obvious to me early on that the Malaysian government didn't have the capability of doing it.
A lot of foreign governments don't, they don't have the expertise which is a good thing, because there aren't that many crashes, so they never see this before.
In this particular case, I understand nationalism, but they should have called in the NTSB which foreign governments routinely do in these accident investigations. There's no pride in not knowing. The problem here is you have Boeing and the Malaysian government, the only two parties who are the likely responsible parties who are investigating themselves. They are running this investigation and it seems like they've jumped to conclusions prematurely, like when they say that the transponder was turned off intentionally. No one knows that. There's no factual basis for that statement. We know it stopped working.
And when you start piecing these little bits together, it's clear that the assumptions are leading us to a conclusion instead of looking at all of the facts with an open mind and keeping all the possibilities open. And I think it's a dangerous thing that they've done and it's unfair to the families.
SMERCONISH: Steve, your belief is that Boeing is playing a critical role in this investigation. I have not seen anyone from Boeing out in front on this case thus far. What's the basis for you saying that along with the Malaysians, they're playing this pivotal role?
MARKS: Well, I've been involved in most every investigations, I'm representing families for the last 30 years. I know in everyone of them under Annex 13 of ICAO, the International Civil Aeronautics Organization, foreign governments area allowed to invite participants. Boeing and Airbus, the two (inaudible) manufactures are routinely instantly invited, they have the technical capability of analyzing the plane, telling the investigators how it works, giving them drawings, giving them flight simulators, doing flight test and it's necessary. I'm not saying it's wrong. It's part of the process. It always happens.
In this particular case if you recall in one of the briefings where the woman was escorted, that horrible scene with all the reporters, the official press conference, I noticed on the wall a Boeing sign. It looked to me that they were holding press conferences at Boeing facility. I know from prior experience there's no doubt, Silk Air, Boeing had an intimate role with the Indonesian government. They've flooded these intentional misconduct theories very early. We see the same thing happening here. It may turn out to be the case. But it's wrong to start off with conclusion without factual basis and that I think is what's occurring here.
SMERCONISH: Keith Masback, you've been making many appearances here on CNN because of your expertise. I'm curious with your new notoriety. When you're out and about, what do people stop you and most want to know about this case? That's part A. And what misconceptions do you think exist in the minds of the public?
KEITH MASBACK, CEO UNITED STATES GEOSPATIAL INTELLIGENCE FDN: Well, I think it comes back to the idea of, "Hey, I've got Google Earth, I can see things in my yard, why can't we find this plane?" And it gets down to some basic understanding of how satellites operate, they're not on all the time, they're not searching the globe 24/7, 365. The decision to employ a satellite with finite imaging time over the earth is a strategic decision.
So where you've got assets, you got to apply them against your most pressing problems and what they are good at right now and when we've got ships with helicopters flying over the search area. We got this very, very capable P8 plus its P3 predecessor from other nations. Those are the things of choice.
Right now, I tell you Michael the interesting thing is the addition of this British Trafalgar-class attack submarine, which has the most sensitive powerful integrated sonar capability in the world.
SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you Keith Masback, Steven Marks and Michael Goldfarb.
A key moment in this investigation, Malaysia's claim that the planes turn off course was a criminal act. But is there any proof and do we have the technology we need to find the airplane?
SMERCONISH: Our breaking news again an 8.2 magnitude earthquake and tsunami waves of the coast of Chile. A tsunami warning is in effect for Chile, Peru and Ecuador. We'll bring you updates throughout the hour.
Now, back to the latest on Flight 370.
The left turn that you see here on this map is generating controversy, embarrassment and a lot of unanswered questions about Flight 370.
A Malaysian government source tells CNN they consider the airlines left off course turn a "criminal act" either by one of the pilots or by someone else on board. But authorities have found nothing in the days of investigating the two pilots that leads any to believe that the motive was political, suicidal or extremist.
So does Malaysia have the evidence to back up its claim of a criminal act? Could this still be a catastrophic mechanical failure?
I want to bring in Mary Ellen O'Toole, a Former Senior Profiler for the FBI and Mary Schiavo, Former Inspector General of the DOT. Mary now represents victims of negligence by transportation companies including airlines and she joins me via Skype.
Mary Ellen O'Toole let me begin with you, is it time to stop giving consideration for the language barrier? Is it time to stop being -- believing that maybe this is all just an honest mistakes on part of the Malaysians? Might there be something more sinister at stake here as you look at the investigation from afar?
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FMR. SENIOR PROFILER, FBI: Well, there could be something more sinister that's going on but certainly at best, it's very confusing and it's creating a lot of doubt about how they're reaching their conclusions, how they're reaching their opinion.
So for example, today when they said this was a criminal act I'm unclear as to what they're basing that on, as a behavioral scientist, I have to have reasons to support my conclusions that something is criminal or not criminal. And I'm certainly not seeing the totality of the circumstances that allow them to say that.
Now, they maybe withholding the rest of the information because it's either proprietary or illegal to give it out because of laws and so forth, but certainly as someone who studies behavior for a living I don't know what they're basing that on.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask it this way because I, what I'm trying to suggest is that perhaps the ineptitude of the way in which the investigation has been communicated to the rest of the world doesn't necessarily suggest that the investigation itself has been inept. Do you follow my question Mary Ellen?
O'TOOLE: I think I do and I'll answer from this perspective. When you're in a taskforce environment there is a lot of behavior going on and there's a lot of power struggles and there's a lot of egos involved and there's a lot of different agendas. And over the years I spend a lot of time in taskforces then when I see information being given out that's conflicting, that's confusing. Often times it goes back to the dynamics in the taskforce where people are coming up against one another to get that power and to get that control.
So in other words, it comes down to the human element and when you add on to that a lot of leaking coming out of a task force. It can mean that the health of that task force is not good.
SMERCONISH: Mary Schiavo, a lot of parsing today of these few words "Good night Malaysia 370." of what significance if any to you.
MARY SCHIAVO, FMR DOT INSPECTOR: Well, the significance is that they're significant. It's just how the pilots communicate, you know. I was a pilot too for a number of years. You don't always say it exactly right but when you read this transcript something leaps out of me and that is that these pilots were conducting business as usual. It was the tower that said good night first and they're were responding.
And if anything there were a little (inaudible) it's just me interpreting it. But they seemed to be a little irritated with the air traffic control because they had to repeat their altitude and their call number twice. They had to ask air traffic control to repeat themselves because the transmission was garbled. So if anything the pilots were behaving very professionally and extremely normally and it was the air traffic control that was on top off of their game.
So I say nothing from this transcript other than a flight as usual and there's no excuse for them not knowing who said it. Because all they have to do and this is immiscible in any court is ask people, familiar with their voices if is it the pilot or the co-pilot.
SMERCONISH: So Mary, what then could justify, what then could substantiate a characterization in this case as a criminal act having taken place? There most be something more than the transcript, what could that be?
SCHIAVO: You bet (ph). I'm concluding just like you. For what we have, what we know and what's been released publicly, there is not one shred of evidence and I was a federal prosecutor before IG. I mean, I work in evidence, I work in facts and they're just not here.
So I am assuming based on that statement that they made because it's quite a far reaching statement as the criminal act that they must have something that they haven't released publicly, because what they've released publicly does not support a criminal case.
SMERCONISH: Mary Ellen O'Toole, any investigation that would've been done of the crew, any investigation that would have been done of the pilots, only as good as the questions that would have been asked going back to the question of potential inaptitude on this investigation. Doesn't that also raise questions just about how that vetted the folks on board that plane might have been?
O'TOOLE: It does, because when you have a large of people that have to vetted you have to have certain question that being asked and it has to be standardized across the number of investigators that are asking these questions. And then you have to have people that are trained to interpret and analyze the answers. So you're not making just kind of real flyby the seat of your pants conclusion on the kind of information that you're getting. So the way it's vetted and how the information is analyzed in terms of the pilots and the passengers and the rest of the crew, that's really very important.
SMERCONISH: Mary Schiavo, how important are these next five to seven days because of the battery life?
SCHIAVO: They're extremely important and what's really sad is that it is down to the next five to seven days. The battery may have already gone or in many cases it may last longer, I've seen in some investigations. But at this point they need a little luck, I'm glad they send in a sub. Anything will help. There's so many plane they need and air traffic control planes, it's actually encouraging. It is clear the Australians are throwing everything they have at this problem. And frankly I wish we would have the Australians since day one.
SMERCONISH: And it would seem that what we need in this case is we need to find debris. We need them to find a crash site. We need from the crash site to find those black boxes. And even when we get the black boxes, the voice recorder might be silent.
SCHIAVO: The voice recorder might be silent as to human voices but we will hear some very important things on there. For example the engine is pulling down, we will know if one is pulled down before the other. If there was someone actually still flying the plane you will hear very (inaudible), clicks and sounds of controls being moved. But I suspect that we will not, I suspect that it will silent because all along, I think there is a non-criminal explanation. But even any little click or sound, just as in the case of the Payne Stewart plane with the information about which engine failed first and how that occurred and with the Helios plane, that was very useful too.
So it will be very important for aviation safety and security to get that. It won't help the families here much but for flights in the future we'll be safer if we get them.
SMERCONISH: Mary Ellen O'Toole from distance, is it also your impression that perhaps it's a non-criminal explanation that's driving these events?
O'TOOLE: You have to allow for the fact that it's a non-criminal explanation. Until you can really look at all the behavior based on really sound solid evidence to be able to say, you know, analytically, this is how it gets unfolding, you can't say it just based on a few snippets here and there. So at this point in my opinion as a behavioral scientist I have to say that both options are very open.
SMERCONISH: Mary Schiavo and Mary Ellen O'Toole. Ladies, thank you so much for your expertise. I want to go back to our breaking news. Tsunami waves 6.5 feet high reported of the coast of Chile, following an 8.2 magnitude earthquake. Chile's national emergency office twitted tonight that it's asking for everyone to evacuate the South American nation's coast. And a tsunami warning is also in effect of Peru and Ecuador.
Shasta Darlington is back on the phone with us. Shasta what's the very latest here on Sao Paulo?
DARLINGTON: Well we've recently heard from the Deputy Secretary of the Interior in Chile and said, so far -- I mean the good news is no reports of deaths. No reports of major damage to infrastructure. There were some small landslides in northern Chile. And of course we've had -- but the initial waves about 1.5 meters to 2 meters. And they're waiting to see whether or not they get more tsunamis coming to the shore, they're waiting for that. And that the big issue, that why they've ordered these evacuations. They have ordered this evacuation to the whole coast but it's really the northern coast of Chile that what's concerning them.
The epicenter of this earthquake 8.2 magnitude was of the coast of Itaqui (ph), a mining town, that's where the real focus is. And that's -- we'll be watching Michael.
SMERCONISH: And how are the evacuations proceeding as best you know?
DARLINGTON: What we have seen are some images of people in nearby cities or (inaudible) basically looking for higher ground in a very orderly fashion, getting their belongings together, basically their necessities, moving to higher ground, not running, screaming. This has all been very orderly. And that's probably is because what we're seeing initially isn't next to the epicenter itself, it's a little further away. As we get more images and more information closer to the epicenter, this impression may change. But for now it has been orderly that's what we've seen so far, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Shasta Darlington, thanks so much for you report. Technology from around the world is being used in the search for flight for 370. But without a crash site, it won't do us any good? And GM's CEO on capital hill today with a big apology. So how did the families feel about the (inaudible)?
SMERCONISH: Some of the most impressive technology on the planet is headed to the Southern Indian Ocean as we speak. Everything from nuclear submarines to pinger locators to submersibles, but do investigators have all the tools that we need to find Flight 370? And what can we do to make sure this never happens again? Joining me now Mark Rasch a former Justice Department Prosecutor for cyber crimes. Also Greg Charvat a radar expert and author of "Small and ShortRange Radar Systems".
Let me begin with you Greg, what's the hierarchy of sensors? Why aren't we using sonar right now?
GREG CHARVAT, RADAR EXPERT: That's a great question. It comes down to how much area can you search in a given time. The most effective sensor for searching a lot of area at a given time, satellite imagery. Satellite imagery is just like camera, an orbit in outer space taking pictures. The next one down from that are the search radars and other sensors on the P8 Orion. They'll be scanning the waves and the human eyes on the P8 Orion will be looking at the waves.
But finally, the (inaudible) are also good but I'll tell you what, they scan (inaudible) out here but the least area scan is sonar. And how sonar works is it's acoustic. It's basically, imagine the speaker is underwater, the emitting pings are looking for scattered returns.
So the sonar, it's like trying to mobile out the weed-whacker. It's going to take the longest amount of time. So they want to go satellite, radar, sonar.
SMERCONISH: It would seem Mark Rasch that these next couple of days are of critical importance because of that limited battery life in the black boxes.
MARK RASCH, FMR JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR: Sure. I mean the black boxes are something that the plane itself is transmitting. But if you're closing up, then you'll be able to use those to locate where the plane is. But remember, they only have a range of about a mile or two miles even under the best conditions so you already got to be very close to the plane before you can get to the black box.
So the black boxes aren't really great for finding for the plane. It is good for once you found the plane, figuring out what happened inside.
SMERCONISH: Is it possible either of you gentlemen think that we're in the entire wrong area. I guess that question that I'm asking evidence is such a lot of faith and credibility now in the way the Malaysians have handled this. Greg what's your thought?
CHARVAT: Well, I think on my radar expertise, I think flying the northern route or just deliberately evading radar whatsoever is highly unlikely. It take some army to do that. A good example is the first Gulf War. A lot of resource, a lot homework, a lot has to go into the flying (inaudible). So I don't think it's a deliberate thing. So I think that they probably are in the lower Indian Ocean. It's just a big ocean. It's hard to find thing.
SMERCONISH: And Mark Rasch as a former prosecutor, do you necessarily see a criminal conduct, criminal intention in simplistically explained the left turn or the two left turns?
RASCH: Not at all. And the fact that there's not necessarily criminal conduct doesn't mean you shouldn't have a criminal investigation.
If a building burns down, you might open in an arson investigation to see whether there was arson. So the fact that there is a criminal investigation doesn't mean you're going to find criminal conduct. It just means that you're going to use the forensic tools of criminal investigators to look to see what happens.
SMERCONISH: Greg how do we make sure, relying on your expertise, how do we make sure this never happens again, that we're not years from now, back in the same position of wondering what happened to a 777?
CHARVAT: Wow, that's a good question. I think there are a couple of technologies from radar perspective. You can look at over the horizon, high frequency radar. It can literally emit over the horizon thousands of miles and there are other more advance transponder systems coming online. It will actually beacon the airplane's latitude, longitude, velocity and height.
SMERCONISH: Gentlemen thank you. Mark Rasch, Greg Charvat, wish we had more time. There's a lot breaking tonight.
And GM's CEO apologizes for 13 deaths caused by a faulty ignition switch. But will the families ever forget?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an angry mother. My family is hurt. I'll never forget that 4:30 in the morning knock at the door from two troopers. I wanted justice.
MARY BARRA, GENERAL MOTORS CEO: Today's GM will do the right thing. It begins with my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall especially the families and friends who lost their lives or were injured. I am deeply sorry.
SMERCONISH: Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors went to Capitol Hill today to apologize for 13 deaths that the company says were caused by a faulty ignition switch. 2.6 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide but it's not enough for grieving families.
Ken and Beth Melton lost their daughter, 29-year-old Brooke when her Chevrolet Cobalt span out of control and crashed. They join me now and allow Mr. and Mrs. Melton to begin by saying, "We are so sorry for your lost and we appreciate you being here."
KEN MELTON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Melton, I know that it was four years ago, four years ago, almost to this week on Highway 92 in Paulding County, Georgia and that very day, that very night you sir say you knew it was the automobile. How did you know?
K. MELTON: Yes, I did Michael. The reason I knew is about four or five days before the accident, the car had shut off on my daughter and luckily she was in the neighborhood and were -- and going very slowly where she could wrestle the car to the curve. And so she called immediately after it did that and I suggested that we (inaudible) to the leadership first thing in the morning.
And (inaudible) to the leadership because I thought they would have the most current information on mechanical workings of the car instead of a local mechanic.
Now when we pick the car up, even though they said they fixed it, they cleaned out the injector jets, the fuel injector jet. That did not fix the car, they did not do it. I knew in my heart and my mind that something else happened.
My daughter was a very conscientious and very responsible person. I know how she drives, I've driven with her before, I told her to drive when she was 16. So I know how responsible and careful she is. So when we were told about how her accident happened, I knew there was no doubt in my mind that there was a mechanical problem.
SMERCONISH: And Mrs. Melton as you've come to learn, it was as a result of the ignition and it must be most painful to recognize that GM was aware of this defect even before your daughter bought the car.
BETH MELTON: We were shocked to learn that they were aware of it and that they sold the car anyway. It was unbelievable to us that that had happened.
SMERCONISH: So today Mr. and Mrs. Melton, the CEO who is not on the job for all of these events nevertheless goes to Capitol Hill and apologizes, and I know that you are monitoring those events. What reaction did you have as you watched that testimony?
K. MELTON: Well Michael, Ms. Barra was reading some script that her attorney or legal department gave her. I thought the congressmen did an excellent job. They were very thorough, asked the right questions, went in debt with the questions, but her answers were always almost like taking the Fifth Amendment.
SMERCONISH: What is that you wanted to hear her say that she didn't say?
K MELTON: I want in her to take responsibility and to name all of the people instead of just saying that it was a "business decision not to change out the switch even though they knew it was faulty." I wanted her to name who made that decision and to face up and be man about it and take responsibility for it.
SMERCONISH: You know what, I want people to recognize Mr. and Mrs. Melton, a couple of things. First of all there's a government agency that has responsibility for oversight of these matters, they too apparently we're in the lope and bear some culpability. But for the two of you hiring a lawyer who intern, engage an engineer and scour junkyards and put these all together, we'd be here today no more the wiser. The American people, there wouldn't be a recall presumably GM would still be hiding it and the whole thing wouldn't have been figured out.
K. MELTON: Absolutely. Our lawyer did an excellent job in researching, hiring the correct engineer to research the project and dig deep into the project and he brought out information and got deposition from people and finally drill down to the real problem.
SMERCONISH: Mrs. Melton, it occurs to me as far as I know ma'am, no ones lost the job for this. And I don't think that would be, you know, adjust outcome. If there were only someone losing a job, it would seem to me that this entire case might have criminal implications. We need to see where the evidence leads. But the idea that nobody is even canned (inaudible) for the apparent cover up is going to really be painful.
B. MELTON: It is painful and I believe people within GM know who made those decisions and I don't think they need to wait for the investigation. I think it's already known and that something needs to be done about this.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Melton I have just a minute left. Did your daughter have a heavy key chain? And I asked that because apparently those key chains that were heavier than others would sometimes cause to go from the on to the accessory position?
K. MELTON: No she didn't Michael. A matter of fact she only had four or five keys on her key chain and we actually weighed the key chain when this -- in the beginning when they started. So we proved that she did not have a heavy key chain. Now, as far her leg or knee bumping the key chain, the position of ignition on the steering column is prone to do that. So I'm not sure is that happens or not.
SMERCONISH: Well I know that your case for the most part has been resolved and so you're here as advocates for other parent's children. And for that we thank and applaud you. Mr. and Mrs. Melton, thank you for speaking with us. The President...
K MELTON: Thank you.
B MELTON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Thank you. The President taking a victory lap on Obamacare, but the program is far from perfect. And I want to tell you what happen when I first tried to signup.
BARACK OBAMA, 44TH AND CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for this reform has been contentious and confusing and obviously it's added to you critics. As part of what change looks like in a democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Open enrollment for the first season of Obamacare ended last night and mid night. And the administration is taunting that it reached 7.1 million. You remember that seven million was the original goal. It's quite an achievement considering that batch launch back in October, which I experience at first hand. For weeks I was in a healthcare purgatory since sunrise of the day of the launch, October 1st. I attempted to shop for health insurance at healthcare.gov, and almost eight weeks later I still haven't been successful.
My experience was a Kafkaesque nightmare of internet denial and telephone road blocks, but when I finally broke the (inaudible), I was offered 24 competitive plans by two insurance under writers and I acquired my plan. Those expensive options was an IBX platinum personal choice PPO for 2,100 in change per month and had a zero deductible and a $5,000 limit per family on out-of-pocket expenses.
My least expensive choice was IBX bronze PPO, $1,150 in change per month with the $12,000 deductible per family. Today, I guess you could say I'm a card carrying member of Obamacare.
While reviewing my options, something occurred to me. You know who should be angry about Obamacare? Real socialists. The T-Party opponents of the Affordable Care Act promised them a government incursion that the new law doesn't deliver on. Just think back to those rallies of 2009 and 2010. All those signs mocking President Obama with the socialist in blazed in upon them, they were as common as the Gadsden flags that "Don't read on me" flags.
But the healthcare exchanges they are no resemblance to what Merriam Webster defines as quote "Away of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies."
And actual socialists, they have noticed. Last fall, Greg Parsons, the National Secretary for the Socialist Party USA told me, "The ACA Program relies on private health-insurance companies to manage health services. A socialize system would not include health insurance but would be an actual national health-care system which would be publicly funded for progressive taxation and controlled by democratically elected assemblies of health-care workers and patients."
And he's right. Under the Affordable Care Act health insurance in America is still being delivered by private practitioners and pay for by private insurers.
And the fact, the further irony is that those who were quick to label the socialists charge were advocating for the right of people to remain uninsured and burden everybody else. The only liberty interest that's being sacrifice under the Affordable Care Act is one's ability to be uninsured. And even that is violable. You can still exercise you right to be uninsured but you're going to have to pay a fine.
Look, it's too soon to know if the law is going to work. We need to know about the mix within the States between the healthy and the sick and whether premiums are affordable. The only think for certain is what it isn't, socialism.
I'm Michael Smerconish. I'll see you back here tomorrow.
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