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THE SITUATION ROOM

The Search for Flight 370; Fort Hood Investigation Continues

Aired April 4, 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 ANCHOR: Happening now: The search for Flight 370 goes deep. Ships are desperately scanning underwater at this moment, knowing they may have only a few hours left to try to find those so-called black boxes.

Passengers' families are growing more suspicious than ever, this hour, what they want and can't get from investigators. Are Malaysian officials hiding something?

And new leads on the Fort Hood gunman's likely motive. His father and the Army, they're now sharing information about his mental health.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The aerial search for Flight 370 is about to resume, but the big focus right now is on the desperate hunt that's going on under the water for the first time.

Ships are deploying devices that can scan below the surface of the Southern Indian Ocean and listen for those pings from the jet's black boxes. It's an around-the-clock operation at a time when every, every single minute counts. Our correspondents are standing by. They're near the search zone and in Malaysia. And we have a team of aviation experts here in THE SITUATION ROOM to cover this critical new phase of the search.

Let's bring in our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. She's got the latest -- Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just for some perspective here, it was four weeks ago this evening that the world got the news Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people on board vanished from radar, never to be seen again.

And at this four-week mark, search crews continue to make only educated guesses about where this plane is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): It's a shot in the dark and search teams need a stroke of luck. That's the hunt for Flight 370 one month in. Overnight, the search dramatically changed, moving underwater off the west coast of Australia.

AIR CHIEF ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: That area has been picked because on the basis of the analysis and, as you know, it's on the basis of the six hours of pings we have the exchange between the satellites, the Inmarsat state and the aircraft.

MARSH: Two ships, the Australian Ocean Shield and the British HMS Echo, are scanning a 150-mile track of deep blue sea around the clock, inching along at about two to three miles per hour. They will eventually converge.

The Shield is equipped with a pinger locator which is towed behind the vessel. It detects pings from the plane's black boxes in water as deep as 20,000 feet.

LT. COL. MICHAEL KAY, EXPERIENCED MILITARY PILOT: I remain cautious but optimistic.

MARSH: Former adviser to the U.K. Ministry of Defense Michael Kay says investigators are maximizing their options, but it will still be tough.

KAY: I look back at some of the major crashes in recent contemporary history, it would seem implausible to be able to find two black boxes without having any form of even slight indication that there was debris nearby.

MARSH: The signals can only be detected from one to two miles away. But this could be futile if the pingers are no longer working. That's why the surface search is still critical.

KAY: You don't get smoke without fire. So looking at the law of probabilities, I would still be highly vested in what information the aircraft assets can be ascertaining over that area, the P-3 Orion, the P-8 Poseidon, the Ilyushin 76. These aircraft can travel at 240 knots-plus, which is four miles a minute. It can search areas a lot greater than a ping locator can.

MARSH: The Blue Fin 21, an underwater robot, is also aboard the Shield. Crews will launch it if pings are detected to scour the ocean floor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: Well, the disappearance of Flight 370 has already caused a change at U.S. airports. Today, it was revealed to Congress passports of travelers leaving the United States are now checked against Interpol's database of lost and stolen documents.

Until now only arriving passengers were checked. It's a move to further crack down on passport fraud. Malaysia Airlines of course was criticized for not using the database at all when two men were able to get on board Flight 370 with stolen passports. As one lawmaker said today, if people who are seeking asylum can do it, so can terrorists. So they really want to make sure that that loophole is closed. BLITZER: Just takes a split second to go to that Interpol computer to check to see if it's a stolen passport. Every country should be doing that, not just the United States, United Arab Emirates. A few other countries do it. They should all be doing it. Important lesson.

Rene, stand by.

I want to go to Australia right now for the latest on the search in the air and now for first time under the water.

CNN's Kyung Lah is at the staging area in Perth, Australia, with more on the very latest -- Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's just about this time that the very first of the planes take to the air. We have not gotten any details about what the air search is going to look like. But what we did see yesterday were the highest number of planes take to the air, a total of 14 planes yesterday taking to the air, and now we have those underwater vessels, those towed pinger locators, one from the U.K. and one from the United States.

It's a meticulous, painful search underneath the water. It will be supported by a heavy air presence. And just like we heard Rene mention, Wolf, it is from the air that they are most hopeful that there will be something spotted to give those locators a place to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And weather conditions, I assume, are OK today, right?

LAH: OK is the best way to put it. The weather is actually not going to be as excellent as it was yesterday. Yesterday had terrific visibility. Today, the weather is going to be a little bit worse from the south. There is a weather system moving in. It is going to cause a little more cloud activity there, but we should point out it is still good enough to search. They're still feeling positive about taking to the air today and staggering the flight search throughout the day, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know they're pumped. They're they will find something. Let's hope they do. Thanks very much, Kyung Lah, in Perth, Australia.

After four long and rather heartbreaking weeks, Flight 370 families they are making some new and very specific demands of Malaysian authorities. We now have new details of what went on in a rather tense closed-door meeting earlier today.

Our senior correspondent, Joe Johns, he is joining us now live from Kuala Lumpur with much more on this part of the story.

A heart-wrenching story, indeed. What's the latest over there, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first it was the families of Chinese passengers who emerged angry from a briefing with authorities, and now the families of mostly Malaysian passengers who up until now have been more conciliatory, are showing signs of their frustration with the process as well.

The problem is that many people here in Kuala Lumpur are looking for facts to help them try to understand what happened, but so far all the authorities can offer them are theories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): Anger, frustration, and suspicion dominated the meeting between the passengers' relatives and Malaysian investigators and officials. The partner of American passenger, Philip Wood who attended the three-hour session told CNN, quote, "It is impossible that this relatively sophisticated military power didn't see it. They are clearly hiding something. We just don't know what."

A journalist and a family member of a Flight 370 passenger, both present at the closed-door briefing tell CNN officials refuse to release the audio recording of air-to-ground conversation from the cockpit. They did, however, release a transcript of the recording this week. The families are suspicious because officials changed their story about whether the last words came from the captain or co- pilot.

And that the final message was, "Good night Malaysian 370" and not "All right, good night," as they had heard before. Malaysian officials gave no explanation for the discrepancy between the two quotes, but it was another blow to their credibility. The recording is part of the ongoing investigation and has not been released.

They also haven't released Flight 370's complete cargo list. Earlier they said that the plane was carrying fruit, some electronic equipment and a load of lithium batteries which, if stored improperly, can be a fire hazard. The airline's CEO said that the batteries were packed properly and not considered hazardous.

Officials did answer a few questions telling the families the plane made a westward turn after it lost contact rather than turning east and then looping around to head west. The families also want to know more about the satellite data that tracked the plane after it left its intended route. They want a representative of the satellite company Inmarsat to attend the next briefing.

Also, since some family members don't trust the satellite data, they want a search of the remote Indian Ocean of Diego Garcia. Some of the passengers' relatives still buy the conspiracy theory that the jet was hijacked and either flown to a military base and hidden or shot down as it approached. In the end, the passengers' relatives left the meeting dissatisfied.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Important to say that Malaysian law enforcement officials have not been willing to release certain information because, in their view, this is still a criminal investigation and until and unless the evidence suggests otherwise -- Wolf. BLITZER: Joe Johns in Kuala Lumpur for us. Good report, Joe. Thanks very much.

Let's bring back our aviation analyst Miles O'Brien, along with our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, and our aviation analyst Peter Goelz and law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.

These families, Peter, understandably frustrated right now. So, what should Malaysian authorities really do to help them during -- in this period of agony?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, they can start out by answering questions.

Joe's report indicated they only answered a few questions. When we would do when I would do family briefings...

BLITZER: When you were at the NTSB.

GOELZ: I was at the NTSB. I would sometimes stay three or four hours afterwards answering individual questions. That's the most critical thing. Families are torn by this.

They don't know what's going on. They don't know what happened. They don't know what's next.

BLITZER: Miles, are you surprised by this lack of transparency, openness with the families? Forget about the public right now, but with the families?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It isn't rocket science to treat these people with kid gloves and a proper amount of respect.

I mean, the truth is, they want to blame somebody. And the Malaysian officials are inviting themselves to be the target of that blame, instead of just simply clueing them into the process, helping them understand what's going on in a systematic way, giving them information before the rest of the world hears it.

Every time they come out of these meetings, they are unsatisfied. And it's just as simple as communicating and in so doing developing a certain amount of confidence in the investigation. The two go hand in hand obviously.

BLITZER: The longer they don't provide this information, Tom -- and you're a former assistant director of the FBI -- the more these conspiracy theories will develop, the notion that maybe this plane is on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean where the U.S. has a naval -- has a major base over there. They're going to hear all these conspiracies on the Internet, they're going to start believing it because they want to believe their loved ones are alive.

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. Absolutely, Wolf.

The situation of the transcript that was released obviously does not match what they first said was said as the final radio transmission between the tower and the plane. So now they may not want to release the entire recording because it may be a third version and be inconsistent with the first two that don't match.

Every time they have something that doesn't match, it only adds to all the conspiracy theories, as you mentioned, and the disbelief and distrust of the government.

BLITZER: I didn't know, Rene, that passports -- that U.S. customs agents only checked passports for stolen passports coming in, and now you report that they're going to check for departing passengers as well based on the fact, what, two Iranians had stolen passports, got on the Malaysian airline flight in Kuala Lumpur?

MARSH: Right. That's one change that we're already seeing at our own U.S. airports as a direct result of the disappearance of Flight 370.

As one lawmaker put it, this was a loophole. Only looking at the passports of the people coming in, now that has changed, and they're looking at matching sure things match up with people who are leaving the United States as well.

But another issue that was revealed today is despite the fact that there's 40 million pieces of information inside that database about missing or stolen passports, there are so many countries that are not contributing to this database. So there are many other loose ends out there where there may be missing or stolen documents that are just not making it into the database and that continues to be an issue.

BLITZER: This makes the head of Interpol, Ron Noble, a friend of ours, it makes him crazy that these countries are not cooperating with what they should be doing and what's available.

FUENTES: No, it does. During the time I was on the executive committee of Interpol, he continued the battle worldwide. He created this database in 2002, after 9/11. It has 40 million records in it. He's trying to get all the countries who are member countries of Interpol, 190 countries, to make these queries.

He's had a hard time getting anybody to want to do it. The excuses in the past about it takes too long is not true. It takes 0.2 seconds on Interpol's virtual private network.

BLITZER: You scan a passport and within 0.20 seconds you know whether it's real or stolen.

MARSH: One of the issues that they said that could be a problem with some of the countries is that some of them just don't have the resources or the setup to communicate between agencies in order to get that information in there. So that foundation is not in place and so that's another issue in itself.

BLITZER: This underwater search, Miles, that started today, is this just going to be a matter of random luck, they might come across those black boxes that the batteries are still sending out those beeps, if you will, the pings?

O'BRIEN: I think that's a good way of putting it, Wolf. Here we are at the end of the expected shelf life of these pinger devices, the batteries. They might last a little longer and certainly they don't drop off like a cliff.

They will trail off. The range will diminish on the pings, obviously, making it harder to find them. But you have the vessels out there with the equipment and, you might as well drop them in the water before the batteries are expected to go out just to see if you might get lucky. I guess it would be a shame if they just sat out there and day 30 passes and they haven't even tried. They might as well try, but this is a Hail Mary.

BLITZER: As they say, it might not help but can't hurt.

What do you say, Peter, to the fact that they found nothing on the surface at all? They have had a lot of ships out there, they have had a lot of planes flying around. They have found nothing.

GOELZ: They're not in the right location yet. And this has been so difficult because they have so little of the fundamentals to search for. They don't have good radar data. These are suppositions. They're doing their best. But clearly they're not there yet.

BLITZER: Is there anything else that the U.S., for example -- Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary, says if the Malaysians need more, if the Australians need more, the U.S. is there, we will be able to help. Is there more that the U.S., for example, should be doing?

FUENTES: I don't know how many more resources the U.S. could devote to that, but certainly I don't know what more the U.S. could do as far as the analysis of satellite data and radar data, that we have ray had the best experts from a number of countries analyze it. That's the best they could come up with given the gaps in coverage all over the world.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Rene, if in fact they find nothing over the next four, five, six days, the batteries are still operating, assuming they are, they don't find the black boxes, it goes to a new chapter, if you will, what are you hearing they will do then?

MARSH: Yes, what next? You would think that they would continue to search. They would continue to refine that data. We do know that in addition to the underwater, they haven't totally abandoned the air searches.

That continues as well. But the bottom line is this gets -- we think that this is tough now, it gets really tough if those pingers aren't pinging any more. It truly is tough. You may say, look at Air France Flight 447, you know, the pinger locator didn't detect the black boxes' pingers and they still found it two years later. That's true, but at least in that case we had debris, we knew the last known location.

We don't have those solid facts here. So it just makes things very difficult. But they, you would think, continue.

BLITZER: Miles, wrap this up for us. Where do we go from here?

O'BRIEN: It's -- I don't mean to laugh. This is obviously very serious stuff, but that's an expression that more of anything as to how few options there are.

So, OK, the pingers go out. Let's assume for a moment they don't hear anything, which is probably the odds are. I think the air searches are going to continue as long as the weather holds up. There will be a point when those vessels on the water won't be able to do their work. They won't be able to get the devices in and out of the ships because of high seas.

That will have to end. Besides, at a certain point you have to assume those pingers aren't pinging at all and you will have to get into more sophisticated work like side-scan sonar. You just don't do that without any information about where to go. So I'm afraid we're entering into this really scary point in time where we move into the enduring mystery phase of this.

It goes into the winter, and then hopefully there will be some other search, resumed search afterward. As the Australians have said, we will search until hell freezes over. Well, down in that part of the world, that's coming up.

BLITZER: It certainly is. And let's not forget 229 people are missing still and a huge U.S.-made Boeing 777 is missing as well.

Still ahead, she's the mother of a passenger who was under suspicion early in the Flight 370 investigation. Now she's talking exclusively to CNN about her son and why he was traveling on a stolen passport. The search for the plane is essentially a big guessing game right now. We will show you why it could change again at any moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: "CROSSFIRE" won't be seen tonight so we can bring you more of our special coverage of the mystery of Flight 370.

Just minutes from now, it will be exactly four weeks since Flight 370 was supposed to land in Beijing, but never did. Early in the investigation a lot of attention was focused on two Iranian passengers traveling with stolen passports. Now the mother of one of those young men is revealing why he was determined to get on that plane.

She spoke exclusively with our senior international correspondent, Sara Sidner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This mother is tormented by the words she saw used in conjunction with her son -- terrorism and suspect. She has asked us not to show her face for fear her family will be harassed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son isn't a bad boy. He wanted to study. He wanted to work and he wants to be free.

SIDNER: Her eldest son is Pouri Nour Mohammadi initially suspected in the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. The Iranian teenager and his friend managed to board the flight with stolen passports. Investigators later determined they had nothing to do with the flight's disappearance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought maybe they caught him in the airport.

SIDNER (on camera): Were you hoping they had caught him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SIDNER (voice over): It turns out Nour Mohammadi was trying to leave Iran quickly to be with his mother who has cancer. She needed his help. Because he is 18 years old, she couldn't bring him to Germany legally, where she is awaiting refugee status along with his younger brother. So Pouri decided the quickest way to get to his mom was to use a stolen passport.

(on camera): Did you think that you were going to die? Is that why you wanted him with you and he wants to be with you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That sickness reminds me, we have short time, short time.

SIDNER (voice over): Shorter than she could ever have imagined.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To lose your son is hard for every mother. But I'm here alone.

SIDNER: She can't travel to Malaysia to be close to the investigation and information like the other families of passengers aboard MH-370. She is also still undergoing cancer treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These three weeks was more difficult than the rest of my life. I need to know what happened.

SIDNER: After reading our story about her eldest son online, she decided to speak to us via Skype.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt that you understand me. I felt you near me. I appreciate you.

SIDNER (on camera): Thank you.

(voice-over): A mother with no support system at home crushed by the burden of waiting to find out what happened to her firstborn son.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Kuala Lumpur.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Leaders of the search operation openly acknowledge they're making an educated guess about the possible crash site, and that's why the target area has changed a number of times.

Our Tom Foreman is looking into this part of the story for us. He's joining us from our virtual studio -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, really, the hopes for those families for finally getting an answer to where in the world this plane went rests upon two things right now.

They start with an educated guess, and then it comes down to sonar, two types of sonar. Let's talk about first one first and I will bring it in right here. You're talking about passive sonar, which is the listening ability of sonar. That's the pinger locator they have now deployed out there.

The pinger locator basically tows behind a ship up here and it listens to see if it can hear that black box, those data recorders pinging on the bottom of the ocean, to see if they can find them. You have to get pretty close, within a couple of miles, and this is a very slow, laborious process. The ship up top is traveling only four or five miles an hour at best.

If you were standing on the deck, you would have a light breeze in your face. That's the passive sonar. It's listening for anything it can find. But beyond that, there's also some active sonar at work here. Let's go underwater and talk a little bit about what that involves.

Essentially what we're talking about now is a robot. That's the other thing that's been deployed out here. A robot goes down and will sail along about a half a football field up off the ocean floor, and it's emitting sound. It's emitting waves out here and bouncing it off everything on the ocean floor here.

Now, remember, they're going from about a mile-and-a-quarter deep to maybe two-and-a-half miles deep in the area they're searching right now, very limited area, but by bouncing those signals back and collecting them, they can create images. And those images give them a picture of the ocean floor.

If you see something there that tells you, you found a part of the plane, well, then that's obviously a big thing. If you just see something worth going back and checking out again, that's of some value. But we cannot stress enough, Wolf, all of this depends on location. If they're in the wrong place, it doesn't matter how great this technology is, it simply cannot find anything and the scope is very small and very focused -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

We're getting some breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We just learned that this will be the biggest search day so far. It's already Saturday morning in the area. More planes will be in the air, more ships scanning the Indian Ocean for Flight 370.

Let's go back to Perth, Australia. CNN's Kyung Lah has the very latest. Pretty dramatic development, a really massive search today.

LAH: Certainly a massive search, and the Australian prime minister said he would be throwing everything he can at it, and that we're still in the ramp-up phase. Certainly, the numbers are reflecting that.

I can actually hear the turboprops of, we believe, one of the search planes, one of the very first search planes taking to the air. The numbers that we're getting now from the Australian authorities who are running this, 15 planes will take to the air. Those will be 11 military planes, 4 civilian planes. There will be 11 ships at sea.

We're not real clear on whether those two ships that are pulling the pinger locators, that they are included in that number or not. So what they're trying to do is, in addition to having the underwater search, also trying to continue to look at this area from the air using spotters.

One thing we should point out, Wolf, is that the search area will be concentrated in the general area that it was yesterday. Still looking at three specific areas hoping to find something -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And those -- they're using that word "specific" very deliberately, Kyung, aren't they? Because they have a sense that this is an area, potentially -- potentially -- based on a lot of calculations that could produce some important results.

LAH: A very educated guess. That's what we keep hearing. It is on science, it is on numbers. It's on whatever the mathematicians have been able to figure out. So again an educated guess. But yes, they're trying to narrow it, because they have the suspicion that it may be out there in those particular areas.

BLITZER: The Ocean Shield and the Echo, two of the ships in the area right now, they really have the clock ticking because we only have what, three, four, five days left before the batteries dry up for those black boxes that are emitting those pings, if you will. And after that, it becomes, in effect, a whole new ball game if you're not going to be able to try to find those pingers, the source of the -- of the indication where those black boxes are.

LAH: And it may be at that point, Wolf, that there is that reassessment that we've heard Angus Houston, the head of JACC that's running this operation, that that reassessment may have to take place at that point.

Some other sobering numbers that we've heard as far as how many days they'll be out: the teams that are going to be pulling those towed pingers, they're expecting to use them only for the next 10 to 12 days, because after that point, all hope is generally going to be lost on whether or not those batteries on the black boxes are actually working.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah in Perth, Australia, with the very latest. Thank you, Kyung. Much more on this story coming up. Also we're now learning new details about an argument between the Fort Hood gunman and his fellow soldiers. We're going to tell you why investigators still don't think that this points to a concrete motive for his rampage.

And a deadly attack on the press. Two veteran journalists, they are attacked while covering the elections in Afghanistan. We have their story. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll continue CNN's special coverage of the search for Flight 370 shortly. But there's breaking news in the Fort Hood shooting investigation. We're getting new information about the gunman. We have our correspondents working their sources.

CNN's Pamela Brown is in Texas at Fort Hood. Our Barbara Starr is over at the Pentagon.

Barbara, let's start with you. What did you just learn about the suspect and the events leading up to the shooting?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have some clarity now on new details. You'll recall that the Army says that Ivan Lopez reported a traumatic brain injury at some point, but it had never been clear what they were talking about, because when he served in Iraq he had no contact with enemy forces there.

U.S. officials, military officials familiar with his record says what happened was while he was in Iraq, he suffered a fall while on patrol and reported hitting his head. That was the traumatic brain injury that he reported that U.S. military officials had been looking into: on patrol in Iraq he fell and hit his head.

Another issue has been that the claim perhaps is he did not get sufficient leave for his mother's funeral when she died. This U.S. military official says he was offered full bereavement leave but declined it and only took a few days at his own choice, because he wanted to get to a course he was about to take in truck driving at Fort Leonard Wood.

So a couple of new details about what led up to some of the issues, potentially, in his career history, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, stand by.

Pamela, authorities, we're told they searched his home, the Lopez house today at Fort Hood. What did they find?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Learning from a law-enforcement source, Wolf, that nothing turned up in Lopez's home that indicated a clear motive. They searched his entire home and learning now that there was nothing there to help authorities figure out what caused Lopez to snap.

But today at a press conference they talked about that verbal altercation between Lopez and another soldier, saying that it was an argument that escalated, and they believe that was the impetus for Lopez to go on his shooting spree.

Also they talked about his mental health history and, of course, as part of this investigation, they're going to look at the medications he was on for his sleep disorder, for depression and anxiety.

And Wolf, we're learning from sources, as well, about the days leading up to the shooting. I learned from a law-enforcement source that on March 1 when they bought that .45 caliber, he also bought a lot of ammo, according to this so source, and then went back to that same store, Guns Galore right here in Killeen, Texas, to buy even more ammo. So he appears to have a stockpile of ammunition leading up to that shooting. But Wolf, today officials saying that there's no clear evidence that the act was premeditated.

BLITZER: Stand by, Barbara. And what else are you hearing about Lopez from your sources?

STARR: Well, I want to underscore what Pamela is saying. U.S. military officials say they will go back through all of his records. They're going to take a very close look at his medical history, the mental health issues, the medications he was on, all of that. That's really important to try and figure out exactly what did happen here.

The precipitating event, they believe for the shooting was the argument, the altercation he had with fellow soldiers. But what was going on in this soldier's mind? What was his mental health situation in the days and weeks leading up to this? This is going to be crucial. They'll look at every single factor.

This is an investigation that could take a long time, and they're already saying because he, of course, is deceased, he committed suicide, they may never get the full picture, but they're certainly going to try and find out as much as they can, Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela, the suspect's father spoke out today. What did he say?

BROWN: That's right. The suspect's father breaking his silence for first time, Wolf, through a family spokesperson that released a statement today. And in that statement the father says, "My son could not have been in his right mind. He was not like that."

Also in that statement, the father said that he was astonished, calling his son a calm man who just wanted to protect his family and ensure their future. So it came across very clearly in this statement that this came as a big surprise to his father.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown and Barbara Starr, guys, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, a deadly attack in Afghanistan today. One that resonates deeply with all of us here at CNN. Two veteran journalists for the Associated Press were shot while traveling with a convoy of election workers. One of them was killed. CNN's Anna Coren is in Kabul, Afghanistan, with this report.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On a blood-soaked car seat in Eastern Afghanistan's Khost province sits a camera and notebook. This was where award-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and her friend and fellow Associated Press colleague, Kathy Gannon, were sitting when, according to the news agency, a policeman yelled "Allah Akbar" before spraying the car with bullets.

Forty-eight-year-old Niedringhaus was killed instantly, while Gannon, a 60-year-old veteran reporter, was seriously injured. The two had been in a convoy following the independent election commission delivering ballot papers when the brutal attack occurred.

It comes on the eve of Afghanistan's historic elections, which the Taliban have vowed to use all force to disrupt. In recent weeks they've launched a series of high-profile attacks especially in the capital, designed to create fear and stop the public from voting.

The insurgents have threatened violence against anyone who participates, but it would appear that tactic isn't working. Millions of people have registered to vote, while attendances at the rallies for the top presidential candidates have exceeded expectations.

SEDIQ SEDIQI, INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: Our democracy has a cost. So we have accepted the cost. There will be many sacrifices ahead of us to have a secure, to have a democratic country in the future.

COREN: At least 14 million ballot papers have been printed for almost six and a half thousand polling stations. And if successful, this will be the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history.

(on camera): How important is this election to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, it's very important.

COREN: To give you an idea as to just how determined the people are to make this election a success, back in 2009 only 35 percent of the population turned out to vote.

Well, despite the threats of violence, independent election observers believe that this time around, voter turnout could be as high as 75 percent.

(voice-over): Defiant Afghans risking their lives to vote is something Niedringhaus would have been documenting. These are some of the last photos she took in a war-torn country desperate to change the course of its future.

Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Our deepest condolences to her family. Coming up, the search for Flight 370 moves from above the ocean surface to below it. We're going to have the latest on the new underwater hunt for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane in just a moment.

And a presidential portrait, painted by an actual president. George W. Bush unveils his new gallery. You're going to have to see it to believe it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Who better to paint a presidential portrait than an actual U.S. president? George W. Bush has been busy sketching all sorts of world leaders and he's showing it all off at a new exhibit.

CNN's John Berman has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Picasso had his blue period. Van Gogh, his really blue period when he cut off his own ear.

For George W. Bush let's call this his late, late leader period.

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: Did you paint that?

I can't make fun of him now.

BERMAN: After mastering comedians, family pets, even bathtub self-portraits, the 43rd president of the United States unveiled his first ever art exhibit today, at the George Bush presidential library in Dallas. OK, maybe it helps to have your own art gallery when you're a budding artist, but these, these are genuinely pretty good paintings, the Iraqi prime minister, the Dalai Lama, even Vladimir Putin.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.

BERMAN: Yes, that soul. Now captured on canvas and if Putin appears a bit well pouty, just listen to what the artist told a certain "Today" show correspondent who also happens to be his daughter.

BUSH: As you know, my dear, our dear Barney had a special spot in my heart. I introduced him to Putin. Putin kind of dissed him and, you really call that a dog?

BERMAN: Proving the age old maxim, don't mess with the man's dog, especially if he's going to paint you.

Bill Clinton publicly turned down his chance to sit for a Bush portrait after some of W's more personal paintings leaked online.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Those bathroom sketches are wonderful but at my age, I think I should keep my suit.

BERMAN: Bush revealed his newer works were really painted from photographs. Most of the subject like former British Prime Minister Tony Blair haven't seen them.

BUSH: I think I told Tony I was painting him and he kind of brushed it off, so to speak.

BERMAN: Still Bush painted on, undeterred, a former president now a painter in his prime.

BUSH: I do take painting seriously. It's changed my life.

BERMAN: Today, Bush told NBC he hopes the men will see his work in a spirit of friendship. And while he said this painting of his father is his favorite, there is one work that didn't work.

For all the power of leadership, for all the power of art, there are limits.

BUSH: You don't paint your wife.

BERMAN: John Berman, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We'll be right back with more on the search for Flight 370. A powerful airlines pilots union is calling for some important changes in airline technology. Stand by for that. But first, this "Impact Your World".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: Good morning. Good morning.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even at age 89, President Jimmy Carter is still campaigning. But this isn't political. It's a medical race against time to stop a disease called River Blindness.

CARTER: This is one of those diseases that the Carter Center has undertaken because not many people want to fool with it, and it affects hundreds of millions of people.

It's a disease caused by the sting of a little black fly that only breeds in very rapidly flowing water.

CUOMO: River blindness has infected millions in Latin America and Africa. It causes severe itching, skin discoloration, rashes and can eventually take the patient's sight.

CARTER: We began to administer this medicine. And since then we have treated 174 million times in Latin America and all across Africa.

CUOMO: Thanks to the efforts by the Carter Center, river blindness has been almost wiped out in Latin America.

CARTER: To go into those villages and see them afflicted in a horrible way and to know that that disease doesn't need to exist there because it's been eliminated in richer countries. And they could start a treatment program and then they go back later and say that the disease is gone and that the people have a totally transformed life. Those are some great dividends to be derived from small investment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have some more breaking news to report. The Airline Pilots Association is weighing in on the Flight 370 investigation. The group is now calling for more transparency saying open disclosure of all the facts in context will ease the urge for speculation. The pilots union is asking for the industry to use existing technology to track planes in real-time.

Another breaking development we're following, we just learned this will be the biggest search day so far with more planes in the air, more ships scanning the Indian Ocean for Flight 370. Fifteen aircraft, 11 ships in all.

Let's bring in our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh.

The airline technologies, they are outdated. What's the problem here?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's the bottom line. You know, in talking to a lot of people -- this is it. The thing is unless it's mandated, many of the airlines are not going to go ahead and take it upon themselves to make the changes on their own. If it's mandated they will do it, if it's not they won't.

You just mentioned the pilots union, they are asking for stronger transmitters, better battery life. I think after this people will revisit those issues and perhaps we'll see some changes. I know plans as far as batteries on those pingers, that's already something we've been talking about and that should be extended beyond the 30 days.

BLITZER: Batteries on these pingers on those two black boxes that they're searching for right now -- they may not have been properly installed.

MARSH: That's right. You know, CNN reach out to the manufacturers of these pingers and they said, look, they were due for an overhaul, a maintenance overhaul to even change out the batteries and also just essentially just give this thing a new look because they were due for that in 2012. It didn't happen.

Now that could mean one of three things. It could mean that Malaysia Airlines got it done somewhere else or they switched out the pingers. And they were totally new.

So, Rene Marsh with the very latest on that. We'll, of course, stay on top of this story. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. You can tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.