Return to Transcripts main page


Iran Nuclear Talks Extended; Flight 9525 Investigation Continues; Airline Knew About Co-Pilot's Depression; Indiana's Governor: "The Law Must Be Fixed." Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 31, 2015 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:06] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is there actually cell phone video from inside the plane right before the crash?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead: 149 people murdered by a co-pilot with psychological issues, a shocking claim now that investigators found a cell phone video that survived the crash in the Alps. The tape is said to document the plane's horrifying final moments, filled with panic and pleas and screams. Will it provide any clues as to why this horror happened?

And Lufthansa with a stunning admission. They knew, they even had documents showing that the co-pilot had severe depression, despite original claims he was one hundred percent fit to fly. Should Andreas Lubitz have ever have been into that cockpit?

And in other world news, the clock was ticking down. And now Secretary of State's John Kerry's long patrician finger has reached out up to that clock and extended the deadline one more day to try to prevent a nuclear Iran.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are going to begin with some breaking news in our world lead today -- reports that investigators have unearthed cell phone video taken from inside doomed Germanwings Flight 9525 in its final moments. Two published accounts of the horrific video say passengers are seen screaming, the cabin engulfed in chaos, indications that everyone on board knew they were about to die.

Let's get right to CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh.

Rene, what you can tell us about the shocking story?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we are just getting information from the French police. And we do want to say they are at point saying they're unaware of this video.

I spoke with the BEA, the agency investigating this. They're unaware of this video as well. That being said, the idea that someone on board possibly captured their final seconds alive, it is truly chilling. That's what's being reported. It's unclear whether it was a passenger or a member of the flight crew, but the description of this reported video is truly chilling.


MARSH (voice-over): In the rubble at the crash site of Germanwings Flight 9525, a cell phone reportedly found, on it, video shot from the back of the doomed Airbus 320. If true, that means one of the helpless people on board captured the final terrifying moments before the plane crashed.

About 35 minutes after takeoff, as the plane rapidly descends, the captive bangs the cockpit door, desperately trying to get in. As reported by French "Paris Match" magazine and German newspaper "Bild," the video captures metallic banging more than three times. Alarms were triggered in the cockpit that sounded like this.


MARSH: Those alarms not likely heard in the back of the plane from where the video was reportedly shot, but screams, "Oh, my God," in several different languages were heard.

The "Paris Match" writes: "The scene was so chaotic, it was hard to identify people. But the sounds of the screaming passengers made it perfectly clear that they were aware of what was about to happen to them."

CAPT. JOHN BARTON, COMMERCIAL AIRLINE PILOT: I think every pilot across the United States is horrified and very saddened that their profession has been taken to a step so low.

Obviously, we will never know everything about what this pilot was thinking, but, again, I have to say -- and watching this video will be tough to watch.

MARSH: As the captain pleads, "Open the damn door," 38 minutes after takeoff, the plane, now at 13,000 feet, the co-pilot is only heard breathing steadily.

Two minutes later, investigators believe they hear the plane's right wing scrape a mountain, that sound also captured on cell phone video. Then the cabin abruptly jerks. The screams intensify, then silence.


MARSH: These publications so far have not released this video that they say they have seen or that they have.

Also again, I want to reiterate, in speaking a lengthy conversation with the BEA, I was told directly, "I'm unaware of this video."

TAPPER: OK. "Bild" is also reporting it, the German publication which has so far been very reputable in this accident.

Thank you so much, Rene Marsh.

Let's go now to Charley Pereira. He's a former investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. Also with us, CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien.

Now, Charley, let me start with you. The cell phone video of the crash that supposedly exists, you have heard the description, metallic banging possibly by the pilot trying to get into the cockpit, the heavy shake towards the end. What could these things tell us about what happened beyond what we already know?

[16:05:15] CHARLEY PEREIRA, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR: Well, we have the cockpit voice recorder, which gives us the environment as heard from within the cockpit.

If we have cell phone or other personal type of video recorders in the cabin, that will hopefully give us that environment as well from an investigative perspective. We should also have the video environment from the cabin as well, which is very helpful for the investigation.

It's also helpful for the family to understand what was going on if they have any interest. And for the lawsuits that are going to follow, it's helpful for the litigators that represent the families because it gives them some indication of the pain and suffering environment that they were in. And that goes to the awards for the families.

TAPPER: Back up a second, Charley. You just -- there was video from inside the cockpit?

PEREIRA: No, video from inside the cabin.

TAPPER: Oh, from inside the cabin. OK.

PEREIRA: If this device in the back had video and audio, then we would have -- for investigative purposes, we'd have a video and audio environment.

TAPPER: I see. OK.


PEREIRA: -- for the litigation purposes.

TAPPER: We also heard today, Miles, that the impact of the crash may have buried the flight data recorder in the gravel. That's a concern now from the accident site.

Miles, are you surprised that something like a cell phone may have survived?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, that's -- you know, I go back to something I covered a lot, the loss of Columbia back in early 2003, the space shuttle.

And the things that survived that crash were truly remarkable, including some experiments involving live worms, of all things, which survived. So, you just don't know how these things are going to play out in an impact like that, you know, where that cell phone was. Was it inside a bag? But, of course, it was being used of course. So, it's hard to say why happened. But I would like to underscore the

point that this is valuable for the families to buttress their lawsuit and the ultimate claims they might get. And it's a reminder at how useful it would be to investigators if there was a camera in the cockpit recording what was going on there.

TAPPER: If this video does exist, Charley, do you think it should be released to the public, or should it stay with the investigators?

PEREIRA: Well, if it was an accident, it would stay with the investigators because especially here in the U.S., there are legislative protections on the privacy of that type of device.

But in this case, over in Europe, with different rules and regulations, which I'm not sure what they are, and particularly with a criminal case, where the prosecutor is doling out information very rapidly, it seems, they may choose to release it. Of course, to have family considerations, if there's something really graphic on there that would upset the families, I would hope that they would consider that before they release it.

TAPPER: Miles, what's your take? If this video does exist, should they release it? Should the authorities release it?

O'BRIEN: I'm a firm -- I'm never going to be on record saying they shouldn't release information in these cases, Jake. This is of tremendous global importance to everyone, frankly, to know as much as about this as possible.

If nothing else, we can at least say that the aircraft itself doesn't have a flaw. That's an important point right there. But to the extent, as brutal as it is, horrifying as it is, and I know it's awful for the families, how they initially see it as very important, it will ultimately help them as they make their claims against Lufthansa and Germanwings.

TAPPER: All right, Miles O'Brien and Charley Pereira, thank you both.

Another huge development today in the investigation into that crash. Lufthansa Airlines, which is the parent company of Germanwings, now admitting they did know that the co-pilot had suffered from an episode of severe depression and the co-pilot's girlfriend is also saying she knew he had psychological issues.

So the big question, of course, should he have been allowed to fly? That's next.


[16:13:25] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Back with some breaking news in our world lead today. His employers knew all along that the co-pilot who drove a plane purposely into a mountain suffered from severe depression, new stunning revelations that Lufthansa Airlines had documents given to them by the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, showing that he suffered from -- quote -- "severe depression."

It was for that reason that Lubitz interrupted his own flight training in 2009. Now, originally, as you may recall, Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, insisted that the co-pilot on that doomed jet was 100 percent fit to fly.

CNN's Pamela Brown has new details from Dusseldorf, Germany.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Lufthansa officials are admitting it knew in 2009 during flight training with the airline that Andreas Lubitz had suffered from a -- quote -- "previous episode of severe depression."

JIM PHILLIPS, GERMAN PILOTS ASSOCIATION: I would expect that Lufthansa, at the very beginning of the investigation, would have handed over everything and would have worked with the prosecutor and investigators to find the solutions. And if they withheld information intentionally, that's not good.

BROWN: Head of the German Pilots Association, Jim Phillips, says the circumstances surrounding Lubitz's depression are a critical factor in determining whether he should have been able to become a commercial pilot in 2013.

PHILLIPS: I would hope that Lufthansa required him to see a psychologist.

BROWN (voice-over): Sources tell CNN, Lubitz, seen here flying a glider as a teenager, may have been afraid his medical issues would cost him his pilot's license.

[16:15:02] And that is looked as a primary motive behind what authorities say is the deliberate crash of Flight 9525.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't found a letter or anything like that that contains a confession.

BROWN: A European government official tells CNN the pilot's girlfriend knew he had psychological issues but did not know the extent of the problems. The girlfriend also told investigators she knew Lubitz had been to see two doctors, an eye doctor and a neuropsychologist. And CNN has learned both of them very recently deemed the co-pilot unfit to work, after determining Lubitz had psychological issues, including a psychosomatic disorder.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Dusseldorf, Germany.


TAPPER: Right now, I want to bring in Professor Robert Bor, he's an aviation psychologist in London, also an experienced pilot.

Professor, thanks for joining us. We learned today some shocking news that Lufthansa Airlines, which employ this co-pilot, they knew about this severe depression episode that the pilot had in 2009. Do you think that the airline should have allowed him to fly?

ROBERT BOR, PROFESSOR & AVIATION PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, obviously there are different kinds of depression, and certainly severe depression is a disqualifying condition for most people. They would not be able to become airline pilot if there is a significant history. Of course, it can develop in the lifetime of somebody who's already qualified.

I think the issue here is whether it was treated and it was an episode that had passed or whether it was still currently an issue. Whether his depression was directly and only responsible for the act he carried out is on its own unlikely. Most people who have been depressed don't necessarily try to end their life and ending the life of other people is most unusual.

TAPPER: Of course, millions of people worldwide deal with depression and are able to go about their lives and be professionals. European law every year provides pilots with a questionnaire in which the pilots are asked about mental health, including psychological, psychiatric problems.

Given his background, should Lufthansa have known that maybe they needed to keep an eye on him more aggressively than this annual self- reporting questionnaire would suggest?

BOR: That's a very good point. I think in these coming days we're going to learn more about what he was actually experiencing. Certainly, if he was actively very depressed, and that would interfere with his ability to fly a plane, of course, he shouldn't be flying.

The fact is that there are some pilots whose mood may be low and we now have a more liberal system which allows pilots to carry on flying if they have some minor transient psychological problems. It may require more frequent monitoring of them, such as meetings with their authorized medical examiner and so on. But certainly, someone with severe depression shouldn't be flying at all.

TAPPER: As you know, millions of people suffer from depression, and yet they aren't suicidal, even fewer homicidal. There are still so much about this pilot, Lubitz, that we don't know.

But speaking more broadly, in the rare occasions that people go from depression to suicidal thoughts, to carrying out an act that actually is homicide, how does that happen? How does that progression happen? Is it quick? Are there warning signs?

BOR: I think there are two aspects to it here. And that is, the depression while significant is probably slightly a red herring. The origin of his problem is most likely deeper within his personality. He's mostly just had problems with his personality. You would have found difficulty in relationships.

Clearly, it would have affected his mood but certainly the deeper issues would have been a lot of conflict in his mind that would have -- he would have been wrestling with over some considerable period of time. So, that's in the distant past. And then there are the immediate event that's would have led up to his decision. I cannot imagine that he woke up one morning and thought, this is today I want to kill myself. This would have been premeditated. But it certainly required a number of events to come together. It had to be that he was on the flight deck on his own, that he at this stage of the not could have shut the captain out and so on. So I think two areas here. The one is his longer term personality issues and the other is the events of the actual day. And they came and they converged together at this time.

TAPPER: Professor Robert Bor, thank you so much.

Coming up next, Indiana's governor just a few minutes ago defending his state's controversial religious freedom law once again, he said it doesn't discriminate.

[16:20:01] But he pledged to fix it anyway. What exactly would need to be fixed?

Plus, with just three hours to go in the deadline with Iran, the State Department now saying the talks could now continue into tomorrow. What are the sticking points holding up the potential deal?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our national lead today: faced with protests and threats of boycotts, not to mention widespread criticism from red state darlings such as NASCAR, to blue state darlings such as Cher, Indiana's Governor Mike Pence says he wants to fix a religious freedom law that some say paves the way of discrimination.


GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: We've got a perception problem here because some people have a different view and we intend to correct that. I'd like to see on my desk before the end of this week legislation that is added to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone.


[16:25:00] TAPPER: Governor Mike Pence who some say is also a potential 2016 presidential hopeful also defended the merits of the law, comparing it to a federal religious freedom bill that was passed back in 1993 and signed by then-President Bill Clinton.

Now, while the bills are similar, legal experts say the Indiana law was written more broadly than most of the other similar laws across the country, and some of its supporters of the Indiana law, conservative Christians, said after it became law that it allows businesses to refuse to provide their services at, say, a gay wedding.

The controversy and fears from Indiana business owners of a backlash prompted this front page statement from "The Indianapolis Star" newspaper, with three simple words, "Fix This Now".

We're joined by "The Indy Star's" opinion editor Tim Swarens.

Thanks so much for joining us.

I'm guessing a lot of the Christian conservatives who were with Governor Pence at the bill-signing last week are not happy with the governor's message today.

TIM SWARENS, OPINION EDITOR, "INDIANAPOLIS STAR": Some of them are concerned about what the fix will mean, and I think Governor Pence is listening to that constituency. But he's having tremendous pressure put on him by business leaders, by other political leaders in the state who are also saying that this needs to be fixed, it needs to be fixed soon and there needs to be a substantial fix.

TAPPER: Governor Pence said he was surprised at the response to the law. Do you buy that? And do you agree with him that your state, Indiana, has been unfairly singled out given there are similar laws in places like South Carolina and Texas?

SWARENS: I believe him when he says he's surprised. I've talked to the governor three times in recent days and they were not prepared for the backlash that started to rise up last week. It's become very intense. There is a storm over Indiana, and it's not moving on for the moment. They were not ready for that.

TAPPER: Do you feel that your state is being unfairly picked on?

SWARENS: There -- some of the criticism has been over the top, to be honest. We are not a state that embraces discrimination. We are a state that, just as we will do this weekend with the final four, we welcome everybody. We put a lot of energy into preparing for big events like the Final Four.

We're very proud of the fact we host those. We do a great job. And those things are still true. Those will be true no matter what happen was this law.

That is not really the issue, however. The issue is, one, what was the message that was sent to the nation and to the world and to fellow Hoosiers by this law? And what was the message sent, what was the message received?

And we have to -- the governor and other leaders have to start to acknowledge that whatever they intended, the message received is that we will allow discrimination in Indiana.

I don't believe that's the case. I don't believe that will be what will happen in real time practice. But we can't deny that many people are afraid or fearful that that's what will occur. And we have to take bold steps, significant steps, to address the concern.

TAPPER: Do you think this is going to be enough to stop all the boycotts from Washington state to New York state to the band Wilco? SWARENS: Unfortunately, what's been proposed so far, and we don't

know the specific language is going to be, but in talking to the governor and talking to others, from what I'm hearing it's going to be a small step -- a small olive branch when we need a significant, bold step.

TAPPER: People have talked about governor pence as a potential presidential candidate. Do you think that played a role in any of this, either the bill signing or his comments today?

SWARENS: Well, you never know in the world of politics, but from what I was hearing from people close to the governor in recent months, is that he was leaning toward not running for president. I think this controversy pulls it off the table, that he will not run. I've heard some counter arguments it could help him in states like Iowa and other early primary and caucus states. I'm skeptical of that personally, but that point of view is out there.

TAPPER: Do you think when the fix becomes law, whatever the fix is going to be, what you're hearing from people, will, say, a religious Catholic baker be allowed to not provide a cake for a gay wedding, even though same sex marriage is now legal in your state?

SWARENS: Right. So, I don't know the answer to that question, and nobody else does. This law provides a legal defense in those cases. But it would still be up to a court to decide what is permissible and what isn't.

TAPPER: Tim Swarens, thank you so much.

And to our viewers, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this debate over Indiana's religious freedom law. Sound off on our Facebook page, that's